Tuesday, September 23, 2008
© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, gift, birthday, 1910 penny, aggie marble, star quilt, chores, hen, booklet, LDS, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God . . . (1 John 4:7).
Clink, clink, clink. Caleb shook the little tin box that he’d pulled from under his lumpy mattress. “That doesn’t sound like much money,” he said to his cat, Muffin, as he popped the lid off and turned the tin upside down.
A shiny, 1910 copper penny; a yellow aggie marble; and a piece of string fell out onto the quilt that covered his bed. The tied knots of black and white yarn on the blanket made a star in the middle.
“Ma gave me this quilt for Christmas,” Caleb said to the striped cat, as he sat on the bed. He remembered the look of love in his mother’s eyes as she presented him with the gift. Even on the coldest nights, his star quilt kept him warm.
“Tomorrow is Ma’s birthday, and I want to buy something special to show her that I love her,” he said to Muffin. “Maybe I could get some pretty ribbons for her hair.” The cat blinked at him, then swatted at the penny. It skittered across the bed and dropped with a clunk onto the floor. The coin twirled for a second. Caleb watched in horror as it angled and fell between the wooden floorboards to the dusty darkness beneath.
“Muffin, you bad cat! You’ve made me lose my money.” Caleb knelt on the floor, and put his eye to the crack between the pine boards. “There are strange shadows down there and a cobwebby smell that tickles my … achoo!” He rubbed his nose. “But I don’t see the penny.”
Getting up, Caleb hitched up the strap to his overalls and started toward the door. There was only one thing to do; ask Pa if he could earn another one.
Puffs of dust rose as his bare feet scuffed the dry soil outside. He found his father in the barn, milking the cow.
“Pa, can I do extra chores to earn a penny?”
“You can do them if you want, but I can’t give you a penny.”
“Why not?” Caleb watched the milk squirt into the bucket.
“Because times are hard, and I don’t have a penny to spare. The wooly bear caterpillars have a thick stripe this year, which means there’s a hard winter coming.”
“But I need it to buy Ma some hair ribbons for her birthday.” The black barn cat sashayed over and rubbed against Caleb’s leg.
“I’m sorry,” his father said. “You’ll have to figure out something else. And it’s time to collect the eggs. Head over to the hen house, and be careful not to upset ol’ Clucker—she’s the most persnickety hen in all of Utah.”
“Yes, Pa,” Caleb said, disappointment shadowing his voice.
On his way to the chicken coop, he prayed for an idea for a gift. After checking for eggs and finding none, he stood listening to the soothing clucks of the big red hen.
Suddenly a thought came to him. “That’s it! That’s what I’ll do. Thank you, Heavenly, Father!” The sound of his voice startled Clucker and she flapped her wings and squawked. But, she was fussing to thin air. Caleb was already halfway to the house.
Once inside he said breathlessly, “Ma, is there some paper and a pencil I can use?”
She nodded. “I believe I have a little of that paper that was used to wrap something we bought at the general store.” Ma walked out of the room and came back with a square of neatly folded brown paper and a stubby pencil.
Kissing Caleb on his blond head, she handed the items to him. “Use the paper wisely and don’t waste any.”
“I won’t,” Caleb said as he ran with it to his room.
Laying the paper on his bed, he tore six small squares from it. On the first one he wrote, “Ma’s Special Book.” On the next one he put, “Good for 6 jobs you want me to do without any grumbling.”
He thought for a minute, licked the lead on the end of the pencil and wrote, “Good for 8 hugs,” on another one.
“What else can I give?” he asked Muffin, who’d jumped back up on the bed. She licked her paw, swiped it over one ear and then mewed softly at him.
“What would Ma like besides chores and hugs?” Caleb stroked Muffin’s golden-brown ears as he thought. “Maybe she’d like me to fix supper? I could do bread and milk.”
Muffin blinked her eyes and purred, and Caleb took that as a yes. He wrote, “Good for 1 extra fix supper.” As he was writing, another idea came to him. “Good for 3 help yous,” he wrote on the fifth square.
Now there was only one square left. But what would he put on that one? He’d used up all his good ideas. Scratching the cowlick at the back of his head, he thought hard. “I know,” he said to the cat. And he wrote, “Love you,” on the last one. Then he put all the pieces of paper together, like a little booklet, poked a hole in one corner and tied them together with the piece of string from his tin can.
The next morning, Caleb jumped out of bed and raced into the kitchen. “Happy birthday, Ma!” he said, handing her the gift.
Turning the pages, she smiled, and at the end, she wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. “This is the best birthday present ever … because you filled it with love.”
A warm feeling started in Caleb’s heart. It spread all the way to his toes. He guessed it was good that Muffin had lost his penny. Hair ribbons only last for a short time, but love lasts forever.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Holy Ghost, promptings, bike ride, spiritual impressions, Spirit, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)
I’m right-handed—yet there I sat, typing the beginnings of this article by hunt and peck with my left hand. Why? Because I failed to persist in my efforts to understand the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Many years ago, when my hair contained less gray and my joints didn’t ache so much, I took my toddler son on a bike ride. Biking has always been one of my favorite ways to get exercise, so I strapped him into the child’s seat on the back, and off we went. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air. Near the end of the ride, I turned the bike in a circle to head home. There was no warning—just a slip of the tire on a wet spot. The bike flew out from under me and I was flung to the asphalt.
Scrambling to my feet, I rushed to my son. His wide eyes reflected fear, but he had been protected by the plastic seat. The gravel embedded in my knees stung and blood seeped from the cuts, but he didn’t have a scratch. As we started home, I searched my heart to see if I had ignored any promptings from the Spirit. Relief flooded through me as I realized that I was blameless. I hadn’t been forewarned but we had been protected.
Move the clock forward to 2007. Over the summer months, and with increasing frequency, images of that long ago day flashed through my mind.
Odd. What did it mean? I gave the thoughts a casual moment of interest, then brushed them off as if they were dust on a windowsill. My son, Dave, was full-grown, so there was no toddler on the back of the bike. And no reason to worry about taking a spill during the dry, high desert summer days.
In November, fall air and bright sunshine once again beckoned. Jumping on my bike, I whirled away across town, the soft breeze teasing my hair, the pungent scent of fallen leaves tickling my nose. On the way home, a friend called to me and I turned the bike. A narrow strip of the cement in front of me looked wet. For a split second I wondered, in jest, if someone was watering the curb and gutter, trying to make them grow.
I should have made the connection with the recent promptings … but didn’t. As my tire crossed the wet patch, the bike flipped out from under me, and before there was even a chance to get my hands down, I crashed to the ground on my right side. Blood dripped from split skin on my little finger. Worse than that, my right arm really hurt. After being flung to the concrete, though, how could any part of me not hurt? I dusted myself off and my friend took me into her house and spot-cleaned the blood from my clothes.
All the while, my arm ached—a lot. I told myself it was just bruised and battered … and maybe I’d pulled a ligament.
Stepping back outside to head home, I put my hands on the handlebars and used my forearms to balance so I could jump up onto the bike’s seat. A recognizable, dark feeling of intense pain shot through my right arm.
I knew what that meant—a broken bone. After living through a broken nose, a shattered ankle and a snapped wrist in my lifetime, the feeling was all too familiar.
And it was a Friday, just after my doctor’s regular office hours. When my husband arrived home from work half an hour later, we drove to the emergency room. The x-ray revealed the arm/elbow had a break right where the two connected.
It wasn’t hard, standing there in the emergency room, to recognize that the Spirit had been warning me for months. Why hadn’t I listened?
My answer to that now sounds feeble. Every time the Spirit pricked my memory, I didn’t understand the message. Was I being warned to avoid wet spots? Or to quit riding my bike? Was I supposed to do that for a week, a month, a year … or forever? Not knowing, and thinking it was just a coincidence that I remembered the past accident, I had brushed it aside. What I should have done was pondered the impression, reasoned out what I thought it meant and then prayed for confirmation. Had I done that, the broken bone could have been prevented.
Fast forward to eight months later. On a fine summer day in 2008, with the breezes blowing and the birds singing from the tree tops, I climbed on my bike and felt that surge of happiness that comes when riding. After gliding down the driveway, I turned onto the road, and an impression came to me. This bike is getting too old. It’s time to get rid of it and buy a new one.
Aw, no. Get rid of my favorite, teal-colored bike? The one that reminds me of the ocean? The one that carried me on biking adventures with my young son?
I thought for a minute. Maybe the Spirit is just telling me I need to tighten the bolts and get new brakes. I rode a little farther, telling myself it was my own logical thoughts that made me worry and that giving the bike a tune-up would take care of the matter.
The words "metal fatigue" came to mind.
I wanted to bargain. Listen, I’ll tighten everything and put new brakes on. That way it’ll be okay during the summer and I can buy a new one for Christmas.
An image of the bike breaking in two and my body lying crumpled on the ground entered my thoughts. At the same time, the prayer that I’d whispered for guidance and protection that morning floated back to me. Stopped short by the impressions, I chastised myself. What sense did it make to pray for guidance, and then to stand around and argue with the Spirit when He gave me direction? Hadn’t anything been learned from the accident of eight short months ago? What about my vow to listen more closely to promptings given me?
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I’d learned the consequences of ignoring the Spirit with the last broken bone, and it wasn’t a lesson I wanted to repeat. Walking would give just as good a workout. I turned the bicycle around and headed home.
Today the sparrows and finches are chirping outside my window. The sweet scent of the linden tree across the street calls a siren song. It would be the perfect day for a bike ride … and in the next week or two, when I get a new bicycle, I’m going to take one.
Until then, the old teal bike will remain parked in the garage. And hopefully, the Spirit will continue to guide, and have patience, with its owner.
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Monday, August 25, 2008
By Cindy Beck
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, Farworld, Water Keep, J Scott Savage,)
Thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas dreams of a world far away. It’s a place where magic is as common as sunshine and where animals and trees talk. His name for the place? Farworld.
Quite unexpectedly, Marcus magically travels from Earth to Farworld. There he meets Kyja, who would love to cast spells and work magic, but alas, is unable. Marcus also meets Master Therapass, a master wizard whose knowledge can change not only Marcus and Kyja’s fate, but the fate of Farworld and Earth, as well.
Enter members of the Dark Circle, whose goal is to exert evil influence, gain power, and eventually destroy all that is good, including Farworld. Marcus and Kyja must travel to Water Keep, their first leg in a journey where they hope to convince the Elementals—beings of water, land, air and fire—to join forces with them. While at Water Keep, Marcus and Kyja face the Summoners—members of the Dark Circle, who can command the living and the dead—and other dreaded creatures.
Marcus and Kyja’s journey is one of not only hardship and danger, but also one of friendship and caring. Marcus and Kyja learn the truth about themselves, the depths of their courage, and the power that each holds within.
Scott Savage does a good job of maintaining suspense and action through out the book. The characters are both charming (the good guys) and despicable (the bad guys). My favorite character was Riph Raph, a “lizard” who not only talked but had magical powers and a wicked sense of comedic timing.
Scott’s sense of humor put a smile on my face, and his artful suspense kept me turning the pages. This is a book that young adults (and old adults) would love!
Interview with J. Scott Savage:
Cindy: I’m here in virtual time and space, for an interview with author, J. Scott Savage. We’re riding on the “lizard,” Riph Raph’s tail, so it’s a little windy. Scott, why don’t you tell us what you can see and smell from this vantage point?
Scott: Well I have to say that sitting on Riph Raph’s tail, the smell is, um . . . not one to write home about. And obviously someone has shrunk us down to rather much smaller than our normal size as Riph Raph is not much larger than a typical housecat. It looks like Riph Raph is scanning for members of the Dark Circle. So maybe we can help him keep an eye out.
Cindy: Have any of your daily habits … such as how you brush your teeth, or what you eat … changed since writing Farworld? If so, how?
Scott: Well I do refer to myself in the third person now, and I occasionally asked random passers by if they know me. So far neither has proven very successful.
Cindy: If you could pick one creature or person from Farworld that you could become, which one would it be? Describe what you would look like, please.
Scott: I think that I would be the Frost Pinnois. I am roughly the size of a large school bus, made entirely of ice, with long icicle spikes on my tail, and a long blue beard. I have skin of tiny icicles and long wings. My body makes a kind of wind chime-like sound when I fly.
Cindy: I noticed in your underwater interview with Shirley Bahlmann, that bubbles kept floating up and about. Was there a fissure in the ocean floor, or was something else causing that? What do you think it was?
Scott: I can honestly say it was underwater gas. For anything more than that, you’d need to consult the Bahlmannator herself.
Cindy: It seems Riph Raph is anxious to rid himself of us, so I’ll only ask one more question. If Shandra Covington, the heroine in your mystery novels were to enter Farworld, what powers would she have?
Scott: Well clearly they would have something to do with food. I think that Shandra would have the ability to turn common rocks into deluxe double cheeseburgers and grass into hot greasy fries. Then she and Kyja would get along great. All of my female characters seem to have a thing for fires. Hmmm.
Cindy: Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Scott, and for giving me the opportunity to read Farworld. It was great and I’m sure your readers will enjoy it.
Scott: Thanks, Cindy. And thanks for the great interview.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Keywords: C. Lynn Beck, Heaven Scent, perfume, Rebecca Talley, author, Rebecca, Aldrich Heights, fragrance, blog tour, forgiveness, religion, Liza, Kyle
Liza has it made. At least that’s what it looks like for Aldrich Heights' star basketball player. Yet, life isn’t as golden on the inside as it appears on the outside. Liza feels abandoned by her father, who places work before family. Once upon a time, Liza and her father were close, but now she wonders if he even loves her anymore. Or if she loves him.
Liza’s mother puts her foot down and Liza’s father promises he’ll change and spend more time with them. Just when Liza starts believing him, tragedy strikes. Everything that matters to Liza is gone in one heart-wrenching moment.
Liza’s path to emotional recovery lies in forgiveness. However, she doesn’t see it that way and fights against the very idea … until Kyle, a boy from her high school, introduces Liza to a new religion. With a little help from Kyle—and from above—Liza learns to view the tragedy, and her life, with the right perspective.
Heaven Scent is a touching story that both young women and adults will enjoy. Just be sure to have a box of tissues and family members nearby when you read it—the tissues for the tears, and the family members so you can hug them and feel grateful that they’re with you.
Rebecca Cornish Talley, author of Heaven Scent, is not only an excellent writer but also a good sport. She's kindly agreed to let me interview her at a “virtual” beach in California.
Rebecca, thank you for joining me on this sunny day at the ocean. I know you love the beach and lived in California as a young girl. Since other interviews have already covered the technical reasons for why and how you wrote Heaven Scent, I thought I’d ask a few personal questions today.
1. If you wouldn’t mind, why don’t you start by telling us what the beach here looks like?
It might be hard to find this particular beach in CA since it’s tucked away in a secret cove, but the water is a brilliant turquoise and so clear I can see my feet. No seaweed tangling around my legs, thankfully. The water temperature is ideal, too. Cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to soothe. The clean, soft, white sand feels like satin under my feet and perfectly-shaped seashells wait along the shore for me to add to my collection. The shoreline seems to run forever in either direction and the sky is a pale blue with wisps of clouds gently moving across its great expanse while waves lap soothingly against the shore.
2. That’s such a cute bathing suit you’re wearing. No one would ever guess you had ten kids! If you could design an ideal bathing suit, what would it look like?
It’d mystically take off 20 pounds, and 20 years, when you wear it, slim you in the middle and give definition up top. It’d be available in iridescent colors that change to match your mood (kind of like the old mood rings) and every time you looked in the mirror, you’d see your inner beauty and strength.
3. In other interviews, you’ve said that your initial inspiration for Heaven Scent came from a distinctive perfume your mom used to wear. You often smelled it in the air, during difficult times, even though your mom had passed away. What are your favorite smells at the ocean?
Green apple bubblegum, coconut suntan lotion, and deep fried taquitos. I also love the smell of saltwater on my skin.
4. You’ve mentioned that your love of basketball was another source of inspiration for the book. You can’t play basketball here in the sand, so what games do you like to play at the beach?
The best games are Chase (the seagulls), Tag (with the waves), and Hide-and-Go-Seek (with the sand crabs).
5. Since you live on a farm and have a number of animals, what’s your favorite saltwater animal? And why?
Seals are my favorite saltwater animals because they’re so playful and friendly. I also enjoy watching them swim next to the boats and sun themselves on the buoys. Getting a seal to smile is especially fun, too.
6. Ooo, I notice you’re cooking something over there. Is that a hibachi? A crock-pot? (Hey, this is a virtual beach … so Rebecca can have a crock-pot if she wants!) Or a bonfire? And what is it that I smell cooking?
S’mores. Roasted, gooey marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate—what more do you need? That’s a balanced meal, right? So it must be a bonfire. And we're singing Primary songs around it 'cause I love Primary songs.
7. I see quite a few young women around. You once said you’ve worked with many young women over the years and that’s why Heaven Scent was written for a YA audience. Are these young women here from your church, or are they your family? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about them? (No names, please, we don’t want any stalkers showing up at our beach party!:)
They’re my daughters and my nieces (12 altogether). Aren’t they beautiful? Some sing, some perform, some draw pictures, some make crafts. Some are tall, some are small, some have long hair, some have short, some have blue eyes, some have hazel, some are shy and some are not. Most of all, they’re daughters of our Heavenly Father who want to live with him again someday.
8. Well, Rebecca, I can see the sun is starting to set, so it’s time to pull on a sweatshirt, sit in the warm sand, and watch the sun slide below the horizon. Why don’t you give us a little detail on what colors we’re seeing tonight and how the sunset makes you feel?
I can see the sun’s reflection dancing along the water as it paints the sky in hues of pink, orange, and red. The gentleness of the sun slipping below the horizon makes me realize that as one days ends, another will begin again, and that there is order in all of God’s creations.
Rebecca, thanks for your time and for allowing me to interview you. It’s been a wonderful visit, and I think your readers have enjoyed this personal glimpse into your life. You’re a talented author, your book is terrific, and the story grabbed me by the heart. Thanks so much for writing Heaven Scent.
Thank you, Cindy, for interviewing me here on our virtual beach. It’s been a blast!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
It's a secret, so I can't tell ... but I will give you a hint. It's not from her office.
Go ahead. Take a guess. In a grocery store? And she'll have to tell you what's in her virtual grocery cart ? Mmm ... maybe.
On a virtual deserted island, survivor-style, and she'll have to tell what she's done to stay alive? Possibly ... or then again ... not.
Or will it be in the dead of night, in ....
Nope, most definitely, indubitably, probably not wherever you were thinking!
That's all the hints for now. Be sure you don't miss it, however. Check back on July 1st and read the review of Heaven Scent, as well as the interview with Rebecca.
It'll happen in just 5 days!
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Have I read it yet? Oh, yes!
Did I find it interesting and exciting? Oh yes!
Watch for my upcoming review and interview with Rebecca. She's a wonderful person and her book was a treat to read. Don't miss out; I'll be posting the review and interview on July 1...
Just 23 days from now!
Friday, June 6, 2008
© 2008 C. Lynn Beck
At six-years old, Emily* had already figured out her life was different. Other girls snuggled into soft sweatshirts as the weather cooled—ones that were bubblegum-pink, or banana-yellow. Emily wore an old, holey sweater. It might have been pink . . . once. But by the time someone handed it down to her, it was mostly the color of mud.
At school lunch, other kids munched on bologna sandwiches or peanut butter and jam. And sometimes they brought potato chips.
Emily was lucky to have a piece of smashed bread, covered with a thin layer of butter.
She wondered why her family never had enough food, and why her mother and step-father always argued. Usually he was drunk and had gambled away his paycheck. Even at six, Emily was smart enough to lay low when the fists started flying.
Her brother, Ray*, was five years older but he always kept an eye out for Emily. Once, when he was eleven, he got all dressed up. Emily had never seen him like that before—they didn’t have any clothes that weren’t tattered and worn, so someone must have given them to him. Ray wore green pants, a shirt with embroidered insignia and a hat cocked on the side of his head.
“Ray, how come you look so nice?” Emily asked, her small feet tripping lightly after him as he strode out the door.
“Because I’m a Boy Scout,” Ray said. “I’m going to a Scout meeting. Do you want to hear me say the Scout Oath?”
“Mm-hm.” Emily didn’t know what an oath was, but if he wanted to say one, it was fine with her. She trotted beside him and looked up into his blue eyes.
He took off his hat and held it. Then taking a deep breath, Ray said. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
The fact that it was a mouthful of words didn’t faze Emily. But something else about it scratched at the back of her brain. “Who is this God person?”
Ray stopped and put his arm around her small shoulders. “God is what all of us Scouts believe in. He’s the person who lives in heaven and watches over us.”
You’d think that would have been a complicated concept for a six-year-old to grasp, but something touched Emily’s heart. The idea that there was a loving Father in heaven who was concerned about a shy little girl with a hungry tummy—and an even hungrier heart—filled her with a warm, melted caramel feeling that spread from the top of Emily’s head to the bottom of her worn out sneakers.
As a neglected child—who lacked physical and emotional necessities—Emily’s soul rejoiced at the idea that there was a grown-up named God who kept tabs on her. And that He cared if she owned a bright sweatshirt or ate a decent lunch.
That feeling of love stayed with Emily from then on. It sustained her through the difficulties and trials of her young years. It carried Emily through the rebellion and angst of teenage strife. It helped her grow through the wonderful time of early marriage and motherhood.
That feeling was there the day the missionaries knocked on the door. It was even stronger during the lesson about Joseph Smith receiving a heavenly vision. Emily knew that if Heavenly Father could touch her heart when she was six-years old, he could surely speak with a fourteen-year-old boy.
Emily is older now. The hair that peeks out from under her gardening hat is more gray than blonde. The curves and winding turns in life have taken Emily down a better path than the one on which she started. The clothes in her closet run the gamut from bubblegum-pink to banana-yellow. Emily is always well-fed.
Looking back on her experiences, Emily says softly, “I can’t fail to acknowledge that life took a smoother turn because of a Heavenly Father who constantly interceded on my behalf. I owe my good fortune, happiness, and acceptance of the gospel to the One who loved me from the top of my head to the bottom of my worn out sneakers—the One who never let me forget He cared about a shy little girl with a hungry tummy … and an even hungrier heart.”
* Names have been changed.
This article submitted to YourLDSNeighborhood.com for possible publication in their newsletter. Please take a moment to visit YourLDSNeighborhood.com and browse the stores.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
A new article will be posted here by the end of the week, so check back in a few days to catch my "meandering thoughts."
Friday, May 16, 2008
Hi! Thanks for stopping by. If you’re looking for links to my website or announcements about C. Lynn Beck’s upcoming books or short stories, please check out the links and announcements in the sidebar.
If you’re looking for my thoughts in a blog, you can find them at the links below. My serious thoughts are under the pen name of C. Lynn Beck. My humorous thoughts are under the pen name of C.L. Beck.
ByTheBecks: Write Up My Alley 1--Humorous thoughts about life, or the lack of it.
ByTheBecks: Write Up My Alley 2--Humorous thoughts about life in general, as well as ones focusing on the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) culture.
LDS Writers' Blogck--Serious thoughts on writing.