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.

 

 

This happened 20 years ago today

Back when I was in high school – or maybe even middle school, I can’t remember the exact year – my uncle told me the grand plans he had for the Christmas gifts he was planning on giving his then-girlfriend. She had a habit of trying to figure out what all of her Christmas presents were before the Big Day. You might remember that I don’t like doing that. At all. Because I don’t like pretending that I’m surprised. Especially on Christmas. But that’s neither here nor there. She really liked figuring out her presents.

So my uncle decided to play a little trick on her. He had several packages of all different sizes wrapped in all different ways. And he had them out waaaay before Christmas. I don’t remember most of the presents. And I don’t remember if he had a “real” present to be revealed after unwrapping all of the other presents. But I do remember one of the diversionary gifts. It was a Hershey’s Kiss that was placed in a ring box and wrapped quite elegantly. Any outsider, including the recipient, who had been inspecting this gift for weeks, would easily think the box contained a ring.

I don’t know how this ruse played out with my not-yet aunt and uncle. They weren’t engaged at the time. They eventually did get engaged. And married. And they still are. So even if he juked her out with that gift, all was eventually right with the world.

Fast forward a few years…

Christy and I were celebrating our first Christmas as a couple. Of course, we had exchanged gifts the previous Christmas but neither one of us was willing to admit that we might have “those” kind of feelings for each other yet (and it took another five to six months for that to actually happen). So Christmas of ’96 was our first Christmas together. I had a few thoughtful gifts for her. But I also had an extra special gift. One that was inspired by my uncle.

So I placed a Hersey Kiss in a ring box and tried to wrap it as nicely as I could. I really didn’t think anyone would really think I was giving her an engagement ring. I mean, we’d only been dating since May. And I was out of town for half of that time. I thought it might have just been a funny little joke and that nobody – especially Christy – would think I was a real ring.

I was wrong.

We look back on it now and laugh. In fact, I started wrapping a Hershey Kiss in a ring box every Christmas after that. But it was no laughing matter when it happened. “That was mean,” she told me.

And it was mean.

OK. Maybe not mean mean. I had no ill-intent or malignant motive. I was just a bit…oh…tone deaf. And maybe even a bit myopic. It was not my finest moment.

Redemption?

On October 23, 1997, revisionist history would say that I redeemed myself. Or maybe revisionist history would say that I had the whole thing planned all along. A revisionist historian would argue that I knew what I was doing when I wrapped that Hershey Kiss in a ring box and made it look like I was going to pop the question that Christmas of 96.

Nope.

I lucked out. Couldn’t find the candy I wanted. Settled for Kisses instead. And thanks to a bag of bread that went along with  my bag of Kisses, we were able to have the perfect engagement on the perfect day with the perfect weather.

And that was 20 years ago today.

 

 

 

The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post about the new NASCAR Acceleration Nation app. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Me and Aiden at Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

I have a lot of fond memories from our time living in Upper East Tennessee. One of the best memories is the opportunities we had to attend NASCAR related festivities and races. Needless to say, living in the shadow of Bristol, the fastest half mile in the world, we had a pretty big NASCAR fan while we lived there.

Aiden in front of Bristol Motor Speedway NASCAR Acceleration Nation

Now NASCAR has created something I wish was around when we lived in the Tri-Cities: NASCAR Acceleration Nation! Available on Android, iPhone (click here to download), and the web, NASCAR Acceleration Nation has all kinds of great stuff for kids, including information about upcoming races, driver details, fun games, and learning materials about the science of racing!  Continue reading The NASCAR Acceleration Nation app makes races even more exciting!

Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

Navigating our journey as newlyweds

During the fall of 1998, Christy and I were newlyweds on the campus of Milligan College. I was finishing up my final semester of classes and Christy was working at a local childcare center. We were young, in love, and broke (as opposed to being old[er], in love, and broke like we are now 😉 ). In many ways, this final semester of mine was like a minor diversion before we took off on our journey of life dancing in minefields together.

Wedding portrait

When we first arrived on campus, we were the celebrities. It’s one of the advantages of being part of a small college community. Professors went out of their way to come see us on move-in day. It was…nice. Actually, it was pretty cool. I’m not sure you’ll find that kind of “welcome back, newlyweds” reception on most college campuses around the nation. But Milligan is pretty special.

Of course, many of our college friends had graduated and moved away. School and work and figuring out how to do this thing called marriage together took a lot of energy. So we really didn’t spend much time hanging out with our friends who were still in the area. And with Married Student Apartments being on the edge of campus, it’s not like we were in the middle of the campus commotion.

Looking back, I feel like the colder months of that final semester, with the early nights and living on the edge of the  campus scene, it was kind of isolating. We didn’t really hang out with anyone else. Just each other. Don’t get me wrong. That was pretty awesome. But we were in a different life stage than the majority of the campus population. Even in classes, it felt like I didn’t really relate to any of the students anymore. It’s like I was just biding my time until it was time for us to move on. Continue reading Then Andrew Peterson made me weep. Again.

The Eclipse is coming! The Eclipse is coming! [2017 Edition]

This post about the 2017 Eclipse contains affiliate links. 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.

Eclipse 207

It’s almost here, everyone! It’s just over the horizon. The full eclipse of 2017 is almost here! If you don’t have a hotel or bed and breakfast reserved anywhere near one of the peak viewing areas, you’re probably out of luck by now. If they aren’t already booked, they’re probably pretty close. And the rates are astronomical. * And the glasses are probably sold out wherever you are  (why didn’t I stock up on those a month ago? I could be a gazillionaire). And if they aren’t, there’s a chance they might not be as safe as you think they are. So you just might be out of luck.

But have no fear. You can still party like it’s 1999** in anticipation of the most visible full eclipse across the contiguous United States in almost a century. And you don’t even have to go outside or look up in the sky.

Times have changed.

I remember discussion about a solar eclipse while I was in elementary school. They made it very clear that you couldn’t look up at the sky during the eclipse without special glasses because it could blind you forever. I think we had inside recess that day.*** Just in case.

I’m also pretty sure I was hiking at Philmont during the 1991 eclipse.

They were memorable events, for sure. But there certainly wasn’t the hype surrounding the 2017 eclipse. And there definitely weren’t any parties.

But there’s definitely a party atmosphere now. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way since the days when a solar eclipse was a reason to panic. I mean, there’s certainly a little bit of fear and trepidation about going outside, accidentally looking up without your protective glasses, and having your eyeballs melt away, not unlike what happens when you look into the Ark of the Covenant.****

But solar eclipses used to be signs of the end of the world. I mean, who wouldn’t think everything was going to come crashing down when the sky suddenly turned dark and the sun was unexpectedly blotted out? Surely it was a sign of something. And that something couldn’t be good.

I think it’s fair to mention that there will be another full solar eclipse visible in 2024. That’s right. Seven years from now. You know seven is a special number. Right?

I’m sure the prophets will have a field day with that.

But the eclipse of 2017? It’s a party, for sure. Maybe you’re late in planning this party, but that’s OK. There’s not a whole lot of preparation required, unless you want to go out and buy some Moon Pies or make some space-inspired drinks. If you want to get all fancy, you can make your own DIY pinhole camera. Or you could do what I’m going to do and watch NASA’s livestream of the 2017 Eclipse.

But I’m not going to stop there. Every party has to have music. Especially and Eclipse Party. Here’s some music that should be on everyone’s Eclipse Party Playlist. Feel free to tell me in the comments if I should add a song to this list.

THE Epic Solar Eclipse Party Playlist

Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Duh. This is the no-brainer of no-brainers.

Man on the Moon

Fitting, since the Man on the Moon is doing some funky stuff to the sun.

Walkin’ on the Sun

Speaking of the sun…

Heavenly

“The Man in the Moon is smilin’
Cause he’s in love with the Girl in the World.”

Kinda sweet. Right?

Blue Moon

The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

A little nod to all the doomsday apocalyptic aficionados throughout the centuries who knew that an eclipse surely meant the beginning of the end…

Obi-Wan

OK, maybe this one’s a little of a stretch. But not really. Because maybe that’s no moon that’s causing the eclipse.*

Actually, this entry is dedicated to Aiden and his friend, Gabe. They introduced me the song.

So there you go. A great set of songs to get you ready for two minutes of awesomeness that you won’t see again for another seven years. And if, for some reason, you miss out on this year’s Eclipse, you can start planning ahead for 2024.

Assuming the sun lights back up and the world doesn’t end tomorrow.

Endnotes

* You see what I did there. Right? Man, I’m hilarious.
** There were two solar eclipses in 1999. But I don’t remember hearing about any solar eclipse parties.
***My memory might be a bit fuzzy on this. According to this, there was only one solar eclipse that was visible in North America when I was in elementary school. It was after Memorial Day, though. And I’m pretty sure we did not go to school after Memorial Day. But I could be wrong.
****That’s two posts in a row with Indiana Jones references. I’m on a roll, man. It’s time to go solo.

I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

This post about nostalgia, Star Wars toys, and classic arcade games contains affiliate links. 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.

I’ve only been working at the new job for about two months and I’ve already done some pretty memorable things. I got to tour a local bottling plant and was very tempted to pull a Laverne and Shirley. I was a good boy and didn’t do it. But, man. It was so tempting.

Then, not long after that, I had the opportunity to tour a local radio station and Continue reading I made 7 year old me extremely jealous last weekend

Can you spell Exercise?

Our Fifth Grade classes (all two of them*) had gathered in our school’s Media Center/Library. Each Friday, our classes had held a Spelling Bee. And now, all of the winners of those previous competitions from both classes were together in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all, Spelling Bee grudge match with One Speller to Rule Them All. The winner, of course, would represent our tiny Stockwell Elementary in the Regional Bee. An the winner of that went on to the National Spelling Bee. This wasn’t some run of the mill Spelling Bee. It was for all the marbles.

My 5th Grade School Picture

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

When our teacher announced who would represent our class in the Fifth Grade Battle Royale, I must admit I was a little shocked when she called my name. “I never won a Spelling Bee,” I protested. I honestly didn’t remember winning any of the Friday showdowns. But several of my colleagues disagreed with me. And my teacher disagreed with me. So I was included in the list of contestants.

I was a Finalist in my school’s Spelling Bee.

I felt ill-prepared and under-qualified. As we walked into the Media Center/Library, I’m not gonna lie: I felt like the proverbial lamb heading to the slaughter. I was doomed. I was prepared to be a quick Out, getting disqualified on the first word I tried to spell.

Things didn’t work out like that, though. They rarely work out the way they play out in a Fifth Grader’s mind. Do they?

I spelled my first word with no problem. Amazingly enough, I don’t remember what word they gave me. Then I got another one right. Contestants were dropping like flies, but I was still in the game.

Then a good friend of mine misspelled a relatively easy word. It was either “there” or “reed” or something like that – a homophone that you’re likely to misspell if you don’t ask for a definition. He spelled the wrong word. He chose poorly.

Things started looking up

I started wondering if I was actually going to win this thing. There were only FOUR contestants remaining. I was one of them! Yes, maybe so! I could possibly win the Spelling Bee!

Another friend misspelled a word. I knew right away that she did. The word was a piece of cake. Instead of getting harder, this thing was starting to get easier. Victory was within my grasp. And I was ready for it.

And then there were TWO.

Another friend misspelled a word. I don’t remember what it was, but I know I knew how to spell it. That left two of us. There was just one more person standing in between me and Spelling Bee glory. I saw myself as the Underdog, since I didn’t think I belonged there, anyway. I was David and I was ready to slay Goliath and claim my prize.

We battled back and forth. My competitor was tough. You could cut the tension with a sharpened No. 2 pencil. Neither one of us was going to budge.

“Spell the word, ‘Exercise.'”

That’s what the Teacher told me to spell. And my stomach dropped. I felt like Charlie Brown during the National Spelling Bee when he was told to spell the word “Beagle.”

Exercise…

exercise weights
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Exercise…

running shoes
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Exercise…

baseball tennis ball basketball tennis racket soccer ball
Free Stock Photos for Blogs at picxclicx

Exercise…

vintage bicycles, bikes
Free Stock Photos for Blogs at picxclicx

“E…

x…”

I don’t remember how I spelled the word. I knew there was a “C” in there. And I wasn’t sure if there was a “Z” or an “S” at the end. I might have spelled it “excersise” or “excersize” or something like that. The details don’t really matter at this point. I know I spelled it wrong.

The bell dinged. I was done. Finished. I finished second. Runner-up. It was quite an accomplishment. I was named the Alternate Representative for our school, and given a copy of a book of words to study for the Regional round of competition – just in case the winner was somehow unable to fulfill his duties. There was a lot to be proud of. But I was still disappointed.

“You never forget…”

When we sat around the dinner table that evening, I told everyone about how I almost won the Spelling Bee. I showed some disappointment in myself for missing the word “exercise.”

“Well, I can tell you one thing,” my Dad said, offering some encouragement . “You won’t ever forget how to spell ‘exercise.’ I still remember the word I missed in our school’s Spelling Bee. And I’ll never forget how to spell it.”

He’s right.

I’ve never forgotten how to spell “exercise.” I will never have to look it up again.

The same is true about street signs. When I took my test for my Driver’s License (on April 1, by the way), I only missed one sign: the car with the squiggly lines underneath.

Slippery When Wet Street Sign I couldn’t decide if it was telling me that there was a curvy road ahead or if it was slippery when wet. I knew there was another sign that actually says “Slippery When Wet,” so I said it was a curvy road. I chose…poorly.

This sign is etched into my memory. I will never forget it. I doubt I ever will. Even if I’m old and can’t tell you the difference between a Stop sign and a Yield sign, I’m confident that I’ll be able to tell you that this sign means Slippery When Wet.

Why do we do that?

When I began writing about my Spelling Bee experience, I was planning on asking why we focus on the negative? I finished second in the whole school. I was the Alternate Representative for our school. Pretty cool, right? Why focus on the misspelled word?

Why focus on the one sign I missed on a test 25 years ago?

Because that’s how we learn from our mistakes. That’s how we grow. That’s how we get better.

There shouldn’t be any surprise that I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. But I have a choice to make: I can wallow in self-pity, beating myself up for something as minor as a misspelled word, or I can get up, learn from that mistake.

I choose to get better. I choose to keep improving and to learn from my mistakes. 

Hopefully, you do, too.

* You read that right. We only had two Fifth Grade classes at our school. We were the Stockwell Woodsmen and we were a relatively small school. And I loved every minute of being part of that small community.

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

What are you gonna do? Shock the world.

In my post about Todd Bussey’s influence on my life, I said that he will probably shock the world in Florida. That was intentional.

Here’s why…

Shock the WorldIn high school, my summers were pretty jam-packed. Thanks to Scouting, we had a trek at Philmont and Summer Camp to look forward to. Marching band consumed many days and nights as we tried to put together a top-notch show that would (hopefully) rival those of Castle and Reitz. And our family would always squeeze in a family vacation during the Summer, too.

It was wall-to-wall action with little downtime. And it was just the way I liked it.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”

One of the first events of Summer was our church youth group’s annual trek to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian College (now known as Kentucky Christian University). Friendships were forged. Faith was challenged. Bonds were strengthened. We “koinonia-ed” all over the place. Lives were changed at Summer in the Son. When I look back on my faith journey, I see several Ebenezers – key landmarks that remind me of where God intervened in my life.

One of these Ebenezer Monuments occurred during the main worship service. A speaker, whose name I cannot remember, shared a story that changed the direction of my life. I’m going to do my best to retell it. Please note that I have made up the names and dates of this story. It’s not because I’m trying to protect the innocent. It’s simply because I heard this story back in the early 1990s and details like names and dates in this story are honestly a bit of a fuzzy memory. But I promise. It’s a good story. And it changed my life. It went a little something like this… Continue reading What are you gonna do? Shock the world.

Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

By Oskar H. Solich (Rhingdrache) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Eleven years ago, I celebrated a significant birthday milestone by participating in an Ash Wednesday service. You know: the service that’s all about reminding you that you came from dust/ashes and you will eventually return to dust/ashes. It was a memorable experience for several reasons.

The service was conducted by two seminary professors of mine. Considering how I come from a non-(some might even say anti-)liturgical church background, I had never experienced an Ash Wednesday service until I was a student at Emmanuel. My first Ash Wednesday service was eye-opening. And awkward. And memorable. It wasn’t a foreign experience for me this second time around, but it was still unique. And it didn’t hurt that two of my professors were imposing the ashes.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Blowers. That’s exactly what you want to hear the day you turn thirty. “You’re gonna die soon.” I know, I know. Thirty is the new twenty. Or is it forty? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really matters all that much. The point is that time keeps on ticking. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Continue reading Ashes, birthdays, and legacies