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!"

Life lessons from preschool

3 life lessons from preschool

When I was little, my mom saw an ad in the local paper about a new preschool starting at Willow Road Baptist Church. Mom believed it was time for me to start my preschool career, so she picked up our rotary phone and called the church office. Mom talked to the preacher’s wife, who was directing this new endeavor, and signed me up for preschool. Apparently, I was the first child to enroll with the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church. Ever.

I don’t remember many details about the other students who were in that inaugural preschool class. I remember one boy. His name was Toby. I think. He liked pretending he was the Hulk. And whenever he was the Hulk, I would pretend to be Spider-Man. He would do his “Hulk smash” thing and I’d be busy shooting pretend spider webs from my wrists, keeping the girls and their cooties away.

Me and Vader
I think I’m a little older than preschool here, but you get the idea. I was adorable.

While I don’t remember many details, I do remember some key life lessons from my preschool experience. This wasn’t a preschool like many are today. You know the ones I”m talking about. They’re meant to prepare a child for the rigors of elementary school. That wasn’t the purpose of this preschool. The caring adults at the preschool at Willow Road Baptist Church helped me be a kid. They helped me learn how to have healthy relationships with adults, other children, and the Divine.

Everything I needed to know…?

A few decades ago, the book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten made a big splash. I get the premise behind it, but my education about life didn’t start with Kindergarten (it didn’t end there, either, but that’s another post for another day). It started in preschool. And while I certainly didn’t learn everything I needed to know about life while I was in preschool, I certainly learned some valuable life lessons.

preschool supplies

Now, some 35+ years later, I look back fondly on my experience at Willow Road Baptist Church Preschool. The preschool is no more. The congregation has dissolved, too. A new church has sprung up in its place. If you know anything about my longtime desire to see new churches doing new things in my hometown, you know this makes me very happy. Although Willow Road Baptist Church is no longer here, I can tell you that I’m still living by some of the lessons I learned in that tiny community.

3 Life Lessons From Preschool

1.) It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully.

Our indoor play area was relatively small. And although our preschool class was also relatively small (there might have been eight of us – I honestly don’t remember), preschoolers can get wound up pretty quickly. Inevitably, two kids were going to want to play with the same toy.

You know, like a green truck. One that I really loved. That’s what my mom has told me, anyway.

As a preschool aged kid, what would my reaction be if I was playing with this favorite green truck and someone like Toby came over and tried to take that toy because he wanted to do his whole Hulk Smash thing with it?

Hypothetically, of course.

There would naturally be much shouting. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. There’d be an endless cycle of “Mine!” “No! Mine!” shouted on repetitive repeat over and over and over again. There’d be pulling and pushing and shoving and hair pulling and more shouting and crying. Oh, the crying. Things would just spiral out of control from there, leading to hurt feelings, a bruised ego or two, and maybe a few handfuls of hair scattered throughout the room. And did I mention the tears?

It's a preschool fight

It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

You can share. You can take turns. Shoot, you can even consider playing together. Disagreements don’t always have to end in violence. It is possible to disagree without trying to hurt the other person. I know. In the age of hyperpartisanship, parent shaming, and cyberbullying. We live in an age when a simple comment on a facebook post can lead to a person getting doxxed. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine what would happen if you chose to show a little bit of kindness instead of firing off that nasty tweet about someone who hurt you. What would happen if you chose not to give in to your selfish impulses and actually shared something instead of hoarding it? Imagine what would happen if we could have a passionate debate about something, laying out all the facts and actually listening to the other side without getting nasty and personal.

It’s possible to resolve conflict peacefully. Choose kindness, friends. It’s hard to do sometimes. But it helps make the world a little bit less harsh. We don’t have to fight all the time.

Be kind, y’all.

2.) Keep your hands to yourself.

If we’re going to be kind to one another, that means we’re going to have to keep our hands to ourselves. No hitting. No unwelcome touching. Hair pulling? Nope. And no pinching, either. I can’t believe I have to say this, but no groping or any other type of grabbing other people’s body parts. And you can’t just walk up to people and kiss them, either.

It’s not OK.

Keep your hands to yourself in preschool

It’s not OK in preschool. And it’s not OK for adults, either. “Boys will be boys” is not acceptable. “It was meant to be a joke” is not an excuse. How hard is this concept? Keep your hands to yourself. I don’t care how powerful you are.

Wait. I take that back.

do care about how powerful you are. Because it matters how we treat people in private. And this is especially true when it comes to people in power. How you treat people who are less powerful than you reveals a whole lot about your character. Please. Use your power for good, not to abuse people who can’t do anything about it.

Keep your hands to yourself. Is it really that hard? If so, maybe you need to spend some time in the corner.

3.) Keep your clothes on.

Seriously. Is it really that difficult? Nobody needs to see that. Not even scary monsters.

screaming preschool monsters

Seriously.

These lessons I learned in preschool are pretty basic. You can basically boil them down to one main rule:

Treat others the way you want to be treated.

I didn’t think this lesson was that hard to learn. But watching the news makes me think it’s a lot more difficult of a lesson to learn than I thought.

Or maybe it’s a sign that a lot of people just need to go back to preschool.

 

 

10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)

Warning Beware of the Tuba Player

A few weeks ago, it seemed like everyone and their brother posted a list on facebook: 10 Bands I’ve Seen in Concert (1 is a lie). You know this list. Right? The poster shares the names of ten bands he or she has seen live and in concert. One of the ten is a bald-faced lie. You’re supposed to guess which one is the imposter.

It was kind of fun. So I decided to play along. I couldn’t just do it the way everyone else was doing it, though. No, I had to do mine with a little twist. I mean, what else would you expect from a life-long Band Geek? Here’s what I posted.

Marching bands!!!

10 Bands I’ve Seen (1 is a lie):

1. Evansville North Green Brigade
2. Harrison Warrior Command
3. Madison Scouts
4. Castle
5. Ben Davis
6. Indiana University Marching Hundred
7. The Marching Pride of Lawrence Township
8. Cowan Blackhawk Brigade
9. Center Grove Trojan Band
10. The Pride of Paoli

Can you guess which one is the lie? I was a little surprised that a few people picked it out right away. If you want to play along, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and share your guess. But come back here and find out the answer.

Warning! Here be the answers! Spoilers ahead!

Continue reading 10 bands I’ve seen (one is a lie)

I FINALLY saw Bon Jovi in concert

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Once upon a time, not so long ago…

It’s no secret that I lived under a rock for a long time when it came to non Star Wars related pop culture, especially when it came to music. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet pulled me out from under that rock and helped me see the light. Whenever my friends, Matt and Aaron came over, we’d pop the album in my cassette player. We subsequently turned my room into a stage in the center of a packed arena, pretending to perform Bon Jovi’s jams in front of thousands of screaming fans.

We needed another member to complete the group. Fortunately, Kevin was always a willing participant. So the four of us would jump up and down on my bed, shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs and shredding the air guitar with each rockin’ solo.

See? There’s more to having a younger brother than just having someone to sneak attack with a pillow at Grandma’s house.

But that’s pretty fun, too. Continue reading I FINALLY saw Bon Jovi in concert

A high ropes course and ministry [aka Thanks, Todd Bussey]

I’ve shared this story on several occasions in several different ways. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. Todd Bussey might be tired of it. But I’m not. And I’ve decided that it is altogether fitting to share it today as we wish Todd countless blessings as he begins the next chapter of his ministry life.
Todd Bussey with me before my wedding, 1998

There I was –

some 40 feet in the air. A helmet was strapped to my head. A harness was firmly fastened around my body. I was safe. But I was stuck. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It was one of my first years as a Boy Scout and we were participating in the high ropes team building course the National Boy Scout Museum in Murray, Kentucky. The climax of the afternoon was climbing a giant tower and then walking across a high wire from one tower to another. I could choose to take one of thee routes to this second tower. I chose the path that was most difficult.
Of course I did. I had to look cool in front of my friends, didn’t I?

I chose the path called The Hourglass.

The Hourglass is made up of a single wire to walk on a wire to hold onto. As you’re walking across the wire that’s suspended among the treetops, the wire that you’re holding onto is gradually sloping downward. Once you’re in the middle of the path, the wire that you’re holding onto has descended enough that it is actually attached to the foot wire.
How high did I say this course was? Forty feet? Felt like 75.
So there I was, 125 feet in the air, squatting down on a wire, holding on to another wire for dear life. Behind me was another wire that was attached to the wire at my feet. That second wire slopes upward and leads to the second tower at the end of the course.
There was a trick. One I didn’t expect. There, in the middle of the course, 235 feet in the air, I had to let go of the wire in order to adequately turn my body and grab hold of the other wire and make my way toward safety.

 Let go.

My head knew what I needed to do. I think my heart even knew. But my body? Not so much.
Let go?
That was crazy talk. I was hanging 376 feet in the air. That cord at my feet was my only lifeline. And I was supposed to let go? There was no way I was letting go of that wire.
So I squeezed harder. My knees started to shake. The wire I was standing on started to sway. Sweat ran down my brow and started to sting my eyes. I was in bad shape. Things were looking bleak.
I was certain I was going to die up there. I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe I would shrivel up and die from dehydration. Or maybe I would just shake myself into oblivion. Or maybe my safety harness would wear out and I would tumble 563 feet to my doom.

So I stayed there and waited for my certain death. At least I had my safety helmet on, so when I finally fell to oblivion, the staff could sweep up all of the pieces into my helmet, wrap it up, slap a sticker on it and send me home on my way.

Friends down below were shouting encouragement. “Just let go with one hand! Everything will be OK!”

Of course, every time I tried that, the tightrope would shake. I’d panic. And then I’d find myself gripping the wire even tighter.

After an eternity, which was probably no more than five or six minutes in realtime, something unexpected happened. I heard a familiar voice from the tower.

“Matt,” the voice said. “I’m coming to you. We’re going to finish this together.”

It was Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He had come with our Troop on this camping trip, and had already taken his turn on the high ropes course. He had strapped on the safety equipment and was already making his way towards me on a nearby obstacle.

It only took a few seconds after he came out to me. He calmed me down. He coached me through the next steps and encouraged me as I let go of the wire and grabbed the other one. The rest was a piece of cake.

I survived the Hourglass. And I owe it all to Todd Bussey.

Todd is wrapping up a ministry at my home church that began back in the 1980s. He’s moving his family to Florida to write a new chapter of ministry with some new church work.

I know.

Florida.

Tough life, huh?

But he’s going to help turn the region upside down. Perhaps he’ll even shock the world. Because that’s what Todd does. It’s what he’s always done.

Todd Bussey at the Welcome Back sign at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990

Todd baptized me. He co-officiated my wedding. He ordained me. And if something unfortunate were to happen in the near future, I hope he’ll bury me, too.  We went on our first Philmont trek together. And he coached me through some important merit badges in Scouting, including Communication and Citizenship in the Nation. Of course, he was also a spiritual mentor of mine. We have some pretty great memories from five Summers in the Son together. Oh, and we were the Summer in the Son volleyball champions of 1990, even though we were the clear underdogs. And he even introduced me to A-180/Audio Adrenaline.

His story has been wrapped into my story for the past 30 years.

And I share this story about the high ropes course because it’s a nice little illustration of what he has done for me over and over and over again.

As a ministry coach, a spiritual advisor, a pastor, and a friend, Todd has always been there for me. He was there when my dad had a heart attack. He was there when I needed a listening ear after I left my first professional ministry. And he helped guide me through preparing for my first funeral as a preacher.

Just like when he was there for me 722 feet in the air, I have always been able to count on Todd Bussey to be there for me. And I know there are many other people who feel the same way.

This leaves a large hole in my home church’s leadership. Shoot, it leaves a large hole in the entire Tri-State area. But Evansville’s loss is going to be Jacksonville’s gain.

This most definitely is not goodbye, it’s “see you later.” In Florida. I can’t wait to see how God uses Him in this new chapter!

Why cast iron makes me think of David Rinehart

David Rinehart playing the grand piano at the Villa Philmonte at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990
David Rinehart playing the grand piano at the Villa Philmonte at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990.

One of the few bright spots from my middle school experience was my involvement in Boy Scouts. Scouting had a huge impact on my life because of the adults who were there to mentor me. We also had a great group of older Scouts who would guide us and teach us. One of those older Scouts in my early days in Troop 322 was David Rinehart.

I looked up to him. A lot.

I know he was flawed. We all are. This is no hagiography. I know David wasn’t perfect. But to a kid entering his preteen and teenage years, David was about as close to the embodiment of the Scout Law that you could get. He ultimately went away to a small Christian college in Kentucky and then came back to our home church to serve as a worship leader.

I hadn’t really been in contact with him after I left Evansville. Unfortunately, that does tend to happen. Even in this hyper-connected age of social media. I was still happy to see him whenever I returned home. I think it’s safe to say that I still looked up to him. And I thought about him often.

In fact, I think about him every time I use a Dutch Oven or a cast iron skillet.

I think I was in seventh grade, serving as Assistant Patrol Leader. It was late one evening and we had just finished dinner. I’m not sure why, but I was the one in charge of my Patrol. The Dutch Oven we had used had burnt food that was caked onto the bottom of the pot. We decided to fill the Dutch Oven with water and sit it on our camp stove. This was somewhat standard procedure. The idea was that the hot water would help release the burnt food while you scraped the bottom with a metal spoon.

Shortly after turning our camp stove to a high flame, all patrols were called to an evening Troop meeting. Thinking it would be a quick meeting, we left the camp stove on so the water would reach a boil. I know. Big mistake. But I wasn’t really thinking. And even if I was thinking, I’m not convinced I would have known better, anyway.

With the stove set to high, the water started boiling pretty quickly. During the Troop assembly, I forgot about the Dutch Oven. We took our time getting back to our campsite. When we did finally make it back, I was shocked to discover that all of the water had evaporated and the camp stove was just burning the burnt food even more. Our Dutch Oven was a carbonized, unusable mess.

I went to the adult leaders. They asked David to come to see if there was any way he could help salvage the Dutch Oven. Late into the evening, we scrubbed and scraped and rinsed. At one point, as we started to make some progress, he stopped, looked up at me, and chuckled, saying,

“Don’t ever do this again.”

Then he continued scrubbing and scraping away.

cast-iron-skillet

This moment is etched in my memory. I think of it every time I cook with cast iron. In my mind’s eye, he looks up at me and says “Don’t ever do this again.” Then I chuckle and go back to cleaning the skillet or Dutch Oven. It reminds me of his servant’s heart. And the more I look back at those middle school and early high school days, the more I realize I really looked up to him.

Things will be different now.

In the early hours of Sunday, November 13, David, his mother, and one of his daughters died in a horrific traffic accident. They were on their way home from an amazing, season-ending performance at the Bands of America Grand Nationals here in Indianapolis.

Since learning of the news, I’ve seen countless testimonies about how David led worship with all of his heart, ushering others before the Throne and joining them in praise to Our Father. I’ve been reminded of how passionate he was when he directed a choir. And I can only imagine what kind of choir music he might be directing in heaven. What a glorious sound that would be.

David Rinehart leading worship
image via the Crossroads Youth Choir & Babd facebook page

After seeing David kneeling down with a servant’s heart, I hope I see this image in my mind’s eye the next time I’m cooking with cast iron. I hope to see him leading worship with everything that was within him. Maybe I’ll even catch a hint of the melody. And I’m sure I’ll have to swing and sway along with the beat. Just like he did.

In that moment, I will remember that there will be a day when He will wipe away every tear, as I shed a tear of my own. And I will long for a day when there will be no more death, no more mourning. No more crying or pain. I will see the beauty that will rise out of these ashes.

But for now…Now I weep. I weep for a man I haven’t seen in over a decade, but who had a much larger impact on my life than I ever realized. And I know he touched countless others with his life, too. So I join the chorus of those countless others, saying (or singing) the words that I long to hear someday. I am confident he heard these words early that Sunday morning.

“Well done, David. Well done.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I think I need to find a cast iron skillet and fix some dinner tonight.

Just a boy and a dream about a motorcycle

When I was very young – probably five or six – my Uncle Don had a motorcycle. One day, I got to ride that motorcycle. This is the same Uncle Don who was me when I saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, for those of you who are keeping score. I don’t remember if I asked or if it was offered, but I do remember climbing onto the bike and flying around their yard as Uncle Don took us for a lap or two around their house.

The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that I was the one who came up with the idea and asked for a ride. I mean, come on. Who could say “no” to this adorable kid?

Me as a Ring Bearer at Aunt Patsy and Uncle Don's wedding

I mean, let’s be honest here. I was their favorite nephew at this point in my life. Of course, that might not be saying much. I might’ve still been their only nephew at that point, other than my brother. And since Kevin was so young at that point, I’ll just go ahead and announce that I was their favorite nephew. No need to take any votes or anything. Just look at that sweet, innocent face and tell me he wouldn’t be your favorite nephew, too.

Me and Vader

While the details of who came up with the idea might be a little bit fuzzy, I can tell you this: It was amazing. I know the rush that this guy felt. I was on Cloud Nine. In fact, I was still so excited about what had happened that I ambushed Grandmama when she arrived at their house. I told her everything about it.

Bzzzzzz!

Wrong answer.

I probably shouldn’t have said anything to Grandmama. She was not happy. And she let her son know about it. I still feel bad for getting Uncle Don in trouble with his momma. I hope he thought it was worth it. Because I sure did.

Fast forward some 35-ish years…

Weldu loves talking about driving. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. I mean, he’ll be turning sixteen soon. And while he talks about driving a car quite a bit, I get the impression that his real dream is to own a motorcycle. He’s even asked me to buy him one. Of course, he doesn’t want just any motorcycle. He wants the nice, shiny, super-expensive ones. My standard answer to that request?

“Get a job.”

Because that’s really the only way he’s going to be able to get any kind of bike like that. So he can add that to the list of things he wants to use his not-yet-existent income to pay for. He already has plans to by stuff like a new phone, but he’s also planning on living in Europe for a while and he’s planning a return trip to Ethiopia. And he wants to save up some money for that.

So he probably definitely isn’t getting a motorcycle any time soon. But that doesn’t mean he can’t dream about riding one. Right? And if he could ride one? Well, that would just be fantastic now, wouldn’t it?

Enter Uncle Don. Again.

While we were in Evansville over the weekend, we helped Uncle Don move some things into storage. While we were loading the trailer, I showed Weldu Uncle Don’s bike. I told him he should ask Uncle Don if he would take him for a ride after we were done moving everything.adjusting-weldus-motorcycle-helmet

It took a little coaxing, but he did eventually ask him. And when the moving was done, we grabbed a helmet for Weldu and away they went.

weldu-and-uncle-don-leaving-on-a-motorcycle weldu-and-uncle-don-after-their-motorcycle-ride

Considering the amount of grief Uncle Don got from Grandmama about my magical motorcycle ride, there was some discussion about whether to show Christy the pictures from the ride or not.

weldu-and-uncle-don-on-a-motorcycle

I’m not going to keep something like this a secret. Weldu needed to be able to share the excitement of this moment with his mom. So of course I told Christy about the whole thing.

Or did I…?

 

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

 

Celebrating Bosse Field’s 100th anniversary!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale if you make a purchase using the link.
Bosse Field is 100 years old

I’ve been to sports facilities that just ooze history out of every corner. It’s a mystical, magical experience. Some say Bosse Field has that same kind of feel. There’s good reason for that.

Bosse Field is about to turn 100 years old.


It’s the third-oldest ballpark still in use in the United States. Only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are older. From concerts to an NFL team (ever hear of the Evansville Crimson Giants? Yeah, me neither. You learn something new every day.) to minor league baseball, Bosse Field has seen its share of memorable moments.
Bosse Field

I have a few personal memories of Bosse Field. Both are honestly pretty faint. I think I remember attending an All Star game for our t-ball league there. I also remember attending a Triplets game. Or maybe more. And I think I had one of their Knothole Gang shirts at one point.

Bosse Field is a place steeped in history. That made it the perfect setting for A League of Their Own. Although Madonna later said she wasn’t much of a fan of our fair city, the fact that A League of Their Own was filmed in Evansville was a source of great civic pride. In many ways, it still is.

Shop for thousands of 100% authentic autographed sports collectibles at SportsMemorabilia.comI still puff out my chest a little bit whenever I talk about the movie. I’m always quick to inform people that it was filmed in my hometown. And that Uncle Dale took Grandmama to the filming of the final scenes. They needed extras dressed in 1940s attire to fill the stands for the championship game. I have other friends that were there that day, too. Every time I watch the movie, I scan the crowd to see if I can find anyone I know. I haven’t been able to find anyone yet. But I’m sure I will someday.

I remember riding in the car with my Aunt Patsy one evening. A limo pulled beside us while we were heading down Morgan Avenue. “What if that’s one of the cast from that movie they’re filming here – the one about girls’ baseball?” we said to ourselves. Then a window rolled down and a hand reached out and waved at us. Aunt Patsy was convinced that it was Tom Hanks. I’m still not convinced.

Fortunately, Mr. Hanks doesn’t think Evansville is the equivalent of Prague.

So in honor of Bosse Field’s 100th anniversary, I’m going to be introducing my kids to A League of Their Own. Of course we’ll have peanuts and cracker jack. And since the Rockford Peaches play such a prominent role in the film, we’re gonna have an old favorite of mine from my Scouting days: Simple Peach Cobbler a la mode.

What? I haven’t shared this fabulous recipe yet? That’s a travesty. I’ll have to do that very soon. But for now, you’ll have to wait. But don’t cry about it while you wait.

Because there’s no crying in baseball.

If you’re looking for smoe pretty cool memorabilia from A League of Their Own, check out this link:Movie Collectibles and Memorabilia. They also have some pretty cool All American Girls Professional Baseball League memorabilia, too.

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.

Free birthday ice cream. Mmmmmmm….

A post shared by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

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

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

We were this. close…

banana for scale

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

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

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

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

 

Let me tell you about the time I broke into my parents’ home

Broke into my parents house

My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary while I was a senior at Milligan. Kevin was a freshman at Anderson. So both of us were out of town at the time. Throw in the end-of semester projects and preparations for finals and it looked like we were not going to be able to do anything special for my parents’ silver anniversary until sometime during Christmas break.

Appearances can be deceiving though.

With the help of Grandma and Grandpa Craig, we were able to pull of what had to be the biggest coup in Todd family history. It was definitely one for the record books and it took a whole lot of effort from a whole lot of people to pull this thing off. But they did. And it was fabulous. It’s amazing how a plan comes together. Because of all the planning and uncertainty and moving parts and potential for disaster, I believe this was the biggest surprise I was able to pull off. It was an even bigger surprise than when I proposed to Christy.

Before we go much further, I want to remind you of one very important thing: context. This was 15+ years ago. The Internet was still very young and not readily accessible. Yahoo looked like this. Google didn’t even exist.  Very few people had cell phones. And if they did have them, they weren’t much smaller than Zack Morris’s.

Zack Morris cell phone from Saved by the Bell
Image via 123people.com

And texting? I don’t even think we’d ever heard of such a thing.

I know. We were in the dark ages of communication technology. How did we ever get in touch with all those people in Evansville when we lived 8 and 4 hours away from everyone? Why, snail mail, of course! Grandma and Grandpa Craig printed up a bunch of invitations and we mailed them to family, friends, neighbors…anyone we thought might want to celebrate this momentous day with my parents. We may or may not have even invited the local fire department, police department, and area bridge clubs. OK, we didn’t. But let’s just agree that we invited a whole lot of people.

So after inviting almost all of Vanderburgh County, we had to use all of our creative energy to pull this thing off. I remember talking up my concern about the upcoming finals and how I was going to be spending the weekend camped out in the Library in preparation for them. Friday and Saturday were going to be nothing but study days for me. My cover had been established. Mom and dad had no idea that Christy and I were driving up to Evansville that Friday. They had no idea that Kevin, Christy, and I would be sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa Craig’s that evening.

We had recruited some family friends to take mom and dad out of town for the morning and afternoon on Saturday. Once they were on the road, they had to make a quick emergency stop. I don’t remember what the excuse was, but they had to stop so they could call to let us know that the coast was clear.

Then we broke into my parents’ house.

We grabbed whatever bags looked like they might contain gifts and gently tossed them into one of our bedrooms. Because I like to keep surprises a surprise, there was no peeking at the potential gifts. We furiously cleaned and scrubbed and cleaned as quickly as possible, hoping to make the house as spotless as possible. Grandma was worried (and rightfully so) that Mom would be mortified if she knew a bunch of people were at her house and the house wasn’t clean. That would’ve been a surprise of a completely different sort.

As we cleaned, we began preparing the food. Grandma had ordered an anniversary cake from Donut Bank, the same baker who had made their wedding cake. The wassail was simmering on the stove. And in a very short amount of time, we had my parents’ house transformed. We were ready to party like it was 1999.

We had a shuttle system established. People parked around the block or in the nearby church parking lot. We would shuttle them to the house. That way there wasn’t any chance of Mom or Dad accidentally recognizing one of the cars, which could potentially ruin the surprise. Once everyone arrived, we gathered in the Dining Room and we waited.

Patiently.

OK. Most of us were patient. I really wasn’t that patient. I was anxious. I couldn’t wait for the surprise to unfold.

As their friends’ car pulled up, Mom and Dad got out of the car. The tightly-packed room fell silent as they approached the front door. Because of the layout of the house’s main level, we could not see the door from the Family Room. And they could not see us. My body tensed as we heard the door open. I couldn’t believe we had actually pulled it off.

Mom and Dad were talking about something as they opened the front door. Then, mid-sentence, Mom said, “Wow. Something smells good.” She could smell the wassail as it simmered. I asked her about this later and she didn’t think anything of it at the time.

Then she turned the corner into the Dining Room. Dad trailed closely behind, still out of sight. As she rounded the corner, she saw us.

She froze.

We froze.

I wish I had thought to have a camera with me because the look on her face was priceless. She screamed and ran back around the corner. She whispered to Dad, “There are people in our house.” Then they both came around the corner together and they were greeted with a giant

“Surprise! Happy anniversary!”

And she didnt’ faint. I really did think Mom was going to faint. I’m sure glad she didn’t!

We had a great time with Mom and Dad, surrounded by family and friends. It was a magical evening. And I still can’t believe we managed to keep the event a secret.

So the pressure’s on our kids. What are they going to be able to do for us when we celebrate our 25th? I think we’ve set the bar pretty high. Fortunately, they have a few years to get things together. They might want to start planning now so there isn’t any pressure a decade from now.

*************

This post was inspired by #ThinkKit’s post-a-day in December initiative, presented by Smallbox. Today’s prompt:  Don’t look….it’s a surprise! Yes, I deviated from the prompt just a little bit. But that’s OK. This story must be told.