Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cartoonist shares advice with students

Kids today can still find their dream and achieve it if they will commit themselves to work, study, learn and try as best as they are able ... or is that "Abel?"

Duane Abel, the creator of the weekly comic strip "Zed," brought a message of hope and optimism to Ripley Central School students last Wednesday, Oct. 10 in his presentation, "Draw Your Own Destiny."
The hardest thing kids face today is "self entitlement," Abel said in an interview before his presentation.

"They feel they need everything handed to them," he said. "Kids need to know there is no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving your dreams. Talent won't get you there. Luck won't get you there. Who you know won't get you there. Only hard work will win out."

Abel should know. He had his first cartoon published in the local newspaper when he was 10 years old. He created "Zed" when he was 15, getting it published in the local newspaper.

"I said, 'This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life,'" he said. "It's not talent, it's guts. You have to have guts to put yourself out there."

Abel became the youngest cartoonist in history to be syndicated when he signed with Future Features Syndicate shortly after creating "Zed." He continued to promote "Zed" while he pursued a theatrical degree from the University of Akron. At the age of 25, he then founded his own publishing company, "Corkey Comic," which takes its name from his nickname for his wife, Coral.

It all comes down to four words Abel said have shaped his life. As a teenager, he sent letters to all his favorite cartoonists asking for advice. One day he received a small card "no bigger than a baseball card." It came from Bud Blake, the creator of the strip, "Tiger." On it was written, "Work, Study, Learn and Try."
"My wish for all of you is that you find something you love to do and you use these words to achieve it," Abel told Ripley students in grades seven through 12. "Many adults hate their jobs, because they did not commit themselves to following their dream."

Once students find their passion, they must actively pursue it, Abel said. This is why "work" is so critical.
"Whatever your dream is, you should be working toward it every single day," he said.

One then needs to commit oneself to studying.

"Study your passion," Abel said. "Study everything around you to make yourself a better person. Study and listen and watch everything around you."

Abel told the students the most important thing in his wallet is his library card, because it's where he goes to learn.

"This word is so important," he said. "Learn everything you need to have the dream job you will love."
"Try" is the most important word of all, Abel said.

"Whatever your goal may be, you can never give up," he said. "I never wanted to give up."
But who is this "Zed" who has been Abel's passion?

"He is walking, talking dryer lint," Abel said with a laugh. "My drawing board was always in the basement beside the washer and dryer."

Abel said he has a very personal relationship with Zed.

"I've known him longer than my wife or my kids," he said. "Zed is the icing on the cake. It's not satire. It's not political. It's a wholesome, family comic strip. Zed is the kind of guy I wish I could be - hopeful, optimistic and wide-eyed. He is just about the best friend I could have."

Abel lives in Carrolton, Ohio, with his wife and his two sons, Zackie and Clayton.

"Luckily, they have no desire to be cartoonist," he said.

He intends to keep writing "Zed" throughout his lifetime. He noted a cartoonist named Russell Johnson wrote a strip named "Mr. Oswald" for 65 years until he was 95 years old.

"I think I can beat that," Abel said.

"Zed" has been compiled into four books so far. A Christmas book will be out in less than two weeks.
"I would love for 'Zed' to be an animated show or to be on Broadway," he said. "Anything to get people to know Zed, but to keep it on a grassroots level.

"The great thing about drawing a great cartoon is that you don't have to be a great artist, but a great writer," Abel told the students. "I was so confident in my own skin. I was so happy with who I was that I did not care what others thought of me."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tips for fun, healthy lunches to go

It was a tragic lesson in the risks of consuming a fast-food, sugary diet:

Mona Meighan’s normally punctual 26-year-old son, Luke, did not show up for work one morning in 2009. A concerned co-worker stopped by Luke’s apartment and found the young man dead in his bed. An autopsy determined he died from complications of undiagnosed diabetes.

“For seven years, through college and into his work life, Luke lived on pizza and fast foods, sodas and sweet desserts,” says Meighan, an education consultant and author of What Are You Doing for Lunch?: A Friendly Guide to Brown Bagging as a Better Way to Lunch (

“Since we have no diabetes in our family, I can only believe Luke’s diet contributed to his death. Too often, young people aren’t aware of how food affects their health. As an educator, I thought the best way to remember Luke was to give people the tools to change their lunch habits. By brown-bagging, you can avoid a lot of processed foods loaded with calories and carbohydrates. It’s healthier – and less expensive!”
Meighan emphasizes she is not a chef – not even a cook! All of her recipes are designed to be tasty, and quick and easy to prepare. A couple of her favorite examples:

Pesto and Tomato Sandwich: Add 3 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt to 4-6 tablespoons prepared pesto. Spread on 4 slices of whole-wheat bread. Add thinly sliced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. (Place in a toaster oven for 2-3 minutes, if desired.)

Hummus Salad Wrap: Spread ¼ cup hummus over two whole-wheat or flour tortillas and add 1 tomato, thinly sliced, 2 thin slices of Swiss cheese, and 2 lettuce leaves, cut up. Tightly roll the tortillas and spear with a toothpick.

If you’re new to brown-bagging, Meighan offers these tips to help you get off to the right start:

• Determine your personal lunch style. Some people are willing to spend 15 or 20 minutes in the kitchen the night before or morning of the workday to prepare a familiar lunch. These are traditionalists. Others want to just grab a container of food – perhaps something put together over the weekend, or last night’s leftovers – and hit the road. Meighan calls this the grab-and-go style. Maybe you’re creative, a midday gourmet, a social networker (likes to coordinate a group lunch) or a mix of all of the above, depending on what the week looks like.

• Do you have what you need to pack your lunch? Do you need a cooler-style lunchbox? How about reusable containers for sandwiches and soups? (Going green is, of course, better for the planet, and it saves money on items like disposable baggies and plastic cutlery.)

• Determine your upcoming week’s recipes. First, decide how many days you want to pack lunch this week, and plan your menu. Take stock of the ingredients you already have, and make a list of those you need to purchase. (To save even more money, either repeat lunches or plan lunches with similar ingredients.)
• Invest time on the weekend preparing food, if necessary. If you plan to grab and go, put together the first couple days’ lunches. If you’re a midday gourmet, you might want to cook up some homemade chili ahead of time; the creative may want to whip together Grandma’s Chicken Salad.

• Enjoy – and don’t overwhelm yourself! If you’re used to going out for lunch five days a week, start slowly. Try brown-bagging twice a week at first. You can make it more interesting by finding a buddy and taking turns preparing a lunch for two. If you eat at your desk, plan a rewarding way to spend your lunch hour, whether it’s running an errand or taking a walk in a park.