Here’s my decision about running for Governor of Indiana

State Flag of Indiana

My fellow Hoosiers (and all Americans, for that matter):

As you know, in the wake of Governor Mike Pence’s nomination to join Donald Trump’s ticket the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States, an interesting opportunity has presented itself. The Republican Party of the State of Indiana needs a new nominee to run for Governor. Several established candidates have announced their intentions to seek this nomination. And party leaders are supposed to gather Tuesday morning. They will decide Governor Pence’s on the ballot this November. And now that Governor Pence has thrown his support behind Lt. Governor Holcomb, it makes many wonder if the decision has already been made.

Nevertheless, there is still hope. There is still time for someone to swoop in at the last-minute and make a compelling case that he or she should be the Republican nominee. It would make sense for this person to be an outsider with no political baggage to weigh down a campaign that would have to hit the ground running. There’s very little time between now and November. It would have to take someone who is passionate about Indiana and can clearly communicate his or her ideas in a concise, memorable way. There is a chance that this kind of outsider could sway the voting public.

I love our state. And I love our people. I even love the people with whom I fundamentally disagree – both on the Right and the Left. When you count Summer jobs, I have lived in five different states over the past 30 years. Nothing against the fine citizens of those other states, but Hoosiers always have been and always will be my favorite people. That’s why we moved back to Indiana ten years ago. And that’s why we plan on staying here for a long time.

I’m an outsider.

I have leadership experience.

I love Indiana.

I have thought long and hard about this. I have bounced the idea off of family and friends. I have prayed about it with open eyes, ears, and an open heart. I even threw the question out there on social media several times. Thank you to the tens of people who answered my unofficial poll. Your encouragement strengthened my resolve.

Now, more than ever, we need to continue to seek new, strong, empowering leaders who are not part of the political machine. We need a fresh batch of political outsiders who remember what it’s like to be Jack and Diane Hoosier. And we need strong servant leadership.

I’ve taken all of this into consideration and have come to a solid conclusion.

I will not be seeking the 2016 Republican nomination for Governor of the State of Indiana.

That’s right. I’ve decided to side with #NoMattNo instead of #GoMattGo. I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But it’s the right thing to do for our State. It’s the right thing to do for my family. And those are the most important things when considering a decision like this one.

I’m sorry if this disappoints you. But it’s really the best decision for this election cycle. While I”m convinced that I’m not the right person for this position at this time, don’t rule me out in 2020, though. Who knows where I’ll show up on the ballot. Or maybe, more importantly, where will you show up on the ballot? Because one or two people cannot do it alone. If you’re disappointed in the candidate choices this year, then do something about it! Encourage people to run. Consider throwing your own hat in the ring. Choose people who are going to represent us, not the special interests. Support candidates you want to vote for instead of fighting against candidates you want to vote against.

I’m sure my Democrat and Republican friends will be upset with this, but don’t limit your choices to just one party. Consider a split ticket. Or maybe even consider a Third Party candidate or two. Don’t let the Establishment fool you. Remember, a vote for a “third party” candidate is not throwing your vote away.

My fellow Hoosiers, we need unity, not division. I firmly believe that the best days of Indiana are ahead of us. I am also convinced that we will not reach our fullest potential unless we figure out ways to work together. Perhaps the presence of more than two parties will require everyone to work together.

Because it’s only when we’re united that Indiana will truly be a state that works.

 

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Nope. No candidacy announcement today. Sorry.

Patriotic Juggler

I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat in anticipation, asking the same questions over and over and over again.

Which will it be?

#GoMattGo
or
#NoMattNo
??

I know I said I’d be making an announcement today about whether I’m going to pursue the Republican nomination for Governor of Indiana. Sometimes, these decisions take time. So i don’t have an announcement for you today. I hear that the Indiana GOP leaders are supposed to gather and make a decision on Tuesday of next week. So I guess I have a little bit of time, although time is most definitely ticking away.

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

Tick-tock

Do not be troubled, though, friends. Not all is lost. You didn’t waste your time by visiting here today. I leave you with Uncle Sam juggling on the lawn of home of former Governor of Indiana and President Benjamin Harrison. Can things scream Hoosier Pride more than that? OK, maybe he could be eating a pork tenderloin sandwich while juggling, but that might be a bit too much…

A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Are you not entertained?

This video is especially poignant for me right now. Of course, there’s the whole “politics feels like a circus” angle, but this is a bit more personal. I feel like I’m doing my best to be that guy, juggling my heart out and trying to keep everything in the air without crashing down around me. And I’m not nearly as skilled as good old Juggling Uncle Sam is. Unfortunately.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever felt like you’re doing your best to keep everything moving just the right way, but you’re just one misstep from everything crashing down around you? What do you do? What has helped you get through the chaos?

If I’m going to run for Governor of Indiana, I need to be able to handle storms while keeping everything in the air that needs to be in the air. Even if I don’t run for Governor, I need to find ways to improve the way I navigate the chaos.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily think I need to have all of my proverbial ducks in a neat row. I do, however, think I should at least know how many ducks I have. And I’d like to keep them from crashing to the ground in a fiery ball of fire.

So, do you have any tips, tricks, or advice? I would love to hear it.

Oh, and if you want to voice your #GoMattGo or #NoMattNo opinion, there’s still time.

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If I ran for Governor of Indiana, what would be my campaign song?

Vote for Matt Todd for Governor of Indiana

If I was going to run for Governor of Indiana – and I haven’t decided yet; an announcement is supposed to be coming on Wednesday, remember? – But if I do choose to run for Governor of Indiana, I figure I should have a campaign song ready to use right out the gate. I thought about using “We are the Champions” by Queen, but that’s kind of generated its own controversy this week, so I should probably pass on it.

But, being the recovering Band Geek that I am, I know the power of music. So I know that I need to choose something that communicates what my campaign will be all about. It also needs to inspire. And it won’t hurt if it gets stuck in your head. You know. Like an earworm. So here are the songs that are on my shortlist for a campaign song.

Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

The Great Adventure, Steven Curtis Chapman

It’s the End of the World (As We Know It), R.E.M.

Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Starship

Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin

SO, these are my finalists. Unless I think of another one. Then I’ll probably add it to my short list of songs. I think each song is pretty self-explanatory and captures some of the emotions of a dark horse like me trying to become Governor of Indiana. And that’s going to be pretty important for someone like me if I decide to throw my hat in the ring.

That’s, of course, if I decide to seek the GOP nomination now that Mike Pence is out of the race. And that’s a big if. I gigantic if. You might say it’s a HUUUUGE if.

There’s still time to voice your opinion about whether I should run or not. If you think I should not run, tweet this message:

If you think I should seek the GOP nomination for Governor of Indiana, tweet this message:

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ve got to call my lawyers and get them working on obtaining permission to use these songs for my campaign. Of course, if I don’t get permission, I could wind up getting more media coverage. Right? And that would help with name recognition. And they say that no publicity is bad publicity. But do they really still say that? Because I know of plenty of publicity that’s bad publicity. But the real question is if this would constitute bad publicity.

I don’t know.

But the risk probably isn’t worth the potential reward. After all, I don’t have a huge campaign war chest to pay any potential legal bills for copyright infringement or anything like that. Speaking of money, I really don’t have any money to spend to obtain the usage rights for any of these songs. And I certainly don’t have the money to hire a crack team of lawyers to protect me.

So maybe I’ll have to just find a song that’s available in public domain. Anybody wanna sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” for me?

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Which will it be? #GoMattGo or #NoMattNo?

Vote for Matt Todd for governor of Indiana?

Well, it’s official. Donald Trump has announced his running-mate. Indiana governor, Mike Pence, isn’t running for re-election anymore. He hopes to become our next Vice President. So it’s guaranteed that Hoosiers are going to choose a new governor this November. But who’s going to replace him?

John Gregg?

Representative Todd Rokita?

Representative Susan Brooks?

Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb?

me?

Like many Hoosiers, I held my nose when I entered the voting booth during primary season. I’m not sure if there were any candidates I was happy to support. I found myself voting against candidates instead of for candidates in many of the races. And those who ran for their nomination unopposed? I didn’t vote for anyone for that didn’t have someone running against them. This state is full of too many great people to leave the decision-making to just a handful of people. This state has extremely smart people who can think outside the box and get things done. There’s a lot of common sense in Indiana. Why do we leave government in the hands of just a few people, many of whom are beholden to special interests instead of the concerns of Jack and Diane in Everytown, Indiana?

So I left my polling place feeling kind of disgusted. I fully believe in the potential of American democracy. It’s a beautiful thing. But we’ve let much of our government fall into the hands of an oligarchy that’s bought and supported by Big-Fill-In-The-Blank (Oil, Pharma, Hollywood, Climate, you name it, there’s a Big label for it). And that’s not OK.

Maybe it’s my fault.

So after I voted, I started to wonder if maybe I was partially to blame? Well, not just me, but all of us who might be considered Jack or Diane Hoosier. Maybe we’re to blame because we’ve abdicated our responsibility. There’s a good portion of citizens in Indiana who would be great civil servants. But, for whatever reason, none of us have. And so we’re left holding the bag with less-than-exciting choices to lead our State and Federal governments.

Republicans and Democrats always seem to be duking it out. Can't we all just get along for once?

Is now the time?

So now there’s this tiny window of opportunity that presents itself. With Governor Pence leaving the governor’s race, the Republican nomination is now up for grabs. What if a non-establishment candidate, someone who isn’t bogged down by the insane politics we’ve experienced recently and can possibly bring some common sense and unity back to the State of Indiana threw his or her hat in the ring? I love our state. The longer I’m here, the more I love the people I can call my neighbors. And I want to see Indiana great again. So maybe I should listen to myself and take my own advice. I’ve told other people that if they don’t like the choices they see in the voting booth, then they should do something about it. Maybe that means they should run.

But maybe I should listen to myself. Maybe instead of telling everyone else they should do something about the choices by running for public office, maybe should practice what I’m preaching.

Should I run for governor of Indiana?

Remember when Pat Buchanan left the Republican Party and ran for President as a member of the Reform Party? I do. OK, I really don’t remember much about his campaign or what he stood for, but I do remember that he presented himself as  political outsider as he left the GOP.

And he had a catchy slogan: “Go Pat Go.”

As I’m contemplating this run for governor of the State of Indiana, I’ve settled on two slogans to help me with my decision. I’d really like your help in deciding whether to make this run.

If you think I should throw caution to the wind and toss my hat into the ring and run for Governor of Indiana in 2016, tweet something with the hashtag #GoMattGo. I know. It’s such a witty play off of Mr. Buchanan’s slogan.

If you think I should not attempt to become the Republican candidate, then tweet something with the hashtag #NoMattNo. I know. I’m so creative. Right?

Or you can leave your opinion in the comments section of this post. But please be respectful. No name calling in regards to other candidates. This post will be highly moderated and there will be a zero-tolerance policy.

Time is running out. I think the Indiana Republican Party has to make a decision very, very soon. I don’t have time to form an exploratory committee or anything like that. I don’t have a platform established. And I definitely don’t have the money to mount a campaign. This would have to be a major grassroots effort to convince the bigwigs in charge of the Indiana GOP to choose me over some well-established candidates.

With all of that considered, I plan on announcing a decision by Wednesday afternoon.

I know you’ll be on the edge of your seat in anticipation of this announcement. I know I will be.

 

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Grilled Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyKCMasterpiece #CollectiveBias

Grilled Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

I love to grill. I think it’s a passion that I inherited from my dad. I’m not quite the grill master that he is, but I’m learning more every day. If I could use my grill for every meal every day of the week, I think I’d be a happy man. I’ve even been known to occasionally fire up the grill after a snowstorm. Freezing air shouldn’t be a deterrent from flame-kissed goodness. And now that summer is here, there’s no excuse. The grill must be used early and often. I love experimenting on the grill and discovering new flavors. It’s such an exciting endeavor. KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub helps add even more variety to my grilling efforts.

KC Masterpiece Dry Mix [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

I found KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub in the condiment aisle at my neighborhood Kroger. It’s a versatile mix that opens up my grilling experience to a whole new world of possibilities. It is currently available in two different flavors: Original and Sweet Honey and it’s a great addition to my grilling toolbox.

My Grill [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

Between now and August 31, you can get $1.00 off your purchase of KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub!

KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub is amazingly versatile. Each box comes with two pouches of spice and can yields 16 ounces of sauce. It can be used as a dry rub. It can also be used to make BBQ sauce, marinade, or a dipping sauce. I can customize the flavors by adding my own liquid to the mix. You can use water, your favorite soft drink, coffee, juice, lemonade, or even beer or bourbon to create an amazing flavor that tastes just how you like it.

Mango Lime Coconut BBQ shrimp skewers closeup [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

The summer heat makes me long for fresh seafood. It reminds me of the great times we’ve had as a family on the beach. I wanted to give KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub a try, so it just made sense to create a marinade for a great seafood dish: Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime. It’s a great combination of sweet and spicy with a tropical tanginess.

Putting together this marinade was almost effortless. Here’s what I did.

Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime

Ingredients [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

Ingredients:

  • 1 package KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Flakes
  • 1 cup Mango Nectar
  • 1 or 2 Limes
  • 1 pound Raw Jumbo Shrimp, deveined and with shells removed
  • Bamboo Skewers

Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers with Lime [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

What to do:

  1. Combine mango nectar, coconut flakes, and KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix &Dry Rub in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add shrimp to the mix.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. While the shrimp are marinating, soak bamboo skewers for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Slice limes.
  6. After marinating the shrimp for at least 30 minutes, preheat your grill.
  7. Add shrimp and lime to skewers, alternating the shrimp with the limes. Make sure the limes and shrimp are touching. That’ll help encourage flavor transfer from the lime to the shrimp.
  8. Place shrimp and lime skewers on the grill, set at medium heat.
  9. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once.
  10. Remove skewers and put them on a plate when the shrimp has turned a nice pink color. The meat inside should be white and opaque. Don’t overcook your shrimp!It will be rubbery.
  11. Eat!

It’s really that easy! You can adjust the recipe as much as you’d like. Want more coconut? Go for it? Not a fan of coconut? Go ahead and take it out. You could add some lime juice to the mix to ensure some more tanginess. And I’m sure this would be great on chicken, too!

The sky’s really the limit with KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce & Dry Rub. This specially blended mix gives you the freedom to let your imagination run wild. I have some other ideas in mind for future grilling adventures. I definitely want to give it a try with some grape juice on a nice cut of beef or pork. The sweet and smoky flavors would be great for a mid-Summer date night at home.

Kroger [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

So head on over to the condiment aisle of your neighborhood Kroger. Grab a couple of boxes of KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub, and get to grilling!

Grilled Lime Mango Coconut BBQ Shrimp Skewers [AD] #MyKCMasterpiece

What flavors do YOU want to combine with KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce Mix & Dry Rub? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

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Backyard camping with Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KingOfFlavor #CollectiveBias

Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Thanks to the youth organization I participated in during my middle school and high school years, I used to go camping. A lot. Not counting our backpacking treks in New Mexico and the week-long summer camps that we ran ourselves, I could generally plan on going on eight or nine different campouts throughout the year. When you add that up over the course of seven-plus years, that’s a lot of camping.

I still love to camp. I still love to make memories. I love being outdoors. There’s nothing like sitting outside on a clear night and getting lost in the stars as they canvas the sky. There’s really nothing like camping with family and friends.

Playing in the backyard tent [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Of course, you don’t really have to go anywhere to camp. If you have a any size of backyard at all, you can pitch a tent without leaving home. That’s what we’ve started doing. And as you can see, our youngest is a big fan of hanging out and playing  in “her” tent.

El Yucateco® is giving entrants the chance to win a one-of-a-kind custom designed surfboard, camping packages and MORE!

El Yucateco Go-Native Sweepstakes

One of my favorite things about camping is the food. There’s just something special about sharing a meal around a campfire. In order to make sure the meal is bursting with flavor, you want to have the right tools on hand. El Yucateco® Hot Sauces are a great way to enhance the flavor of your camp meal.

El Yucateco sauces outside [AD] #KingOfFlavor

Available at retailers nationwide, El Yucateco® Hot Sauces are available in a variety of flavors. El Yucateco® is a fun, accessible brand of sauce that encourages me to get outside and make the most of these great Summer months. Of course, it is a must-have for camping because it is great at bringing out the flavors of other foods. And the bottle is small enough that it’s easily portable. You can bring it to neighborhood block parties, family barbecues, and even your neighborhood restaurant, taking advantage of its great food-enhancing flavor.

I love the variety of flavors of El Yucateco® Hot Sauces. There’s Black Label Reserve, which is made from fire-grilled habaneros and has a unique smoky flavor. There’s also the Red Habanero Hot Sauce, a combination of habanero peppers, tomatoes, and spices. It’s the perfect “all-purpose” sauce. There’s also the XXX Habanero Sauce from the Mayan vault, Chipotle Hot Sauce, and Caribbean Hot Sauce. And, of course, there’s the Green Chile Habanero Hot Sauce, which is their national bestseller.

I found El Yucateco® Hot Sauces in the “Hispanic Foods” section of my neighborhood Walmart.

In store collage El Yucateco [AD] #KingOfFlavor

I have discovered some amazing campfire recipes during my camping excursions. Some of my favorites include Peach Cobbler, Spaghetti Creole, Racin’ Eggs, and Foil Dinners. Foil Dinners are a great meal for any campout. They’re easy to make and each camper makes his or her own foil package and fills it up with favorite veggies and meat. After cooking them in the campfire, they’re ready to eat. While you can use any meat you’d like: shrimp, pork, chicken, ground beef, a family favorite of ours is chicken. Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners, to be precise. They’re so easy to make and each bite is full of flavor thanks to the El Yucateco® Red Habanero Hot Sauce that’s part of this recipe.

How to make Southwest Chicken Foil Dinners

Continue reading

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A worthwhile pursuit

"Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete" - Waite Phillips

Is there really anything else that needs to be said about this quote from Waite Phillips?

“Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete”

Waite Phillips should know. The oil tycoon turned philanthropist is the benefactor of Philmont Scout Ranch and his generosity has impacted millions of young men and women around the world. And I’m one of them. I learned a lot about life, leadership, and perseverance during my Philmont experiences. These lessons set a foundation for the rest of my life.

Thanks to the generosity of Waite Phillips, I have several dreams. And I’m not going to give up pursuing those dreams – even when it seems impossible. Because sometimes things are supposed to be hard. Life is hard. Obstacles can be difficult. That’s what makes them worth pursuing. And that’s what makes the achievement even more rewarding. Right?

I’ve got this. We’ve got this.

What are you dreaming about? Do you have any big, hairy, audacious goals?

Feel free to share your dreams and goals in the comments below. Let’sl work together to encourage, challenge, and support each other as we pursue our dreams. Because the dreams might be yours, and they might seem impossible, but you know what they say…

teamwork makes the dream work.

We’ve got this. No dream is too big. No dream is too silly, either. Let’s work together to accomplish our dreams. That’s how we’re going to make the world a better place. And it’s through this process that we discover what we were made to do, what we were made to be. And when we’ve discovered that, it’s when we truly start living.

So no more excuses. No more delay. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are. Let’s start working together to see our dreams become a reality.

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It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Make Life in the Fishbowl Great Again

This might be ill-advised, but I have a confession to make. This wasn’t intentional. And I’m sure it’s a pretty common occurrence. But it’s still something I need to confess.

I lost my voice.

I’ve spent so much time worrying about how many facebook likes my page has, how many clicks an affiliate link received, and how many people sign up for my email newsletter that I had kind of lost sight of why I even write on here to begin with. Don’t get me wrong. All of those things are important. I’m still working on building a community through the facebook page (although facebook is making it even more difficult…again) . By the way, if you haven’t “liked” that page – what are you waiting for? Go ahead. Like it. I’ll wait until you’re done. I think working with brands is important. And I’d still really like it if you subscribed to my email list.

I still think the email list is important, especially since FaceGooglebookTwitterGram can change the rules at any moment (and they do). So…why not go ahead and sign up for that, too?



But in the midst of all of this peripheral stuff, I feel like I might have lost my way just a little bit. I lost my voice. But I think I’ve found it again. So I’ve decided that it’s time.

It’s time to keep the main thing the main thing. I’ve been a storyteller all of my life. And that’s what I’m going to keep doing here. I’m going to tell stories.

It’s time to return to sharing my heart and my passion. I want to do big things. I want you to do big things. Live life big. Because it behooves us to live, right? So if even a little tiny part of this space helps inspire you to make a difference in your own life, the lives of those closest to you, or the lives of others around the world (and making a few memories along the way), that’s a huge win in my book. And since it’s my site, we’re playing by my rules from my book.

Will I still be publishing sponsored posts? Absolutely. I love working with brands and I really enjoy participating in their campaigns. In fact, I have a sponsored post coming up in about two weeks that I think you’re going to love. It was a lot of fun to put together. Will I ever be able to make a living off of sponsored posts and other brand partnerships? Probably not. And I’m quite OK with that.

It’s time. Now is the time.

It’s time to throw off the chains of whatever was holding me back. It’s time to keep improving and making this site the best that it can be, pursuing excellence with renewed vigor. It’s time to write about what I love more than writing about what I think I should be writing about because everyone else is writing about it. It’s time to use my voice again. It’s time to stand out and do something different.

It’s time to make Life in the Fishbowl great again!

Maybe I should put that saying on some buttons and pass them out. I could include the hashtag #ImWithMattdantodd.

I think this is a change we can all believe in. Are you with me? Let’s do something great together!

 

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This is why I got misty-eyed at Aly’s final choir concert

Aly's Final Concert

A few weeks ago, we gathered in Aly’s school gym for one final time as the 8th grade choirs gave one final middle school concert. As they gathered to sing the final song, I have to admit that I had a bit of an emotional moment. I even got a little misty-eyed. I probably wasn’t the only one. But it probably wasn’t for the reason y’all think.

Yes, it’s crazy that our Aly is already out of middle school and is going to be a Freshman next year. It’s a little concerning how fast everything is flying by. I was warned about such things, and I’ve tried to soak in as many moments as possible. And it’s amazing to see how our little girl who used to talk to bees and make mud angels in the puddles grow up right before our eyes. But that’s really not the reason I felt this wave of emotion come over me. And it’s not because this was her final choir performance, since she’s not planning on participating in any of the choirs or singing groups in high school.

No, there was a much more personal reason. In order to explain why I felt the way I did, I have to give you a little bit of background. So let’s rewind the clock some 25-ish years.

I hated middle school.

There. I said it. It’s out in the open for everyone to know. I hated almost everything about middle school. I hated riding the bus.* I hated algebra. I hated the cliques. I hated the inside jokes and the slang everyone would try to use. I hated being made fun of. And having come from a relatively small school where you knew everyone and everyone knew you, I hated being at such a large school where it was hard for me to know anyone.

I wasn’t a Jock. I wasn’t a Prep. I wasn’t a Hood or a Nerd. I was an outsider who didn’t really fit in with the rest of the outsiders. And I most certainly didn’t fit in with the popular kids. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. So I was overwhelmed throughout most of my middle school  career.

Me in 6th grade

I hated middle school.

I’m sure there were good things about middle school, but I’ve unintentionally blocked them out. OK, that’s not entirely true. I do remember some good things. I was baptized while I was in middle school. I became heavily involved in Scouting and came under the leadership of some pretty amazing mentors who poured life into me, even when I was silently miserable. My parents did the best they could. They’d never parented a middle school student before. And that’s funny, because I’d never been a middle school student before. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we were all just making it up as we went along. In spite of the struggles, I did know they loved me. But school itself?  I’ve blocked out most of my middle school experience. A lot of it is a blur. And I think I’m OK with that. Because here’s some of the stuff I do remember…

I remember the beginning of Summer Break between my final year of elementary school and my first year of middle school. I was told that the rising 7th and 8th graders had a “hit list.” You didn’t want to be on this hit list because that meant you were going to get beat up. Every day. At the beginning of Summer Break, a well-meaning friend told me that I was on the hit list. That ruined my Summer. It probably helped ruin the first semester of 6th grade, too. I was never beaten up in middle school. Never got anywhere near a fight.** My friend did. Once. Kind of. Actually, he was just pummelled while the rest of the school watched because he refused to fight back.

Speaking of that friend, he was one of the only friends I really had in middle school. And I remember constantly teasing him and mistreating him because I thought it would get others to think I was cooler than I really was.

I remember people making fun of my hair. Relentlessly. Repeatedly. Nonstop. Unceasingly. You get the picture?

Me in 8th grade

I remember feeling so much pressure to be accepted that I lied to people about having a girlfriend who lived out of the country. While I really did know some girls who live overseas, I want anywhere close to being in any type of dating relationship with any of them.

It was horrible. I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if social media was thrown into the mix. You have no idea how thankful I am that it wouldn’t exist until long after I was out of middle school.

I hated middle school.

About a year ago, I had the chance to attend a class reunion at our middle school. I originally planned on attending, but work obligations prevented me from making the trip to my hometown. There was a part of me that was bummed. In spite of my horrible middle school experience, some of my middle school classmates did become friends of mine. In high school. So it would have been nice to see them. But I have to be honest. I was mostly pretty OK with not going back. Why relive such an ugly time in my life?

So as I watched Aly perform on stage, I thought about how positive her final year of middle school had been. Of course, there have been some rocky moments during her middle school career. That’s part of the middle school experience. But she is moving on to high school as a grounded, confident young woman.

I secretly shed a little tear and secretly wiped it away before anyone could see it. Because while I know high school can have its share of drama and challenges, it is so much better than middle school. I know that it feels like middle school never ends. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel and it can lead to better things. Much better things. I’m convinced that Aly is going to love high school.

That tear also leaked out because of my great sense of relieve. Two of our children have successfully navigated the middle school minefield. We’ll have three high school students at the beginning of this school year. That means we only have one more kid to go through middle school. So in my head, I gave Christy an imaginary  celebratory “high five.” They made it through middle school. And I think they’ve turned out to be some pretty amazing kids. Just one more to go.*** And that’s a few years away.

We’ve got this.

If you know a middle school student, especially one who is struggling, please be there for him or her. Be an encourager. Be a shoulder to lean on. Please pass on the message that it will get better. So hang in there.

Middle school was not the end of the world. It gets better. So much better.

And I guess that was a good lesson to learn. No matter the circumstances that surround you, it’s not the end of the world. Like my Grandmama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.”

*I did think George, our bus driver was pretty cool, though. He probably let us get away with more than we should have during our daily commutes, but he tried to ease the boring bus ride. In spite of his efforts, I still didn’t like riding the bus. I was much happier walking to school like I did in elementary school.

**Shoot, the only time I was ever in anything close to a fight (other than with my brother) was when I was in 1st grade. And that was more like people running after each other and taunting each other.

***For a variety of reasons, I’m glad we didn’t enroll Weldu in school as soon as we got home. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for him to try to navigate the final semester of 8th grade. Middle school is hard enough when you’ve grown up here in the States!

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I had to taste Fit to believe it. And you should, too.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TasteFitKitchen #CollectiveBias

You have to taste Fit to believe it Title #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

Around this time last year, I shared my newfound love for the fabulous flavors of STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ meals. So it’s been a year and I’m still a big fan of their meals. I love the convenience. I love the flavors. I love the variety. In my mind, there really wasn’t anything else that could be done to improve upon  STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ meals, except maybe add more amazing flavors.

And that’s exactly what they did!

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STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ has added four new varieties and I couldn’t be more excited!

I’m a busy guy – especially in the Summer. If I’m not at work, I’m usually running one of the boys to their soccer or football practices. Or I’m running the girls to their meetings. Or I’m trying to help manage all the housework that comes with being a family of six. I don’t have time to waste.  STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ is so convenient, it takes the chore of finding an easy, filling lunch off my plate.*

They’ve outdone themselves with the additional flavorful meals. These new options are made from wholesome ingredients with no artificial flavors. They’re also packed with protein, containing at least 25 grams of protein in each meal. The new varieties come in these great flavors:

  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Teriyaki Chicken
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Chicken Poblano Enchilada
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™Sweet and Smoky BBQ Beef
  • STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ Roasted Red Pepper Chicken

These new varieties are available at your neighborhood Walmart, so I quickly made my way to a nearby store and visited the frozen foods section.

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I have to say, I was more than a little excited to try these great new flavors. But I wasn’t going to take anyone else’s word for it. I wanted to taste Fit to believe it. Again. So I grabbed all of the varieties I could and headed home.

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It’s comforting to know that you’re stocked up for the week and you don’t have to figure out what you’re going to have for lunch every day. These meals are so convenient. They’re chock-full of flavor and they’re ready in just a few minutes. They’re also the perfect fit for my lunch cooler.

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You can keep up to date on all of the latest great STOUFFER’S® creations by following their social platforms:

STOUFFERS FIT KITCHEN Teriyaki Chicken #TasteFitKitchen [AD]

Can I just say that the new varieties have lived up to the hype? I love the flavors – especially the Teriyaki Chicken and the Sweet and Smoky BBQ Beef. But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. You really should taste Fit to believe it! So head on over to your local Walmart and give the new varieties of STOUFFER’S® FIT KITCHEN™ a try!

Which new flavor are YOU looking forward to trying?

 

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