Life in the Fishbowl

Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live."

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

Lollipop moments

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.
After the talk, we were reminded that we have the opportunity to change lives every single day. We have the opportunity to impact the world around us with the words we say. And sometimes, we don’t even know it. These are lollipop moments.

Christy and I have a friend named Sara. She had one of these lollipop moments with me while we were attending Milligan together. I remember it was an especially sunny and unseasonably warm day in October. I was living in an apartment off-campus, but usually ate lunch with my friends in the dining hall. I remember that Christy wasn’t there for lunch that day and I happened to sit next to Sara.

Dum Dums Lollipops

I don’t know how the conversation started, but it somehow turned to the topic of getting engaged. Several of our friends had already gotten engaged. Others were teetering on the brink. Christy and I would fall into that latter category. Everyone knew we were going to ultimately get married. I knew it. Christy knew it. Our parents knew it. Our friends knew it. I wouldn’t be surprised if our professors knew it. Everyone knew it.

They just didn’t know when.

I didn’t even know when. I had a pretty good idea. I just wasn’t entirely sure.

So Sara and I were talking about proposing and getting engaged and how that changes everything in your relationship. After some back and forth, Sara looked at me and said, “You have to realize how hard this is on a girl. You know you’re going to propose. She knows you’re going to propose. It’s just not fair to her to put her through that kind of suspense every day. Just do it. What are you waiting for?”

“Oh,” I thought. “If you only knew…” and I did my best not to chuckle.

Home-made lollipops

You see, I had already purchased the ring. It was in my bedroom. The only other people who knew about it were my dad and a co-worker at Baskin Robbins. I hadn’t even told my roommate yet. It was important to keep this information close to the vest. Word tends to travel fast on a small campus like Milligan – and this was before the days of social media. This had to be a surprise. There was no way I could let anything leak. So I didn’t tell a soul that was connected to Milligan’s campus.

I really wanted to tell Sara that I had the ring. It was in my apartment. And I was just waiting for the right time.

But Sara had a very good point. What was I waiting for? How could the time be any more right than that very moment?

So I left the cafeteria, bound and determined to make it happen. I went home and grabbed the ring. Matt happened to be home, so I showed it to him. I think both of us were shocked. He was shocked that I had bought a ring. I was shocked that this thing was actually going to happen.

It was a good shock. I promise.

Shortly after that, I left my apartment. I had a lot to get done in a very short amount of time.

A few hours later, Christy said yes!

Large multi-coloured lollipops, 2009

Who knows what would’ve happened if Sara hadn’t spoken her mind. Christy might still be waiting for that ring! Sara didn’t know what kind of impact her words had on me. Two lives were changed that day. And we have our friend, Sara, to thank.

It’s amazing how one simple conversation can open someone’s eyes. It’s amazing how one simple phrase has the potential of completely rearranging someone’s life. It’s amazing how powerful our words are.

So that’s one of the many lollipop moments in my life. I’d love to hear yours! Please share them in the comments below.


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.JPG

“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?


“No way!”

“Yes way!”



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.


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.


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.”


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.


AT-ATs and an unfortunate newspaper delivery accident

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

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

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

But you can’t.

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

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

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

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

fallen AT-AT


Welcome to Scar Week

Scar Week

When I was a kid, I had a little contest with my Uncle Don. When we saw each other either before or after Sunday morning worship at Bethany Baptist Church, we would compare wounds with each other. Whoever had the craziest injury was the winner for the week. What did you win? Well, nothing. Bragging rights, I guess. But we had fun comparing injuries and telling stories. There was the time he broke his nose. He won that week. I think he won about a month’s worth of weekly contests with that one. Then there was the time I had to get stitches in my knee. I came out victorious that time.

I learned something during those weekly contests of pain and gore. Stories are important. We can share our wounds and find commonality because of them. And yes, sometimes those stories can make us look really, really cool. And sometimes there’s a scar once a wound heals. The story behind that scar remains. And sometimes they’re worth telling again and again and again.

So welcome to Scar Week.

Discovery Channel has Shark Week. Animal Planet has Monster Week. The Weather Channel does Tornado Week. I think syfy did a Sharknado Week once. The Hub has even had Bark Week. There’s also Spirit Week, Finals Week, and Rush Week in our fine academic institutions that are scattered throughout this land. There’s also Rivalry Week in college football.

I’m sure you get the point.

Everyone has their own week. So I’ve decided that it’s time to have our own week here at Life in the Fishbowl. So I present to you the First Annual Scar Week: a week full of memorable stories. Because every scar has a story. Some will probably make you laugh. Some might make you cry. I make no promises about that. But I can guarantee this: The stories I share during Scar Week this week are 100% true and 100% mine. From an unfortunate mishap with an ax to the improper use of a fish aquarium, there are plenty of memorable stories that will be shared this week. Some of them have powerful messages attached to them. Others? Well…there’s not much you can do about them except laugh.

Does every scar have a story? Probably not. But the stories I have are ones I enjoy telling again and again and again. So sit back, relax, and laugh to your heart’s content as I, Matt Todd, present the maiden voyage of Shark Week at Life in the Fishbowl.

I hope you enjoy.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.