Winner for Seal Under Siege!

So, I finally finished my writing project and started drawing names for winners in various places and got a late entry here.  SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  I decided to go ahead and draw before I forgot!  :D

The winner is… MARY!

winner-seal

zip me an email Mary and let me know if you’d like this on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or if you’re “old school” and like a nice paperback in your hands.  :)  chautona@chautona.com

Book Review : Seal Under Siege ***WINNER CHOSEN

Book Title: Seal Under Siege
Author: Liz Johnson
Publisher’s Synopsis: SHE’S NOT SAFE YET
When Staci Hayes is rescued from a Mideast prison by navy SEAL Tristan Sawyer, she thinks the ordeal is over. But back in San Diego, a new threat arises. Staci has information that could prevent a hit on U.S. soil, and the terrorist will stop at nothing to silence her. Tristan insists on being her bodyguard, but his constant presence makes her long for things beyond her reach. Protecting Staci is the second chance Tristan needs to put the past behind him. Yet with a spy on the naval base, anyone could be a threat. Can he offer her safety…and love? 

Men of Valor: These navy SEALS were born to excel….

I want to start off with saying something I’ve never said about Liz Johnson’s book.  She writes for “Love Inspired.”  I would normally never have picked up a book with this title on it.  However, I received one of her books to review years ago and loved it.  So, even had she not sent me this one for review, I would have purchased it.

And… I would not have regretted it.  In similar style to her previous books A Promise to Protect and the FBI Special Agent Series, Seal Under Siege is packed with suspense and not overdone romance.  Somehow, Liz Johnson manages to pack all the plot, characterization, and action of a full length novel into a 226 page mass market paperback.  That takes some serious skills.

What I liked:  This book is character driven, fast paced, action packed, and has a strong plot.  I love Tristan and Staci both as individuals and then as they become a couple.  I love that their relationship is believable and while you could argue that it was initially prompted by the stress and tension of their experiences, she gave it a concrete foundation too.

The plot is intriguing and involves elements we all hear of, but I’ve never actually read in a book.  Staci, a prisoner in a Middle Eastern prison, is rescued by a team of Navy Seals led by Tristan.  Having overheard much and with a scrap of paper indicating a looming plot to attack America, she fights to get people to listen to her–and no one will.  Even Tristan, when she brings the information to him, finds it difficult to believe but his innate desire to protect the woman he’s already saved, listens, investigates, and then things really get going.

And, from what I can tell, the book FEELS very well-researched.  I can’t verify her accuracy, but it seems to hold little nuances that show research time and attention to detail.

Because this is the “Inspired” genre, I have to address the faith issue.  It wasn’t peachy, it wasn’t “deep” but an underlying theme of “God’s got this” is there and it encourages.

What I didn’t like:  Honestly, there wasn’t much.  Would I have preferred it even more developed?  Definitely.  Did it fail not being?  Not on your life.  All of my “complaints” are like that.  She took the limitations of her project and made them work for her.

Do I recommend this book?  Definitely.  Just get it.  I can’t imagine how you’ll regret it.  And I want to thank her for giving me the opportunity to review again.  I really appreciate it.  She’s a lovely woman.  :)

To win a copy, just leave a comment and tell me if you’ve ever read of one of Liz’ books and if so, which one is your favorite?  I’ll draw a name and you can choose between a Kindle, Nook, or paperback version!  Congratulations Mary!

Days 8 and 9:

Tile work takes mucho timo (That’s a little pidgin Spanish ala Kevin.  ;)

However, this is looking pretty coolified to me.

Day 8:

29 30

LOVE that little ledge.  Perfect for a razor, no?  I suspect that’s what will live there.  :)  This is all pre-grout… but the next day…

Day 9:

31

32

33

34

35

36

That poor plumber was under the house for half an hour today!  I should have had donuts for him.  I’ve heard he likes them… a lot!

Tony is still speaking to me after installing our new shower curtain.  I think this is proof of his amazing skills as a contractor AND his longsuffering as a Christian.

Is that grout not amazing?  I love it.  I love the whole thing.  I’m just jazzed beyond belief.  WOOT.

Now what I don’t have pictures of (awkward lighting at the time) are the two holes in my wall.  One is next to the toilet.  Yep.  The wall with the bathroom door has a hole in it… inside is going to be my toilet roll dispenser–the one with space for a SPARE ROLL.  COOL BEANS STUFF HERE.

Oh, and there’s a hole on the wall opposite the toilet where my RECESSED SHELVING is going.  Yes, there will be room for things like towels and other essentials right there without having to call out and beg someone to bring a towel or a new bottle of shampoo or whatever.  YEEEHAW!

Bathroom Remodel Days 1-5

Before: (Yes, I know it was horribly revolting.  There’s a reason I hated to use my own bathroom.  It’s taken years to finally bite the bullet and do this.  See, we only have one bathroom for ten people.  So, that means a hotel room for the duration so we can do silly things like use the toilet, take a shower… you know, the luxuries of life)

1

2

That floor still makes me shudder

That floor still makes me shudder

Just in case the first picture didn't revolt you enough.

Just in case the first picture didn’t revolt you enough.

Day 1:

5

8

9

10

11

10

11

Day 2:

12

13

14

15

16

 Day 4:

20

21

22

23

Day 5:

17

18

19

Isn’t this cool?  That recess?  It’s for SHAMPOO!  SOAP!!  STUFF.  WOOT.  So excited about that little thing right there.

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWW!

I think maybe he starts tiling on Monday.  I’m almost giddy.

Ouch

Despite every attempt to hide, deny, or resist the truth, I must confess that I am spoiled—rotten.  I’m not talking about the way my parents sacrificed to give me a great education and a rich childhood.  I’m not even talking about the way my husband pretty much gives me whatever I want (since I happen to want little we couldn’t afford).  No, I’m talking about a much broader picture. I live in one of the richest countries in the world—and it’s bankrupt.  Morally, socially, fiscally, politically, and spiritually—my beloved United States of America is bankrupt.

I know what I believe the solution to be.  I also do not believe anyone has the guts to do it—myself included.  We need to lose our cushy lifestyles and pay the price to fix the mess we’ve allowed our country to get into.  We need to make sacrifices that none of us are willing to make.  I’m holding my hand s out, trying to push away the inevitable just as much as the next person.

Thanks to the sequester, my husband is going to be paying the price with the upcoming furlough—six months of 20% income loss. A lot of government employees are complaining that the rest of the country isn’t losing their income.  It makes me want to scream.  Do they not realize that when all the government employees in this country stop spending 20% of their income, it’s going to affect the rest of the country?  That’s 20% less eating out.  Twenty percent less gas purchased.  Luxuries cut.  We’re already thinking about things like cutting DirecTV, cutting unlimited long-distance service, and watching our food expenditures.  We spend an insane amount of money on food.

But you know what?  That’s about the extent of my willingness to “suffer.”  I don’t want to have to make truly “painful” choices. You see, to make true and lasting changes, we’re going to have to really suck it up.  And that’s where I think we’re going to have to quit looking at this as a quick fix and really look at what is wrong with America.

We’re soft.  We’re really soft.  We think we deserve to have it easy because two hundred fifty years ago, someone died to give us freedom from oppression.  Hogwash. We’ve taken, and taken, and taken until we’ve glutted ourselves on our “rights” and we’ve borrowed the money to do it.  We’ve ignored God, redefined Him to whatever is politically and socially correct this week, and too often decided we simply don’t care what He says or thinks.

Well, it does matter.  All of it matters.  The fact is, God is on the throne, and no matter what we want Him to think or do, He will decide what happens to us.  I think of Second Chronicles… “If My people…”  Do if I call myself “His?”  Then this applies to me. “Who are called by MY name…”  Ahem.  Yep, that’s me. “Would humble themselves…”  Ahem.  That means I’m proud.  I need to HUMBLE myself. “And pray.”  (Not my strong suit).  “And seek MY face.”  Okay then.  In other words, put myself before the Lord and seek HIS will for this country.  Not mine, not the founding fathers, not current politicians, GOD’s will… even though this isn’t a theocracy, this is MY job as a Christian.  An atheist or a Buddhist would do something different.  AND THAT IS OKAY.

Here’s where it hurts.  “And turn from their wicked ways.”  I always feel like this doesn’t apply to me.  I’m not wicked.  I’ve been washed clean of wickedness.  I obey the laws, I try to obey the Lord (why is it so much easier to obey the speed limit when I’m late than it is to obey the Lord when He says not to grumble about the speed limit?), and all those lovely things that make me look so much less wicked than say a murderer.  Ahem.  God says I need to turn from MY wicked ways.  Period.  I don’t need to look at anyone else’s, I need to look at mine and TURN.  Period.

Here’s where we start balking.  It says, “Then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and HEAL THEIR LAND.”

We like to pretend that He hasn’t given us a job to do.  THEN.  That word then kills me every time.  First this (humble, pray, seek, turn) and THEN this (hear, forgive, heal).  It’s not comfortable for me.  God is a God Whose mercies rain on the just and the unjust.  His love is saturated with grace.  Nothing we can do can merit it.  All these things are true.  But when we’re looking for the saving of our nation, it seems to say, “Look out. I demand this of you.  When that is done, this is what I will do.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I know this was written to a specific people at a specific time.  But the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  This is not “old law” that has been fulfilled.  We’re not reading about animal sacrifices that are a shadow of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.  We’re talking about something that has been repeated in the New Testament here.  We’re God’s people.  We’re named for Christ when we call ourselves Christians.  We’re to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord,” and “pray without ceasing,” and “repent and turn to God.”  All of those things are required of us period. 

So what would happen if we did?  What would happen if just the Christians did what God tells them to and didn’t focus so much on how the rest of the world is blowing it?  Yeah.  That could be pretty amazing.  Scary amazing.

And James 4:17 tells me that I have no excuse whatsoever for not doing it.  I know the right thing to do.  I know it.  If I don’t, it’s sin.  Period.

So what on earth is this whole rigmarole about anyway?  Apparently, it’s a call to me to repent.  Ouch.

Once Upon a Time

There was a farmer.  This farmer had a very large family, an enormous farm, and was very prosperous.  As his sons grew and married, they built houses and began farming the nearby land that the father had never farmed.  Neighbors came on hard times.  This saddened the farmer.  He wanted to help.  So, he asked his sons to bring him some of their profits in order to share with their impoverished neighbors.

Each year, the neighbors needed more–and there were more neighbors. The sons weren’t confident in their ability to keep giving at an increasing rate.  The father insisted.  Out of love and honor for their father, they conceded.  Their profit margins were less, but it was ok.  Their families were fed, their children clothed and educated, and they could meet their obligations.

Some of the neighbors complained that the farmer’s sons were overusing resources.  The farmer began paying some of his sons not to grow their crops.  Some of those sons liked it–others not so much.  Over time, the money the sons gave weren’t enough and they said, “No more.  If we give more, our families will suffer.”  So the father hired men to enforce the new contribution amounts.  He hauled his own sons off to jail when they couldn’t give the money required. He sent those same men’s sons to fight in feuds between some of those neighbors while demanding more money to pay for the fight.

Even then, there just wasn’t enough money to give to everyone who needed it–and it was a need.  By this time, houses were falling apart.  Children were going without the education they needed.  The food costs locally were outrageous because of the amount of food given away to those who didn’t work to earn it.  The farmer borrowed.  And borrowed.  The sons panicked.  Begging their father to think about what he was doing.  They couldn’t grow more–the father wouldn’t let them.  They couldn’t do with less–their children would starve.  The farmer was giving away and borrowing more than the family could ever recover from.  The grandsons were ready to revolt, but they loved their grandfather.  They didn’t want to dishonor their family.

But what is a man to do when he is stripped of the fruits of his labors, thrown into debt that he can never hope to pay, and watches his entire extended family give away everything as the debtors come calling for payment?

Adoption from the Outside

For the past year, a dear friend has been in an adoption process.  I’ve watched others over the years.  From the first paperwork to the trip overseas and then the first meeting… it’s always fascinating.  I enjoy seeing the differences in how countries handle things.  It fascinates me.  Some seem to whiz past at speeds that seem unreal.

And the heartache.  I’ve seen that too.  The mother who had everything ripped apart close to the end of the process.  The mother who is waiting after YEARS and will finally get to bring home her babies soon… leaving a sibling in a grave in his home country.  They aren’t babies anymore.  And my friend.  She was matched with a baby.  Just days before it would have become official, an official confiscated the baby girl and she was sent out of the country.  Oh, the heartache.  We all wept for them.

I watched as my friend turned her grief into joy as the other child they’d considered became officially theirs.  I watched as she researched.  I watched as she prepared.  I watched as her heart knit in a womb of a different kind with her daughter thousands of miles away.  And I watched how others interacted with her– particularly those who had walked that road already.

Watching is fascinating… and one thing that this outsider noticed is that when reading about how things will be, even (if not especially) those who have adopted previously will comment about how “this will happen” and “that will happen” as if people are adopting Webkinz rather than people who are individuals.  I’m astounded at how often I read,  “your kid will love having her hair played with” or “your kid will hate having her hair played with.”  I rarely saw comments like, “Some kids react strongly to people messing with their hair.  In our case, our daughter loved it but…”  They were almost all decided opinions almost as if laws.

From how they slept to what they ate to being naturally possessive or unattached to “things”, It seems like everyone expects being an adoptee to be the defining personality trait rather than one of many.  Even now that little Kiffanie is here and home, I see her mother responding to expectations.  I don’t even know if she knows that she does it.  If she says the girl is settling in well, she’s quick to acknowledge that this could change.  If she says she doesn’t have this or she does do that, and obviously some or a lot of children do the opposite, she makes a point of recognizing that.  It really is amazing.

There are so many things to learn about adopting.  I know that all I know from watching is that I know pretty much NOTHING.  However, I have learned one very valuable lesson from the observation deck.  If I ever adopt, I am going to work hard to keep in mind that all the advice and “knowledge” in the world about the process of adoption won’t change the fact that the child is still a person– an individual–and keeping that thought in mind as it seems my friend, Dell, has is probably one of the most important things I could do.

Thanks for the lesson, Dell.

Thought of the Day

I just had a thought.  Don’t worry.  Don’t panic.  I do that from time to time.  As scary as it might seem, it’s usually harmless.  Usually.

Today’s thought?  Well, it started when I saw a blog post somewhere that seemed blatantly designed as a slap in someone’s face.  I don’t know the blogger at all and I don’t know who on earth they might have been trying to “correct” or “vent” about, but the soapbox styled blog post just FELT like a backhanded attack–a passive-aggressive way of letting someone know what they really thought without confronting the person directly.

My guess is that the blogger was doing no such thing.  I mean, I post a lot of soapbox-styled rants on here.  I do it because it’s a topic I feel passionate about at the moment, but I don’t necessarily feel like debating it on a message board.  I just want to get my thoughts “on paper.”  It helps me think.  And, because I have this blog where I can ramble about things that matter to me, well… I share it.  For those who get a kick out of the ridiculous things I say from time to time or for those who are as ridiculous as I am and want to feel like they’re a little less crazy than some people might think.  ;)

But, this time I wondered.  Does it happen?  Are blog posts a way that people can attack another person, stealthily, rather than deal with a real issue with a real person?  I bet it does.  I bet it happens much more than I realize.

I’m tempted to scroll through past posts of mine to see how many were rants about things inspired by something someone said that I agreed or disagreed with and how many were a way to blast someone for something I didn’t want to address with them?

Tempted… but not quite ready for that answer.  Not today.  Maybe tomorrow.

Z is for Zippo, Nada, Nuttin’

That’s how I feel about some things.  I feel like they’re nothing in the grand scheme of things.  For example, thirty days of blogging 6 days a week.  Half of what I wrote was nonsense. It had zippo, nada, nuttin’ in the sense of redeeming value. You know what?  Who cares?  It was fun.   Sure, I added to the glut of prolific verbiage out there, but I enjoyed the discipline of the challenge.

I did this for three blogs.  Two of them stayed on track the whole time.  I’m writing this before the end of the month, so I’m not sure if I made it or not on Eclectivity, but I’m going to stick it out until it’s done anyway.  HA!  How’s that???  ;)

So… Zat’s all folks!  Back to normal boring stuff like my soapbox rants, gym workouts, 3 day shopping, and things I overhear that get my grey matter stirred.  Hope it wasn’t too obnoxious.

Y is for Yield

Even the nice little yellow sign mimics the sign of Y– yield.  You come down the on ramp and see the traffic hurtling toward you at what you hope is “only” 60 mph.  You must yield to their right of way. If you don’t, someone is probably going to die– or many someones.

The pedestrian comes out of Wal-Mart and makes a slow shuffle on the longest diagonal across the road they possibly can.  What should have taken ten seconds takes a minute and a half– especially when she stops to chat with another gal coming into the store– at that same long diagonal.  Sure, you could choose not to yield, but you don’t plan to scatter toilet paper, cereal, and unmentionables across the parking lot.

Some things are obvious–we’re forced to yield, and because of that, we usually do it with a reasonable amount of courtesy.  Sometimes we yield to the guy behind us in line at the store.  He only has a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.  We have an overflowing cart.  “Go ahead.”  We mean it.  We’re happy to do it.  We offer a guest the last piece of cheesecake or a stranger  a flower from the bouquet we bought.  We like being generous.

Why then, do we cling so tenaciously to other “rights” without even consideration for yielding.  Why must the person we’re discussing theology with yield to our position?  Why must the neighbor turn down that music?!  It seems as if the two extremes (enforced yielding and magnanimous yielding) creates a third extreme  “MY RIGHTS.”

I wonder what would happen if people simply yielded once, every day, when they least wanted to and most didn’t HAVE to.  I wonder.

X is for Check Boxes

No, I didn’t cheat!  In those little boxes next to a million things, they don’t want a “check mark” they want an X.

I like check boxes.  It’s fun to tick off things as they get done.  You feel so productive.  In fact, whenever I have a list of things to get done, I tend to write down, adding to the list all day, anything I do that would have made the list had I remembered it when I made said list.

I kind of feel sorry for housewives a thousand years ago.  I mean, they didn’t have nice little pads of paper to write down their lists of things to get done.  Sometimes, I think their minds must have been much more keenly developed.  Then again, they probably had a much less varied existence, so maybe they didn’t need lists of what to do when/where/how.  If they didn’t remember, they could just look at their neighbor and see that today was the day to dry fruit or whatever.

I have a theory.  I’m convinced that the vast number of radio waves being used for our society is causing white noise in our brains and that is why we rely so heavily on lists, paper, computer, PDA, phones, etc.  Without them we’d be toast because our grey matter is turning white from the noise we bombard it with.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

W is for Whimsy

I love that word.  Whimsy.  It conjures ideas of tiny bits of near-nonsense that keep life from being mundane and monotonous.  We’re too serious sometimes.  Life is more than dishes, diapers, and dinner.  It’s more than bills, books, and “Barack” (forgive the lack of respect.  It fit).  Life needs whimsy, wistfulness, and wandering.  It keeps things from getting stagnant, sterile, and strained.

Oh, this is bad.  I can’t seem to stop myself.  So, I am going to cut it short here.

Whimsy, it does a wife well.  (Snort.)

V is for Vengeance

My current youth series is Legends of the Vengeance– a story within a story and full of good old-fashioned revenge.  Why on earth would I write about such a thing?  Why would I think that is a good subject matter for young people?

Well, there’s a whole lot angst out there these days.  I listen to kids in stores, online, and in books and movies and revenge is there–everywhere.  Whether a joke or dead serious, it seems as if vengeance is becoming a virtue in the eyes of the twenty-first century.  Now, I know this isn’t new.  It’s been a big deal in the past and it will be a thousand years from now.  I know this.

However, I wanted to show it for the hollow victory that it is.  When God said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” He meant it.

So, I write.  I have a plan.  I pray I can pull it off.  It’s hard to write a story about something so wrong while still making the characters sympathetic.  I want you to root for the main characters, but they’re pirates!  That’s not the kind of people you’re supposed to root for.  It’s wrong.  Am I hoping my reader will go, “Get ‘im!  Take over that boat!  Steal their supplies!  Kill that captain!”  Um, no way.  That’s not the point at all.  I want the reader to love the characters enough that they are screaming, “What do you think you’re doing!  Can’t you see how wrong that is?  Why can’t you yield to the Lord?  Why don’t you see how hollow your anger and bitterness is?  Can’t you see how it’s eating at you?  Can’t you see that your son is paying the price for your ridiculous desire for revenge?”

I just pray I can pull it off.  Otherwise, I am wasting a lot of hours and even more pages of “paper” to write what I can’t use.