An Entitlement Society

Something happened this week, and while it may have seemed innocuous at the time, the more I have thought about it, the more it has aggravated me. Though I am three days removed from the situation, I have not been able to stop thinking about it, and what it “really means” for us, as a society. People have become WAY too accustomed to accepting hand-outs, and to make it even worse, even more comfortable just casually asking for them, as if they are “owed” to them.  I don’t know exactly when/where/how it started, but it really is so maddening. In this particular case, a student (whom I do not even know) asked me for money to pay for her to go on a field trip. In her words, it was “just $150.” I was really so shocked that this was happening that I think I may have stammered while giving her an economics lesson. I told her that $150 was, in fact, not just a small amount of money. That fact aside, it was not my responsibility to pay for her, as I have current and former students’ families whom I have helped throughout the year (because I know that they really need it). Now, while I have never seen her family’s bank account, I do know that she does have a cell phone, and is often wearing the newest, and very expensive sneakers soon after they come out. Looking at that, it says to me that her family is not one of those who is truly struggling, otherwise, she wouldn’t have those “extras.” What it also says to me is that she feels perfectly comfortable asking someone else (and someone virtually unknown to her, at that) to give her something for free, though she hasn’t earned it.

I was raised to know the value of hard work, demonstrated by the examples of my parents. Though there were some tough financial times, they never once looked to someone else to “fix it” for them, because they “deserved it.” Do you know what they did? They worked harder. My dad took on a second job so that my mom could stay home with my brother and I. Did they expect anyone else to take care of them? No, they did not. Would they ever, in a million years, have asked me to go out and “do their bidding” for them (as in the situation that I was referring to at the beginning of this post)? No, they would not. They would have gone without things that they needed or wanted, just to make sure that my brother and I had what we needed. One of the most important values they imparted to my brother and I was to have strong character. Unfortunately, I see that value in fewer and fewer people these days, and I really think that it spells trouble for our society. Nothing in life is free, nor should someone expect it to be. Everything in life that is worth having is worth working hard for. I, for one, am glad that I learned that lesson early on, and I can only hope that those who don’t already know that will learn it before it’s too late.

The “Grace” To Move On

Though it happened much sooner than we thought, my husband and I decided to start looking at getting another dog, after the passing of our sweet Grace. Through the power of everyone’s prayers, our hearts have started to heal much faster than we ever could have thought possible. We have been so thankful for all of the kindness and support that we have received during this difficult time, and we know that it has helped us tremendously. Sort of by chance, I started to inquire about a certain dog that had been on our rescue’s website for over a year. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking of meeting another dog yet, I was just curious as to his personality and temperament. After a bit of discussion, my husband and I decided that we did, in fact, want to meet that dog, Merlin.

Our meeting was scheduled for noon on Saturday, February 11th, and though we were only going to have to wait and week and a half to meet him, it seemed like an eternity. Each day, I found myself thinking, “How many more days?,” “How much longer til they get here?” Fast forward to today, the day of the “meet & greet”: He seemed to make himself at home right away, and he and Josie were sitting side-by-side within a few minutes. Josie loves other dogs, so I think she was glad to have a buddy in the house again! He and Grace have very different temperaments, but their greatest commonality is that they are both pure love. To say it went well is an understatement, because Merlin is currently laying on the couch with his head in my lap!

A little while after Grace’s death, someone posted this on my Facebook wall, and it really struck a chord with me.

I think that helped me to realize that the best way to honor Grace’s legacy was to give another dog a wonderful home and lots of love. I am a firm believer that there are very few accidents in life, and that things happen for a reason. I believe that people (and animals) are put in your path on purpose, though you may not know why at the time. I say this because, back in August, I was contacted by someone at ABR (Atlanta Boxer Rescue) to write a calendar entry for two foster dogs that they had at the time, that would surely find their forever homes by the time the calendar was published. One of these dogs was Merlin. I spoke with his foster mom, and she couldn’t say enough about him. Her information, combined with his “back story,” made for a pretty good calendar bio. Well, as it turns out, no one ever adopted Merlin, so his bio wasn’t published. Maybe it will be now, for the 2013 calendar, since he has finally found his happy home!

***Here is the calendar entry I wrote about Merlin back on August 16th, 2011. Little did I know (or maybe I actually did) that we would actually be the one giving him the kindness, patience, and lots of love!

Merlin

 To say that Merlin had a rough start in life would be an understatement; fortunately for him though, his life has made a complete turn-around. When ABR came to Merlin’s rescue (after he was given up by another rescue, due to the mounting costs of his care), he was extremely underweight, malnourished, and in pain. He had a severe case of mange, which had not been treated, which caused him pain and hair loss over almost his entire body. As if that wasn’t enough, it was discovered that Merlin was deaf. Many people would think that, with all of those factors against him, it would be easy to count Merlin out, but that was not so! Despite his challenges, Merlin is a happy, playful, and loving Boxer boy. Every day since his rescue, he has worked to gain physical strength and learn new things. He is very smart, as he has mastered several hand signals (sit, no, back up) that allow people to communicate with him. His determination to please is not lost on anyone who meets him; he immediately makes his way into your heart as your new best friend (and couch companion, if allowed!) .  His story, and his spirit, is an inspiration and a testament to just how far a little love and TLC can take someone or something. Merlin is now living the life he always should have had: one filled with kindness, patience, and lots of love!

Sweet Gracie Girl (2004-2012)

I think it’s safe to say that every pet owner dreads the day that they will have to make “the decision.” Well, for my husband and I (and Josie, too), that day was today. Our sweet girl (Grace, Gracie, Grace-Face, Grandma Grace, Grumpy Grace, G-Mama, among several other aliases) went to Heaven this afternoon. This all seemed very sudden, as she was her feisty self all the way until the very end, and never showed any signs of illness, other than a decreased appetite.

After having dental surgery last week, her appetite never picked up. Obviously, we were concerned, so we brought her in to try to find the problem. After a few days of trying some medications, our vet ran some blood tests and did a body scan. He discovered a mass in her abdomen, and needed to open her up to pinpoint the cause and remove it, if at all possible. When he opened her up, her spleen and stomach were full of tumors, so there was nothing he could do to restore her quality of life. I had been dreading that call, imagining how it would go, ever since last Friday. It was almost surreal to hear that there was “nothing else that could be done, because the tumors were too aggressive.” Wow. The combination of emotions inside of me was a mix of disbelief, sadness, shock, and    worry. How could we be losing our sweet girl, when she never even seemed sick?

The purpose of this post is not to make people sad, but to tell people what a great  dog/pet/companion/friend she was, so I hope I do her justice with my words. Grace was a fighter; after being found at a county animal control facility, she won the employees over with her sweet nature and spunky personality. Though she was “older,” a wonderful organization saw it fit to take her in, because they just knew that someone would fall in love with her and want to call her their own.  Fast forward a few months, to when we met Gracie at her foster’s house. As soon as we came in the door, she was wagging her tail and shaking her cute little Boxer butt. We could see her big personality under that small frame (though the frame size would soon change, due to lots of good food and doting parents), and we just knew that she was perfect for us.  From the day we brought her home, she fit into our family as if she was always a part of it. She was so easy-going, and she and Josie immediately became sisters and best friends. Because of Josie’s background, she was very timid and shy, and Grace taught her to be brave. To be fair, Gracie taught us all a lot of things: how to give unconditional love, how not to sweat the small stuff, how to be brave in the face of danger (or a passing dog or garbage truck), and how to live each day to the fullest. She will be missed more than she could ever imagine. She was my baby, and I know there will never be another one just like her.

Rest in peace, my sweet girl. We will miss you.

If you are an animal lover, please consider signing my petition and passing it on!

http://www.change.org/petitions/your-governor-stop-the-unlicensed-unregulated-breeding-of-dogs-in-georgia

 

Who Doesn’t Love Red Velvet?

Yesterday, in preparation for dinner with my brother and his wife, I decided to make some cake balls. Now, if you’ve never had cake balls, you are definitely missing out; they are akin to little pieces of heaven. Of course, you can create any flavor combo you like, but since the four of us are all HUGE fans of red velvet, I thought that would be the way to go. And boy, was I ever right! Even before dinner, my brother’s wife had several of them, which prompted the boys to sample some as well. You know it has to be a pretty good dessert if the men are willing to put down their beers to eat them!

Here is the extremely easy recipe, if you would like to try them!

1 box of Red Velvet cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Supreme)

1 container of Cream Cheese frosting (I used Duncan Hines whipped frosting)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 box semi-sweet baking chocolate

1 box white baking chocolate

cocoa powder (for dusting)

1. Bake the cake according to package directions, and let it cool for about 30 minutes. When the cake has cooled, crumble it into a bowl.

2. Add the vanilla to the frosting and mix well; add the frosting to the cake crumbs and combine well (it’s best to do this with your hands).

3. Roll the mixture into balls (golf ball-ish size) and refrigerate for at least an hour.

4. When you are ready to dip them, melt chocolate in two bowls (one for white, one for semi-sweet) in the microwave. Dip each ball in the chocolate until it is completely covered.

5. Place dipped cake balls on parchment to let the chocolate harden (approximately 2 hours). Dust with cocoa powder and serve. Enjoy!

Why Don’t I Have a Bakery???

Whenever I have a bit of time off, I am always asking myself this question, as I LOVE spending my spare time in the kitchen. To a lot of people, baking is somewhat of an arduous task, but I enjoy it to no end. It doesn’t matter whether I am making an old favorite, or creating something new, I just relish the time that I can spend making yummy treats and snacks for my family and friends (and our sweet dogs too!). Today, I only had a few errands to run, so I knew that I would get to spend some time with my KitchenAid mixer and my Sil-pat (which made me very excited!). While I did bake something familiar (peanut butter-pumpkin dog treats), I decided to get a little creative when making my second treat: rather than make “regular” oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, I decided to make a bar cookie with a similar base, but with a texture more similar to a granola bar. I must say, I really do like how they turned out, though my husband might disagree; since he wanted actual oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies, I don’t know if he’ll be too crazy about these, but I think he’ll come around to the idea.

That being said, if you’re interested in trying a new recipe, this is a good one, since it’s not complicated, and you don’t even have to form individual cookies!

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Bars

1/2 c. sugar

3/4 c. brown sugar

2 sticks of butter, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 c. oats

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Cream butter and both sugars; add eggs and vanilla.

2. Combine dry ingredients (except for oats and chocolate chips) and add to creamed mixture; beat until combined.

3. Add chocolate chips and oats, and stir in by hand; press into an ungreased 13×9 pan.

4. Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes; cut into bars and enjoy!

 

My Dad

I know that I am a bit late on my Father’s Day post, but I figured that it was better late than never.

I am one of the lucky ones. To this day, I still put my dad up on a pedestal, and he deserves all of the accord and praise he has gotten over the years. He is truly one of the most patient, hard-working, caring and dedicated people I have come across in 30 years. There is never anything that he wouldn’t do for a friend or family member, no matter how daunting the task. And it’s not just about the things he has done, rather how he has done them. He does everything with such dedication and love, yet never asks for any recognition. The best way for me to describe him is as having gentle strength. I know that these words may seem like near opposites, but somehow, my dad seems to embody both of them simultaneously.

I have so much respect and love for my dad, and I have been so blessed to have his presence in my life. Happy Father’s Day!