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!"

Todd Bussey: More than an old youth group minister

Leigh was part of our high school youth group. I asked her to share some memories from her experience with Todd Bussey as our youth minister. I knew she would have some stories to tell. I’m glad I asked. Because she delivered!

Thanks for sharing, Leigh!

Todd Bussey!

I met Todd Bussey 30 years ago when I first went to youth group on a Sunday night in 1988.

Young, energetic, silly, larger than life in personality and stature…he drew us all in and, quite frankly, made us a family.

He often met us for chips and salsa at Hacienda after youth group and made the mistake of showing us where he lived.  Now, I personally never used a credit card to break into his apartment, but I was often sitting on his living room couch when he came home…along with anywhere from 5-20 other kids.

Todd arranged goofy skits and fun outings.  He encouraged us to get messy and let go of the typical high-school drama.  Along with Scott & Corri Brooks and Brian & Dawn Gower, he put up with constant attempts to get him off-topic, countless shenanigans, and some very reckless new drivers in the church parking lot.  He moved to a new apartment, and he didn’t even bother to lock the door.  

Todd Bussey, Dawn Gower, Brian Gower

He took us to Summer in the Son and led us to think maybe we’d go to Kentucky Christian College someday.  He forced us to stop at Cracker Barrel whenever we were traveling.  He kicked us out of the church van if we complained about his driving. He wore a skin-tight Batman costume and climbed down from the balcony in the sanctuary.  We were all super-proud that we were the ones who got to go back home with the hilarious guy who started each morning there with a grin.

I knew he loved everyone, but he found a way to make each of us feel special.  

I witnessed his true caring, and I know he spent long nights with a few people who needed him.  He sent me flowers to celebrate my birthday when he found out it had been overlooked one year by some of my peers. It was an endearing gesture I have not forgotten all this time later.

When we graduated from high school, he came to our open houses, let us know what we’d meant to the youth group, and prayed over us.  Because of the bond he’d fostered between us, we kids kept in touch with each other even though we all went our separate ways…and then when we came home from college on breaks, we now went to his house on Lincoln Avenue.  The door was always unlocked.

He sent me Audio Adrenaline’s new CD  when I graduated from college (a nod to our time at SITS when they used to be called A-180). I got my first teaching job, and I still came home on breaks to visit.  He counseled me through the break-up of a serious boyfriend…and then called my now husband by the old boyfriend’s name at our wedding rehearsal.  (He managed to use the correct name at the wedding, thankfully!)

Todd Bussey officiating Leigh's wedding

He was just “Todd – my old youth group minister…”

…until a family crisis made him “Todd – the person you call when everything is falling apart.” At a moment’s notice, he simply showed up and was the example of Christ we needed at a time of true despair.

It’s pretty powerful to realize that God placed this man in my 12-year-old life so that he could be a source of strength in my adult one.

And my story, of needing Todd as a grown-up, is not unique. That youth group family still keeps in touch, and I know he’s been there for others during times of confusion, pain, sorrow, and deep loss.

When Todd left Evansville this morning to move his dear family to Florida, he left behind a building that housed a ministry that touched my life — and that’s been weirdly hard for me to come to terms with. However, the friendship, admiration, and deep connection remain…no matter what state Todd lives in.

I’ll still celebrate his February 26th birthday that he shares with another important man in my life…my dad.  

I’ll still reminisce with my parents about the time the entire extended Bussey family stopped by our cottage in Michigan just to say hi.

I’ll still send him our Christmas card — how did that goofy girl end up a teacher, wife, and mom of 4 kids?

I’ll still text him selfies of me and random (or maybe not so random?) people that show up in my life who happen to know the legend that is Todd.

I’ll still seek his advice for big decisions and his support in times of trouble.

I’ll still fondly remember youth group on Sunday nights.

Love you, L. Todd!
Leigh Blackburn Stella

Perhaps as a testament to the positive effect that Todd had on the lives of those young kids in the late 80s, you might not be surprised to find that he moves to his new position in Florida at a church under the direction of Jason Cullum, a Cullen Avenue Christian Church High School Youth Group Class of ‘92 grad like myself.  I’m sure his new flock will enjoy these throwback photos of their new/our old partners in crime.

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

AT-ATs and an unfortunate newspaper delivery accident

Scar WeekI was a paperboy throughout Middle School and High School. Every afternoon, I delivered the Evansville Press, our now-defunct local afternoon paper, to approximately 100 houses in my area. Except Sunday. I delivered the Evansville Courier & Press early in the morning every Sunday. It was quite an experience. It taught me responsibility. It taught me about the economy. It forced me to exercise. Well, it did until I could drive. Then it forced me to learn how to slow down in neighborhoods. And, of course, it gave me a steady stream of cash.

Every day, a delivery truck would drop off bundles of newspapers in our driveway. I would take them into the garage, cut open the plastic strapping that bound the bundles together, fold the papers, and load them into my bike (or car). It was a pretty simple process.

Of course, things get a little dangerous when you somehow forget to cut one of those straps and it’s sitting on the floor of the garage. And you can’t see where you’re walking because you have a large stack of newspapers in your arms. And your feet get caught up in that uncut binding strap that’s conveniently shaped like a circle that’s big enough for both of your feet to fit at the same time. And then you try to take a step.

But you can’t.

Suddenly you know how it felt to be one of those AT-ATs on Hoth.

You wind up hitting the hard garage floor with your left knee. Since it’s summer and nowhere near the weather on Hoth, you’re wearing shorts. And so you get a pretty nice thumb-sized scar on your knee when you do that.

The scar on my knee that was caused when I fell like an AT-AT

It could be worse. I could have landed on my chin. I guess it’s a good thing that I had all of those newspapers to break my fall.

fallen AT-AT

 

Celebrating Bosse Field’s 100th anniversary!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale if you make a purchase using the link.
Bosse Field is 100 years old

I’ve been to sports facilities that just ooze history out of every corner. It’s a mystical, magical experience. Some say Bosse Field has that same kind of feel. There’s good reason for that.

Bosse Field is about to turn 100 years old.


It’s the third-oldest ballpark still in use in the United States. Only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are older. From concerts to an NFL team (ever hear of the Evansville Crimson Giants? Yeah, me neither. You learn something new every day.) to minor league baseball, Bosse Field has seen its share of memorable moments.
Bosse Field

I have a few personal memories of Bosse Field. Both are honestly pretty faint. I think I remember attending an All Star game for our t-ball league there. I also remember attending a Triplets game. Or maybe more. And I think I had one of their Knothole Gang shirts at one point.

Bosse Field is a place steeped in history. That made it the perfect setting for A League of Their Own. Although Madonna later said she wasn’t much of a fan of our fair city, the fact that A League of Their Own was filmed in Evansville was a source of great civic pride. In many ways, it still is.

Shop for thousands of 100% authentic autographed sports collectibles at SportsMemorabilia.comI still puff out my chest a little bit whenever I talk about the movie. I’m always quick to inform people that it was filmed in my hometown. And that Uncle Dale took Grandmama to the filming of the final scenes. They needed extras dressed in 1940s attire to fill the stands for the championship game. I have other friends that were there that day, too. Every time I watch the movie, I scan the crowd to see if I can find anyone I know. I haven’t been able to find anyone yet. But I’m sure I will someday.

I remember riding in the car with my Aunt Patsy one evening. A limo pulled beside us while we were heading down Morgan Avenue. “What if that’s one of the cast from that movie they’re filming here – the one about girls’ baseball?” we said to ourselves. Then a window rolled down and a hand reached out and waved at us. Aunt Patsy was convinced that it was Tom Hanks. I’m still not convinced.

Fortunately, Mr. Hanks doesn’t think Evansville is the equivalent of Prague.

So in honor of Bosse Field’s 100th anniversary, I’m going to be introducing my kids to A League of Their Own. Of course we’ll have peanuts and cracker jack. And since the Rockford Peaches play such a prominent role in the film, we’re gonna have an old favorite of mine from my Scouting days: Simple Peach Cobbler a la mode.

What? I haven’t shared this fabulous recipe yet? That’s a travesty. I’ll have to do that very soon. But for now, you’ll have to wait. But don’t cry about it while you wait.

Because there’s no crying in baseball.

If you’re looking for smoe pretty cool memorabilia from A League of Their Own, check out this link:Movie Collectibles and Memorabilia. They also have some pretty cool All American Girls Professional Baseball League memorabilia, too.

Let me tell you about the time I broke into my parents’ home

Broke into my parents house

My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary while I was a senior at Milligan. Kevin was a freshman at Anderson. So both of us were out of town at the time. Throw in the end-of semester projects and preparations for finals and it looked like we were not going to be able to do anything special for my parents’ silver anniversary until sometime during Christmas break.

Appearances can be deceiving though.

With the help of Grandma and Grandpa Craig, we were able to pull of what had to be the biggest coup in Todd family history. It was definitely one for the record books and it took a whole lot of effort from a whole lot of people to pull this thing off. But they did. And it was fabulous. It’s amazing how a plan comes together. Because of all the planning and uncertainty and moving parts and potential for disaster, I believe this was the biggest surprise I was able to pull off. It was an even bigger surprise than when I proposed to Christy.

Before we go much further, I want to remind you of one very important thing: context. This was 15+ years ago. The Internet was still very young and not readily accessible. Yahoo looked like this. Google didn’t even exist.  Very few people had cell phones. And if they did have them, they weren’t much smaller than Zack Morris’s.

Zack Morris cell phone from Saved by the Bell
Image via 123people.com

And texting? I don’t even think we’d ever heard of such a thing.

I know. We were in the dark ages of communication technology. How did we ever get in touch with all those people in Evansville when we lived 8 and 4 hours away from everyone? Why, snail mail, of course! Grandma and Grandpa Craig printed up a bunch of invitations and we mailed them to family, friends, neighbors…anyone we thought might want to celebrate this momentous day with my parents. We may or may not have even invited the local fire department, police department, and area bridge clubs. OK, we didn’t. But let’s just agree that we invited a whole lot of people.

So after inviting almost all of Vanderburgh County, we had to use all of our creative energy to pull this thing off. I remember talking up my concern about the upcoming finals and how I was going to be spending the weekend camped out in the Library in preparation for them. Friday and Saturday were going to be nothing but study days for me. My cover had been established. Mom and dad had no idea that Christy and I were driving up to Evansville that Friday. They had no idea that Kevin, Christy, and I would be sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa Craig’s that evening.

We had recruited some family friends to take mom and dad out of town for the morning and afternoon on Saturday. Once they were on the road, they had to make a quick emergency stop. I don’t remember what the excuse was, but they had to stop so they could call to let us know that the coast was clear.

Then we broke into my parents’ house.

We grabbed whatever bags looked like they might contain gifts and gently tossed them into one of our bedrooms. Because I like to keep surprises a surprise, there was no peeking at the potential gifts. We furiously cleaned and scrubbed and cleaned as quickly as possible, hoping to make the house as spotless as possible. Grandma was worried (and rightfully so) that Mom would be mortified if she knew a bunch of people were at her house and the house wasn’t clean. That would’ve been a surprise of a completely different sort.

As we cleaned, we began preparing the food. Grandma had ordered an anniversary cake from Donut Bank, the same baker who had made their wedding cake. The wassail was simmering on the stove. And in a very short amount of time, we had my parents’ house transformed. We were ready to party like it was 1999.

We had a shuttle system established. People parked around the block or in the nearby church parking lot. We would shuttle them to the house. That way there wasn’t any chance of Mom or Dad accidentally recognizing one of the cars, which could potentially ruin the surprise. Once everyone arrived, we gathered in the Dining Room and we waited.

Patiently.

OK. Most of us were patient. I really wasn’t that patient. I was anxious. I couldn’t wait for the surprise to unfold.

As their friends’ car pulled up, Mom and Dad got out of the car. The tightly-packed room fell silent as they approached the front door. Because of the layout of the house’s main level, we could not see the door from the Family Room. And they could not see us. My body tensed as we heard the door open. I couldn’t believe we had actually pulled it off.

Mom and Dad were talking about something as they opened the front door. Then, mid-sentence, Mom said, “Wow. Something smells good.” She could smell the wassail as it simmered. I asked her about this later and she didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Then she turned the corner into the Dining Room. Dad trailed closely behind, still out of sight. As she rounded the corner, she saw us.

She froze.

We froze.

I wish I had thought to have a camera with me because the look on her face was priceless. She screamed and ran back around the corner. She whispered to Dad, “There are people in our house.” Then they both came around the corner together and they were greeted with a giant

“Surprise! Happy anniversary!”

And she didnt’ faint. I really did think Mom was going to faint. I’m sure glad she didn’t!

We had a great time with Mom and Dad, surrounded by family and friends. It was a magical evening. And I still can’t believe we managed to keep the event a secret.

So the pressure’s on our kids. What are they going to be able to do for us when we celebrate our 25th? I think we’ve set the bar pretty high. Fortunately, they have a few years to get things together. They might want to start planning now so there isn’t any pressure a decade from now.

*************

This post was inspired by #ThinkKit’s post-a-day in December initiative, presented by Smallbox. Today’s prompt:  Don’t look….it’s a surprise! Yes, I deviated from the prompt just a little bit. But that’s OK. This story must be told.

Stevie Shoot a Three-Pointer [Flashback Friday]

After last night’s bracket-busting loss, this post might be more like pouring salt in people’s wounds, but I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head all week. And I don’t care that it screwed up my bracket. I really didn’t think my Final Four picks would happen, but the dream was fun while it lasted.

I like to think that I had a hand in getting Stevie Shoot a Three-Pointer online for the world to hear online. At the end of a post where I discussed Knight throwing the chair and how they should name the bench after him, I asked this question:

On a somewhat related note, does anyone remember a song that was played on the radio during IU’s 1987 tournament run that had the line, “Come on, Bobby Knight, throw some chairs tonight. And Stevie, shoot a three-pointer!”? I’ve looked all over for a recording of that.

Spoon replied in the comments. He had a copy. A few days later, I discovered this….

Stevie Shoot a Three Pointer

You’re welcome, Internet.

Oh. And pay no attention to those timestamps that say my conversation with Spoon happened in 2010 and this video was posted in 2008. Don’t bother me with small details like that. 😉

Faking it on Christmas?

Last week, a UPS carrier delivered a package. It was addressed to Christy but she wasn’t there to receive it. So I had to take the package. I knew that it was a present. I knew it was my present. So I did what some of you might think was pretty insane.

I didn’t look at it. At all.

I took the box, walked directly to our bedroom closet, and left it there. Once I walked away, I didn’t think anything else about it. I did make a mental note to let Christy know it arrived. But that was it. No peeking. No shaking of the box. No searching my wife’s web history to figure out what she had bought for me. I just ignored it.

I’m pretty sure Christy thinks I’m crazy. Maybe you think I’m crazy too. I’m OK with that. It’s not the first time I’ve been called crazy. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last, either. But there’s a reason I refuse to discover my gifts ahead of time.

Let’s turn back the clock to a time that one would think would have been much simpler, a time when the world was my oyster and I was ready to take life by the horns as I surged into adulthood. Yes. This story begins some 18 years ago when I turned 18…

My Senior Picture Class of 1994
My senior portrait. Note the Milligan t-shirt.

A month or two before my 18th birthday, my then-girlfriend and I were walking through the Mall. As we left some store that sold videos and movie memorabilia, she turned to me and said, “I know what I’m going to do for your birthday. I’m going to get your friends to chip in and we’re going to buy you that Star Wars letterbox collector’s set.”

Star Wars Trilogy: VHS Letterbox Box Set

Okay. Whatever. You’re dreaming. 

That’s what I thought. I mean…the whole idea sounded really cool. But I wasn’t holding my breath. Those suckers were pretty expensive. I didn’t really think anything of it.

Until my birthday started getting closer. All of my friends told me they were going together to buy me something. My then-girlfriend also talked about how they were combining their efforts to get me something that I’ll really love. It was so obvious to me what they were doing that I just assumed they knew I knew what they were doing – you know? After all, she’d already told me she was going to do this.

Apparently, I should not assume anything.

On the night of my birthday, my parents took all of us out to eat at Elliot’s Steakhouse. While we were there, my friends presented me with my gift. And while I was deeply appreciative of the gift, I was hardly surprised when I tore open the paper and saw the blue box with the Star Wars hologram. I thanked everyone profusely and probably said something like “This is really cool,” or something similar.

I did not, however, react like Nintendo 64 Boy (see above).

I found out later that the fact that I didn’t run around with my head about to explode really disappointed some of my friends. They expected a more surprised reaction. Mom was even a little frustrated with my stoic reaction. It’s quite clear that they didn’t get the memo that I already knew they were giving me the present. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing gift. We watched all three of them after the after-graduation party that year. I threatened my suitemates’ lives over that collection while I was in college. It’s just that I’m not a very good actor. I couldn’t pretend to be surprised, even if I had been smart enough to think that I should have pretended. I guess I could have reacted like Iago.

After that debacle, I resolved that it’s really better not to know what gifts I’m receiving. There’s a whole lot less pressure on everyone. They can keep it a secret. I can be genuinely excited when I receive the gift. Everyone’s happy. I think Christy thinks I’m nuts. But that’s OK. I’m kind of used to her thinking I’m nuts. After all she’s lived with me for 14+ years. So I’ll keep taking packages that are delivered from UPS/FedEx/USPS and putting them away without giving them a second thought. No one has to worry.

Because I’m pretty bad at faking anything. Especially on Christmas.

How about you?

Once a Band Geek. Always a Band Geek.

We are the Warriors and the Warriors are Great!

The 1993-1994 Evansville Harrison High School Marching Warriors
I dug this up at my parents’ house when we were in town for a family reunion. I’ve already shared it with my fellow Recovering Band Geeks, but it’s too good of a picture not to share here.

So here’s the 1993 Marching Warriors.

Jasper District: Division 1
Evansville Central Regional: Division 1

Oh yeah, and that Division 1 at Regionals? First time ever. thankyouverymuch

Do you see me? Don’t you dare point at my brother and say it’s me. I might have to hunt you down. After all, I got plenty of the “You and your brother look so much alike” treatment at the reunion. 😉

First one to point me out (without cheating and looking at the tags on the Band Geeks facebook page)  wins! What do you win? Well…

nothing.

But at least you can proudly boast that you won. Right?

Remembering Roberts Stadium: Free Chicken!

I remember yelling at Eddie Bird, Larry Bird’s younger brother. I thought he was a jerk. But then again, I was a youngster in my early teens. You’re supposed to think the opponent’s a jerk – right?

I didn’t like him for one reason and one reason only: He did whatever he could to try to keep me from getting some free chicken.

I doubt they still do this, but there was a promotion with Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken at that time. If the Aces held their opponent to under 50 points (I think it was 50. I guess it could’ve been 50), every ticket holder to that game won a free chicken dinner.

As the clock ticked down, the Aces had held the Sycamores to just a few points less than 50 (or 40). We started to get excited that 1) the Aces were winning big, and 2) we were on our way to free chicken! But Eddie wanted none of that. Every time down the floor, he forced a shot. We could hear that chicken dinner calling our names, so we’d boo (good thing Mr. Wilhelm wasn’t there) him every time he even looked like he was going to shoot (which I think was a lot).

In the end, though, we went away happy. The Aces won. And they kept their opponent under 50 (or 40). Kevin and I went and retrieved our prize the next day. Victory never tasted so good.

It tasted like chicken.

Goodbye, Old Friend…

I’ll be honest.

I wish we were in Evansville today.

Today’s a big day at home, with Aiden’s participation in his fourth Pinewood Derby (more on that at another time), and the kids’ Upward basketball game.

But I still wish we were in Evansville.

If so, I would do everything I could to be at the Aces game that’s happening right now. Because it’s the last game they’ll ever play at Roberts Stadium. And I’ve got to admit, I’m a little misty-eyed about it.

I understand the need for a new arena in Evansville. And although it took me a while to come around I support the move.

That being said, it’s like I’m about to lose a friend.

Roberts Stadium has been good to me. I used to go there several times a year. Grandmama and Grandpa lived several blocks away. I remember walking to several games with them. And because of Grandmama’s position as an employee of UE, I think Kevin and I would get into games for free (or maybe it was just a steep discount – I’m not sure). And we went to a lot of them in the late 80s, early 90s.

When I think of Roberts Stadium, many memories come to mind. But they’re too numerous to put in one post. I’ll do my best to share some of them over the next few days as I join other Evansville natives in remembering this special building.

Do you have any favorite memories of Roberts Stadium? What are they?

Visit to Evansville Museum

I hadn’t visited this place in at least 20 years. Some of it has changed. Other areas, like the dimly-lit Main Street Evansville from the turn of the century that used to scare me to death (so much so that I still get a little clammy when going into a museum) have remained exactly the same. And some exhibits, like the kid-friendly stuff, has been moved to different areas, methinks.

One of the most memorable displays I remember was the life-sized kaleidoscope. Aly and Mihret certainly loved it, too.

I really liked the World War II exhibit. I think Evansville’s history in the war-effort, including P-47 and LST production, is something that should be highlighted in a museum like this. It’s a bright spot in the city’s story in the 20th century. I only wish there was more of it. I realize there’s the LST Museum and it’s a completely different entity. But I think there’s so much more they could do here.