Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post about the new NASCAR Acceleration Nation app. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Me and Aiden at Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

I have a lot of fond memories from our time living in Upper East Tennessee. One of the best memories is the opportunities we had to attend NASCAR related festivities and races. Needless to say, living in the shadow of Bristol, the fastest half mile in the world, we had a pretty big NASCAR fan while we lived there.

Aiden in front of Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

Now NASCAR has created something I wish was around when we lived in the Tri-Cities: NASCAR Acceleration Nation! Available on Android, iPhone (click here to download), and the web, NASCAR Acceleration Nation has all kinds of great stuff for kids, including information about upcoming races, driver details, fun games, and learning materials about the science of racing!  Continue reading The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

Navigating our journey as newlyweds

During the fall of 1998, Christy and I were newlyweds on the campus of Milligan College. I was finishing up my final semester of classes and Christy was working at a local childcare center. We were young, in love, and broke (as opposed to being old[er], in love, and broke like we are now 😉 ). In many ways, this final semester of mine was like a minor diversion before we took off on our journey of life dancing in minefields together.

Wedding portrait

When we first arrived on campus, we were the celebrities. It’s one of the advantages of being part of a small college community. Professors went out of their way to come see us on move-in day. It was…nice. Actually, it was pretty cool. I’m not sure you’ll find that kind of “welcome back, newlyweds” reception on most college campuses around the nation. But Milligan is pretty special.

Of course, many of our college friends had graduated and moved away. School and work and figuring out how to do this thing called marriage together took a lot of energy. So we really didn’t spend much time hanging out with our friends who were still in the area. And with Married Student Apartments being on the edge of campus, it’s not like we were in the middle of the campus commotion.

Looking back, I feel like the colder months of that final semester, with the early nights and living on the edge of the  campus scene, it was kind of isolating. We didn’t really hang out with anyone else. Just each other. Don’t get me wrong. That was pretty awesome. But we were in a different life stage than the majority of the campus population. Even in classes, it felt like I didn’t really relate to any of the students anymore. It’s like I was just biding my time until it was time for us to move on. Continue reading Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

The Eclipse is coming! The Eclipse is coming! [2017 Edition]

This post about the 2017 Eclipse 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.

Eclipse 207

It’s almost here, everyone! It’s just over the horizon. The full eclipse of 2017 is almost here! If you don’t have a hotel or bed and breakfast reserved anywhere near one of the peak viewing areas, you’re probably out of luck by now. If they aren’t already booked, they’re probably pretty close. And the rates are astronomical. * And the glasses are probably sold out wherever you are  (why didn’t I stock up on those a month ago? I could be a gazillionaire). And if they aren’t, there’s a chance they might not be as safe as you think they are. So you just might be out of luck.

But have no fear. You can still party like it’s 1999** in anticipation of the most visible full eclipse across the contiguous United States in almost a century. And you don’t even have to go outside or look up in the sky.

Times have changed.

I remember discussion about a solar eclipse while I was in elementary school. They made it very clear that you couldn’t look up at the sky during the eclipse without special glasses because it could blind you forever. I think we had inside recess that day.*** Just in case.

I’m also pretty sure I was hiking at Philmont during the 1991 eclipse.

They were memorable events, for sure. But there certainly wasn’t the hype surrounding the 2017 eclipse. And there definitely weren’t any parties.

But there’s definitely a party atmosphere now. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way since the days when a solar eclipse was a reason to panic. I mean, there’s certainly a little bit of fear and trepidation about going outside, accidentally looking up without your protective glasses, and having your eyeballs melt away, not unlike what happens when you look into the Ark of the Covenant.****

But solar eclipses used to be signs of the end of the world. I mean, who wouldn’t think everything was going to come crashing down when the sky suddenly turned dark and the sun was unexpectedly blotted out? Surely it was a sign of something. And that something couldn’t be good.

I think it’s fair to mention that there will be another full solar eclipse visible in 2024. That’s right. Seven years from now. You know seven is a special number. Right?

I’m sure the prophets will have a field day with that.

But the eclipse of 2017? It’s a party, for sure. Maybe you’re late in planning this party, but that’s OK. There’s not a whole lot of preparation required, unless you want to go out and buy some Moon Pies or make some space-inspired drinks. If you want to get all fancy, you can make your own DIY pinhole camera. Or you could do what I’m going to do and watch NASA’s livestream of the 2017 Eclipse.

But I’m not going to stop there. Every party has to have music. Especially and Eclipse Party. Here’s some music that should be on everyone’s Eclipse Party Playlist. Feel free to tell me in the comments if I should add a song to this list.

THE Epic Solar Eclipse Party Playlist

Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Duh. This is the no-brainer of no-brainers.

Man on the Moon

Fitting, since the Man on the Moon is doing some funky stuff to the sun.

Walkin’ on the Sun

Speaking of the sun…

Heavenly

“The Man in the Moon is smilin’
Cause he’s in love with the Girl in the World.”

Kinda sweet. Right?

Blue Moon

The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

A little nod to all the doomsday apocalyptic aficionados throughout the centuries who knew that an eclipse surely meant the beginning of the end…

Obi-Wan

OK, maybe this one’s a little of a stretch. But not really. Because maybe that’s no moon that’s causing the eclipse.*

Actually, this entry is dedicated to Aiden and his friend, Gabe. They introduced me the song.

So there you go. A great set of songs to get you ready for two minutes of awesomeness that you won’t see again for another seven years. And if, for some reason, you miss out on this year’s Eclipse, you can start planning ahead for 2024.

Assuming the sun lights back up and the world doesn’t end tomorrow.

Endnotes

* You see what I did there. Right? Man, I’m hilarious.
** There were two solar eclipses in 1999. But I don’t remember hearing about any solar eclipse parties.
***My memory might be a bit fuzzy on this. According to this, there was only one solar eclipse that was visible in North America when I was in elementary school. It was after Memorial Day, though. And I’m pretty sure we did not go to school after Memorial Day. But I could be wrong.
****That’s two posts in a row with Indiana Jones references. I’m on a roll, man. It’s time to go solo.

Some of my thoughts in the wake of Charlottesville, Virginia

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend have brought to light the deep-seeded hatred that has lurked beneath the surface of our society for generations. It’s been our nation’s dirty little secret. Some say it’s America’s Original Sin.

Many have thought that if we ignored it, it would just go away. If we stopped giving it any credence, it would wither on the vine and die of starvation. Maybe those tiny pockets of crazy KKK folk would eventually disappear due to lack of interest. That’s the easy response. Because admitting we have a societal problem is uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. And it’s shameful.

But we cannot pretend it isn’t happening anymore. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have been pretending in the first place. But many of us have been. And although it’s been a long time coming, it appears that Charlottesville has served as a wake up call.

I would hope that if you’ve spent any time with me at all or if you’ve read any of my writings at all, it should go without saying that I deplore racism, white supremacy, and any other form of hate-filled rhetoric that these misguided characters might espouse. Let me say it again so there is no doubt in anyone’s mind: I reject racism and I repudiate white supremacy.  This a poison that will only lead to destruction. There is no room for such hatred in our society.  Period.

And there’s even less room for this type of venom in our churches.

Somehow along the way, people have tried to connect the Church with racist, white supremacist views. I assume some of this goes back to the time leading up to the Civil War, when church leaders who were sympathetic to the cause of slavery desperately needed some proof texts from Scripture to prove that the enslavement of an entire race was somehow divinely appointed. So they ripped verses out of context, twisted the meanings of different verses, and did the little song and dance that many of us do when we try to make the Bible say what we want it to say instead of what it really says.

If you’ve come here thinking that Jesus encouraged and supported some kind of hate-driven agenda, you can go ahead and put away your proof texts and your mental gymnastics because I want to take a few minutes to remind you* of what Jesus has to say on this matter:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34 (emphasis mine)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no command greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31 (emphasis mine)

You’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t, you should read it. Right now. Go ahead. Read it. I’ll wait. If you don’t want to read it, you can watch this video. Jesus makes it pretty clear who our neighbors are. He makes it pretty clear how to show love. And he made it very clear what we’re supposed to do in response to this story.

“Go and do likewise.”

And just in case you haven’t gotten the hint yet, let’s look at what the Apostle Paul and see what he has to say.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28 (emphasis mine)

You think one race is cursed while another is elevated? You think one is inferior while another is superior? No way. Not in God’s community. There is no distinction. We should all be united. That’s our call. It’s what we’re meant to be when the love of Christ transforms us. Love your neighbor. Show mercy. Love one another.

And that’s the same thing that John tells us in his first letter to believers.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8

You might as well go ahead and read the rest of that chapter. Shoot, read the whole letter. If you have any doubt about how we should live in a world full of hate, 1 John has the answer. Spoiler alert: It ain’t hate.

It’s that simple.

And it’s that difficult. Holy cow, it’s hard.

Because when I see images of people gathering to spewing  hate and breathing violent threats, my first reaction is to respond with hate. In fact, I want to punch them in the throat.

Indiana Jones punching a Nazi, much like many people want to do after Charlottesville
Image via Nazis Gettin’ Punched

That’s what I want to do. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. “Love your neighbor,” remember? One could argue that a white supremacist Nazi type of person is hardly a neighbor. So maybe it’s all OK to simply respond to hate with hate.

Wrong.

(Jesus said:) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Jesus wasn’t merely talking in theory. While we were still sinners, while we had set up residence in the Enemy’s camp, Jesus put “love your enemies” into practice when he spread out his arms and died for all of humanity – even the ones who beat him, hurled insults at him, and executed him.

If I’m being honest, that’s a pretty tough example to follow. And I also have no idea how to put that into practice. Because I’m outraged at the fact that people think it’s OK to treat other people like they’re less than human. I will not let their trash gain legitimacy in our society. And I will not allow them to hijack my faith.

But where is the line between responding in holy anger (yes, there is such a thing) and responding in hate? I don’t know. But I do know this: I know in the end even after everything else has passed away, only love will remain.

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest, the most excellent way is love.

It’s all about love. It will always be about love. Love will remain. That’s the answer to the ugliness that was displayed in Charlottesville. It is the answer to any ugliness we encounter, honestly. That’s what it boils down to.

Love.

So I’m learning how to choose love in the midst of hate. I’m learning how to stare Satan’s minions in the face and respond in love. Because these all of us desperately need Jesus.

I know what the answer is. But I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know what it looks like in real life. How do we flesh this out? I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to start.

So I’m learning to stand with love. That should be my default setting: love. But since we’re being honest here, I can tell you that it isn’t my “go-to” response most of the time. But I’m doing my best. I’m learning to love the way Jesus loves me.

I hope you’ll learn with me.

*Do I really think that sharing these verses is going to change the mind of a devoted white supremacist? No. I don’t think they really care about the words of Jesus. Or Paul. Or John. I doubt they really care about anything other than statements that promote their own twisted, hate-filled, repugnant views. This post is really for people who might be on the fence, although I don’t see how you can be on the fence. It’s also for people who are looking at these white folks, connecting the dots, and thinking that this is what the American church is all about.  

I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

This post about nostalgia, Star Wars toys, and classic arcade games 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.

I’ve only been working at the new job for about two months and I’ve already done some pretty memorable things. I got to tour a local bottling plant and was very tempted to pull a Laverne and Shirley. I was a good boy and didn’t do it. But, man. It was so tempting.

Then, not long after that, I had the opportunity to tour a local radio station and Continue reading I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

We stand by Jennifer

Jennifer has been an integral part of our family for the past nine years. Through her work with Adoptions of Indiana, she has served as our social worker. It was because of her that we were able to bring Mihret home. And Weldu, too.

I have no idea what our family would be like without her direct influence. And for that, we are forever grateful.

We stand by Jennifer.

Jennifer’s story is woven into ours. She has had a huge impact on our family. That’s why the horrible news of her husband’s death hits us pretty hard. And that’s why I’m sharing this GoFundMe campaign. I can’t imagine losing someone in such a public way. This is just one way we can stand by Jennifer as she and her family rebuild and carry on. From what I understand, Jennifer plans on continuing the priceless work she’s already been doing. That’s a great thing. I hope she can continue to impact countless other families throughout Indiana.

But first, there are some other things that need to be taken care of. And maybe you can help.

It would mean the world to our family if you would consider donating to this cause. I realize I can’t speak for them on a first-hand basis, but I’m sure it would mean a lot and countless other families whom Jennifer has served, too.

According to the page itself, here is the plan for using this financial assistance:

  • Emergency rescue and medical out of pocket costs
  •  Funeral expenses
  • Bereavement counseling and support for Jennifer and her children
  • Loss of family income
  • Future educational needs for the children
  • Long-term financial stability

Jennifer Morrissey has given so much of herself to so many families throughout the state. Supporting her during her family’s unimaginable moment of crisis is really a no-brainer. It is a right thing to do.

I hope you feel the same way.

Dear children, thanks for making me Dad

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your continued support. 

An Open Letter to my Children #ThanksBaby #ad

It has been said that when a baby is born, a dad is born. Pampers believes that is true. That’s why this Father’s Day, and every day, they’re thanking babies for empowering Dad and empowering him to discover new roles as he journeys through this thing called Fatherhood.

That’s definitely true for me.

I had helped out at our church’s day care when I was in high school. I had also served in another church’s nursery shortly after Christy and I had gotten married. I’d even helped babysit some young children over the years. But when my son was born, everything changed.

Because being Dad isn’t babysitting. It’s not even close.

Me with the Kids #ThanksBaby #ad

When I held my son for the first time, my world changed. I had been warned that it would change, but I had no idea how much it would actually change. It’s unbelievable. You’re holding this little, tiny, itty-bitty human being and nothing else matters. Nothing. You’re responsible for everything. This baby is relying on you. Of course, mom’s part of the story, too. We’ve been partners in this journey since Day One. But when it hits you that you’re actually a Dad, it’s an overwhelming realization. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s a scary proposition, too. You certainly become a new man when a child becomes part of your family.

Every one of our children has a completely different story about how they came into our family. And each journey has changed my life forever. For that, I’m grateful. So I’ve decided to write a brief note to each of them.

Dear Aiden,

Me and Aiden #ThanksBaby #ad

As the firstborn, you are the trailblazer. Everything is new. And I’m sure I’ve screwed up a lot over the years (still kicking myself for making you cry when I was coaching you on the baseball field).  And let’s not talk about the first time I changed a diaper. Let’s just say it was a comedy of errors.

I’m thankful that we’re blazing this trail together. I see your desire to help others, your natural leadership ability (on the field, at church, and in life in general), and your desire to make a difference with your life, and my heart explodes with pride, joy, and excitement. You’re going to do great things, my boy. In fact, you already are.

Even though we might disagree about which episode of Star Wars is the best.

Love,
Dad

Dear Weldu,

Me and Weldu #ThanksBaby #ad

I’m thankful that you joined our family last year. You filled the empty chair at our dining room table. You have made our family complete. Thank you.

I am proud to call you my son. I am excited to see you use your athletic gifts to the best of your ability, taking advantage of the opportunities that are before you.  Your English continues to improve and you are going to do great things wherever you are.

I may not be the biggest fan of soccer, but I’m your biggest fan. So I will continue to go to your games, even though I have no idea what’s going on half the time. Because you are worth it.

You always will be.

Love,
Dad

Dear Aly,

Me and Aly #ThanksBaby #ad

Oh, Aly.

Where do I begin?

You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer. I think you cried for the first 6 months, simply because you wanted to. That’s why some of our extended family still calls you “Waah-ly.” Thanks for growing out of that. Seriously.

Your love for animals, especially dogs and horses, is infectious. You have the biggest heart for others that I’ve ever seen. Ever. And your artistic ability? Mind-blowing. You certainly have an eye for photography.

Thank you for reminding me to explore new things and to make the most of every opportunity I have. You are our free spirit. But I hope you realize that wherever you go and whatever you do, you will always have a home right here in my heart.

Love,
Dad

Dear Mihret,

Me and Mihret #ThanksBaby #ad

You opened my heart, helping me realize that family is so much more than just blood. When it was time to leave you that first day, I had to put you back in your crib and go back to our Guest House. You cried when I put you down. It took all that was within me not to reach back down, scoop you out of your bed, and promise you that I will never ever leave you again. Ever. You broke my heart that day, but your smile makes my heart grow every time I see it.

You are the most determined little girl I’ve ever met. I think you’re the most determined little girl anyone has met.  And you have such a joy for life that it’s absolutely contagious. Thank you for challenging me with your determination. When you keep on pushing, never accepting “no” for an answer, you encourage me to have that same fighting spirit. You light up the room with your smile. And that laugh of yours? It just makes everything better. Thank you for being you and for inspiring everyone around you. You certainly inspire me.

Love,
Dad

None of my children are babies anymore, but I’m still grateful that each one of them call me Dad. It’s an honor that I do not take lightly.

I’m also thankful for companies like Pampers, who honor dads for simply being dads. They recognize dads for all of the amazing things they do – both big and small – to help little ones have a better, loving, and more fulfilling life.

OK. Now it’s your turn.

What do you have to say to your baby? What are you thankful for?

Share your gratitude on twitter by using the #ThanksBaby hashtag!

How I was Able to Share an Ice Cold Coke with my Office Teammates

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

How I was able to share an ice cold Coke with my teammates #ShareIceColdFun #ad

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently made a career change. I left my job as an Instructional Assistant, working with lower elementary school students with Special Needs. Now I work with a nonprofit organization. I get to help adults with Special Needs find meaningful work in the community. I’m not going to lie. This was a bittersweet decision. I really enjoyed working with those kids. But it was also a no-brainer.

I’ve joined a pretty amazing team of Employment Advisors. I’m excited to work with them. And they’ve been very helpful as I’m trying to get up to speed. They’re a hard working, dedicated, and passionate group of people. It’s an honor to join forces with them to help change lives in our community.

I wanted to show my appreciation for the work my teammates do. They have been so patient and welcoming and accommodating during this transition. I also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to everyone on my team. So I created a little gift basket to share, thanking them for making me feel like I’m already an important part of the team.

My quest for the perfect gift basket.

This Summer, the Coca-Cola™ Share an Ice Cold Coke campaign has returned. It’s bigger and better than ever before. They’ve added a thousand new names this year.  They’ve also added last names!

That’s right. Last names.

I had to include personalized Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero™, Diet Coke®, Coca-Cola Cherry, and Coca-Cola Life bottles in this gift to my teammates. It just made sense. So, I visited our closest Giant Eagle store, the Market District in Carmel, and went about grabbing some personalized bottles and some other goodies to share with my team.

Why a Giant Eagle store?

Have you seen their bulk candy and trail mix section?

Giant Eagle treats #ShareIceColdFun #ad

It’s amazing.

So I hit the road for my local Giant Eagle (you really should check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest profiles) on a quest to find some goodies for this special basket I’m creating. When I walked in the door, it was like the heavens opened up before me. There, right before my eyes, was the sea of personalized Coca-Cola bottles. It was right there in the cold drinks section at the entrance.

It was glorious.

So I grabbed the appropriate Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles of Coca-Cola. I went over to the bulk area and got a bucket of cheesy popcorn and created a container of trail mix. Although i probably could have spent another hour or two wandering through the store, I had other things to get done that evening. That’s what’s great about Giant Eagle stores. I love the layout. I love the products they have. And of course I love their bulk confections. I’m never disappointed when I visit a Giant Eagle store.

An appropriate gift basket for a small nonprofit office

Share an Ice Cold Coke with an office gift basket #ShareIceColdFun #ad

In addition to some tasty treats and personalized Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles, I wanted to give some things that were fitting for our team’s setting. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are times where our equipment and supplies can feel cobbled together. Such is the nature of an organization like ours. Our time, money, and energy are focused on serving our clients to the best of our abilities. So, some necessities might become a little scarce sometimes.

I ran to a local discount store and found a few things that every office like ours must have. And I included them in my gift basket.  Our office has a refrigerator. It has a microwave. But it’s almost near impossible to find any eating utensils. So I included plastic cutlery in my basket. And speaking of the basket, I decided to use a stackable mail tray as the container to hold all of these tiny gifts. That will come in handy with keeping things organized. I also found some inexpensive buckets to add a splash of color to our office.

The nature of our work requires that we keep detailed records. There are timesheets and follow up sheets and sheets upon sheets upon sheets. Almost all of them require black ink. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard enough for me to keep track of my pens. It’s like they grow legs and walk away. Black ink pens are even harder to keep track of. So my gift basket included a package of black ink pens to support the cause. Because if we don’t have black pens, we cannot do our jobs effectively. They’re that important.

I considered putting the basket in the Break Room, but this is a gift for my team. So I sat it on a desk in the office that our team shares. Giving office supplies in a gift basket might be considered “out of the box,” but I thought it was a highly appropriate gift for my teammates.

I hope they enjoyed it. Because I know I appreciate them.

Share an Ice Cold Coke Gift Basket for my office #ShareIceColdFun #ad

Who will  you share an ice cold Coke with this Summer?

It’s time to finally start printing your photos the easy way. $1000 of Amazon Gift Cards to be won!

Thanks to Amazon for sponsoring this post about Amazon Prints and for providing prizes for the giveaway! You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy.

Amazon Prints #AmazonPrints #ad

Summer Break is here! With all of the fantastic Summer memories that we’re going to have, now is the perfect time to remember that Amazon has launched Amazon Prints. It’s a photo service that allows all customers to print their memories. If you’re a Prime member, you can just upload your photos to your Prime Photos account with free unlimited photo storage. Then you simply choose the product you want and have it shipped for free. These products include, but are not limited to, photo books, photo canvases, calendars, and wall décor.  If you’re not a Prime member, you’re in luck, too! You get 5 free GB of storage with Prime Photos. You can store and print all of your favorites all Summer long! And the prints start as low as $.09 each.

It’s a pretty great deal.

From football to soccer to camps and a possible trip or two out of town, our family has a lot on our plate. I know we’re going to make some great memories along the way. I’m glad Amazon Photos is here to help me share the great photos we’re sure to capture this Summer.

Enter the Giveaway!

Now’s your chance to win an Amazon gift card! Head on over to Amazon Prints and check out all of the amazing things you can do with their photo printing service. Then share in the comments below what kind of photos you would like to have printed with Amazon Prints. In another comment, share your favorite Amazon Prints feature.  Then simply follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Can you spell Exercise?

Our Fifth Grade classes (all two of them*) had gathered in our school’s Media Center/Library. Each Friday, our classes had held a Spelling Bee. And now, all of the winners of those previous competitions from both classes were together in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, Spelling Bee grudge match with One Speller to Rule Them All. The winner, of course, would represent our tiny Stockwell Elementary in the Regional Bee. An the winner of that went on to the National Spelling Bee. This wasn’t some run of the mill Spelling Bee. It was for all the marbles.

My 5th Grade School Picture

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

When our teacher announced who would represent our class in the Fifth Grade Battle Royale, I must admit I was a little shocked when she called my name. “I never won a Spelling Bee,” I protested. I honestly didn’t remember winning any of the Friday showdowns. But several of my colleagues disagreed with me. And my teacher disagreed with me. So I was included in the list of contestants.

I was a Finalist in my school’s Spelling Bee.

I felt ill-prepared and under-qualified. As we walked into the Media Center/Library, I’m not gonna lie: I felt like the proverbial lamb heading to the slaughter. I was doomed. I was prepared to be a quick Out, getting disqualified on the first word I tried to spell.

Things didn’t work out like that, though. They rarely work out the way they play out in a Fifth Grader’s mind. Do they?

I spelled my first word with no problem. Amazingly enough, I don’t remember what word they gave me. Then I got another one right. Contestants were dropping like flies, but I was still in the game.

Then a good friend of mine misspelled a relatively easy word. It was either “there” or “reed” or something like that – a homophone that you’re likely to misspell if you don’t ask for a definition. He spelled the wrong word. He chose poorly.

Things started looking up

I started wondering if I was actually going to win this thing. There were only FOUR contestants remaining. I was one of them! Yes, maybe so! I could possibly win the Spelling Bee!

Another friend misspelled a word. I knew right away that she did. The word was a piece of cake. Instead of getting harder, this thing was starting to get easier. Victory was within my grasp. And I was ready for it.

And then there were TWO.

Another friend misspelled a word. I don’t remember what it was, but I know I knew how to spell it. That left two of us. There was just one more person standing in between me and Spelling Bee glory. I saw myself as the Underdog, since I didn’t think I belonged there, anyway. I was David and I was ready to slay Goliath and claim my prize.

We battled back and forth. My competitor was tough. You could cut the tension with a sharpened No. 2 pencil. Neither one of us was going to budge.

“Spell the word, ‘Exercise.'”

That’s what the Teacher told me to spell. And my stomach dropped. I felt like Charlie Brown during the National Spelling Bee when he was told to spell the word “Beagle.”

Exercise…

exercise weights
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Exercise…

running shoes
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Exercise…

baseball tennis ball basketball tennis racket soccer ball
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Exercise…

vintage bicycles, bikes
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“E…

x…”

I don’t remember how I spelled the word. I knew there was a “C” in there. And I wasn’t sure if there was a “Z” or an “S” at the end. I might have spelled it “excersise” or “excersize” or something like that. The details don’t really matter at this point. I know I spelled it wrong.

The bell dinged. I was done. Finished. I finished second. Runner-up. It was quite an accomplishment. I was named the Alternate Representative for our school, and given a copy of a book of words to study for the Regional round of competition – just in case the winner was somehow unable to fulfill his duties. There was a lot to be proud of. But I was still disappointed.

“You never forget…”

When we sat around the dinner table that evening, I told everyone about how I almost won the Spelling Bee. I showed some disappointment in myself for missing the word “exercise.”

“Well, I can tell you one thing,” my Dad said, offering some encouragement . “You won’t ever forget how to spell ‘exercise.’ I still remember the word I missed in our school’s Spelling Bee. And I’ll never forget how to spell it.”

He’s right.

I’ve never forgotten how to spell “exercise.” I will never have to look it up again.

The same is true about street signs. When I took my test for my Driver’s License (on April 1, by the way), I only missed one sign: the car with the squiggly lines underneath.

Slippery When Wet Street Sign I couldn’t decide if it was telling me that there was a curvy road ahead or if it was slippery when wet. I knew there was another sign that actually says “Slippery When Wet,” so I said it was a curvy road. I chose…poorly.

This sign is etched into my memory. I will never forget it. I doubt I ever will. Even if I’m old and can’t tell you the difference between a Stop sign and a Yield sign, I’m confident that I’ll be able to tell you that this sign means Slippery When Wet.

Why do we do that?

When I began writing about my Spelling Bee experience, I was planning on asking why we focus on the negative? I finished second in the whole school. I was the Alternate Representative for our school. Pretty cool, right? Why focus on the misspelled word?

Why focus on the one sign I missed on a test 25 years ago?

Because that’s how we learn from our mistakes. That’s how we grow. That’s how we get better.

There shouldn’t be any surprise that I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. But I have a choice to make: I can wallow in self-pity, beating myself up for something as minor as a misspelled word, or I can get up, learn from that mistake.

I choose to get better. I choose to keep improving and to learn from my mistakes. 

Hopefully, you do, too.

* You read that right. We only had two Fifth Grade classes at our school. We were the Stockwell Woodsmen and we were a relatively small school. And I loved every minute of being part of that small community.