LOVE IT or LEAVE IT

If you follow my blogs you know I can be very critical of Americans.  They don’t keep up with what’s going on, they excuse themselves for ignoring injustice, they don’t appreciate what they have.  On first impression it appears I am anti-American and don’t like anything about it.  I would like to address that issue.

I LOVE AMERICA AND AMERICANS.

This is the greatest country in the world and that’s why so many want to come here.  Our government is for the people and by the people, even though it doesn’t work perfectly.  America values diversity and we will fight for it, even tough it still doesn’t exist.  American’s are some of the most caring and giving people in the world, even though they don’t follow what is happening in the world around them.  Americans embrace other cultural heritages and celebrate them, even when prejudice still exists.

I could go on and on with what makes America great.  Americans are compassionate and giving. They just need a reminder once in a while. Look at people reaching out during the hurricane.  Last week we remembered 9/11. I remember the months following that horrific tragedy.  Americans came together from all races, religions and every lifestyle.  We were one.

So why am I so critical of this great Nation?  Because I want MORE!  America is the best country on this planet. Because it is, because American citizens are the best I have confidence we can be better.  I want an even better Country for my children and grandchildren.

America is not the land or the buildings.  America is the people, and because of that will never reach perfection. People are flawed.  They make mistakes. People will never be perfect. But if we unite and agree on what perfection is and strive toward that goal, what kind of country would we be?

I just want to do God’s will and he has led me to the mountain top, and I have seen the promise land.”

This is an exert from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech the day before he was assassinated. The journey over that mountain is long and difficult.  It will take time, work and cooperation with one another.  But the promise land is that perfection we should seek. The promise land is a place where everyone and everything has value.  It is a land where everyone appreciates what they have.  America has been slowly climbing that mountain for 242 years.  Our forefathers saw the promise land.  They gave us a map to get there.

The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are empowered by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….

So when you hear me rant and rave about injustice and shortcomings I feel are not right in this Country, understand it comes from a deep love for this America. The Blogs are me shouting “get back on track,”, “Follow the map”.  “We will all get to the promise Land.”  Dr. King said in his speech “I may not be alive to join you there”, how ironic that he was gunned down the following day.  I will probably not be there to join you either but I am having a beautiful journey up the mountain to get there.  My children and grandchildren may.  And for that it is  journey worth taking.

JUST SAYING…..

TODD

 

 

That’s the Way It Is

Said Hey little boy you can’t go where the others go

cause you don’t look like they do”

Standing in line, making time waiting on the welfare dime’

Cause they can’t buy a job

The man in the silk suit hurries by

as he catches the poor old ladies eyes

just for fun he says, get a job”

“That’s just the way it is

Some things never change”

 

That is from Bruce Hornsby’s “That’s the Way it is”.

This is an old favorite of mine I haven’t heard for a while.

“That’s just the way it is”  “Some things never change”

Last week I wrote about our disengagement from daily life, allowing others to determine our future.

Worse than that, is our laziness in accepting things as they are and not standing up for what we know is right.

“That is just the way it is.”  We know it’s not right but we don’t want to stand up and say no.  It’s just the way it is allows us to blame someone else.  Whether its equal treatment of others different from us, poverty, abuse or any of the other injustices our society accepts, we find it easier to say that’s the way it is.  We absolve ourselves from not making an effort to stand up for what we know is right.

This is worse than those who condone the injustice.  At least they are honest.  Excusing injustice by accepting it as the way things are does nothing to right the injustice and is dishonest.  It is a result of laziness, apathy and selfishness.  If it doesn’t impact you, it’s okay.

We argue that we are ONE person and we can’t change anything.  All change starts with one person.  Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Dr. King, Abraham Lincoln.  They all gave a voice to injustice.  They didn’t accept things as the way they are.  They set themselves up for persecution, standing up for what they knew was right.

It is a matter of personal character.  What are you willing to accept?  What are you willing to make excuses and not accept responsibility for.  It is a reflection of your character.

Next time you experience an injustice, what are you going to do?

Just Saying……

TODD

Who Is In Charge?

I’ve checked out!  Like millions of others I have checked out of current events.

I can’t tell you the last time I have read a newspaper or watched a network news program.  I listen to satellite radio with no news.  Unless a meteor was headed directly for earth I probably haven’t heard about it.  (I do keep up with my Sooners and St Louis Cardinals and I keep up with weather on the internet).

Newspaper readership has been declining since 1990 and is at its lowest point ever tied with 1940.  Only 42% of Americans claim to watch a nightly network news program.  That is down from 60% in 1993 and is still declining.  I hear people claiming they follow the news on the web.  Really?  I don’t think snippets on Facebook really constitute the news.

Why have I “Opted Out”?  Several reasons.  Partisan politics has become a joke.  I think they have all decided that doing nothing is the best course of action and find little solutions.  The gridlock caused by partisan politics has become comical if it weren’t for the importance of their jobs. I’m tired of hearing about the senseless killing and robberies, the drug epidemic and everything else leading us to the abyss according to the anchor person.  I’m just tired of it all.  Then there is the fact that the media tends to spend too much time and effort tracking what the “stars” are doing.  Really?  Like I care about their lives.  I have my own.

The media itself has joined in the political partisan games.  The same story heard on CNBC is completely different when heard on FOX.  They constantly show their political biased and lead us to doubt the validity in anything they say.  Was Walter Cronkite biased or did he just gives us “That’s the way it is”?  I don’t need them to tell me how I should feel about the story, just tell me the facts of the story and I can decide for myself.

So I checked out.  No paper, no nightly news, and not much faith in Facebook for anything.  They say that knowledge is power.  When you know what is going on you can influence it.  So that leads to my question;

WHO IS LEFT TO RUN THINGS?

If everyone has checked out and do not what is going on, who does know it and is running things?  We are supposedly governed by “The People” but most of us don’t know what’s happening around us.  Are we qualified to make decisions?  Is Facebook in charge?  Is the morsels of news they decide to feed us, driving the herd of humanity down the path?   The world continues to grow smaller and ever more complicated and we expect to run it based on news highlight on Facebook.  Over the past 240 years, Americans have fought and died so we may have the privilege of self govern.  They laid down their lives so that we can make decisions for our future.  We become less and less qualified to self govern.

So what is the answer?  Do we go back to biased news sources and believe their content?  Do we find safety in blindly following a herd being led by people we do not know?

I don’t know the answers but I do know our current path leads no where we want to go.

Who is left in charge??

 

Just Saying….

TODD

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

 

Happy Birthday to me

Happy Birthday to me

Happy Birthday dear me

Happy Birthday to me

It is my “47th” Birthday (okay 57th, but who’s counting).

It amazes me how each year seems to come faster and faster.

I have a theory on that.  I’ll call it Todd’s Theory of Relativity”!  (What?  That’s already been used?)

Okay.  Then let’s go with “Todd’s Theory of Why Time Seems to Go Faster and Faster as We Get Older and Older”

Kinda catchy, ha?

Here it goes. Everything, including time is relative to some reference point we have.  If you tell me something is 6 foot tall I imagine it is close to the same height I am.  If you tell me it is a foot long I imagine a Sonic 6 foot Coney(Not really.  I imagine a ruler, but the coney is a far better visual).  Anyway, you get the picture.  We compare things to references we have in our heads.  So what about time?  Why does it move faster?  Think of the visual we have to compare it to.  At age 4, a year is a quarter of our lives to that point.  One quarter.  That’s a significant amount of time.  At age 25, a years is 1/25th of our lives.  Not quite as a significant amount of time.  At 57, one year is 1/57th of our lives.  Can you imagine a pie cut into 57 slices and you only get one.  I think you would probably ask for seconds.  Relatively, one year becomes a smaller portion of our life each year, thus it feels like a shorter and shorter span of time. “Todd’s Theory of Why Time Seems to Go Faster and Faster as We Get Older and Older”

So.  57.  At the actual time of my birth (have to check with Mom on that one) on August 26th, 2018 I will have lived for 1,743,379,200 seconds.  1.7 billion seconds.  Now I REALLY want to know where time went.  How many did I waste? How many times have I said “That’s an hour I’ll never get back”.  How many of those seconds were spent waiting in line for Magic Mountain at Disneyland (Not sure that is wasted, but regardless it was worth it).  how many of the 1.7 billion seconds were spent sitting, thinking of what I needed to do without doing it?  How many were spent complaining about something I didn’t get to do instead of going out and doing something I could do.  How many of those seconds were spent brooding, mad at someone when you could have said, I’m sorry and spend time enjoying their company.  I think you get my point.

I am relatively sure my time ahead is less than my time behind me.  I have no plans of living until I am 114 years old. ( That might change as I get closer to that number).  I have lived over half of my life, 1,743,379,200 seconds and have no idea how many were wasted but more than I would like.  Most of you have heard the song, “Live like you were dying”, by Tie McGraw.  I feel certain I will not spend 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu and maybe nothing else in that song BUT I need to waste less of the billion plus seconds I hope I still have left.  What constitutes wasting time is a personal matter.  Things I feel are productive you may see as a waste of time and vice versa. The good thing is the only person I have to answer to is myself.  The bad thing is the only person I have to answer to is myself, I can be my worst critic.

So here are a few things I am committing to this year on my birthday:

  • I will spend less time getting mad and judging others behaviors and more time enjoying their company. ESPECIALLY MY WIFE and SON.
  • I will plan an overnight outing with my wife every month.
  • I will continue to improve my parenting skills with my autistic son.
  • I will spend more time with all of my grown children.
  • I will appreciate and cherish the time I spend with my mom.
  • I will continue to learn and grow in my job.
  • I will play my guitar and piano more.
  • I will practice until I can accurately shoot at 300 yards.

That’s a good start.  Every additional second I spend on any of these is one less wasted second in the future.

How many seconds did you waste today? (No, taking a nap when you are tired isn’t wasting time). How about in the past week?  Figure out what percent of your time you feel you waste.  Multiply your age X 365 X 24 X 60 X 60.  Multiply that by the percent you came up with and see how many seconds you have wasted.  Then, determine what is important to you, what you need to do and what you like doing and try focusing on those.  See how many seconds you can save in your future.  Regardless of what age we live to, we all only have so many seconds in our lives.  Don’t wait until the last one to realize how many you wasted.

 

JUST SAYING…..

Todd

 

 

 

Welcome Home

A friend of mine just returned from a trip to Indiana.  He went there to participate in a recreation of a helicopter troop insertion from the Vietnam War.  They had several restored, Vietnam era helicopters including a Huey gunship.  It’s the actual Huey my friend served on in Vietnam.  He was a crew chief and door gunner on this very helicopter.  They sent me videos of the recreation.  Wow!  You could almost imagine what they endured.

I admire everyone that serves our country, but have a special fondness for those from Vietnam.  They were so under appreciated and sacrificed so much.  These slick and gunship teams voluntarily faced death almost daily.  When they heard the calls for help they responded.  No matter how hot the LZ (landing zone) they went because their brothers were in trouble.  They landed in places the slicks (troop carrying Huey helicopter) didn’t fit, under a hail of bullets, rockets, grenades and artillery, but they went in.  The gunships orbited the area, drawing fire off the slicks and returning fire to protect those trapped on the ground.  They intentionally DREW FIRE to themselves!

I asked my friend how he did it.  How do you knowingly face death and still fly into the jaws of hell?  He brushed off the question replying, “We were just too young and stupid to realize we were mortal.  I think it was something more.

My friend, after leaving the Army became a firefighter, you know the people who run toward danger instead of away from it.  Many veterans end up as first responders.  These people have a special genetic makeup.  It’s not the adrenaline rush.  It’s a unique need to help those that can’t help themselves.  It’s not that they are unafraid.  They are afraid.  They know their job is dangerous. They are heroes.  A hero isn’t someone who is unafraid.  A hero is someone who IS afraid and does it anyway.   The helicopter crews and soldiers from Vietnam were heroes.

The videos he sent me peaked my interest, so I plowed into YouTube looking for actual video from Vietnam.  I was surprised how many I found.  One of the best was from and infantry soldier shot from his new video camera.  He highlighted the trip out on the slick and the gun ships protecting them.  He showed the slicks dropping them off and picking up the troops they were relieving.  It was a great video and gave you a taste of what these young men experienced.  Several scenes from the video were used by the History Channel.  At the end of his movie, he asked for one thing from the viewers.  He asked that when they met a Vietnam Vet, they welcome them home.  They never received the parades and accolades prior vets had.  They were criticized, ridiculed and ignored.  

The Vietnam war was not supported by the general public.  The war was directed and controlled by politicians not the military.  The politicians lost the war.  Americans do not support losers.  The public wanted to forget the war.  None of these “reasons” had anything to do with the brave men that sacrificed so much.  They served because their country called (and in some cases demanded).  They lived in horrible conditions, with constant fear and risked their lives to protect their fellow soldiers.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice.  They deserved to be welcomed home by an embracing, grateful country.  It never happened.

Fast forward to the following morning.   I am at the shooting range early in the morning.  There were only two of us there at the time.  We talked and became acquainted.  A third gentleman showed up and began talking with my new buddy.  I overheard them talking.  The man talked about his time in the Marines in Vietnam as a sniper.  Last night’s video  pops in my mind.  I walked down to him and said I heard him talking about his time in Vietnam.  I stuck out my hand and said “WELCOME HOME and THANK YOU”.  He gripped my hand firmly and shook with a surprised look in his eyes. His face turned to a look of sincere appreciation as he thanked me. I had a new friend.

It’s not too late.  They haven’t forgotten the sacrifices they made. They haven’t forgotten their friends that never made the trip home.  Neither should we.  I ask that you, when meeting a Vietnam Vet, stick your hand out, say “Welcome Home, Thank You”.  They deserve it and it will mean so much to them.  I imagine you will feel pretty good also.

 

Just Saying……

TODD

Fooling Yourself

 

I love music!  It has always been an important aspect of my life, of my passion.  When I am not able to listen to music, the song writers and musician stay with me as songs randomly pop into my head.

As I sat down here this morning, Tommy Shaw of Styx decided to join me.

“You see the world through your cynical eyes

You’re a troubled young man I can tell

You’ve got it all in the palm of your hand

But you hand’s wet with sweat and your head needs a rest ….” 

(Fooling Yourself, Styx, The Grand illusion album, 1977, written by Tommy Shaw)

“I Need…”  “Why Can’t I Get …”  “If I Could Only Have …”  “I Want…”

For some “IT” is never enough.  The quest for “IT” is their life.  “IT” is that one thing that would make life perfect, will make them happy.  They spend all of their time seeking those things they don’t have.  It is a constant, never-ending quest for that which they will never find.  They will never find “IT” because the only place they don’t look for “IT” is right in front of their face.  It is at their reach and they already have “IT” in the palm of their hand.  They just don’t stop long enough to see “IT”.

It’s amazing how those with so little seem so much happier than those with so much.  They are not blinded by so much piled in front of them that they can see “IT” right in front of them.  They appreciate what they do have and do not waste their time seeking that which they already have.  Without spending all of their energy on the “Grand Illusion” they find peace and happiness with that which they already have.

How can you be such an angry young man

When your future looks quite bright to me

How can there be such a sinister plan

That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man

For those that do seek the Grand Illusion, the “IT” they will never find, they become angry.

“They have “IT’,      why can’t I?”,     “It’s not fair”    “I deserve “IT”

The anger builds.  their frustration takes hold of their mind and they are convinced others have “IT” already. They become resentful of others they perceive as having “IT”  They are too blind to see that “IT” is the Illusion.  “IT” is a chameleon, constantly changing to hide itself in their current life.  When they obtain “IT” they find that “IT” has changed it colors and moved out of their reach again.  “IT’ didn’t change their lives.  “IT” was not the answer so they move on to the next quest, like a hamster in  cage.  Always running to, and never reaching there.

At some point, as they near the end of this journey we call life, they reflect and see all they missed chasing the Grand Illusion”.  We all have a limited time here on this Earth.  Regardless of how long, all of our time will end at some point.  Imagine realizing that your journey is coming to end, and that your relentless quest for “IT” was the only thing that prevented you from having “IT”

As you plan out your day, thinking of all of the things you are going to do in your quest of “IT”, STOP!  Stop and reflect on what you have, what you have in the palm of your hand.  Those who surround you and support you.  The magic in the things that happen everyday like a sunrise or a sunset.  Instead of lamenting what doesn’t work or what you don’t have, think of the amazing world that you live.

You may find that you have been FOOLING YOURSELF and that the Grand Illusion is just that.

Just Saying……

TODD

 

THE JOURNEY

I have been gone on a long journey for the past eight months.  This is the first new post to this blog since December of 2017.

Just like Commander Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, I have traveled through time. TIME!  I have visited the past and the future.  Many dream of the ability to travel through time.  I have accomplished it.  I found that we all have the ability to travel through time.  I have also discovered that you should be careful what you wish for.  Time travel isn’t what one thinks.

Several things contributed to my departure from the here and now.  I lost my father last November. I didn’t realize how traumatic his loss would be to my future.  My son is autistic and a handful to parent.  The demands of raising him are immediate and never-ending.  Business has been challenging recovering from three years of recession.  For the first time in my career I can say work wasn’t fun.  My problems are not unique.  Many others have far greater challenges in their lives.  The key is how you deal with the challenges.

My life, day in and day out could be described as turmoil.  At home, with my son was (and still is) exhausting.  My wife and I have to be on top of him 24-7.  5 minutes out of sight could bring unimaginable results.  It never stops.  He has enough energy to power New York.  His mind is constantly driving him to new adventures that usually result in work for my wife and myself.  He is constantly taking apart, moving and revising everything.  It is liking riding a carousel that never stops. I feel like I am in the movie “Ground Hog Day” and can’t find the solution to move forward.

At work it is one challenge after another.  Trying to recover from a bad financial situation caused by the recession.  You address one thing and start to feel like you are making progress just to be faced with a different challenge.  As we muddle through the financial issues we have new work coming in at a fever pace (a problem every business would like to have).  The problem is we can’t get all the work out on time.  After three years of depressed sales it is challenging to gear back up to handle the volume.  All of it leads to constant challenges and frustrations.  I spend my day reacting to crisis after crisis.

I am an only child.  I had no brothers or sisters to share my parents attention.  I am very close to both of them.  My father was my role model in almost every aspect of my life.  I didn’t have the list of things my parents did that I would never do.  Dad and I are very similar.  Anyone who knew us both commented on it.  My standard in my life was my father, as a husband, a parent and in work ethic.  He was my rock.  Someone I knew I could always turn to.  He was also my friend.  I loved the time that he and I hung out together.  To say he is a positive influence in my life would be a great understatement.

I was trying to find how to move forward with a big part of my daily life missing, while dealing with turmoil at work and home.  I felt trapped with nowhere to turn.

My Answer?  Time Travel.

I journeyed back in the past with my father.  I turned back the clock and dwelled on what the world was like with Dad in it.  I flipped back the calendar pages to hear his voice.  Nothing significant just every day life with him.  Time sitting back with dad as my wife and mom are deep in conversation, each of us half paying attention and throwing in the occasional smart ass remark.  It was the way life was supposed to be yet it was something that would no longer be.  Instead of looking for what life was supposed to be without him, I preferred to go back and visit the way life was.

With work and my son I journeyed into the future.  What if “this” happens?  How re going to handle “that” if it happens? I spent all of my time worrying about things that hadn’t happened and most likely would never happen.  I envisioned things at their worst and how it would impact my life.  I gave up on working to make things better and accepted how they were and saw a future that was beyond my control.

Their was no positive outlook or passion for life. There was only lament over a past that would never be again and worry over a future that would probably never develop.  This is what is clinically called depression.  I was so lost in the past and the future that I lost my contact with everything the present had to offer.  My wife said I had become someone different and she wanted her “Toddy” back.  I had left on a journey that no one could join me.    Everyone was asking if I was “okay”.  They all realized Todd had left.  I was in places at the far edges of time and I couldn’t find my way back.

I needed help.

I decided to see a psychiatrist I knew.  He understood my current situation and what my life was like.  He told me that I was not unique.  Several people traveled the same journey I was on without knowing the way back.  He said he could help me get back.  Through the wonderful world of chemistry he prescribe me Zoloft.  The doctor said it would just take the edges off and help me find my way back to my home in the present.

IT WORKED!  I’M BACK!

I’m home and enjoying the now and the incredible life I have.  I am appreciating all of the things life has blessed me with and enjoying what is in front of me, here and now.  I have my sense of humor back (which many probably never missed).  I remember how to appreciate the little things.  I am enjoying time with this fantastic kid who is my son.  I am having fun with my wife.  I love my job and have fun making things happen.  I am appreciating that I still have my mom and figuring how to move forward without dad physically here with me.

I have taken back “control” over my life, as much as I can.  I can smile at warm memories of my dad as part of the here and now.  I look at the possibilities both positive and negative for the future and use them to shape the present without jumping to conclusion and worrying about that which has not happened yet.  I am back from my journey with a new appreciation for the moment I am in.

My wife has her Toddy back.

Just Saying……

Todd

Crankshaft Cowboys

peoplemover

I actually saw one once, one of those Crankshaft Cowboys.  It was years ago.

My grandfather and I were walking long the express link. Smart Cars were silently gliding past when I startled by a distant rumble.  It was like nothing I had ever heard but I was captivated.  It was almost a sound that you could feel deep inside and it made my skin tingle.  The rumble grew as if some sort of monster was closing in on us.

The rumble continued to grow as the beast approached.  The growl seem to grow to a crescendo and then hesitate, and begin to build again.  It wasn’t a feeling of fear but of anticipation I felt.  What could it be.  I looked up at my grandfather and you could see excitement in his eyes. He strained to look down the link to catch a glimpse at the approaching beast.  He was focused and the hint of a mile was growing across his face.  Without diverting his eyes from the link he told me to watch down the link.  I would soon see a dinosaur of modern time come to life before my eyes.  We are about to see a Crankshaft Cowboy!

I had heard of them, The Crankshaft Cowboys.  The stories and the legends were around.  They spoke of renegades, modern-day desperadoes, unwilling to give up control.  Fighting to remain in control and free.  Many believed the stories were nothing more than myths or legends.  No one could want to take the risk, to defy the law and put themselves at such great risk for something that had no benefit. They couldn’t actually exist?

As the world began to embrace the smart cars, with no risk of accident and injury, eliminate congestion and sitting in traffic, world leaders began mandating their use. Automakers were mandated to stop producing internal combustion engines in favor of the electric cars.  All new cars were to include the technology to be autonomous.  To make them affordable to everyone their design was mandated for maximum efficiency and all people movers looked identical. Prices fell and companies like GE and Maytag moved into the electric people mover market.  Retail giants like Amazon and Walmart began selling them to the masses. As prices continued to fall, everyone owned on of the new People Mover capsules.  People were free to read the paper, nap or anything they wished as they were whisked to their destinations.  Cities were able to build inexpensive lighter, elevated people mover boulevards with the reduced weight.  It seemed as if transportation change over night. Everyone owned people movers.

Everyone except the Crankshaft Cowboys.As the famous cowboys of the old west, they were rebels.  They refused to relinquish control to GPS systems, radars and computers. They refused to lose their individuality in favor of safety, convenience and economics.  The rebels had many reasons for their resistance. Some for the love of driving, the freedom and exhilaration of controlling their noisy beasts.  Some rebelled from the government controls. The worst of them believed the government would snatch control of their people mover secretly moving them to undisclosed locations for reasons unknown.

They had to beg borrow and steel to feed their hungry beast.  Many developed recipes to make their own fuel. no longer were their convenience stores with petrol at every corner. As time moved forward they had to forage for parts to keep the beast going as cars had all been crushed and recycled with the invasion of the smart car capsules.

The sound continued to grow, It was close.  The cowboy and his steel stead were very close. I caught a glimpse.  The beast sliding in and out of the people movers so sleekly.  He was moving much faster than the nondescript capsules.  He moved as if he owned the link and he was swatting the tiny people movers aside.

It had two menacing yellow eyes in front that almost appeared to glare at me. The front of the beast looked to have a smirk as it sliced through the traffic.   It was black, so black it almost appeared to be a hole in space itself.  It had two gray stripes like some kind of cat that streaked back to a glass window.

You could see the cowboy behind the glass skillfully moving a wheel back and forth urging the beast to move through the masses.  His other hand would reach down and the beast would let out a load growling growing in intensity,  then hesitate and grow again. As it roared past me I saw the brand on the cowboys steed.  It said 392 HEMI.  The cowboy looked over to me, tipped his head with a smile and then kicked the beast as it roared on.

It was a magnificent sight.

My grandfather told me the beast was a dodge Challenger SRT.  he said she was the last of her kind.  A masterpiece of both power and beauty. With a look of wishful nostalgia my grandfather explained the Cowboys never took life for granted.  They knew how to take control and be themselves.  They were the last of a generation that faced life’s challenges and didn’t wait for others to solve them.  He had a hint of a tear as the beast faded out of sight and he said they were the last of human individualism.

I wonder where they are today, that Challenger.  Is it stuck in the corner of some crumbling garage forever hidden, OR….. Is it out on the old cement highways in the opened country.  Is there still a cowboy out in the plains tearing across the country?  I hope so.  I would like to think there is still hope for us.  Maybe the cowboy will return.

This sounds like a story from a distant future, but is it?  The technology is here, NOW!  Cars can drive themselves.  If all cars were self driven we would almost alleviate accidents and congestion.  we would all have more free time as our cars drove us like personal chauffeurs.  It is coming and coming soon. 

So,  a few years ahead, as you relax in your nondescript pod, you purchased on Amazon, headed to the office make sure you look up when you hear the beast approaching.  Make sure you wave as me and my trusty steed race off to the open prairie to remain free and in control.

Just Saying……

todd

Four Simple Words

 

Early this morning, with sleep still in my eyes,  just as the soft glow of the new day was sliding over the horizon, I met an old friend.  As we met my eyes snapped opened like the shutter on a camera, the surface of my skin tightened as thousands of small bumps sprang forth, my lungs demanded air as I gasped deeply.  My old friend was winter.  The first time this season the temp was under freezing.  Half conscience, I cracked open the door for the dogs. My old friend, winter was right there to greet me. These reactions would have been startling had I not already experienced them earlier in the week.

It was Monday afternoon, at 4pm.  The work day was coming to an end as I scrambled to finish up.  My phone rang.  My initial reaction was “Great, another interruption until I saw the screen “Mom & Dad”.  Okay, that’s a welcome interruption.  “HI”,  “Todd, this is mom, dads been in a wreck.”  Those same feelings assaulted me.  Eyes snapped opened, tightening skin, gasping for a breath. The questions came pouring out, “What Happened?”  “Is he okay?”  “They’re taking him to St Francis, He couldn’t move but he is moving his legs a little now”  My mind took over and raced aheadNOT MOVING???  WHAT???  No, No, No, this is dad!  He’s fine, I’m sure.  Can’t move?  Calm Down, Calm Down,  think about mom.  You’ve got to be in control for her. After talking to my wife Cheryl, I called mom back.  “Mom, Cheryl is getting a ride to the hospital to meet the ambulance, I’m coming to get you.  You are NOT driving into Tulsa.”  “They called and told me St. Francis is on divert.  They are going to St. Johns.  they said dad can move his legs a little but not his arms.”  “Okay mom, I will be there in twenty minutes.”  Gooood, I’m finally recovering from the COLD shock and taking control. Mom needs me right now.

With mom in the car, racing back into Tulsa, Cheryl calls, “They say he is in surgery but can’t tell me for what”.  “SURGERY!” “No way, he just got their,  They couldn’t be yet”  “That’s what they are telling me, There are four other ambulances here and it’s chaos.”  I still doubt it and try to calm mom. A few minutes later the phone rings again. “He is NOT in surgery.  The Chaplin told me  they are taking him for a Cat Scan.” “I am with the Chaplin now and she is going back to get more information.”  Okay, everything is going to be fine.  Dad is not in surgery and I just know he is going to be fine.

Arriving at the hospital, we are sent to the Neurological Surgical ICU.  This should have set off alarm bells but for some reason did not.  When he finally was settled in his room we were allowed back and their was dad.  Flat on his back with one of those neck collars on.  My heart sunk seeing him there but I still couldn’t accept anything other than he was going to be fine.  I NEVER considered there might be no recovery beyond this.

The next day, mom explained that the neurosurgeon had been by.  They might need to do surgery but wanted the results from an MRI they were waiting for.  There were no breaks on the x-ray and CT Scan.  They needed to see the soft tissue.  Shortly after I arrived at the hospital, the doctor in charge of the ICU department came by with a large group of doctors reviewing dad’s case.  She explained that dad had a spinal cord injury.  She said they would be doing surgery at some point to ease the pressure but their was nothing they could do to repair the damage.  It would be up to his body to repair itself.  We should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.  HE MIGHT BE PARALYZED.

W H A T ?

That cold wind just ripped through the room again.  My mind took over the conversation.  Paralyzed?  NO, you don’t understand!  This is my dad!!! He can’t be!  I forced my face and body to be stoic.  Couldn’t let mom see the turmoil going on inside my head.  I knew she was trying to deal with the same thing, so I had to be strong for her. The next few days are somewhat of a blur.  Dad seemed to gain a small amount of motion in his arms everyday and even more so in his legs.  My emotions rocked back and forth.  He’s going to be fine.  Oh my god, he’s going to be paralyzed.  A rollercoaster ride to be sure.  I broke down a couple of times in front of my wife but no one else. I kept up the confident exterior.

He had two surgeries on Thursday.  Both went better than expected and they actually found LESS damage than expected.  Each day his motion has improved and yesterday they stood him up and sat him in a chair for two hours.  There are no guarantees but with his constant improvement I really do feel, with time he is going to be fine.  Maybe not back 100% but able to function just fine, much to the credit of all the prayers of hundreds, maybe thousands of friends and family for dad.  The road will be difficult but dad is up to it and all of us will be there to support him along the journey.

Now I’m back to Saturday morning with the freezing temps outside.  I’m inside, warm, sitting at my desk. I’m looking at my to-do list from last week:

  • MONDAY  Set up conference call with largest customer
  • TUESDAY   Training session with internal auditors
  • WEDNESDAY   Meeting with Ebsco Safety Team
  • THURSDAY  Presentation at the Tulsa Chamber Meeting

Pretty important stuff.  Right?  Things I need to worry about?

The Chamber Meeting went on without me, the safety team met and left their notes on my desk, the customer actually called us and set up a call for next week and the training session was rescheduled.  Not only did the world keeping turning but nothing really changed, except my dad’s health.

What really happened last week was God gave me a lesson on what is REALLY IMPORTANT.  He is in control right now and he will decide what happens.  With all the prayers, from so many people I think we probably made God jump at all of the noise.  I know we got his attention.  With everything we’ve seen so far, I think he decided we all still need dad and he’s not finished yet.  I want him back the same way he was but if not I still have more time with him and that’s a blessing not to be taken for granted.  Yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook from an old friend in Sioux City.  It was a copy of the obituary of her mom.  She didn’t get more time.

The cold wind, that rocked my world showed me what was really important, my wife who has been by my side every minute, my children both grown and at home who support me unconditionally, my friends, from now and from years passed who stepped up and supported me , my work family both new and old, my mom who takes care of dad, of me and everyone else, and most importantly this week, MY DAD.  Up to this point I have written just over 1,200 words and several paragraphs which could be condensed into four simple, powerful words,

I LOVE YOU DAD

And that is all that really needs to be said.

TODD

A Spark in the Minds Eye

 

The mind amazes me.  It holds this never ending library that stretches as far as one can see with rows and rows of stories.  Much like the warehouse in the final scene of Indiana Jones.  This library holds so much more than printed pages.  The stories have words and pictures, movies and sounds, taste and smells and all are attached to emotions.  My warehouse is controlled by an amazing librarian who has total recall of every detail of every chapter of every entry contained.  They are ever vigilant of what is happening around me at all times.  So as I go through life, oblivious to this endless wealth of memories, they are always seeking opportunities to present me chapters from my past.  The smallest detail might send them running to pull out  a chapter from years gone by.

 

It happened this morning.  It was the smallest thing.  My son had made sure I was up to see the sunrise (as he does every morning…he wouldn’t want me to miss one).  I opened the door to let my dog out and the librarian burst into action.  As soon as the crisp pre-dawn air touched my cheek the librarian pulled a chapter from my past. And as they saw I was paying attention, they strung together a story so intense I had to sit down at my keyboard and share it.

 

This chapter featured a much younger me, full of anticipation for the first day wearing a new jacket for the season.  The first cool day of fall.  I have never been one to relish the summers.  Even with summer break from school, swimming and all of the summertime activities, I was about fall and winter.  With the onset of fall, my senses went wild with anticipation, seeking every detail that spelled the coming of the change of seasons.  The taste in the air of smoke from burning leaves and chimneys.  The sound of blowing leaves scratching the ground as they raced past.  My mind seemed to block out all surrounding sounds to create an eerie silence featuring only the sound of the leaves and nothing else.  As I was older, watching the movie “Halloween”  I was struck by a scene toward the beginning of the movie.  It was a shot panning down the neighborhood street with a strong breeze hurtling leaves down the road as children rushed home in anticipation of that night.  It was FALL for me.  The tingle of my skin as a chilling gust swept my cheek.  I was alive with every one of my senses on overload.

My senses were screaming in anticipation, but anticipation of what?  Of  a bone chilling winter with heavy coats and running noses?  Of the new school year and homework?  Of being cooped up inside because it was too cold to go out?  NO!  That was winter and fall for others, not for me.

The anticipation was for a crisp night, out after dark with friends.  A night taken into another world where I was older and someone other than myself.  An evening of conquest after conquest never knowing what treasures awaited at the next door.  It was Halloween!  It was a night like no other night.  I was able to stay out later and go farther than I normally did, something that was not as dangerous during my time.  It was a night where you could be anyone or anything you wanted.  The planning for that special costume went on for weeks.  Most importantly it was a night shared with friends doing the same thing.

As I lost myself in this chapter the librarian went on pulling the next.

Before Halloween, every year there was a program on television.  It only played once per year but it never failed to happen.  “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.”  I never missed it.  As an adult my parents still call me each year letting me know when it is on.  I can’t watch it today without a tear of nostalgia sliding out of the corner of my eye.  Charlie Brown, as I called it, was the opening ceremonies of this wonderful celebration I had.  It was the beginning.  Even as a child, my librarian had started saving chapters and while watching the show they began pulling out volumes of Christmas past.  As The Great Pumpkin was the opening ceremonies, Christmas was the finale.

As that memory flashed before me, the librarian went on stacking the next chapter before my minds eye.

In this scene a younger me sat on the couch at home.  Stacked around me were several books, a pad of paper and an ink pin.  I was deep in concentration, researching one of the books, oblivious to all around me.  Was I doing homework?  NO,  I was making my Christmas list!  The books were the Sears and Penny’s Christmas catalogs, sorry no Toys R Us back then.  The arrival of these catalogs was always a significant time for me.  My organizational skills already revealing themselves made this an important project of every season.  I carefully studied each page of the toy sections of both catalogs.  I circled each and every item I might like to see under the tree on Christmas morning.  On my pad I wrote down the item, which catalog it was from and the page number to be found.  I wanted no room for error in choosing the wrong item.  I circled everything that I wanted, the drum set (knew that wasn’t going to happen…probably why I have one now), the chemistry set,(probably a good thing that didn’t happen.  I recently saw a shirt that read, “The last words I will say before I die, WOW, I didn’t expect that to happen”) and everything else, even the mini bike. Want to talk about anticipation.  That evening was it.  When I completed the list I copied it for my grandparents and made sure to explain and re-cap it all.  No room for error on such an important project.

My librarian stopped there.  I have memories of Christmas but they are not as strong as everything that led up to it.  It seems the anticipation holds a stronger place in my mind than the actually event that I anticipated.

As the years go by, these sensations and memories grow ever stronger.  The simple sense of a crisp breeze launching a story that repeated itself year after year.  The strange thing is as I age the story changes.  No, not the reallocation of events but it changes from an anticipation of an event to the memory of an event.   In my youth, my mind sparked a flame of anticipation of what was to come.  In my maturity (nice word for being old) it sparked a memory that seems to strengthen with each year.  I smile at the memories and fondly hold on to them but there is also a sense of sadness that it has changed from anticipation to remembrance.  Why is there not anticipation for things more than memories of things? Is it that we have experienced so much more that there is less to anticipate?  Is it that we lose our sense of childhood amazement with time? I do like seeing the sense of amazement and anticipation in my son (when he isn’t driving me crazy over it) but I miss that childhood feeling. That feeling that something big is just around the corner.   That feeling of I can’t wait for it.  Those feelings seem to come less frequent with the years.

I think youthful innocence, imagination and amazement are things to be held onto with passion.  To see the world less with practical cynicism and more with youthful amazement.  My librarian tries to keep it alive, if I would just listen.  I think I will go find out when Charlie Brown is playing this year and figure out what I’m wearing on Halloween.  Maybe the Christmas catalog from Guitar Center and Bass Pro will be here soon.

“Hey Librarian,  Maybe it’s time to open up a few new sections.”

 

Just Saying……

TODD  (Yes, that is me in 1979)