American Exceptionalism ~ a unique idea

Live Your DreamAmerica isn’t just a country with borders, it’s an idea. Not just a democratic republic and a political construct, but a philosophical ideal. America was born for the rights of the individual. In 1776 that was unheard of. In 2018, throughout most of the world that idea is verboten and the individuals who dare to think they should be freed are persecuted, even killed.

And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts. ~ Psalm 119:45 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

America is on the forefront of individualism. Americans believe in the individual pursuit of happiness. We walk in that concept. And that idea actually has biblical roots. That life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are rights given by God. Furthermore, that no government has the right to take these rights away.

Culturally, Americans step out with boldness and reach for their dreams, they reach to find their purpose in life. In America, we ask young people what they would love doing in life. We ask them to imagine that and reach for it. That doesn’t happen in most countries on the globe, not even in 2018.

Traditionally, in Europe middle class and working class young people went into the profession their parents held. A baker’s son most always became a baker. Traditionally, the upper classes in Europe were college educated.

car, couple

As more and more young Europeans would pursue college careers they found it difficult to find a higher level job that utilized the degrees they’d earned. American middle class and working class college grads would hop into their second-hand car and boldly drive across the country to get the job they wanted. This is an example of American individualism we in the states often have taken for granted [but is not intended to minimize the difficulty American college grads have finding jobs]. In Europe, even today, working class youth tend to stay in the town or county in which their parents/family has lived for generations.

Beauty 2011-2

Beauty, my senior kittie and the biggest “mouth” of them all.

When I retired, I did my research, and found my place to live in my golden years. I drove by myself from Brooklyn to stay with friends in Jacksonville. I had every space in my SUV packed with large plastic bins which I put into storage. I made that trip (with the SUV stuffed) one more time. My husband and I rented a tiny place, but he passed away and I made the final trip down myself…with the SUB cargo space stuffed and the back seat with one small dog and three unhappy cats in carriers.

I am not unique. American retirees have moved in droves from the northern states to the warmer, southern states. In 2018 that trend is changing just a bit, many bold retirees are moving to Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa, Virginia, Wyoming. Still, Florida remains numero uno and Arizona is high on the list. My point is that Americans get up and go at any age. That is part of the spirit of Americanism.

food truck

Local start-up companies are part of the spirit of American individualism. That’s not a put down of large box stores. In fact, I’m married to Walmart. Many retirees are. But my heart leaps for joy when I see an adventurous food truck with a new twist on finger-food. I eat at chain restaurants, like so many. But, I love the local hole-in-the-wall places. Love to talk to the woman who owns Bill’s Diner on the west side of Jacksonville. One day when her waitress had an emergency, she waited tables and cooked in the back. I’m addicted to Sonny’s BBQ. Can’t beat the home style cookin’ at Grammy’s. Clearing tables and working your way up to standing over a stove doesn’t require a pedigree. If you can cook, you’ll rise to chef. This to me is the real American dream…ordinary people just doing it.

Speaking of Americans getting up and doing it…what about all those ordinary folks who are renovating old, dilapidated houses with character and good bones, and then flipping them. They’re hauling refuse out of those old houses and knocking down walls. That is so exciting. The energy there is so American and it restores the history of neighborhoods as beautiful houses are restored.

There are so many possibilities for Americans. Just get out and do it!

 


Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach ~ summer cooking

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The temps in northeast Florida are hitting 95 and the ‘real feel’ is over 100 degrees…so natch, I don’t feel like cooking. Even with the a/c blasting, it seems people don’t want to turn the stove on.

So, here’s how to make a luscious Chicken Cutlet Alfredo with Spinach without turning the stove on. I’m a good home cook, not a gourmet chef…and I’m heavy on veggies. With my penchant for eating, I try to keep my weight down to a dull roar. Veggies help. I say, ‘home cook’ because in extreme heat, I’m totally okay with using quality prepared foods and this recipes uses them.

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I started with Perdue prepared cutlets because the chickens are cage-free, are fed an all vegetarian diet and they use no antibiotics. You can use whatever cutlets you like. There are other good ones out there.

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Then I assemble my other ingredients. I use as many organic ingredients as possible. When I was younger, my body quickly repaired itself, now I’d like to give it all the help I can to fully function healthily. So: Prepared Alfredo Sauce, frozen peas, frozen chopped spinach, jarred mushrooms.

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Then I heat a chicken cutlet in my microwave oven. I heat one cutlet just under 1 minute. You have to know your microwave. Just heat it, don’t cook it. Then set it aside. [This recipe easily doubles, triples. You can nuke two, three, or all four cutlets in the package. Don’t worry too much about proportions. If you have extra spinach mixture, eat it for lunch the next day.]

IMG_2748Next, for one cutlet, I cook frozen spinach and frozen peas together. I like lots of veggies so I cook a half a bag of frozen spinach for myself many people would use one quarter of a bag for one, then I add 1/4+ C frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste. Cook them in your microwave until done according to your microwave. In mine 2-3 minutes. Take them out and mix well.  Don’t over cook. Then add 1/3C Alfredo sauce and 1/4 C jarred mushrooms without any of the water. Mix well and cook in the microwave a minute or so. I eyeball stuff. It really doesn’t matter if your spinach to peas ratio isn’t like mine. I hardly ever use salt, but most people do, so I added it in the recipe. You can use an herbal salt substitute. This is not rocket science. It’s summer cooking in a microwave. It’s supposed to be relaxed.

Then remember the chicken cutlet you set aside? Place it on top of the Alfredo spinach/peas/mushroom mixture. Drizzle 1/4 C of Alfredo sauce on top and heat in microwave. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and doesn’t heat up the kitchen at all.

Dust with grated Italian cheese. I use a mixture of Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, and Mozzarella. Pour a glass of iced tea, or a glass of chilled white wine. Get your fork and eat. You might have to let it cool a bit. Things that come directly out of a microwave can be hot.

This can be served over cooked pasta mixed with Alfredo sauce, but the peas are enough carbs for me and I don’t want to boil water for pasta in summer heat.

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Sophie The Wonder Dog ~ to have surgery

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Soph on her fav perch, the back of my easy chair

When I first saw Sophie, she was in a cage in the small dog section at the ASPCA in New York City. She was so cute, but so unhappy. Those who wanted to adopt a little dog were drawn to her, especially their children. But as cute as Sophie was, she was also angry. She hated the cage, and she growled at a few people who approached. I thought no matter how appealing she looks, she’s not going to get adopted. So, I asked to hold her. At first the attendant was reluctant. She took Sophie out of the cage, but said she’d hold her. I gave her a “Nike look” and said, “No, I’ll hold her.” How else can I know how she will be? But I already knew, no matter how she was, she was mine.”

As soon as she was in my arms, she burrowed into me, plastered herself to me. I whispered to her, “I’m coming back for you.” Then I had to go downstairs, fill out paperwork, pay the fee, and wait a week for them to check references. When I came back to get her, I whispered, “I told you I’d come back.” That was seven years ago.

Sophie is HIGHLY allergic to flea bites. One bite will cause her to scratch and chew herself to bleeding. We’ve battled this for years. We tried Trifexis for dogs (flea med and heartworm med combined. I’ve heard it works miracles on some dogs, not Sophie. Then we tried Comfortis which is more expensive because you have to purchase the heartworm medication separately. It works better on Sophie, but not perfectly. Summertime is still gruesome for her and for me when I see her bleeding. We’ve tried Apoquel for dogs, a med for atopic dermatitis, that is supposed to stop her from feeling the allergic reaction. Several vets have tried to push this on me, but she doesn’t have atopic dermatitis (allergy to pollen, dust, etc.). Sophie is allergic to flea bites. Boy is she.

What does help is a flea and tick killing spray called Nature Care that Walmart carries. Chewy also carries this line of products. I use that in combination with Comfortis. I have sprayed carpet, upholstered furniture, and of course Sophie before she goes out. It not only kills fleas (which you will see before your eyes if one walks into a sprayed area), it also kills flea eggs. In addition, adult fleas don’t like the peppermint smell and it keeps them off a dog that is walking outside.

She also has had cataracts growing since I got her. They were not a problem, and now they are. She can’t see much any more. We’ve always gone for a 3/4 mile walk twice a day. We went down to a 1/4 mile walk twice a day for a few days. She trusted me completely to see that she didn’t run into anything outside. I’m her seeing-eye-person. But outside noises, such as a loud vehicle, unnerve her. She gets around very well in the house she knows so well. She jumps into my chair, then up onto its back…no problem.

After only a few days as her seeing-eye-person, I knew this would not do. I phoned the Animal Eye Clinic in Orange Park, Florida and Sophie has an appointment for a consultation next week. I’m slightly  concerned about Sophie going under anesthesia for the surgery. She is in excellent health at 11 1/2 years of age. She came  through a dental cleaning last year with her regular veterinarian with flying colors. I’m praying for cataract removal with no problems and that’s what I’m expecting. Please pray for Sophie in the next few weeks. Bless you.


Tipping Percentages ~ now a vehicle for shaming

tipA recent report stated millennial are the “worst tippers.” I’d heard this before and I’ve also read a large number of articles extolling raising the tipping percentage from the traditional 15% to the new 20%. The result being that some groups of people aren’t tipping at all, but they are being shamed. Even traditional 15% tippers are being shamed, which is ridiculous.

Why is tipping important? Well, how we handle money shows character. Does tipping 20% show better character than tipping 15%? Not in my opinion. However, in our culture where we all know service employees depend on tips, not tipping at all does show a lack of character. It’s common knowledge that in many cases your server might be a single mother supporting her children, or a student over-burdened with college debt.

Deuteronomy 15:7 ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]  

If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;

Younger adults starting out in their careers as well as retirees have a lower income than middle-aged adults and so ‘have always’ tended to be on the lower end of the tipping spectrum. This should not be surprising and I can’t understand why a study was needed. What I don’t like is the shaming element in reporting this study to the public. It seems, in today’s accusatory environment, many perfectly understandable things get twisted and  reported in the media in a shaming manner. Then they go viral on social media…or vice-versa. Sometimes the shaming gets to be a fevered pitch. This is so unhealthy, so unnecessary, so unproductive.

Tipping is a perfect symbol. How we tip shows how we treat others, how we value their lives. It’s  not ‘they should do something about that’ or ‘there should be a program to fix that’. Tipping comes out of our pockets. It’s personal to us. It’s what are ‘we’ doing to show we value the other person? We have some skin in the game.

Contrary to unfounded popular belief, shaming doesn’t make the shamer feel super-duper. Quite the contrary, shaming others often leaves the shamer let down and in a state of anger, which is mentally and physically damaging.

And, of course, it goes without saying, shaming is extremely damaging to the one being shamed. Interestingly enough, both the shamer and the shamed are so preoccupied with their own behavior and feelings, they have little empathy for others. There is no win here. It’s a lose-lose.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ~ New American Standard Bible [NASB]

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

 

 

 


Three Strand Cord by Tracy Krauss ~ new release

Three Strand Cord

Tracy Krauss is a wonderful and exciting Christians author who isn’t afraid to treat her themes in a fresh way.

Fate brought them together, but can their friendship survive the tangled web of danger and deception that threatens their lives?

Tempest. Stella. Cherise. ~~ When Cherise convinces Tempest to pretend to be her so that she can sneak out of the country to be with her dashing Italian boyfriend, she is inadvertently implicated in an international drug ring. An unexpected complication forces Tempest to prolong the charade and she finds herself attracted to the very man who might be out to cause her harm. Meanwhile, Stella’s high ideals are met with suspicion and disdain at her father’s Texas ranch, until she uncovers a dangerous secret that could put everything she holds dear in jeopardy. At the same time, her own errant emotions take over as she falls in love with two brothers at the same time. Things heat up when Cherise is kidnapped and the three friends must turn to one another – and God – to get out of harm’s way. Three Strand Cord is a story of intrigue and romance told from three different points of view, all coming together to prove that when it comes to true friendship, ‘a three strand cord is not easily broken’.

A Few Questions For Tracy:

Tell us something topical, interesting, funny, or something we would not expect about the writing of this novel.

I had the idea and then wrote the first draft as a ‘Nanowrimo’ project. Once it was polished up it sat with my agent for about a year. Eventually we went our separate ways when it wasn’t selling. It went through many transformations during that time and I must say I really appreciated the honesty of my beta readers. One asked, “Who is this for, anyway?” and I had to stop and take a good look at it and make some changes. The thing about writing ‘edgy’ Christian books is, you still have to keep in mind that it is for a Christian audience and make sure that you don’t cross the line in some areas.

Is this novel part of a series?

Yes it is the first in a three part series. I have the second book written but the third isn’t much more than an outline. However, I want to get them all out there this year… not sure it’s going to happen! Now that I have ‘retired’ from my day job and will be writing full time (my dream!) I hope that I can make this a reality. Anyway, BLOOD TIES is Book 2 and TEMPEST TOSSED is Book 3.

When did you start writing for publication? What drives you to write? 

I’ve been writing for more than thirty years but my first book came out in 2009, so I’ve been a ‘published’ author for almost ten years. In that time I’ve written eight full length novels, had nine of my stage plays published, two devotional books, one illustrated children’s book, and have contributed to several anthologies, short story collections, and magazines. I like the way you worded the question, “What drives you?” because I do feel driven. I can’t NOT write, so even if I never published another thing, I’d still be clacking at the keys. I do believe, though, that writing for me is a calling – a ministry. My work tends to be what some would call ‘edgy’, but that is what I think God has called me to write, so I do, whether it is the most popular or not. My goal is to reach people with the gospel, and as we all know, humanity isn’t perfect, yet Jesus hung out with the prostitutes and tax collectors anyway.

How did you go about researching for this novel?

The book takes place in several different locations: Boston, Los Angeles, a Texas ranch, and Rome. I have been to both Boston and L.A. but still relied heavily on the internet for some of my research. I had to pick the brain of a writer colleague who lives in Texas and then I asked my own daughters, who have been to Rome, if I got that part right. I try to keep it fairly generic if I don’t actually know how something looks or works. Hopefully, the story itself carries readers through any details that aren’t exact.

Can you give us a sneak peek or preview into the next work in progress (WIP) you’re working on? When do you expect to release it?

BLOOD TIES is the next in the series after THREE STRAND CORD. It picks up where TSC leaves off, following one of the main women from the story who didn’t ‘win’ at love. It follows the same formula in that it is written from three Points of View only this time, two of them are male – also people we met in book one. I won’t say much more or I might have to insert a ‘spoiler alert’ about which woman’s love life doesn’t work out…

Were you good in English as a student? Did you enjoy reading and writing back then?

My senior English teacher encouraged me to go to this camp for writers one summer but I didn’t go. I think I felt intimidated – like I wasn’t good enough. It certainly planted the seed, though. I read tons of books. I was super into Edgar Rice Burroughs at one point (Tarzan) as well as Science fiction. I still love Sci-fi, dystopian, or any type of speculative fiction as well a Christian romance and suspense. One of my all time favourites is still Frank Peretti and I love Ted Dekker’s

 

Tracy Krauss

About the author:

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published novelist, playwright, and artist with several award winning and best selling novels, stage plays, devotionals and children’s books in print. Her work strikes a chord with those looking for thought provoking faith based fiction laced with romance, suspense and humor – no sugar added. She holds a B.Ed from the U of S and has lived in many remote and interesting places in Canada’s far north. She and her husband currently reside in beautiful BC where she continues to pursue all of her creative interests. http://tracykrauss.com  – fiction on the edge without crossing the line –

Links:

Website:  http://www.tracykrauss.com

Blog: www.tracykrauss.com/blog

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Tracy-Krauss 

Connect on Social Media:

Google+  https://plus.google.com/+TracyKrauss

LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-krauss-b3897722

Twitter   https://twitter.com/TracyKrauss

Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/Tracy-Krauss-Author-139874439404453/

Goodreads      https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3492473.Tracy_Krauss

Pinterest   https://www.pinterest.com/tracykrauss/

YouTube   https://www.youtube.com/user/TracyKrauss


Memorial Day And You’re Alone ~ singles, soloers

soldiers widow, grave

 

Some of us are single, solo, and alone because our hero husband died on the battlefield, or in a training accident. Some are single, solo, and alone because our hero husband came back from the battlefield all messed up in the mind or the body, and he left us.

In this world today, Memorial Day is not only to honor departed military, but also departed first responders. They are also on the battlefield to hold off those who would destroy civilization.

In times of grief, darkness, loneliness, it’s the time for prayer…for all of us.  This is the time to know God loves us. He has not left us. He is near us. It’s time to know what God’s Word says about us.

Psalm 139 ~ New American Standard Version [NASB]

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
20 For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

 

Tips and Suggestions for Singles/Soloers on Memorial Day:

  • Make sure you have time with God.
  • Start your day with praise and worship music in your home.
  • Plan a Memorial Day activity with family and friends. Make sure there’s time for remembrance and time for fun in your day.
  • Get around others. Don’t be alone all day. Go to a public Memorial Day activity.
  • If you need to get away from grief, go to lunch/dinner and a comedic movie with a family member(s) or a friend(s). Go bowling, swimming, surfing, fishing with family and/or friends.

May you and yours be blessed this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day


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