Flashback Friday: Boy Meets World (1993 to 2000)

Our adolescent years are not easy, as anyone who is or has gone through those years knows/remembers. The emotional experience of growing up, learning about the world, and who you are often come out of hard lessons and difficult experiences.

The classic (at least in my mind) 1990s sitcom Boy Meets World (1993 to 2000) followed Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) as he slowly changes from a boy to a young adult. Along the way, he deals with love, loss, heartbreak, etc, and learns that the simplicity of childhood does not last forever.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this show is one of the best of my generation. I grew up with Cory and feel a kinship with this character. Granted, it was television and not exactly reality. That being said, I can look back at BMW and parallel my preteen/teenage years with Cory and company.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Zack to the Future Podcast Review (2020 to 2021)

Every era and every age group has its own archetypal character that sort of sums up the creative ideas of the time.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this character was Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)  on Saved by the Bell. Zack was an overconfident, smooth-talking kid with a slightly used salesman con artist veneer. He had a good heart, but it wasn’t always on the surface.

Zack to the Future (2020 to 2021) is a rewatch podcast in which Gosselaar sits down with co-host Dashiell Driscoll to watch the program with adult eyes. Having never watched the show, it is an opportunity for the cast, crew, and fans to reminisce about the gang at Bayside High.

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I looked forward to this podcast every week. Gosselaar’s insight provides a unique perspective on his time playing one of television’s most well-known teenage characters. Unfortunately, it has since been canceled. But like its small screen predecessor, there are always returns.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Reputation: A Novel Book Review

It was not that long ago that a woman’s reputation was her most important asset. Any black mark on that reputation, whether real or imagined, had the potential to destroy her future and her family’s future.

Reputation: A Novel, by Sarah Vaughan, was released earlier this month. Emma Webster is a woman in a man’s world. She is a former teacher who has made a career switch to politics. In doing so, she lost her marriage and her emotional connection with her teenage daughter, Flora.

Emma knows that her success depends on her image and what the voting public thinks of her. She also knows the downsides that come with being a female politician. It takes one moment, one miscalculation of judgment to destroy everything she has built.

While her mother is getting figurative shit thrown at her, Flora is dealing with bullying and the loss of a long-time friendship. After a young woman takes her life due to online mistreatment, Emma works with the girl’s family to legislate against future crimes of this nature.

Emma and Flora’s problems collide when Emma is accused of murder. Determined to protect her family and prove that she is innocent, Emma is pushed to her limits.

Vaughan does it again. She mixes politics, family, sex, and growing up into a heady and powerful narrative that instantly pulled me in. Emma is a flawed heroine who I genuinely liked. She has chosen to go into a profession that by nature, is male-oriented and still not 100% accepting of women. Like many working mothers, she does the best she can to balance both motherhood and her job.

I was gripped by the proverbial throat until the very last page. It is so good and so far, one of my favorite books of the year.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Reputation: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

The Winter Guest: A Novel Book Review

One of the offshoots of war is being forced to grow up quickly. Childhood quickly changes to adulthood when a young person must make decisions that would in peacetime, be made years later.

The Winter Guest: A Novel by Pam Jenoff, was published in 2014. In a small town in Poland during World War II, eighteen-year-old Polish-Catholic twins Ruth and Helena Nowak are no longer living as carefree teenagers. With their father dead and their mother hospitalized, the girls are both parenting themselves and their younger siblings. Adding insult to injury, the war is creating shortages and making a hard life even harder.

Things change when Helena rescues Sam, an American Jewish soldier. She quickly falls in love with him, and he with her. Her time with him threatens to break the tight bond between the sisters. They create a plan for the entire family to escape to safety. When they are betrayed, the consequences will have an effect well beyond that place and moment in time.

Jenoff does it again. This story is searing, romantic, powerful, and proof that love truly can overcome hate. I love that the protagonists are young women who are not waiting to be rescued, they do their own figurative rescuing. The book is amazing and I would read it again in a heartbeat.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Winter Guest: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

Throwback Thursday: The World’s Strictest Parents (2009-2010)

Tough love is something necessary when it comes to our children. At the moment, it may seem overly harsh. But in hindsight, it may be the one thing that fixes the problem.

The World’s Strictest Parents aired from 2009 to 2010. This reality show followed misbehaving teenagers whose parents could not deal with them anymore. Each episode follows two subjects who live with strict host families for one week. If they continue to act out (which predictably happens), they are forced to submit to some sort of punishment. At the end of the week, each child receives a letter from their real parent, which hopefully opens the door to conversation and understanding.

This is reality television, so we have to take what we are watching with a grain of salt. What I find interesting is that the heart of the series is figuring out what is causing the behavior and resolving the issue.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

4 Years Since Parkland and it Still Hurts

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day celebrating love.

For the students, staff, parents, and the general Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community, this day will always be a day of heartbreak and grief. Four years ago Monday, seventeen people were murdered by someone who had no business carrying a gun.

I have no connection to anyone involved, but my heart still breaks the same. The young people whose lives were taken had nothing but a bright future and limitless possibilities in front of them. The adults who were also taken were just doing what they loved: teaching. The only reason that they are not among the land of the living is that some within the United States care more about their firearms than keeping their fellow Americans alive.

Later this year is the 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook. Had this tragic event not happened, the children who were slaughtered would be teenagers. The company that manufactured the weapon that killed the students and their teachers, Remington Arms, will be paying $73 million dollars to nine families of the victims.

We know that this money will not bring back those who were killed or take away the trauma of those who were left behind. If nothing else, it sends a message to gun manufacturers and distributors. If one of your products was used to kill by someone who should not have had access to it in the first place, you will not get off scot-free. You will pay, one way or another.

We cannot go back in time and undo what has been done. But we can honor their memory by preventing another massacre with nationwide and airtight gun laws. Only then, will we be able to allow them to rest in peace and us to finally breathe.

It’s Been Nine Years Since Sandy Hook

December 14th, 2011, was a day that broke America’s heart.

Twenty-six people, most of them six and seven-year-old children, were murdered. They were killed because someone had a gun who shouldn’t have had a gun.

I remember Columbine like it was yesterday. I was in high school then, the kids who died were around my age. They at least had the opportunity to see some of the world and experience a little of what life could offered them. The children who died 9 years ago today were just a few years out of diapers. Had they lived, these beautiful and innocent souls would now be teenagers themselves.

What kills me is that even today, after too many young Americans have lost their lives for no reason, that some in the halls of power refuse to take simple steps to protect our future. They are more concerned with saving their own behinds.

May the memories of those precious lives forever be a blessing. Z”L.

Charging the Parents of the Oxford High School Shooters is Absolutely Necessary

Another week, another school shooting in America.

On Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy (who shall not be named in this post) walked into Oxford High School in Michigan and started shooting. He killed four classmates and wounded seven others.

This firearm was given to him by his parents as an early Christmas present less than a week before the massacre. His parents have been charged with four counts of homicide involuntary manslaughter. As of yesterday afternoon, they were absent from their court appearance.

Ryan Busse, a former executive from a major gun company, published his memoir recently. Introduced to weapons as a young man by his parents, he received a message very early on how dangerous they could be.

Though forcing the shooter’s parents into court will not bring back the teenagers who were killed, I am hoping that it sets a moral and legal precedent. They could have made it absolutely clear that there were caveats and responsibilities attached to this gift. Just as a sixteen-year-old is limited to where they can drive once they get their license, the rules about where and when he could use it should have been crystal clear.

Instead, his parents gave him carte blanche to do as he wanted and as a result, the lives of four families will never be the same.

Maybe the memories of these innocent souls forever be a blessing.

Goodbye Days Book Review

When we are teenagers, our friends are our world. We cannot picture our lives without them.

In the 2017 YA novel, Goodbye Days, by Jeff Zentner, Carver Briggs is a 17 year old boy with three best friends: Eli, Mars, and Blake. Known as the Sauce Crew, they are as tight as any group of friends can be. While waiting for his friends to pick up him up after work, Carver texts his friends as to their location. The next thing he knows, they are all dead.

On top of the all consuming grief, Carver is facing a potential jail sentence and the cold, accusing stare of Eli’s twin sister. But he is not alone. Carver’s new therapist, his sister, Eli’s girlfriend Jesmyn, and Blake’s grandmother are all in his corner. His first stop in healing is spending a “goodbye day” with Blake’s grandmother. Soon, Eli and Mars’s family request “goodbye days” of their own. The big question of the novel is can Carver not only make peace with himself, but with everyone around him, and most of all, will he be have his day in court?

I loved this book. It felt so authentic when it came to the high school/teenage experience. Carver has an everyman quality to him. The emotions were potent and real from the first page to the last page. As a reader, I wanted to hug and let him know that everything would turn out all right in the end. I would suggest it for anyone who has lost someone recently and is searching for a way to understand the process of grieiving.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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