March Madness with my Boys

Dove Men+Care sent me complimentary tickets to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games in Louisville, KY. All thoughts and opinions expressed are 100% mine. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy

Did you catch that? You might not have. And that’s OK. But it sticks out for me like a KY fan in a sea of Cream and Crimson. In case you did miss it, I’ll share it for you again…

” ‘I believe in you and I’m proud of you.’ …that’s the only thing you wanted your dad and your mom to say to you.” – Kevin Ollie

“What greater gift can you give someone than to legitimately care?” – Jim Calhoun

I love the way sports can bring people together. I love how being on a team and having a caring coach or teacher can make all the difference in the world. It’s no secret that my band director had a lasting impact on me. But I don’t want my kids to have to wait until a coach says “I’m proud of you” in order to hear someone say that. They need to hear it from me. Every day. And as we’re navigating the teenage years with three teenagers, I need to make sure I’m intentional about telling them how proud of them I am and how much I legitimately care. I need to keep working every day to improve the bond I have with my kids. I believe the bond between a dad and his kids is a display of real strength.

Real strength between father and son(s)

It’s a strange thing, the teenage years. And I’m not sure I would’ve successfully navigated them without the guidance of a great friend: my Dad. Growing up, we had many shared experiences. We even climbed a mountain together And although it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, I love going fishing with my dad. Our shared experiences only strengthen the friendship we already have.

I only hope to have similar memories and bonds with my kids. So I knew exactly who I was going to take when I was offered tickets to see the men’s Regional action in Louisville.

Me and Aiden - March Madness 2016

I knew Aiden would be excited. He loves all things sports and is a big college basketball fan like his dad. We had a great time on Thursday, watching Villanova dismantle Miami and Kansas take over their game against Maryland in the second half. Aiden had been to a Division I men’s basketball game before, but that was 10 years ago. And I’m not even sure if he remembers it. So he was pretty excited to get to see not one, but two basketball games in one night. We had a fabulous time.

With Weldu at Elite Eight game

Weldu is a big soccer fan. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. He’s a huge soccer fan. So he was a little unsure about going to a basketball game because he had never really watched many basketball games. But I was  pretty sure he would enjoy the sights and sounds of the greatest tournament in all of college sports. Just in case, I decided to take him to the Elite Eight game instead of Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen games so he’d only have to tolerate one game if he was bored.

Since we were surrounded by Villanova fans, he quickly became a fan of Villanova, the “black” (I know they’re really “Navy,” but you try explaining that to a guy who’s only been in the US for a month and a half and you’re surrounded by screaming fans yelling “Let’s go, Nova!” clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. So we stuck with “black”) team. It was pretty exciting to be among the fans as they cheered their teem to victory and a trip to Houston.

Villanova fans at the 2016 Elite Eight game

I had a a great time with Weldu. And I’m pretty sure he had a good time, too. Actually, I know he had a good time because he talked my ear off during the whole 90+ minute ride home. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I hope he’ll always remember, too.

A weekend of firsts.

Not only was it Weldu’s first game and probably the first game that Aiden, but there were other firsts that happened during these two games.

  • It was our first time visiting the Yum! Center. Wow! What a facility! While it doesn’t ooze tradition like a Hinkle or Assembly Hall, it is a pretty impressive place.
  • It was my first time at an NCAA Tournament game. We’ve participated in events around the tournament, but these were my first games.
  • I met Nick and Creed for the first time. I’m not sure why we had to drive all the way to Louisville to finally meet in person since we live in the same region, but it was nice to finally put names and faces together in real life.
  • I finally got to hear the world-famous “Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.” chant. I imagine it would sound pretty cool echoing through the halls of Phog Allen.

Rock…chalk. ..Jayhawk…K…U! #MarchMadness

A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

It was an amazing experience. One that I won’t soon forget. And it’s one that has strengthened the bond between me and my boys. How could I ask for more?

My Father’s Day Wish

image

There’s lots of stuff I’d love to have happen this Father’s Day. I’d have loved to have been awakened by bacon topped with bacon with a side of bacon in bed this morning. I’d love to spend the day with my kids, my Dad, and my father inlaw – fishing, grilling, and talking IU hoops. I’d love be able to announce that all of the roadblocks to our adoption of Little Man have been eliminated and that we’re heading over to Ethiopia to bring him home immediately. I’d love to be able to tell you that I’m starting a new dream job tomorrow and that it’s within walking distance from my house – and that this happened less than a week after being given the boot by my previous employer (Oh yeah. Did I mention that I was fired on Tuesday?).

I think I can safely say that none of these things are going to happen. And you know what? I’m OK with that. Because these things (yes, even the bacon covered with bacon with a side of bacon) are completely out of my control.

I can, however, share Oren’s story. That’s something I can do.

For more than a year and a half, I’ve been part of a pretty remarkable community of Dad Bloggers. And while I’ve been a bit of a lurker in the group during the majority of my time as part of the community, I can tell you that even though most of us have never met in person, we’ve got each other’s backs. We’re there to encourage, celebrate with, challenge, and even cry with each other – because we share a bond of fatherhood and know how tough being a dad can be at times.

The reason we’re together is because of Oren. He brought together this ragtag group of bloggers and somehow figured out a way to turn us into a community. And now Oren is in the battle of his life.

No. That isn’t hyperbole.

He’s fighting Stage Four lung cancer.

And so even though I’m looking for another job and things are a little uncertain right now, I know I’m going to land on my feet. But Oren?

I can’t imagine what days like today are like for him and his family. So all I can do is support him however possible. And since they live on the East Coast and we’re here in the Hoosier Heartland,  that means I need to share his story and ask you to consider giving a few dollars to support his family. It would mean a lot to Oren. It would mean a lot to me.

Whether you’re able to give $50,000 or $.50. It doesn’t really matter to me. I just hope to help make this Father’s Day a memorable one for his family. And I hope you’ll help out.

Thanks. And happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Thanks for being awesome and doing what you do.

Celebrating the Power of Dad

Life lesson Keep your eye on the ball

Dad has taught me a lot of things over the years. One of the most important things, however, comes from the years he coached me in baseball.

Keep your eye on the ball.

Me the Little League player

That’s a pretty important lesson when it comes to baseball. But it’s also pretty important when it comes to life. Keep your eye on the ball. Focus on the things that matter.

Faith. Family. Friends.

Keep them front and center. Stay focused on them. If you do, your life will be full of joy. You’ll be rich in ways that most millionaires dream.

That’s what my Dad taught me.

Oh, and if you happen to catch a few fish along the way? Well, that’s even better.

I have tried to pass this lesson along to my kids. Keep your eye on the ball.

Dad was my baseball coach. I’ve tried following in his footsteps as a coach, as a mentor, and as a friend. I’m doing my best to pass along what he has taught me – especially when it comes to priorities. That’s the power of Dad, after all.

Faith. Family. Friends.

Keep your focus on them. And don’t forget to have some fun while you’re doing it.

Oral-B understands the influence that dads can have. And I’m happy to be partnering with them this Father’s Day. In a society where the impact of involved dads is getting short shrift, it warms my heart to see companies like Oral-B creating commercials like this. They truly understand the power of Dad.

See? Oral B gets it. They understand the power of Dad. And they’re even taking it another level. Oral-B has teamed up with March of Dimes and Eli Manning to honor dads everywhere. Pretty cool, right?

It gets even better, though. Since fatherhood is full of moments that make a dad smile, Oral-B wants dads to take care of their teeth. To help ensure that dads everywhere have healthy smiles, Oral-B is offering a special $7 off coupon for their Oral-B 7000 BLACK, their most sophisticated and technologically advanced brush yet. Not only is it engineered to perform, but it’s stylish, sleek, and precision-engineered, featuring 8,800 oscillations per minute and 40,000 pulsations per minute. It’s the perfect gift for the gadget-obsessed guy in your life.

Celebrate the power of Dad in your life this Father’s Day. Smile about the little things. Marvel at the amazing things. And remember to keep your eye on the ball.

Disclosure:
I partnered with Oral-B and Life of Dad, LLC for the #PowerofDad Father’s Day promotion and was compensated for my involvement.

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

Broke into my parents house

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

Appearances can be deceiving though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then we broke into my parents’ house.

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

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

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

Patiently.

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

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

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

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

She froze.

We froze.

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

“Surprise! Happy anniversary!”

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

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

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

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

The curse is broken!

The Curse is Broken

Well it’s taken almost 25 years, but I can finally say that I’ve watched another IU victory in person. The curse is finally broken!

Yesterday was a little bit of a crazy day in college hoops. North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Michigan – all teams that are ranked – lost games that they were “supposed” to win. 40-0 avenged their Super Bowl…I mean, NIT…loss to Robert Morris. It was clear that anything could happen yesterday. March Madness showed up in November, and it’s a reminder why I love college basketball – even though the foul calls might be bordering on ridiculousness.

Thanks again to Jason for setting us up with some fabulous tickets. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great time. It kind of reignited my desire to see games live and in person. The college basketball atmosphere is pretty tough to beat. And it’s kind of addicting. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 25 years before being at a game where the Hoosiers win.

IU vs Stony Brook

IU vs Stony Brook

Big heads at IU vs Stony Brook, including JMV Sucks

Dad and Sons at IU vs Stony Brook

Come to think of it, I believe a new streak has started with this victory. The Hoosiers are probably going to start winning every time I’m there. So who wants to fund my trips to Assembly Hall this year to help make sure that Indiana wins all their home games? Any takers?

Any?

I didn’t think so. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Right?

 

Why I Cried in Church Today

baptism water

I cried in church today. And I’m OK with that.

It happens every time there’s a baptism service. Of course, part of the reason the tears start to fall is because I’m reminded in a very powerful way about how deep and wide God’s love is for me. And then I remember two of the most amazing moments of my life: baptizing Aiden and then baptizing Aly a year later. Then I think of how I hope and pray that Mihret will choose to be baptized one day, which makes the tears flow even more freely.

baptism water

And then I think of other people I’ve had the honor of baptizing. People like David, Ginny, Peter, Jerry, Tom, and Jim.

This inevitably leads me to thinking about the people who had such an impact on my own story while I was growing up. Now, some may argue that I haven’t grown up. They’d probably be right. But that’s not the point. I’m talking about people who stepped in and made a difference in my life during my formative years.

I grew up in a God-fearing home. Some of my earliest memories revolve around church and being scared of the Preacher’s Wife because I thought she was mean to me when I had to sit by her during Sunday evening service. How dare she expect me to sit still and be quiet while the service was going on? Even with that legacy of faith that my parents established for me, I still had to take this faith I had inherited and make it my own story. I came to that realization because of people who surrounded me and encouraged me to make that faith my own.

So while I witnessed the baptisms today, I couldn’t help but think of the people outside my family that God has used in ways they can’t even imagine.

Cheryl Stroud led some pretty amazing children’s choirs and challenged me to be more than I thought I could be.

Todd Bussey baptized me, married me, and ordained me. I think you could say he’s a pretty special guy.

Dr. Gerhart (we always referred to him as “Mr. G.” in Scouting circles) has always encouraged me and challenged me to continue to work at becoming a better man as a leader and as a disciple. He has been a shining example for me, reminding me that scholarship and faith are not mutually exclusive. He also taught me how to worship God when surrounded by His creation.

Scott and Corri Brooks were like second parents to me during high school. A small group of us met in their house every Wednesday for the better part of four years. Their shared desire to follow Jesus at home and in the workplace couldn’t help but rub off on me.

There are other faces that show up in my mind’s eye, too. People like the Teskes, Nova Conner, Judy Taylor, Jack Arney, the Hedwalls, Jack Bruce, the Gowers, the Linges, Pam Jordan, the list can go on and on…

cloud of witnessesI guess you could say they are my own personal cloud of witnesses. God used them to shape my faith. God used them to shape my story. So I thanked God for them again today. I prayed for them again.

And yeah, I cried for them, too.

Who has had an impact on your faith? Who is in your cloud of witnesses?

baptism water