The Suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit I don’t understand. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two people who have reached the pinnacle of their professions, rising above the crushing competition of people clawing to get ahead, having all the money they need and more, commit suicide.

Most people struggle to stand out in their careers, come up with the money to pay their bills and hopefully put aside enough for enjoyment while they keep dreaming of a better life. And they don’t commit suicide.

In my novel True Mercy, I wrote of young women going through the nightmare of being tricked into sex slavery. Every moment is a horror. Another subject in my novel is the stresses and challenges of taking care of a loved one with autism, where the individual’s moods and behaviors are unpredictable. Caregivers often get frazzled and are in desperate need of respite. To my knowledge, neither Kate Spade nor Anthony Bourdain experienced challenges such as these.

Spade rose to be a world-renown fashion icon famous for her prized signature handbags. Bourdain was an author and chef who traveled the world telling stories and sampling each culture’s cuisine on his award-winning television show. Needless to say, they could live wherever they wanted, command respect for their talents and accomplishments, and live the lives most of us only fantasize about.

Each one had a young child. Part of being a parent is living to protect and take care of your children. No matter how bad things get the instinct of a parent is to be there for their child. After all, if a parent is not watching over them, who will?

I remain dumbfounded by these suicides. They had everything to live for, what the vast majority of us strive for every day. They rose above the everyday concerns most of us have. I suppose the only way to understand what was wrong would be to find out what was going on in their heads. But it’s too late for that. So we are left scratching our own heads.

The only conclusion I can come up with comes from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible:

“that God sometimes grants a man riches, property, and wealth, so that he does not want for anything his appetite may crave, but God does not permit him to enjoy it; instead, a stranger will enjoy it. That is futility and a grievous ill.”

Ecclesiastes 6:2

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5 Famous People with Autism

 

Note: This post is a day late. My apologies.

In my novel True Mercy, I wanted to give people a glimpse of the stresses and challenges involved in caring for a loved one with autism. It is a difficult undertaking, particularly when the individual is low to moderate functioning. The character Adam in True Mercy was somewhere between low and moderate. I portrayed him with many telltale signs like communication difficulties, behavior quirks, obsessive interests, and little or no social skills. But there are individuals who are at the highest functioning level they possess these traits, and yet are able to integrate into society, even thrive. The highest functioning people with autism are labeled as having Asperger’s Syndrome and they live and work among us. I would like to mention five individuals considered to have high-functioning autism or Asperger’s:

  1. Dan Aykroyd is a comedy actor, most famous for starring in films like The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters. He was expelled from two schools for acting up before a doctor diagnosed him with mild Asperger’s Syndrome.
  1. Steve Jobs was the former CEO of Apple. Many now believe Jobs was on the autism spectrum because he had an obsession with perfection and he lacked empathy for other people, both symptoms of autism.
  1. Albert Einstein was a scientist and mathematician. He had difficulty socializing. As a child, he had speech delays and echolalia, which is repeating people’s words. He was known for his trait of being extremely technical. These characteristics have led many experts to speculate that Einstein was on the autism spectrum.
  1. Charles Darwin was a naturalist, geologist, and biologist. Psychiatrists believe he may have had autism because he was extremely quiet and avoided social interaction as a child. He preferred to communicate by writing instead of speaking. He was also fixated on certain chemistry topics.
  1. Emily Dickinson was a poet. Experts conclude she had many characteristics to demonstrate she was autistic, among them she was a loner, was socially awkward, and had a fixation with scented flowers.

I want to conclude by mentioning that anyone who displays any of these characteristics should not automatically be labeled on the autism spectrum. A neurologist is a doctor qualified to make this diagnosis. But experts who have studied the behaviors of these famous people no longer living have speculated they were very likely on the spectrum.

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Book Review: Beneath A Scarlet Sky has Flaws, but still Phenomenal Book

After reading great book reviews, I decided to give Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan a try. The story takes place in Italy during the last two years of World War Two. I don’t recall reading or learning anything about how the war affected the Italian people, and I soon learned why in the book’s introduction. Sullivan quotes one survivor of that time period as saying, “We were still young and wanted to forget. We wanted to put the terrible things we’d experienced behind us. No one talks about World War Two, so no one remembers.”

Since this has been the prevailing attitude, Sullivan had to undertake a great deal of research. He dug up what he could but was forced to make up some characters and events in order to tell the story of long-forgotten World War Two hero Pino Lella. Lella rescued many Jews, political prisoners, and Allied fighters in his late teenage years. He guided many to escape through the Alps to Switzerland and then he became a spy while serving as the driver for high-ranking Nazi General Hans Leyers.

Pino demonstrates bravery and praiseworthy character for all his work. However, I found it a bit of a stretch that an eighteen-year-old, is an expert survivalist, translator (When did he learn English?), driver, and car mechanic. The author portrays him as a mixture of James Bond and saint. Also, at this age, he embarks on a relationship with a 24-year-old woman named Anna. At their ages, maturity levels are so different that it seems implausible, but then again, in times of war, anything can happen. I questioned Pino’s attraction to her because she initially treated him with disregard and yet he still dreamed of reconnecting with her.

Sullivan successfully captures the beauty of Italy’s landscape and architecture that becomes penetrated by darkness and misery when the Nazis ravage the land and its people. Readers get a glimpse of dictator Benito Mussolini when he makes a few appearances, and the author recounts the internal conflict of the Resistance vs. the Fascists among the Italians. There is much to learn in Beneath A Scarlet Sky while it also serves as a reminder of war’s brutality and destruction. Despite a few flaws, it is a worthwhile read.

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Shaquem Griffin and NFL: Story of Inspiration

I’ve been wanting to write a post about an inspirational person. This past weekend, I saw Shaquem Griffen and his twin brothe Shaquill on TV during the NFL draft and realized I had my post.

Shaquem Griffen was born with a pre-birth condition known as Amniotic Band Syndrome, which occurs when a limb in the fetus becomes entrapped in amniotic bands while still in the womb. In Griffin’s case, a band wrapped around his left hand had cut off circulation. Pain wracked his hand during his first few years of life, and one day his mother found him in the kitchen trying to cut off his hand with a knife. The next day his family took him for surgery to amputate that hand.

Shaquem said he had to work harder than everyone else to prove he was just as capable. He and his twin brother Shaquill played football growing up, and both earned scholarships to the University of Central Florida. However, during their first years of college, Shaquill played on the UCF football team while Shaquem got redshirted for the first year, playing second string, and then getting bumped down to third string. Then in the third season, his luck changed. The coach brought him back to play for the team.

And play he did. For the next two seasons the team was the undefeated, national champions. In 2016, Shaquem was named the American Athletic Conference Defense Player of the Year.

Now Shaquem has been drafted to play with the Seattle Seakhawks, reuniting him with Shaquill, who was drafted by Seattle last year.

Shaquem has a message he wishes to impart based on his life experience:

I’ve had people doubt me my whole life, and I know that there are a lot of kids out there with various deformities or birth defects or whatever labels people want to put on them, and they’re going to be doubted, too. And I’m convinced that God has put me on this earth for a reason, and that reason is to show people that it doesn’t matter what anybody else says, because people are going to doubt you regardless. That’s a fact of life for everybody, but especially for those with birth defects or other so-called disabilities.

The important thing is that you don’t doubt yourself.

In addition, Shaquem’s father taught him never to quit with a motto he always keeps in mind: “Nothing comes easy.”

Shaquem Griffen drafted by the Seahawks
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Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation Not Yet Achieved

 

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to abolish slavery. Unfortunately, 156 years later, slavery is still taking place in the United States as well as all over the world.

To commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation and to send the message that any form of slavery is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) held the event “Human Trafficking: Surviving and Thriving” on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Many speakers informed the event’s attendees about the plight of human trafficking victims and the efforts to assist them. Sister Mary Beth Lloyd of John Corr Family Resources described the extreme poverty in Brazil that leads many families to prostitute their daughters in order to feed their families. The average age of these girls is 6-9 years old and the nuns run a mission to shelter and rescue as many girls as possible. Monica Kristen of Dreamcatchers spoke about their work to provide crisis counseling, follow-up when survivors return home, and job assistance. Dreamcatchers currently has four offices and 600 clients. Kate Lee of NJCAHT explained their latest project of distributing soap bars with NJCAHT’s contact information to hotels, a common place where traffickers bring their victims. The audience also heard testimonies from human trafficking survivors.

Attendees donated outfits for survivors preparing for job interviews.

For more information, contact the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking at INFO@njhumantrafficking.org or call their number at 201-901-2111. Many committees and programs are always looking for volunteers.

Human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal organization in the world and the only way to make strides to combat it is for us to unite against it. Much progress has been made but still much more work needs to be done.

After attending the event, I realize there needs to be a mobilization of great kindness and support to battle this extreme evil.

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