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Has Anybody Seen My Youth?

In Children and Family, Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on August 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

One morning I woke up, looked in the mirror and realized there was an old, wrinkly guy with graying hair staring back at me where, just yesterday it seemed, stood a young, freckle-faced kid. I could have sworn I had my youth here somewhere. Did I put it in a drawer someplace and forget? Did it get sent to the dry cleaners? Maybe it vanished in the clothes dryer, vanquished forever to whatever dimension socks disappear to.

Whatever happened to my youth, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault. I did everything you’re supposed to do. I lived life, abstaining from things like alcohol, drugs, partying, and excesses of all kinds. I worked out, rode a bike, ate the best food I could, maintained a clean, healthy lifestyle and yet one day, poof – it was gone.

But where did it go? Is it like your lap, which, once you stand up, disappears to wherever laps go when they’re not needed? Is youth something you have to manage or tend, like a garden, constantly cultivating it to maintain its productivity? It’s as though someone just snuck in one night while I was sleeping and made off with it like having your newspaper stolen from the front porch.

Preparing to shave I realize that there seems to be more hair than before – but all in the wrong places. At what point does some gene activate that forces the follicles to move from the scalp and infiltrate the ears and nose without mercy? White, wiry, and rampaging like an army of dandelions in the yard, there seems to be no stopping them. Horribly painful but thoroughly useless, yanking them out only seems to quadruple their numbers within moments. Has anybody seen my youth?

I rub my eyes and splash water in my face, hoping the fog will clear. Nope, still blurry. On the counter lay a pair of bifocals with large, metallic rims. Unfolding them, I perch them on my hair-encroached nose and the image clears but makes no move toward beautification. Seriously. Has anybody seen my youth?

Toweling off my face, I return to sit on the edge of the bed, switching on the television news. The perky young anchorwoman is clearly mouthing something but there’s no sound. Hmm, must be a technical difficulty. I click the channel changer and every station seems to have the same issue. People’s lips are moving, but they aren’t saying anything. Even the commercials seem mute. Mute – that was it. Maybe I hit the mute button.

Thumbing the volume I ratchet up the sound, watching the green bar on the display creep ever higher. Fifty, sixty, seventy, at last! Sound! I decide that there must be something wrong with the speaker. The scale only goes to 100. Can it be that loud? Or … what if the new crop of weeds in my ears is deafening me? Breakfast. That’ll help.

In the kitchen, I reach for the cereal box and pour some into a bowl. Opening the refrigerator, I pull out what looks like a milk carton and splash some over the dry, twig-like contents of the bowl. What is this? I stir the spoon around in what could only be described as hay, doused in murky-white water. Yuck. When did I start eating this? Where are the red hearts, yellow moons and green clovers? Where are the marshmallows, the secret prize inside and the colorful cartoon characters smiling from the box label shilling their sugary goodness? All gone. It seems now the only things that snap crackle or pop in the morning are my joints. Has anybody seen my youth?

I know it was here before. I was full of energy, new ideas and visions of the future. I remember just yesterday feeling like I had the world at my feet. Now, I watch as it whizzes past me, like I’m walking backwards on a crowded sidewalk. Has anybody seen my youth?

Ok, they always say when you lose something you will always find it in the last place you look. And sure enough, there it was tucked quietly away in my heart. I guess I had it all the time.

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Are Men and Women Really From Two Different Planets?

In Children and Family, Health, Opinion, psychology, sociology on August 28, 2012 at 7:03 am

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

“Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” Even typing out the words made me shiver a little at the thought of having to answer this mousetrap of a question. The inquiry is usually fired across the bow just before leaving for an evening out. Once the wrong answer is uttered by the man, the woman proceeds to make his life miserable for the remainder of the night – or longer.

Back in 1992, author John Gray decided to put an end to the ambiguity surrounding the behavior of men and women by declaring we were from different planets, at least figuratively. “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” was a runaway best seller, inspiring sequel, a board game, and television programs for years to follow.

In his book, Gray adopted the planet metaphor as the central theme, likening men and women to the classical Greek god Mars and goddess Venus as ideal types. I take issue with this since it tends to lump men and women into categories that we don’t always fit, but for our purposes here, let’s say he is correct.

In that case, what’s the right answer to the, “Do I look fat” question? Your guess is as good as mine. Most guys chicken out and go for the safe response. “Oh honey,” they squeak from behind a locked bathroom door. “You look great in anything.”

If you hide, you don’t see “the look” you’re getting from her. Guys, you all know the one I mean. Every woman has one, fire from the eyes glare reserved especially for us whenever we’ve said something unacceptable. If we hide, we’re going on the assumption that if we can’t see you, you can’t see us and therefore the reign of terror resulting from our unbelievably patronizing answer will never actually strike us.

Cowards! Why don’t you come out and say it. “Yes, it does make you look fat. You shouldn’t be wearing that skirt it looks like it was sprayed on. And don’t even get me started on that animal print blouse, could you even show more skin?”

Now, would I say that? No way. I wouldn’t say anything even close to that. At the same time, I don’t cower behind a door either. My comeback is generally something like, “How does it make you feel?”

This kind of answer is honest with the intention of getting her to admit their insecurities to herself instead of beating me up because they feel unattractive for whatever reason. After all, they don’t really want you to answer the question.

What they’re really doing is fishing for an unsolicited compliment. Don’t fall into that trap guys, if you do, you are doomed … doomed I tell you! Once the question’s out there, it’s not unsolicited anymore.  In fact, there is no right answer and even if there were, it wouldn’t be appropriate to every woman or every situation.

Ok, so now that the women in the audience are fuming, let’s turn it back on the guys for a moment. Ladies, what would you say if your husband or boyfriend came strutting from behind the bedroom door and said, “Honey, how do I look?”

You gasp when you see your balding, somewhat paunchy, 40-something husband wearing an outfit that a teenager shouldn’t even have on. What do you say to him?

That’s easy. You’d say, “Are you crazy? Take that off this minute you look ridiculous.” You don’t care that you crushed his ego, ripped the dignity from his body, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. You just don’t want to be embarrassed, and rightfully so.

The difference is that guys don’t tell women what we really think for fear of reprisal. Men rarely have anything to leverage that a woman can’t live without. Like it or not fellows, we guys might like to believe we are the superior gender but we couldn’t be more wrong about anything.

The truth is that generally women save us guys from making utter fools of ourselves in more ways than I have space to list in this column. I don’t know what planet they’re originally from, but I’m glad they landed on this one. So when she asks, tell her how beautiful she is and give her a big hug. That’s really all it takes.

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Imagination and Experience are the Best Teachers

In Business, Children and Family, Education, Jobs, Opinion, psychology, Science, sociology on August 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

By Gery L. Deer

DEER IN HEADLINES

Albert Einstein is said to have commented, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As much as I admire the scientist and his great intellect and insight, I’d have to alter his statement, from my own experience, to read, “Imagination is equally important to knowledge.”

During most of my educational experience, imagination was frowned upon. Teachers wanted me to use the knowledge I gained from my books and their instruction and not vary from those works. At home, I had the opposite approach.

My parents, particularly my mother, not only encouraged my imagination, but did everything they could to enhance it. I was given the opportunity to create and experiment with everything from paper sculpture and music to electronics and heavy equipment operation; a unique combination of experiences, to say the least.

The drive to achieve is not limited to those in academia. Applying a vivid imagination using knowledge and experience to solve problems has been a driving force behind American ingenuity.

A great number of history-making people had virtually no formal education; Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers, just to name a few. Some academics would have you believe that these people were anomalies but I believe they are far more common than is generally known.

Often, rising to greatness has more to do with luck and circumstance than anything else. There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time, regardless of how intensive your labor.

Academics are fine, and necessary, and everyone should take advantage of as much education as they like. But I think our teachers should spend as much time encouraging creative thought and diversified study of the individual. What makes that student thrive? What makes her yearn to know more?

If advanced education is the goal, such as a master’s or post-graduate degree, more hands-on experience should be required before the diploma is awarded. There are far too many MBA’s and PhD’s out there with little to no practical experience behind them.

My educational background is in engineering, computer programming and the sciences, but most of my real-world experience is in communications, writing and the media. My education allows me to have a better understanding of the world as a whole and my experience helps me to apply it to a practical, wage-earning end.

If not for the creativity and drive I was taught by my family, some of which must be inherent, it’s likely I would be punching a clock at some technology lab somewhere, miserable and confined.  I have found, on my own, a blend of these vital components, but that’s hard to teach someone.

Not all educators are as rigid in their teachings as I am generalizing here. I had a few over the years who encouraged self-expression of imagination, even in the sciences. But in the end, each person has to find his or her own path but it should be as balanced as possible between imagination and knowledge.

Humanities greatest achievements have been made by some of the least-educated, most imaginative people who ever lived. There is still room for enlightenment, regardless of how many letters are after your name.

If you are not an academic over-achiever, never be intimidated by knowledge. Knowledge is free for all and in today’s high-tech world it is more accessible than ever. Take advantage of that!

For those with advanced education but no experience, don’t be so cocky about that piece of paper you’re carrying around. Be aware enough of your own shortcomings to ask more experienced people for assistance.

If you value the experience of others, no matter what their educational background, you will go much further and gain respect for your efforts.

 

Olympic Games Offer Mixed Messages for Kids

In Children and Family, Education, Entertainment, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology, Sports News, Uncategorized on August 3, 2012 at 8:22 am

I recently read an article composed by a local non-profit about the lessons that could be learned by children from the Summer Olympic Games. The story encouraged parents to watch the events with their kids and discuss the nature of competition, good sportsmanship, hard work, and so on.

As they grow up, we try to teach children the value of good sportsmanship, hosing them down with gooey sentiments like, “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game that counts.” But even in that very statement there is hypocrisy and an absence of reality.

Coming in first is, and always will be, the ultimate purpose behind Olympic competition. The quest for the center platform has driven countries and individuals to outrageous behavior. Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the leg at the 1994 Winter Olympics, causing her severe injury. Intended to knock Kerrigan out of the contest, the attack was arranged by Jeff  Gillooly, the ex-husband of one of her competitors, Tonya Harding.

In the days of the Cold War, the fierce competition between the United States and the Soviet Union was fueled by precarious diplomatic relations and the massive egos of the world’s two super powers. Winning was not only imperative, it was a matter of life and death for some. However anecdotal, failed Russian athletes were said to have been exiled, tortured and jailed if they were outperformed by Americans.

Sometimes the motivation behind Olympic participation is not a gold medal, but gold itself – in the form of money. Like it or not, the Olympics is a business – for the sponsors and the competing countries.

Every four years, billions of dollars are spent by the nations of the world to send teams of athletes to the summer Olympic Games. Countless corporations spend billions more trying trump the advertising bids of their competition for the honor of being “official” sponsors. Exposure on the world stage can boost a company’s recognition a thousand fold. Recognition translates to sales.

There is money to be made, a lot of money, not to mention the bragging rights for bringing home the most gold. In fact, just to host the Olympic Games, London spent more than $18 million, which has the British Parliament debating even as the event proceeds.

In the end our kids are getting, at best, a mixed message. They see it on television, and in the stands at the local little league game whenever parents get into fist-fights over a bad call. So parents are just as much to blame as the media.

We grow up being told that sportsmanship, honor and diligence is the ultimate goal of athletic competition, but the truth is a bit more obvious and children are smarter than most people give them credit.

Even a kid understands that no one goes to the Olympics hoping for a bronze medal or wishing to be in fifth place. Their eye is on the gold. A gold medal means recognition, money, fifteen minutes of fame, and the cover of Sports Illustrated.

As for, “how you play the game,” well, that’s a distorted idea as well. Olympic athletes are constantly monitored for illegal use of steroids and other enhancement drugs. The threat of cheating looms heavy over the excitement of the arena. Clearly, winning is the most important objective. After all, if winning doesn’t matter, why keep score?

 

Blue Jacket Books Hosts WOWA Beatnik Café Author Reading

In Business, Children and Family, Education, Entertainment, Local News, Media, psychology, Uncategorized on August 3, 2012 at 5:25 am

WOWA writers Michael Martin (left) and Gery Deer at the 2010 Beatnik Cafe. Both will be reading at the upcoming event.

XENIA, OH – On Friday, August 3rd, local authors of the Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA) will present a live reading of short stories and poetry at Blue Jacket Books, 60 S. Detroit St. in Xenia. Known as Beatnik Café, the relaxed, informal format of the evening pays homage to the hole-in-the-wall poetry cafes of the 1960’s in a more contemporary style. An author reception will begin at 6 pm and the live readings will run from 7 pm until 9 pm. The event is free and open to the public and coincides with Xenia’s First Friday activities.

The Beatnik Café is presented three times a year by members of the Western Ohio Writers Association, a resource group that provides support, education and professional assistance for writers in southwest central Ohio, eastern Indiana and northern Kentucky.

Writers in a variety of genres attend monthly WOWA critique and educational meetings where they can hone their skills and have their work reviewed by fellow scribes. Gery L. Deer of Jamestown is the founder and coordinator of the organization.

“Outside of a college class or expensive writers’ conferences, there was no consistent support available in our area,” Deer said. “We started the WOWA to provide critique and networking opportunities to local writers of all genres, both amateur and professional.”

Deer is a professional freelance commercial writer and editorial columnist. While making a move from periodical content to longer, creative manuscripts he found that networking with other writers might help him with the change in writing styles but opportunities were limited.

“The public readings give people the opportunity to hear from some of the most talented writers in the Midwest,” Deer continued. “We invite everyone to come out and meet our writers and enjoy the atmosphere provided at Blue Jacket Books.  It’s an ideal place to hang out, read and enjoy the work of our writers.”

The Western Ohio Writers Association events are sponsored by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing concierge business writing services. For more information, go online to http://www.theconciergecopywriter.com and click on the WOWA logo in the upper right corner, or email gdeer@gldenterprises.net. The Beatnik Café and the WOWA are trademarks of GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing.