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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
This post about the film, Baby Driver, 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.
Every time I see this trailer, though, I expect to hear Baby Driver from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Are you familiar with this song? It’s pretty great. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I really think this song should be part of its soundtrack. I haven’t found it in any of the film’s soundtrack listings. That’s unfortunate.
If you haven’t heard it before, you should go ahead and check it out here. And if you have heard it, go ahead and click the link, too. Because I know you’ll want to hear it again.
I love this album. It was on regular rotation in the tape player in dad’s car. I learned The Boxer, Cecilia, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Keep the Customer Satisfied,Baby Driver, and the rest of the songs by heart. I was innocent enough that I took the songs at face-value.
This album entered my car stereo’s rotation when I crawled under my pop cultural rock and played my Metallica/Simon and Garfunkel mixtape quite frequently. I initially took the songs at face-value.
Then it happened.
I was driving along, minding my own business, when Baby Driver came on. I sung along with the lyrics when I came to the chorus. Paul, Art, and I started singing about engines and the skies parted before me and it was like my eyes had been opened for the first time.
I had to pull over.
I hit “rewind” and listened to the chorus again. Yes. I’d heard it right. I’d been singing it right the whole time. But I had misunderstood the song for years. Years, I tell you.
Much to my dismay, this song wasn’t about a kid who liked to play with toy cars. And it wasn’t about someone who likes to race cars. He wasn’t inviting someone to check out the car he’d been working on in his garage.
And he aint’ talking bout no race car engines.
Are you picking up what I’m laying down?
I was in shock. I was horrified. And I might have been a little bit embarrassed as I sat in my pulled over car, contemplating the song’s meaning that had been sitting right in front of me for years. Years, I tell you!
Baby Driver didn’t mean what I thought it meant.
I started to wonder what other songs didn’t mean what I thought they meant. Turned out that there were several songs on that album that weren’t quite as innocent as I originally thought.
A few weeks ago, it seemed like everyone and their brother posted a list on facebook: 10 Bands I’ve Seen in Concert (1 is a lie). You know this list. Right? The poster shares the names of ten bands he or she has seen live and in concert. One of the ten is a bald-faced lie. You’re supposed to guess which one is the imposter.
It was kind of fun. So I decided to play along. I couldn’t just do it the way everyone else was doing it, though. No, I had to do mine with a little twist. I mean, what else would you expect from a life-long Band Geek? Here’s what I posted.
10 Bands I’ve Seen (1 is a lie):
1. Evansville North Green Brigade
2. Harrison Warrior Command
3. Madison Scouts
5. Ben Davis
6. Indiana University Marching Hundred
7. The Marching Pride of Lawrence Township
8. Cowan Blackhawk Brigade
9. Center Grove Trojan Band
10. The Pride of Paoli
Can you guess which one is the lie? I was a little surprised that a few people picked it out right away. If you want to play along, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and share your guess. But come back here and find out the answer.
This post contains affiliate links and 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.
Once upon a time, not so long ago…
It’s no secret that I lived under a rock for a long time when it came to non Star Wars related pop culture, especially when it came to music. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wetpulled me out from under that rock and helped me see the light. Whenever my friends, Matt and Aaron came over, we’d pop the album in my cassette player. We subsequently turned my room into a stage in the center of a packed arena, pretending to perform Bon Jovi’s jams in front of thousands of screaming fans.
We needed another member to complete the group. Fortunately, Kevin was always a willing participant. So the four of us would jump up and down on my bed, shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs and shredding the air guitar with each rockin’ solo.
See? There’s more to having a younger brother than just having someone to sneak attack with a pillow at Grandma’s house.
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!
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.
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!)
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.
When we look back on 2016, it’s hard to say it’s been anything but rough. Personally, this has been the most physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually exhausting year I can remember. This has just plain worn me out.
I don’t think I’m the only one. It appears that 2016 presidential contest sucked the life out of many people. And this transition to a new administration is causing angst on both sides of the aisle. Then there’s Syria. And Russia. Ethiopia has also seen some political unrest and uncertainty. Oh, and then there were horrible terrorist attacks and horrifying mass shootings. And don’t forget the worldwide refugee crisis. I could probably add the hype around the Zika virus and the uproar over the death of Harambe and the wildfires that swept through Gatlinburg. Don’t get me started on the way social media has turned everyone into an expert about everything from parenting to zoology to political science. And they’re not shy about pouring on the criticism when someone disagrees. It’s awful. It’s really awful.
It feels like we’re sitting on a powder keg. And the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey made many wonder if we were getting a front row seat to early 20th century world history repeating itself.
That’s a scary proposition.
Then you add in all of the well-known people we lost in 2016. Prince. David Bowie. George Michael. Kenny Baker (R2-D2). Erik Bauersfeld (Admiral Ackbar). Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia). Muhammad Ali. Florence Henderson. Alan Thicke. These are just a few of the many celebrity deaths in 2016.
On a personal note, I was heartbroken when I heard about the deaths of David, Sophia, and Ruth Ann Rinehart. We also said goodbye to my Grandma and laid her to rest at the end of 2016.
The hits just kept coming.
When I look back on 2016, it can be tough to argue that it is anything but the worst year ever.
One event changed everything.
Regardless of all of the other events that took place this year, thisis what makes 2016 one of the best years ever.
We became a family of SIX in 2016. And that trumps everything else that happened this year.
It’s something worth celebrating.
So let’s dance!
In light of recent worldwide and celebrity tragedies, it feels like we’re limping into 2017. Many are wishing “Good riddance” to 2016. I get that. I really do. So whether you’re celebrating the end of what could be considered a pretty awful year, or whether you’re celebrating the good things that happened this year, let’s dance together as we look forward to what 2017 has in store for us.
One of the few bright spots from my middle school experience was my involvement in Boy Scouts. Scouting had a huge impact on my life because of the adults who were there to mentor me. We also had a great group of older Scouts who would guide us and teach us. One of those older Scouts in my early days in Troop 322 was David Rinehart.
I looked up to him. A lot.
I know he was flawed. We all are. This is no hagiography. I know David wasn’t perfect. But to a kid entering his preteen and teenage years, David was about as close to the embodiment of the Scout Law that you could get. He ultimately went away to a small Christian college in Kentucky and then came back to our home church to serve as a worship leader.
I hadn’t really been in contact with him after I left Evansville. Unfortunately, that does tend to happen. Even in this hyper-connected age of social media. I was still happy to see him whenever I returned home. I think it’s safe to say that I still looked up to him. And I thought about him often.
In fact, I think about him every time I use a Dutch Oven or a cast iron skillet.
I think I was in seventh grade, serving as Assistant Patrol Leader. It was late one evening and we had just finished dinner. I’m not sure why, but I was the one in charge of my Patrol. The Dutch Oven we had used had burnt food that was caked onto the bottom of the pot. We decided to fill the Dutch Oven with water and sit it on our camp stove. This was somewhat standard procedure. The idea was that the hot water would help release the burnt food while you scraped the bottom with a metal spoon.
Shortly after turning our camp stove to a high flame, all patrols were called to an evening Troop meeting. Thinking it would be a quick meeting, we left the camp stove on so the water would reach a boil. I know. Big mistake. But I wasn’t really thinking. And even if I was thinking, I’m not convinced I would have known better, anyway.
With the stove set to high, the water started boiling pretty quickly. During the Troop assembly, I forgot about the Dutch Oven. We took our time getting back to our campsite. When we did finally make it back, I was shocked to discover that all of the water had evaporated and the camp stove was just burning the burnt food even more. Our Dutch Oven was a carbonized, unusable mess.
I went to the adult leaders. They asked David to come to see if there was any way he could help salvage the Dutch Oven. Late into the evening, we scrubbed and scraped and rinsed. At one point, as we started to make some progress, he stopped, looked up at me, and chuckled, saying,
“Don’t ever do this again.”
Then he continued scrubbing and scraping away.
This moment is etched in my memory. I think of it every time I cook with cast iron. In my mind’s eye, he looks up at me and says “Don’t ever do this again.” Then I chuckle and go back to cleaning the skillet or Dutch Oven. It reminds me of his servant’s heart. And the more I look back at those middle school and early high school days, the more I realize I really looked up to him.
Things will be different now.
In the early hours of Sunday, November 13, David, his mother, and one of his daughters died in a horrific traffic accident. They were on their way home from an amazing, season-ending performance at the Bands of America Grand Nationals here in Indianapolis.
Since learning of the news, I’ve seen countless testimonies about how David led worship with all of his heart, ushering others before the Throne and joining them in praise to Our Father. I’ve been reminded of how passionate he was when he directed a choir. And I can only imagine what kind of choir music he might be directing in heaven. What a glorious sound that would be.
After seeing David kneeling down with a servant’s heart, I hope I see this image in my mind’s eye the next time I’m cooking with cast iron. I hope to see him leading worship with everything that was within him. Maybe I’ll even catch a hint of the melody. And I’m sure I’ll have to swing and sway along with the beat. Just like he did.
In that moment, I will remember that there will be a day when He will wipe away every tear, as I shed a tear of my own. And I will long for a day when there will be no more death, no more mourning. No more crying or pain. I will see the beauty that will rise out of these ashes.
But for now…Now I weep. I weep for a man I haven’t seen in over a decade, but who had a much larger impact on my life than I ever realized. And I know he touched countless others with his life, too. So I join the chorus of those countless others, saying (or singing) the words that I long to hear someday. I am confident he heard these words early that Sunday morning.
“Well done, David. Well done.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I think I need to find a cast iron skillet and fix some dinner tonight.
You might remember that I mentioned back in April that I announced to the entire Ichthus Christian Music Festival that Christy was not, in fact my girlfriend. Of course, we all know she really was my girlfriend by this point. We just hadn’t admitted it to each other. If you don’t remember that post, or have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, you can go to this post and catch up. Don’t worry. I’ll wait for you. It won’t take that long to read.
That was also the last time I heard Rich Mullins perform. I did get to meet him about a year later, but I missed out on hearing him sing. If you don’t remember that story, you really should read it. It’s OK. I promise I’ll wait for you.
There are a few things I remember about that concert, even though it was twenty years ago. I remember he was barefoot onstage. At least, I’m pretty sure he was barefoot onstage. I also remember he sang a song that he had written that Amy Grant had originally made famous. When he introduced it, he jokingly said that she had screwed it up. Or maybe he wasn’t joking? I guess you can decide for yourself.
I spent some time listening to Rich today. I’m not gonna lie. I wept when I heard some of his songs. In some ways, I think his music speaks to me today more than it did when i first heard him. A few musicians have taken up his mantle, but there will never be another Rich.
Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the crash that took his life. I think it would be great to put together some kind of tribute to him, celebrating the impact he made on countless lives in the past as well as the present. I’m not sure what it will be, but I think it should include some form of audience participation. I don’t know. Maybe some kind of crowdsourced video or something?
We have a few months to think about it. I’m sure we can come up with something. Right? Who’s with me?
When I was very young – probably five or six – my Uncle Don had a motorcycle. One day, I got to ride that motorcycle. This is the same Uncle Don who was me when I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, for those of you who are keeping score. I don’t remember if I asked or if it was offered, but I do remember climbing onto the bike and flying around their yard as Uncle Don took us for a lap or two around their house.
The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that I was the one who came up with the idea and asked for a ride. I mean, come on. Who could say “no” to this adorable kid?
I mean, let’s be honest here. I was their favorite nephew at this point in my life. Of course, that might not be saying much. I might’ve still been their only nephew at that point, other than my brother. And since Kevin was so young at that point, I’ll just go ahead and announce that I was their favorite nephew. No need to take any votes or anything. Just look at that sweet, innocent face and tell me he wouldn’t be your favorite nephew, too.
While the details of who came up with the idea might be a little bit fuzzy, I can tell you this: It was amazing. I know the rush that this guy felt. I was on Cloud Nine. In fact, I was still so excited about what had happened that I ambushed Grandmama when she arrived at their house. I told her everything about it.
I probably shouldn’t have said anything to Grandmama. She was not happy. And she let her son know about it. I still feel bad for getting Uncle Don in trouble with his momma. I hope he thought it was worth it. Because I sure did.
Fast forward some 35-ish years…
Weldu loves talking about driving. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, he’ll be turning sixteen soon. And while he talks about driving a car quite a bit, I get the impression that his real dream is to own a motorcycle. He’s even asked me to buy him one. Of course, he doesn’t want just any motorcycle. He wants the nice, shiny, super-expensive ones. My standard answer to that request?
“Get a job.”
Because that’s really the only way he’s going to be able to get any kind of bike like that. So he can add that to the list of things he wants to use his not-yet-existent income to pay for. He already has plans to by stuff like a new phone, but he’s also planning on living in Europe for a while and he’s planning a return trip to Ethiopia. And he wants to save up some money for that.
So he probably definitely isn’t getting a motorcycle any time soon. But that doesn’t mean he can’t dream about riding one. Right? And if he could ride one? Well, that would just be fantastic now, wouldn’t it?
Enter Uncle Don. Again.
While we were in Evansville over the weekend, we helped Uncle Don move some things into storage. While we were loading the trailer, I showed Weldu Uncle Don’s bike. I told him he should ask Uncle Don if he would take him for a ride after we were done moving everything.
It took a little coaxing, but he did eventually ask him. And when the moving was done, we grabbed a helmet for Weldu and away they went.
Considering the amount of grief Uncle Don got from Grandmama about my magical motorcycle ride, there was some discussion about whether to show Christy the pictures from the ride or not.
I’m not going to keep something like this a secret. Weldu needed to be able to share the excitement of this moment with his mom. So of course I told Christy about the whole thing.