Friday, October 31, 2014

The Best Book I Read This Month...

It's that time again--time for The Cephalopod Coffeehouse --where a bunch of us book lovers chat about our favorite reads for the month! For this month, I picked...(surprise!) a scary read!

Rarely do I ever read a book after seeing the movie. I always rush to try and finish a book before the movie version comes out, and then I’m usually disappointed anyway. In this particular case, I’ve seen the movie over and over again during the course of a ten year period, yet I just got around to reading the novel.

I’ve only read one other Stephen King novel (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). I really enjoyed it, but it was more of a psychological thriller. I’ve wanted to read The Shining for years, but I was afraid the book would be too gruesome or brutal for me. (I hate reading anything that’s bloody or gory).

I was pleasantly surprised to find more of a psychological ride than a horror tale. There are elements of horror within the story, but overall, I was riveted. I see now why King is considered such a master of the page; he effectively crafts scenes, describes actions and images, and paints the background of characters. This novel, written in 1977, reads differently from a modern horror novel. It’s subtle with less attempt at shock value and far more attention to the storyline.

For those who don’t know the story, Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, takes his wife and son to live at The Overlook—a hotel in the Colorado mountains where inhabitants are snowed in all winter. Torrance assumes this will be the perfect opportunity to write his next novel; instead, once the snow begins to fall and Jack and his family are snowed in, the house comes alive, tormenting Jack and his family with freaky women in the bathtub, strange characters in the ballroom (including an oh-so-polite, but all-too-dead bartender), and an elevator that runs by itself. All the while, Jack’s son, Danny, holds special powers called “shining” in which he can sense and see things that others can’t, and he can communicate telepathically with others who have the same abilities.

The Shining holds up remarkably well, and makes a perfect halloween companion.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Author Interview

Sorry I missed posting yesterday! It has been quite a week...

I also realized that October has 5 weeks, so my schedule of posting inspirational, wine-of-the-month, dog-for-adoption, best-book-I-read-this-month weekly schedule was awkwardly interrupted. So for this week, I have a new interview for you.

Fiona McVie graciously interviewed me this week, and here is the link!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Favorite Things Friday: Rya

It's time for favorite things Friday! Since it's the third Friday of the month, that means I feature an adoptable dog!

This is Rya the galga (female Spanish greyhound).  Rya was rescued from Spain where she spent her whole life as a hunting dog and a brood-mama, but now she's retired from all that mess and ready to find her new home!

Rya is eight years old but very spunky! She recently got into a pretty big tussle with one tough kitty, so she needs to be in a cat-free home. Having said that, she is small-dog safe, and she's as sweet as she can be with everyone else in the non-feline world.

Her adoption fee of $650 covers all her shots and vet care (including spay/neuter) and transportation costs. She is available for adoption anywhere in the US or Canada through Sighthound Underground. Send them an email or application if you're interested!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Road to Romance...8 years later...

When I was a kid, I read a lot of romantic rubbish. Okay, I know...that sounds really bad. But I have to admit my reading choices were not what I would choose for my teenaged daughter (if I had one). If you examined these novels for an ounce of truth about love, you simply wouldn't find it. Not an ounce. Not a gram. I mean--I read Danielle Steele (guilty confession: I still love quite a few of her older novels), Jackie Collins (ugh, I think you'll probably get a clear picture with that one), and anything from mass market romance publishers like Harlequin, Silhouette, etc. Adding insult to injury, in the summers when I wasn't in school, I watched one soap opera after another. Literally speaking, I began with Ryan's Hope at 12:30, moved on to All My Children at 1:00, progressed to As the World Turns at 2:00, and finalized the festival of fornication with General Hospital at 3:00 (and for a time I even watched reruns of the 1966 Dark Shadows soap opera at 4:00).

Later, in my twenties, I moved on to Lifetime Movie romances. Those were better, right?

So was it any wonder I ended up dating the worst kind of losers imaginable? Let's face it--my idea of love was fashioned after multiple series in which everyone was rich, doctors had loads of time to hang out and neck with the nurses, and people killed their sisters so they could be with their husbands. No one on these shows seemed to have any problem finding someone to marry, nor did they have any difficulty finding someone with whom to have an affair (all with Christopher Cross songs playing in the background). I mean, really! I was doomed from the start.

After a long string of absolutely ridiculous relationships with men across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans (I don't know what that was about--for some reason I thought exotic men were romantically superior), I eventually moved from soap-opera-inspired sob stories complete with drama and tears and late-nite trans-pacific phone calls to my mother, to finally listening to what the Good Lord was trying to tell me--since He was practically screaming at me, "Give it up! You're not going to marry an Australian!"

But it took me until I was a 30 year-old--returning from the land of Oz for third time--to listen.

So I admit it. I became a dating-site groupie. I joined Match and eharmony simultaneously, rivalling Blanche DuBois in my desperation. I met some absolute slugs on (and others were quite scary, escape-from-Norman-Bates kind of scary). Most of the men I met on eharmony were nice, but just...I don't know...there was something about moving to Iowa, or South Dakota, or Taiwan that didn't interest me.

Would there ever be a happy ending for me? Would I ever find my Heathcliff? My Hamlet? My Lord George Gordon Byron? (Thankfully, the answer to these questions was no). the age of 34, I finally met my Stephen. We met on eharmony in March of 2006, and after a whirlwind romance, we married in October of that same year.

Today marks our 8th anniversary. I'm so thankful that General Hospital was wrong, and I didn't have to fall off of a yacht, or have amnesia, or kill my boyfriend's wife (only to have her reappear in a shower later on and discover that it was all a dream) in order to find true love.

I'm also really thankful that I didn't marry the sort of man I would have chosen in my late teens or early twenties (good can't even imagine...[see below, where you may find evidence of my confusion]).

This ?

Or this?

God truly knew what He was doing when He put us together. And what I now know is marriage is tough, and so is true love. And yes, sometimes my life does resemble a soap opera (just a little), but I wouldn't trade this guy for all the tortured Byronic souls in the world.

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favorite Things Friday: Bogle Phantom

It’s the second week of the month, so as promised, this week’s favorite thing will feature a wine I particularly enjoy. This month (because it’s October, of course) I’m going to feature Bogle’s red wine blend, Phantom.

I was introduced to this wine about eight years ago, and although I don’t come across it as often as I used to, I buy it when I see it.
Bogle is a Northern California vineyard that produces and widely distributes all kinds of varietals from light whites to heavy red zinfandels. For a label that mass produces, Bogle’s wines are really quite tasty. For a table wine, I often buy their Old Vine Zinfandel, but I really love this one:


If you appreciate fruit-forward wine with flavors of rich berries and cherries with a little pepper and a lingering finish, this wine may satisfy your palate. Aged 24 months in American oak, this blend of  Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvedre is ruby red in color—beautiful to behold and taste.

Happy Friday everyone!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Favorite Things Friday! Dogs and God: The Unconditional Love Parallel

It’s been almost a year since my beloved dog, Tessa, died. In 2002, I adopted Tessa, a one or two year-old dachshund mix from a small dog rescue in Locust Grove, Virginia. She remained my “bestest little girl” for the next eleven years. Unfortunately, last fall she was diagnosed with lymphoma and passed away about eight weeks later.

Missing her and thinking about her this week made me revisit the idea of how God views animals and why we, as humans, love our animals so, so much. I started philosophizing a little bit, and I realized that dogs’ love for their human companions greatly resembles God’s love for us. Dogs are faithful, loving, and forgiving. So is God. Dogs desperately want to be near us as much as possible. So does God. Relationally, there are some parallels, and it makes me wonder if the Lord put these beautiful animals upon the earth to remind us of His pure and unconditional love for us.
The Bible says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). I look at Chase and Trinity--the two dogs we have now--and I see all of these qualities. They are mostly peaceful, but always joyful. There is nothing like being greeted by Chase and Trinity at the end of a long, hard day. They wait all day (longsuffering) for our return. Once we come through the door, the celebration abounds! Jumping around, squealing with delight, spinning and whirling with such intense excitement at our homecoming as to be overwhelming at times. I imagine that is the sort of welcome we will receive in heaven one day.
“Ask the animals, and they will teach you...In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7 and10)
Dogs can teach us about kindness and goodness if we watch them closely. Unless unbalanced or abused, most dogs are happy to meet new people, welcoming them with wagging tails and lolling tongues (even if the person the dog meets doesn’t like them). I once heard a minister say, while pointing to a golden retriever brought to the pulpit, “The best Christian in this room is this golden retriever.” We all laughed, but who could dispute it? No human has the capability of being wholly kind and good. "There is no one righteous, not even one…" (Romans 3:10).

As for how God feels about dogs, and animals in general, His word tells us, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.b (Matthew 10:29). So we know that God cares for all His creatures. And I believe He sometimes employs them supernaturally. There was a story out not too long ago about a man injured in a house fire. “Go get help!” he told his dog, and she ran long and hard out to the road where a police officer was trying to find the burning house. The officer said later that something told him to follow the dog; he heeded the voice, followed the dog, and she led him straight to her person’s house.  (See video below)
“The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
One final parallel: the connection between God’s protection and that which a dog instinctually performs. A woman with whom I used to attend church once told me that she had never been angry with God in her life, because she viewed Him in the same way she viewed the German shepherd she’d had as a child that often protected her from her abusive father. She saw God as standing in her defense just as her dog had. I found that touching, and it secured a comparison in my mind. Sometimes it's hard to really, truly feel or understand God's love here on this fallen earth because so many things compete for our time, attention, and feelings. On the other hand, nothing and no one loves us, wants us, or protects us like God. When this lady told me her story, just for a moment, I caught a glimpse of God's love for me. He loves me unconditionally--like my dog--even more than my dog, and He will fight for me. It gave me chills, because I knew how much my dog loved me. And if my dog loved me that much -- how much more God loved me was really something.

Obviously the comparison I’m making here only goes so far and only represents one component of God, as He is also holy and righteous and just. But if He ever wanted us to catch a glimpse of His unconditional and joyful love for us, He created a wonderful example in a four-legged companion animal whose English name uses the same three letters as His own.