One-Way Trip. Would You Go?

It’s a one-way trip to death.

Well, death is not the true destination. The one-way ticket will have “Mars” stamped on it.

The Mars One project, a brainchild of exploration/entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, of the Netherlands. A few years ago, he announced the Mars One project, and began taking applications from people around the world who’d be interested and willing to climb aboard a spaceship and take off for Mars. The idea of the project is to begin colonization of the “red planet.” Mars is our closest neighbor in the solar system, and it has always held a certain mystique regarding whether or not it could (or does) sustain life.

After getting over 202,000 applications from would-be space pioneers, Lansdorp and his Mars One team pared the list down. The group was quickly reduced to just over 1,000 in the first round of cuts, then to 660, and now the third round. The latest list of finalists includes 50 men and 50 women (39 from the Americas (including 33 from the US), plus 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania). One of the finalists is a 38-year-old Polish man who goes by the name “M1-K0.” He claims to be a Martian sent to Earth who says he would be happy to help us explore his home planet.

The 100 finalists are going to begin training and testing as Mars One officials trim those candidates down to the final 24; those who would actually go. The selected space adventurers will be broken into six crews of four. The first quartet will take off for Mars in 2024, and the remaining groups will be launched every two years until all 24 are on Mars, getting a colony going.

I first read about the Mars One project a few months ago in Popular Science magazine. In that article, a number of the 100 finalists were interviewed. The article pieced together a variety of statements made by the potential space explorers; answers from all kinds of questions, such as: “Why go?” “Won’t you miss life on Earth?” “Do you truly understand the risk?” The Mars One website ( has a large list of frequently asked questions, with answers. It’s interesting to peruse the site and learn about their plans.

Obviously every one of the finalists understand the risks involved in the trip. But from the statements made by the various members of the 100-finalists group, they are looking beyond the risk. They are focused on what the success of the project could mean for humankind. They appreciate the greater good over their mortality. But as one potential Mars explorer stated, “We are all going to die, but it’s important what you do before you die.”

Could you make that trip?

I couldn’t.

May as well be honest about it. Don’t misunderstand, I have always been adventurous. Growing up, my parents taught us there is something wonderful beyond the horizon. They took us places and allowed us to explore; to ask questions; to always wonder about this world we live in (not to mention the worlds that lie well beyond us, in the sky). While I know there were times our “adventures” filled my parents with fear for our safety, they rarely quelled our exploratory spirit.

And that part of me would let me go in a heartbeat. It sounds exciting! Yes, I know I would die sometime within the confines of the trip. The spaceship could explode during launch. It might not hold together through the journey (the Mars One website says it will take roughly seven to eight months to travel from Earth to Mars; precise lengths of time for each trek will vary depending on the positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits). The ship may crash on Mars. Once landed, the planet may not have an inkling of capacity to sustain life. Or if everything goes well, I would die from old age (unless the Mars atmosphere holds some life-lengthening chemistry). But no question about it, once aboard the spaceship, those explorers will definitely die at some point during the project.

A view of the Mars surface from then Curiosity rover.

A view of the Mars surface from then Curiosity rover.

My application to the Mars One project was never filled out (okay, I confess, I didn’t learn about the project until after the application time was well underway), simply because I love my family too much to leave them forever. It doesn’t embarrass me to confess this. I’d guess a whopping percentage of people on Earth would turn down the chance to participate for the same reason. I know, it’s a rather blasé reason for not going, but it’s honest. It’s truthful. It’s real.

I do think the idea of being a space traveler is exciting, and I hope I am not only alive by the time the first ship launches, but I hope technology has advanced so we can keep in constant contact with the explorers. It will be one of the most exciting times in the history of our world. I see myself, if technology were so advanced, following their progress daily.

It is purely hypothetical, but if you were given the opportunity to make such a trek, would you go? Of course, since it is a hypothetical question, people won’t take an honest, realistic look at it, so they’d give unrealistic answers. But think about it. Be honest with yourself.

Would you take that one-way trip?



Haiku, A Collection in English Tradition

The Beatles Fame

Lennon chilled their fans

with “Jesus not famous as us.”

Who’s a Nowhere man?

Broken Garden

Vines and roots do lie

rotting under winter coats.

Dirt quietly calls.

Cloud Storage

As I stare skyward,

at a horse-shaped fluffy cloud.

Are my pics in there?

Tears of Congress

Congress loudly weeps,

with notes of progress played flat.

Their minds are wasted.


Father forgive them,

for they do not feel your sun.

Warmth crosses over.

Birthday Bummer

I have a love-hate relationship with my birthday.

Don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t mind that each year, on a specified date, my age gets bumped up by 1. Getting older doesn’t bother me. I feel pretty good for my age. I have all my basic faculties. I have pretty much everything a man could want. So no, I am not opposed to getting older.

What I do not like about my birthday is the perception that it needs to be special. Again, don’t take that wrong. I am more than glad I was born. I am overjoyed my parents took the steps necessary to produce me. I have no reason to wish I had not been born. What I dislike about my birthday is the perception forwarded by others that it is “special.”

That perception was perpetuated and heightened throughout my younger days by birthday parties. I am a parent, and quick to point out I spent many years — still do it — making my children, and now grandchildren, feel special on their birthdays. But children, by the fact that they are held up in the spotlight on their birthdays, grow up with the idea that their birthday is a very special moment in their lives. And in all honesty, I see no reason to consider it anything other but that.

The birth of all three of my children, and all four of my grandchildren, have all been special and will continue to be so forever.

But once I reached adulthood, especially after the first time I was married, I began to feel uncomfortable about celebrating my birthday. I suppose it’s partly due to the fact that the woman I initially married celebrated her birthday the day after mine. That wasn’t her fault — we met, liked each other, fell in love, and got married. It just happened that her birthday was the day after mine. I never complained … after all, it was a sure-fire guarantee I’d never forget her birthday. But because our birthdays were back-to-back, we usually combined the celebrations. And more times than not, those combo-celebrations were held on her special day simply because of my nature to want to make others’ birthdays feel special.

So I think as time went on, my view of my birthday began to erode. Again, not her’s or anyone else’s fault; it’s just what got into my head and stuck.

Contributing to my idea that my birthday is not special is the fact that, even though I can be a “performer” who likes drawing attention to myself, the attention I get because of my birthday actually embarrasses me. I truly hate it when someone points out my birthday.

“Hey, we’ve got a person with a birthday among us!”

“It’s Kevin’s birthday … ‘Happy birthday to you ….'”

“Hey there birthday boy!”

I just want to holler, “Let’s not!”

It’s not really a matter of not wanting to have it known it’s my birthday, but more of a desire to observe it rather than celebrate it. And I really want that observance to be quiet and private. I smile big when my current wife wakes me with a kiss and a singsongy, “Happy Birthday!” And I do enjoy the “Happy Birthday” texts from my children and stepchildren. And there’s no better feeling than hearing a young grandchild babbling into the phone their unique and unintelligible version of “Happy Birthday, Grandpa.” I really like that. Family gatherings to celebrate birthdays are truly wonderful. Quiet, intimate dinners with my wife are delightful. I’m even okay with Facebook birthday greetings, although I do cringe at the first few because then I know the cascade of well-wishes will come flooding onto my page as my “friends” read those birthday posts and follow suit (I do not list my birthday on my page).

I tolerate familial recognition of my birthday because, well, fair is fair. I make a big deal about their birthdays, so if they feel inclined, I should allow them reciprocation.

I’m sure psychologists would have a field day analyzing and ripping to shreds my birthday attitude. I suppose they would find all sorts of deep-seeded reasons for my disdain of my birthday. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what they’d think. I fully take ownership of my negative attitude concerning my birthday. Whatever reasons they decide upon, it won’t matter to me. In fact, I have tried figuring out why it is I have such a negative attitude — and have come up with some interesting, and quite possibly close-to-the-truth theories.

Maybe as I progress into the twilight years of my life, my attitude will change. Perhaps the proximity to the end of my life will give me pause to reflect and make a shift in my attitude. But for now, I will continue with a love-hate relationship with my birthday. And that’s the way it will be. To quote the song line, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”KevinCake2-13-15

My Well-Being … One Letter at a Time

I recently read an article about how to improve one’s well-being.

Among the tips the article mentioned was that one should spend time each day writing; creating a personal reflection of one’s day, one’s feelings, one’s activities; basically a reflection on one’s life. As I read that tip (I did read all the others, but that writing/reflecting tip stood out), I immediately reflected on a couple things: (1) my recent writing activities would be termed as “glacial,” and (2) I need to get back to doing more writing.

I am not a New Year’s Resolution maker, mostly because (1) I rarely keep them, and (2) I feel such “changes” in our lives need not be imprisoned by a specified date, but should be free-ranging with no time constraints. For example, five years ago, after a rather disastrous medical checkup in which my doctor suggested I lose weight, eat better, and exercise, I decided I would take her recommendations to heart. It was March, not January 1, but I resolved to improve my health. And I did it. Ninety days later, I weighed 45 pounds less, was running every day, and eating better.

So even though it is early February, I am going to work hard to write on a more regular basis. I will spend more time in personal reflection, but not limit my writing to introspection of me. If I feel a story welling within me, I will write it. If I am feeling funny, I will humor me with humor. If I feel a need to “get it all out,” I will ventilate.

I just need to write.

Referring back to that time in my life when I took steps to improve my health, the reason I chose running as my form of exercise was because I have always enjoyed running. It wasn’t easy to do five years ago. My body was different. Though I had been a marathon and ultra-marathon runner in my youth, I hadn’t run for many, many years. I found a program that eased me back into running, and eventually, I was not just running, but taking part in road races (mostly to compete against myself but to bond with other runners).

But in the last couple years, I have not run due to injuries. Sadly, I reverted back to a rather sedentary lifestyle. But recently, thanks to my wife wanting to add exercise to her lifestyle, I have begun walking (or biking) to my daily regiment of activities. Well, maybe not so “daily,” more like regular; we don’t get out everyday but we’re getting there.

Like running, I have always enjoyed writing. But that, too, I had allowed to slide into a crevice of apathy. I started this blog over a year ago with an intention of creating an outlet whereby I would write regularly. And when inspiration tickled my brain with an idea, I sat down and wrote. I edited and revised things I’d done. But eventually, those moments of inspiration faded.

Life got in the way.

That’s not exactly true. I let life get in the way. I chose to ignore openings in my schedule when I could have sat down and written something. I shoved inspiration into the backseat of my brain, telling myself I would sit down and “write that out” in a day or two. Oh sure, my life, which is certainly not all that complicated or full, throws those curveballs at me when there seems like I need 27 hours to finish a day. And there’s no shame in setting a daily exercise aside for that one day; keep it from becoming a habit, the norm.

Just like I need to revamp my priorities and get back to regular daily exercise, I need to make time for writing. Again, I will not call this a resolution. Won’t say it’s a promise, or a vow, or even a mandate. It is, however, a choice. I can choose to write, or I can choose to not write. The question I need to ask myself is this: Which choice will be better for me?

Feeding Birds And People


Thanks to my father and youngest brother, I have taken a keener interest in birds.

I say “keener” because I have always enjoyed watching birds. I was fortunate to grow up and live in a region of America that has an abundance of wild birds. I suspect any region of America has an abundance of wild birds, and most likely, an amount equal or more than the number of species living in southeast South Dakota and northeast Nebraska. But since my bird-watching hobby has developed in that part of middle America, it’s the only personal contact I have had with birds.

I grew up in southeast South Dakota, and then after a couple years out of the area, I relocated across the Missouri River in northeast Nebraska. It truly is a wildlife heaven. There are all kinds of birds — from the usual collection of “neighborhood” birds, like robins, wrens, cardinals, and bluebirds, to larger birds, such as eagles, hawks, turkeys, turkey vultures, and pheasants.

I have lived nearly all my life in towns. The populations of the two main cities where I lived were 13,000 and 750. My parents lived on 100 acres near a Missouri River reservoir, and my brother lived in a development nearby. While my “urban” dwelling allowed me to see a nice collection of birds: sparrows, robins, wrens, and finches mostly, my parents and brother saw a monster multiplicity of birds.

So when I moved to another town about six months ago, I wanted to attract birds. My new wife and I set up feeders and a birdbath. We hung a hummingbird feeder. And then we sat back and waited for the birds to come flying in.

They didn’t.

At least not in the droves of species I have hoped for. We get sparrows, wrens, finches (yellow and purple/red), robins, and starlings for the most part. We occasionally see a cardinal couple, a bluejay.

But this spring, after watching my father and brother have up to 15 orioles show up at feeders filled with grape jelly and halved oranges, I decided to see if I could attract those beautifully-orange, sweet-toothed birds.

I placed a small ceramic bowl with a healthy dollop of grape jelly on a table on our deck. Within 12 hours, we had a brightly-hued male dipping his beak into the purple sweetness. I was ecstatic! I was elated … excited … encouraged.


In visiting with my father and brother about their bevy of orioles, it was surmised that this huge collection was among the many of the species that were migrating. As the orioles make their way north, some drop off along the flight path, and decide to take up residence at stops along their flight path. The rest continue on. Within a week, the busy feeders at Dad’s and my brother’s had seen a substantial dropoff of orange. It appeared the majority of their oriole visitors had moved on.

My father, in the previous 3-4 years, has had orioles make their unique teardrop nests in a tree just outside his picture window. He gets to watch them come and go while building the nest, and then come and go while tending the young inhabitants of that nest. This year, the tree that had held those previous oriole nests had to be cut down, the victim of disease and age. So he has not seen where the orioles that remained in his area, and still come to feed on jelly and oranges, now reside.

As for my oriole efforts, a day after that male had showed up, a female (I am assuming his partner) made some tentative approaches before eventually skittishly settling on the edge of the bowl and grabbing beakfuls of jelly. Though they are very cautious in their efforts of get their fill of jelly, the pair eventually felt safe and made countless trips to the deck to partake in the sweet feast.

Within a week, I began seeing other orioles at the bowl. My high-water moment came when I had one eating and four others perched on deck furniture waiting for their turn at the trough. I have enjoyed these newcomers, and the original pair, often over the last few days.

And I have noticed, the birds in this collection of orioles are very much like the human race — diverse and very different.

Just as we humans are born with physical features that sets us apart from others of our species, these orioles have physical features that enable me to recognized them immediately. Whereas mankind breaks down by races and ethnicities, these orioles are all the same species … Baltimore Orioles. Though there are also Bullocks Orioles and American Orioles, what I have at my jelly bowl is most certainly Baltimore Orioles.

They are varied in color depth and brilliance, as well as differences between the male and female of the species. But what I have noticed is that each one of those birds, in its own unique and individual makeup, is beautiful and fun to watch. Bright orange, duller orange, bright yellow, or mustard-hued yellow — they are all magnificent creatures.


And this got me thinking … as respectful that I am of each oriole that has stopped by my jelly bowl, do I offer similar respect to all humans with whom I come in contact? How about the humans I see on the TV news and sports? Or those I read about in newspaper and magazine articles?

I hope so. I like to think I demonstrate an equal amount of respect to each and every human being I see or meet. It is, after all, a truly basic characteristic of being human. Right? Love your neighbor as you love yourself … the basis upon which the Bible was created so many years ago.

I have always felt it shouldn’t take a book to explain how we should live among our fellow man. To me, within each of us should exist the basic tenant that we should care for all humans. I don’t mean to place myself on some moralistic pedestal. I admit, it took me at the very least, half of my time on Earth to come to this conclusion. But I did arrive at it, and I try to live my life with that being the foundation of my existence.

I love watching my oriole friends (I consider them friends since they come and visit often). And I love watching, and encountering, my fellow man. My children will attest, I consider no one a stranger. I will strike up a conversation with anyone. If they choose not to engage, I graciously back off, but if they decide to carry on the conversation, well, I have met someone new, and that someone has added to the depth of my life.

I don’t really know why I drew this correlation. But as I sat on my couch this morning, sipping coffee and watching the orioles grab multiple bites of purple breakfast, I was struck by the similarity — the relationship I have with those brilliant-but-skittish birds. I had offered my friendship, via food, and they had accepted.

I do the same with people … errr, not always with food, though. But maybe what I offer them is something akin to food. Perhaps it is food for their souls. By being accepting of them, respecting them, and offering that respect, I might very well be feeding their souls. And when I do that, I can consider each one my friend.

It doesn’t have to be a lifetime friendship — even a brief exchange while waiting in line, or filling up our car, or even passing in a hallway — it is a friendship. It is feeding their souls. It is, as I have done with the orioles, showing respect and acceptance of all.




I was born without the DIY gene most men have.

I’m not blaming my parents, well not exactly. My father had the DIY gene, but my mother had the UIE (Universal Interest in Everything) gene. And thus was the conflict I faced when growing up. My father tried to pass along the DIY gene by attempting to teach me how to do things mechanical. But as he was teaching, I was either (1) more interested in something else, or (2) interested in that which my mother was interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, my father is a darn good dad. He did his best to show me how to do things. He tried to teach me h0w to mow the lawn, build a dog kennel, fix broken screen doors, trim the hedge, rake leaves, wash windows, and many other tasks involving, to varying degrees, manual labor. But after letting me do it, and I not doing a satisfactory job (honestly, I thought a “wavy” line at the top of the hedge looked pretty neat … he wanted straight), Dad usually opted to do it himself.

So my chores generally did not involve mechanical talents. I spent a lot of time picking up dog poop in the backyard.

My mother, on the other hand, was always interested in something, and following suit, I was equally interested. She showed me how to take photos, develop my own film, and print my own pictures (even color!). She got me interested in parapsychology (ESP, spirits, past lives, Tarot cards, etc.). Showing dogs was another interest we shared (there was a down side to that interest … my job included picking up more dog poop in the kennels). Oh, and she was really into eating healthy and health food(which I really wasn’t all that interested in, especially the tofu, but since she fixed ‘healthy’ foods for breakfast, lunch and supper, I sort of had to get interested … or starve).

My parents have always been good parents. But when I took a dip in the gene pool, I came out sans DIY.

Flash forward to 2013. I met a wonderful woman, Mary. I fell in love with her. We began discussing marriage. And that’s about the time she stated one evening, “I am really looking forward to having a man around the house. You know, someone who can fix those little things that go wrong; taking care of the yard and all those other things.”

In complete honesty, I did not even for one second contemplate getting out of the relationship. Actually, I opted to take the full disclosure route. “Ummmm, yeah. Well you see, I’m not exactly the handiest of handymen.”

“What do you mean,” she asked.

“Well, my idea of being a ‘handyman’ is I ‘handy’ the money to the ‘man’ who just fixed the thing that’s broken in the house.”

Mary thought about that for a while, and then cheerfully stated, “Well, I know you can figure that stuff out. You’re smart.”

Smart, huh. You mean smart like knowing whether to use a flathead or phillips screwdriver? Are you referring to which way to move the valve so as to shut off the water of a leaking faucet smart? You’re talking about not turning a four-step build-a-bookcase kit in to the 12-step program smart?

That kind of smart I ain’t.

But Mary accepted me, flaws and all; including the lack of the DIY gene.

So a few months into this brand-new marriage, we decided we needed a new entertainment center (which I kept calling a “TV stand.” Hey, it sounded less complex than “entertainment center”). Actually, Mary had been considering the change for 3-4 years prior to our marriage; even mentioned it a few times while we were dating and heading toward “I do.”

She said we needed to find a “kit” and build it ourselves. So we shopped. And we shopped. And we shopped some more.

I was feeling pretty confident we were never going to find the “right” kit, but gosh-darnit, I let my guard down. There, in a Walmart, in a galaxy far, far away, was, and I quote, “the perfect one, and it looks easy to put together … you can do it.” As I looked at the picture on the box, I saw nothing easy about it, unless you count the fact that I’d end up having to up my depression medication to handle the complete sense of failure the kit promised.

With a smile bright and wide, Mary had a Walmart associate load the kit onto a cart (the dang thing was too big and heavy for even the two of us to carry up to the checkout station; don’t you think that be a clue to its potential difficulty in constructing it?). We paid for it, and the same associate lugged the thing out to my Jeep and the three of us huffed and puffed until we had ity loaded.

We climbed in the Jeep and headed homeward, our confidence levels rocketing in opposite directions. As she babbled on and on about how I should be able to snap that thing together in 30 minutes or less, I did my best to put a good face forward. Finally, hoping not to burst her bubble, I muttered, “Well, you know, it might be complicated.”

“Ya, I know. But you’re smart,” Mary quickly answered. My heart sank even lower. I think it was dragging on the road, it was so low. “And,” she continued, “I called Allie’s boyfriend to come help you.”

I looked at her with a wide-eyed response, but quickly composed myself and said, “Well, ummmm, yeah, that’s okay. I know he’s taking shop class, so he could use the experience.”

“Yeah, I’m sure he does,” she smirked.

We manhandled the behemoth box through the front door. I was barely able to get it upright so as to lean it against the wall. After that huge task, I was ready to call it good for the day, grab a beer, and watch a little TV. But Mary excitedly announced, “Allie called Kole and he’s on his way! We’ll get this thing put together and be watching TV from our new entertainment center in no time.”

I never realize a can of beer could “pffft” itself closed, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard. I was trapped. I was about to be completely stripped naked; my manliness destroyed. My lack of mechanical talents — that which I had forewarned her about many times — were about to be exposed. My shoulders sank. My head lolled. And my spirit drifted away … smirking.

But then it came to me!

Time to employ the old DDIY tactic. DIY stands for “Do It Yourself.” But few in this world, and only a select number of talentless men are members of this group, belong to the fraternity of DDIY.

“Don’t Do It Yourself.”

To gain entry into this group, one must hone specific characteristics. First, one must be able to create the illusion of ability; the appearance that you can do a project you have no clue how to complete. Second, one must be able to hide that sniveling, fear-filled wimp of a man who knows for certain he cannot do anything to complete the project. Third, one must have the ability to hover around the project, as others are doing the work, making statements that sound knowledgeable; all the while doing only small, meaningless tasks that do very little to forward the project to fruition, BUT, give the appearance that one is quite involved and very busy.

Now to my credit, prior to Kole’s arrival, I did get a few minor tasks completed. I removed all the wiring that snaked through the various openings of the old, cumbersome entertainment center. I also disassembled said entertainment center. To make that task seem like a monumental accomplishment, I unnecessarily tore it apart down to the most minute of pieces, and then left those pieces scattered around the family room. When my wife came out and saw the huge collection of pieces, she gushed, “Oh my Kevin, you have been really busy. Look at you, getting everything taken apart. See, I knew you could do it.”

Since I had worked up a small sweat, I reached up and drew my arm across my face, making sure the sweat-stained shirt sleeve was very visible to her. “Ohhhhhh, my hubby is working really hard,” she cooed. Oh yeah … my DDIY plan was falling perfectly into place.

And then Kole arrived. We surveyed the box. We then pulled it open on one end. And we proceeded to pull the many pieces and parts out of the box. All the while, I said things like, “Boy, this sure looks complicated, but let’s keep at it” and “Look at all those different screws; man oh man, lots of parts.”

We finally dug out the directions, and I smartly snagged them, made a quick glance through them, and brilliantly flipped them to Kole, noting, “Here’s the English version. I could probably do it with the Spanish directions, but since we’re working together ….”



I can’t say for sure, but I think that’s when Kole caught on to what I was doing. His eyes rolled upward and he locked in on mine, and then a wry, slight smile creased his face. A knowing smile. A smile that said, “Yeah, I hear ya dude. I got yer back.”

Starting with Step 1, Kole laid the parts out. With each part, I would move it into what appeared to be a semblance of organized order. The packets of screws and small parts were lined up side-by-side. Small boards and metal parts were placed in an area nearby. I not only looked very busy, but it appeared I even had an organizational scheme.

Then the actual construction began. I would hand boards and screws to Kole, hovering near him as he put them together. If I didn’t know which part he needed next, I would pick up a random piece and say something like, “This will be a fun piece to get into place.” As I did that, Kole would grab the piece he needed. I suppose that move may have fallen under the “Old Bait & Switch” category of illusion. It was unnecessary since our small audience (wife and stepdaughter), had lost interest in watching our mundane activities, like screwing two boards together, and was organizing DVDs and placing them in storage boxes in anticipation of the vast storage space the completed entertainment center offered. But I still opted to continue the ruse, even if it were only statements made to give the impression I was actively engaged in the project.

Eventually the new entertainment center began to take shape. My “assistant” was making great progress, and if I’d had any expertise by which I could use to measure his abilities, I would have been able to state rather glowingly, “Wow Kole, you’re really flying through this project.” But I simply couldn’t, in order to prevent myself from giving away the DDIY tactic. It was unfortunate, though; he was doing a wonderful job!

Suddenly, my presence was needed by Mary. As Allie had decided DVD sorting was not her thing, she’d moved into our space and was watching. Actually, she’d started helping Kole, thus erasing the small activities I’d been relying on to perpetrate the ruse. While she never said anything, nor gave any looks of outright recognition, I’m pretty sure she’d seen through my DDIY efforts. I will be forever indebted to her betrayal resistance.

My wife, who was painting the section of the wall that had been hidden by the old entertainment center, needed me to move drop cloths, a job of which I was more than reasonably adept. “Do you need to go back and finish,” she queried at one point. Calmly but with a high level of confidence I whispered, “Nawww. Let Kole finish things; you know, let him feel the pride of getting the job done.”

Okay, now I’m sure many of you are thinking badly of me. DDIY is, at its base, a deception. I agree. But before you pass negative judgment on me, let me finish.

Within a few short minutes, Kole and Allie came in and announced “We’re done.” Mary and I walked to the other room, and there it stood, in all it’s glory, looking sturdy enough to hold a VW Beetle. Nothing had been placed wrong side up (bookcase project of mine gone bad). Parts that needed to stay in place stayed. Pieces that were supposed to move did just that. It was brilliant.

“Good job Kole,” I said. I turned to Mary ready to make a full confessional. It was totally unnecessary. The look on her face, and ensuing remark, “Yep, Koley did a great job” revealed what she’d known all along — my DIY project had been DDIY. She’d known I was never going to Do It Myself, but rather was destined for Not Doing It Myself.

But even if I didn’t actually do it, after having watched Kole easily move through the steps, never once stumbling over confusing directions or getting grounded by putting a piece on wrong, I can confidently say, I could have done it. I admit, I was frightened into DDIY by the large number of small parts, a fear heightened by the thought that had I tackled it, and completed it, the dang thing would have been less-than-sturdy and our 52″ flatscreen TV would have come crashing down on the glass shelving.

My conclusion: DIY doesn’t mean “Do It Yourself.” It means having the patience to follow the directions step-by-step, then double checking each move; and most importantly, having the courage and confidence to try. In truth, DIY is simply IGT … I Got This!


Is One Worse?

Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team, was banned for life from any activity involving his team and the NBA because of racist remarks he acknowledged to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Sterling was also fined $2.5 million, and Silver has urged NBA team owners to force Sterling to sell his team. Sterling’s remarks, were apparently recorded by his mistress, who gave the recording to someone in the media. Those remarks were highly offensive and very, very racist.

In this day and age, some 150 years after the Civil War, my first thoughts, upon hearing the news of Sterling’s comments, were twofold: (1) Isn’t it sad that as far as humankind has progressed on this planet, especially in the last 150 years — heck, even in the last 50 years — that there are still people who are horrendously bigoted, and (2) sadly, in another 150 years, there will still be people are horrendously bigoted living and making their biases known.

As I watched the ESPN reports on the Sterling situation last night (4/29/14), I read the many tweets the sports station had received from the many stars and former stars of the league. Retired NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal was one of those whose tweet scrolled across the bottom of the screen. He praised the commissioner for his action, and then voiced his view that the NBA was for everybody.

His words seem quite shallow considering another tweet the player-turned-NBA-broadcaster sent out to his 600,00+ followers. O’Neal shared side-by-side photos of a 23-year-old who lives with ectodermal dysplasias, a rare condition that causes reduced ability to sweat, missing teeth, and fine, sparse hair, and himself making a face that looks something like mockery of the other man’s photo. The cruel, taunting tweet was later pulled from O’Neal’s account.

But many O’Neal followers saw it and voiced negative opinions. No wait, let’s call it what it truly is — bullying. Cyber-bullying.

So I wonder: Is what Shaquille O’Neal did to that one man with a condition that afflicts one in 5,000-10,000 babies any different than what Donald Sterling said about black people? Sterling is banned from the NBA for his racist remarks and attitude. What kind of punishment should Shaquille O’Neal receive for being a cyber-bully?

Okay, O’Neal has since publicly apologized. Sterling’s not said a thing about his racist statements or his punishment — as of yet. His legal eagles have apparently said they are going to sue to have the punishment overturned.

But honestly, what makes Shaq’s offensive tweet any less-worse than Sterling’s comments? Why is it when someone does something that, in the view of the majority of folks, an apology seems to smooth it over? Isn’t it time to start levying harsh punishment against those who show their biases openly?

Shaquille O’Neal mocked a disabled person. The 23-year-old man shrugged it off by saying he is used to people making fun of him — something he’s had to deal with all his life. But that doesn’t excuse what Shaq did. And his apology doesn’t suddenly erase the piece of his brain that pushed him to make fun of the young man’s looks and disability. If it’s in him to mock someone who looks different than he, what will stop him from doing it again. Oh sure, some PR firm will try and teach Shaq how to act more responsibly when he’s in public, but will his mind still contain those biases?

Does Donald Sterling feel bad for having said those things he said about black people? Probably not. He probably feels bad that his remarks were recorded, or that he got caught having said them. But Sterling has shown a history of racial bias, and I doubt his banishment from the NBA will make him change his ways.

So what kind of punishment do I feel Shaq should be dealt because of his cyber-bullying? Do I feel his apology is true remorse for what he did? Do I feel he understands what his actions said to many others?

Obviously, Shaq will feel bad because he did such a hurtful thing on Twitter. But is he truly remorseful for being insensitive? Whether that young man was suffering from a condition that caused his physical deformities, or if he’d been born with those looks, doesn’t he deserve the respect of all human beings?

So is Shaquille O’Neal simply sorry that he got caught? Or did he learn a lesson in how we should treat others — with kindness and respect.

It will be interesting how Turner Broadcasting (TBS/TNT) handles this incident and Shaq. Will they remove him from their broadcast team? Golly, that would definitely hurt their ratings because folks are tuning in to listen to Shaq and Charles Barkley verbally spar during game breaks. Or will they have Shaq make an on-air apology? Or will they just let the firestorm calm down and go away? (I should note, I’ve not seen any NBA playoff broadcasts since Shaq’s incident, so if he did make an on-air statement or apology, I’ve not heard)

Racism was punished to the max. What’s cyber-bullying worth? As far as I’m concerned, there is no difference between the two. Racism is just as bad as bullying. Bullying is just as bad as racism.