Life in the Fishbowl

Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

Life in the Fishbowl - Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

3 more things my high school band director told me

Yesterday, I shared three things that my high school band director told me that have stuck with me over the years. But I wasn’t done. There are three more things that I need to share…
Low brass awesomeness

“Don’t mess with the Star Spangled Banner.”

You march onto the field, play the song exactly the way the audience expects to hear it. Then you march off. No fluff. Nothing artsy about it.

He was right. He still is. Every time some pop sensation tries to do something cute with the national anthem, that person gets lit up on the social networks. In a different context, it could be considered ground-breaking (see: Jimi Hendrix), but we are a nation of traditions. And if you’re going to perform the national anthem before a game, you’re better off just performing the song the way it was written and getting out of the way. If not, you might find yourself on some Top Ten Worst National Anthem Performances list.

Whenever someone messes with the national anthem, I just shake my head. “Mr. Briel was right,” I say to myself. “They should’ve listened to him.”

Blind fish and a prediction about our offspring

Mr. Briel opened class one day with a story. It wasn’t entirely unusual that he would tell us a story, but this one was a little different. He started talking about fish. But these were just any fish. They were blind fish that are found in caves.

Blind Cavefish

Then he started to discuss the scientific theory behind this phenomenon. Strange, I thought. I must have accidentally walked into biology lab instead of Concert Band. He explained that organisms adapt to their environment over time. Features that an organism needs in its environment continue to be strengthened. Other organs, like the eyes in the cave fish’s case, eventually phase out. Fish in a body of water in the middle of a cave don’t have any need for eyes, after all. There’s no light anyway. So over time, the fish just stopped growing eyes because they weren’t using them anyway.

Then he explained that the things an organism uses tend to be emphasized as their genetic makeup is passed on from generation to generation. At the same time, the things they don’t use tend to be minimized as an organism adapts over time. Sometimes, these features disappear altogether.

After giving us a brief scientific lecture, he paused and looked over the class.

“You know, I was thinking about this effect of passing along traits to our offspring as I was trying to figure out what happened during yesterday’s class. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

“Your kids are going to be born with no ears and really big mouths!”

You know, there are days when I think of this prediction and wonder if Mr. Briel might have had a touch of the gift of prophecy. Because…well…there are some days where it sure feels like he was absolutely right.

As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And I’ve had some pretty large helpings of that dish over the years.

“If you’ll switch to tuba, I’ll put you in Wind Ensemble.”

In 5th grade, I took up the trumpet. A cornet, to be specific. But that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I was part of the trumpet section, so we’ll just say I was playing the trumpet.

Anyway, I started playing the trumpet in 5th grade. I played it all through middle school and even marched as a trumpet during my Freshman year of marching season. I was decent. But I definitely wasn’t great at trumpet. My trumpet skills were nothing to write home about.

At the end of 9th grade, Mr. Briel came up to me towards the end of class. He had a proposal for me. We didn’t have anyone lined up to play tuba the next year. So he asked me and two of my Freshman trumpet buddies if we’d consider switching from trumpet to tuba. To sweeten the deal, he said that he’d put us in Wind Ensemble – the highest level of band at our school – if we made the switch.

So I switched. And my musical career took off.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I was not enrolled in Wind Ensemble the following semester. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a great thing. Since I was the only tuba playing in Concert Band, I couldn’t hide behind anyone else. I had to quickly learn how to play my new instrument and I had to learn how to play it with power.

So I did.

Not to toot my own horn (no pun intended…or maybe it is intended), but I got to be pretty darn good for a guy who didn’t start playing tuba until the 10th grade. I wound up on the All-City Honors Band for two years. I played in a large brass ensemble at the State Solo & Ensemble contest. I participated in TubaChristmas for several years. I performed in several church orchestras and brass ensembles. I even had a tuba solo in a jazz concert while at Milligan. Turned out it was my final instrumental performance ever.

All City Band

All City Honors Band. Can you find me? I promise I’m in this picture.

I had a much better time playing tuba than I ever had while playing trumpet. And I have Mr. Briel to thank for that. Sure, he might have chosen me to play tuba simply because I was a pretty big guy and could handle carrying a giant brass instrument around. But that’s OK. I have no complaints. Because it still opened all kinds of doors for me.

And now I’m a bass line guy for life.

Mr. Briel impacted me in many ways. But this invitation to play the tuba? It was life-changing. And I cannot thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.

3 things my high school band director told me

Harrison Marching Band

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that participating in the instrumental music program while I was in high school had a profound influence on my life. I’m not a professional musician (and I don’t play one on TV), but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that the music program might have been more influential on me than the English or science classes I took.

Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a slam on my English, math, and science teachers. Those classes were important. You hear me? They’re important! Don’t go dropping out of school, kids – especially if you’re my kids. And I hope none of my teacher friends misread what I’m saying here. I love what you do. Math, science, social studies, English…they’re all critical classes. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

That being said, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my closest friends from high school were in band with me. It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that quotes and stories from Mr. Briel, my band director through most of my high school career, are some of my most fond memories from my days of walking the hallowed halls of Harry High.

As the current school year takes off and we are on the cusp of yet another season of marching band awesomeness in Indiana, the stories that Mr. Briel would tell keep repeating themselves in my mind’s ear. There are some valuable lessons in some of those stories. And they’re worth passing along. Here are a few…

“Practice makes better.”

You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Right?

It’s bunk.

There’s always something you can improve. Always. And this is true even at the highest level. The best of the best are constantly improving. They have not reached perfection in their given field. So they keep working at getting better.

We will never “arrive.” No one has done anything perfectly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep improving and become the best we can be in whatever we do. And that takes practice. Lots of practice.

Because practice makes better.

Practice vs. Rehearsal

Practice is what you do on your own. It’s individual improvement. You practice to become technically proficient. You practice so things become second-nature. You practice to become the best you can be individually. Because, as I just told you, practice makes better.

Rehearsal is where everyone is working together. After hundreds of man-hours of individuals practicing, all the pieces are brought together in a rehearsal. In order to have an effective rehearsal, everyone needs to come prepared. They need to know their stuff so the band can make proper adjustments together. Rehearsal isn’t the time for individual practice. That needs to be done ahead of time. The most effective rehearsals happen when everyone has done the legwork beforehand during their individual practices.

I realize that this distinction might not be universal. But it certainly stuck with me. You practice in preparation to rehearse. You rehearse the way you perform. Because you only perform the way you rehearse. Things don’t magically change when you step onto the field or when you walk onstage. All of the hours of preparation through practice and rehearsal show their fruit when you perform.

“We’ll add that section when we get to Regionals.”

My Freshman year of high school, our band won just one trophy during marching season. It was a third place trophy. There were only three bands in our class. We were a doormat that year. And we weren’t much better the following year, either.

Winning hardware was fun, but all of these competitions during marching season were in preparation for the Indiana State School Music Association’s (ISSMA) organizational marching contests. They were kind of like a postseason tournament for Indiana marching bands. The system has changed since then, but in my day, there were three rounds to the ISSMA statewide contest: District, Regionals, and State. To move on from District to Regionals, you had to earn a Division I rating by earning a particular score or better. I think the minimum score was 60 out of 100, but I could be wrong. Everyone with a Division I rating advanced to the Regionals round. So your band was really competing against itself. It was entirely possible that all bands at the District level could advance to Regionals. If I remember correctly, we always went to Jasper, IN, for District.

There were two Regionals for each class in the State. The competition at Regionals was twofold. You were trying to earn a Division I, similar to the  District competition (requiring a higher score to earn a Division I rating). Your band was also competing against other high school bands for the right to move on to State. After all the bands performed, the judges ranked the bands, announcing the top five bands at each Regional. Those bands would then advance to the State Finals. Yes, it was entirely possible for a band to earn a Division II rating and still advance to State. But that was highly unlikely.

The ISSMA State Finals was made up of 40 of the top bands in the state (10 from each class). State was an all-day event where bands from each class took the field at the Hoosier Dome (it wasn’t called the RCA Dome yet) in competition. After each class performed, the bands were ranked from 1 to 10, with four bands being crowned state champions of their classes.

During my Freshman and Sophomore years, we didn’t even come close to earning a Division I at District.

Things started to click during my Junior year. The pieces started to come together. We marched to selections from the City of Angels soundtrack and it was a fun show. We knew something special was happening.

The Reitz Invitational might have been the first contest of the season (my memory’s getting a little hazy. Don’t you dare tell me that I’m getting old). We performed half of our show at that contest. That wasn’t too uncommon that early in the season. We were shocked when we heard the announcement over the PA during the awards ceremony that we, the perpetual doormat of Southwestern Indiana marching contests over the past two years, had won first place in our class.

We were on cloud nine. We had made our mark. And the region knew it. The Warriors were here and we were here to stay.

Very rarely did Mr. Briel talk about looking ahead to the end of marching season. We were pretty focused on the immediate future. We had to build upon our success with each subsequent contest. We had to get better. So we usually only needed to look ahead to the contest ahead of us.

During one of our rehearsals after the Reitz Invitational, Mr. Briel was sharing with us how much we were going to add to our show with each subsequent competition. As he charted things out, he told us how we were going to complete our show at District.

Then he paused and said, “Now, if you’re paying attention, you realize that there’s still part of the show that we haven’t added yet. We’re going to add that section when we get to Regionals.”

The place erupted.

It was a bold prediction. A confident prediction. It took some guts to say that to us. But we were ready. We were up for the challenge. And we did add that final piece to our show for our performance at Regionals. We ended the season with a Division II rating at Regionals. But we didn’t care. We were ecstatic to be there. And we had a lot of fun along the way.

Of my four high school marching seasons, I think I look back on the City of Angels show with the most fondness. We had more success my Senior year, and even earned a Division I at Regionals, but there was something kind of magical about that Junior year. Some of it might be because we were given a challenge and we rose to accept that challenge.

Just like Mr. Briel knew we would.

There are three more things that Mr. Briel told me that have stuck with me over the years. I’ll be sharing those tomorrow. Be sure to come back and read some more wisdom from a band director who probably had more of an impact on my life than he realizes.

3 decisions I regret

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost
The Road Not Taken

Road Not Taken

We make decisions every day. Most of these decisions are rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things – Do I want waffles or pancakes for breakfast? Should I get my gas at Speedway or Circle K? Should I wear argyle or striped socks? You know. Pretty mundane stuff.

But there are other decisions that we make that can stay with you forever. They can keep you up at night. They can haunt you in the middle of the day. They sometimes pop up in regular, everyday conversations. You can’t get away from these decisions.

I’m not talking about life-altering things like getting behind the wheel while you’re under the influence or choosing to marry someone. Those are life-altering decisions. I’m talking about other decisions. They might not alter the course of human civilization, but they still cause you to break out in a cold sweat when you think about what you did or didn’t do. They’re decisions you look back on and ask yourself, “Why? Why did I choose to do it that way? Why didn’t I choose to go the other direction as I stood at that fork in the road?”

As I look back on the decisions I’ve made, there are three choices that stand out. And when I think about them, I often wonder, “Man, why didn’t I take advantage of that opportunity?”

These were big decisions in my life. They’re landmarks on my journey of life. But they’re also relatively inconsequential in the grand story of life. They were fun things I could have done. I’m not talking about the really big regrets that I might have. You know, like dating that one girl in high school. Or cheating on a girlfriend while on a school trip out of town. Or leaving the youth ministry position that I had in Kentucky the way I did. Those are big things. They’re life-altering decisions that I’m not really dwelling on. Those things were much more complicated.

These? They’re more…simple…I guess. And I still regret them.

Simple Regret #1: The Corvette (non)incident

One weekend while at Milligan, my roommate’s parents were in town. You remember my roommate, right? Matt – aka Little Matt. He’s the guy who made us sit together on that one fateful Valentine’s Day evening oh so long ago.

Anyway, his parents were in town for the weekend. Through some kind of perk with his company, Mr. Good was able to drive a Corvette for his own personal use for a while. He brought it down to Milligan for the visit.

I don’t remember why I was in the car with them or where we were going, but I do remember Mr. Good pulling over to the side of the road. He put the car into park and turned around to say something to me.

“You want to take it for a quick drive?” he asked me.

I was shocked. I had a split second to make a decision. I didn’t know what to do.

So I said no.

I.said.no.

A college kid turned down an opportunity to drive a ‘Vette through the mountains of Tennessee. Are you kidding me? What was I thinking?

I had a headache that afternoon. So that was my reason. And while I understand that, it was a pretty lame excuse. Don’t you think?

I’m still kicking myself over that decision. It doesn’t really matter if I have other opportunities to drive a sports car like that. I still passed this one up like a bonehead.

Simple Regret #2: “Houston, we have a problem”

Remember when the space shuttle program was retired? I do. Because I passed up the opportunity to watch a shuttle land for the last time. Ever.

If you’re a longtime reader of this site (thank you for sticking with me, by the way), you might remember how I struggled with this decision quite a bit. I had some work-related responsibilities that I probably could’ve rearranged if I had pushed hard enough. In retrospect, I probably should’ve moved heaven and earth so I could go.

After all, they wound up firing me a few months later anyway.

When I mentioned this decision to Aiden a few weeks ago, he looked me in the eye and said, “What were you thinking, Dad?”

I’ve been asking myself the same thing ever since I skipped out on the landing.

What was I thinking?

Regret #3: “Go go go Matty…er…JOSEPH…”

The Spring musical during my senior year of high school was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. In the weeks leading up to opening night, it was decided that they needed some more guys to join the cast. An call was sent far and wide throughout the hallowed halls of Harry High.

I could’ve auditioned. Most of my friends were already in the musical – either in the orchestra or up on stage. It would’ve been fun. I already knew all of the songs. I had been listening to the soundtrack nonstop for at least a month. Maybe longer. I wouldn’t have had to dance, really. And that was a good thing. You really, really don’t want to see me try to dance. They just needed more able bodies to be an Egyptian guard or one of Jacob’s sons, or some other extra up on stage.

I didn’t do it. I didn’t even express any hint of interest at all.

There’s an amazing feeling when you connect with an audience while you’re performing. I’ve had it happen while playing my tuba. I have no doubt there would’ve been a similar feeling while standing on stage during my senior year of high school. And it would’ve been pretty special to have shared that experience with my friends who were already in the musical.

But I didn’t.

And I still don’t know why I didn’t even bother to try.

I think that’s what bugs me more than anything else. I didn’t even try.

Get your story off your chest.

What decisions have you made that you still kick yourself over? What makes you stay awake at night wondering what might have been? Sharing those stories can be therapeutic. But don’t life solely in the past. Learn from those missed opportunities and keep moving forward. Because we cannot change the things that happened in the past. We can only influence things that happen today. Let’s make today better than yesterday.

What are you doing to make your life better today?

 

Connect with those you love with Hallmark Value Cards

I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for #CollectiveBias and its advertiser. 

Hallmark Value Cards

While I have not been the greatest at keeping track of people’s birthdays and getting birthday cards sent out on time, I am a firm believer in the power of receiving a physical greeting card. Even the most simple of creative card ideas can communicate volumes to the recipient. In a world where technology can bring us together in the blink of an eye, the act of receiving a card can bring joy to someone’s face. I know this is true because it’s a key aspect to the story of how Christy and I fell in love…

Although we’d known each other for the better part of a year before making it “official,” Christy and I started dating at the end of our Sophomore year at Milligan. A few weeks later, I moved away for the Summer. To New Mexico. Living in the mountains. With limited access to the modern comforts of life. Including phones.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my job that Summer. I worked with a phenomenal group of guys. It really was my dream job. But I was also head-over-heels crazy about Christy. She was constantly on my mind. I wanted to talk to her, to be with her, to share my life with her. So I did the only thing that made me feel connected to her while we were separated by half of a continent.

I wrote letters. I sent cards. If a telegram had been available, I probably would have sent one of those, too. Every time I thought of Christy during that Summer, I wrote to her. And she would write back.

We must’ve thought of each other a lot because we have shoeboxes full of cards, letters, and notes from that Summer. I firmly believe that the experience of practicing the art of letter writing gave us a solid foundation upon which our relationship could grow.

Writing a Hallmark Value Card for my wife #shop #CBias

Today, in the age of modern technology, we’re able to keep in constant contact with each other. If I think of something I need to tell her, I can just shoot her a text or a facebook message. It’s easy. But I don’t think this can replace the power of the written word. There’s something special when you can hold something tangible like a card in your hands. The connection you feel when you’re holding something that someone else wrote to you is almost magical. I’m definitely a believer in the power of even the simplest of creative card ideas. So I try to share cards with my wife as often as possible. I usually have a small stockpile of cards hidden away so I can give one to her whenever I feel moved to do so.

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That’s why buying Hallmark Value Cards from Walmart is so great. From funny to serious to everything in between, they have a wide variety of affordable cards so you can send your greetings for almost any occasion.

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At $.47 or $.97 each, these cards are tough to pass up. I recently went to Walmart to stock up on some cards because my reserve of cards had begun to run low. I also made sure to pick up the perfect card to send to my mom for her upcoming birthday.

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With prices like these, there’s no reason to wait for a special occasion to send someone a card to let that person know you care. But the value doesn’t stop there. The Hallmark Rewards Program includes a really cool app that allows you to scan the barcodes of the cards you’ve purchased. For every five cards you buy, you earn a free greetings card!
Hallmark Rewards app screenshot
How cool is that? Believe me. It’s super cool!

With the Hallmark Value Cards section at Walmart, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to give a card to someone  you care about.

Be sure you check out and sign up for Hallmark Rewards to see great content from other bloggers. You can join in the conversation by using the #ValueCards hashtag on Twitter!

What if? 10 years later.

What If

Aly and I went to Cold Stone Creamery to take advantage of the BOGO coupon they sent me for my birthday. We had a good time and the slightly modified Signature Creations that we had – Oreo filling flavored cream with Oreos mixed in and chocolate truffle cream with brownie bits and chocolate chips (should’ve had Oreos instead of chocolate chips, but that’s OK. I’m not complaining) – were pretty amazing.

As we were chowing down on our fabulous frozen feasts, it hit me: It’s right about ten years since I was given a somewhat unexpected job offer. At that time, I was delivering pizzas and serving as a substitute teacher in two different school districts, desperately trying to do whatever I could to keep our head somewhat above water.

Because of this job offer, I was this close to packing up our family and moving to Evansville to help open a Cold Stone Creamery. And when I say this close, I mean it.

We were this. close…

banana for scale

Thanks to the banana added for scale, you can see that I was pretty stinkin’ close to accepting the job. We were also just as close to moving to Phoenix so I could attend seminary there. I don’t really have anything profound to say about that. Just felt like sharing it.

I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if we’d moved to Phoenix or Evansville instead of upper East Tennessee ten years ago. So many things would’ve been different. I’m sure there would have been some good things, but I also know that we would’ve missed out on meeting some pretty amazing friends over the last ten years.  Some pretty crazy thing have happened over the last ten years. Some have been awesome. Some not-so-awesome.

It was awful tempting to dwell on the “What if?” questions that could easily arise when thinking about past decisions. But I knew that wouldn’t have done any good. So while I thought about all the good and bad things that would have been different if I’d accepted that job offer, I also celebrated the great journey that began ten years ago.

I’m also looking forward to the next chapter in our story. I think we’re in for an amazing ride.

 

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.

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Whenever I hear this Jars of Clay rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, I’m suddenly driving around Elizabethton, Tennessee, with some college friends. And then when I hear the line, “to save us all from Satan’s power,” I hear Chalis say something about the history of this hymn and then I hear all of us in a heated theological discussion about what it means to be saved from Satan’s power. And then I see us pull into Taco Bell on a snowy night so I can have my bacon cheeseburger burrito.

And all is right with the world.

This may or may not have happened more than once during that winter.

So while this song is a good reminder of what the Christmas season is all about, it’s a much more personal memory. And it’s because of that memory that this song will always remain on my Christmas playlist.

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Christmas Time is Here

Christmas Time is Here

I probably should’ve included the whole A Charlie Brown Christmas album on this playlist. While A Christmas Story is a very close second, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been my favorite Christmas special for as long as I can remember. One year, Grandpa recorded the TV broadcast, using the same big-huge VCR that he used when he recorded Star Wars for me. And I remember sitting in the Family Room at their house, watching this over and over and over again.

So while many people love this Christmas Special for its timeless and simple message about what Christmas is all about, it also has a very special place in my heart because it makes me think of Grandmama and Grandpa. Yes, this song must be on my Christmas playlist. It just isn’t Christmas without it.

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Yo! Ho Ho

Yo! Ho Ho Christian rap Christmas album

Ah, yes. Early 90s Christian hip hop Christmas music. Yup. There was such a genre. It was very niche-specific. And I think it only consisted of one album. And I owned that album. Don’t judge. It was the early 90s.

Yeah, the song’s kind of corny. But so is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, when you really think about it. I can’t help but smile when I listen to this song. I even find myself chuckling at times. Sometimes it’s because the song’s so corny. But there are other times it’s because this song brings back some fun memories from 1990-ish.

If you followed DC Talk at all during their early days (pre Jesus Freak), then this song will probably put a smile on your face, too.

But wait, there’s more! The album also contained the audio track of this song without the vocals. You and your friends could be the hit of all the Christmas parties.

2013 in one photo

2013 in one photo

I have found the perfect photo that best encapsulates 2013. It’s this photo of a whole bunch of clocks.
Clocks
2013, more than any year in recent memory, has been defined by time. Aiden became a teenager. Aly became a middle schooler. Mihret started Kindergarten. Christy and I celebrated 15 years of marital bliss.

There were times where the clock couldn’t move fast enough – like when I waited for Christy to come out of surgery. I hate waiting. And so time seemed to stand still that day while I was forced to wait.

In reality, though, it feels like time has gone by all too quickly in 2013. Every time I turn around, it feels like one of our kids has grown another inch or two. I know the veteran parents warned me that time with your kids disappears all to quickly and they’ll be gone before you know it. It hasn’t really hit me until this year. None of the Todd kids are babies anymore. And it feels like that happened far too soon.

And I can’t help but think of Dave as I think back on 2013. We certainly didn’t have enough time with him. I could flesh this out more, but I know you know what I mean.

Shoot, I even got to witness a last-second loss by one of my favorite college basketball teams this year.

The saying is true. Time does march on. It waits for no one. I think that’s why Scripture urges us to make the most of every opportunity we’ve been given. Because the clock continues to tick, and a whole lot of time will be behind us before we realize it.

I think that’s why the traditional Todd family motto that I discovered this year resonates with me so deeply. It’s up to us what we do with this life. In order to make the most of it, it behooves us to live! 

I want to fill every tick of the clock with a life well lived. How about you?

This post begins the #ThinkKit December post-a-day blog writing challenge by Smallbox. You interested? It’s not too late to join in!