Burning Love

January 9, 2022

Ha! Fooled you with my title, didn’t I? No, this is not a steamy 500 word blog post (unless we’re talking about actual steam). This is about my love of candles, fireplaces, and the like, which directly corresponds to my fear of these things. My strangely mixed feelings echo my love/hate relationship with the ocean. Fire and water are two basic elements, and I probably should be 100% on board with them, as long as I take common-sense precautions. 

Instead, I have visions of me, or, worse, someone I love, floundering in a rip tide, or burned badly in a cooking mishap. So when it appears I am gazing serenely into the fire pit, or at the water’s edge, internally I’m catastrophizing to beat the band. When I watch bolder, less neurotic souls surfing (I still have no idea how surfing is even possible) and scuba diving, tending huge bonfires and lighting multiple birthday candles on cakes (after three candles the match burns down too close to my fingers), I'm in awe of their phenomenal courage.

As a child, our family never had even a minor issue with flames (a miracle considering the six packs of cigarettes Mom and Dad smoked between them, every single day.) But we weren’t outdoorspeople of any stripe, so I never learned anything about campfires. I just gathered that apparently when you sat around them, you were suddenly compelled to tell that scary story about the guy with the hook for a hand on Lover’s Lane, and/or pull out a guitar and belt out some rollicking folk tunes from the 1960s. No thank you!

But then I married Steve, who was a fearless fire man. For the first time in my life, we had cookouts (involving burning charcoal!!) Our living room fireplace was actually used; the one in my folks’ house was notable only for the multiple times squirrels got stuck in the chimney. When I turned 30, Stevo confidently lit the vast amount of candles on my cake.

Finally, I discovered scented candles (nice—read pricey—ones, I’m a bit of a fragrance snob), and knew I couldn’t keep asking other people to light them for me. I still can’t deal with matches, but I can use lighters. Armed with my little Bic, I daily light a favorite candle and keep it on my desk in my home office. I can, and do, also light candles in the family room when we have company, or for a nice dinner. The atmosphere they create is amazing—instant ambiance, and a sense that something special is happening.

Buoyed by my success, I had two friends over recently to sit around the fire pit on our deck. While I admit that Steve got things going, at one point the fire began to die down and I MOVED A LOG, all by myself. What’s next for me? Grilling juicy sirloins over red-hot coals? Starting a cozy fire in the fireplace WHEN I’M HOME ALONE?

Not so fast.


    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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