The Amazon Jungle

The sunlight barely pierces the thick canopy overhead.  With every step brings uncertainty.  You sense you are always being watched.  The predator watches patiently, looking for your weakness.  The perspiration grips your body.  The jungle floor is littered with corpses of others who did not head the warnings. You shutter at the thought of joining them.  What can be done to escape this mighty predator?  He has taken entire herds to extinction.  He hunts indiscriminately.  If he strikes he will draw blood and then continue to wipe out the herd.  Will you see tomorrow?  None of the animals in the jungle know who will be next.

I’m not talking about a wild animal in a South American jungle.  I’m talking about the internet giant the Amazon Company.  Like a fierce predator they choose industries to pounce upon and move to the world of extinction.

It started simple enough, 25 years ago, 30-year-old, Jeffrey Bezzos’ in a garage.  Working on Wall Street he saw the dawning of the internet and knew he had to be a part of it.  He would sell goods over the internet.  After researching possible lines he decided on books.  The rest is history, or should I say current events.  Amazon now employees 97,000 employees and has annual revenues of $61.09 BILLION!  How that for a success story.  From a garage to a $61 billion in 25 years.

As in the jungle, Darwin’s law of only the strong survive as the weak die off.  As Amazon grows stronger, with each new concept, the weak are meeting extinction.  When is the last time you saw a big chain book store?  Darwin.  Amazon recently paid $13.7 million to buy Whole Foods.  Are grocery stores moving to the history book extinct? In the past year we saw the demise of ToysRUs.  ToysRUs? GONE?  Another victim of the Amazon jungle.

My answer to any question regarding locating a product is “It’s on Amazon”.  What can you not find there?  They have ventured into every product category with wide varieties and in most cases very competitive pricing. They have music services for on-line audio streaming.  Remember Peaches records and tapes?  Survival of the fittest. At Peaches you paid $12 for an album to listen to one song.  At Amazon you can choose the one song for .99,  They are offering movies, remember the now extinct Block Busters?  They even saw the predator approach but made the majority of their money on late fees and couldn’t give it up.  So the predator struck.

Most recently the giant has been applying for pharmacy licenses across the nation.  Mail order pharmacy, the Amazon way.  They have backed off for now but as soon as the herd shows weakness they will be back to pounce. They are now partnering with service industries across the country.  Add to cart, one click, my carpets are clean on Friday.  They are testing restaurant delivery services in some cities.  Are the very restaurants far behind?

With Prime you click and it shows up in two days and in some areas one day.  Groceries are available, delivered in a couple of hours in some locations.  Click your heels together twice, One Click and your dream arrives at your doors, and you don’t even need to click your heels if you don’t want to.

So where does it stop.  When will the beast Amazon be full and not devouring new prey?  Well….never.  Amazon built their success on two things.  High standards (two-day delivery, easy returns, fair prices ) and GROWTH.  The key to Amazon is they get it right and then move on, quickly.  Massive growth has been the key to their unbelievable success. They are experts at thinking outside of the box. Can you say UAV delivery?  Nothing is considered impossible and everything is looked at.  Regardless of what your company sells, you better not ignore Amazon or you might be the latest proof of Darwin’s Theory.

 

Just Saying….

Todd

Natures Blanket

We had snow flurries all day yesterday. Nothing stuck, just flurries all day.  I love snow.

Snow is a beautiful gift from Mother Nature.  I can watch snow gently falling for hours. When it does snow, even flurries I have to be in it.  It’s almost like being in an exclusive club.

Your sense of touch is heightened in the snow.  Something so delicate caressing your skin.  You feel it on your arms on your face and yes even in your hair.  Unlike the rain you do not try to hide from it. You welcome each individual flake as it floats down to gently rest on your skin. As magically as they appear, they disappear in a minuscule drop of water. But it’s okay.  there will be several more to take its place.

It is like the entire world pauses from its’ chaos in deference to the snow.  The world around you becomes quiet as the crystal wonders take center stage. You can hear them as the gently touch down. Its almost a deafening quiet. as if you hear each flake settle into its proper place. As you take a step, your shoe crunches on the newly laid white carpet. It is a comforting sound as your foot sinks in and is surrounded by a white blanket.

Before the snow comes you can smell it in the air.  Not the smell of rain but a crisp winter smell.  The clouds seem to gently lower themselves from the sky. They seem to almost touch the ground. It becomes neither dark nor light but somewhere in between. You notice out of the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of something delicate riding the wind.  “Was that a snowflake?”   The anticipation rises as you squint to focus on any darkened background.  Then it comes into focus.  “YES, Yes it is snowing”.   You swell with excitement.  You must tell someone, anyone. “It’s Snowing, It’s Snowing”.  Your inner child takes hold and you think of nothing other than what’s to come.  You have a secret that you must share with everyone.

The snow turns into a sheer curtain of tiny flakes.  As the flakes fall to earth you spot a single larger flake dancing on the breeze as it floats down. It rides down oblivious to its tiny siblings riding in an almost majestic aire, too good for the smaller flakes. Then there is  a second large flake, than a third and a fourth. They are taking over and growing by the second.  This is real snow.  You look down and everything is covered by a cottony white blanket.  All of the recognizable features disappear.  There is no road, no sidewalk, no grass or dirt. Just the soft white blanket of snow.

Then the snow pulls back into the clouds. The larger flakes depart first leaving their smaller companions to finish the work. As the clouds begin to lift everything seems to light up. the snow glistens as light is reflected back. Everything appears pristine and new. You stand in the silence and take it all in. You feel like you are all alone in this wonderland created by Mother Nature just for you.

You feel a sense of solitude standing there.  Not lonely by alone with yourself.  You reflect and relax, feeling the stress of the world sliding off your shoulders. It is as if this beautiful white blanket has covered up all your problems and stress, allowing you to just be with you. Is this Nirvana?

Often the snow departs just as quickly as it arrived. Everyday life and all of its burdens is pushing the blanket back forcing its way back into control.  The snow relents and you can see it as it turns brown and dirty before making its last appearance.  Life is returning and nothing will stop it.

It’s sad.  A very special gift, given to you is being jerked away,  You are only left with memories but those seem to fade as quickly as did the snow.  It’s time to get back to life.  At least until you spy that next tiny flake.

Just saying.

Todd

The Dream Moves Forward

I have a dream today… I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill nd mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is an excerpt from Dr. King’s famous speech delivered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.  Dr. King shared a vision of a future when all men, regardless of color, would truly be equal.

Today, I call on Dr. King’s words to share a vision of all men and women, without regard to disability, be recognized only for their abilities.

Today, man still make assumptions on others capabilities based on nothing more than their skin color.  Some refuse to take time to accept all men and women as equals and allow them the opportunity to prove their individual capabilities.  They are seen, not as individuals but as a group that is different, to be relegated to a different standard.

Is this unlike how we value the individuality of those with special needs.  Do we not conclude they are of limited capabilities and in need of only our compassion and charity.  Do we ever take time to ask them what their capabilities are as we would ask others? Is our attitudes toward those of special needs any different from those of other minorities?

So today I call on everyone to share in Dr. King’s dream. To move toward realization of a world that values every man and woman as individuals, each with something unique to share with society.  A dream that understands that all men, regardless of color or special need cry out to make their contributions.  They yearn for the opportunity to participate in life and be productivity.  A dream that each and everyone have the opportunity to prove themselves and share in the personal satisfaction of making a contribution.  A dream that all have the opportunity to share in the feelings of dignity that comes with acceptance as a unique individuals.

Lest we forget, Franklin Delenoro Roosevelt. He served our country as the most powerful man in the free world during our countries darkest hour. President Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down.  This was not a disability to him.  He did not seek to run marathons or climb mountains. He was required to be a strong man who had the ability to lead this country and the free world through World War II.  He was paralyzed but did not allow that to be the definition of him.  He was the President of the United States of America.  As history looks back on President Roosevelt, it doesn’t record a disabled man who became President,  It records a great President.  We look back and focus on his abilities and not his disabilities.

I personally am unable to be a professional athlete.  I do not have the physical abilities or talent.  Does this mean I am disabled or handicapped?  I am completely able to accomplish many things in life.  I do not focus on that which I am unable to do.  A person that is born without sight is not disabled.  They have the ability to achieve many things in their life.  They are not defined by their loss of sight.  It is simply one of many things that make them the unique person they are.

We are all members of the human race. We all have distinctive capabilities and unique challenges.  There are no two of us alike.  We each, in our own way, have something to offer. The challenge is for us to see one another in this light, as individuals.

I have a dream.

 

 

His World

 

 

autism awareness

An enigma, wrapped in a mystery, locked inside a puzzle, creating a quandary.  That’s my definition of AUTISM, or in shorter terms, “DAVEN” my son.

How could I ever explain to someone without autism in their lives what life is with it.  How could I explain what it is like in the mind of my child when I can’t understand it myself.

Here is how I imagine Daven’s world.

I imagine a kaleidoscope of soft shapes and soothing colors gently lofting across his mind like the Aurora Borealis.  Soft rhythmic sounds vibrate through his world, gently lulling his mind into a calm relaxing state. I see it as something beautiful and relaxing. Daven’s problem is our world is constantly invading his. Between the colorful shapes and soothing sounds , our world mounts its attack invading like a foreign army.  All the sights and sounds of our world jam themselves into his serene setting disrupting his world.

His mind bounces to and fro picking out cues from our world. They are relentless, demanding a response as his mind struggles to remain in the world he finds comfort in.

Our world is so foreign to him. Nothing makes sense.  Lights and sounds that we relegate to background noise assault his very being. Daven has no idea how to sort the background input from the relevant so he tries to process it all.  His mind goes into overload.  He is overwhelmed.

Those of us without a pass into his world do not understand his responses.  We ask “where is the common sense?” By its very definition common sense infers common past experiences as a reference.  Daven doesn’t share any of these with us. He may have shared common experiences but he processed them quite differently than us.  There is no common reference points.

His world is so different from ours.  It might be a wonderful world that we could all reside and be happy if it were not constantly intruded upon by ours, forcing itself in and demanding attention.

I feel almost sad to be responsible for the destruction of his world.  I have to do it. He will need to live in our world to survive and the two worlds are not able to coexist. For Daven to survive he will need the tools to understand and function in this strange place.  We force our world upon Daven and will not tolerate any alternatives.

He understands the challenge.  He wants to please those around him, forcing this alternate world upon him.  He tries hard.  But when the pressure of this new world becomes unbearable he retreats to the place he finds comfort.

For those of you old enough, there was a popular television series “St. Elsewhere”.  In the last episode we see several of the series’ characters sitting in a living room.  In the center of the room, on the floor, is a small boy.  He appeared in several episodes as the autistic grandson of a leading character.  In this final scene, sitting on the floor we notice he is mesmerized by a snow globe.  As we move in closer we find the hospital that was the setting for the series in the snow globe. Was any of it supposed to happen or was it the creation of the mind of this autistic child.  His WORLD.

Is Daven playing a fantasy of this world of which we are all actors in his mind? I doubt it.  I think he struggles to join our world everyday, attempting to conform with what we call “NORMAL”.  Normal only exists as an agreement of the majority.  It must be normal if everyone, or almost everyone acts this way. It’s not normal to him.

The only thing I do know is, sometimes, not often, Daven will lay his head on my shoulder as I wrap my arm around him. We often drift off to sleep like this. For those fleeting minutes our worlds do coexist in perfect harmony.

I like those times.

Just Saying….

Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Want to Play Anymore

I just paid my house payment.  I paid a couple of bills and my car insurance.  My utilities need to be paid next week.  I’m going to the grocery store later today.  I got paid last Thursday and it is gone, as usual.  Who cares, you say?  Federal government employees care.  They have all of the same bills and expenses I do.  The difference is they don’t have a pay check.  Some of them are STILL WORKING!!!!

Imagine if your boss told you that you weren’t getting a paycheck for a while” but if you failed to show up for work, You’re Fired.  That’s what is happening to many federal employees.  About 800,000 people are impacted.  380,000 have been furloughed, meaning they are not going to work and they may or may not get paid.  Problem is their bills are not being furloughed.  420,000 are not getting checks but were told they still had to show up for work or risk getting fired.  You will get paid sometime.

Did the government run out of money?  Nope!  They have the money.  The money can’t be paid without an approved budget.  The Democrats and the Republicans are “standing TOUGH on their values” and can’t come to an agreement.  Did I mention that they are all still being paid.  Their pay is guaranteed in the constitution even without a budget.  Seriously?  Most of them have more money than they can spend, yet they get paid and the border guard in Texas, living paycheck to paycheck goes without.  Coast Guard, Border Guards and Air Traffic Controllers are all working without a paycheck. Inspectors for the FDA protecting our food, employees of the CDC protecting our health are all working without paychecks.  Fortunately the defense portion of the budget was approved or all of our service men and women would be living without also.

I understand holding to your principles and fighting for what you believe in but not while holding 800,000 citizens hostage.  Our government is acting like children, not anything new.  If I don’t get my way, I’m taking my ball and going home.  They must be working around the clock to solve this, right? WRONG.  On December 22nd they couldn’t reach an agreement, shut the government down and went home for Christmas.  Merry Christmas to all not getting paychecks.  They are getting theirs so why worry.  Now they are spending more time and effort focusing on spinning the entire situation to place blame on the other side, not trying to fix the problem.  If they can get the other side to take the blame then they will see the entire fiasco as a success.  A SUCCESS?  SERIOUSLY!

They recently did find something to release 3 weeks pay to the 800,000.  I guess that is something.  I would imagine this would be done if the politicians were not being paid also.  I am used to politicians not accomplishing anything but not when it impacts 800,000 Americans.

JUST SAYING……..

TODD

 

 

 

 

The Dark Mistriss

 

Why does the night evoke feelings of fear and dread? They say we fear that which we do not know.  Is the night the unknown?  Why do we associate the night with ghosts and goblins and the superstitious?

Nighttime is a magical time. It transforms the world we know into something difrferent. The sounds, the smell, the night air as it caresses your skin.

The night awakens your spirit. In the day we live by our sight. During the night all of our senses come alive.

As we acclimate to our new world we marvel at the silence, but as your attention begins to sharpen, your hear the twilight chorus swell. The silence gives way to all the sounds of the night. Our sense of touch goes on alert. The light breeze tightens your skin. Your hair softly tickles your neck as you move your head.  You can taste the air. It feels clean and crisp.  There is a distinct smell of the night, like a spice that awakens your soul.

You move differently in the night. You step slow and deliberate in time with the night. Your mind struggles to take it all in. Nothing is familiar, what you see or don’t see, what you hear, feel, taste and smell.  Or maybe they are not new but things you ignored in the daylight.  You’re alive, You search for the familiar but it’s just out of your reach.

As you grow accustom to this new world you grow comfortable as if you are part of this reality. Nothing is familiar but you feel like you belong.  The darkness has enveloped you in her arms and welcomed you into her realm

It’s as you can hear each blade of grass giving way to your foot as you take a step. You feel as if you are not in this new world but a part of it.  Your mind reals seeking what your role is in this new world.  You are part of a secret that no one else is in on.

Your mind starts out trying to identify and catalogue the sounds and shadows of the night.  As time wears on you welcome them as an old friend. You are part of your new world. The sound of your breath and the crunch of your steps merge with all of the other sounds in a never-ending concert.

As soon as you assimilate into the darkness you notice the sky lightning. The morning sun is trying to fight back the darkness. You feel a touch of sadness knowing this new world is folding back upon itself.  As the sun continues to push over the horizon you bid adieu to your new love. Your secret will be held tightly until you are able to join your new dark mistress again tonight.

Yet We Forget

Outside the low hanging clouds create the illusion of dusk.  A steady rain hypnotically urges slumber. The air is crisp, just above freezing. I gaze out on this un-forbidding scene with a crackling fire in the comfort of my living room.

As my sleepy thoughts ramble I picture a brave young man, not yet 20. He shivers in his wet clothes as the piercing wind howls around him. He tries to burrow ever deeper in the wet ground to remain unseen by the shadowy figures passing above him. His very survival relies on his invisibility.  He holds a silent vigil here, reporting on these shadowy figures lurking about. They have all vowed to kill us all, “Death to the Satan, America. Praise Allah.”  In this inhospitable land, with bone chilling cold, he lies still and waits.

Yet We Forget.

These brave men and women deploy across the globe without hesitation. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Korea. Anywhere they are told to go. They wear the uniform of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines. They hail from three-letter agencies and are sent to the remotes parts of the world. They are called and they answer without hesitation.

Yet We Forget.

They have always been there for us,, standing sentinel and answering the call. From the farmers and shop keepers of the revolution under General Washington to Europe in WWI and WWII.  From the frigid mountains of Korea to the jungles of Vietnam. From the island of Granada to the tip of Panama.  From the tropics of Central America to the sands of the Middle east. They were called and they deployed. They answered with their sacrifice and with their lives.

Yet We Forget.

They are kids or should I say they were just kids before they dawned the uniform.  From the reserves come fathers and husbands from every state. They answer the call and put their lives on hold.  They serve night and day, weekends and holidays. Their constant vigil never offering a break.  They have many enemies that would see them dead, yet they go.

Yet We Forget.

They are following a calling.  There is something bigger than themselves in their lives. The Stars and Stripes, the word America have meaning to them. They are from every race and every religion and together they go so we may enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice.

Yet We Forget.

I just finished reading the book Lone Survivor, by Navy Seal Marcus Lutrtrell.  His story of the pain and sacrifice of him and his team and the families of the ones who did not return is unimaginable.  Yet there are thousands out there right now prepared to lay down the same sacrifice.  They ask nothing special.  They do not do it for glory.  They do out of a deep love and commitment to everything we hold sacred as Americans.

Yet We Forget.

So as we find ourselves slightly chilled or wet from the winter weather and begin to complain, Remember. When we work a couple of extra hours and complain about our jobs, Remember.  When our kids are out of control and challenging our patience, Remember. When the car breaks down and we are late for an appointment, Remember.  When life is great and everything is perfect, Remember the ones responsible for allowing it to be.

The Tree

It looked lonely, almost sad standing in the corner.  Yesterday it was proud and magnificent, the center of everyone’s attention.  Nothing had changed other than a number on the calendar page.

For thee past weeks people stared almost mesmerized by it. Gazing at the dancing and flickering lights could transport you to an earlier time and place with a warm smile. Now everyone avoided it.  They would look away almost to avoid its notice.

As the page on the calendar flipped to 26 it had lost it’s purpose.  It had stood tall as a magnificent symbol. It’s very presence created anticipation.  It was a work of art and we were the artist. Something unique and special. This magnificent work of art was custom framed by colorfully wrapped packages with fancy bows and ribbons.

Today the frame has been removed.  The lights seem to have lost their twinkle.  It no longer sparks anticipation but almost dread.  Dread of the work that follows.  removing and packing the decor, putting away the boxes and removing it from the room.

I feel sorry for the tree. Do you think it has feelings?  Does it feel like it has been used?  Is it silently screaming “LOOK AT ME!  LOOK AT ME I STILL SPARKLE.  Why can’t I stay?  Are you going to put me back in the attic?

And so after a few days of ignoring it, we move it back to its place in the attic, only to wait for the calendar page to read November again and return to its place of honor.

 

 

 

THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT

Linus Van Pelt: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Written by Charles Shultz in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

No comment needed!

MERRY CHRISTMAS

 

TODD

Democracy at Work

We are a couple of weeks from the mid-term elections and it is politics at its best.

Several packages have been found at leading Democratic Party leaders and outspoken liberals homes.  They were sent in the US Mail.  They are crude devices, many probably not functional but all are capable of hurting and even killing.  I have heard several “conservatives” suggest the democrats set them to fire up the voting base.  WHAT?  SERIOUSLY?  They are mailing leaders in their own party bombs to drum up support???  Really?  Of course the Dems are finger-pointing and using the episode to drum up votes in their party.

CONCLUSION:  “They are all crazy!”

Supposedly the Russians are meddling in the process to either influence the outcome or more likely undermine voter confidence in the system.  And now they claim the Chinese have jumped on the band wagon also.  As far as influencing the outcome, I feel certain that both sides are equally as unqualified for the job as the other.  I really couldn’t see any benefit for Russia to elect either one over the other.  Regarding undermining voter confidence, the best and easiest strategy for that is to stand back and allow both parties to speak.  That’s all Russia and China needs to undermine voter confidence.

We, as a Country have become so polarized that it is impossible to achieve anything.  I sometimes wonder if our elected officials have created this great divide so that none of them are ever held accountable for finding  solutions to anything. The more the divide widens the less we are able to hold any of them accountable. They make long-winded speeches on the floor to no one other than the CSPAN cameras. With such polarity they can claim to support anything, knowing that nothing will pass.  They stand up and claim nothing is getting done due to the other guy, never taking responsibility for their own actions.

Maybe if the Russians and Chinese meddle enough they can end up fixing things. Even our supreme court is mired in the conservative / liberal mindset.  The supreme court, supposed to be beyond reproach. They are supposed to be the last defense against politics making decisions on the facts alone as they relate to the case, not ideologies. Nothing is further from the truth.

We as the Bosses. The system is designed for us to run it.  We chose our representatives.  The problem is we are confronted with two choices, liberal or conservative.  Either choice will prolong our current situation.  It is important to maintain your values, but it is equally important to acknowledge that others have values also.  Accepting and attempting to understand others values is the key to start closing the gap.  We need to start listening and understand what others values are. We may find that others actual care as much as we do and that they have some great ideas to move America forward.  Even at its worst, democracy is still the best program in the world.

 

JUST SAYING……

Todd