Friday, July 15, 2011

thoughts on: Not Quite Adults

Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for EveryoneNot Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone by Richard Settersten

I saw this in the new books section and took it home based on its title, without leafing through it first. That was a mistake. I thought it would counter balance my recent read, Boys Adrift, but this was an entirely different sort of book.

Based on research conducted by the MacArthur Foundation, Not Quite Adults purports to present "the real story" of what is happening with today's young people. However, the story it presents is primarily economic. It looks at the entry into adulthood first and foremost through the lens of economic class. There is no real discussion about the individual choices young people make. The researchers seem to feel that with proper support, all will succeed. (Proper support is defined as being provided funds; advise; room and board; and connections, as in contacts to get the right education and job.)

Since this is not what I was hoping for, after the first couple chapters I skimmed through a bit, only reading the sections that I thought might look at it from a parenting perspective. Even those spoke in economic terms. For example, working class parents are too hands-off, not providing enough of the aforementioned supports for their adult children.

Other than those four factors, no reason for dropping out of college or attaining a high paying job is discussed, and there is strong emphasis on the need for higher education as a route to success in this book. Even when they share stories of unwed parents struggling in low paying jobs, it is only framed in terms of parental/grandparental support, as if having a child in one's teens was inconsequential.

In the conclusion, we are given this piece of advise: "True, it is important for young people to be responsible and learn from their mistakes. But it also is unnecessary to let young adult children make mistakes that are certain to be damaging by not intervening."

Let them be responsible, but don't let them make mistakes? Let them. The authors are not talking about teens here. The research covered people from age 18 to 34. I don't think any of the 24-34 year olds I know were interviewed for this research. I can't imagine any of them thinking that their parents should or could prevent them from making mistakes.

I'm betting the parents supporting both their 24 year old and his 4 year old weren't consulted on that decision, so I'm not sure why the MacArthur Foundation thinks they'll be able to intervene on other ones. However, I don't think the researchers consider those types of decisions. They seem to have a one track mind: education = money, and nothing else matters.

Not a philosophy I can embrace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

thoughts on: The Reading Promise

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We SharedThe Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Alice Ozma's book is poorly subtitled.  It is indeed about her, her father, and how their commitment to reading aloud shaped their relationship.  Their reading promise was a defining feature of their life together.  It is not, however, about the books they shared.  Very little is said about the specific books or their impact on either James or Alice.

For what it is, a childhood memoir, penned by one barely beyond childhood, it is an enjoyable read.  It is delightful to read a memoir which celebrates a quirky but good parent, written by an adoring, but not blinded, daughter.

It is a sweet story until the last few chapters, which are more of a wake up call to those who value reading.  After a lifetime spent as an elementary school librarian, Alice's father is told by the principals that he is no longer to read aloud to the students.  Books are replaced by computers, and he is to teach computer skills.  Although he fights against these changes, he loses.  Later, he decides to run for school board. 

I'd vote for him.  I remember school libraries and librarians so fondly.  My daughter's school does not even have a library.  They have a media center, full of computers and manga.  How can children read if we don't give them access to books?

365-153 to 156 Trixie's Summer

Trixie loves my mom's backyard.  It is big and wooded, a far cry from our little patch at home.  She loves to explore the woods while I sit on the patio or putter about.  Because she has such excellent recall, I can let her run around the fenceless yard without being tied to a lead. 

Her chief occupation in the woods is worrying the squirrels.  She worries them so much that they occasionally throw things at her from their elevated perches.  Fortunately, they have bad aim, but she does give me the funniest looks, as if to say, "Did you see that, Mom?"  If she stays out long enough, the squirrels will scamper off tree top to tree top out of Trixie's roaming zone.  Then she moves on to her next favorite activity.

Digging for moles.  Or voles.  Whichever it is, it requires digging holes.  As long as the holes are in the woods, not the lawn, we let her dig.  She comes back inside dirty and extremely happy, and naps until I am ready to brave the mosquitoes for her next outside playtime.  She's having a good summer.

Birds, on a wreath

Our original idea, to mount the birds on a branch in a planter, did not work out. After many days in the woods, getting eaten by mosquitoes whilst searching for a branch shaped like a bush, I decided to rethink the birds. After talking with my mom, the recipient, we decided to go with a grapevine wreath rather than a straight-ish branch.

I bought a ready made 24" wreath at Michael's, and got out the hot glue.  With my daughter's help, we played around with the birds' placement, and decided on this arrangement.  Truthfully, the final result doesn't meet my vision, but I think my mom likes the wreath better than she would have the birds in a bush look I was going for.  So I am reminding myself that the recipient is more important than the giver.  I am also keeping my eye out for the perfect bush shaped branch, in case I want to try again.

The other birds, the ones the children at our church made to send to Costa Rica were, I am told, a big hit with the children there.  So bird happiness all around.

Monday, July 11, 2011

thoughts on: Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman's Excellent AdventureHarry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo

On one of our Maryland to Colorado road trips, which we do at least once per year, we visited Truman's home in Independence.  As soon as I saw their kitchen, I loved the Truman's.  So, this book was a summer must read for me:  the Trumans and road trips.

Algeo combines a recounting of the Truman's experiences along the way, at least those which are documented; tales of the towns they passed through; a discussion of Truman as former president; and his own encounters following Truman's path today. 

It was the discussions about Truman as a former president that I found most interesting.  Truman received no pension when he left office, and refused to commercialize the presidency by accepting corporate offers or speaking engagements, which left them with only a small Army pension from his years in WWI.  His attitude towards the dignity of the office is so far from what it later became. (Ford was the first to cash in on having formerly been the US president.)  Although less time is devoted to Bess, Algeo shows us what a delightful lady she was in her private life, so unlike the dour persona who reluctantly lived in the spotlight of the White House.

Algeo's efforts at following the Truman's trail and visiting the houses, hotels, diners, and gas stations where they stopped reminded me of Tony Horwitz's books.  However, in Algeo's hands, it translated into fluffy filler rather than interesting insight.  We all know that highways have bypassed small town America and big box chains have put mom and pops out of business.  I would have rather heard more about Harry and Bess.

Even so, this was a fun summer read.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

thoughts on: Boys Adrift

Boys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young MenBoys Adrift: Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax

Sax explores the underachieving boys of our culture and what contributes to their refusal to engage in life and grow into responsible adults.  He focuses on the affects of ADHD meds, video games, endocrine disruptors in plastics, teaching methods which are more suited to girls than boys, and the general devaluation of traditionally masculine traits.

It is the video games which struck home for me.  I know so many boys in their late teens and twenties who should be transitioning to adulthood, but who look for adventure and a sense of accomplishment from success in video games rather than seeking it in careers or relationships or family life or even real-life adventures.  They prefer the comfort and safety of a video monitor over true risk and real adventure. 

The numbers of young people this affects were incredible, but not shocking.  I know too many young men, like those in the book, who drop out of college because they would rather play video games than go to class, who work low paying jobs because they don't want to deal with the demands of a career, who simply retreat from family and friends because it is easier to control things on a screen than to work through relationships and risk failures that cannot be reset on a game. 

The letters which Sax received in response to an article in the Washington Post said as much as Sax did about the phenomena.  Letter after letter from parents, wives, friends, and the boys themselves confirming that opting out of adult responsibilities is more and more common.

Sax also confirmed what I'd read earlier this year in Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft.  Today, even those who reject college are not interested in the trades.  American boys would rather work minimum wage at Macy's than become certified plumbers earning close to six figures.   

Unfortunately for many of us, Sax addresses here how to counterbalance these trends when raising boys, but does not offer much for dealing with those who are grown but not grown up.

Monday, July 4, 2011

365-150 to152 Girls at Play

Running through the sprinklers.

Splashing in the Bay.

Concentrating on the cards.

Friday, July 1, 2011

365-144 to 149 The last of June

We didn't make this; we happened upon it on a trail.

Thirsty hummingbird.

 A rescue.

Anybody in there?

Lion cubs at rest.