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Good Night, and Good Luck. The final installment of “Deer In Headlines.”

In Dayton Ohio News, Health, Home Improvement, Local News, News Media, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on May 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

This edition of Deer In Headlines marks if you’ll pardon the dramatics, the end of an era, at least for me. The question I’ve been asked most often since announcing the end of the series is, “So what will you do now?”

Let me start by saying while an important part of my work over the last decade, this column is not all I’ve been doing, not by a longshot. I’ve run an ad agency, written thousands of published pieces on everything from public relations to marketing, and given lectures and workshops about the media and writing all around the region. I’ve covered a lot of ground and struggled with how best to say goodbye and then it occurred to me.

It has always been my goal to have readers to take something useful from my writings and I don’t want this final installment to be any different. Since it represents several hours a week in research and writing, in the hope of having a positive influence on the thoughts and lives of anyone I can reach, leaving this column behind is a big change for me.

For some people, change is the enemy, it throws them off their game and causes chaos and, for much of my life, it was the same for me. But in recent years, change has become more of a companion that walks through life with me, always nudging me in the side to never be complacent or stagnant either in my actions or my convictions.

We may not like it, but change is the natural order of things. Nothing stays the same for very long. As they say, “to everything there is a season,” and rather than fighting those changes, we should embrace them. It’s not easy, but it makes life more interesting and far less stressful.

It’s easy to see how change affects people in simple ways, like when a child graduates from high school or you move to a new town. We get caught up in happiness and sadness all at the same time, it twists our emotions and forces us to face new challenges and differences in our day-to-day lives. Of course, there are negative changes too, and we have to take the good with the bad. That’s just life.

We grow accustomed to how things are in our world and we’re thrown when it alters. We all know that person who has to have a cup of coffee at a certain time of day, with a specific amount of sugar, or just the right drop of cream. If those kinds of things aren’t met with an exacting order, he or she cannot function. The more flexible you are, the more enjoyable your life. Otherwise, you’re in a constant state of stress.

With that, I’ll take you back to the question of what I will be doing next. It is definitely a time of even more change for me. I’ve recently accepted a position as vice president of communications and public relations with a social internet company. That and caring for my father takes up most of my work time, but I have other projects as well.

I’m still doing television and writing for the print and online media from time to time. I’m concentrating my writing time on my fitness blog, The Old Nerd in The Gym (www.oldnerdinthegym.com). I’m hoping my work helps others who are new to fitness and more healthy living.

Life goes on and new challenges await. I’m just getting started. And that’s how you should feel today too. Treat every day as bringing new opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve, regardless of how great or small the accomplishment and embrace that change! Your future isn’t written yet, so get out there and make it a good one!

With that, it’s time for Deer In Headlines to pass into the newspaper archives. Thank you for indulging me every week and, whether you agreed with me or not, I hope you got something useful or insightful from my ramblings. So, I’ll borrow a classic sign off from a news hero of mine, Edward R. Murrow, and simply say Good Night, and Good Luck.

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Can’t we all just get along?

In Health, history, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on May 1, 2018 at 12:14 pm

With only two issues of Deer In Headlines remaining, I felt that one of them should be dedicated to a discussion about civility and the destructive nature of hate. In short, we must try to get along better, regardless of political, religious, or socioeconomic differences.

Over the last few years, our country has become severely divided. There is a level of anger, hate, and mistrust out there now, the likes of which haven’t been seen since before the Civil War. Back then the division was primarily focused on slavery and states’ rights, but today Americans are arguing about a laundry list of issues from immigration to gun control.

Not that these topics haven’t caused discourse in the past, but now it’s fueled by an alarmingly, and continually advancing, level of anger and hatred. The radical right has become sickeningly intolerant to the point of disgust and the liberal left has grown increasingly less “liberal.” I mean you simply can’t say, “I’m liberal, and we love everyone, so long as they agree with everything we say.” Doesn’t work that way.

President Donald Trump took advantage of this divide and used it to gain traction in his run for the White House. Now, he waffles back and forth, blustering on Twitter about how great he is, while alienating even his own base at times with his ridiculous rants. Democrats turn their noses up at him and his cronies and their flagrant hypocrisy, all while crying in their soup about how he got this far in American government. Well, Dems, I’ll tell you who put him there, you did.

Political viewpoints have become so foggy that no one can tell who is for what anymore. The reason Trump won the presidential election wasn’t his winning personality, or Russian hacking, or anything else. It was because the Democratic base was so splintered and stubborn over Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that they couldn’t just get behind one of them and move on.

That’s right Dems, as I have written before, you handed the White House to Donald on a silver platter. Remember that primaries and midterms happen this year and any failure to weaken Trump’s hold in Congress is totally in your hands. All you have to do is get out and vote!

All of that said, we must be able to return to a level of productive, constructive discourse. We should be able to disagree and have informed, intelligent debate on a topic instead of a bickering match. What’s the point of discussion with no purpose except to out-scream everyone else?

Much of the problem comes from the extremist mentalities once relegated to the fringe but which now seem to be in the majority. There is nothing wrong with liberals and conservatives cooperating for a common good. We can disagree yet still work toward the betterment of our society – but that doesn’t seem to be possible right now.

We are dealing with mass shootings made possible by the bizarre need of a tiny few to own military-grade machine guns should be something we can all agree is nuts. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, our country is overwhelmed by people obsessed with these weapons and backed by a massively powerful gun lobby from the NRA. Clearly, money is more important to these people than our kids.

Execution of warped immigration policies based on ignorance and hate that mistreat productive members of society rather than helping them with a path to proper citizenship. We should be rewarding people for feeling our country is a safe home for their families, not punishing them. It’s all ridiculous.

The long and short of it is that we must find a way to get along better. If we don’t learn to dial back the extremism and let cooler, more diplomatic heads rule, our country is in big trouble. So, for what it’s worth, I think we’re capable of doing better.

But all of that requires that each of us learns to be more compassionate, more tolerant, and more thoughtful. Since I won’t be around to poke you in the side after next week, remember to be good to each other.

Rounding up a decade of Deer In Headlines

In Dayton Ohio News, Entertainment, Local News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Religion, Technology, Uncategorized on April 16, 2018 at 8:12 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

I wasn’t quite sure how to start this week’s edition except to just come out with it. The week of April 30, 2018, will be the final print edition of Deer In Headlines. After 10 years, it’s time for me to focus on something new. I greatly appreciate the loyalty of my readers and the opposing views and letters of praise I’ve received over the years. If just one person each week looked at the world just a little differently and appreciated anything new, I’ve accomplished my goal.

I started this column to offer my readers a look at subjects from all sides, rarely giving a hint of my personal opinion, although it was evident when I chose for it to be.  But today clear, logical viewpoints no longer have value. People seem to listen only to blowhards, the ignorant, and people who would rather spew hate than kindness. That’s why I have decided to focus on more positive projects, out of the public eye.

This is not a decision I’ve come to lightly, in fact, I have waivered numerous times in my deliberations about it. Over the last decade, I’ve offered a look at politics, religion, education, science, family, and even given you a glimpse into my personal life as I cared for my parents.

We live in volatile times and some have argued that now is when we need a clearer, more rational voice in the media. They may be right, but mine is simply not loud enough to be heard above all the noise of anger, fear, and ignorance out there.

There is a lot of negativity out there and I have worked hard to bring you thoughtful content. I’ve always hoped you’d take away something from the effort, even if, especially if, you didn’t agree with me.

I’ve always said I like to surround myself with smart people who disagree with me because it means I am forced to examine my own convictions, and I hope I’ve done that for you from time to time. If you’ve enjoyed my work, thank you. I appreciate your time and loyalty. If you haven’t, then I’m not sure why you’re even reading this, but, thank you anyway.

For more than 500 editions and in some 360,000 words, I have shared my observations of the world around us. I’ve found that most people are good and decent and try to do their best to improve the world around them. I’ve also seen some ugly things in researching these pieces, information I kind of wish I had never learned. As they say, ignorance is bliss, but I’m afraid I don’t operate that way.

I will continue my work quietly, however, in the background, making a difference by other means. I serve on charitable boards of directors, care for my family, and work to affect change in more concrete ways.

The world is a mess and our country is too, but I can’t do anything about it in the rail column of a newspaper because the people who could make a difference simply don’t want to listen. Still, as ugly as it can seem at times, the world is also a beautiful place, one of a kind – a spinning ball of life making its way around the sun, year after year, as our galaxy moves through the vast emptiness of space.

It was here millions of years before us, and it’ll be here millions of years after we’ve gone. We are but renters and if I were the landlord, I wouldn’t give back the deposit. But that’s a discussion for another time.

As you can see, I’m not done with my opinions quite yet and there are two editions to go. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be summing up the last decade in a look back at a few of my predictions for politics, newsmakers, and various other areas I’ve touched on over the years. I hope you’ll join me in these last editions, and thank you again.

A Half-Century and Counting

In Education, Entertainment, Health, history, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on September 28, 2017 at 10:08 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

At the end of September this year, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. It’s funny how you don’t notice the years flying by until there’s a milestone like this to make you stop and reflect on them. No, turning a half-century old is nothing new, until it happens to you. Then, it’s a big deal.

On my last birthday, I decided to figure out a way to commemorate the passage of the year leading to my 50th. Now, only days away, and I wonder what I’ve accomplished this year which begs the question, what do we do with our time? How does it slip away so easily, so unnoticed in the lightning pace of our modern lives?

Even the simplest moments, often the most important, go right past us without so much as a footnote in the mental journal of our day. I wanted to make sure I remembered at least some of this past year so I made it a point to do something new every day that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I didn’t exactly manage something every single day, but I did make some major changes in my life that have had much more of an effect than I ever anticipated.

In order to accomplish anything in our lives, we have to set a reasonable and measurable goal. I know, that sounds like something off some high school career lecture, but it’s valid. I’ve never cared much for the word “goal,” but we do need to have something to aim for or we can’t work toward it.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I wanted to remember the last year in as many ways as I could. One of my goals was to improve my health and that meant a great alteration of my day-to-day lifestyle, which had actually begun a few years ago when I stepped back from things like soda and junk food.

From there, I started an exercise program that culminated in my becoming an endurance cyclist, accomplishing both a 100-kilometer and 100-mile bike ride, respectively, over the summer. In preparing for these events, I improved my stamina, respiratory function, muscle tone and overall health – and I’m still going. From couch potato to athlete in just a few months, and there was nothing easy about it.

At this point in life, if you’re paying attention at all, you probably have a better grasp on just how much drama you will put up with as well. I know I have. I can’t even describe how many people I know close to my age who have yet to shake out all the dead wood from their lives.

I’m referring to those negative people that always seem to have disaster following them, primarily of their own making, and want you to solve their problems for them. You can’t. Nothing you do will change who they are and how they drive their own lives – walk away.

When people straight out of college demand salaries and respect akin to those twice their elder and greater experienced it’s a sad state. At the same time, I’ve met a great many older people for whom I have little respect, for one reason or another.

Contrary to what younger folks might say, at 50, we’re not quite doddering, forgetful seniors, ready for the walker and rocking chair, although that’s what most Millennials probably think. In my case, I’m in the best physical condition of my life, I have a better understanding of who I am than ever before and those around me are benefiting from my achievements.

To me, what matters most is how my life to date has prepared me for all that comes next 50. There’s still a lot to do and I have no intention of sitting by and letting the world fly by, not that I ever did that before.

People say I’m over the hill, maybe they’re right. But, Charles Schultz, the creator of, “Peanuts,” once said, “Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Couldn’t agree more! I have more to do in the next half-century.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at gerydeer.com.

Media doesn’t control anyone

In Economy, Education, finances, Media, News Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on August 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIf you do a Google search for, “how the media controls what we think,”you’ll find dozens of articles, videos and feature stories on the subject. Each claims that news programs, TV commercials and even movies are so powerful they can actually control your mind.

To say that I find fault in these kinds of reports would be an understatement, but what exactly are they talking about? Let’s briefly examine these as separate concepts. First, there’s the advertiser. How is it that advertisers create commercials that convince people to buy things they didn’t even want in the first place?

Well there are countless components to creating an effective advertisement, but the primary way to get customers to buy is through media saturation. This is where you see and hear an ad for a product or service over and over again, on every medium – radio, TV, online, everywhere. Eventually, the message is so engrained into your mind you can’t help but remember it.

If you’re a commercial radio and television consumer, the best example of this kind of advertising is from auto dealers. Car dealerships flood the media with the same, nauseating advertisements, chock full of shouting announcers or gimmicky slogans.

Actually, when advertisers saturate the airwaves like this, the ads don’t event have to be particularly good, just slightly memorable with the name and product repeated over and over again. It’s the frequency that causes you to remember them.

There is no question that the media gets in our heads. Today we are so connected by the Internet and on every manner of device that some people struggle to be away from the constant flow of information even for a brief period of time. All of this has led to the idea of what is sometimes called “media mind control.”

You're probably far more likely to be "brainwashed" by a company like Apple that convinces you how "cool" something is and play on your own vanity. You're still making the choice.

You’re probably far more likely to be “brainwashed” by a company like Apple that convinces you how “cool” something is and plays on your own vanity. You’re still making the choice.

But, in my opinion, as a working part of the media in question, all of this is nonsense… sort of. If you really believe an ad can “make” you buy something or that the news can force you to vote for a particular candidate for office, then that’s pretty sad. Where is your own free will? Why follow the lemmings?

Media can “influence” the decision making process by presenting information tooled towards a certain message or ideology. But the decision to buy into any of that is all on you. The people writing the mind control articles I mentioned earlier have forgotten one, basic idea – we all have a freedom of choice and will.

Even though it might not seem like it sometimes, people choose what they’re going to believe. Advertisers and politicians are hoping you don’t exercise that free thought component of your brain and just follow blindly where their media leads.

Yes, they will play your heartstrings like a cheap fiddle and go at your sense of need and desire until you feel like you can’t live without … whatever they’re selling. But if you are so brain dead that you actually fall for their nonsense, then that’s your fault, not theirs.

We must stop blaming the media for everything and take some personal responsibility for our own bad judgment. News outlets reporting on a shooting did not cause the next mass murder, the guy on the trigger chose his actions. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton didn’t “manipulate” anyone into following them, the choice was made by each individual. Period. Any other conclusion is a bit delusional and conspiracy-minded.

Again, influence is the key word here. You can be influenced easily enough, but full on “manipulation” by the media, or anything else, is based on a level of control that we, as individuals, have to give up in order to be affected by it. If you choose to hand over your independent thought and free will then the problem rests with you, not the media you consume.

This, no doubt, will be an unpopular statement considering the “my bad behavior is someone else’s fault” society we live in today. But it’s true, nonetheless. Without threat of harm or other level of duress from an outside source, the only person who can make you do anything – is you.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com

Fitting in at Hamvention.

In Education, Local News, Opinion, sociology, Technology, Uncategorized on May 24, 2016 at 8:30 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOWe all have it; that one single thing about ourselves that makes us either feel different or seem weird to other people. Different and weird are relative terms, of course, depending on the perception of those around us.

For example, someone walking around a cattle ranch in Birkenstocks and shorts might seem incredibly out of place. Is it weird to be wearing this kind of apparel or just so because of the location? It really depends on the observer.

Case in point. This past weekend I attended my very first “Hamvention;” the massive amateur radio convention held in Dayton, Ohio each spring. Hamvention, which is a registered trademark by the way, has for many years been the world’s largest amateur radio event dating back to 1952.

It’s organized and sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) and draws thousands each year to attend workshops, learn about new technologies and shop the hundreds of vendors selling everything from antennas to software. I was raised around the CB radio, but never really exposed to the culture surrounding “ham” users. Incidentally, the term “ham” is a derivative of the colloquial name for an amateur radio operator.

Unlike citizen band (CB) radio, amateur radio requires an FCC license and operates on a different set of frequencies and power guidelines. Each operator is assigned an alphanumeric call sign that become a kind of personal nickname in the ham circle.

13244704_10153908418374342_9000172653944694244_nI admit some trepidation about attending, even though the adventure was my idea. My hesitation was mostly due to the shadowy reputation ham operators have for being made up mostly of the off-your-rocker survivalist, who walks around with a bag full of canned beans, a shotgun, and a ham radio and 15 foot antenna sticking out of his backpack. With no first-hand experience, it all seemed a bit bizarre.

Now, before I go much further, I need to point out here that I am no stranger to the bizarre. I’ve spent a good portion of my free time at science fiction conventions. You know, full on “Star Trek” events complete with green people and otherwise normal folks walking around speaking Klingon to each other.

Instead of me thinking the convention goers were odd, I’m the one who actually felt weird and strangely out of place. What I experienced, standing there amidst thousands of people from very different walks of life, was a fascinating collection of people, all of whom had one thing in common – their interest in amateur radio.

13263851_10153908418309342_1241895779973128889_n

Geiger counters and radiation detection of all kinds … at Hamvention 2016 – Photo GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd.

Yes there were some, what I would normally describe as, oddballs, as well as stereotypical survivalist types. In fact, one vendor sold nothing but Geiger counters. I couldn’t have imagined where a table full of Geiger counters would look at home, carefully packed together like someone had spray painted yellow all the pieces of a life-sized Tetris game.

Still, I’m the one who didn’t look like he belonged there. But it was fascinating how people were sharing their knowledge and experiencing the trade and technology of ham radio as if it was a big group of friends who’d never met and only got together on this one occasion.

People tend to congregate with those of common interest. Conventions like this are representative of virtually all aspect of our sociological makeup as human beings. From churchgoers and athletes to writers and amateur radio enthusiasts, an interest or devotion to a culture or activity brings people together in a consistently predictable way that nothing else can.

We should all have that one thing that makes us feel odd or weird, so long as we remember we’re not alone. When we come together with others of similar interests, great things can happen. We learn, grow, and build friendships that might otherwise never have come about.

In the end, I was indoctrinated into this eclectic family. On his birthday, Jim bought himself a couple of hand-held radios but got one for me as well. I guess it’s time for me to go take the test and get my license. I’m just relieved you’re no longer required to learn Morse code. Oh, Happy Birthday, Jim and thanks.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headline is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

Detach and de-stress from politics

In Health, National News, Opinion, Politics, psychology on May 17, 2016 at 7:57 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOA July 2014 article in The Washington Post included a headline that read, “Politicians are the No. 1 cause of stress in our lives.” The article focused on a stress survey in which, “Americans cited, ‘Hearing about what the government or politicians are doing,’ as the most frequent daily stressor on their lives, and at a substantially higher rate than the usual annoyances like commuting, chores and general schedule-juggling.”

That was nearly two years ago and reactions to day-to-day politics were driving the survey. At that time the dizzying level of ridiculousness surrounding the 2016 presidential bid had yet to shift into high gear. Now, with just a few weeks until the first convention, the stakes have never been higher, and neither has our collective blood pressure.

In the time between now and the conventions, it’s unlikely anything of consequence will occur. There will be blustering and feather ruffling from candidates, but, in the end, the convention is the next decisive event. It’s time to back away for a while.

If the presidential race has driven a wedge between you and those close to you, it may be time let it go. It’s not important. The truth is, very little that takes place on the presidential campaign level will affect those of us down here in the real world.

And it certainly is not worth the loss of close friendships. So how do you disconnect? Well, here are a few short tips.

First, step away from social media – immediately! As if the cable news blather wasn’t enough, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of social media is inundated with opinion, and certainly not necessarily what you would call, “informed” opinion.

maxresdefaultMost people, for whatever reason, have a difficult time recognizing fact from rhetoric. How many times have you been taken in on Facebook or Twitter by some fake news story? Generally those kinds of things are harmless. But when conflict and gossip are presented as factually based information, things get murky and you have to know the difference.

Along with the computer, switch off the TV as well. Face it you’re never going to get an “objective” view of any candidate, party or issue from corporate news agencies. Every organization introduces the spin they want you to hear. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and all the rest, have their own political agendas and when they want you to think, they’ll tell you how.

Consider also, how you feel when you encounter political news. Take close note of your emotions when you’re reading, watching or listening to political material. Does your heart rate jump? Do you feel angry or enraged? Well, believe it or not, that’s exactly what they want; “they” being the media manipulators.

But, you don’t have to fall for it. You can choose what information to which you are exposed and how it affects you. If you just let them get to you, that’s your own fault.

Probably the best way to keep from being overwhelmed by the election hype is to be informed. Do your own research on the candidates and issues and get the information as first-hand as possible. The more facts you know, the less likely you are to get sucked into the garbage.

Politics can sometimes be a fun diversion, though for whom I haven’t a clue. But when things are as charged up as they are this time around, most of what results is stress, angry feelings and regretful behavior.

Remember that politicians at that level – including Hillary, Bernie, and Donald – have no stake in your life. They could care less about anything save their own quest for power, ego and personal benefit. And they’ll say anything to get the votes they want. Anyone who sincerely believes otherwise is a bit naive.

So as the election creeps up on us, be prepared to go vote your conscience when the time comes. Until then, shut it all down, tune it all out, and relax!

For further study and resource …

6 Ways To Cope With Political Stress by Dr. David Lowenstein

http://drlowenstein.com/2016/03/10/6-ways-to-cope-with-political-stress/

5 Ways To Avoid Stress and Stay Healthy In Political Campaigns by PoliticalCampaigningTips.com

http://www.politicalcampaigningtips.com/5-ways-to-avoid-stress-stay-healthy-in-political-campaigns/

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

 

 

Confronting your greatest fear

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on April 26, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

In the aftermath of the 1974 Xenia tornado, people in surrounding communities did what they could to help with the cleanup. Although my father was a teacher at the vocational school at the time, he also had heavy trucks so we went to help as well.

Everywhere you looked was devastation. Stunned families cried or stared blankly as broken water mains sprayed the splintered remains of unrecognizable homes. It was horrific. Even as a first-grader, what I saw that first day among the shattered remains of Xenia was inexorably seared into my memory and cultivated a fear of storms that’s hard for me to, even now, put into words.

During my first couple of years of college, I was fortunate enough to live at home and commute. One after class I went home and settled in to watch a movie and scarf down some drive thru before hitting the books. It was a dark, rainy day and the sky had that “look” about it.

Ever since that day in 1974, I’ve been keenly aware of unstable weather, as if I had some kind of built in, biological barometer in my head and this was one of those days when that sense was at its peak.

As I plowed through my burger and onion rings in front of the TV, the power flickered several times, but I did my best to ignore it. I was home alone, and as the wind and rain picked up, the trees in the valley surrounding our small farm it sounded like wild animals roaring in the distance.

At one point, I ventured out the back door and stood behind the house, watching the clouds off to the southwest. The wind became still. The rain stopped. It was dead quiet. I walked to the other side of the house for a better view on the far side of our barn. And there it was. About a hundred yards away, spinning down from the sky to the pasture in front of me – a tornado. It was small, gray, kicking up debris and dancing its way across the field in front of me as if with some kind of purpose in mind.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3.

The 1974 Xenia Tornado was one of hundreds in a massive storm outbreak on April 3. This is probably the most famous photo taken of the giant twister from Greene Memorial Hospital by Fred Stewart.

I was frozen; not with fear, but with fascination. There it was, right in front of me, the thing I feared most; no, more than that. It was the only thing I’d ever been afraid of. Any normal person would have bolted to the nearest cellar. But I didn’t. I stood there, motionless.

A moment later, the funnel met the ancient wooden sideboards of one of my dad’s old farm trucks and they exploded into splinters with a sound like the cracking of a dozen brittle bones. I still didn’t move. I wasn’t afraid at all.

It seemed like it took an eternity for it to cross the 10-acre spread of pasture field, but it was probably more like 30 seconds. It bounced across the road a quarter mile away, circumvented one neighbor’s home completely but then crashed into an adjacent barn, destroying it in the blink of an eye and scattered bits of wood, sheet metal and hay for miles. I stood there, still motionless, taking it all in.

And as quickly as it came, it was gone. After it wrecked the barn across the road, it dissolved into nothing. A moment later, I realized I was being soaked by rain but still staring off across the field. It left a path of small debris along the way and mashed down the high grass as if some kids had tromped a trail through the field. But it was over. And any fear I once felt of these storms was gone.

As I got older, I studied everything I could about tornadoes, even going on a few local storm chases back in school. Over the years, I faced with two more of the swirling monsters but no longer fear any kind of storm. Today I am respectful of their power and unpredictability and still have a sixth sense when things aren’t right in the wind. The best thing any of us can do during Ohio’s tornado seasons is to be alert and prepared.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com.

Living in the family museum

In Health, Opinion, psychology, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOAlthough there is a lot of talk about millennials returning home to live with parents, the majority of Americans still move away from their family home. As a teenager, most people long for independence to explore different worlds, expand careers and so on while at the same time freeing themselves from the obligations and responsibility associated with living close to parents and immediate family.

But that wasn’t me. Yes, I had the same desire to see and experience the world, but I seemed to need a grounding to make it work properly for me. I did move away from my hometown for brief periods during college, a few years for work and the like. But for the majority of my life, I’ve remained within just a few miles of my family farm, where my father still lives.

12674271_10153643748619342_101686889_nFor the last two decades, my family music group has called our family farm “home” and that’s where we practice and produce our shows. But it wasn’t until I began helping to care for my mother in 2009 that I ended up having to spend far more time in the home where I grew up than one might think is usual – or psychologically healthy.

My mother passed in 2011 but, a few years later, I had to repeat that effort as my dad’s health made it necessary for us to assist him as well. Fortunately, not to the degree Mom needed help, but once again the situation required me to be at his house several days each week.

My family home is pretty much as it always was with minor changes here and there. But to me it seems simultaneously totally familiar and completely foreign. My job makes it easy for me to work remotely, but there’s a constantly present, underlying distraction.

I’m not entirely sure it’s psychologically healthy to be in this situation sometimes. I’m surrounded by the past every day, as if my dad’s home is a museum with dusty, disorganized exhibits displayed out of context and unvisited.

Growing up, our family home was always a bit of a sanctuary for me, a place the difficulties of the world didn’t penetrate. Today, it can sometimes seem more like a workplace. There’s something disquieting occasionally about walking the halls in what used to be a nurturing home but that now serves another purpose.

Of my siblings and me I am the only one to have grown up in the house. Still, it can still feel very strange to be there now. Today, Dad occupies only certain rooms, but once upon a time the whole house rang with laughter and music, as the smell of homemade food wafted throughout. Now I walk through the dark, silence wondering where the years went.

Maybe it’s having come so close to losing my brother to a serious illness last summer that has triggered some of these deeply buried thoughts. But, whatever the reason, they’ve come blasting to the surface like a volcanic eruption.

Mostly I’m troubled by the fact that my father is so very alone in the world now, having outlived everyone close to him save his children. Within just a few years of each other he lost the aunt who raised him, his brother-in-law who was like a little brother to him, and, most tragically, my mother.

There’s no one left of his generation except a sister, who lives a few hours away, a half-brother whom he doesn’t know very well, and a couple of school friends he speaks to on the phone. These are problems he has that I can’t fix.

Someday, because of my birth position in the family, I’ll likely be the only one left of my mother, father and siblings. I can’t replace what Dad’s lost, so I spend my time with him trying to give him a good quality of life in the present. But there are days when we both sit melancholy and remember the past in the quiet emptiness and solitude of our family home.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at gerydeer.com

It’s OK not to drink

In Education, Health, Holiday, Media, Opinion, Uncategorized on December 30, 2015 at 6:30 am

 

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DEER IN HEADLINES

Special Extended Edition

BY GERY L. DEER

(Author’s Note: The following is an edited repost of an article originally published December 30, 2013)

I have never hidden the fact that I don’t drink alcohol. When I say that, I mean that I really don’t drink, ever. When some people say it, what they are implying is that they don’t drink hard liquor, or they have a beer at a baseball game or something. But trust me when I say, I don’t drink. Period. I just wanted to make that absolutely clear so what follows carries the proper weight.

An alumnus of one of the oldest national college fraternities – Sigma Phi Epsilon – I’ve never had an alcoholic beverage of any kind – nothing. I didn’t steer clear of the bubbly because of some religious or deep, philosophical reason. It just wasn’t part of my experience growing up and, fortunately, I never developed the interest.

To be quite honest, at this stage in my life, the very smell of the stuff, particularly beer, makes me kind of sick. That said, drinking is a big part of adult social and business functions and thus, hard to avoid. But, for those who are trying to steer clear of the juice, for whatever reason, please try to remember that it’s OK NOT to drink. Really, it is. Still, I am well aware of how hard it is not to succumb to pressure from others.

Some people might think peer pressure is limited to the adolescent or collegiate years, but even as an adult, I know how much stress there is on people to drink alcohol at social and business events. Despite opinions to the contrary, it really is OK not to drink and here are some ideas for anyone trying to abstain but who still wants to feel included in the fun of the party.

First, and this is really important, you must be comfortable with yourself and your decision not to indulge. If not, then you’ll probably make others feel that way too. Ambivalence will probably result in your drinking anyway and it will be your own decision and not because of peer pressure.

Next, always remember – and young people reading this please, please try to hang on to this concept –  if anyone takes issue with you’re not drinking, or pressures you in some way, the problem is with them, not you!

If offered, politely decline, but don’t make excuses. After all, the offer was not made to offend you. It’s not a good idea to launch into some long-winded explanation, however, or rattle off a list of excuses about why you’re abstaining. Just say something like, “No thanks. I’d really like a cup of tea (coffee, soda, whatever), though, if you have it?” It’s polite and expresses your appreciation for the offer.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.10.33 AMLet me say that I don’t hang around with many people who drink and those who do rarely do so in my presence. Not because they’re overly sensitive to my choices, and I don’t expect them to be, but because I’m rarely in a position where alcohol is any sort of focus at all.

But, in some extreme cases, I encounter one of the most baffling concepts I’ve had to come to terms with in my non-alcoholic life is having to defend the fact that I don’t drink. It’s really kind of backwards to my own sense of logic. Someone gives me a hard time and wants an explanation as to why I’m not drinking and I scratch my head. Generally that person’s not really someone I would normally spend time with anyway, but the question is there, hanging in the air like an anvil.

Early on, I realized that many people who find out I don’t drink immediately think I’m some kind of recovering alcoholic. I’m not. Hard to get hooked… no, let me rephrase that. It’s impossible to get hooked if you never start. But still, the question remains. Truth be told, I think it’s ridiculous that the sober guy in the room has to explain himself while all around him people are dropping, face first, into the toilet bowl. I just don’t get it.

So, my next piece of advice is to never defend yourself. Once again, change the subject, divert attentions elsewhere or be appreciative of their interest and just say, thanks, I just don’t want anything. Regardless of your reasons, I guarantee you’re not going to change anyone’s mind or alter their opinion of your choices, and you shouldn’t try. Plus, I’ve learned when someone takes so strong an issue with my non-drinking, it’s generally because they carry some sense of guilt or other feelings about their own alcohol use and suddenly feel extremely self-conscious.

If you’re at a social or business gathering, carrying a decoy drink can help avoid questions from people – since most people are standing around with some sort of cup or glass in their hand. But, don’t pretend it is alcohol, in other words, avoid the mock-tail. There is no need to call attention to the drink in your hand, but you might carry a drink around with you.

Some people will advise you to accept an alcoholic drink and just hold it all night, but that’s not only pointless and dishonest, but could actually make you feel even more self-conscious. People will expect you to sip from your drink now and again during long conversations, so just have something else in your glass.

Participating and socializing will also help to keep attention away from the lack of a drink in your hand. Keeping busy will keep your mind off the fact you’re not drinking with the other guests and help you be more involved in the event. If, however, there is still a particularly high level of pressure on you to drink or be left out or ridiculed, you should extricate yourself from the situation and rethink attending activities with the same group of people again.

Regardless of other steps you might take to distract from your abstinence, never, ever try to change the behavior of others. A social or business function is not the proper setting for a personal mission or intervention. If you live alcohol-free because of some personal crusade, leave your soap box at home. No one will hear you and it’ll just serve to further ostracize you from others.

Once again, you have to be comfortable with yourself, but you need to accept that others have not chosen your way and booze is a way of life out there in the world. Deal with it. You, alone, have made the conscious decision to attend an event where alcohol is being served and to be included you must live and let live. Needless to say, if you see someone about to drink and drive, act accordingly as your circumstances permit.

Finally, always remember that there is no “down side” to abstaining from alcohol. None. Only good can come of it – that’s not something drinkers can say with any measure of confidence. When you don’t drink, you’re probably less likely to do things that have negative consequences. So, provided you don’t have some kind of a deviant propensity toward misbehavior anyway, you should make it through the event unscathed. Your social position may suffer, however, especially if you typically surround yourself with partiers. I say, it’s their loss. And to you I’d recommend finding a better group of friends – those who accept you for who you are, not what you drink.

Negative people have a negative effect on us. I have lost friends, girlfriends and even business associates because of my choice not to drink. “I don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink,” is a backwards way of thinking and a bit on the ignorant side too, I might add. I’d say, logically, it should go the other way around, but I’d end up having to mistrust pretty much everyone outside my immediate family. Maybe a proper way to say it is, “It’d be hard for me to trust anyone who thinks the bottle in their hand is more important than a friend or family member.”

Consider what kind of a “friend” abandons you because you don’t want to use alcohol? If you were always a non-drinker, it’s probably easier for others to accept because they know from the start. But going on the wagon, for whatever reason, can be challenging. Once again, just remember that it’s OK not to drink. Just be yourself. It’s you that should matter to your friends and colleagues, not what’s in your glass.

Gery L. Deer is an independent contributor to WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton program. More at www.gerydeer.com