4 signs I’m turning into a grumpy old man

Grumpy Old Man
One of my students has consistently called me Grandpa since the day I showed up in his class in October. Granted, he does occasionally call me “Daddy,” too. And there was one day a few weeks ago where he walked down the hall with me and introduced me as “Mr. Matt” to everyone he met – real or imaginary. So there are days where he’s all over the place with what he calls me. But his go-to name for me is Grandpa. Maybe I look like his super-young, super-hip (is that what the young whipper snappers call it nowadays?) grandpa. Or maybe it’s just the head of gray I mean…white hair. White hair. Yeah…that’s the ticket…Because it’s totally turning white and not gray at all. So maybe it’s the color of my hair that makes him assume I’m a grandpa. Or maybe there’s no real explanation of what’s going on in this kid’s head. He just wants to call me Grandpa.

I guess I’m technically old enough to be his grandpa. I guess that means I’m getting older.

I had another realization about my age recently. I was talking with a co-worker one night and realized that I have scars on my body that are older than he is. The scar from me jumping through an aquarium? Older than him. The scar from the time where I was teaching ax safety and wound up cutting my leg with an ax? Yup. Older than him. Wait….how is it possible that I’ve been blogging on this site for 10+ years and I’ve never talked about these scars? This is a travesty that must be corrected. I sense a series a-brewing.

But I digress…

Those scars? Totally older than him.

Dang. I really am getting older. I like to say that I agree with Bon Jovi. I’m not really getting old. Just older.

But maybe that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Maybe I’m not just getting older. Maybe I’m getting old. Here are four reasons that there’s a very good possibility that I’m starting to become a grumpy old man.

1. Catching some zzzzz…

Before I elaborate, I feel like I should make a disclaimer about my grandparents so you don’t misunderstand me. Grandmama and Grandpa were not grumpy people. They laughed. A lot. I remember them as generally, genuinely happy people.

Grandparents’ wedding picture. I think.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


I remember their smiles. And I definitely remember their laughs. Especially Grandpa’s. It’s been 25-ish years since I’ve heard that laugh, but I can still hear it echoing through my memories when I think about him. Boy do I miss that laugh. I wish my kids could’ve heard that laugh. I know they would’ve loved it. And he would’ve gotten a big kick out of them.

So you get the point. Grandmama and Grandpa were happy people. Joyous people. They were not grumps.

But, boy could they sleep.

Whenever we’d go stay at my grandparents’ house, the night would almost always end with Grandpa asleep on the red carpet that covered their Living Room. It didn’t really  matter what was on TV. He generally fell asleep while we were watching it.

And Grandmama? As she got older, she fell asleep almost anywhere at almost any time. I remember having conversations with her as she would sit down in the recliner. I’m not kidding: 30 seconds after sitting in her chair, she’d be asleep. Her best friend told us that she also had a knack for falling asleep in the movie theatee. I remember some other places where she fell asleep, but she’d probably be mortified if she was still alive and found out that I’d shared them in public.

The grand-apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, apparently. I fall asleep all the time while sitting on the couch. I’ve also dozed off a time or two during the occasional trip to the local dollar(+75 cents) theater. I am certainly following in Grandmama and Grandpa’s footsteps.

Does this make me grumpy? No. Not unless one of the kids rudely rouses me from my slumber upon the couch. Then I’m not very happy. But that only lasts for a little while. It isn’t a perpetual state of grumpiness.

Does it make me old? Probably. I think it’s safe to say that the all-nighters from college, the dates that Christy and I would have that would last until 5 in the morning, and the precious few hours of sleep that I got while our kids were babies have taken their toll. So now I’m playing catch-up. One cat nap at a time. Does this mean I’m ancient? Nah. But it’s pretty clear that I’m older.

Now please excuse me while I take a quick nap before I write the rest of this post.

2. Jaywalkers

Nothing makes me grumpier than a jaywalker crossing the street in front of my car while I’m driving down the road. This really didn’t bother me too much until sometime early last year when it was dark and a lady jumped out from between two stopped cars going the opposite direction. I was *this close* to hitting her. I’ve included a banana for scale:

That’s close.

Too close.

If she had jumped out any more, there’s no way I wouldn’t have hit her. All because she couldn’t walk a few hundred feet and cross at an intersection.

Now I just get grumpy when someone walks out in front of me and isn’t using a crosswalk or at an intersection. It makes me so grumpy that I’m tempted to speed up a little and blare my horn, just to scare them a bit. Of course I would never intentionally hit someone. But scaring someone enough to reconsider jaywalking might be fun. You know I’d never really speed up like that. But I may or may not have blared my horn at jaywalkers as they walked in front of me.

Because I’m grumpy like that.

Don't jay walk 1937

3. People who walk the wrong way

Speaking of pedestrians, people walking the wrong way down the street make me just as grumpy as jaywalkers do. Walking on the right side of the road, with the flow of  traffic instead of against it, you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation. It’s unsafe for the pedestrians. It’s also unsafe for the people who are driving. Unless you want to increase the chances of being involved in a car vs. pedestrian accident, it just makes sense to walk on the left side of the road.

And because I really don’t want to be involved in any car vs. pedestrian incidents, I admit that I’ve at the occasional pedestrian (it’s usually a small group of teenagers) for walking down the right side, which is the wrong side, of the road. It isn’t safe and it just makes me grumpy.

Wrong Way

Very, very grumpy.

4. No turn signals

There are a lot of things I miss about living in the South. I’m sure it’s a blog post waiting to happen. There are a few things, however, that I don’t miss. One thing that drove me nuts about driving in Upper East Tennessee was the regular use of “courtesy signals” by the locals. Have you ever experienced this?

Let’s say a car is two spots in front of you and is turning left. That driver has the left turn signal on and is waiting for an opening in oncoming traffic to make the turn. As a “courtesy,” the car behind that car – the car between the two of you – turns on his/her left turn signal in order to let you know that the person in the front of the line is waiting to turn left. There were times where I encountered five or six cars flashing “courtesy signals” while waiting for the first person to turn. Once that person turned, all of subsequent drivers went straight.

I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. I never have. But it drives me nuts.

2005 BMW 645Ci Cabriolet - Flickr - The Car Spy (21)

That pales in comparison to how grumpy I get when someone doesn’t even bother to use a turn signal at all. I like to minimize uncertainty when I’m driving. I like to have an idea what my fellow drivers are trying to do. If you’re turning and I don’t know that ahead of time, that makes me grumpy.

Turn signals are our friends, people! Use them!

Mr. Grumpy Pants

Well fliberty-floo. Flobble-dee-flee!

I’m coming closer and closer to being a grumpy old man. I’m sure this’ll change in the future as my grumpy old manliness continues to grow, it seems that most of my grumpiness seems to be tied to driving. But it’s not because of anything I’m doing. It’s everyone else. Please show some courtesy and some common sense when you’re walking or driving down the road. If you don’t, you just might encounter a grumpy old man like me.

That’s the way it is.
And I like it.

Now get off my lawn.

My Ultimate Christmas Playlist: Christmas Time is Here

Christmas Time is Here

I probably should’ve included the whole A Charlie Brown Christmas album on this playlist. While A Christmas Story is a very close second, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been my favorite Christmas special for as long as I can remember. One year, Grandpa recorded the TV broadcast, using the same big-huge VCR that he used when he recorded Star Wars for me. And I remember sitting in the Family Room at their house, watching this over and over and over again.

So while many people love this Christmas Special for its timeless and simple message about what Christmas is all about, it also has a very special place in my heart because it makes me think of Grandmama and Grandpa. Yes, this song must be on my Christmas playlist. It just isn’t Christmas without it.

Why A New Hope is my favorite

Me and my Darth Vader nightlight
Me with my Darth Vader nightlight, courtesy of Aunt Patsy (circa 1982)

I remember when CBS aired Star Wars* on network tv for the first time. It was a big deal. A big-huge deal. Gigantic. Enormous. Gargantuan. You get the idea?

I asked Grandmama and Grandpa to record it on their big-huge VCR because we didn’t have one yet. Every time we visited their house (which was often), I’d pop in the tape and watch it over and over and over again. I wanted to be part of the Stuben family with their giant collection.

All that being said, I still thought it was pretty weird to get married in line while waiting for the movie. I mean….having a Chewbacca-shaped Groom’s Cake is one thing. Spending your wedding night in a movie theatre?

That’s something else.

But I digress…

Every time someone would walk into the room while I was watching the beloved Star Wars videotape, I would shout, “Shhh! Shhh! This is my favorite part!” Of course, every part was my favorite part.

Leia gets captured? My favorite part.

Luke is ambushed by Sandpeople? My favorite part.

The Millennium Falcon has to blast its way out of Mos Eisley? My favorite part.

The Princess is rescued from her cell?** My favorite part.

I think you get the idea. Every single part of this movie was my favorite part of my favorite movie. It was so captivating. It transported me to a different world – one that I would continue to live in when I wasn’t watching the movie at my grandparents’ house. Star Wars has a very special place in my heart because of the memories it evokes. For this reason alone, Star Wars will always be my favorite. There are other reasons, however, why Star Wars is such a masterful piece of storytelling.

The music

John Williams is a genius. George Lucas is a genius for getting him to work on this film. The score is so intertwined with the visuals that it is impossible to imagine Star Wars without the soundtrack. I would suspect it would be a much, much different experience. And it probably wouldn’t have been as memorable of a movie.

Here’s an example of how the two tie in so perfectly. Try not to get a little misty-eyed as you listen to Binary Sunset (around the 1:50 mark). In your mind’s eye, you can see young Luke gazing off into the horizon, wishing he could leave for a life of adventure that he cannot have while he’s stuck at his uncle’s farm.

OK. Maybe I’m the only one who can see the scene in my mind’s eye. And maybe I’m the only one who gets misty-eyed. But it’s still a powerful scene. And we owe it to the soundtrack.

The jaw-dropping special effects

With Star Wars, George Lucas understood the purpose of special effects. It could be argued that he lost his way when it came to the prequels, but that’s a different discussion. When you look at Star Wars for what it was, it was an amazing technological leap forward in the realm of special effects and film.

And it played second fiddle to something much more important: the story.

Without a good story full of engaging, memorable characters, you don’t have that much of a quality movie. If you throw special effects in there and use them to drive the story, then you have even less of a movie.

Special effects are just a tool, a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an end to themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.

George Lucas
From Star Wars to JediThe Making of a Saga

The story is a timeless fantasy. Farmboy growing up a hundred miles from nowhere becomes a protege of a wise, mysterious, old wizard. They team up with a band of outlaws on a journey to rescue a princess. Along the way, they topple an evil Empire and this seemingly insignificant farmboy from an insignificant place saves the galaxy.

While the special effects were groundbreaking and are still pretty amazing, they’re subservient to the timeless story. And that’s the way it should be. I wish more filmmakers (including George Lucas himself in later years) would learn from that. Special effects are a tool to tell a story. Special effects are not the story. Star Wars nails this point perfectly.

I think that’s why I have been so disappointed with the tinkering they did with the films for the Special Edition – and after the Special Edition. The story becomes a tool to show off your special effects, which is the opposite of how it should be. It messes up the story.

All that being said, there’s one addition in the Special Edition of Star Wars that does help the story. It’s the brief encounter Luke has with Biggs before the final battle. It helps the audience understand why it was such a big deal that Biggs is shot down at the end. It’s not just that Luke is now all alone. He’s also lost his best friend.

Luke and Biggs before the Battle of Yavin
image via Wookieepedia

I feel like I should also mention that the final battle scene in Star Wars is where I strongly disagree with Roger Ebert’s initial review of the film. I have always thought the final battle was just the right length.

The magic

Star Wars is an adventurous joyride full of ups and downs and twists and surprises and it doesn’t stop until the final explosion and you jump up and down with joy as all the tension releases from your body. Steven Spielberg once said that Star Wars “put the butter back into the popcorn.” And he’s right. With Star Wars, movies became fun again. Once again, movies could take you off to a place far, far away, and invite you to stay. Moviemakers have been trying to capture that magic since Star Wars. While some have had varying levels of success, none have been able to come close to matching the magic of Star Wars.

Its endurance

Some movies, like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are great because they tell moving, heartbreaking stories. And I never want to watch them again.  Other movies are great because you want to watch them over and over and over again.

As you can see, Star Wars clearly falls into the latter. And I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s my favorite of my favorites. Always has been. Always will be.

Which Star Wars film is your favorite? Do you like any prequels better than the Original Trilogy?

For the duration of this post, please realize that I’ll be using ‘Star Wars’ and ‘A New Hope’ interchangeably. If you have a problem with that…well…that’s really your problem. I suggest you find something else to get upset about because this really isn’t that big of a deal.

** I warned you here. I warned you again here. I have no sympathy for you if this is a spoiler. Just watch the daggum movies already!

Fishin’ with Grandpa

Ready for a fishin trip
Ready for a fishin' trip

Aiden has been looking forward to this day for weeks. No, seriously…weeks. When we finalized plans to come down to Evansville for a mini-vacation (we’re here now…you’d know that if you followed me on twitter because you’d have already read this…or maye you read it on my facebook status. If you’re not my friend on facebook, then shame on you! ;)), we told Aiden that Grandpa was going to take him fishing one morning.

Watch out, fish! Hes coming after ya!
Watch out, fish! He's coming after ya!

He was super-excited.

He’s been carrying around his book full of fishing tips for kids all week. He read the book all the way down here. He even proudly showed Grandpa his book. They talked strategy last night, discussing which bait they would use to catch certain fish.

First catch (of many) that morning.
First catch (of many) that morning.

I woke him up at 5:30 this morning and he literally bounced out of bed, ready to go. They fished for several hours at a friend’s pond. According to both fishermen (and you know how reliable that is ;)), Aiden caught at least 30 fish: mostly Sunfish with some Bluegill and a Crappie or two thrown in for good measure. Grandpa informed me that Aiden is now an expert and he surely thinks this fishing thing is a piece of cake. I’m sure having a good teacher doesn’t hurt.

Needless to say, he had a blast.

And a really cool memory with Grandpa.

Happy New York

Boy and Girl in Party Hats Blowing NoisemakersGrowing up, we always thought we were cool when we said, “Happy New York,” instead of “Happy New Year.” OK – maybe Kevin didn’t think it was that cool. But I did. And that, after all, is all that matters – right? So in the spirit of my inner child, Happy New York, everyone!!

There were several years where my brother and I would celebrate New Year’s Eve at Grandmama and Grandpa’s house. When we would get to their house, we’d plan out our evening with them and talk about how we were going to boogie-woogie all night long. Of course, our ultimate goal was to stay up ’till midnight so we could see the ball drop. And we never did.

I take that back.

I remember watching the ball drop once while at Grandmama and Grandpa’s. Everyone, including my grandparents, were already asleep. I tried to wake Grandpa up, but he was knocked out – on the floor. That’s where he usually fell asleep when we were there. And Grandmama would always fall asleep in her recliner.

And while I don’t know if it happened every year, I remember the family getting together at Grandmama and Grandpa’s on New Year’s morning for a big breakfast cooked by Grandpa. I remember biscuits and gravy. I also remember there was a lot of food. And it was good.

I’ve always tried to have a big breakfast with the family on January 1. While we didn’t have biscuits and gravy this year, we did have waffles. That certainly beats a bowl of cereal or a Pop Tart. Of course, if we had a Chick-fil-a nearby, we would have probably eaten there this morning so we could get some free grub.

The waffles weren’t the first food I had in 2009, though. After giving Christy a big ol’ kiss to celebrate the new year, I had a bowl of Crispix. Did you know that Kellogg’s Crispix is crispy times two? I thought so…

I guess both Christy and I were thinking of our grandparents a lot this year. I think of them every New Year’s and probably say something about it every year. It’s probably annoying to everyone else, but they’ll live with it. Retelling stories and memories like this helps connect our kids with the family that they’ve never known. And I think that’ll be even more important as we welcome another child into our family approximately a year from now.

For dinner last night, we had Polish Mistakes and Shirley Temples, tributes to Christy’s grandparents who have passed on. I always thought calling a food Polish Mistakes was probably originally intended as some type of ethnic jokes. I guess they’re not. I still don’t know why they’re called that, though. Either way, they’re quite tasty!

The kids didn’t make it till midnight. Partially because we encouraged them to go to bed. They did manage to delay their bedtime till about 11:15. Probably should have let them stay up. This was the first year they really wanted to try. They’ve got to go through a couple of years of longing to watch the ball without actually seeing it, right? Doesn’t that make the first time you’re up at midnight more memorable – or am I merely grasping at straws here?

We spent the day today lounging around for a while. Everyone except me still has their PJs on. I, unfortunately, already had to make a Wal Mart run today. The new year isn’t even a day old and I already had to go to the big blue box! Talk about starting off on the wrong foot!

We cleaned the house a bit, lounged around a bit, watched the Tournament of Roses Parade, watched some football, and just hung out as a family. And that has been very nice! I even got to chase the kids around the house with laser tag guns. The dogs had no idea what to do with that. They were sorely confused!

I know the real world returns tomorrow, but it’s been nice to just hang out all day at our house with the family. I hope we’ll be able to do more of that during the coming year.

Christmas in Evansville

With the advent of digital cameras, you can take as many pictures as you please and you don’t have to worry about wasting money developing pictures that you really had no business taking. Because of this, you wind up with way too many pictures to sort through within just a few days’ time if you’re not careful. Over the course of approximately three days, our family managed to take more than 300 pictures with three different digital cameras in an attempt to capture the spectacle that is the Todd Christmas Extravaganza.

I’ve attempted to sort through some of the best and most memorable pictures and present them to you here for your viewing pleasure. Pictures from this morning’s whirlwind of ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper that began at a horribly early hour (I know my parents are laughing at me…something about revenge being a dish best served cold…) will have to be shared at a later time because we have yet another Christmas celebration in the morning and it’s entirely too late for me to stay awake much longer tonight.

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more about “Christmas2008-Chapter1.flv – Video – …“, posted with vodpod

Merry Christmas to all! And to all, a good night!!

Busy

Suitcase packed with neatly folded clothes

I got the oil changed and a tire replaced on the station wagon this morning. We decided it would be the best vehicle for our trip over the (White) River and through the woods to Grandmama’s house tomorrow.

Of course, getting that stuff done took much more time than I’d planned. Time I really didn’t have since productivity has been down the last couple of days due to the kids having three(!) snow days in a row to close out their final week of school in 2009.

I don’t anticipate posting anything major on here until we’ve safely settled down in E-ville. I do anticipate, however, being able to tweet a few times. So feel free to check my Twitter profile every once in a while. Or better yet, why not follow me? I promise I’ll follow you back.

For the time-being, too much to do. Gotta run.