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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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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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 Wetpulled 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.
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.
That’s right. I just referred to The General, former Coach Bob Knight, by just his last name. It’s quite daring of me to do so as I sit at my laptop at home. If I called him by his last name while standing face to face, I’d be in trouble. He’d probably allegedly grab my arm and inform me how I should address him.
I’m addressing him because it’s finally time to say what I’ve been thinking for a long time. Hopefully, he wouldn’t choke me when I say this.
“So long, Knight.”
I was a huge fan of Bob Knight’s when he coached at Indiana. I celebrated when he slammed the phone during the NCAA tournament game. While I was confused when he took his Indiana team off the floor in the middle of the game against the Soviets, I was confident he knew what he was doing. I marveled at the plan The General had put into place in order to neutralize Shaq when the Hoosiers took on LSU in the tournament. Oh, and Ivan Renko? Genius. Pure genius. Continue reading “So long, Knight.”
A few weeks ago, we gathered in Aly’s school gym for one final time as the 8th grade choirs gave one final middle school concert. As they gathered to sing the final song, I have to admit that I had a bit of an emotional moment. I even got a little misty-eyed. I probably wasn’t the only one. But it probably wasn’t for the reason y’all think.
Yes, it’s crazy that our Aly is already out of middle school and is going to be a Freshman next year. It’s a little concerning how fast everything is flying by. I was warned about such things, and I’ve tried to soak in as many moments as possible. And it’s amazing to see how our little girl who used to talk to bees and make mud angels in the puddles grow up right before our eyes. But that’s really not the reason I felt this wave of emotion come over me. And it’s not because this was her final choir performance, since she’s not planning on participating in any of the choirs or singing groups in high school.
No, there was a much more personal reason. In order to explain why I felt the way I did, I have to give you a little bit of background. So let’s rewind the clock some 25-ish years.
I hated middle school.
There. I said it. It’s out in the open for everyone to know. I hated almost everything about middle school. I hated riding the bus.* I hated algebra. I hated the cliques. I hated the inside jokes and the slang everyone would try to use. I hated being made fun of. And having come from a relatively small school where you knew everyone and everyone knew you, I hated being at such a large school where it was hard for me to know anyone.
I wasn’t a Jock. I wasn’t a Prep. I wasn’t a Hood or a Nerd. I was an outsider who didn’t really fit in with the rest of the outsiders. And I most certainly didn’t fit in with the popular kids. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. So I was overwhelmed throughout most of my middle school career.
I hated middle school.
I’m sure there were good things about middle school, but I’ve unintentionally blocked them out. OK, that’s not entirely true. I do remember some good things. I was baptized while I was in middle school. I became heavily involved in Scouting and came under the leadership of some pretty amazing mentors who poured life into me, even when I was silently miserable. My parents did the best they could. They’d never parented a middle school student before. And that’s funny, because I’d never been a middle school student before. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we were all just making it up as we went along. In spite of the struggles, I did know they loved me. But school itself? I’ve blocked out most of my middle school experience. A lot of it is a blur. And I think I’m OK with that. Because here’s some of the stuff I do remember…
I remember the beginning of Summer Break between my final year of elementary school and my first year of middle school. I was told that the rising 7th and 8th graders had a “hit list.” You didn’t want to be on this hit list because that meant you were going to get beat up. Every day. At the beginning of Summer Break, a well-meaning friend told me that I was on the hit list. That ruined my Summer. It probably helped ruin the first semester of 6th grade, too. I was never beaten up in middle school. Never got anywhere near a fight.** My friend did. Once. Kind of. Actually, he was just pummelled while the rest of the school watched because he refused to fight back.
Speaking of that friend, he was one of the only friends I really had in middle school. And I remember constantly teasing him and mistreating him because I thought it would get others to think I was cooler than I really was.
I remember people making fun of my hair. Relentlessly. Repeatedly. Nonstop. Unceasingly. You get the picture?
I remember feeling so much pressure to be accepted that I lied to people about having a girlfriend who lived out of the country. While I really did know some girls who live overseas, I want anywhere close to being in any type of dating relationship with any of them.
It was horrible. I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if social media was thrown into the mix. You have no idea how thankful I am that it wouldn’t exist until long after I was out of middle school.
I hated middle school.
About a year ago, I had the chance to attend a class reunion at our middle school. I originally planned on attending, but work obligations prevented me from making the trip to my hometown. There was a part of me that was bummed. In spite of my horrible middle school experience, some of my middle school classmates did become friends of mine. In high school. So it would have been nice to see them. But I have to be honest. I was mostly pretty OK with not going back. Why relive such an ugly time in my life?
So as I watched Aly perform on stage, I thought about how positive her final year of middle school had been. Of course, there have been some rocky moments during her middle school career. That’s part of the middle school experience. But she is moving on to high school as a grounded, confident young woman.
I secretly shed a little tear and secretly wiped it away before anyone could see it. Because while I know high school can have its share of drama and challenges, it is so much better than middle school. I know that it feels like middle school never ends. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel and it can lead to better things. Much better things. I’m convinced that Aly is going to love high school.
That tear also leaked out because of my great sense of relieve. Two of our children have successfully navigated the middle school minefield. We’ll have three high school students at the beginning of this school year. That means we only have one more kid to go through middle school. So in my head, I gave Christy an imaginary celebratory “high five.” They made it through middle school. And I think they’ve turned out to be some pretty amazing kids. Just one more to go.*** And that’s a few years away.
We’ve got this.
If you know a middle school student, especially one who is struggling, please be there for him or her. Be an encourager. Be a shoulder to lean on. Please pass on the message that it will get better. So hang in there.
Middle school was not the end of the world. It gets better. So much better.
And I guess that was a good lesson to learn. No matter the circumstances that surround you, it’s not the end of the world. Like my Grandmama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.”
*I did think George, our bus driver was pretty cool, though. He probably let us get away with more than we should have during our daily commutes, but he tried to ease the boring bus ride. In spite of his efforts, I still didn’t like riding the bus. I was much happier walking to school like I did in elementary school.
**Shoot, the only time I was ever in anything close to a fight (other than with my brother) was when I was in 1st grade. And that was more like people running after each other and taunting each other.
***For a variety of reasons, I’m glad we didn’t enroll Weldu in school as soon as we got home. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for him to try to navigate the final semester of 8th grade. Middle school is hard enough when you’ve grown up here in the States!
I know. I already told you this last year during my failed attempt at the A to Z Challenge in 2015: I is for Injera. And I might have even said in that post that I’m usually not a fan of injera.
Oh what a difference a year makes.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but something happened over the last year. I love the stuff. I can’t get enough of it. And that’s a good thing because we have it regularly – usually at least two times a week. So I guess you could say that I’ve become a fan of that spongy, sour, crepe-like bread that’s used as a utensil for most Ethiopian dishes.
We haven’t figured out how to make good injera yet. That’s OK, though. I’ve been told by several folk in Ethiopia that they can’t make it either. They buy it from the store, just like we do. We love Major Restaurant in Indy. And now there’s an excuse for us to visit them once or twice a month: they sell bags of injera! This makes our house all kinds of happy.
I guess tastes change. And that can be a good thing.
Have you ever had your food preference change like this? I did once before. It was with fried bologna sandwiches. I used to eat them all the time. Then, one day, I ate one and realized I was tired of these sandwiches. In fact, I couldn’t stand the taste or smell of bologna anymore. That was at least 25 years ago and I still can’t stand the smell of bologna. And I used to be a big, big fan.
Oh, and then there’s cantaloupe. I used to love the stuff. Until I ate so much at one time that I started feeling sick to my stomach. And no, it’s not because I was watching the movie Krull.
Now the smell of cantaloupe makes me kind of nauseous. And that’s kind of depressing. Because everyone else in our family loves cantaloupe. I want to love it, too. But I don’t.
What about you? What food did you used to love/hate and have experienced a total 180 degree u-turn in how you feel about that food?
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AwakenYourTastebuds #CollectiveBias
The Star Wars™ franchise evokes some pretty strong emotions for me. One of the first movies I remember watching in the theaters was one of the films in the original trilogy. I remember the drama, the flashing lights, the roar of the giant spaceships, the funky aliens, and the intense battles on other worlds. The larger than life story that unfolded on the big screen captivated me in a way that no other film has ever come close.
I was already a big fan. I loved the Star Wars™ toys. I would play for hours with my neighborhood friends. One of my favorite things to do was to turn the space under our kitchen table into a huge base for the good guys. It was safe in there. And we could plot the final push against the tyrannical forces of evil.
I think it’s safe to say that the kitchen table was the perfect base for the good guys. It could serve as an ice cave, protecting them from the harsh elements of a frozen planet. Or it could easily convert to a giant spaceship, headed to meet the enemy head-on. Or it could also become a base in some forested terrain with giant trees that provide a canopy of protection over the heroes as they hide from their foes.
While growing up, the perfect morning for me would have begun with an hour or two underneath the kitchen table, preparing my base for battle. Then I’d probably listen to the Star Wars™ storybook on my little record player in my room. Then the galactic battles would begin and I’d play with my Star Wars™ toys for the rest of the day. Or maybe my friends and I would go outside and re-enact one of the climactic battles outside. I would only slow down in time to eat some breakfast. For breakfast of choice? Why, Cookie Crisp, of course. Finding a toy inside the cereal box would have been the proverbial icing on the proverbial cake.
This is an exciting time for our family. Like many dads who grew up on a steady diet of Star Wars™ films, books, costumes, toys, and Saturday morning cartoons, I faithfully did my duty and raised my kids to be fans of the same cinematic universe. So we’re all counting down the days until the release of the next chapter in the saga. Continue reading “These Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats are out of this world!”
It’s no secret that my experience with Boy Scouts had a significant impact on my life. Philmont was only the tip of the iceberg. Our Scout troop (the now-defunct Troop 322) had a core group of dedicated adults who helped create an environment where leaders could be equipped and mentored. We had the opportunity to succeed…and fail…as young leaders in a safe environment. One of the things that set us apart from other troops in the area was the fact that we ran our own Summer Camp.
We could do this for two reasons: 1.) a dedicated group of dads who gave up a week of vacation in order to serve as adult advisers and teachers during the week. 2.)A strong Leadership Corps: older Scouts who served as mentors and teachers for younger Scouts. Who better to help a younger Scout learn the ropes of Scouting than by learning from the example of older Scouts who had already navigated through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class?
So let me tell you about the time that I was teaching a bunch of visiting Cub Scouts some important safety lessons. I was 16 at the time. Our Leadership Corps had set up a large area to serve as our base of operations. Because we had limited time and a bunch of visiting Webelos Scouts* (5th graders who were transitioning into Boy Scouts) to accommodate, each of us manned a station and rotated smaller groups through each station. We had about 10 to 15 minutes with each group before they moved on to the next station. One station involved knot tying. I think another was about pitching a tent. Yet another probably had something to do with cooking or campfires or something in that realm. My mind is getting a little fuzzy about those details and I’ve forgotten what was being taught at each station. But I can tell you that it was all hands-on stuff. And I can also tell you without a shadow of a doubt what skill I was teaching that fateful day.
Yep. You think you might know where this is going. And you might be right. Then again, you might be wrong. Oh, so very wrong. Continue reading “My ax-ident”
When I was a kid, I had a little contest with my Uncle Don. When we saw each other either before or after Sunday morning worship at Bethany Baptist Church, we would compare wounds with each other. Whoever had the craziest injury was the winner for the week. What did you win? Well, nothing. Bragging rights, I guess. But we had fun comparing injuries and telling stories. There was the time he broke his nose. He won that week. I think he won about a month’s worth of weekly contests with that one. Then there was the time I had to get stitches in my knee. I came out victorious that time.
I learned something during those weekly contests of pain and gore. Stories are important. We can share our wounds and find commonality because of them. And yes, sometimes those stories can make us look really, really cool. And sometimes there’s a scar once a wound heals. The story behind that scar remains. And sometimes they’re worth telling again and again and again.
So welcome to Scar Week.
Discovery Channel has Shark Week. Animal Planet has Monster Week. The Weather Channel does Tornado Week. I think syfy did a Sharknado Week once. The Hub has even had Bark Week. There’s also Spirit Week, Finals Week, and Rush Week in our fine academic institutions that are scattered throughout this land. There’s also Rivalry Week in college football.
I’m sure you get the point.
Everyone has their own week. So I’ve decided that it’s time to have our own week here at Life in the Fishbowl. So I present to you the First Annual Scar Week: a week full of memorable stories. Because every scar has a story. Some will probably make you laugh. Some might make you cry. I make no promises about that. But I can guarantee this: The stories I share during Scar Week this week are 100% true and 100% mine. From an unfortunate mishap with an ax to the improper use of a fish aquarium, there are plenty of memorable stories that will be shared this week. Some of them have powerful messages attached to them. Others? Well…there’s not much you can do about them except laugh.
Does every scar have a story? Probably not. But the stories I have are ones I enjoy telling again and again and again. So sit back, relax, and laugh to your heart’s content as I, Matt Todd, present the maiden voyage of Shark Week at Life in the Fishbowl.
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.
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.
I 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.
Little patch of Heaven in Evansville Indiana! Happy Birthday Bosse Field. Home of the Rockford Peaches. No crying! Hanx
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.