Friday, February 27, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: The Best Book I Read this Month, Love Defined

It's that time again! Time to name the best book I read this month for participation in February's  Cephalopod Coffeehouse!

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse - February 27th

This month, I have the pleasure of featuring a book that deals with a topic near and dear to my heart--that of the painful ordeal of infertility. During the summer, I named the first book in Elizabeth Maddrey's Remnants series, Faith Departed, as the best book of the month.


This month I'm naming the last novel in the series as the best book I've read in February.

Love Defined, the final piece of the Remnants trilogy by Elizabeth Maddrey, follows the harrowing ordeal of twin sisters' struggle with infertility and their quest to become parents. In the first book of the series, Faith Departed, June, July, and their husbands decide that now is the right time to start a family and assume that, like all the other couples around them, this plan will fall right into place according to their timing. When this doesn't happen for either of them, the sisters' faiths and marriages are shaken and tested. Their frustration and agony continues in the second book of the trilogy, Hope Deferred. In the third and final installment of the series, June and July's relationship as sisters is tried as they forge different paths, both struggling to decide what is best for their families. Do they accept and embrace a life with no children? What about adoption? What if adoption doesn't work out or they don't feel the desire to adopt? Do they seek out other possibilities? How do they trust God in the midst of so much pain, confusion, and heartache?

This is my favorite novel of the trilogy. Love Defined reveals, with such sensitivity and understanding, the heart-wrenching choices that must be made when, in the words of that great Scottish poet Robbie Burns, "the best laid plans of mice and men go awry." Not only are wives affected by the pain of infertility; husbands experience it acutely as well, but their feelings are too often minimized. Maddrey shows both sides of the coin, as June and July's husbands, Toby and Gareth, suffer differently but no less than the women.  Enduring infertility is not for the faint of heart for women or for men.

Without giving anything away, the ending is beautiful--not because it's perfect, but because honesty and reality prevail. In the real world, even happy endings aren't spotless, and it's nice to see a Christian writer addressing this issue without sugar-coating or over-simplifying the complex issues and emotions involved. Infertility affects an entire community, not just the individual couple.

I highly recommend this book (and the entire trilogy) for anyone who has ever struggled or is currently struggling with infertility. This is also a wonderful read for anyone with a friend or family member currently enduring this painful process, as it might shed light on a situation that is tough to comprehend if you haven't gone through it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: Meet JoJo

As many of you know, The Sighthound Underground is a rescue near and dear to my heart. We adopted our little Trinity through this wonderful charity, and I sometimes have the privilege of helping them process incoming applications for the dogs. Unfortunately, I'm not one of the heroes or heroines flying to Spain or Korea to rescue dogs and bring them back to the US, nor do I drive any dogs from Virginia to Florida or New York to Missouri to transport them to their new homes. But the other volunteers in this organization do. These are people who love these dogs and will do anything to get them into the right homes.

One of the facets of SHUG that I admire the most is the willingness and dedication to rescue dogs internationally. In previous blogs, I've talked a little about the terrible fate befalling most galgos (Spanish greyhounds) in Spain, but that's not the only country from which SHUG rescues. My featured dog of the month is JoJo, and she comes all the way from Kuwait possessing great exotic beauty and mystique (as you do when you come from Kuwait)! JoJo is a type of sighthound called a Saluki (well, she's actually a Saluki mix, but that just adds to her mystique, right?).


Isn't she a charmer? 


In addition to these pictures, there is a short video of JoJo on Petfinder. Go here to see her sweet, wagging tail in action!

Salukis are readily found in the Middle-East, and much like the galgos of Spain, they are used for hunting and flushing quarry. Unfortunately, many of them also end up wandering the streets as strays. They are fast like most sighthounds, and possess a great deal of agility and endurance. They are also sweet-tempered, gentle, and very loyal dogs. Sociable, sensitive, and dignified, Salukis make wonderful additions to YOUR home! (Disclaimer: As with any breed, one should research and make educated decisions about what dog is right for them and their lifestyle).

So back to JoJo...She's around two years old, and when she arrived from Kuwait (where she was rescued from the streets), she had a leg injury (or it may have been something congenital), but it is now completely healed. She still doesn't use her one front leg but is in no way slowed by it. Currently fostered in North Carolina by a foster family (but as I said before, this is the underground and legs of transport can be arranged anywhere throughout the US), JoJo is very sweet and desperate to be loved (although she will need a little patience ). She has bonded with her foster furry brothers and sisters, loves to sleep on the bed and couch, although her crate is her safe place. She's a quick-learner, intelligent, loves short walks and having her chest and ears rubbed.  She is also house-trained, spayed, and up-to-date on all of her shots.

JoJo would do best in a quieter home without small kids. She does get a little nervous with loud and fast movements. 

JoJo's adoption fee is $300, and interested applicants should rush over to The Sighthound Underground and fill out an application. So what are you waiting for? JoJo is waiting for you!

By the way, I am once again participating in the April A-Z blogging challenge! I met wonderful people online last year, and I had a lot of fun participating. If you're interested or if you just want more information, you can sign up or read about it here.  The idea is to blog about a topic every day in the month of April starting with each letter of the alphabet.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Favorite Things Friday (Saturday?): Mes Trois Amours

I'm a day late, folks...and I'm so sorry. My husband and I decided to celebrate Valentine's Day on Friday rather than Saturday in the hopes of avoiding the V-Day crush.  Last night I lured my love to World of Beer to celebrate his drink of choice, but today we had a friend over who brought three wonderful wines from our favorite California winery: Ledson.

About four years ago, we had the privilege of meeting Steve Ledson in person (and quite by accident). Stephen and I had visited Ledson once when we were dating and we loved it! Right in the heart of Sonoma, Ledson Winery looks like a cross between Batman's lair and a Newport mansion. It is Gothic in structure and impressive to behold, but the main draw is the wine itself.

During that fateful day in July of 2010, we were wine-tasting around Sonoma with my mom and step-dad and some friends. Arriving at Ledson, we were greeted by Steve Ledson himself, although at the time we had no idea of our good fortune other than the fact that our host drew back a velvet rope and led us up an enchanted stairway to a private tasting room in which something like twenty wines breathed. Apparently the private tasting party had not shown up, and we were the lucky recipients of this oversight. Two and a half hours later, we'd all joined Ledson's wine club and felt like we'd been in the presence of royalty (Steve Ledson is the master of making one feel like they're the only guest on the premises).

Here's the rub: Ledson does not distribute its wines. Unless you are a club member or a frequent visitor of the vineyard, there's no hope of tasting the nectar of the mythological wines that are Ledson's. OR, you can simply visit their website and order from its magical offerings (

This month, my suggested wine is Mes Trois Amours (My Three Loves) an extraordinary blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache--three amorous varietals brought together in a balanced flavor-explosion that will set your glands firing and your eyes sparkling with these three LOVEly grapes of wonder.  

If you take the chance and order a few bottles of this delightful blend, I think you will agree that I'm right on target. I'd love to hear what you think.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Favorite Things Friday: Real Love

Tis the season for valentines, chocolate, flowers, and all that jazz.  

 Chocolate Heart 1

As a high school English teacher, I always reserve Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for this time of year, capitalizing on its themes of love and allusions to Cupid and the star-crossed lovers. After Act II, however, even my most jaded 9th grader recognizes that Romeo is immature and shallow, and that this play is really more of an illustration of lust running roughshod over reason. This seems like a good time of year to hammer home that message.

Even after eight years of marriage, my husband and I usually do something for each other for the hallmark holiday. We normally go out to dinner somewhere and/or buy a little gift for each other.  Overall, though, we try to do special things for one another all year long, not just on Valentine’s Day. My husband has taught me a lot about the meaning of true love as it exists between earthly people, and every day we practice respect and forgiveness for one another.

Along with my hubby, some of the greatest teachers of love I’ve ever had are my grandparents, both maternal and paternal. Both sets of grandparents were married when they were very young (my grandmothers were 16 and 17, respectively). Both couples weathered a lot of storms during the course of their marriages. My mother’s parents endured World War II and my grandfather going off to war; my father’s parents endured long absences from one another, too (my grandfather was a long-distance truck driver). Both grandmothers birthed four children (that, alone, is enough to test any marriage).

When my maternal grandfather got sick near the end of his life, my grandmother sat at his bedside every day in the nursing home, and even though he wasn’t aware of much most of the time, she talked to him constantly. One of the most poignant images I recall is my grandmother rubbing Vaseline into my grandfather’s feet, which were painfully dried-out and cracked. She fed him by hand if necessary, made sure everyone was on-task with his continual care, and maintained a hard, bright perkiness that lifted the spirits of every nurse and aid in the facility.

Just this Christmas, my paternal grandmother contracted pneumonia and suffered with the effects of some old heart issues. My 90 year-old grandfather was the one who called 911, and once they moved her to a hospital, he remained by her bedside all day every day. A picture speaks a thousand words, so these pictures replace my best attempt at written description for the true love that exists between this special couple. (She is now back at home and doing better every day!)

Sherry Whitson West's photo.

In this day and time of the dispensable Hollywood relationship, when the quest for romantic love overshadows the perseverance, diligence, and hard work of a lasting marriage, it seems that the world needs less Romeos (and Christian Greys) and more illustrations of sacrificial and long-suffering commitment. Love that endures beyond the gray hair, tests of life, and potential illnesses is the kind of love Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

 Even the often cynical and bawdy Shakespeare knew the difference, as expressed in his Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

 It’s easy to discern the real thing when you see it.

Cross Variation

Happy Valentine’s Day!