MY LAST BEST GLASS, PART 3 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Here is the third installment of glass photos from my home. These are glass pieces that I find both beautiful and unusual.

More!

PRIVILEGE AND ALCOHOL ABUSE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Since Brett Kavanagh, the Supreme Court nominee, now Justice, has been in the news, so have discussions about excessive drinking among teenagers. Apparently, there are studies that show that rich, privileged teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol. An article in the Washington Post on September 28, by Suniya S. Luthar, is subtitled “Affluence is a risk factor for dangerous behavior.”

Brett Kavanagh

Psychological research seems to support the premise that excessive drinking is more common with affluent teens, like Brett Kavanagh, who went to an élite boarding school in the 1980’s. In fact, students in high-achieving, élite schools are at higher risk for drug abuse, anxiety, and depression as well as casual sexual activity.

Substance abuse in high school is not an isolated phenomenon. It is linked to serious drug and alcohol abuse in later life. This is clearly not only a teenage problem.

The studies show that the key risk factor for these wealthy kids is not money. It’s the extreme pressure they feel to succeed, to be the best and to live up to very high standards of accomplishment. This extreme pressure to excel produces high levels of stress and anxiety.

Another factor in this toxic situation is the attitude of the parents. The parents seem to be more lenient when it comes to transgressions by their kids vis-à-vis drugs and alcohol. They are willing to pay for high-priced lawyers to get their kids out of any legal trouble. However, these same parents would come down hard on their kids if they indulged in behavior such as truancy, academic slacking or inappropriate social behavior to adults.

The article warns that “When adults are sanguine about drunkenness and associated reprehensible behaviors among kids, there are potentially serious consequences for … an entire generation of young people as they form their own values about what is decent, what is excusable and what will simply not be tolerated despite the power and prestige of their parents.”

I don’t believe that all of this is inevitable. But I am biased. I grew up affluent in New York City and went to a high achievement oriented high school in the 1960’s. My school was not residential so we had a different culture and social matrix than a residential boarding school. Dorm life can be a strong influence on kids. I succumbed to the academic pressure and suffered from both anxiety and depression. But neither I, nor anyone else in my class of 120, drank heavily or regularly. (Drugs were not yet readily available so they were not an issue.)

Unreal dormitory life

My school was 95% Jewish, and at the time, the stereotype of Jews not drinking much was basically true. My parents never drank. Not even wine at dinner. They only served alcohol at dinner parties. So my experience may have been atypical. The fact remains that teenagers under pressure don’t inevitably turn to alcohol or drugs.

I have a friend whose son now goes to a prestigious, rigorously academic, coed, residential prep school in Connecticut. There is plenty of tolerance and support for homosexuality, gender fluidity, and gender switching. But not for blackout drinking or drug abuse.

The students (at least in my friend’s experience) are serious students into healthy living. His friends are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural and racial and there are many kids from underprivileged backgrounds. This melting pot may explain the straight, clean lifestyles.

It’s not all rich, white males, like at Brett Kavanaugh’s single-sex school. The peer pressure there to drink excessively and misbehave may have partially been a cultural phenomenon.

We need to get parents to be vigilant about their privileged children’s drinking and drug habits in high school. If we can’t reach the kids directly, maybe we can reach the parents who tolerate and finance their children’s excesses.

BOAT DOGS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Tom’s brother, Todd, came down to visit for a week and he brought his six-month-old Catahoula Leopard Dog, Houla. with him. It was like having a toddler around! We spent four days on the boat with the three dogs. It was exhausting to supervise the puppy, but it was also a lot of fun.

Here are some photos from our time on the boat with our dogs.

Houla taking in the view from the outside
Lexi on the flybridge, chilling
Remy looking in from outside the cabin
Houla on the path leading to the bow
Remy with Todd and Tom driving the boat
Remy and Lexi on the path to the bow
Remy hanging out in the sun on the bow
Remy looking out the side of the boat
Remy looking out of the gate at the boat entrance

CANINE HEROES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I am crazy, an over the top dog lover. I share cute dog videos on Facebook.  I also share pleas for the endless number of rescue dogs who are in dire circumstances and really need rescuing. I donate money to all kinds of dog rescue organizations as well as the Humane Society.

One of my favorite Rescue Groups.

My heart breaks for all the dogs out there who are abandoned, neglected and/or abused. I try to read as little as possible about dogs suffering all over the world because their images haunt me and keep me from sleeping. Sometimes my heart actually hurts just thinking about them.

Then I read a feel-good dog story and I jump up and down with glee. The positive piece that recently caught my attention was in the New York Times on August 7. Written by Sean Piccoti, it’s called “A Military Medal For ‘Our Four-Legged Heroes’”. The article is primarily about the legislation that has just created a ‘Guardians of America’s Freedom Medal’, the first official commendation by the Defense Department for military working dogs.

Statue to Military Dogs and their Handlers

Close to 3000 military dogs and handlers are stationed around the world, especially in the Middle East. All branches of the military use dogs who are trained in bomb and drug detection. Dogs are also trained to scout, guard, and track. Also to sniff out bombs, booby traps, mines, drugs, and hostile forces. They are used to patrol Air Bases, Military Compounds, Ammunition Depots, and Military Checkpoints.

The dogs often do multiple tours of duty, like their humans. Some lose their lives, and some lose limbs or suffer other debilitating injuries, just like human soldiers do. Until now, the dogs and their handlers were not recognized for the amazing jobs they do.

crippled military retiree

The story goes beyond the military award and the recognition of the dogs’ service. The article also talks about a wonderful organization called The War Dogs Association. This New Jersey-based organization provides essential services for the military dogs and handlers on active duty as well as after retirement.

The War Dogs Association donates badly needed supplies to active duty dogs. Ron Aiello, the President of War Dogs, says that if an active duty handler needs a new harness for his dog, it can take months to get it from the army. War Dogs can respond to an email request immediately and get the harness delivered within a week!

The dogs also need other equipment that the military doesn’t always provide. For example, War Dogs sends special goggles to protect the dogs’ eyes from sandstorms. They send cooling vests to protect the dogs from the over 100-degree temperatures in the Middle East. They also send dog boots to protect the dogs’ paws from injury due to extreme heat and rough terrain. It’s appalling to me that the military doesn’t protect their dogs in these basic ways!

War Dogs also takes care of retired dogs. They find good adoptive homes for them when they come back to the States. They also pay for medical care for the retirees, including a free canine prescription drug program.

This story is particularly encouraging because, during the Vietnam war, military dogs were regarded as ‘equipment.’ Many dogs who served were euthanized or just given to the Vietnamese when they were no longer needed.

We’ve come a long way.

Even today, I’ve read that handlers who want to adopt their service dogs when they retire, have to jump through hoops to make it happen. They have to pay lots of money and often wait years to go through the red tape necessary to get the dogs released to them and eventually shipped to America.

It should be automatic that dogs and handlers be kept together if that’s what the handler wants. Hopefully, War Dogs will help with this problem as well.

Here is a link to the War Dogs Association: https://www.uswardogs.org. Please donate something.

I did.

HOW A FORTUNE TELLER RUINED MY GRANDFATHER’S LIFE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father was a scientist and a very rational man. He didn’t believe in religion or have any superstitions, except one. He told me to never, ever go to a fortune-teller. He had a logical reason. HIS father had told him an eerie story about HIS experience with a fortune-teller, which had haunted him throughout his life.

My grandfather, on a lark, when he still lived in Russia, went to a gypsy fortune-teller in a nearby gypsy camp. He was given a long, detailed story about his future life. Most of the story seemed outrageous, if not impossible at the time. He forgot about the incident. Until, to his dismay, the predictions started to come true, one at a time. I don’t remember all the details but here are a few.

The gypsy told my grandfather that he would serve in the army. At the time in Russia, only first-born sons were conscripted into the army. My grandfather was the third son, so this would never happen. Except that his oldest brother shot off his toes to avoid military service. Then the second oldest brother died suddenly and young. So it fell to my grandfather to take up arms. Just like the gypsy told him. What are the odds?

My father’s father

Next, the gypsy told my grandfather that he would take a long journey involving a boat. He had no intention of ever leaving Russia. Until he couldn’t make a good living as a tailor when he finished his military service. Then he decided to come to America – a very long journey, part of it by sea.

The personal details the gypsy told him were the creepiest part of the story. The gypsy told him that he would marry a young woman who would bear him seven children, including a set of twins, but only two of the children would survive. Believe it or not, my grandmother had exactly seven pregnancies, including a set of twins. The oldest and the youngest, my Dad, were the only ones to survive infancy.

By now my grandfather was freaking out! The next prediction by the gypsy was that his wife would die young and leave him to take care of two children on his own. She died of tuberculosis when my Dad was three. The gypsy said that my grandfather would struggle for a few years but would eventually marry a strong woman who would be a good mother to his children. This happened exactly as predicted. His children, aged three and eleven, were latch-key kids until he met his second wife who, my father always said, ‘rescued’ them.

The rest of my grandfather’s life also played out pretty much as the gypsy had told him. He started making a good living. (He was the first to bring the pleated skirt to America). He lived comfortably until his death as an old man for the day – he was in his 70’s.

The story doesn’t end there. My father understood his father’s aversion to clairvoyants. But as a young man, he fell madly in love with a woman who was ‘beyond his reach’. He was a poor, Jewish medical student and she was a proper WASP who wanted a comfortable and respectable life. He was not in a position to give this to her.

My Dad as a young man

My Dad was so smitten, that he took a year off from medical school to pursue the woman full-time! During this period, he came across a fortune-teller. He couldn’t resist finding out if he would ‘get the girl’ in the end. The gypsy told him that the woman would never marry him. She said that the woman would string him along but eventually would marry a man from Chicago who was ‘like a locomotive’. Dad remembers this phrase because it was an unusual way to describe someone.

As predicted, again, despite a long courtship, his paramour eventually sent him a letter breaking off the relationship. She said that she had found a well established, well-off man and was moving to Chicago to marry him. She described him as strong and commanding, ‘like a locomotive!’

Unbelievable! My father had no rational explanation for any of this.

Neither do I.

TEENAGE SEXUAL ASSAULT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated to the Supreme Court and has been accused of attempted rape as a seventeen year old. This has precipitated a national debate over acceptable teenage behavior.

Bett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump

Kavanaugh’s enablers have several, typical defenses for him. He was a hormone filled boy and boys will be boys – so he’s not responsible for his behavior. He was a teenager and we all know they have no judgment and can’t be held responsible for what they do. Or the favorite – he was blind drunk so of course, he can’t be responsible for his behavior.

Excessive alcohol at teenage parties

What are we telling our teenagers? We tell the boys “you have a free pass until legal adulthood.” To the girls, we say “avoid teenage boys unless you want to be raped and have no recourse, legal, or social protection.”

Aren’t we supposed to be training teenagers to be responsible adults? I understand their brains are not fully developed, their impulses are not under full control. Their judgment is still a work in progress.

Regardless, we still should be teaching them and holding them to society’s standards, like decency and respect for others. They may fail to achieve these standards all the time, but the standards still have to be there, as goals to strive for.

We have generations of twenty-somethings still living with parents, not making a living wage, and socially isolated. Maybe that’s, in part, because we don’t ask them to grow up while they are teenagers. Maybe they absorb the message that they’re not responsible for their behavior, their achievements, or their lives. When that message is internalized, it’s hard to flick a switch and suddenly have kids who are motivated, moral, and goal-oriented adults.

This is a bigger problem than sexual misconduct in teenage boys. In addition to absolving boys of responsibility for egregious and unacceptable behavior, it teaches them toxic attitudes to women that often follow them throughout their lives. They are taught to dehumanize and disrespect women.

If a boy wants sex, he can just do what Trump does – grab them by the pussy! If she doesn’t kick him in the nuts, he can do what he wants with her body. If she complains afterward, he can just say she asked for it, she wanted it, or she’s lying and it never happened. Take your pick.

Boys are seeing that this bullshit works. Women who say “NO” are either not being heard, or not being believed. Girls are seeing they are powerless – victims of a male-oriented sexual culture. These are not the attitudes we want in our young adults.

Why should we tolerate them in our teenagers?

High school is difficult enough for girls without having to worry about being a victim of sexual assault. The odds are too many high school girls will experience some form of sexual harassment. Most girls will never report it because they know they will be attacked and pilloried if they do.

So we are fostering a sense of entitlement in boys and an acceptance of victimhood and powerlessness in girls. These are really bad lessons to be teaching our kids. We are also creating a nationwide “us-against-them” situation between men and women.

How we handle high school sexual misconduct can have huge ramifications throughout our culture. Maybe this spotlight on the issue can give us a chance to recalibrate our attitudes. Maybe it will motivate us to train our teenagers to become responsible adults and citizens.

GLASS VIGNETTES – PART 2 – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love creating decorative vignettes with my glass pieces. I already posted a blog with photos of some of my favorite glass groupings in my house. Here is the second installment of glass vignettes.