Monday, March 10, 2014

My Life Story/Memories/One Cousin at a time - Cousin Dan


OK, this is going to be a long section because my cousins were such a huge and important part of my life. I didn't realize until I moved away from Idaho, that having such a close knit extended family was not a normal occurrence for everyone. It was all that I ever knew. A big portion of the person I have become today is because of the influence of my cousins. I was lucky enough to have cousins up and down my street and in all of my classes at church and school. I also had close ties with the cousins who lived in other states.

I thought it might be fun to tell about each one and the memories I have of them. A lot of the time they intertwine, and to try and put them in any chronological order is a bit of a challenge, so rather than doing that, I have decided to write about them based on their birth order.

So here we go. I can think of no better place to start than with my idol, Danny. Danny was about 12 years older than me and even though I had two older sisters, I did not have any older brothers, but Danny, David, Tony, and Doug were as close to me as any brother.

Danny lived in Utah but would come and stay with our family during the summer and also visited often for Grandma’s birthday, opening day of fishing, and many other big events in our lives.

Our house we lived in when I was really young had a basement with its own entrance. Danny and David would stay down there. We moved out of this house when I was in the 2nd grade so my memory of it is based on my life when I was really young. The basement was only partially finished with a long narrow bedroom on the far side of the room that was walled off. The door to the bedroom was half way across the room. The only problem with this set-up, was the light switch was at the entrance of the basement so if you turned off the light to go to bed you would have to feel around in the darkness until you found the door and then find your way to the bed. There was no easy way to rectify this since the only power source was on the wrong side of the room.

Danny was always one who was known for “Turning Lemons into Lemonade.” He also has a personality that gets things done. I remember he created some sort of pulley system out of odds and ends he found in the old shop. He hooked a wheel and pulley and a long rope and I don’t know what else, but after he was done, the door would shut on its own in a somewhat slow process. This would enable you to look at the bedroom, get your eye locked in on the bed, simultaneously pulling the lever to the door and turning out the light at the same time, then running for the bed before the door shut on you. Not only was this ingenious, it was a whole heck of a lot of fun. Eventually he extended the pulley system so the door could be shut from either the bedroom or by the light. This too was a lot of fun. You have to realize that the basement had no windows so once the light was turned off it was completely and totally pitch black.

This wasn't his only ingenious invention he created while living with us. Whenever he saw a problem he would come up with some great solution to modify and make it simpler. For example, our food supply was stored in the unfinished portion of the basement, and when I say unfinished, I mean, a dugout room that was still dirt, with some shelves in it storing our fruits and vegetables and canned soup etc. My mom was always asking us to go to the cellar and get this item or that item. We were also supposed to get the oldest items first. So if you were going to get a jar of cherries, you needed to check the date on the top of the lid and bring the oldest jar first. We hated the root cellar and so we would whine and moan about having to go down there at all and then if we did go, we grabbed whatever item we were getting and ran back up the stairs and into the house.

Since Danny recognized this as a constant problem for us he created was new a system for our food storage. It had slanted sliding shelves that allowed you to put cans in the back and the older ones would slide forward so the oldest cans would automatically come to the front of the shelve. This way rotating food supplies was effective and efficient and once again fun.

The thing I love the most about Danny is he takes things that seem like work or a chore and makes a game out of it. He used to put a record on our old vinyl record player, crank up the volume and challenge us kids to clean up in a hurry. We would get so pumped up and work harder than we ever had before. Not only did we work hard, but we played hard as well. We had countless hours of turning anything and everything into a fun filled day.

Danny was also creative when it came to cooking. When you grow up on a farm and you basically eat what you grow, the dinner menu can become boring and mundane. When you open up the cupboard and all that is inside is ingredients, it is hard to visualize something delicious to come out of flour and oil. Leave it to Cousin Dan. I can still remember the very first time he made us homemade donuts. First of all, I had never had a doughnut before, so I didn't even know what it was. You can imagine my surprise when I first tasted the delightful goodness. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was topped off with yummy cinnamon sugar. Danny, being the smart older cousin, figured out that if he wanted to get a bunch of little Beck kids motivated, all he had to do was start warming up the oil. The donuts were usually for family home evening dessert, for later in the evening, but for anyone who was willing to put in a little work, cleaning the house, hosing off the pipe moving boots, weeding the garden, or whatever else my mom might need done, could win themselves a prize of Doughnut Holes! According to Danny, the doughnut holes were the best part of the entire doughnut, and so of course they could only be eaten by accomplishing extra duties. They were perfect bite sized morsels of heaven but were bought with a price. A little extra special work here and a little there.

I know the help he was able to conjure up for my mother was such an added benefit to the overall happiness of our home. Can you even imagine a teenage boy, living with you in your home over the course of a summer, and being willing to not only help out with the cooking and cleaning, but to do it with joy and pleasure?

I have melded Danny’s methods over and over in my life in one way or the other. These leadership qualities shown by him have gone with me throughout my life. I remember many times I have used similar tactics and to this day I still do. Granted, I am not a rich, real estate mogul like Cousin Dan, but the same system has helped me to be able to get a lot of support in my lifelong endeavors.

As the years have gone by, the closeness I have had with Danny has grown so much. Now that we are far apart and don’t get to see each other very often, I still have the love and relationship as if we were never a day apart.

When Pam first came into our family, we knew she was something special. He had a very unusual way to announce to a bunch of young children who the love of his life was. Dan mowed her name in the lawn. Every time he cut the grass he would cut a very large PAM in the grass, then lower the blade and cut the rest of the yard. I wonder what people thought when they drove by and saw a large PAM cut into our yard. The next summer when Danny was on his mission, we felt it only fitting to continue on with the tradition and cut the grass with Pam’s name. It was in honor of Cousin Dan.

Soon after Danny and Pam were married, they came to Idaho for our family tradition of opening day of fishing. Pam made a special treat for us all. It was the most delicious caramel corn I had ever eaten. We used the same caramel corn recipe all my life and it tasted somewhat like Cracker Jacks. Not my favorite. Pam’s recipe was so much better. The moral of the story is, never settle for less than the best. That is what Dan did when he married Pam.

After I graduated from high school Dan and Pam invited me to come and live with them in Utah and go to college and work for Dan’s Real Estate Company. What a life changing event that would be for me. They gave me such great advice on huge life decisions.

I remember one day in particular. My friend Carleen was coming to town and wanted to go dancing. At the time, I was not in the market for meeting guys and had no interest in going. Again, thanks to some advice I got, I did go that day. As it turns out I would meet my future husband that night.

Another life changing moment for me happened while I was living with Dan and Pam. It’s going to sound rather silly now, but really it shaped the way I handle stress and trials. After I was working for Dan I purchased my very first car that I had ever owned all by myself. Growing up with eight siblings, I had never had anything that was completely my very own before, at least nothing big. My car was such a huge turning point for me and I loved it and cared for it with special care. One day I was driving home from work and an old lady t-boned me. The entire side of the car was crushed. The crushed car was symbolic of how I felt. I couldn't believe my Toyota Corolla was wrecked. When I got home that day I was so upset and Dan told me, “Amy, you have to take any challenges in life and turn them around. You need to turn lemons into lemonade.” I couldn't think of one way a wrecked car could turn into lemonade. He told me only I could figure out how, but he did give me an idea. I was going to be getting some money from the insurance company to have the car repaired and repainted. What if I did the labor of painting myself instead of having a shop do it. If I was willing to do some work, the amount of money I got would be enough to paint the entire car rather than just the part that needed repaired. He was sure that with the skills and equipment of his brother Tony, we could do the work ourselves.

So, I did exactly that. I got the car repaired and then with help from Tony we sanded and painted and polished and by the time it was finished, I had a car that looked brand new. Now instead of being a sky blue color, it was a midnight blue with a shimmer, and we even two toned it. It was a custom paint job. I was so proud of it, and I have to say years later, when I sold the car for a new car, I was able to get more money out of it than I had paid for it originally even though I added 100,000 miles to it. Now that is lemonade.

Now whenever I go through troubles or trials, I try to figure out how to make a lovely cool drink out of them. Just last week as I was talking to Dan on the phone, and we were discussing all the trials being thrown his way this year, between MS, Cancer, father dying, a sub contractor burning down his entire apartment project that was being built in Salt Lake, just because he wanted to see the fire trucks come, and even though he is going through all of that, do you know what he told me? He said, “I just have to figure out how to turn lemons into lemonade.” Now those are words to live by. Thank you Dan!


  1. Amy! This is the sweetest thing I have read and I'm sitting here weeping at these darling stories I actually have never heard before! Thank you for sharing them. I actually have many fond memories of Cousin Amy! I remember when I was little and you lived with us and used to babysit us all the time. I always wanted to be as cool as you and Angela! Oh and the many, many wonderful precious memories I have of visiting the Becks in Idaho. Too many to count. Those were the days, right?! Anyways thanks for letting me take a walk down memory lane. Love, Melissa

  2. Loved this! Your posts are making me so homesick. I wish we all could get together more often!