Category Archives: memories

This is why I got misty-eyed at Aly’s final choir concert

Aly's Final Concert

A few weeks ago, we gathered in Aly’s school gym for one final time as the 8th grade choirs gave one final middle school concert. As they gathered to sing the final song, I have to admit that I had a bit of an emotional moment. I even got a little misty-eyed. I probably wasn’t the only one. But it probably wasn’t for the reason y’all think.

Yes, it’s crazy that our Aly is already out of middle school and is going to be a Freshman next year. It’s a little concerning how fast everything is flying by. I was warned about such things, and I’ve tried to soak in as many moments as possible. And it’s amazing to see how our little girl who used to talk to bees and make mud angels in the puddles grow up right before our eyes. But that’s really not the reason I felt this wave of emotion come over me. And it’s not because this was her final choir performance, since she’s not planning on participating in any of the choirs or singing groups in high school.

No, there was a much more personal reason. In order to explain why I felt the way I did, I have to give you a little bit of background. So let’s rewind the clock some 25-ish years.

I hated middle school.

There. I said it. It’s out in the open for everyone to know. I hated almost everything about middle school. I hated riding the bus.* I hated algebra. I hated the cliques. I hated the inside jokes and the slang everyone would try to use. I hated being made fun of. And having come from a relatively small school where you knew everyone and everyone knew you, I hated being at such a large school where it was hard for me to know anyone.

I wasn’t a Jock. I wasn’t a Prep. I wasn’t a Hood or a Nerd. I was an outsider who didn’t really fit in with the rest of the outsiders. And I most certainly didn’t fit in with the popular kids. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. So I was overwhelmed throughout most of my middle school  career.

Me in 6th grade

I hated middle school.

I’m sure there were good things about middle school, but I’ve unintentionally blocked them out. OK, that’s not entirely true. I do remember some good things. I was baptized while I was in middle school. I became heavily involved in Scouting and came under the leadership of some pretty amazing mentors who poured life into me, even when I was silently miserable. My parents did the best they could. They’d never parented a middle school student before. And that’s funny, because I’d never been a middle school student before. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we were all just making it up as we went along. In spite of the struggles, I did know they loved me. But school itself?  I’ve blocked out most of my middle school experience. A lot of it is a blur. And I think I’m OK with that. Because here’s some of the stuff I do remember…

I remember the beginning of Summer Break between my final year of elementary school and my first year of middle school. I was told that the rising 7th and 8th graders had a “hit list.” You didn’t want to be on this hit list because that meant you were going to get beat up. Every day. At the beginning of Summer Break, a well-meaning friend told me that I was on the hit list. That ruined my Summer. It probably helped ruin the first semester of 6th grade, too. I was never beaten up in middle school. Never got anywhere near a fight.** My friend did. Once. Kind of. Actually, he was just pummelled while the rest of the school watched because he refused to fight back.

Speaking of that friend, he was one of the only friends I really had in middle school. And I remember constantly teasing him and mistreating him because I thought it would get others to think I was cooler than I really was.

I remember people making fun of my hair. Relentlessly. Repeatedly. Nonstop. Unceasingly. You get the picture?

Me in 8th grade

I remember feeling so much pressure to be accepted that I lied to people about having a girlfriend who lived out of the country. While I really did know some girls who live overseas, I want anywhere close to being in any type of dating relationship with any of them.

It was horrible. I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if social media was thrown into the mix. You have no idea how thankful I am that it wouldn’t exist until long after I was out of middle school.

I hated middle school.

About a year ago, I had the chance to attend a class reunion at our middle school. I originally planned on attending, but work obligations prevented me from making the trip to my hometown. There was a part of me that was bummed. In spite of my horrible middle school experience, some of my middle school classmates did become friends of mine. In high school. So it would have been nice to see them. But I have to be honest. I was mostly pretty OK with not going back. Why relive such an ugly time in my life?

So as I watched Aly perform on stage, I thought about how positive her final year of middle school had been. Of course, there have been some rocky moments during her middle school career. That’s part of the middle school experience. But she is moving on to high school as a grounded, confident young woman.

I secretly shed a little tear and secretly wiped it away before anyone could see it. Because while I know high school can have its share of drama and challenges, it is so much better than middle school. I know that it feels like middle school never ends. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel and it can lead to better things. Much better things. I’m convinced that Aly is going to love high school.

That tear also leaked out because of my great sense of relieve. Two of our children have successfully navigated the middle school minefield. We’ll have three high school students at the beginning of this school year. That means we only have one more kid to go through middle school. So in my head, I gave Christy an imaginary  celebratory “high five.” They made it through middle school. And I think they’ve turned out to be some pretty amazing kids. Just one more to go.*** And that’s a few years away.

We’ve got this.

If you know a middle school student, especially one who is struggling, please be there for him or her. Be an encourager. Be a shoulder to lean on. Please pass on the message that it will get better. So hang in there.

Middle school was not the end of the world. It gets better. So much better.

And I guess that was a good lesson to learn. No matter the circumstances that surround you, it’s not the end of the world. Like my Grandmama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.”

*I did think George, our bus driver was pretty cool, though. He probably let us get away with more than we should have during our daily commutes, but he tried to ease the boring bus ride. In spite of his efforts, I still didn’t like riding the bus. I was much happier walking to school like I did in elementary school.

**Shoot, the only time I was ever in anything close to a fight (other than with my brother) was when I was in 1st grade. And that was more like people running after each other and taunting each other.

***For a variety of reasons, I’m glad we didn’t enroll Weldu in school as soon as we got home. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for him to try to navigate the final semester of 8th grade. Middle school is hard enough when you’ve grown up here in the States!

Chocolate covered peaches, Coca-Cola, and a Date-iversary

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareMemories #CollectiveBias

Happy Date-iversary #ShareMemories #ad

Music. It has such a powerful connection in our lives. As a recovering Band Geek, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known this since high school. Music is powerful. When you hear a few words or a couple of notes from a song and you’re instantly transported to another time, another place. It evokes strong memories. Some songs can make you cry. Others can make you dance like nobody’s watching. This Summer, Coca-Cola™ has tapped into the almost mystical connection we have with music by adding song lyrics to their bottles, inviting all of us to “Share a Coke and a Song.”

Share a Song Bottles #ShareMemories #ad

Twenty years ago this month, I was smitten. I’m still smitten, but everything was all brand-new in May of 1996. After an entire school year of pursuing her, I finally gathered up enough nerve to ask Christy out on a date. I don’t know what I was nervous about. For all practical purposes, we’d really been dating for the past several months. But nothing was ever “official.” So when the time came to actually ask her out, my heart skipped about three or four beats, my forehead gathered tiny drops of sweat, and my hands shook like they’d never shaken before. I was nervous.

Of course, she said yes. And so we went on our first official date twenty years ago this month. We didn’t have smartphones back then, so we don’t really have any photos to document the event. But I promise you, it was a memorable evening. We did the traditional date night: dinner and a movie. I honestly don’t remember what we ate, but I remember talking to Christy with such ease and comfort that it already felt like we’d known each other for years. It was an amazing dinner. Then we went to the movie. It was the animated one about a boy and a big-huge peach. It was…

well… Continue reading

Well you don't see a restaurant like that every day

Christy and I have eaten at some unique places over the years. Like The Parson’s Table in Jonesborough, Tennesse –  an old church building that was converted into a fancy shmancy restaurant (now it’s a special events facility). There’s St. Joseph’s Brewery in Indianapolis, another old church facility that was converted into a microbrewery not too long ago. We tried the poutine.

It was delicious.  Continue reading

40 for 40

Lordy! Lordy!
Look who’s forty!

That’s what you’re supposed to say. Right? Well, whether that’s really the case or not, I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m now a forty year old.

In recognition of this landmark achievement, Dad encouraged me to take a few minutes and think back on my story – where I’ve been, who I’ve met, what I’ve done – and reflect on that. I took it to heart. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot, honestly.

During my reflection, I thought, “You know, I should write these down.” So I did. And now I’m sharing them with you. Some are serious. Some are less than serious. I hope you can tell the difference. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be challenged a little bit along the way.

40 thoughts for 40 years  Continue reading

Close Encounters With Space Shuttle Discovery

20160207_124413

I’ve taken several opportunities to share what I remember about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. It was one of those traumatic national events that is burned into my long-term memory. I still remember it like it was yesterday. It could be argued that my childhood dream died that day.

I also remember the day US astronauts returned to space. I was in middle school and our teacher turned on the radio so we could listen to the launch. I was on the edge of my seat, hoping against hope that the shuttle would arrive safely into Earth’s orbit. Although I didn’t plan on being an astronaut anymore, I was still thrilled that we had returned to space. I’m pretty sure I saw my  social studies teacher wipe away a tear during the broadcast.

The shuttle that ushered the United States back into manned spaceflight Space Shuttle Discovery.  Continue reading

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

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

7 Popcorn Toppings

There is nothing like a family movie night. With everyone’s hectic schedules and all of us running this way and that, it’s hard to get our whole family to sit down in the same room for 10 minutes at the same time. So when we’re able to gather around the TV for a movie night, we want to make sure we’re maximizing our time together and making memories along the way.

Our most recent Family Movie Night? War Room with a nice big bowl of popcorn topped with peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (more on this amazing combination in just a minute) and a nice, cold bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s a perfect Movie Night snack.

Ever since it was released in movie theaters earlier this year, I’ve heard a lot about how good War Room is. “It’s better than any of the other movies the Kendrick Brothers have made,” was a review I heard on a regular basis. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. But the theaters weren’t showing it anymore by the time I could go see it. But now that War Room is a new release at Walmart, I was excited to finally get to see the movie.

WarRoom

There’s a lot of truth in this film. And I think it lived up to the hype. It certainly did not disappoint. It’s something I suggest you include in one of your future movie nights. Because if we’re going to make memories with our families, why not watch something that will help them change the world while we’re at it?

Growing up, we had regular family movie nights. We’d rent a movie from the local video store, grab a bottle of Coca-Cola, and head down into the basement and begin watching a family-friendly movie together. As the movie started, mom would come downstairs with a big bowl of popcorn for us to share.

Oh, that popcorn.

I don’t remember many of the movies we watched together. But I do remember that popcorn. It wasn’t just any old bowl of popcorn. This popcorn was different. It was Taco Popcorn. She would make other toppings, too. Some weren’t that great. But others, like Taco Popcorn, were pretty amazing.

Every time I sit down with a bowl of popcorn, I think of the different toppings my mom used to make for our popcorn. I believe popcorn is the perfect movie night snack. It’s great on its own. But it’s also a great vehicle for some pretty amazing toppings.

In the spirit of my mom’s memorable popcorn toppings, here are some toppings that you really need to try. They’re pretty simple. But you might not ever eat popcorn the same way again.

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

These toppings are amazingly simple. But they’ll revolutionize your movie night experience. Of course, you’re welcome to adapt and adjust these recipes to your own personal taste as you take your popcorn experience to the next level.

M&M’S® Chocolate Candies Popcorn

MMs Popcorn

I remember when I first tried this topping a few years ago. I wondered where it had been all my life. I was definitely missing out. I love M&M’S® Chocolate Candies – especially the Plain ones. I also love popcorn. Combining the two? Well, that’s just a match made in heaven. The chocolatey goodness of the candy mixed with the buttery saltiness of the warm popcorn? Oh, it’s an experience beyond any mere human description.

This is a classic combination that everyone must try.

Ingredients:

1 Package M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (any variety)
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Pour M&M’S® Chocolate Candies into bag of freshly popped popcorn. You should do this while the popcorn is still warm because it will soften the candies ever so slightly. I promise: it enhances the popcorn eating experience.
3. Eat and enjoy!

Curry Coconut Popcorn

Curry Coconut Popcorn

We’re big fans of Indian food at our house. So this warm, spicy creation is right up our alley. While I’m usually not a fan of coconut, I could eat this popcorn all day, every day.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Coconut Flakes
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Ginger Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl (approximately 30 seconds).
2. Combine curry, ginger, and coconut in the oil. It will look like a thin paste.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Mix spice paste in the popcorn.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

This is the recipe that started my popcorn topping discovery adventure. It’s amazingly simple. But it’s also amazingly good. I still think of my mom every time I have this popcorn.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Butter
1 ½ Tablespoons of your favorite Taco Seasoning
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe dish.
2. Mix taco seasoning into melted butter.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Pour popcorn and seasoning mixture into a gallon-sized bag.
5. Shake bag until popcorn is evenly coated.
6. Eat and enjoy!

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and sugar on top of your popcorn? Yes, please! Experts say that the perfect ratio is ¼ cup of sugar to 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon. I like it a little sweeter than that, so I add another dash or two of sugar to my mixture.

Ingredients:

¼ Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
3. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture over popcorn. Don’t skimp! Sprinkle liberally so you cover all of the popcorn.
4. Place remaining mixture in an airtight container and store for later use.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

My wife introduced this treat to our family a few years ago. While we generally reserve this treat for the winter months, there’s really no reason you can’t have this cool topping any day of the year!

Ingredients:

2 2-oz. cubes Vanilla Almond Bark
2-3 Candy Canes
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Place candy canes in a small plastic bag.
3. Crush candy canes.
4. Melt vanilla almond bark in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to slightly cool.
5. Pour slightly cooled almond bark over freshly-popped popcorn.
6. Mix popcorn and almond bark.
7. Sprinkle candy canes over popcorn.
8. Eat and enjoy!

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Another simple recipe. You’re welcome to adjust the garlic to Parmesan recipe according to your family’s taste. To be honest, we usually estimate our garlic and Parmesan, sprinkling each ingredient in until we’re satisfied with the amount.

Ingredients:

½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Garlic Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine Parmesan and garlic powder in a bowl.
3. Sprinkle over popcorn. Store remainder in an airtight container.
4. Eat and enjoy!

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Do you like Buffalo Wings? Then you’ll love Buffalo Ranch Popcorn!

Ingredients:

⅓ Cup of your favorite Hot Sauce
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon of your favorite Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to cool, slightly.
2. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
3. Combine hot sauce and dressing mix in melted butter.
4. Pour popped popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
5. Add sauce mixture to the bowl.
6. Toss popcorn in sauce until evenly coated.
7. Eat and enjoy!

War Room Movie Night #MakeItAMovieNight #ad

I hope these popcorn toppings help add another layer to your family movie night memories. I don’t know about you, but I want to build on the memories I’m sharing with my own kids. We want our family movie nights to be an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, Walmart has made it easy to make it a movie night together.

In store collage

If you purchase four eligible products in one transaction between now and February 2, 2016, you’ll receive a $10 VUDU movie code* via email (*while supplies last. Limit one [1] per person). Simply purchase a 6-pack of Orville Redenbacher popcorn (you can find them here on facebook, twitter, and instagram), M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (facebook, twitter, and instagram, and pinterest, a 6-pack of Coca-Cola (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) .5 liters, and select DVDs from Sony Pictures (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) – including War Room, a movie that has changed lives around the country. Snap a picture of your receipt and upload it here for your free $10 VUDU movie code. Then you’ll have enough snacks and entertainment for multiple family movie nights! You’ll also be ready to try these amazing popcorn toppings and create some family memories of your own!

#MakeItAMovieNight

Looking for more ideas? Be sure to check out more fun movie night ideas here and be sure to take advantage of the VUDU offer and make it a movie night tonight!

Champs!

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Aiden Freshman Football Button

Aiden’s freshman season with Center Grove football has been over for around a month. He had a pretty good year on the freshman football team. He started off at Cornerback, but was moved to Safety halfway through the season. And he made an immediate impact.

Here he is in his first game as Safety on the freshman team:

Aiden interception at Lawrence CentralYup.

That’s right. It’s an interception.

He claims it was luck. The quarterback threw it right to him. I continue to remind him that while it might have been lucky that he was where the ball was going, he still needed to have the presence of mind to catch the ball and hold onto it. I think I’ve finally convinced him to stop saying it was a lucky play.

He grabbed another pick a few games later. It bounced off the receiver’s hands and he dove to catch it. Maybe all those games playing catcher in Cowan are still paying off.

Shop for official Indianapolis Colts fan gear and authentic collectibles at NFLShop.com

It was fun watching Aiden and the rest of the boys leave it all on the field every Saturday morning. Well….OK….getting him to school early in the morning every Saturday morning wasn’t exactly fun. But watching them play was fun. They went through some tough games. And they lost for the first time since seventh grade. There were definitely some growing pains. But they kept on playing their hearts out. And that was fun to watch.

Once the season was over, the freshman were invited to practice with the J/V and Varsity teams. Aiden jumped at the opportunity. So over the last month or so, he’s been participating in Center Grove’s practices as they prepared for their playoff push.

This play that sent the Trojans to Lucas Oil Stadium? It brought tears to Aiden’s eyes. If you don’t want to watch all of this video, you can just fast-forward to the 7:20 mark to see what I’m talking about.

Pretty cool. Right?

So we took a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium to watch the mighty Center Grove Trojans take on the Penn Kingsman. Both teams were undefeated against teams from Indiana (Penn had lost to a team from Michigan).

Here they come! #GoTrojans #onemore

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

Kevin and Caedmon came to watch, too. Aly and Aiden hung out in the Student Section during the game. That was totally fine with me. After the semistate win, I told Aiden that he needed to soak in this experience and that he couldn’t take it for granted. I know their school is a big school and the Trojans have a pretty good athletic program. But trips to the State championship are nothing to take for granted. After all, my alma mater’s football team hasn’t won a Regional championship.* Ever.

NFLShop.com - Customized NFL GearSo they watched and cheered from the Student Section. Caedmon and I cheered and yelled and clapped during every third down. Whenever the Trojans would stop their opponent on third down, we’d give each other high-fives. And if the Kingsmen happened to convert on third down, we’d vow to be louder next time. I had fun with him. I hope he did, too.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t really expect to be as emotionally involved in this game as I was. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, I’m still somewhat emotionally invested in my alma mater’s games. And I don’t know anyone who plays for any of their athletic teams. Over the season I’ve gotten to know some of Center Grove’s players and their parents. I was thrilled to watch these young men leave it all on the field and end the season as Indiana state champions.

Of course, in an effort to encourage Aiden (and Aly, too) to soak it all in because this could have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we drove down to the school for a post-game celebration. In many ways, it was like any post-game rally that you’ll see in the movies. Some speeches. Some clapping. Some cheering. The playing of the school song. Some more cheering. And then they played the song that they play after the Trojans score at home.

Some post game celebration. #GoTrojans #onemore #STATECHAMPS

A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

I have to say, they played this song a lot this season. I think everyone knows the words to this song better than they know the fight song.

It was a great night to be a Trojan. Or the parent of a Torjan. Or a neighbor of a Trojan. It was a hard-fought football game with a fantastic conclusion. The slogan for this year’s football season was “One More.” It was fitting since they were one game short of making it to the State Finals last year. I think next year’s theme should be the same: “One More.” But this time, it’s because they’re hungry for a repeat.

That could be fun.

*In Indiana, the high school football playoffs break down like this: Sectionals >>Regionals>>Semistate>>State Championship. Center Grove is in the largest class in the state, 6A. There are 32 teams in this class.

What's your lollipop moment?

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Whirly Pop lollipop, November 2009

Before this school year started, we gathered together for a day of training and room preparation. During our all-staff meeting, our principal shared this video from TEDx Toronto. Continue reading

I jumped in a puddle. Then this happened. My scar proves it.

Scar WeekJenny was my next door neighbor when I was young. We played together. A lot. We also argued a lot. And got each other in trouble on occasion. I got her to play with my Star Wars toys and she got me to play with her Barbies. In many ways, she was the older sister I never had.

Me & Vader

One day after it had rained, Jenny and I were playing outside. We eventually decided we needed to establish a new guideline for the day. Since it had rained recently, there were a lot of puddles around us. We loved jumping in puddles. These puddles were practically begging us to jump into them. So we established a rule:

You have to jump in a puddle when you see one.

That’s a pretty legitimate rule. Right? I mean, it makes sense in a five year old’s brain. So we agreed on this new regulation and continued to play. Whenever we walked by a puddle that hadn’t been touched, we jumped in with gusto. I don’t remember if Jenny had shoes on or not. I do remember that I was barefoot. There really isn’t any other way to jump into a puddle – is there?

“Exploring new continents 1200728” by No machine-readable author provided. Wars assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons.

We eventually found ourselves sitting on our back porch. I don’t remember what led to this conversation, but Jenny eventually announced to me, “Did you know I got some new Star Wars toys?”

“Nu-uh.” I didn’t believe her. She’d never owned any Star Wars toys before. Why would she start doing so now?

“Yu-huh!”

“No way!”

“Yes way!”

“Nu-uh!”

“Yu-huh!”

And so we sparred back and forth for several minutes, digging into each other with our obviously creative and engaging dialogue. For one final time, she insisted that she was telling the truth and she stomped out of our backyard to her house. She was going to get the toys and prove it to me.

Fine, I said to myself.

I waited at the back porch. “What if she’s telling the truth? What if she really does have Star Wars toys?” I thought to myself. I was going to have to eat some serious crow. “Nah. There’s no way she has any.”

She was taking a long time to get her toys and bring them over. So I started looking for something to help pass the time. Nothing really excited me. It was just the same ol’ backyard that we played in every day.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it before. But in that moment, it was like the clouds had opened up and a spotlight shone from the heavens, piercing through the trees and pointing the way to something so glorious it must have been a gift from the Divine Himself.

The sun in forest (1223998380)

Right beside me was a perfect, untouched puddle!

I might have even heard angels singing when my eyes were opened and this beautiful gift was revealed to me. I tear might have even rolled down my cheek.

It was glorious.

So, in keeping with the rule we had made earlier in the day, I jumped up to my feet, dusted off my knees, and jumped on to the aquarium sitting by the porch.

Oh.

Did I mention that there was an empty aquarium sitting by our porch? I don’t know if it was an old aquarium or a new one. But it was empty and sitting out back. It had been turned upside down. I assume that was so it wouldn’t fill up with water and bugs and dirt and bird droppings and whatever else could wind up in an empty aquarium sitting in the backyard.

But that didn’t stop the overturned aquarium from accumulating some water. And it was just enough to make the perfect little puddle. So I stood up on the porch and stepped over onto the aquarium.

The water felt good on my feet. It had been too long since I’d played in a puddle. Probably a whole 10 minutes. Standing in the water wasn’t enough, though.

So I started jumping.

On the overturned aquarium. You know. One that’s made out of glass.

For the next few weeks, I tried to blame Jenny for what happened next. It really wasn’t her fault because this whole climbing onto an aquarium thing wasn’t her idea. And jumping while on top of the aquarium wasn’t her idea, either. But I blamed her because she came around the corner and shouted, “Boo!”

I looked at her. Her arms were full. But they weren’t full of Star Wars toys. I think I remember seeing a McDonald’s playset in her arms.

I knew it. I was right. She was wrong. “Those aren’t Star Wars toys!” I declared. I was angry. I was annoyed. I was disappointed. I really wanted to play with some new Star Wars toys. I had hoped I had turned her to the Light Side.

As soon as I finished my victorious declaration, the inevitable happened. The glass gave way. I crashed through the aquarium. I don’t know where Jenny went. I’m assuming she went to find an adult. All I remember was sitting in the aquarium, surrounded by broken glass and screaming my little head off.

And blood was running down my leg.

I had cut my knee. And it was bad.

Mom ran out and grabbed me. I remember sitting in the bathroom with a washrag on my knee. The next thing I remember was hobbling into the emergency room and sitting down by some wheelchairs.

Our family doctor happened to be there with an intern. I was carted into a room where I watched them stick a needle in my gaping wound. I screamed. The nurse encouraged me to be quiet because my knee was trying to sleep. She must’ve been telling me the truth because I couldn’t feel my knee anymore. It must’ve fallen asleep.

Next thing I remember, I’m on my back with my knees up. Other than the head of my doctor and his intern, I really can’t see anything. I think they some type of curtain blocking my view.

When all was said and done, I wound up with three stitches in my knee. That’s all. After all that drama, it only took three stitches to fix me up. And they were blue, too. That was my favorite color at the time.

And since I won the best wound contest with Uncle Don that following week, jumping on the aquarium was totally worth it.

Right?

The scar from stitches in my knee

I think I lucked out. This could’ve been a disaster.

A near miss?

Scar Week

For as long as I could remember, I had a mole on my thigh. For a long time,  I thought it was a birthmark. It kind of looked like a spot of dirt that never went away. In fact, an uncle or two used to joke with me, saying that it was clear that I hadn’t taken a bath that day because they could see a dirt spot on my leg.

I might have been annoyed by that mole, but I didn’t really think much about it until I visited a dermatologist back in 1999. I was in her office for a different skin condition and I showed her something on my thigh.

“Oh,” she said. “How long has that mole been there?”

I told her that I’d had it as long as I could remember. It hadn’t ever changed shape or color. I almost found myself trying to defend my mole. But she was concerned. It was an odd enough shape that she wanted to remove it. So we scheduled a procedure for a week or two later.

The procedure didn’t take very long. After numbing my leg, she put something like a stencil on my thigh. Then she made a cut the shape of a football, removing the mole from my leg. We talked casually and joked throughout the procedure. After she was done, my leg was bandaged and I drove home. Then I just went about my business. I didn’t really think anything of it.

I got a phone call a few days later. “The biopsy was negative.”

Biopsy?

Looking back, it all makes sense. Of course there was a biopsy. That’s why the dermatologist was concerned. But I hadn’t really put all of that together. There were a lot of other things going on at the time and this was really just an annoying thing I had to do, not a reason to worry. And I guess that’s probably good. Because if I had connected those dots, it would have been a long two days of waiting.

The scar on my legI know I’m fortunate. My results were negative. But there are many people who don’t receive a phone call like that. Their world is rocked when they hear the word no one wants to hear: Cancer. I know it would have shattered my world.

Every scar has a story, but this one also has a message. It’s a reminder to pray for and be there for people who did not get a phone call saying that the biopsy was negative. It’s also a reminder to live life to the fullest because you really don’t know what tomorrow holds.

My scar is also a challenge to you. If there’s a lump or a mole or something that just doesn’t seem right, get it checked. Don’t wait until an awareness month like Breast Cancer Awareness Month or Movember or any other time at a later date. Get it taken care of as soon as you can. Please. And don’t forget regular self exams. Because cancer sucks.