Me, Inside & Out

People often ask me how I—a South African, Scottish Swede—came to speak Spanish. I also get quizzed about being so thin. Both are the result of my LDS mission to Viña del Mar, Chile. Actually, my mom was an enthusiastic student of Spanish, so she spoke broken Spanish to us while we were growing up in San Jose, California (she used to call me Carlos).

If they are physically and mentally healthy, and if they meet the standards of worthiness, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the privilege of serving a volunteer mission when they reach eighteen to twenty something years (also at retirement age). I was healthy, but I’d made some choices that were less than worthy. I remember at 18 going to a room alone and declaring—not to God, but to the devil—that I would qualify to serve a mission no matter what! While my determination was admirable, God knew I could not do it alone. It would be years before I realized that it was Christ’s grace that qualified me.

After submitting an application, having ecclesiastical interviews, medical exams, and my wisdom teeth pulled, it was a thrill to bid my friends and family farewell, get some training, and fly to Santiago, Chile. I LOVED the country, the people, and the language. I got sick almost monthly, and learned what real service was (from the people I had come to serve).

We missionaries saw thousands of people embrace the gospel of Christ and receive the blessings of following God’s plan of happiness. I learned that God’s love is tenacious. I witnessed miracles (especially when I could first understand the fast-speaking people). I gained an appreciation for U.S. freedoms while living under a dictator. I distributed food, helped build a house, and got in-person training from a prophet and apostles. I gained life-long friends with some of the most generous people on earth (we mission associates—gringo and Chileno—still gather whenever we can and marvel at the extraordinary things we were able to be a part of). Mostly, I had a profound and personal assurance that I was doing the most important work on the planet. It’s hard to describe that joy.

What I didn’t realize is that a double course of antibiotics (after having my wisdom teeth pulled) had sent me defenseless into an environment of microbes my body had never known.

At first I only had occasional discomfort once I was home. As the years passed, stomach stress became constant and often painful. Despite visits to Stanford Medical Center and countless other doctors, no one has yet identified or remedied the problem. I soon lost confidence in my ability to control my body. This began to impact my social life. While I’ve dated more women than I can remember or number, each date was first stressful, and eventually became a major effort. Soon, I would return from short dates completely wiped out.

Today my diet is severely restricted—as is my energy. My social life is paltry. I struggle to maintain even a runner’s body weight, and my gut remains inflamed. Please believe that this is not typical for a missionary who gets sick. Most I’ve met have found remedies. (Don’t fear travel, it’s perhaps the best education you’ll ever get—especially if you get away from the big cities.)

Still, I’ve been able to do nearly everything on my bucket list. My Spanish has proven helpful in my work and in countless other spheres. The following isn’t to brag (more to enumerate my blessings) —there’s a point I want to make at the end. In addition to gaining a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a film certificate, I have:

  • Been a commencement speaker for college graduation
  • Taught at a university
  • Sung in rock bands
  • Signed Legislation in D.C. (staffers do it all the time if the rep. is away)
  • Visited 4 continents, 12 countries, and 35 states
  • Created and headed two businesses
  • Volunteered at Stanford University Hospital
  • Helped found a Silicon Valley high-tech organization and handled their PR
  • Published 17 books (many award-winners and Amazon bestsellers)
  • Kayaked in whitewater
  • Lectured to large and small groups
  • Worked for IBM, Intel, and Marriott
  • Piloted a plane (not take-off or landing)
  • Hired hundreds of people
  • Been to an Olympic hockey medals game (my favorite sport to watch)
  • Performed for thousands (even alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
  • Water skied, snow skied
  • Been a Spanish interpreter
  • Acted in radio, TV, film
  • Been published in magazines & The U.S. Congressional Record
  • Had my scripts selected in competition (one produced on radio)
  • Repelled on and jumped from high cliffs
  • Been an ecclesiastical leader / served on a high council

My point is this: Even with my illness and the impact it has had on my life (I have yet to have a family of my own), if I had to choose between the experiences from my mission or those in the list above, without hesitation I would keep my treasured missionary service. Some might wonder whether I would do it again—knowing beforehand how it would change my life. I wouldn’t give up those changes for anything. If they called me to serve again today, I’d be the skinniest, weakest, happiest missionary on earth. My passport is still current.

STEM Books Spark Curiosity

stembooksmAstronomy, entomology, awards and wit

 

MIDVALE, Utah, Oct. 12, 2016 – Three multicultural books teach astronomy, entomology, zoology (and Spanish) — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities and giggles.

Cover contest winner “Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a new picture book fantasy that helps children (ages 2 – 6) cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply! The e-book version is free this month and includes habitat conservation information for all ages.

“Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story” (also a cover design winner) is a children’s book that accompanies an American Indian child in finding constellations, stars and other heavenly bodies. It exposes children (4 – 8) to the starry skies, Monument Valley, and a little space science. It is available in hard or soft cover — or as an e-book.

“She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos: A Mystery” was named in the top 10 best books of 2011 by “ForeWord Reviews Magazine.” It is an educational activity book about a bi-racial girl who responds to some unusual animal gifts — that happen to be alive — and includes full text and a pronunciation guide in both English and Spanish. Kids (3 and up) or language learners can find and count insects, reptiles, a cat, and a bat. Get in Spanish-only, English-only, or bilingual versions as an e-book or in paperback.

The best-selling author of these nature books, Karl Beckstrand, has 17 multicultural books and more than 45 e-book titles – all family friendly. Beckstrand finds that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) books can entertain while they educate (STEAM books include the arts). Raised in San Jose, Calif., he will present on publishing entertaining literature Tues. Nov. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Weber County Library 2039 W. 4000 South, Roy, Utah and Sat. Nov. 5 from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Viridian Center 8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan, Utah.

Award-winning Premio Publishing & Gozo Books’ STEM books capture attention, create repeat readers and are nationally lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews). Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and mixed-race characters. Find them at PremioBooks.com, online and at select retailers.

Strange Inheritance

Man inherits–and publishes–manuscript 108 years in the making

MIDVALE, Utah, May 22, 2015 — What would you do if you came across an unpublished mystery manuscript? If it was good, you might just publish it. That’s what publisher Karl Beckstrand did when he inherited the silver rush thriller from his grandfather.

“It was typed and ready for submission to publishers,” Beckstrand said. But while the story, set in 1880s Nevada, was gripping, “there were holes in the plot and the characters needed to be fleshed out some more,” Beckstrand said.

Because Beckstrand’s author-grandfather had grown up in the back country of Northern California in the early days of the last century “his writing was filled with intense action, but also a real care for the land and its creatures,” Beckstrand said.

Being careful not to destroy the story’s folksy vernacular, Beckstrand decided to fill the gaps and burnish it a bit. “The language practically vibrated with authenticity,” Beckstrand said. “I really wanted to preserve that as I worked on it. I think it came out wonderfully.”

The result: “To Swallow the Earth,” by Ransom Wilcox. “It’s a thriller and a romance about man and a woman, each searching for missing family members, who clash amid a Nevada silver rush scheme that leaves both unsure who to trust — and scrambling to stay alive,” Beckstrand said.

“While it has the hardened male players you’d expect in a story about that era,” Beckstrand said, “it also has a strong female lead character.” Beckstrand is proud of his grandfather’s inclusion of a gutsy woman.

Beckstrand, who has more than 20 published titles, kept his grandfather’s name on the western novel. “I think it’s kind of fun that 108 years after his life’s adventure began, my grandfather’s mystery has been published,” he said.

Wilcox also has a book of short stories on the fanciful reminiscences of his early, rugged years in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains: “Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California.” Both books may be found via http://www.PremioPublishing.com, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/NOOK, Amazon.com/Kindle, iTunes, Follett, Ingram, Mackin and select booksellers.

Goodreads giveaway has ended, but ebook will be available at 99¢ through August on most ebook platforms: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25486206-to-swallow-the-earth.

Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California: Short Stories & Poems

MIDVALE, UT, USA – Animal lovers can get a peek at life in rural California in the early twentieth century when animals played a critical role in human survival. Author Ransom Wilcox knows—he lived it.

Wilcox’s family moved to the Sacramento Valley from Canada in 1907. They farmed, tended livestock, and sometimes got by via hunting and fishing. Once, when the hunter became the prey—of a charging wild boar—Wilcox stuck a pole he was carrying into the ground and climbed up!

Wilcox’s stories in, Horse and Dog Adventures in Early California, tell of his great love for a beautiful filly and how he depended on horses in ranching and hunting. He also writes about the devotion of a special dog that saved his life—and how he was later able to return the favor, performing emergency surgery on the injured canine. “Doc” Wilcox, as his friends called him, was a chiropractor by profession, and grateful for his medical training when his rescuer needed help.

Wilcox’s love of animals and the great outdoors is evident in his nature-themed stories and poems (for young and old). They convey courage, devotion, and perseverance with warmth and sincerity.

Also from Premio Publishing: No Offense: Communication Guaranteed Not to Offend by Karl Beckstrand (also from California). In his ninth book, Beckstrand captures with simplicity and wit the essence of non-offensive, politically correct communication. Funny–and free of degrading bits–this is safe, entertaining reading for the whole family. Beckstrand encourages (in a clever way) the expression of important ideas and respectful dialogue—which often lead to serendipitous solutions that neither side would have arrived at without the other. He makes a strong statement about the problems with political correctness—especially unconstitutional limits on free speech. PremioPublishing.com

Originally posted by Karl Beckstrand at 9/21/2013 4:48 PM