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!"

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 weights
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running shoes
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baseball tennis ball basketball tennis racket soccer ball
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vintage bicycles, bikes
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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.

Flashback Friday: The Challenger Disaster

The anniversary of the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger is rapidly approaching. It’s amazing how fresh that day is in my mind, even though I was in fourth grade when it happened. Today’s Flashback Friday includes links to two different discussions about my memories of that day.

Do you remember the day the Challenger exploded? I’d love to hear your story.

Nineteen years ago, what was once called my generation’s Kennedy assassination, stunned the country. Like my parents remember where they were when they heard about the president’s shooting, I remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom and the Principal walked into the room and talked with the teacher, who was sitting at her desk. We got pretty loud when the Principal was talking with her.

read the rest here: Do You Remember Where You Were?

Challenger explosion
Image via The Drama Teacher

My friend, Matt, and I, thought there was a conspiracy. And we believed the Libyans were behind it. In those days, everything was the Libyans’ fault

 click here for the rest of the entry: Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday

Really –

does it get better than this?

Make sure to pay attention to the complex choreography. Be careful not to blink, though. You might miss it.

And don’t forget the hair. Then again, how could you miss the hair?

I hope you have a great weekend and has nothin but a good time!

Now that you’ve watched the video, you have to read this post at Without Wax! The author, @pwilson, is one of the pastors of a church in Nashville, Tennessee. If you have followed Poison at all, this post will absolutely blow your mind! If you want to watch the video that accompanies the post, you can view it here.

Speaking of hair – especially bad hair – if you zoom in on my school picture, you’ll see one of my most memorable haircuts. If you remember from a previous post, the common hairstyle of the day was a variation of the bowl cut. But this simple haircut went horribly wrong. Apparently, the back of my hair was cut too short and wouldn’t lay down the right way. In fact, it wouldn’t lay down at all. A barber friend tried to rectify the situation and apparently made it look better than it did. My hair still shot out in different directions, though.

I remember Aunt Patsy talking about taking me to the pool and having her heart broken because she heard a kid call me a porcupine. I like to think I was just ahead of the curve. A trend-setter, if you will. Because a few years later, everyone was getting buzz-cuts and flat-tops.

Yeah – who’s a porcupine now?

Flashback Friday

Mr. Schiffers Class
Mr. Schiffer's Class

In case you hadn’t heard, the Oscar nominees were announced yesterday. And for something like the sixth year in a row, I haven’t seen any of the nominees for Best Picture. I think the last Best Picture nominee I saw in the theater was Return of the King. But such is the case when you have young kids. You don’t have the opportunity (or the finances) to go to the movie theater.

But this week wasn’t all that bad for me in regards to movie news. Yesterday, I read that they’re airing a trailer for the Transformers sequel during the Super Bowl. While the last Transformers wasn’t my favorite, it was definitely worth watching and I’ll probably watch it again someday. A sequel should be worth watching, too.

I’ve always been a Transformers fan. I remember being so excited one year because I’d been given enough money to buy Ultra Magnus. I might have even gone out that day to get him. At that time, he might have been the most expensive to I’d bought for myself.

The animated version of Transformers that came out 20+ years ago is still one of my favorite movies. Yeah, the animation is a little sloppy at times and the premise is a little corny (I mean, come on…a planet that transforms into a robot and eats other planets? But then again, cars transforming into robots is a little corny too, huh?), but it’s a classic in my eyes. I still have to wipe back tears when Optimus Prime dies. And as I’ve shared before, I still get goose-bumps at the end of the movie when Hot Rod opens the Matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime.

The animated movie came at a time when some of my friends thought playing with toys was kind of lame. After we saw the movie in the theaters, I said to one of them, “Still think Transformers is dumb?”

“No,” he replied. And we got out our Transformers and had a big ol’ battle including G.I. Joe and Star Wars toys. Good times. Good times.

Aiden has watched the movie with me, and he loves it. Of course, he never had the emotional attachment to Optimus Prime that my generation of boys had, but that’s OK. He enjoys Transformers and likes playing with them. I’m starting to dread the day where he decides that Transformers are “dumb” and he’s too big to play with them. I know that day will someday come. I’m just hoping it comes later rather than sooner.

Today’s Flashback Friday, The Touch, may only evoke my own memories, but that’s OK. I may just go sneak up to Aiden’s room and play with some of his Transformers while he’s at school.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.1997498&w=425&h=350&fv=]

more about “Dailymotion – Stan Bush – The Touch, …“, posted with vodpod

The picture at the top of this post is my 4th grade class. Mr. Schiffer was our homeroom teacher. I’m in the back row, second from the right. I’m wearing a brown shirt and I have a goofy smile (imagine that). One of my best friends, also named Matt, is standing next to me.

Yeah. I was a dork.

Still am.