Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Z is for Zoo

Z is for Zoo

Sometimes, we like to play with animals in our family.

Aiden holding a frog

Mihret and a horse on our 2012 Virginia vacation

Sometimes we dress up like to pretend we’re animals.

Clown Face Paint

Gimme some candy!

Aly pretending to be a dog at the Muncie Children's Museum

We even hang out in cages from time to time.

Aly in Diego's dog crate

Mihret in a dog crate

Zoo 02

Kids posing as wild animals at Disney

It could be said that life in the Fishbowl is more like life in a zoo. It’s crazy, unpredictable, messy, wild, and maybe even a little bit stinky sometimes.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

X is for x-wing

Of course X is for x-wing. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you shouldn’t be surprised by this at all. What else could X be for? X-Men? I guess. X-ray? Maybe. Xylophone? A cop-out. If any letter is perfectly combined with any word, it’s X with -wing. X always has been and always will be for x-wing. Unless I do this challenge again next year. Then I’ll have to pick another word for X because using x-wing again would be cheating. Right?

x-wing in the Death Star trench

From video games to role-playing, I’ve always chosen to fly an x-wing for the Rebellion. OK…there was that short stint where I was totally engrossed in the TIE Fighter video game experience while in undergrad, but we’ll not dwell on that right now. It was because of the x-wing that I begged my parents to take me to Showbiz Pizza. I didn’t care about the food. I didn’t care about Rock-afire Explosion. All I cared about was climbing into that cockpit and destroying the Death Star again and again and again. This was my favorite game of all time. All. time. I would give practically anything to own one of these machines. I don’t think any other game comes anywhere close to the amazing awesomeness that was the Star Wars arcade game.

Star Wars arcade game screenshot x-wing

As a child, I regularly played Star Wars with Darren, who lived a few houses down from us. We would act out scenes from the movies and even make up our own stories. We would draw out battle plans and brief the other Rebel pilots before going out on our missions. It seems that Wedge was always getting in trouble with us, the commanders, because he wouldn’t pay attention during the briefings. Of course, when it counted, Wedge was always came through as our x-wings engaged in heavy fighting against Imperial TIEs.

Me and Darth Vader

I’m hoping they keep the x-wing around in the new movies that Disney produces. I kind of missed them in the prequels. You know what would be even better? Chewbacca flying an x-wing. That would totally blow my mind. Because, like the x-wing, Chewbacca is kind of a big deal.

Hey – a guy can dream, can’t he?

Oh by the way – I was totally listening to The Battle of Yavin while I wrote this. But that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Should it?

W is for Washington Square Mall

A to Z Challenge 2013 W is for Washington Square Mall

Back in the Day

When I started high school, our school corporation had an open campus policy. One of the cool things about this was that we could go off campus for lunch. There was a church that was within walking distance to the school. They did some kind of nifty outreach that involved lunch and games (I honestly never went, but I heard some cool things about it). Of course, upperclassmen could drive off to who-knows-where during their lunch hour. Since I was an underclassman when this policy was in place, I was limited in where I could go because I lacked the freedom that comes with a valid driver’s license. Fortunately, some merchants at Washington Square Mall had gone together and paid for a school bus to shuttle students to and from the mall every day.

Genius. Pure genius.

Food Court at Washington Square Mall
image via Washington Square Mall

I’m pretty sure we kept some of their food court vendors in business. In the image above, you can see a wall in the background. There used to be a burger joint there. I ate there regularly. In fact, I was such a regular customer that they’d start making my order before I was even at the front of the line:

Student Special with cheese. Large Coke.

It was a cheeseburger and fries with a drink. I know. It’s not the best thing to eat on a regular basis. But it was affordable. And tasty. That wasn’t the only thing I ate, though. I also remember ordering the breadsticks and cheese dip from Noble Roman’s. I still love their breadsticks. So good.

After eating, we usually had some spare time before the bus would take us back to school. Being the non-gamer gamer that I was, my friend Matt K. and I would head over to the arcade and spend the rest of our time (and quarters) playing Cyberball. We were pretty good. In fact, I think we were unstoppable.

Cyberball arcade game
Image via Arcade Museum

Many would try to beat us. Few (if any) could. I tried playing the game on my own a couple of times. I didn’t play nearly as well because the computer-controlled player didn’t do what I knew Matt would’ve done. It was like I was playing with a hand tied behind my back. Or something like that.

My How Things Have Changed

Our school’s campus closed after my Freshman year. While I didn’t like it at the time, I’m pretty sure it was the right decision.

Washington Square Mall has changed a lot since then, too. I can no longer get the student special with cheese and a large Coke because the burger joint is no longer there. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to get my “regular” anymore anyway because I’m no longer a student. But that’s not the point. It seems that a lot of stores that I remember visiting at Washington Square Mall have gone the way of the burger joint – they’re no longer there.

I think the last time I visited Washington Square was in 2008. My heart broke a little as I walked through the nearly empty hallways full of unoccupied storefronts. It was a ghost town; a shell of what it used to be.

A Lesson Here

I’m sure there’s a lesson here. Maybe it’s that seasons change. Or maybe it’s that I should’ve broadened my culinary horizons and had a salad every once in a while. Or maybe something about relying on high school students to keep you in business. Or maybe the lesson is that if I’d kept all those quarters I’d fed that video game I’d probably be able to buy my own Cyberball machine by now.

I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s something could learn from it.

What do you think?

V is for Vote for Mihret!

V is for Vote for MihretWe need your help! Please go here and vote for Mihret. We’re kind of behind in this contest because of a communication error so we need every vote we can get. Having a van like this would be life-changing for her. You’re allowed to vote once per day per IP address until the contest ends on May 11. So vote early, vote often! 🙂

Here’s a little bit of our entry. You can read the rest on the site:

Mihret is so smart, determined, independent, hilarious, curious, and looks at life as a giant party. Even with her challenges, Mihret laughs at them and refuses to let them hold her down. She was born with most of her cerebellum missing, and this affects her coordination in many areas-eating, speaking, and especially mobility. While she WANTS to be mobile, she cannot walk independently. She CAN navigate anywhere she wants to go with her wheelchair-from the very first second she got it at 2 1/2 years old! Unfortunately, I (Mom) have been diagnosed with a physical problem that limits the amount of lifting I can do, ironically caused by lifting her equipment so much over the past few years (most likely). We do have a van, but don’t have a way to get the chair into the van without lifting it up. That means that when it is just myself and the children, I can’t really get her anywhere-the museum, the park, therapy, the library, even just to Target-her favorite store! This is a permanent problem, and she is only 5. We have a long way to go together! She is so curious and is such a sponge, and I hate limiting her in where we can go, when she can be so independent in her wheelchair.

We have attempted to get a van lift through various avenues-insurance, disability programs, etc. Because our van is above the mileage limit (and it’s on its last leg anyway), we have been turned down.

So what are you waiting for? Vote today! Please! 

U is for up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start

The Konami Code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select, start – to get a ton of lives for two players) was our best friend when Kevin and I would play Contra.* I finally got to the point where I could beat the game without my brother’s help. I have this feeling that we also came pretty close to beating the game without using the secret code. But don’t quote me on that. I could be dreaming things again.

I also had to use the cheat code (007 373 5963) to get to Mike Tyson on Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! because, for some strange reason, I could never beat Super Macho Man. I knew the tricks. I just couldn’t beat him. I could, however, beat Mike. And I was much more effective at it than Mr. Fresh Prince.

I guess you could say I was a bit of a gamer before I realized there ever was such a thing. Things are a little bit different now. And I’m not entirely sure if it’s by choice.

I remember challenging my uncle to a game of Biplanes on our Intellivision console. Yes. We had an Intellevision instead of an Atari. And it was awesome. I felt kind of bad for him because I flew circles around him. Seriously. Circles. All the time. It was a dogfight, after all. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t feel bad enough to let him win. I just felt bad for him.

Intellivision biplanes

I couldn’t really understand why someone couldn’t “get” a game like this. I mean, the premise is very straightforward: shoot down the other plane before you get shot down. Doesn’t get more simple than that. Right?

It’s funny how things change. It’s funny how the tables have turned. I definitely know what it was like to be my uncle now. Because Aiden regularly trounces me in Madden and NBA 2K12 and any other sports-related game on the wii. But that’s OK. I’m sure I could’ve totally wiped him out in biplanes.

But since I don’t think I’ll have access to an Intellivision console any time soon, I’ll just keep looking for a Konami Code for dads to beat their kids in video games.

*I just discovered this site. This is not good. And fabulous. All at the same time.

 

T is for Todd

A to Z Challenge 2013 T is for Todd

Yes. That’s my name.

Todd.

It used to bug me a whole lot when someone would use my last name as a first name. I never understood why so many people wanted to use a last name for a first name (see what I did there?). I think it bugged me the most when I was speaking with a Communications professor during my first semester of my freshman year of college. He pulled me aside and said, “You do know you didn’t answer one of the questions on your exam – right?” I did know this. I also knew that without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to get the bonus questions right. I wound up with a 95%. “When I saw that you didn’t answer that question, I said, ‘Ack! Todd!!!?!!” and he playfully smacked me with the small stack of papers he was holding. It bugged me. A lot. The guy didn’t even know my name.

Wait a minute.

Todd is my name. It’s not my first name, but it’s my name. It was shortly after this conversation that I realized that I was making too big of a deal out of something that really wasn’t that big of a deal. I mean…there are much worse things I could be called – like Toad or Toddler (oh so creative, huh?) or Porcupine or a last name that really doesn’t sound very nice when it’s said by itself (I’m sure you can think of a name or two like this).

No, we’re not related

Over the years, I’ve been asked if I’m related to (InsertFirstNameHere) Todd. I always feel bad when I look at them with a blank stare and say “I have absolutely no idea.” As far as I know, there’s no family connection with Gary Todd, Chuck Todd, or even Sweeney Todd. And no, I don’t think I have any connection with Matt Todd, the rugby player. But I think it would be cool if I did.

Matt Todd of Canterbury
Matt Todd is on the left. I think Aiden could take him. 😉

Family History

Todd family tree
A Tree of Todds

The best I can tell is that our family has strong roots in Kentucky (I’m glad my ancestors finally wised up and moved further north). We can also trace our ancestry back to Scotland. Or maybe Britain. Or maybe both. I’m not entirely sure. But I did discover that there’s a possibility that our family might have had a motto:

It behooves us to live.

I kinda dig that.

Todd means fox. Either that means our family is “sly as a fox” or has a history of red hair, which makes us look like foxes. Unless you count my gray hair as silver. Then we’re silver foxes.

Why yes, we ARE related

There are two rather famous Todds that, to best of my knowledge, are connected with my family. One is connected with 100% certainty. He was Grandpa’s brother: Earl Todd. Uncle Earl was a POW after the Battle of the Bulge. He was given a heroes’ welcome when he and his colleagues returned to the States. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He never talked about it. Ever. I talked about it a little bit more in this post a few years ago.

MaryToddLincoln

The other relative is a little more famous and a little more distant. For years, we thought that Mary Todd Lincoln had no relation to us. Somewhat recent research has led us to conclude that yes, she is a distant relative – a cousin removed several times. Knowing how eccentric and paranoid and genuinely disliked she was, I used to shy away from this connection. While she isn’t directly in my bloodline, I have a connection with such an important, yet ultimately tragic, story. Aiden and Alyson think that’s really neat. Too bad the kids at school have never believed them.

You can call me Todd

So it doesn’t bother me very much if you call me Todd. Just don’t call me Mark. Or Mike. Or Scott. You’re welcome to call me Todd if you have to. I’m kind of proud of it.

Because that’s my name.

Don’t wear it out.

Q is for Quiet

I received this book for an honest review.

A to Z Challenge 2013 Q is for Quiet book review

I wish I had the money to be able to buy Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for everyone in my company. I wish I had the money to buy this book for everyone at my church. Shoot – I wish I had the money to buy a copy for every family in the country. Yes. It’s that important of a book.

As a pastor and as a church member, I can’t tell you how many disagreements I had with church leaders over the years about the idea of making visitors stand up during the worship service so they could be recognized. You want to know the best way to make an introvert try to find the quickest escape route? Make that person be recognized in front of a large crowd without warning. I think I failed to communicate this awkwardness because I had failed to help them understand some of the fundamental differences between introverts and extroverts. I think giving them access to this book would have helped immensely. With up to 50% of the population being introverts, I would think that church leaders would want to know how the can best reach this people group. From what I’ve seen, however, extroverts are leading the way. And they don’t understand how an introvert feels (and on the flip side, an average, run-of-the-mill introvert has no idea what it’s like to be an extrovert).

The same is true in the workplace. As Susan Cain so rightfully points out, we live in a world that is biased towards the extrovert. We live in a society that assumes everyone wants to be an extrovert – that introversion is something to grow out of. We live in a society that seems to equate how loud you are with how right you are.

If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. – p 51

Quiet dispels the myths about both introverts and extroverts. The first section discusses some of those myths, along with assumptions that people make about people’s desires to be in social settings. I was amazed at the work environment that’s described in the book is very similar to some work environments I’ve encountered. And Susan Cain hits the nail on the head in discussing how these efforts to encourage collaboration really do very little to encourage real collaboration, primarily because people don’t really pay attention to the difference between extroverts and introverts.

After discussing the disconnect our society has with introversion, Cain focuses on science behind these two basic personality types. She talks about the findings from different studies over the years and the conclusions that could be drawn from them. While not exactly my favorite section in the book, knowing the biology and the psychology behind introversion and extroversion certainly helps clear things up. And it prepares the reader for the final section, which discusses what we can do with all of this knowledge. How can introverts navigate the world dominated by extroversion? How can extroverts and introverts peacefully survive thrive together? Quiet gives some great suggestions.

Like I said in the beginning, I wish I could give this book to everyone I have met. It could start a revolution. A quiet revolution. I don’t say this very often, but you need to read this book. Your church leaders need to read this book. Your coworkers need to read this book. Your spouse needs to read this book.

Yes. It’s that good.

 

 

P is for Paper Towels

In the wake of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Boston, I thought about changing this post to “P is for Peace” because that’s what we long for. Of course P is for peace.

Maybe this is my misguided attempt at standing in defiance against the monsters who did this by saying “No! You are not going to control every aspect of our lives through the propagation of fear through your evil acts!” I continue to join people around the world in praying for the people who were personally impacted by this horrific event. I thank God for the men and women who chose to run into the smoke and the carnage to help others. In the midst of an example of the darkness that people are capable of committing, these heroes displayed the best side of humanity. My heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones. My heart aches for those who are picking up the pieces.

I also continue to pray for and pursue peace.

A to Z Challenge 2013 P is for Paper Towels

I don’t care if you think the earth is going to melt because of man-made global warming or if you think it’s all bunk and junk science that’s being used to advance a secret plot to take over the world, I’m pretty sure that all of us can agree that it’s pretty ridiculous for us to waste resources.

I watched this TEDx video about a year ago and it honestly changed the way I do things. I don’t obsess about a lot of things, but clean hands and dry hands are pretty important. If I can have clean, dry hands without excess waste, that’s a bonus! Win-win. Right?

I once heard of a principal who used to tell his students that he could dry his hands with just one paper towel. Since his hands were so much bigger than theirs, there was no reason for them to waste so many paper towels every time they washed their hands. The guy telling me about the principal didn’t believe his story. I didn’t believe it either.

He was wrong.

So was I.

Say what you want about this guy’s demonstration. Don’t knock it till you try it, though. And I guarantee you now know the largest one-syllable number. Don’t you?

I must say, however, that I have no interest at all in his follow-up presentation. A guy’s gotta draw the line somewhere.