Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Code Black!

Who knew a trip to Walmart while on vacation would result in such an exciting story to tell?!

We went down south to the City for a mini family vacation this week. We like to go during the week because the cross border traffic is significantly lower which means less busy shopping and less waiting at restaurants - especially since we're a table of 6. Works out nicely that hotels are cheaper during the week than they are on the weekends too. And the significantly shorter border wait is another huge plus. Thankfully, Nathan's job (self-employed home builder) allows us to go during the week.

Anyway, it had been one of those fairly hot, muggy days that just feels like a storm's a comin'. We were finishing up our shopping for the day at Walmart and had just finished putting all our purchases in the cart and were heading for the till when we heard an announcement over the speaker system which said something like this....

"Attention all customers and staff. This is a Code Black. All customers and staff please proceed to the electronics department at the back of the store."

We had no idea what a Code Black was, but considering a major gust of wind had just blown down some displays, we had a fairly good guess.

At first the girls weren't too nervous. They were wondering what was going on, but seemed relatively unconcerned.

When we got to the electronics department the staff directed us to stand in the area between two pillars that were grey in colour as it was the most structural sound part of the store area. We had only been there a minute or two when suddently the entire store was plunged into pitch darkness as the power went out. I immediately reached out to the girls near me (Jacob was in the front of the cart and Olivia was sitting in the rear section of the cart) and said "It's ok, it's ok". Thankfully the blackness only lasted momentarily as the emergency power source kicked on the emergency lighting. It was nothing like the lit up store we had been in only moments before, but at least we could see.

But now the girls were getting a bit nervous. A worker stopped by (I'm assuming because we had kids) to explain to us a bit more what was happening. I think it may have been a bit better for the girls if we hadn't received the extra information - ignorance is bliss and all that. She said that a Code Black was a severe weather situation and that a tornado had touched down somewhere close by but that's all they knew. They had no idea how long the Code Black would last but for now we just had to wait it out.

Meanwhile, practically every person there had their cell phones out - calling people, texting, tweeting and Facebooking. Some were crying and hugging each other, but most people seemed to be relatively calm.

A few minutes later they decided to direct us all to leave our filled shopping carts behind and head to the staff break rooms at the rear of the building. A few people refused to go back there - they felt is was more unsafe due to the proximity of the outdoor walls. But we figured that the management staff knew where the safest area was and we just had to trust them, though I would've preferred a basement shelter!

I found it disconcerting because we couldn't see what was going on outside. We had no idea of knowing how serious the situation was. I instant messaged my best friend, gave her a quick update of the situation and asked her to pray, especially since the kids were starting to get a bit upset.

As they were herding us to the back staff rooms, our oldest started to become very distressed, at one point she was leaning over and almost hyperventilating, shaking and crying in fear. We did our best to reassure her that these were just extra safe precautions they were taking to be on the safe side, and that they had to go overboard to make sure everybody was ok (similar things I was saying to myself in order to keep my own fear to a minimum and remain calm for the girls' sake). However, reason does not usually work well once fear has taken hold that much, so I just prayed for her quickly and quietly (but out loud so she could hear me) while we were heading back to the rooms.

We found a corner of the room and a couple of the kids sat on the floor while we waited. I prayed for Emma again and then dug in my purse for my phone to let Olivia play a game to keep her distracted - hey, whatever works right? A few minutes later an employee came in and announced that the weather had calmed enough that people could leave it they wanted to, though we were welcome to stay a bit longer till it calmed down more. At this Emma had a huge grin on her face - she told me that she had just prayed for God to give her a sign if we were going to be ok, and right then the employee came in and said the weather had calmed, so now she knew we were going to be ok. It was so sweet. She wanted to wait longer before leaving so I sat down in a chair vacated by a man who had left immediately and held Olivia who was easily calmed and then we waited some more. Fairly soon, Nathan decided to take Jacob for a walk around the store because he was getting restless. Sophia was now showing signs of some distress so I moved Olivia to the floor to continue playing with my phone and held Sophia on my lap which calmed her down easily. After a few more minutes had passed, the employee returned to let us know the weather was ok and we could leave.

Jacob was completely unaffected by the entire thing. He tried to reassure the girls a few times "There's nothing to be scared, everything's ok". It was cute.

Unfortunately the power in the store was not back on, and even after it came on it would take an hour for them to have the tills up and running again. So, we left our cart of items behind and headed to Target! ;)

While we were there Emma started to feel sick. I'm not sure if she had had an adrenaline rush and this was the afteraffects of it, or if that's just normal after a stress-filled fear incident. So we quickly headed back to the hotel where she felt safe and could lie down. After more praying she was able to calm down and go to sleep - though she didn't want to eat the ice cream blizzards Nathan had picked up.

She was able to have a sound sleep, but the next day she had another episode of shaking, crying and feeling sick and I prayed over her again and also reasoned things out with her. We had come down on these holidays multiple times and this was the first time anything like this had ever happened, and that the very next day was probably the least likely day for it to happn again, blah, blah, blah. I told her that God was in control, that God was good, that God loved us, that God was with us no matter what happened and that we could trust Him. (I didn't tell her that that didn't mean we would for sure be safe. There's a time and a place for deep theological discussions, but this was not one of them!) She didn't eat a whole lot at lunch after that either, but since then she seems to have been ok.

We are very thankful for our physical safety and continue to pray that the kids (and Emma in particular) will not have fear related episodes related to storms in the future.

Who knew a trip to Walmart would turn out to be so eventful?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Book Review: Beyond all Measure by Dorothy Love

About the Book: Unless she can trust God's love to cast out her fears, Ada may lose the heart of a good man.

Ada Wentworth, a young Bostonian, journeys to Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, in the years following the Civil War. Alone and nearly penniless following a broken engagement, Ada accepts a position as a lady’s companion to the elderly Lillian Willis, a pillar of the community and aunt to the local lumber mill owner, Wyatt Caldwell. Ada intends to use her millinery skills to establish a hat shop and secure her future.

Haunted by unanswered questions from her life in Boston, Ada is most drawn to two townsfolks: Wyatt, a Texan with big plans of his own, and Sophie, a mulatto girl who resides at the Hickory Ridge orphanage. Ada's friendship with Sophia attracts the attention of a group of locals seeking to displace the residents of Two Creeks, a "colored" settlement on the edge of town. As tensions rise, Ada is threatened but refuses to abandon her plan to help the girl.

When Lillian dies, Ada is left without employment or a place to call home. And since Wyatt’s primary purpose for staying in Hickory Ridge was to watch over his aunt, he can now pursue his dream of owning Longhorns in his home state of Texas.

With their feelings for each other growing, Ada must decide whether she can trust God with her future and Wyatt with her heart.

My thoughts: The book (technically an e-book for my Sony Reader) was an enjoyable read but I admit to being somewhat disappointed. The saying "you can't judge a book by it's cover" probably applies well here. I loved the cover of this book! I love historical romance and the cover just made it look like a well-written, well-developed story. And though it was definitely an enjoyable and easy-going read, I just felt like it didn't do enough with the potential that was there.

I thought that both Wyatt and Ada's stories had more potential than the author took advantage of. If they had been fleshed out more it would have made the characters more realistic and the reader more empathetic. Both of the main characters are extremely likable, but some of Ada's decisions are not clearly explained and therefore seem slightly unbelievable, like they were made for the sake of the fairly predictable storyline.

I did like the whole millinery angle as I have a minor fascination with hats (though I rarely wear them myself, and certainly not the styles described in the book), so I found that intriguing. I also felt that the book did a good job of describing the tension between the north/south and the emotions and aftereffects plaguing both "sides" after the end of the war. I just felt that Wyatt and Ada's characters themselves could have been more well-developed.

Thank you to Booksneeze for providing me with my complimentary e-book review copy of Dorothy Love's Beyond All Measure.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Book Review: Nick of Time by Tim Downs

About the Book: Tying the knot may be the toughest thing Nick Polchak has ever tried to do.

Nick Polchak is comfortable with bugs. Their world is orderly. He knows where he stands and exactly how to interpret the signs they give him. But a fiancée and an upcoming wedding? Not so much.

That's why—a mere four days before the nuptials—Nick finds himself driving to Philadelphia for the monthly meeting of the Vidocq society. Being among a group of forensic professionals consulting on cold cases will surely allow him to feel useful and normal.

But while there he discovers that a close friend has been murdered . . . and in classic Nick style, begins to follow the trail of evidence rather than returning to his fiancée. Fearing that his one-track mind won't lead him home by Saturday, Alena and three of her dogs go to track him down.

When she finally finds him, nothing is as Alena expected . . . because the twists in this case will surprise even the most dedicated Bug Man fans.

My thoughts: I knew by page 2 that I was going to love this book! The author's sense of humour had me laughing from the get-go and had me thoroughly entertained the whole way through.

The author also wrote the two main characters so convincingly that I really felt like I could empathize with them and relate to them - which is amazing because both of them are absolutely nothing like me. I'm not a bug person and I'm not a dog person - yet I found both of Nick and Alena's jobs and passions to be thoroughly interesting. Tremendous feat!

The book also tackles the HUGE difference between planning a wedding and planning a marriage. The fact that there is a difference and that one is far more important than the other (hint: it's not the wedding) should be simple common sense, but in reality, I don't think it is. I think usually women get so caught up in planning this wedding they've dreamed of their whole lives, and men try to just survive the onslaught (I realize I'm stereotyping here!) - that the marriage itself takes a backseat at a time when it needs to be front and centre.

And then amongst that all is a thrilling murder mystery with a twist I certainly did not see coming. Normally, I love it when I can't see the twist coming, but in this case, I wasn't overly impressed with the twist itself.

This book is considered Christian fiction, but, though the book is absolutely consistent with Christian morals, it is definitely not overtly Christian.

This is the first book I've read by Tim Downs, but you can be certain it will not be my last!

Thank you to Booksneeze for providing me with my complimentary review copy of Tim Downs' Nick of Time.


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