Up all night with a good book

I couldn’t help myself. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve devoured all four of Tana French’s novels. French writes novels about murders in Ireland. They’re not your everyday suspense genre. The plots are complex and deep, thought-provoking, gripping, and filled with beautiful language. Her characters are rich, complicated, flawed, hurt, and determined not to let their injuries define them.

Here’s a couple examples of sentences I loved:

“A whole coven of knife-happy stalkers could have been doing the Macarena around the cottage and I would never have known.”

“She pinned me up against the photocopier—” . . . “—and she breathed all over me,” Rafe said. “Moistly. It was like being molested by a walrus soaked in air freshener.”

Great stuff. If you’re looking for a good psychological suspense with characters you’ll love and wonderful writing, give Tana French a try. The characters cross over in the books, but the protagonist is different in each one. You can read them out of sequence.

Heads up: her books contain profanity.

In the Woods by Tana French, Book 1 Dublin Murder Squad series

In the Woods by Tana French, Book 1 Dublin Murder Squad series

The Likeness by Tana French, Book 2 Dublin Murder Squad series

The Likeness by Tana French, Book 2 Dublin Murder Squad series

Faithful Place by Tana French, Book 3 Dublin Murder Squad series

Faithful Place by Tana French, Book 3 Dublin Murder Squad series

Broken Harbor by Tana French, Book 4 Dublin Murder Squad series

Broken Harbor by Tana French, Book 4 Dublin Murder Squad series

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The familiar and the rare

 

Yesterday we finished our trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons. This nearly annual trek teaches me something every time. This year’s lesson was that there’s beauty in the everyday, familiar things I live surrounded by  (horses, cows, goats, and alpacas) and the exotic that I see less often. I get excited when I see what lives near me and love having them around. When I drove to school in Denver, there was a flock of sheep I came to expect every fall. Its presence made my heart happy.

Visiting Yellowstone and the Tetons, I anticipate wilder, less familiar animals. This year pronghorn antelope, elk, coyote, buffalo, a mama black bear and her cub, and two moose blessed us with their presence.

David drives while I scan the roadside.  Over the years, we’ve developed a code for him to slow down without running off the road when I squeal. Safety first. Bear are harder to find, and it’s been years since we’ve seen a moose. This year was a bonanza.

Some of the best things in life are worth searching for and waiting until we find them. I appreciate the ordinary and love the occasional sprinkles of the rare. All in all, a great trip.

What are your ordinary and rare sightings?

 

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Moose near Moose, Wyoming

Black Bear near Colter Bay in Grand Tetons

Black Bear near Colter Bay in Grand Tetons

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Into the Free

I love a book that grabs me by that vacant place where my tonsils used to be and doesn’t let go. Into the Free is such a book. Julie Cantrell created a loveable character in Millie Reynolds. Loveable because she’s tough, honest, and still vulnerable. Millie longs for a stable family where the adults fill their roles, and she doesn’t have to.

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Into the Free conveys Depression-era Mississippi innocence along with the harshness of survival in a time of unemployment and poverty. Life is hard, Millie’s family life is harder, and still she marches on. While not duplicating Harper Lee’s Scout, Millie has enough of a Scout echo to strum heartstrings that adore Alabama’s favorite heroine. Millie’s music is an original song that captures her struggles and joys. It still plays in my head.

A five-star book for me is one that I’ll read again and that I find myself pondering scenes from as if they happened to someone I know. Into the Free is a definite five-star.

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I’d rather have God’s guidance than GPS

Recently I used my GPS to plot my route to a new location. Easy enough. Enter the destination, pick from the selections, and watch the machine plan my trip. Well, not so fast. Sometimes the GPS gives me totally unrelated choices. It doesn’t have a mind of its own and does its best to interpret my data. I entered Inca for Inca Mexican Restaurant and among my options were the correct one plus Insulation Services Inc A Div, Ross Dress For Less, and Crop Production Svc Inc. Huh? Good thing I have control over which map I get. FYI, Red Lobster came up as the top choice because it was a paid ad.

GPS search results

GPS search results

Still, I pick my restaurant and take off. In this case, I basically know where it is anyway, but choose to let GPS direct me. Immediately it dislikes my approach to the starting point and starts “rerouting.” I ignore it, knowing it will catch up with me.

Cruising along, I hear, “In .3 miles, turn left on Columbia.” Good enough, but by the time I check my mileage and look up, I’ve passed the street. I whip into a parking lot and try again while the GPS tries to steer me back on course.

Then I hear, “Turn left on College Avenue.” Sure, that’d get me there, but I know the restaurant is in the parking lot straight ahead and I can approach from the back. I reach Inca, turn off the GPS, and we’re both happy. Destination achieved.

How does that compare to trusting God for guidance? I enter my destination. Again, not so fast. God might have other plans. Maybe he wants me to go to Ross Dress For Less. I hope he doesn’t choose Crop Production Svc Inc because I have no idea what I’d do there. With GPS, I can cheat and look at the entire route before traveling. With God, I see just far enough ahead to keep moving. Or waiting until he tells me to move.

Once I’m on my way, God keeps me on course until he tells me to change direction. There may not be an “in .3 miles” warning at all. So I remain flexible and trusting. Like GPS, when I make a wrong turn, God recalculates, but he doesn’t squawk at me saying, “recalculating” or anything else that I interpret as “you’re an idiot, why didn’t you listen?” That keeps me calm and trusting.

There may not be any familiar landmarks when traveling with God. He wants me to rely on him. That’s so much harder to do. I want to look for a McDonald’s or even that advertised Red Lobster. Still, he’s God, he has a plan, and he cares where I go. I’m much better off sticking with him as my guide than relying upon my instincts.

Eventually, I end up where God wants me. I don’t always know where it’ll be or when. But he’s a lot smarter than a machine, and I plan to choose him every time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

What about you? What experiences have you had with GPS and with God? What’s been better?

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I want to go home

We visited northern California last week for a quick trip. After two days of touring around Silicon Valley, I reached my tolerance level for driving around and getting in and out of the car. I told David, “I want to go home.” So, where was home?

At that point, our hotel room was our local retreat. Once we returned, I was able to relax and reenergize for the rest of the trip. We’d stamped the room with our personalities and made it home by filling it with things we’d brought—clothes, books, and electronics. Life with the bare minimum.California hotel room

A day later we were back in Colorado. Our home here is bigger and contains more of our stuff. But is it really the stuff that makes a home? It can’t be as simple as that since we could label a hotel room home.

We’ve lived in many towns and states and made our home in each place. Home is a place we belong. A place we choose. A place with family, friends, and familiar things. Home is fluid and adaptable. It changes with our needs and it comes in many forms. I enjoy the variety and the way we’ve redefined it in each place. Like a hermit crab, we’re able to grow and mature and toss off one shell for a more appropriate one. Eventually, we’ll shed this earthly one and move into our heavenly one Jesus has gone to prepare. Now, that will really be home.

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April 7, 2013 · 10:05 pm

Does this clutter make my house look fat?

I’ve been spring-cleaning. Actually, snow-cleaning. Turning snow days into something productive. I know you can relate to this—the need to streamline and simplify. Tell me I’m not alone.

My house has been on a diet. I’ve attacked rooms, closets, and drawers. Along the way, I’ve examined clothing, shoes, purses, lotions, soaps, knick knacks, pillows, pictures, furniture, and, most recently, Christmas decorations. My Christmas closet now holds one-fourth its former weight. It wasn’t easy. Who doesn’t love a singing Christmas tree? And dancing Frosty?

Clean Christmas closet

Clean Christmas closet

Still, like every other area in the house, I asked myself “Do I love it?” and “Do I still use it—or still want to?” Those questions helped—a lot. Anything I love or still want to use, I kept. But those other things, the ones that I’d enjoyed but tired of, have gone into give-away piles. I filled boxes to offer to friends and took all leftovers to Goodwill. It’s been liberating. Someone else can now enjoy one of these treasures.

The things with emotional pull, but no current use, transformed into a digital picture I can look at whenever I like. And we all know digital pictures don’t add any weight to our houses. So if that crazy rock reminded me of a great vacation, I pitched it out of the house and into my memory stick.

The result of my decluttering diet? There’s more room to move in the house, less to clean and dust, I’m emotionally lighter, and I can enjoy the things I truly love.

What about you? What have you gotten rid of and how did you do it? Please share. I might need to apply your tricks to take off those last few clutter pounds.

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Well done, good and faithful servant

Ensign James F. Trawick

Ensign James F. Trawick

The earthly journey ended last week for my father-in-law, Commander James F. Trawick (USN Ret.). Also known as Jim, Jim-Jim, and Dad, he went to heaven on Monday, January 28, 2013, and was buried next to his wife, Eunice, at Memory Garden in Brea, California, on Saturday, February 2.

I’d never been to a military funeral and the respect these servicemen showed one of their own impressed me. Six men drove from San Diego to Brea to give a proper send off to Dad. As the flag-draped coffin approached the gravesite, one sailor saluted and two others walked behind. The minister shared stories from Dad’s life—silly jokes he was known for, his love for teaching his Sunday School class, and his work with the Gideons.

When the minister finished, the three-gun volley pounded into the sky like a sledgehammer to my heart. Thwack, thwack, thwack. The bugler slid into Taps and a sob hiccupped from deep in my chest with absolutely no warning.

Finally, the folding of the flag. With precise hand movements and a white-gloved hand running along the folds, the sailor moved forward and folded again. He presented the flag to the Captain, who saluted and took it, then the sailor saluted.

I sat behind my husband as the Captain knelt in front of him, presented the flag, looked him in the eye, and solemnly said, “On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to this Country and a grateful Navy.”

Funeral of Commander James F. Trawick (USN Ret.)

Funeral of Commander James F. Trawick (USN Ret.)

The sailors quietly slipped away as the funeral finished. They were as humble in this duty as Dad was in his. Not many knew he received a bronze star in World War II for ordering his crew to return fire when the enemy attacked their ship. He certainly wouldn’t tell you.

I’ll miss Dad. As will his three children, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, sons-in-law, and friends.

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