S#!+hole countries, Mr. President?

As with almost all my posts, this post about President Trump’s comments about Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador contains affiliate links. That means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

 President Trump:

I read your statements about Haiti. And El Salvador. And Africa. I’m sickened. And appalled.

There’s a lot I want to say about what you’ve said about these countries. Many have already said it. And many of their statements are more eloquent than I could ever hope to be.

Instead, I’m going to share with you my experiences in Ethiopia. I’ve collected my posts that I wrote while reflecting on my trips to Ethiopia in 2015 and 2016. You might find it isn’t exactly what you said it is.  And the people in Ethiopia are some of the most beautiful, hospitable, and welcoming people I’ve encountered. They should be welcomed to our country with open arms, if you ask me.

Ethiopia…

That’s in Africa, in case you didn’t know.

Ethiopia is in Africa. Does that mean Trump thinks it's a s#!+hole country?

A is for Addis Ababa
Kiwi.com - Book Cheap Flights!

Continue reading S#!+hole countries, Mr. President?

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Some spoiler-filled talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This post about Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi contains SPOILERS and affiliate links. That means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Episode VIII movie poster

Warning: The Spoilers are coming! The Spoilers are coming!

I think it’s time for me to share my thoughts about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Before I get into that, though, let me remind you of my Star Wars resume. I’ve been a loyal fan since 1980. The Empire Strikes Back is one of the earliest movies I remember watching in the cinema. I remained a fan when it appeared that no one else really cared about the saga anymore.

Immediately after its release, I read the Thrawn Trilogy several times. I was also a fan of the Han Solo Adventures, the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and the Tales of the Jedi Dark Horse comics. I was a Star Wars trivia fanatic – I even won our school-wide Star Wars trivia contest when I was in college. And I have to intentionally get questions wrong so I can get people to keep playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with me.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan. I have been for nearly four decades.

Not too long ago, they announced that the storyline that was created during the three-plus decades of novels and comic books were no longer “canon.” Shortly before that announcement, I had just finished reading the “Fate of the Jedi” series. In some ways, this announcement had come as a bit of a relief. Because while I appreciated a lot about the series – especially the new relationship between the New Republic and the Galactic Empire – I had finally come to a conclusion. It was a conclusion I had been wrestling with for some time and it had been rattling around in my heart and mind for a while. This isn’t my Star Wars anymore.

And it hasn’t been since shortly after the Thrawn Trilogy.


Star Wars

There were hints of greatness, like the Jacen and Jaina Solo dynamic. There’s parts of me that wishes these two were in the new Trilogy instead of Ben Skywalker (who was Luke and Mara’s son). Oh, and a married Jedi who didn’t have to hide it? That would’ve been cool. I really liked Mara Jade’s character.

But there were other things. The lost Sith ship. The Maw. Abeloth. The way they killed Chewbacca. Not a fan. It felt like they started to deviate a bit from the spirit of the Original Trilogy. In many ways, it felt like Star Wars had lost its way.

But it’s not my Star Wars anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time.

Spoilers ahead. Abandon all Spoiler-free hope, ye who continue.

Now that I’ve said all of this, I’m not so sure if I’m happy about what I’m going to say. I can understand the frustration of some of my Star Wars fan brothers and sisters. In many ways, it feels like the latest installment takes a sharp, unexpected 90º turn from the previous two trilogies. It was easy to find yourself disoriented. And disappointed. Believe me. I get it. It’s how I felt after The Phantom Menace. The film just didn’t live up to the hype.

And maybe that’s part of the problem. We build up these movies and expect the new offerings to capture the same magic of the Original Trilogy. That’s an impossible task.


There’s a reason A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are my favorites and will always be my favorites. It was new. It was exciting. And it was unlike anything I’d ever seen or experienced. Of course, the massive collection of Star Wars toys that my friend down the street and I had didn’t really hurt things, either. That was my Star Wars. It’s the saga I grew up on.

These other trilogies are fine. The Prequels are not my cup of tea, but I think I’ve softened on their value over time.* They mostly keep the spirit of the Original Trilogy, building on the grand story that George and Marcia Lucas were able to tell.** Continue reading Some spoiler-filled talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Happy New Year! Welcome, 2018!

Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

2017 had its share of surprises. Sure, there were a few bumps along the road. And maybe there was a sinkhole or two along the way. But we did it. We made it through another circuit around the Sun. Congratulations! We did it! Happy New Year!

Here’s hoping for a great 2018, full of hope, love, and a few breathtaking surprises along the way. Sure, there will be some valleys. But it’s my hope and prayer that 2018 turns out to be the best year ever. Let’s work together to make that possible. After all, teamwork makes the dream work. That’s what they say, anyway. Right?

I found a quote a few years ago. I don’t know who originally said it, but I really like it.

“May your troubles be as short as your New Year’s resolutions.”

So many of us enter the New Year with big hairy goals that they want to accomplish: lose weight, get more organized, finish writing that book. Unfortunately, they find themselves making those same resolutions the following New Year’s Eve. Have you made resolutions for 2018? What are you going to do to make this year different? Today is a blank slate. The whole year is a blank slate. What are you going to add to your story in 2018?

What can we do to help you keep your 2018 resolutions?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Or you can share them on the Life in the Fishbowl facebook page. Let’s make 2018 a year unlike any other! We can only do that by working together, encouraging each other and even sharing each other’s burdens.

Community.

It’s what makes the human experience so amazing. It’s a core component of life. And, as the Todd family motto has reminded us throughout the decades:

“It behooves us to live!”

So happy new year! Let’s work together to make 2018 the best year ever!

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A mission for this weary man

O Holy Night
Free Stock Photo courtesy of picxclicx.com

I recently shared that I have a new appreciation for the carol, O Holy Night, and how it suddenly feels like it’s a song written for me and about me, even though it was composed more than 150 years ago. But that’s not the only thing that has stuck out in this song.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
(emphasis mine)

Yeah, I’m weary. I’m worn out. And I wait in anticipation of the return of the One Who Makes All Things New. But in the meantime (which is a mean time, as Dr. Ramsaran used to continually remind our New Testament Survey class), I have a job to do. In fact, all of us who have put on Christ still have a job to do. As long as there is oppression, we have a job to do.

This isn’t a political movement. It’s not a Social Justice Warrior thing. It isn’t a protest statement or part of some “resist” movement, either. And I’m definitely not joining any fad or trend (I am a trendsetter, after all. Remember?). It’s much deeper than that.

It’s at the very core of the Church. It should be, anyway. After all, we claim to follow the One who was born to a couple from a backwoods town (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” they asked.) in an occupied land, ruled by an oppressive empire where Caesar was proclaimed to be Lord and Savior. The core of our faith is based upon the advent of a baby boy whose arrival was announced to a ragtag group of outcast shepherds and a group of foreigners. We claim to follow a man who, before he went to the cross, chose to spend his time with women, the sick, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the cheats, the liars, the possessed, the oppressed, the “outsiders” and the “unclean.” He made them free.

He makes us free today.

Am I following his example? Am I sharing His good news of peace and freedom? Have you read a headline recently? There is much oppression in this darkened world.

What am I doing about it?

Yeah, I’m weary. But I cannot stop. There’s no time. It sounds like I have a lot of work to do yet. How about you?

Let’s choose to live by the law of love, spreading the gospel of peace. And maybe we can change the world together.

 

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The thrill of hope for this weary man

O Holy Night is not a new Christmas carol for me. I’ve heard the song many times. I had the honor of performing with a small brass ensemble for several Christmas candlelight services during my short, but memorable career as a tuba player. It’s a beautiful song.

Many artists record this song and use it to show off their technical prowess and amazing vocal range. I also remember a Christmas service that our high school student ministry put together during my Senior year. One of the music ministers from our church sang O Holy Night right before a friend of mine was baptized. It was the climax of the service, as a baptism should be – especially during the Christmas season. It was a powerful, powerful moment and it’s been etched in my heart’s memory for the past 20+ years.

That being said, I don’t know if I’ve really felt a deep connection with the song until this current Advent season.

This song was written by a guy in France and it was first performed in 1847. That’s 170 years ago. That’s a long, long time ago. And it was translated into English shortly before the Civil War. That’s still a long time ago. You know?

But it feels like it could have been written yesterday by a neighbor just down the street. Because in the first verse, it sounds like he could’ve been talking about me.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”

I used to think this was written with just the Second Temple Jewish Era in mind. Everyone was looking for the long-promised Deliverer. “He’s coming,” they said. For more than 700 years, since the oracle from the Prophet Isaiah, they watched, and waited, and continued to proclaim “He’s coming. He’s coming.”

And surely the waiting and watching and waiting wore them out. Especially when Nebucadnezzar and Cyrus the Great and the Romans occupied their land and oppressed their people.

“He’s coming.”

“He’s coming.”

“Our Deliverer. He’s coming.”

And for the longest time, the Promised One did not show up. It had to be exhausting. And frustrating. I’m sure it wore on the entire Jewish world. Shoot, it wore down all of creation. Weariness is the perfect word. All of creation had to be weary in anticipation of the arrival of the One Who Would Make All Things Right.

A weary world, indeed.

I don’t know about you, but that word also describes me. I’m worn out. Exhausted. I’m weary. The last few years have worn me to the bone, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’m weary.

I’ll be honest. Other than the chorus that requires some significant vocal talent, I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the lyrics of this carol. But I noticed them this year, and they’ve reminded me what to do when I’m worn out and weary.

Fall on my knees. Join in the heavenly chorus. Cling to the thrill of hope.

This isn’t just any hope. It’s not like the hope I have when I really really really hope my favorite basketball team beats their arch rival. That’s trivial hope, at best. No, this hope is the hope in the Everlasting God keeps His promises. This hope is the hope in the life-changing, life-giving, life-affirming power that comes from the One who spoke life into being. This hope is the hope that all things will be made right again. It’s the hope that was fulfilled in that out of the way feeding trough in the middle of an unknown town, watched by unknown shepherds and a faithful married couple.

That hope in that baby boy is the same hope we have today. It’s the hope that God is not done with me. And He’s not done with you. He continues to make all things new and give us hope today.

“He’s coming again.”

“He’s coming again.”

And in the meantime, even though I’m weary and worn out, I will cling to this hope that God is at work, even in me. I’m glad I heard O Holy Night so many different times this year. And I’m thankful that the lyrics hit me right between the eyes.

Because even though I’m weary, I need to remember to continue cling to that thrilling hope promised to us by the coming of the Christ Child Himself.

 

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8 lines I love to quote from Star Wars

8 lines I love to quote from Star Wars

I have this bad habit whenever someone is watching one of the Original Trilogy Star Wars films. I really can’t help it. It just comes natural. But I’m sure it makes my family want to pull the ears off a gundark.

You see, whenever the movie is playing, I say the character’s line immediately before he/she/it says it in the movie. This is especially true when we’re watching A New Hope.

I really can’t help it. I’ve been doing it for years. You see, this is what happens when your Grandmama and Grandpa record the CBS worldwide network premiere of Star Wars and let you watch it over and over and over again.  When I quote Star Wars (A New Hope), it reminds me of when I would used to sit in my grandparents’ Family Room with their bright red carpet and watch it on repeat. And then I get all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic. And then I just can’t stop myself. I have to say the line before they say it.

It’s just the way things are.

via GIPHY

I know. Some things are meant to change. But this is a lot like the Han Solo vs. Greedo confrontation in the cantina on Tatooine. No matter how much you try to change things with computer graphics and special effects, Han always has and always will shoot first.

It’s just the way it is. And no matter how much I try, I will always find myself quoting from the Original Star Wars Trilogy. While I try to refrain from quoting the movie during the movie, I still find myself sprinkling my regular, everyday conversations with Star Wars quotes. It’s a natural extension, wouldn’t you think?

A few years ago, I shared seven lines from Star Wars that I love to use in real life situations. I still use those quotes frequently. But I don’t stop there. Here are eight more lines I love to use from Star Wars.

8 lines I love to quote from Star Wars

Star Wars quotes

1.) “Who’s scruffy lookin’?” – Han Solo

via GIPHY

I may or may not say this when I look in the mirror in the morning. Especially when I haven’t shaved in a few days. Who hasn’t?

2.) “I guess you don’t know everything about women yet.” – Princess Leia

OK. In real life, I generally say it this way: “I guess I don’t know everything about women yet.” Because I don’t. And every time I think I’m close to having something figured out, I get a little nice curve ball.

Can I get an Amen?

3.) “No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Master Yoda

Much like when Vader says “No. I am your father,” this line from Yoda gets misquoted all.the.time. Since I’m kind of a jerk sometimes when it comes to Star Wars, I find myself muttering the correct quote under my breath. Sometimes I’ve outright corrected people. But not very often. Because I might be a Star Wars jerk. But I’m not that big of a jerk. Am I?

But Yoda’s right.

Kind of.

Most of the time, anyway. Within the context of the conversation he’s having with Luke, he’s right on target. Luke is convinced that he isn’t going to be able to lift his x-wing out of the swamp. So he says a half-hearted “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda is right in calling him out here. Sometimes giving it the old college try is all you can do. But when you know someone isn’t even coming close to reaching his or her potential, they need a challenge. The old college try isn’t good enough. Do. Or do not. There is no “try.”

via GIPHY

4.) “Your overconfidence is your weakness.” – Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight

We live in a world that celebrates self-determination, cockiness, and brashness. This leads to overconfidence. Just look at the politicians we elect, the celebrities we follow, and the actions we endorse. Overconfidence is alive and well in our society. Many see it as a strength. Luke says it is a weakness.

Luke is right.

Confidence – the belief in one’s on abilities to succeed (per Psychology Today) – is most definitely a strength. You need confidence when you’re walking into an interview. You need confidence when you step up to the free throw stripe when the game is on the line. And you need confidence when you’re staring down a pitcher, waiting for your opponent to hurl that perfect pitch so you can crush it. Confidence is necessary. Overconfidence?

Nah.

That’s most definitely a weakness. And it can create all kinds of havoc.

5.) “You don’t know the POWER…” – Darth Vader

There’s no real reason behind this one. I just like saying it.

6.) “I gave a bad feeling about this.” – Han, Luke, Leia, almost everyone 

via GIPHY

It’s a line that’s said in every entry into the Star Wars saga. Whether you’re Force-sensitive or not, this line is obviously a helpful thing to say whenever you’re taking a risk. It’s a good way to straddle the fence. You don’t explicitly say that you think the task is going to fail, but if it does happen to fail, you can step back and say “See? I told you I had a bad feeling about this.”

Win. Win.

Right?

7.) “We’ve spotted Imperial Walkers.” – Trey Callum at Echo Station 3-T8

I say this every time we have an ice storm in central Indiana. Because it feels like I’m living on Hoth.

I know. I’m pretty creative. And then I usually follow it up by saying something about how we’re having trouble adapting our Speeders to the cold or something about having to go out on Tauntauns. I usually end my discussion about how the surrounding ice and snow make me feel like I’m on Hoth by announcing on social media that Imperial Troops have entered the base.

You know you want to post something similar on social media the next time you’re stuck in a snowstorm.

Go ahead. You have my permission. Not that you need it.

8.) “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by size do you? And where you should not…” – Master Yoda

Someone once told me that “Obstacles are the things we see when we take our eyes off the prize.” While I’m not sure I agree with it 100% of the time, its point it much like Yoda’s – focus on what can be done, not what cannot. After all, big things are known to come in small packages.

via GIPHY

I just can’t help myself.

I’ve been quoting Star Wars movies for over three decades. I just can’t help sprinkling the phrases into my every day conversation. What about you? Is there a movie you love to quote all the time? If not, I highly recommend giving the Original Trilogy a try.

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Life lessons from preschool

3 life lessons from preschool

When I was little, my mom saw an ad in the local paper about a new preschool starting at Willow Road Baptist Church. Mom believed it was time for me to start my preschool career, so she picked up our rotary phone and called the church office. Mom talked to the preacher’s wife, who was directing this new endeavor, and signed me up for preschool. Apparently, I was the first child to enroll with the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church. Ever.

I don’t remember many details about the other students who were in that inaugural preschool class. I remember one boy. His name was Toby. I think. He liked pretending he was the Hulk. And whenever he was the Hulk, I would pretend to be Spider-Man. He would do his “Hulk smash” thing and I’d be busy shooting pretend spider webs from my wrists, keeping the girls and their cooties away.

Me and Vader
I think I’m a little older than preschool here, but you get the idea. I was adorable.

While I don’t remember many details, I do remember some key life lessons from my preschool experience. This wasn’t a preschool like many are today. You know the ones I”m talking about. They’re meant to prepare a child for the rigors of elementary school. That wasn’t the purpose of this preschool. The caring adults at the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church helped me be a kid. They helped me learn how to have healthy relationships with adults, other children, and the Divine.

Everything I needed to know…?

A few decades ago, the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten made a big splash. I get the premise behind it, but my education about life didn’t start with Kindergarten (it didn’t end there, either, but that’s another post for another day). It started in preschool. And while I certainly didn’t learn everything I needed to know about life while I was in preschool, I certainly learned some valuable life lessons.

preschool supplies

Now, some 35+ years later, I look back fondly on my experience at Willow Road Baptist Church Preschool. The preschool is no more. The congregation has dissolved, too. A new church has sprung up in its place. If you know anything about my longtime desire to see new churches doing new things in my hometown, you know this makes me very happy. Although Willow Road Baptist Church is no longer here, I can tell you that I’m still living by some of the lessons I learned in that tiny community.

3 Life Lessons From Preschool

1.) It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully.

Our indoor play area was relatively small. And although our preschool class was also relatively small (there might have been eight of us – I honestly don’t remember), preschoolers can get wound up pretty quickly. Inevitably, two kids were going to want to play with the same toy.

You know, like a green truck. One that I really loved. That’s what my mom has told me, anyway.

As a preschool aged kid, what would my reaction be if I was playing with this favorite green truck and someone like Toby came over and tried to take that toy because he wanted to do his whole Hulk Smash thing with it?

Hypothetically, of course.

There would naturally be much shouting. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. There’d be an endless cycle of “Mine!” “No! Mine!” shouted on repetitive repeat over and over and over again. There’d be pulling and pushing and shoving and hair pulling and more shouting and crying. Oh, the crying. Things would just spiral out of control from there, leading to hurt feelings, a bruised ego or two, and maybe a few handfuls of hair scattered throughout the room. And did I mention the tears?

It's a preschool fight

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

You can share. You can take turns. Shoot, you can even consider playing together. Disagreements don’t always have to end in violence. It is possible to disagree without trying to hurt the other person. I know. In the age of hyperpartisanship, parent shaming, and cyberbullying. We live in an age when a simple comment on a facebook post can lead to a person getting doxxed. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine what would happen if you chose to show a little bit of kindness instead of firing off that nasty tweet about someone who hurt you. What would happen if you chose not to give in to your selfish impulses and actually shared something instead of hoarding it? Imagine what would happen if we could have a passionate debate about something, laying out all the facts and actually listening to the other side without getting nasty and personal.

It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully. Choose kindness, friends. It’s hard to do sometimes. But it helps make the world a little bit less harsh. We don’t have to fight all the time.

Be kind, y’all.

2.) Keep your hands to yourself.

If we’re going to be kind to one another, that means we’re going to have to keep our hands to ourselves. No hitting. No unwelcome touching. Hair pulling? Nope. And no pinching, either. I can’t believe I have to say this, but no groping or any other type of grabbing other people’s body parts. And you can’t just walk up to people and kiss them, either.

It’s not OK.

Keep your hands to yourself in preschool

It’s not OK in preschool. And it’s not OK for adults, either. “Boys will be boys” is not acceptable. “It was meant to be a joke” is not an excuse. How hard is this concept? Keep your hands to yourself. I don’t care how powerful you are.

Wait. I take that back.

do care about how powerful you are. Because it matters how we treat people in private. And this is especially true when it comes to people in power. How you treat people who are less powerful than you reveals a whole lot about your character. Please. Use your power for good, not to abuse people who can’t do anything about it.

Keep your hands to yourself. Is it really that hard? If so, maybe you need to spend some time in the corner.

3.) Keep your clothes on.

Seriously. Is it really that difficult? Nobody needs to see that. Not even scary monsters.

screaming preschool monsters

Seriously.

These lessons I learned in preschool are pretty basic. You can basically boil them down to one main rule:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

I didn’t think this lesson was that hard to learn. But watching the news makes me think it’s a lot more difficult of a lesson to learn than I thought.

Or maybe it’s a sign that a lot of people just need to go back to preschool.

 

 

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Life in the Fishbowl’s 2017 Wish List

This post about Christmas wishlists contains affiliate links. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Life in the FIshbowl's 2017 Christmas Wish List

When I was younger, I remember poring over the toy sections of our family’s Sears Wish Book and Service Merchandise catalog during the weeks and days leading up to that magical Christmas morning. As “low-church Protestants” this, coupled with preparation for our church’s children’s Christmas musical, was as close our family got to an Advent-type ritual.

While I was tempted to circle every single toy in our family’s catalogs (except maybe the WWF WWE action figures, but that’s probably another post altogether), I would eventually take time to finely craft my Christmas Wish List, emphasizing the items that I really really REALLY wanted, instead of the ones that I merely really wanted. I’m not gonna lie. It was stressful. Being a kid in the 80’s was hard, y’all. With the Star Wars and the GI JOE and the Transformers and the LEGO and the Voltron and the Masters of the Universe and all things, it was a great time to be alive. And with all that awesomeness, it was almost impossible to narrow down my list to something manageable and realistic. But I did it.

If I was able to go back in time and talk to late-80’s me, I’d probably encourage him to push harder for the USS FLAG playset because…well…that thing was HUGE. And full of awesomeness.

As soon as our Thanksgiving feast was complete, our youngest began feverishly curating her wish list so she could put it in a letter for Santa Claus. She didn’t bring her letter when she got to visit Santa, but we’re dropping it in the mail very soon.

Someone was a little star struck when she met Santa. Wouldn’t say a word. #ILikeSanta

A post shared by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

So it’s in this spirit that I’ve searched the Internet for some pretty cool stuff. And without further delay, I present to you the Life in the Fishbowl 2017 Christmas wish list. Enjoy.  Continue reading Life in the Fishbowl’s 2017 Wish List

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The fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever made [Recipe]

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #DunkinatGiantEagle #CollectiveBias

The fluffiest pancakes I've ever made #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Can I be honest here for a second?

I dread school mornings.

OK. “Dread” is a bit strong. But when left to their own devices, school mornings can be close to dreadful. Thankfully, Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and this buttermilk pancake recipe can help make these rough mornings go a whole lot more smoothly. It’s the perfect combination because Dunkin’ Donuts helps every day people who help keep America running keep themselves running every day. And the new bottled Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffees provides refreshment with a smooth, flavorful coffee taste. It helps me keep going throughout the day, helping to provide the boost I need to survive the mornings.

And the pancakes? I promise you. You want to try this recipe. It makes the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever cooked. And I’ve cooked a lot of pancakes over the years.

Why do I dislike school mornings?

You see, even though I’m the last person to leave the house, I’m the first person to get up in the morning. Since there’s no rush for me to get to work, I wind up serving as some kind of morning coordinator, making sure our high schoolers are up, dressed, fed, and out the door by 6:30 in the morning. That’s right. The bus picks them up at 6:30 in the morning. It’s ungodly.

The bus gets here way too early in the morning #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Then, while Mom is getting ready, I get our youngest ready for her school day. Because of some special circumstances, she requires a little extra assistance in getting ready. I love getting to have some extra one-on-one time with her in the morning, but it takes some extra energy in the morning. I’ve managed to create a manageable routine for her, but it still takes time.

When it comes down to it, school mornings are probably best described as organized chaos. And that’s on a good day.

There are some things I’ve been able to do to streamline the school morning process. One thing I’ve started doing is making breakfast ahead of time. I know. I have three high school students. They should probably be fixing their own breakfast. But if I left it up to them, they’d probably grab a handful of jellybeans as they head out the door, calling it a filling breakfast. I have a fundamental disagreement with skipping a good breakfast before school. So I make sure they have something. It’s easy to do if you do the heavy lifting ahead of time. That’s why I love this pancake recipe.

Give me some buttermilk pancakes and Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee!

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

The recipe is simple enough. It calls for basic ingredients that you can get at any Giant Eagle or Market District store. And while you’re there, you can grab a few bottles of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee. The 13.75 ounce bottles are available in four flavors:

  • Original
  • Mocha
  • Espresso
  • French Vanilla

I found these ice cold bottles of goodness in a refrigerated section by the checkout lanes. They were conveniently located so I could get in, grab what I needed, and get out quickly.

Giant Eagle Collage #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Don’t misunderstand me here. The Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee isn’t for anyone else but me. It’s more like my special reward for surviving the mad rush of getting everyone out the door.

OK. I do share them with Christy from time to time. If she’s lucky.

Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffes at Giant Eagle stores #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

She’s a big Mocha fan.

With a bottle of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee and these fluffy buttermilk pancakes that I’ve made ahead of time, school mornings are a whole lot easier than they used to be.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes with Syrup #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Here’s what you’ll need

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Cups of Milk
  • 4 Tablespoons of White Vinegar
  • 2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Tablespoons of White Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons of melted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of  Imitation Vanilla Extract
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray

Utensils

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Medium Mixing Bowl
  • Griddle
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups

Here’s what you’ll do

Step 1
Combine Milk and Vinegar in Medium Mixing Bowl and set aside for at least 5 minutes, allowing the milk to “sour.”

Step 2
Melt Butter in microwave safe dish. Allow to cool.

Step 3
Combine dry ingredients (Flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda) in Large Mixing Bowl.

Step 3
Whisk Eggs, melted Butter, and Vanilla Extract into the “soured” Milk.

Step 4
Pour milk mixture into the Large Mixing Bowl. Whisk until combined. Set mixture aside, allowing batter to rest for 5 minutes.

Step 5
While batter is resting, preheat griddle to 350°.

Step 6
Once the griddle is hot, coat with Nonstick Cooking Spray. Pour ¼ cupfuls of batter onto the griddle. Cook until bubbles pop (approximately 4 minutes). Flip pancakes and cook other side until golden brown.

Golden brown fluffy buttermilk pancakes #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

Step 7
Set cooked pancakes aside on a plate.

Step 8
Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until batter is gone.

If you are going to eat these right away, which is tempting, serve these fluffy stacks of goodness with syrup and eat them while they’re hot. If you’re going to use them throughout the week, allow them to cool and store them in the refrigerator in food storage bags. I like to put three in a sandwich bag so it’s easy to grab in the morning.

To Reheat
Place pancakes on microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds at 80% power. Serve with syrup or your favorite toppings.

The key to a less stressful morning

Making these amazingly fluffy and flavorful pancakes ahead of time is a key to a great morning. I can make sure my kids are well fed before school. And then after everyone is sufficiently on their way, it gives me the opportunity to enjoy my few minutes of peace and quiet with a tasty breakfast and my Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee.

A great breakfast combination #DunkinatGiantEagle #ad

What’s your favorite breakfast for a hectic morning?

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3 things they don’t tell you about getting older

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

Be sure to check out all of the ways TENA® MENhelps you face getting older with comfort and confidence by hovering over the image below.

Time sure does fly by, doesn’t it?

One minute, you’re scrambling in a store, trying to find the right bag of candy. The next minute, you’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of your engagement. It seems like yesterday that I was cradling our firstborn in my arms, welcoming him to our world. Now we’re talking about career choices, making college visits, and preparing for life after high school.

They warned me about this. They probably warned you about this, too.

Don't blink. It'll all go too fast #TryTENAMEN #ad

“Don’t blink,” they said. “It’ll all go by too quickly.”

I’ve heard this quite a bit over the years. And it’s probably wise to heed that warning because it’s true. Time really has flown by. I’ve talked about it before. And I’m sure I’ll talk about it again. I haven’t gotten old. But I’ve definitely gotten older. And I don’t think I’m as prepared as I should be.

I wish, however, that people would have also warned me about some other more practical issues that come with getting older. Don’t get me wrong. My family, teachers, mentors, and other important adults in my life did a great job of preparing me for adulthood. I just wish they would have warned me about other issues that come up when you get older. I’m not talking about the high-level, philosophical things like making the most out of each day or seizing the moment or anything like that. No, these are nitty-gritty, ground level, practical things that people forget to tell you about getting older. As a public service, I’m passing along three things people don’t warn you about growing older.

3 Things They Don't Tell You About Getting Older #TryTEVAMEN #ad

3 things about getting older that they don’t prepare you for:

1.) Crazy hair. Everywhere. It’s inevitable.

My uncle used to have black hair when he was young. By the time he was in his early twenties, his hair had turned a silvery gray. I guess I should have taken that as a warning sign that my hair color could turn. But I didn’t. Until one day I realized that my sandy-brown hair had turned a white form of gray. Although I could have and maybe should have paid attention to the signs, no one really did anything to prepare me for the emotional toll that occurs when your hair starts to turn gray.

I know. I know. Some have referred to having gray hair as being a “crown of glory” and is a sign of a good life. But when you first notice that streak of gray in your hair, it’s rather jarring.

Gray hair #TryTENAMEN #ad

Some of my friends don’t have that problem. That’s because they’ve lost all of their hair. I’ll be honest. Discovering gray hair was earth-shattering. I’m not sure how I would take it if I wound up bald, too.

I realize the whole hair on top of your head (or lack thereof) situation really comes down to two choices: fight it by dyeing it. Or accept it. I’ve chosen to accept it. I’ve come to grips with it. And that’s OK.

But that’s not the craziest hair I deal with!

Nose hair!

It’s the worst. And it just keeps growing. And if you couple that with the hair that keeps growing out of your ears?

Insanity.

No mentor of mine ever mentioned anything about how to cope with the forest that keeps growing from your ears and nose. So I guess it’s time to find some nose hair clippers. I know there’s a scientific reason for the continual growth of nose hair. But I don’t think I’m quite to the level of acceptance for such a bizarre and annoying event that never stops.

Ever.

2.) Leakage

It’s time to get real for a minute. Y’all OK with that? Good. Because this is important.

Did you know that, according to TENA® MEN™, 3.4 million men suffer from Unexpected Leak™? That’s something nobody ever mentioned when they talked about what happens when you get older. And if you’re a man who is experiencing this unexpected event, you are not alone.

CVS in store collage #TryTENAMEN #ad

Available in store and online at CVS, TENA® MENTM Protective Shield is available to help men take charge of their lives. I know it’s not anything anyone likes to talk about, but thanks to its discreet look and absorbent core, TENA® MEN Protective Shield provides effective protection so you can tackle your day with confidence. They’re designed with the male anatomy in mind, providing comfort and security against light drips and dribbles.

During the week of October 22, if you buy one TENA® MEN product, you can get a second at 50% off. This deal is available both in-store and online. If you’ve ever dealt with this uncomfortable situation, why not give TENA® MEN Protective Shield a try? Just hover over the photo below to make your purchase. It’s really that easy.

You’ve got nothing to lose and comfort, security, and confidence to gain.

3.) Hearing your favorite band on the Classic Rock radio station.

Classic Rock radio. That’s a station reserved for the likes of the Greats from the 60s and 70s. Right?

That’s what I’ve always thought. And it makes sense. That’s what was considered “classic” rock when I was growing up.

But what happens when that radio station plays a song from a band you used to listen to when you were in elementary school? It’s such a strange feeling. And it’s one that nobody prepared me for. It still only seems like yesterday that my friends and I were rocking out to our favorite songs in my family’s basement. And now these same songs are in heavy rotation on Classic Rock radio stations.

It seems to me that there are two options when this happens. You can change the radio station and pretend you didn’t hear anything. After all, it was probably just some type of glitch. That song that you listened to can’t possibly belong on an oldies station like that. Right? It hasn’t been that long ago. In other words, you could simply choose to life in denial for the rest of your life. The other option is to just accept it. You grew up listening to some legends and their music is still amazing some 30 years later. Go ahead.

Rock out anyway #TryTENAMen #ad

Rock out anyway.

I mean, since nobody prepared us for this, we’re kind of making it up as we go along, anyway. Right? So why not have a little fun in the process?

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