On Words: Extended Adolescence

Adolescence: People say it like its a bad thing. I have yet to figure out what exactly is the problem. Young people, are young. They are inexperienced. They live a “je ne sais qua,” life. They are exploring the world around them.

Extended adolescence is now a watchword of this younger generation.  It is said with horror and disdain. It is used as an insult. The latest screed on the issue is Senator Ben Sasse’s book. Now I will admit I have not read the book, but I have read his op-eds and have seen him on television (He was a guest on Morning Joe). Granted he has some interesting points about responsibility. But that is where we part company.

As a former college dean, Senator Sasse does understand students. And the issues surrounding this generation of poor decision-making and lack of goals is a true issue. My oldest son’s college sophomore dean said as much to me a decade ago. “This generation is different,” he said. My son, who is autistic, he added is on such a better level than most of his students because he has goals, a work ethic, and is conscientious. Ok that is a point. If you are going to go to college, you need to have direction and an idea of how to proceed. College is not for everyone and some people do need that very English cultural gap year.

On the other hand, when Sasse says that an indication of where we are in trouble is that guys in their 20s want to sit around playing video games, so what? He discussed how teenagers in Israel know the difference between video games and reality since they are faced with stark choices in their late teens before they go into the army. I would like to point out to Sasse that our children do know the difference between video games and reality, too. But they are lucky enough to live in a country that is not threatened with genocide on a daily basis. Our children can indulge in being children longer than in Israel.

I thought the idea of the US, is that we have created a world in which our children do not have to deal with the realities of war. We consider the fact that we are born here as if we won the cosmic lottery. Why do we need the threat of a sword of Damocles hanging over our children’s heads? We have worked hard so that is not the reality. Why is this a horrible thing?

Now here is another issue: not all youngsters in the US have this privilege of a prolonged adolescence. There are children growing up in inner cities, poor rural areas, and in any number of situations where they become adults way too early. A child in foster care knows the difference between reality and a video game. A child in a home, no matter how rich or poor, where there is domestic violence, knows the difference between reality and a video game. A child living in a homeless shelter knows it too. A neurotypical child in a home with a disabled sibling knows the difference, as well.

Sasse talked about males inparticular, that are living this extended adolescence. He decries it because he hears young women complain about the lack of marriageable youngmen. Being the father of three daughters he worries about their partner prospects. Well I have several suggestions for these young women:

Don’t accept crap. You go away to college and buy into this hook-up culture or slut feminism as if that is going to bring you some kind of liberation. If you want a male, or partner. to respect you, and see you as something more than a one-night stand, or a whore, have some self-respect and stop throwing yourself away. If you don’t respect yourself, no one is going to respect you. Oh and one more thing, men don’t mind fucking sluts, but they don’t want them to be the mother of their children. That is not misogyny. What woman really wants the male equivalent of a slut to be the father of her children?  How Feminism Went Awry

Demand excellence in yourself. If you want a successful partner be a successful partner. Believe me when I tell you, the men will get there, and when they do, they are not going to want someone who simply wants to be taken care of. Today’s educated youngmen enjoy the company of independent women with a mind of their own. Also, stop looking your nose down at people. Fix your priorities and your requirements. Not every good man wears a suit to work, or has a college degree.

Realize that young men today do not want to be tied down in their 20s anymore than most young women do. Or maybe the young women do they just don’t admit it. Young men are looking and growing and exploring their world, which they have every right to do. They don’t need to decide at 25 on a girlfriend and get married. They need to figure out who they are and where they are going in their own lives before they decide to join that life with someone else.

It is the rare person who will find their mate in their 20s. A generation ago it was rarer than in my parent’s generation. Today it is even rarer than in my own time. It is also not because young men are perpetual adolescents. It’s because the world is changing so fast and there are so many opportunities out there that need to be explored, in order to understand who they happen to be, and where they want to go. Everything in this world is not about getting married and having children, either. It is also not a life goal for everyone.

Of course for women the idea of marriage and children at a younger age than men is a reality only because of biology. Let’s admit it, even with advances in medical science, and Janet Jackson notwithstanding, women loose their ability to have children in their early 40s. So yes, the biological clock is a real issue. And yes, there is a biological clock of sorts for men too, but not really in the same way. Which also adds to the less pressing need for men to marry young and start a family.

But I think the reason we do have a growing number of young men experiencing extended adolescence is several fold:

The most important one is education. If you, as a male, are told from the first day you enter school that you are garbage; that your gender is revolting; that you are the scourge to all humanity because you are male, white and/or cis, then what is the need for you to do anything at all with your life? A child told that they are worthless, will eventually believe that and act accordingly. The War on Boys is a real issue, and society refuses to deal with the disaster it has caused in the US.

While we in the US, worry about gendercide in the rest of the world and the missing hundreds of millions of young women who should be alive today, we forget that our education system, and our society, is responsible for creating an entire generation of emasculated males. If you take away the natural inclination of males to be male (and no this is not the same as saying “boys will be boys) then they will act accordingly. Which means they will never grow up, because who would want to be a part of that despised group-adult males. And yes, this is nothing more than a remodeled version of the Peter Pan Syndrome.

Give boys the tools to become men. Then they will become men. When my oldest was 14 and a freshman in high school, the husband turned to me and told me to stop babying him. “He is going to need to be a man one day,” he said. My friend’s husband actually said the same thing to her as well, at the same time. Yes, our sons had, and have, role models that teach what it is to be a “real man.” And no, every boy doesn’t have this. Sadly these children do get their education in adulting from music, tv, and movies. Their role models are not descent, necessarily honorable role models, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet there is nothing that says, schools and society cannot teach appropriateness. Culture has a lot to do with perspective as well. When our culture starts showing that men take responsibility. That men work. That men don’t run out on their obligations, and that this is a virtue to be proud of, then we will begin to heal our sons.

Sasse also talked about the fact that young people do not have a work ethic. That they don’t do the basic jobs that we used to do as teens. That the youngsters are too focused on finding that volunteer opportunity, or getting that varsity letter, in order to get accepted into the special college, that they miss out on some practical aspects of adolescence. Well, as a former college administrator, Sasse really shouldn’t be complaining about the education system he perpetuated. When college can cost upwards of $65,000 a year, you are going to want your child to attend the best possible school they can. That takes work, because the competition is so fierce. Moreover, these students take upwards of 4 AP courses in their junior and senior years, play varsity sports, and volunteer. They work hard to get a high GPA. I don’t know why Sasse thinks they don’t have a work ethic. That it falls apart at college is another issue to explore. But, these children, these adolescents, do work, and they work relentlessly.

Now what about those that don’t go to college. Where are those jobs? Fast food restaurants are not meant to be lifelong jobs. As a new McDonald’s commercial points out, it is your first job. But even those are few and far between. In fact, most who have those jobs are adults with families and this is their second job. They are simply trying to make ends meet.  No matter what the government would like you to think, we really have not recovered from the great recession. And we may never rebuild the economy that was. As a society we need to deal with the economy that is, and what that future means.

Moreover, where are the vocational training schools that used to be so prevalent in our nation? Where are the future plumbers and electricians and mechanics supposed to come from? Why are there no courses on computer mechanics in high school? There used to be apprenticeship programs through the vocational training that taught youngsters the value of work, and a work ethic. Again its education. Our system is broken. Because the do-gooders decided that it was racist to deny children to right to go to college, so they destroyed the only avenue that the majority of young people ever had of creating a productive future for themselves-vocational programs in high school.

But our children didn’t create the system, we did. Stop blaming them. Start trying to fix what is wrong. This is on us.

But in the end, allowing our sons an extended adolescence is not a bad thing. So what if they use their 20s to find out who they are, and where they really want to go with their lives? Are we so happy that we were pushed into professions that make our lives overwhelming and boring? Are we so happy with all the choices that we made that we can’t allow our children some leeway to search a little longer than we did for a future path? Do we need to force our children to make the same mistakes we made simply to prove that our lives were not filled with unhappy choices? Forcing our mistakes upon our children, now that would be the height of selfishness, and the height of being a lousy parent, not the fact that we allow our children a protracted period of a carefree existence.

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Chiron Confession by Thomas Greanias

If you love all things Ancient Rome, and are simultaneously drawn to the historical account of the birth of Christianity, The Chiron Confession, by Thomas Greanias, is for you. The reader is brought into  this dangerous time period of double dealing, political machinations, and the rise of an outcast Church. Filled with meticulously researched historical information, this book allows you to experience the tumult and excitement that was Rome during the time of the Flavians.

cover108376-mediumRome is before you. You walk her streets. You meet her people. You are privy to her joys. You see her faults.  And all is not well. A secret society haunts the alleyways and byways of Rome. This secret society plans and plots the overthrow of the Empire. This secret society seeks the destruction of  Caesar…Or does it?

Rome claims these violent acts are committed on behalf of a Christian sect. Yet such violence is very unchristian according to the early Church. Are these perpetrators true followers of Christ, or are they something else?

Are they even real, or are they a simple malevolent political tool of the Empire? Is this group, known as the Dei,  merely part of “bread and circuses,” used to pacify and coddle the ever growing Roman mob, or is this secret society, this Dei, truly out to create Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven on Earth anyway it can?

Only a young playwright, thrown into the political turmoil of his day, can find the answers to these questions. It is he who is scapegoated as an enemy of Rome. It is he who finds the answers and proves to be the arm of prophecy. It is his journey that takes the reader throughout the Empire. It is he who brings us to the last apostle, to the outlaying Churches, and to understanding the divisions that would eventually destroy the great Roman Empire.

Based upon actual historical events, Thomas Greanais,  has written a thought provoking book, that is at the same time a spy thriller, a murder mystery, and political drama all rolled into one.

This book is available May 16.

Book Review: Beyond Bedlam’s Door by Mark Rubinstein, MD

A continuation of the discussion about mental health begun in the book, Bedlam’s Door, Mark Rubinstein, MD, brings incite into another 21 stories revolving around  issues that pervade the lives of so many people. Beyond Bedlam’s Door, is a compassionate look into the trials and tribulations of those who suffer from mental illness.

616smiom12l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Dr. Rubinstein shows, once again, the humanity of the people who live with a variety of mental health illnesses. He shows their vulnerability to those that lack the compassion of “do no harm.”  He reminds us that respect is a major aspect of how to support and help these patients. By recounting these 21 stories, the author shows us that:

People across a wide spectrum of experience share many commonalities: fear, courage, guilt, perseverance, duplicity, integrity, guile, honesty, strength, weakness, and so many other features, which are part of what makes us human.

The statistics say that 1 in 5 people in the United States suffer from a mental illness. Yet the stigma around psychiatric illnesses abounds. It is only with books like this one, that teach society that people with mental health illness are merely human beings in need of help, will society’s view of the mentally ill become one of compassion instead of stereotype. Dr. Rubinstein shows us that the populace needs to be more open, honest, and accepting of those dealing with, and managing,  psychiatric issues. It is only with the negating of the stigma associated with mental illness, that those that suffer from the variety of these illnesses will be able, without shame, to get the support and medical help that they need.

*****

MAY is Mental Health Awareness Month

Find more information HERE

If you, or anyone you know, are in need of mental health support, you can also begin by going to NAMI.org.

 

This book is available May 15.

 

Book Review: Gumbo Love by Lucy Buffett

If you love adventurous cooking and pure Americana, the new cobook-coverok book, Gumbo Love by Lucy Buffett (Lulu) is for you. Glorious to look through, filled with pictures of the Gulf Coast and mouth watering food stuffs, this book is a treat for the senses. You are not only taught how to master the tastes of this unique part of the world, you are given a recipe for creating a “bright life and happy kitchen.”

Lulu begins her class with dessert. We all want to start our meal with the sweet so the author begins her lessons that way. In fact, it was a de rigueur part of the day for the matriarch of the Buffett family. Indulge. That is what this type of cooking is all about. Indulge the better part of life. Go for the sweet path. Don’t let the negative ruin your day.

Then since hospitality is a huge southern tradition, we hop on over to appetizers and snacks. Always one to keep those homemade goodies on hand with a glass of sweet tea, Lulu is happy to welcome people into her home, and to  an impromptu dinner part.

She then turns her attention to her famous gumbo, and a discussion of that all necessary

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Seafood Gumbo (p. 79)

roux. What it is, and how to make the perfect base. She of course, doesn’t end our education on southern soups there. Lulu introduces us to some famous other starters like crab bisque and even French Onion Soup. She reminds us to “Stir the pot and stay the course.” Food is always a metaphor for every part of her life.

The main course recipes are as eclectic as the rest of the book. I made the “Chimilulu Hanger Steak (p.123).” It is her take on a chimichurri sauce, along with a teriyaki and red wine infused marinade poured over a properly prepared steak. This delicious light, fresh herb and lemon sauce over this normally heavy piece of meat makes a delightful center piece to any meal. I paired it with some roasted rosemary-garlic potatoes (p.183) and a happy libation (recipes found at the back of the book). Don’t worry there are also new looks at crab, shrimp, gulf coast fish, chicken, pork, and that all necessary crawfish recipes that will make your mouth water.

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Since Gumbo Love is dedicated to an overall lifestyle Lulu concludes her lessons with light meals and salads (watermelon and feta salad p. 229), sandwiches, veggies, and just some every day sauces you should keep at the ready in your refrigerator. She also helps you with planning that Gulf Coast themed dinner party with sample menus broken down into cultural favorites: Key West, Old West Coast Florida, Sweet home Alabama, and of course NOLA (New Orleans, LA).

This cook book is a wonderful homage to the different cultures and peoples that inhabit the area we know as the Gulf Coast. Lucy Buffett introduces us all to the wonderful and gustative fulfilling combination of old fashioned good ole home cooking mixed with a vibrant look at life.

 

The book is available May 9.

Book Review: Testimony by Scott Turow

At one time humanity’s attention was turned to an area of the world called Bosnia, Srebrenica, and Kosovo. These words became synonymous with war crimes, mass murder, and genocide. Sadly, it is amazing how easily such crimes are forgotten. Yet, perhaps it is not that human memory is so short, but that if we wait for a mere few years, new atrocities will capture the world’s obsession.

Enter the people that work at the International Criminal Court. They remember the victims of genocide every day. They are the voice for those no longer able to speak for themselves.

The ICC was established 51kwkzlbkkl-_sx326_bo1204203200_to prosecute crimes against humanity.  This is the setting for Scott Turow’s latest legal thriller, Testimony. It takes the reader behind the scenes to understand, and helps us realize, just what justice is up against.

Enter former prosecutor, multi-millionaire law firm partner, mid-life crisis aficionado, Bill Ten Boom. Asked to take over the investigation into a possible massacre of Roma during the Bosnian Civil war he decides it’s the change he had been looking to make. So he moves from Kindle County, a pleasant little suburb of Chicago, to the Netherlands. His search for answers takes him from the Hague, to the battlefields of a forgotten war, to the political machination of the beltway. Along with our antihero, the reader is reminded that human depravity truly knows no bounds.

Yet all is truly not what it seems. Between the hunt for answers, the legal wrangling, the capture of a wanted war criminal, and the churnings of romantic liaisons, we are taken on a journey through the Inferno. There are crosses, double crosses and triple crosses. The complicity of a church is revealed, the cruelty of criminal organizations masquerading as military personnel is fully on display, and a government cover-up of massive proportions ends up leaving no one surprised.

We like to tell ourselves that we would never turn away from finding the truth no matter how horrendous and no matter how damaging to our way of life. But would you really? Would you betray everything you believed in? Would you fight to the end to retain that one little bit of human spark in your soul?

Scott Turow’s latest book asks the reader to enter a world very few know exist, and even fewer leave unscathed. These are stories found only in our own nightmares. It is the story of society unbound. It is the story of when humanity is at our worst, and also when humanity is at our best.

In the end it is all about the truth. But sometimes the truth is too terrible to even contemplate.

 

This book is available May 16.

On Words: Death, Mourning

This week marks the second year anniversary of my mother’s death. Well actually she died on the 26th of April, but this was the week that we sat vigil over her hospice bed. I was struck by this fact the other day, and the fact that I seem to be at peace with this history. It’s funny really. This time last year, I was an emotional mess. I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was coming off the cancer diagnosis, or I was truly beginning my period of mourning. Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle and is part and parcel of both of my realities of the time.

They actually say that it is the second year after a death that is the hardest. The first year, you are basically in shock and taking care of everything that needs to be done. Whether you are the executor of the estate, as I was for my mother, or simply an immediate family member trying to make sense of the unexpected, that first year after a death is at times like walking around in a bit of a fog.

It is not until after the fog has lifted, that you can sit down and take stock of what has really happened in your world. In all honesty it may have taken me a little bit longer, because I was side tracked by the cancer treatment. But then again, as I have written, the cancer center sent me for counseling because I simply didn’t seem worried about the diagnosis. There was so much going on in my world, that curable cancer was the least of my worries.

I know you can laugh at that concept, curable cancer. But with stage 1a breast cancer, that is what I call basically  amazingly good luck. Yes, I know, it would have been luckier not to have had cancer, but come on, if you have to have cancer, it doesn’t really get a better diagnosis than the one I had, except maybe if you were at stage 0. And yes there is a stage 0.

In truth, this year was a revelation in so many ways. In fact, these moments came out of the blue for me. I would find myself sad beyond all imagining, without any reason. I would feel overwhelmed and out of sorts simply by getting up in the morning. I felt angry at my mother, and sad that I didn’t have her to talk to. I would argue with her about the littlest thing as if she were standing right beside me. I am not certain why we would argue, because we generally never did when she was alive. I figured I was angry at her for dying and leaving me.

I had another epiphany, one that would make the cancer center happy, too. I suddenly became very aware of my own mortality and very afraid of a cancer recurrence. Not that I am not taking care of myself, seeing my doctors, and getting all the medical check ups that I need to get. But I realized that “heck -I had cancer.” That my body now produces cancer, and that I am vulnerable.

I also realized that my autistic sons are not ready for me to leave them not just yet. Oh they are doing well. Both have internships. The oldest is working on a second masters degree and the younger one is only 2 classes away from receiving his masters degree. But they have a ways to go in the independence side of the street, and that is going to take a lot more work. Work that the hubby cannot do alone. Just as I tell him, that he isn’t going anywhere, because I can’t help the boys on my own either. I will admit it. I get very frightened actually. Frightened because the boys are not ready, and the hubby needs me, and in truth, I am simply not ready to go. Not yet.

So I think the confluence of events have made this a very hard year for me. The fear. The sadness. The aloneness at times. It is interesting how you have to mourn alone. That no matter how many people love you, you need to deal with loss on your own terms and in your own way and in your own time.

I also know that one day, I woke up and I didn’t feel this overarching ache in my heart anymore. Oh the sadness is there. But the pain is gone. I am not certain that sadness can ever go away really. When you remember the ones you loved, you remember the good times for certain. But I think in remembering the good times, you also realize simply what you have lost by your loved ones being gone.

The other day was a yartzheit at the end of Passover. Hubby and I lit our parents’ candles and I recognized the sadness in his eyes. And his parents have been gone for decades. It really isn’t always about length of time. Sometimes, it is simply about missing the other person.

Philosophers say that we need to accept death. That it is a natural part of life. And so it is. If you are born, one day you will die. But in between you fight like hell to make certain that you get every ounce of life out of your time on Earth, and you fight like hell to make certain that your children, and any one else you love gets every ounce of life out of their time on Earth. It is an interesting concept. This desire for life. Where does it come from, and why do we fight to hold on to it so strongly? So strongly in fact, that the idea of suicide is anathema in most societies.

Perhaps that is why we need such rituals around death. Because we consider life so precious. Fighting for life is ingrained within us. It is part and parcel of our DNA, and our genetic structure. And it is not just a human anachronism. The desire for life, is part of the essence of what it means to live on Earth. So to make sense of what we consider the downside of life, we  need a ritual way to say good bye, and we need the right to mourn. We need the right to feel abject sadness in the death of those you love.

I also think it is a selfish thing in so many ways. We miss the person because of what we have lost. We miss the conversations. We miss the laughter. I know I miss the hugs. Sometimes I think what life would have been like if my mother had not died. She was on target to live with us and I think about how that would have been. I think about her going to the local gym and where she would find friends. I think how she would maybe volunteer her time and what she would have done to make herself happy. I also think about how she would have cooked the boys pancakes on demand (she had a special recipe).  Because you know, grandchildren get what they want at any age. I miss …well I simply miss her.

But I see my parents every day on my vanity. I have pictures of them in their youth, when they were first married. When I was a small child. When they were older and at the boys’ bar mitzvahs. I have a picture of my mother helping me at the Queens World Expo, where I was a child model. I have the mezuzahs they had on their door, and their pictures of Jerusalem in my home. I have their Hamsa hanging by my door. And of course, we have their little Maltese, who is not so little, and has an opinion on almost everything apparently. I feel like she is the last living vestige of my parents. But then I look at my boys and see my parents in them too. I definitely see my parents in me when I look in the mirror.

What I have come to understand about death and mourning is that there may be several stages that psychologists like to point out, but I am not certain that we all go through them in the order modern science has dictated. We all deal with loss individually, and in our own way.

I know that I did the right thing by my mother when I chose hospice for her. I know I did the right thing when I told the nurses to give my father that extra injection of morphine to help him breath better, understanding that it would probably cause him to die sooner. I loved my parents very much. And at times in life, it is because of that love for another person that you have to make the hardest decisions in life you will ever be forced to make.

I also think I no longer feel this overwhelming ache when I think of my parents, because I have also finally forgiven myself for having made those decisions, too.

 

Book Review: One Minute Mentoring By Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Have you ever realized that you needed a mentor, but had no idea how to find one? Have you ever been asked to be a mentor, but had no idea how to proceed, or thought you didn’t have the time? Well here is a book, One Minute Mentoring, that will give you a good head start. Written as a holistic empowering approach to mentoring, the authors, Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz, provide the reader with a simple program of thought provoking, and identifiable issues.

81cn6hxqzklUsing a situationable approach, the authors employs scenarios in which any mentor, or individual, may find themselves. They then give simple questions that will cause you to “pause, reflect and learn,” from the settings. Blanchard and Diaz-Ortiz challenge the reader to ask themselves and then find the answers as to why they think they cannot be a mentor; what exactly is a mentor; and what kind of mentor would they become?

The reader is taught about mission statements. What they are, and how to make them workable and realistic.

You learn how the  relationship is an essential part of a mentor-mentee association. Then you are given tools to help you figure out how to go about strengthening your rapport with others.

You are taught the importance of introspection, and above all communicating the truth. An essential aspect of a mentor-mentee relationship is to be able to engage successfully. Here the authors help you review your own progress, and help you grow and develop so that your interactions will be successful for everyone concerned.

The entire book is geared toward learning the M-E-N-T-O-R model.

M- Mission

E- Engagement

N- Network

T- Trust

O- Opportunity

R- Review and Renewal

Mentoring provides an individual, and any company, with a successful business model, that can actually be used in your day-to-day communications and relationships. It is an interesting program that is geared toward personal and professional success.

This book is available May 2.