Age + Experience = No Job

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I do not consider myself old.

I do, however, consider myself elderly. My joints creak and hurt sometimes. My hair and beard are a nice shade of white. I occasionally forget things (like walking from one room to another and not recalling why I made that move).

But all of those things were happening to me by the time I was 35.

My hair greyed, and eventually turned white, very early in life; it happened a lot on my mother’s side of the family so I pretty much expected it would happen to me. Shortly after I turned 23, I developed a spot of white hair near the forefront of my head. By 30 I was turning grey, and by 35 I was pretty well on my way to being a white-haired man. My mother’s hair turned white fairly early, as did her uncle’s, her grandfather’s. I suspect that if her parents had lived beyond 40, they would have seen heads of white hair. Thankfully, I dod have a reasonably thick head of hair — it’s just white.

The joints in my body, especially my legs and feet, ache; but that was anticipated since I ran thousands of miles while participating in cross country and track in high school and college. In high school, I averaged 50-75 miles of more training and racing a week. By the time I was running in college, my mileage was higher than that and I was running marathons and ultra-marathons. In college, I ran the entire season of cross country, my freshman year, with a hairline fracture in my ankle. After that season, a doctor told me, after examining the ankle shortly after I’d spent 8 weeks in a cast, “You’re going to pay for all the miles on these legs.” I am … and paying dearly.

I know I am not alone with being occasionally forgetful. It’s not so much that humans are forgetful as they simply don’t focus and listen very well. Even when the old, “A man walked into a room — and forgot why he was there,” thing happens to me when I am all alone. We’ve all done it.

I am 61 years old. As a youngster, I would have categorized someone that age as “old.” Aging has never bothered me, as far as my attitude is concerned. Adding a year to our age every 365 days is just a part of life. I truly believe each person in this world is “only as old as you feel.” Some days I feel really old. Some days I feel pretty young. Most days, I feel 61.

But in this past year, I felt more and more “older” — but in a way different than standard aging.

In January 2014, I sold the two weekly newspapers I’d owned and operated for 37 years. I’d gotten married a couple months prior to the sale, and moved in with my new wife in a town new to me. My initial intent was to be semi-retired. I was only 60 at the time I made the move, too young to actually retire, so I decided I would substitute teach as a means of income. I thought about doing some freelance writing, too. But I wasn’t planning on working full-time.

Well …. I got bored.

The substitute teaching kept me marginally busy. I picked up a few freelance writing gigs, but to be honest, my heart wasn’t into writing. I needed some time away from journalism, so I pretty much stopped writing except for an occasional blog.

Last summer, I picked up a seasonal job as a grounds maintenance person at a research farm near my new home town. I enjoyed working at the farm. I did a lot of mowing, trimming, and tree pruning, but I also did a decent amount of general farm work. I learned a tremendous amount about farming and experimental farming.

In the fall of 2014, I went back to the substitute teaching gig, opening the school year with a long-term sub job for the first eight weeks of the school year. Once that was done, I returned to the farm for a month to help with the harvest. Once that job ended, I got another long-term sub job that took me until the end of the first semester.

But from mid-spring 2014 to the present, I was and have been applying for full-time jobs. Not just any jobs, mind you, but jobs I felt were in my field of expertise — writing, editing, marketing, public relations, and photography. I should mention, in the 1980s and 90s, while operating my newspapers, I took on other full-time jobs. For five years I was the sports editor for an area daily newspaper, then for six years, I worked for a local hospital in their public relations and marketing department. So when I say I have experience and expertise in areas mentioned above, I speak the truth.

To date, I have applied for 30 jobs. Some of the jobs I admit were perhaps a bit of a reach when talking about my “fit” for the position, but in each case, I felt I had the ability and/or experience to do the job. And to date, I have been called in for one interview; and that was for a job I was probably the least qualified. And I got TWO interviews for that job before being told they were “going in another direction.” Well actually, they never contacted me after the second interview (rather tacky if you ask me).

Now I can’t say my age has worked against me — I have no proof. Perhaps some of those potential employers looked at my resume and felt I was either over-qualified, or my vast experience would place me in a salary range too high for their budgets. I have no proof I was discriminated against either because of my age or experience.

But I was never invited to come in to discuss the jobs!

In one situation, a marketing job for a winery that was opening an office in a second location, the job description nearly screamed my name. They wanted good writing and editing skills. Journalism or English degree was preferred, not to mention experience in advertising and/or marketing. Didn’t even get an email back telling me they were or weren’t interested. Nothing. I did, however, see a Facebook post a couple months later (I had “liked” their Facebook site because I was familiar with their wine, and liked it), with a photo of a group of people with the caption, “Meet our new (office location) staff.” No one in the photo was over the age of 30. I’m no rocket scientist, but the photo told me I had been too old to be considered.

With each letter or email rejecting my candidacy for a job that I felt I was qualified to do, my self-esteem slipped a notch. Sometimes I got no reply at all (that just seems tacky to me; at the very least tell me you’ve dropped me from consideration). I try not to let it bother me; the degree of “bother” is usually affixed to my desire/interest in the job. Sometimes I feel I am quite qualified for the job, or it seems like it would be a position I would really enjoy; those hurt the most.

My wife keeps saying one of two things: (1) “If they would just visit with you, they would see what kind of person you are,” and (2) “Don’t worry, something is going to pop up.”

The thing is, if they would call me in for an interview, I would have the chance not only to show them my outgoing, friendly personality, but I could allay whatever fears they might have that I am either looking for a monstrous salary or will retire in 3-5 years, or both. I could tell them my plans, which include working until my wife reaches retirement age (8-9 years from now) and that, while I don’t want to devalue myself nor literally give my skills away, I am willing to work for a reasonable salary, one that would allow me to pay household bills and pad my retirement savings.

I feel I am quite reasonable in both my years of work and pay desire.

But without an interview, I have no opportunity to address those concerns.

The last two job applications I submitted, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I included a paragraph in my letter of application, telling about my work plans and my salary desires. I figured what have I got to lose; perhaps that paragraph will inspire an interview. We’ll see; those letters went out in the last week.

However, while I have no way of proving my suspicions have any validity, it seems rather obvious that potential employers are ignoring my skills in favor of hiring younger candidates whom they can pay less money or who is, unlike me, not under 61 and doesn’t have a bevy of experience.

In school, my forte was not math. But I am pretty sure I know what age + experience adds up to. Nothing.

Feeding Birds And People

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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.

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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.

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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.

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DDIY

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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 ….”

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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!

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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.

My Lawn’s a Conundrum

My calendar says it’s springtime in Middle America.

Winter’s been an obstinate bitch,

refusing to let go, hanging around well beyond desire.

I stare out at a patchwork of green and brown.

“Is it time,” I wonder. “Is it lawn care season?”

 

April is noxiously nervy, an anxious time of year.

Taxes are due. Track meets are few. Sporadic dew.

Summer peeks, teasing with fleeting flecks of warmth.

And grass slips silently from its frosty coffin of dormancy.

I stare intently out my window and wonder, wishing, willing.

 

An agronomist I am not.

My lawn, like horses I have ridden, knows who’s in charge.

Demonizing me with those brown, deadened splotches.

I want to race forth and feverishly fertilize, fastidiously.

Like bears emerging from hibernation, my grass seeks food.

 

But I know little, understand less, of a lawn’s deepest desires.

What granular feed formulates a formula best fed?

When is the ideal time for its annual meal, what time of day?

Questions swirl in my head, answers find nowhere to rest.

I seek a solution to infuse my grass with a proper dilution.

 

I find my thoughts coursing with how little I know.

So I yank the shades shut, and turn from the dismal view.

A job best done by others, one I’ll not tackle today.

The lawn’s on its own, famine or feast, not from me.

My grass will revive, only if the region receives rain.

Angry Bird

Well actually, it’s two birds who are apparently angry with my car. And if I am going to be technically and specifically correct, they are not angry at my car as a whole, but with the passenger side rearview mirror. And in truth, I am guessing they are angry with that which they see in the mirror. They see themselves in the reflection of the mirror, and thus, are angry with themselves.

Only apparently they don’t know it’s them.Image

I have to assume these two sparrows, who I am fairly certain have anger management issues, have taken up residence somewhere  in our front yard, and most importantly, within eyesight of my car. My poor innocent Jeep Patriot has incited within these two sparrows, something akin to Hatfields and McCoys tension. Obviously, whenever my little silver Jeep is parked in the driveway (our two-car garage isn’t big enough for our family’s three vehicles, so I voluntarily park near the end of the driveway so my wife and step-daughter can park in the garage. It’s really not as noble as it sounds; I arrived to the household last, so the two stalls had already been claimed and I felt no urgency to park in the garage since I’d never parked in a garage at previous residences. Plus I just felt it was the right thing to do, letting the “fairer” sex of our family unit have the comfort of the garage — that’s the noble part. But I digress)

I’ve not noticed that it happens every time my vehicle is parked in its usual location near the end of the driveway (I park there to enable my wife to get out of her stall of the garage since she goes to work earlier than I do; she can maneuver around my car, therefore not having to wake me early just to get me to move my car). But on at least four occasions, I have seen these two pint-sized feathered fellows (well, it could be a male and female couple, or a gang of males — yeah, two is a rather sickly gang) making mean toward the passenger side rearview mirror.

And they aren’t shy about demonstrating their hate for that mirror. One time, I got into my car (on the driver’s side) and some action caught my peripheral vision, so I looked at that side of the car. There were those two sparrows going all … uhhh … Angry Birds … on the mirror. I sat there astounded that (1) my entrance into the car hadn’t frightened them away, and (2) that their attacks on that innocent mirror were quite vicious.

But as I watched from my car, and, as I watched three other times from my kitchen, it is pretty obvious those two birds are very, very angry. And their anger is directed toward that mirror. However, I have concluded that their anger is directed toward that which they see in the mirror. And that which they see is themselves.

Only they don’t know it.

At least I don’t think they do. It could be some bizarre ritualistic flagellation that exists within the sparrow species. Perhaps they feel the need to peck and scratch at themselves anytime they see their reflection. I guess it’s possible, I mean, who am I to profess to understand nature.

It is not a continual attacking by both birds. Rather, as one perches along the passenger side window, the other crashes itself at the mirror. The one launching the attack flutters fast and furiously, pecking its beak at the mirror. Sometimes its feet rise up in an attempt to claw at the mirror. But then, as quickly and intensely as an attack takes place, it stops. The attacking sparrow lights atop the mirror casing and rests.

But the rest only last seconds, as the anger-stoked bird bends forward, eyes the mirror, and then drops down, again fluttering madly, and repeats its attacking actions.

IMG_1138I also noticed that the car does not have to be parked at then end of the driveway in order to become a victim. Oh no. Twice now, the car has been parked up near the garage. Those pesky little birds swoop down from wherever they are stationed, and let loose with a fury matched only by Hell. And let me tell you, Hell hath no fury like a sparrow scorned — or at least a sparrow who thinks it is being scorned.

It has become my theory that the sparrow the attacking sparrows see in the mirror represents a threat. As it seems as though one of the two sparrows is the primary attacker, I am theorizing that the Jeep-jamming sparrows are a couple. And since one of this couple does most of the attacking — possibly all of it as, well, sparrows do tend to look alike or at least have differentiating differences so minute they are really difficult to tell apart — I am thinking the attacking sparrow is the male. And he is attacking the mirror sparrow as a show of machoism and to maintain his manly appearance. In other words, dude’s got a woman and he ain’t about to let her think he ain’t manly — in a bird sort of way.

So each time my Jeep is parked in our driveway, that male sparrow sees the mirror, and assumes his rival is sitting on the other side of the cover. So he dives out of the nesting locale, and proceeds to pummel the rival for his fair maiden’s affections.

But what make this whole aerial dance of maleocincrity take on an air of humor, is this little bird doesn’t realize he’s beating a reflective image of himself. He literally does not realize his rival is himself. He doesn’t know its him.

He’s beating himself up.

I fear this fine feathered fanatic is going to wear himself out, if not kill himself, with his tough guy act. I mean, my Jeep isn’t going anywhere. It will be parked there every day and every night. So if that little Arnold Sparrowennager keeps attacking my car’s mirror, he’s got a real long spring ahead of him. He will be too worn out from beating himself up that he won’t be able to go hunt food for his youngsters. He will be so tired, he will keep falling asleep in the nest each night, leading to a rather frustrated Mrs. Sparrow.

I confess, I am a bit worried about my Jeep’s attacker. Other than a few random droppings on the passenger door and mirror cover, courtesy of that poor pooped pecker, my car is showing no signs of damage. If the mirror could, I’d bet it would laugh at the little sparrow. I considered parking the Jeep out in the street, or in the alleyway behind our house, in hopes the mirror mixup would mildly melt away.

But I have decided to do nothing. It is nature. It is the nature of courtship, the statement-making, the billowing bravado of a bird-brained … ummmm … bird. If it is that sparrow’s lot in life to go around challenging car mirrors, just as Don Quixote challenged windmills, then I shall step back, clear the battlefield, and let the best man … errr … bird … or mirror … win. I actually imagined a day in the future, when the little sparrow might find himself lying on a bird psychologist’s couch, beating himself up over spending so much time beating himself up.

Like I said … it’s nature. And nature gets screwed up once in a while. I feel bad that I cannot do anything about this Angry Bird. I just hope someday soon, he realizes that getting angry solves nothing. Angry Birds just need to step back, recognize the futility of their actions, and become Happy Birds.

Yes indeed … let’s add some Happy Birds. Why don’t we give ourselves some Happy Birds. Happy, happy birds.