Some like it hot, whereas others like it hhhooottt

A romance with roots in hot sauce. That’s how I would classify one aspect of my relationship with my husband Dale. Being from Louisiana, he is used to having hot sauce as a “side” with almost every food, oatmeal excluded, of course. I, on the other hand, was raised in Iowa, where hot sauce is imported for people from Louisiana.  When Dale first learned that this Midwest, corn fed girl was obsessed with hot sauce to almost the same degree as he was, his love for me instantly grew brighter.

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Dale by the ferry to Belize

Since we’ve been together, our general attitude about hot sauce has been the hotter, the better. Or so we thought until we stepped off the ferry in Punta Gorda, Belize. We were spending one night there before traveling north for some island time.

That evening we wandered across town to a family restaurant where they served food buffet style. The decor was nothing to boast about, but the food was tasty and diverse. The best part, though, was that they made their own hot sauce. Score!

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Luckily we were able to find a place nicer than this for our one night stay

We sampled the mild sauce. It was flavorful but didn’t satisfy our thirst for heat. Next, we both put a couple drops of their yellow “hot” hot sauce on a bite of food. The instant it touched the inside of our mouths we both gasped for breath and flapped our hands in front of our lips, like the breeze we were creating could really calm the inferno roaring inside.

Pain is the best way to describe our existence for the next five or so minutes. We couldn’t eat, think, talk – nothing functioned. It was as though the heat from the sauce had melted our brains.

Once the fire abated, we both said something we never thought possible: “I’m never going to try a hot sauce that hot again!” And so began our vacation in Belize.

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Blue Like Jazz Comes in Two Flavors

Sometimes I like to do things backwards.  I’ll clean up the kitchen before enjoying the meal I just made.  I’ll back out of the garage before putting on my seatbelt.  I’ll eat the bottom of a muffin before the top.

Just in case you were wondering, Steve Taylor is the one in the middle.

Last fall I saw a special rough cut screening of Blue Like Jazz without having read the book.  I can hear all of you tsk, tsk, tsking as you read this post.  You’re saying, “You should never see a movie before reading the book it is based on.”  Yes, well, I didn’t know my husband and I were going to the screening until the night before when Steve Taylor called to personally invite us to attend.  Did that stop your tsking?

The only knowledge I had about the book was a forty-minute education provided by my husband Dale during our drive to the church where the screening took place.  What he told me didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t piece together what he said because, as Dale  assured me, “It is unlike any book you have ever read or will ever read.”  I wasn’t sure what to think when the lights dimmed and the crowd shifted its focus to the screen at the front of the church, so I chose to clear my mind.

As the scenes unfolded I found myself being absorbed into them. The quirky characters were unique yet real.  The story was unusual yet so familiar.  The dialogue was thought-provoking yet hilarious.  When the movie ended I sat silently for a few minutes, letting the weight of what had just transpired on the screen sink in.  I was moved, changed, and inspired.

The guys - Dale and Steve

Alas, in December I added the book to my pack as Dale and I boarded a plane for Guatemala.  I passed the hours away in a hammock overlooking Lake Atitlan while I stepped into Donald Miller’s world.  Within the first chapter I realized two things: 1) he is a clever writer who seamlessly weaves together stories; and 2) I would see into his heart and my own by the time I read the last page.

I suggest reading only a few chapters at a time and then taking a day or two off because thoughts, emotions, and prayers will come to mind that you will want to address.  Then you’ll get sucked right back in because you’ll want to know how situations will be resolved and where your heart and mind will be taken next.  Donald’s honesty will make you want to be honest with yourself about who you are and where your faith walk is headed.

The movie Blue Like Jazz opens April 13th.  Perhaps you should do things “forwards” by reading the book before seeing the movie.  Or maybe you like being backwards, too.

What was your reaction to reading Blue Like Jazz?  If you haven’t read it yet, are you going to read the book before seeing the movie? 

Make Space on Your Bookshelf for Firefly Lane

Being in relationships is not easy. Whether it’s a marriage, friendship, or family connection, having others in our lives takes a lot of effort:  emotionally we have to ride the waves of ups and downs; mentally we need to be present and active when speaking with or spending time with our special someone; and logistically we need to make space in our lives for those that matter.  Exhausting, right?  Yes, at times it is, but mostly it’s remarkably rewarding.

In her book firefly lane, Kristin Hannah is a master at weaving together the lives of two girls who were the most unlikely of friends: a nerd and Ms. Popular.  What begins as a tale of insecurities and second-guessing the other’s intentions turns into a life-long bond that carries them through the highs and lows of life for thirty years. 

Kristin Hannah’s ability to portray the different facets of relationships in a very real, deep-felt way sucks you into her characters’ journeys.  Like all of the books I have read by Kristin Hannah, firefly lane drew me into the characters so much that I felt their hurt, joy, frustration, betrayal, and peace.  I generally donate all of my books to charity after I’ve read them once; this book is different.  Firefly lane remains nestled between other books on my shelf as a reminder of how to create believable lives in my own creative writing.

What book have you read that had very real characters?

Check out Kristin Hannah’s other books on her blog.

Life is a Precious Gift

We watched the news and scoured the newspapers for information about the 7.0 earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010.  We mourned while viewing pictures of the destruction and death, and sent financial and other types of donations to organizations to provide some much needed assistance to the poor people of Haiti.

Dan Woolley, though, was not as lucky as those of us who remained in the comfort of our homes, observing the catastrophe from many miles away.  When the earthquake ended, he found himself trapped below six levels of what used to be the Hotel Montana in Haiti.  What had once been an attractive and comfortable hotel where Dan rested between tasks he was working on for the Child Survival Program with Compassion International became a prison of darkness and danger.

Dan’s book Unshaken chronicles the story of his sixty-five hours of captivity beneath the concrete      mass of the Hotel Montana.  You will be forever changed once you have shared his emotional and spiritual journey: you will want to continually cultivate your relationships with God, family, and friends, and will be thankful for your life every day that God allows you to remain on Earth.

Check out Dan’s website and purchase his book at this link:  Unshaken by Dan Woolley

Find out what the Child Survival Program is at this link:  Compassion Child Survival Program

What book have you read lately that moved you spiritually or emotionally?

Life at the Westbury Arms

In The Awakening Angela Hunt weaves a tale of love, betrayal, achievements, disappointments, and mysterious unknowns all on one floor of the Westbury Arms building.  Aurora, the main character, is presented with a host of frightening yet freeing encounters that allow the reader to see into Aurora’s heart and experience the ebb and flow of her emotions.  One cannot help but relate to her losses and triumphs when Ms. Hunt uses great descriptive phrases such as, “without warning, anxiety crests inside me like a wave, breaks, and sends streamers of terror in every direction.”

The Awakening was the Finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year award.  It is only one of many contemporary style novels written by Ms. Hunt, as listed on her website.

Purchase The Awakening here

Good Samaritan or Intruder?

I believe God periodically places us in exactly the right place at the right time so that we can help others.  This belief was affirmed last week when my husband Dale and I were walking through a parking lot.  The sun beat down relentlessly even though it was nearly 4:00.  The temperature hovered around ninety-five degrees and the youngling trees sprinkled throughout the parking lot offered little reprieve from the toasty afternoon.

As we neared our destination we heard a child screaming from a mini-van in front of us.  Dale looked into the van, realizing that there were children inside without an adult.  The vehicle was not running and only the front two windows were cracked a few inches.

“Is this the type of situation when you call the police?” he asked.

Reaching my fingers through the driver’s window, I was greeted by an intense heat. “Yes,” I replied.  I tried opening the driver and passenger doors but they were locked.  The kids continued to scream as Dale went in search of someone to help and began to call the police.

I reached my arm through the passenger window and tried to unlock the door but was unsuccessful.  My mind raced.  Should I break the window?  When does the situation become dire enough to justify my actions?  In an instant I had my answer:  the children’s safety far outweighed any potential reprimand or questioning of my intentions.  I was searching for a weapon to use to break a window when a little boy appeared between the front seats.

“Hi kiddo.  Are you hot?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Can you open the door?”

He immediately complied and crawled out.  The alarm was triggered by his action but I was distracted from the noise by the realization that there were still two more kids in the car: two girls in car seats in the back.  I had to get them out!  After letting the boy adjust to the lessened temperatures for a few seconds he agreed to get back in to open a back door.

from Google Images

The poor, helpless girls were sweating profusely and looked disoriented.  As I was taking one girl out of her seat a woman came up behind me.  Whether the mother or someone else, she was concerned about the children when I explained what I was doing.  Shockingly she didn’t scream at me, accuse me of attempted kidnapping or breaking into her car, and didn’t push me away.  Instead, she carefully reached in to check on the girl and thanked me for helping.

A security guard approached as I walked away from the van.  He was talking to the police.  A few minutes passed and nothing happened.  Soon he hung up the phone.

“Are the police coming?” I inquired.

“No.  The woman with the van just handed the kids the keys so the police said that there is nothing they can do.”

I stared at him, shocked at the police’s lack of responsiveness to the situation.  Children were baking in a car and that wasn’t sufficient for them to investigate the situation? Didn’t her actions constitute child endangerment?

I was very upset because the woman could do the same thing to the poor children again in the future and the police didn’t seem to care.  The lawyer side of me made me question what constitutes child endangerment in California – the statute is below.  What are your thoughts on the situation?  What would you have done?  Do you think the police acted correctly?  Do you think it was child endangerment?

Cal Pen Code § 273a (2011)

§ 273a.  Endangering child or causing or permitting child to suffer physical pain, mental suffering, or injury; Conditions of probation

(a) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.

(b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Thin Places Delivers

Moved and awakened.  That’s how I felt after reading Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places.  The honesty with which she repaints the story of her far from ordinary childhood and the mental struggles of her adulthood is refreshing and freeing.  As I read, I found myself recalling parts of my past with which I have and continue to struggle, but seeing them in a different light, a healing light.  I am in awe of the healing that has occurred in Mary’s heart and soul through the power of God, and see no reason why I can’t experience the same healing since my owns hurts pale in comparison to those she has experienced.

Mary’s eloquent use of words was riveting.  I couldn’t stop marveling at how well pieced together they were and how they enveloped me in the story.  I was with Mary through each of her experiences, seeing and feeling things as she did.  I yearn to be as graceful and real with my writing.

Purchase Thin Places here