I FINALLY saw Bon Jovi in concert

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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 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”

So long, Knight.

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Bobby Knight

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.”

This is why I got misty-eyed at Aly’s final choir concert

Aly's Final Concert

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.

Me in 6th grade

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?

Me in 8th grade

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 is for Injera

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I is for Injera - #AtoZChallenge

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.

injera

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?

These Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats are out of this world!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AwakenYourTastebuds #CollectiveBias

Cookie Crisp Asteroid Treats #FoodAwakens

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.

A perfect base #FoodAwakens

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.

Free toy in Cookie Crisp #FoodAwakens

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!”

My ax-ident

Scar Week

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 was teaching that fateful day.

Ax safety.**

Ax

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”

Welcome to Scar Week

Scar Week

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.

I hope you enjoy.

Celebrating Bosse Field’s 100th anniversary!

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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.

A tale of two Star Wars Days

I’m about to get my geek on. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A Star Wars Day Hipster

I remember making a “May the 4th” reference several years ago. I think I might have still been in grad school at the time. I thought the play on words was fun. So I shared it as an update on a social network – possibly on Myspace, but maybe on Facebook. I don’t remember the specifics and I can’t find the status anywhere, but I remember saying something like “Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you! (Yes, it’s corny. Don’t kill the messenger)” And I do know that the earliest reference I can find on this blog is from 2007. Once I learned about this quirky day, I was determined to celebrate it the following year.

And I did.

May the 4th be with you

A few other Star Wars geeks mentioned Star Wars Day. With a wink and a nod, I noticed a few more references to the Day that following year. And the year after that. But there really weren’t very many people making that big of a deal about May 4th. And that was OK. I was kind of used to being a loner when it came to being a fan of Star Wars. But it eventually caught on. So you could say that I liked Star Wars Day back before it was cool.

I guess that makes me some kind of Star Wars Day Hipster.

Jumping on the Bandwagon

When I logged onto facebook on May 4 of this year, I was kind of shocked at what I saw. It seemed like everyone and their brother was posting about May 4th and Star Wars Day. In some ways, it warmed my heart. Continue reading “A tale of two Star Wars Days”

For the Love of Star Wars

For the love of Star Wars

by Daniel Ellis

When Matt contacted me and asked if I would like to write about the impact Star Wars has had on me.  I was immediately excited by the prospect.  Who doesn’t want to talk about Star Wars, right?  After my initial excitement, though, I started to panic because I didn’t have a ready answer other than “duuhhh, lots of ways”.  I figured anybody who read this would want something a tad more substantial, so I reached out with my feelings realized two things that Star Wars gave to me: imagination and nostalgia.

I was born in 1976, 14 months before Star Wars blasted its way into theaters.  Some of my first memories are of TIE-Fighters, Burger King trading cards, the Droid Factory and Death Star play sets, and turning every stick or branch into a light saber.  From the point that I was retaining memory, Star Wars was a large part of my life and a huge inspiration for my imagination.  The ability to imagine, using my mind to create a place and time which I am currently not inhabiting, is a gift that Star Wars gave to me.

Star Wars is such a complex creation, full of fantastical situations and environments.  My young mind went to those exotic planets often in my playtime.  When I rode my bike, I saw the tall trees of Endor, and the sleek nose of the speeder bike extended beyond my handlebars.  When I put my army surplus belt on and shoved my toy Mauser pistol into the canteen pouch, I was Han Solo standing down a squad of Storm Troopers.  When I found thick grapevines hanging across a ravine behind Mansfield General Hospital, it was time to go to Dagobah and train to become a Jedi.  I yearned to visit those places, be those characters, and fight that good fight.

But wait, there’s more!  Star Wars did something else for me as well.  I had so much fun with my imagination throughout my childhood, but as I grew older, I moved on from the play-acting that was so much fun.  As I focused more on grades and girls, I forgot about how important Star Wars was to me until that fateful year when Lucas decided to re-release THE Star Wars trilogy for its twentieth anniversary.  I was a junior in college when word got around that Episodes 4, 5, and 6 were coming to a theater near us.  When I saw those trailers on the screen, the memory of loving imagination came back to me, and I discovered a love of nostalgia through re-discovering the Star Wars movies from a social perspective.  Sure, I owned the movies on VHS, but now I was experiencing the excitement and expectation of the movies’ coming to the theater through the connections and friends I made that year; all based on a love of Star Wars.

As I near forty (less than two years away!), I find that I have a strong connection to anything that reminds me of my beloved childhood moments of “playing Star Wars”.  That strong nostalgia also endeared to me the memory of the amazing imagination that I had as a child, and guess what?  I still have it!  I still see those Endor trees when I jump on a bike, and I still see a light saber in every branch that I pull out of our yard before I mow.  I will always be grateful to Mr. Lucas for creating something that instilled in me the ability to still embrace the imagination of a child when I want to.  I can’t wait to experience that joy with my son when he’s old enough to enjoy these movies.  By the way, when Episode 8 comes to theaters, my son Rhys will be about the age I was when Episode 5 debuted.  Is that a coincidence or just simple tricks and nonsense?  I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to imagine that it’s the ways of the Force telling me that Star Wars was good for me.

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

Dan and I met at Milligan. During our Senior year, we duked it out in a campus-wide Star Wars trivia contest. We wound up tied for first because they ran out of questions. So we shared the prizes. Dan and Will are the only other people I know who had the Droid Factory as a kid. So when I started thinking about Star Wars MONTH, I knew I needed to have his insight because we share a similar love for Star Wars. And that love runs deep.

Thanks, Dan, for writing this! The Force will be with you. Always.