There was a time when all we had to worry about was the next biology test, Friday night’s date, and getting your Dad’s car back home unscathed. We never thought about drugs; cocaine and marijuana may have been around in some dark quarters, used by loser kids, but the designer drugs hadn’t been invented as yet, so our parents couldn’t warn us against them.

So we drank a little, and smoked a little and made out in the back seats of our cars, and the boys left to win the War.

Things began to change in the 1960’s, and my daughter informed me that groups of high school kids were smoking marijuana in the local park. Later we had a conversation regarding what we thought was the most threatening thing coming to our country. She said overpopulation and I said drug use. It turns out we were both right.

By the 70’s and 80’s drug use was not only evident but available to anyone. The argument of whether marijuana use led to hard drugs was tossed back and forth in intellectual groups as if people knew what they were talking about.

By the 90’s we began to be concerned with late night “raves” and more frequent partying in fraternities and sororities. The so-called “gourmet” drugs were far more frightening than marijuana.

In 2011 or thereabout, we visited a teenage drug rehab residence to visit our fourteen year old great-granddaughter.

If you have not experienced a beloved child being hooked on a chemical substance, it’s difficult to imagine the impact it has on an entire family. Through many visits to many rehab establishments, the same childish faces appear, growing a little more streetwise with each visit. As the years go by, you realize that the things which made the teenage years so pleasant for you would never apply to this child.

She had been using drugs since the age of eleven and she told me “I tried it and I liked it.”

Who gives eleven year old kids drugs? There is no bearded fanatic hiding in the bushes, it’s schoolyard friends who trade back and forth. The chain of connection is so indirect it can’t be traced. Prescription drugs and cold medicine, found in most homes along with alcohol and even bath salts are readily available.

Obviously not everyone is a potential victim. Chronic stress and trauma in childhood play the determining factor in predicting who will lose control once they start using drugs. Early life experience programs the brain and body for the environment it encounters. A calm nurturing upbringing predisposes a child to thrive, while scarcity, anxiety and chaos threaten. We all need a little stress to condition us to handle the big stuff, but when someone encounters an emotional roadblock too large to hurdle, it can send us over the edge.

A broken home, a lack of self-esteem, shyness or rebelliousness, the sudden introduction of another child into the family, trauma which comes in doses that are too large or too unpredictable over which the person has little or no control are all contributing factors to future drug use. All of these triggers were there for us to see.

Our granddaughter, a sweet and beautiful young woman, will be twenty years old this year and at present seems to be doing fine. We tend to focus on the ones who slip through the cracks, but many of these kids go on to lead successful, productive though delayed lives.


cartoon courtesy of wall street journal

Dear Graduates:

“You’re pampered, privileged and oversexed–but at least your employment prospects are dim.”

This was the opening message from Rob LaZebnik in the Wall Street Journal. Mr. LaZebnik is probably correct about the difficulty of employment in these times. But there are many things you can do to fill in the free time you will have. Go to the beach, watch a movie, tweet, write a blog, or maybe hunker down in grad school. Maybe employment opportunities will improve in another four years.

Many activities take place within that precious group sitting so upright, serious and attentive, whether on a football field or indoors on bleachers. Are they really listening to the speech so carefully prepared and presented by some impressive person, and designed to instill a desire for excellence in their futures? Maybe some are, and everyone will take away some memory of the day, whether it will be the heat, the passing of the marijuana, bong, or just undercurrent horseplay. Ten years ago, my granddaughter had her little dog in her lap, which she passed to a friend when she went up to claim the coveted sheepskin. After all, the little dog had achieved degrees in both French and Communication during the past four years of his attendance with her at the University of Washington.

Seriously, the graduates of today are probably well-prepared for the challenges their chosen fields will bring. In a short four years they have become thinking adults and the skills and friendships they have formed will guide them through these difficult times. “Thinking” is the key word. They have learned to think for themselves which may be worth all the thousands of dollars their parents have invested in them.

I would advice them to ignore all the clich├ęs of the typical commencement speech and do what their generation does best: get lucky.


A strange title I must admit, but it’s hop season, and time to get crazy. And in case you wonder what the heck I’m talking about, hops are what give your nice tall glass of beer its flavor. Sort of a grassy salt and pepper; hidden from view, but oh so necessary.
I speak with some authority on the subject, having been commandeered as a high school student to help pick the hop crop in Grants Pass, Oregon during the War. By the way, hops are closely related to marijuana, in case anyone is interested. Of course, hops do not contain the stuff that gives pot its signature characteristic, so go ahead and enjoy that glass of beer on a hot afternoon.
Of course, you can use hops in other ways, even as a stuffing for pillows, which is said to bring you some pretty vivid romantic dreams, but the majority is used for beer. Hop bines (that’s correct, bines, not vines climb up wires 25 or 30 feet in the air. They are harvested mechanically now, which is not at all as romantic as when the whole town of Grants Pass turned out in 1942 to strip them off their wires. Meanwhile, it’s October, and time for an Octoberfest!

We all know the most important ingredient for a successful Octoberfest party has to be beer, so invite some guests, draw up a keg, and celebrate the season!
Here is a good supper dish for those waning days of Indian summer, perhaps served with a platter of mixed bratwurst.

BTW, if you haven’t tried Farro, it is an ancient grain which just needs a little more publicity to make everyone on your block “be the first to try”. It is coarse, like barley, and like wheat and barley, needs long simmering to puff it up. It can be served hot, like rice, or chilled like this recipe.

Two or three cups cooked, chilled farro
6 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
2 nectarines, choped
4 ounces crumbled feta
16 finely minced basil leaves
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper

The farro can be used as a base for a hundred different recipes. It is only limited by your own imagination!