Saturday, April 03, 2004

The Kids Aren't All Right

It's Saturday night...and I read this article in, of all things,
my alumnae magazine. I was deeply saddened by this article.
Also reassured. I don't feel so alone.
What do you think?

From the Smith Quarterly Online -
The Kids Aren't All Right

A generation of young adults tells their parents: 'We won't grow up.' Why can't they seem to get a foothold, and what's a parent, facing her own retirement, to do?
By Jane Lubchansky Adams ’60

We’re at dinner, at cocktail parties, at college reunions, peers of mine—all of us in our fifties and sixties—sharing the details of our landmark birthdays, our plans for retirement, our health, and even our unions. When, however, the conversation turns, as it always does, to how our children are doing, the answers become pat and predictable: “The kids are all right.”

The truth is that some of those kids, who are in their twenties and thirties by now, are not all right. They’re failing to thrive. Despite having every constitutional and environmental advantage—including healthy minds and bodies and loving and intelligent parents—many of our children are not growing into the independent, generous, kind, happy, successful, law-abiding, contributing citizens we expected them to be.

Where baby boomers took their parents’ values and went on to create secure lives for their families, this new generation of “adultolescents,” as they’ve come to be known, is having a difficult time breaking free from the parental cocoon and starting their own lives. A study conducted among 600 young adults in 1997 revealed that almost a third have downsized the ambitions they had at 18, and half of them believe their goals will never be accomplished. Census Bureau statistics from 2000 indicate that more than half of 21- to 24-year-olds and a third of 25- to 34-year-olds still live at home or have boomeranged back more than once since college graduation. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that illegal drugs, especially heroin and amphetamines, have made stunning inroads among middle-class young adults, whose rates of suicide, alcoholism, eating disorders, and depression have tripled in the past two decades. And according to sociologist William Aquilino (in The Parental Experience in Midlife), 40 percent of grown kids are excessively dependent on their parents for financial and emotional support.

The result of all this is a growing population of angry, scared, resentful, worried, embarrassed, and guilt-racked parents who can’t escape the feeling that their children are missing out on life because of something they did or failed to do when they were younger. One woman related her frustration at watching her 27-year-old daughter move home for the third time since college and sit around the house, aimless, depressed, bulimic, unemployed, and in debt. “This is what I expected: for her to finish her education, even if it took her a few years more than it took me; to explore what’s out there, all the opportunities open to her, and choose one that’s likely to give her a rewarding or meaningful career, or at least a decent job; to pay her own way, even if I have to provide a safety net for a while; to be emotionally independent—to own her own feelings and not blame me for her failures; to play by the rules and not take dumb risks that could ruin her life; and, oh yes, find a cure for cancer, give me a few grandchildren, and call home once in a while. Was that too much to ask?”

Apparently, it is. So what happened? Why are twentysomethings and thirtysomethings clinging so tightly to the nest, and why are we as parents so hard-pressed to get tough and give them the push they need to get on with their lives? The answer may have something to do with our own upbringing and how shifting social mores spearheaded by baby boomers helped reshape the culture—as well as parenting styles—during the sixties and seventies.

The baby-boom generation is the largest, richest, and most educated generation in history. Baby boomers reaped the benefit of the economic security that was their parents’ most important goal, and though most knew they were privileged, few felt entitled—at least not the way grown children do today. Even the most idealistic baby boomers didn’t expect to achieve their career goals without a long apprenticeship and a lot of hard work. They didn’t feel entitled to a lifestyle marked by extended dependence, or expect to enjoy the same standard of living at 25 that their parents spent decades attaining. Baby boomers were eager for their independence, and by the time they had the responsibilities that come with it, they were (mostly) ready for them.

Then, in the 1970s, the winds of social change had ushered in a new set of values and expectations. Life structures and relationships began to shift, creating a culture of divorce as well as nine million single parents who by the end of the decade were raising their children alone. People’s attitudes, too, had changed with the sexual revolution, feminism, and the human potential movement. Suddenly, it became important not only to provide for your children but also to pay attention to their inner psychological needs. This may be the biggest legacy of the “me” decade, which popularized the notion of happiness as an entitlement—not the pursuit of happiness, but happiness itself. Parents began paying an inordinate amount of attention to their children’s emotional state, their human potential, their self-esteem, and their overall happiness. As a result, when parents couldn’t provide the “perfect home” for their children, they became consumed by parental guilt, which lingers to this day. As 57-year-old Gloria said, “I couldn’t give my kids what every child deserves—a happy two-parent home. I couldn’t even give them a home where one parent was always there; I had to work. So they started out with two big disadvantages. I guess I feel that it’s up to me to make up for that.”

A recent study that examined how parents evaluate their adult children’s achievements and adjustment—and how those assessments affect parents’ own sense of self-worth—indicated that wanting their children to be personally fulfilled is a goal unique to the baby- boom generation. With parents having gone to sometimes extraordinary lengths to ensure their kids’ happiness, it’s no surprise that their grown children expect them to continue to provide it, forgetting that they need to take responsibility for finding it themselves in the satisfactions of work, love, connection, commitment, and achievement. The fact is, parents can’t make their grown kids happy; only the kids themselves can. But as long as parents think that it’s their job, so will their children. The result: nobody’s happy.


Kicking Out My Son
Spring Storm

Friday, April 02, 2004

In Local News:

Aggravated assault was reported in the xxxx block of xxxx rd. in Corrales
about 1 pm March 11. A woman allegedly approached a man with a stick
because he was cutting down trees on property she believed belonged
to her. The woman told officers the man pointed a chainsaw at her and she
felt in fear of her safety. Officers investigated and found the property belonged to the man. Both were told to stay away from each other.
from the Albuquerque Journal

Air Quality Report a "Cruel Hoax"
Critics on Thursday blasted a state-commissioned report on air quality
near the Intel plant during a meeting of the Corrales Air Quality Task Force.

The report is part of a 15-month long air quality study (by Gradient Corp.) of
Corrales and parts of Rio Rancho that surround the Intel micro-chip-making plant.

It states that the company could not find "any evidence that any of the measured or modeled chemicals are associated with acute or chronic health risks."

Some Rio Rancho and Corrales residents blame strong odors and illnesses on emissions coming from Intel.

...Intel officials say the plant does not cause health problems and its emissions are within "permitted levels". However, one task force member called the report "a sham".

"It's appropriate that your presentation is being made on April Fool's Day,"
said Fred Marsh..."However, instead of a harmless joke, your Gradient report
is a cruel hoax against our community...What you claim is a risk assessment reads like a love letter to Intel."......from the Albuquerque Journal
Ghost Town

Take a trip with Elena on her Kawasaki motorcycle, into the heart of a Ghost Town - that is near Chernobyl : which means wormwood - the site of the world's worst nuclear accident which took place in 1986. Official figures say at least 300,000 people died. Elena's photo-journal is courtesy of her father's occupation as a nuclear research scientist. She gives insight not only into the facts of the accident itself, but the society that produced it. The eerie photos of an interrupted life are stunning. She shows an abandoned high-rise apartment building, and describes the people standing on the roof-top, looking at a "beautiful shining" on the power plant - the shining of radiation.

There are 27 chapters - the last pages are of the kindergarten, untouched since the sudden evacuation.

Here's a snip --go look at the photographs:
Most people had to leave everything, from photos of their grandparents to cars. Their clothes, cash and documents has been changed by state authorities. This is incredible, people lived, had homes, country houses, garages, motorcyles, cars, money, friends and relatives, people had their life, each in own niche and then in a matter of hours this world fall in pieces and everything goes to dogs and after few hours trip with some army vehicle one stands under some shower, washing away radiation and then step in a new life, naked with no home, no friends, no money, no past and with very doubtful future.
The 1960's -1970's were an era of great nuclear enthusiasm. With such slogans as "atom is our friend", they were building atomic plants here, there and everywhere and then in the night of 25 to 26 April 1986 someone pushed a wrong button and launched the biggest nuclear catastrophe in history... The causes of the accident are still described as a fateful combination of human error and imperfect technology.
In keeping with a long tradition of soviet justice, they put imprisoned all the people who worked on that shift - regardless of their guilt..... a man who tried to stop the chain reaction as a last attempt to save the plant and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, he died 3 weeks after the accident.

In theory, radiation will stay in the Chernobyl area for the next 48.000 years, but in reality, humans may begin repopulating the area in about 600 years - plus/minus three centuries. The experts predict that by then the most dangerous elements will have dissapeared - or been sufficiently diluted into the rest of the world's air, soil and water.

If our government can somehow find the money and political willpower to finance scientific research, perhaps there will be someway discovered to neutralise or clean up this area sooner, otherwise we will have to wait this 300 years untill radiation will vanish by itself. That's if we use the lowest scientific estimate of 300 years......some scientists say it may be as long as 900 years. People often accuse me of being an optimist.

at Elena's Chernobyl Journal
Thanks, David

Sunday (March 28) marked the 25th anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident, and 25 years later the nation’s aging fleet of 103 reactors still face nagging questions about their ability to prevent mishaps.

These concerns, worsened by recent findings of massive corrosion at a nuclear power plant in Ohio, have so far kept utilities away from pursuing new nuclear plants for over two decades despite their potential to replace aging, air-polluting coal units.

In a bid to change that trend, the Bush administration has promoted incentives to build new nuclear plants. But the outlook is uncertain because a Republican-written energy bill with some of the administration’s proposals has long been stalled in the U.S. Senate.

On March 28, 1979, Walter Cronkite opened his nightly news broadcast for CBS television, calling the accident at the Pennsylvania plant “the first step in a nuclear nightmare.”

That was the first time that many Americans heard of the mishap, the most serious accident in U.S. nuclear history.

Early that morning, pumps feeding cooling water to the plant’s reactor failed, and 32,000 gallons of radioactive, superheated water spewed from a dodgy valve into the domed concrete reactor housing. Without water to cool them, over half of the reactor’s 36,000 nuclear fuel rods ruptured.

Government scientists said that the 636,000 people living within 20 miles of the plant got only minor radiation doses.

A string of mechanical failures and human errors caused the Three Mile Island accident after operators with Metropolitan Edison Co. switched off crucial equipment that could have lessened the severity of the partial meltdown.

The near-catastrophe at the plant, perched on an island in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Penn., effectively halted any expansion in the U.S. nuclear energy industry, which generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

The resulting cancellation of dozens of planned nuclear plants forced utilities to rely on decades-old nuclear and coal-burning plants for growing electric power demands.

For the last decade, utilities have looked almost exclusively to natural gas plants to fill the gap, which has exacerbated the nation’s shortage of that clean-burning fuel.

And two years ago, massive corrosion found at an Ohio nuclear plant points to lingering safety questions.

“With plants aging and the number of checks dwindling, this is a troubling trend,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

More at MSNBC Environmental News

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I discovered a unique place on the web - thanks to Cassandra - called Ecotone Wiki -- a group participatory weblog discussion site focusing on
*writing about place* - which is something, I found out, I do. I found out it is *something* other people do, too.

Here's my first post, on Smell and Place:

The first year we were delighted by the old apple orchard next door. At least forty huge old trees wore a wild profusion of blossom in the spring. Up close, they were marvelous - white, pink and pale green, multiplied by thousands, adorning the gnarly, unpruned fairy-trees--with a sweetness almost unimaginable.

Our first April there, we had a baby ...our youngest son, Max, was born on my birthday in the upstairs of that house. I remember rocking him by the door open to the deck, enjoying his perfection, and the scent of the apple blossoms wafting in the breezes.

We planted a dozen honeysuckles along a latilla pole fence, and Robert watered them faithfully. While this vine grows like a weed other places, in New Mexico even a weed sometimes needs nurturing to get started. The irrigation ditch ran along the side of the drive, and eventually the honeysuckle and Virginia Creeper and the trumpet vines grew like a jungle, fulfilling a plan and a dream that someday the view of our neighbor's messy yard would be concealed by vines and flowers.

The smell of honeysuckle will always bring me back to my own backyard, and as I stood there inhaling that fragrance, I would remember being a child of about 10 years old, delighting in the honeysuckle in the woods *down the creek* where I grew up in Pennsylvania. Especially in the early evening when the hummingbird-moths would flutter along the fence, the perfume would rise like a dream, and I would nearly swoon with the power of it.

Some sadness wells up with the beauty of these smells, the sense of loss and the memory of family and home that was always mixed with turmoil and pain. It is reflected in the landscape.

We walked the field together our last day, Robert and I and Max. We pondered the empty house, remembering. Twenty years had passed in the wink of an eye. So many stories! In the garden, father and son broke down in tears, we all hugged and the pain seared us; the son said, "I love you - thank you " to his father, who drank the words in like a draught of cool water and wept. As the December sun dropped suddenly behind us, we drove away.

We didn't know, weren't told, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway, that beginning the day after Christmas the huge old evergreens in the front would be chopped down and hauled off, after standing guard at least fifty years on that spot. I was shocked but accepting, as though the sentinels of those dark trees were Robert and I, standing watch, and now we were gone, our shadows never to cool and protect again.

Then, when the fence was taken out, and the roses, the lilacs, the trumpet vines and creeper and the honeysuckle torn from the ditch by the roots, I could only wonder why. It was as if we had held back the inevitable plunder and death by our insistence that beauty was worth something...worth protecting. But we were used to it by now.

Smells that will remind me of that place came to include burning garbage, burning cottonwood, road exhaust, diesel fumes from beeping forklifts and recreational bulldozing. A poignant rush of feeling at home comes with the particular scent of green chile roasting, wafting in the air of late summer as I sit in the shade of the mulberry tree, shucking ears of corn.

The apple orchard, so laden in the fall and reeking of vinegar, as the apples tumbled and rotted on the ground, was mowed down within the first year by chainsaws and replaced eventually by a grey house. The branches were piled high in a summer bonfire, and burned. Several of the trees were so big and their roots so deep, planted by the grandfather of the current owners seventy years ago, that the trees sprang up again from the roots, anew.

Man in Nature - The Fiasco of Suburbia
This piece by James Kunstler, from is the work of "a Curmudgeon in the Wild" - He tends to push buttons on all sides of the fence.
Kunstler says:

As a public commentator on suburban sprawl issues I've been engaged in a low-grade war of ideas with the environmental community. The fiasco of suburbia, so acute and so damaging to our culture in general, has otherwise intelligent and educated people adopting foolish positions on our national land-use crisis. The most common is the idea that nature is the antidote for problems of bad urbanism.

I need to state this broadly -- perhaps too broadly for some -- because it includes a number of views which all derive from the same notion: that human nature is something apart from the rest of nature. Paradoxically, this idea expresses something very similar to the mentality of single-use zoning which underlies the fiasco of suburbia in the first place -- that human nature and the rest of nature occupy separate and irreconcilable zones.

and further--

The confusion out there in America about what is rural and what is urban, what is town and what is country, and what each signifies, has reached an extreme. All the more tragic when you consider that the prime task of people interested in the salvation of any habitat is to answer these questions, and to integrate the human ecology with the larger community of ecologies. We are never going to save the rural places or the agricultural places or the wild and scenic places (or the wild species that dwell there) unless we identify the human habitat and then strive to make it so good that humans will voluntarily inhabit it.

As a formal proposition, the human habitat is the town, the village, the neighborhood, and the city. As things stand now in America, these habitats are so degraded and horrible that anyone with the means to do so has fled, shrieking, to dwell instead in either a rural setting or the mock-rural setting represented by suburbia. This group, it is worth noting, includes a great many "environmentalists" who, due to the blandishments of cheap oil, are able to lead urban lives in distant hinterlands, connected to their needs by large automobiles.

The mentality that views man and nature apart and irreconcilable in terms of land-use is rooted in our culture from the shock of industrial urbanism in the 19th century. American cities are almost wholly a product of that dire process, and the expansion from the period 1830 to 1910 was so traumatic that Americans have yet to recover. Bearing in mind that nothing on the scale of New York or Chicago a hundred years ago had ever been seen before in human history, (not even in imperial Rome, which probably comes closest), the enormity of scale that industry and its accessories assumed by the early 20th century was frightening. Any scholar can see the anxiety and dread of this national experience expressed in the evolution of suburbia, which represents the idea that the remedy for the industrial city is country living, that "nature" is the cure for the awful works of man.


Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

Something from far off: it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind

as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.

Pablo Neruda
100 Love Sonnets/ Cien Sonetas de amor

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Afternoon at Tamaya
They Paved Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot

Harley is here visiting with us, and we're enjoying his company
and his counsel, as ever. I took a ride up north with him yesterday,
and drove by the old homestead, 5065...

It was a brutal shock. In a larger sense, I am detached from the
property and its future. We spent 20 years nurturing and caring for
the beauty that was there. I have no judgment as to its future, but
still....When the old cedar trees were chopped down, I thought of
them as Robert and I, long-standing and enduring, and now gone
from casting our shadows on that ground. Our secret garden behind
the wall, the lilacs, the roses, the fragrant honeysuckles which twined
the latilla poles, the trumpet vines which thrilled us with their stunning
color---it's all gone now. Incomprehensibly sad.

They paved Paradise, and put up a parking lot.

The photo I stole with my Pocket Digital has a ghostly feel -- the light
swirling over the old house is evanescent as memory. Compare this
to the photographs I posted last year, in the same place -- the view
from my north window -- and the Last Day of Summer.