Goo(ch)dbye, Tadahito

This is a weird photo for me to see. Aaron Rowand and Tadahito Iguchi together again...but wearing red? I may never get used to seeing my boys in other uniforms. And because Aaron and Tadahito were members of that 2005 squad, there's an extra sadness. One by one, that team is leaving.

And with Freddy, Aaron and Gooch now all on the Phillies, I think I've found my National League team to root for this season. How can I go wrong following them? They are practically an extension team of the Sox. Therefore, I was very pleased last night as Aaron and Gooch combined their magical powers to drill the Cubs. Yes. If my White Sox can't be better than the Cubs, than maybe the White Sox East can.

Tadahito's departure to the Phillies last week wasn't a big surprise. But I wish we'd gotten more for him than a Jumbo Pretzal. Some cheese would have been nice to go with it. I think my wife was happy with the trade though. Now it's less likely that I will push for our first son to be named Tadahito (or Todd Ahito).

To mark the Gooch's departure, I wrote a poem. It's called, "Goodbye, Tadahito":
Goodbye Tadahito,
We knew you not enough.
After all, you didn't speak English.

But you didn't have to.
You spoke Baseball.
And World Series Championship.
And, well, Japanese.

So, as you depart,
I think of our memories.
Of the clutch hitting.
Of the quiet hustle.
Of your ridiculous dives for grounders.
Of explaining to people that we weren't booing you.
We were saying, "Gooooooch."
And, lastly, I think of your silly, but adorable, grin.

And so, Gooooooch, I say to you:
Domo Arigato, Mr. Iguchi.

Smokin' Fiddle Thoughts

I've been listening a lot lately to Charlie Daniel's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," and you know, I am not so sure Johnny won that duel. I mean he plays pretty good fiddle, but my favorite part of that song is when the Devil and his band of demons plays. It's just so good.

I have to give the devil his due here. I think he was cheated out of this Battle of the Bands. I don't know who was actually judging them, but I doubt their credentials.

Maybe I need to pray about this...


Top Ten Cool Things of the Trip

The above picture is from Salisbury Cathedral in England. It's one of my favorites. Being there a couple weeks ago reminded me of the first time I was there. My college roommate Gene and I were doing an independent study over Christmas break in 1998.

Two days before Christmas, we took a train to Salisbury. We walked around the town pretty aimlessly. And then, we turned a corner and boom--after acres of flat, green yard rose this massive brick Cathedral as if it just dropped there. It was impressive.

The second cool moment of that day happened after we toured the church. We were walking through downtown Salisbury on cobblestone streets, eating roasted chestnuts we bought from a street vendor and listening to a choir sing Christmas Carol. It was a very Dickens Christmas.

Now, I skip ahead to this month's trip. It too had magical moments. Here are 10 experiences that made the trip:

Traditional English Tea. In Durham, England, the director of the tour company met our group's adults and tour guide for chat about how things were going. She took us to a charming restaurant for a regular English tea with scones. It was delightful and very, very British. I even learned to pour the milk into the tea cup before the tea. And yah, it does taste better.

9) Living with Youth. Anybody who knows me knows that I am really about 12. It's why I still work with youth--I am pretty much one of them. I have a lot of fun with whoever I am with, but teens can bring such joy and energy to life. I just love it. There's such vibrant life. There were moments of pure fun with the high school students on the trip. They gave me a nickname (Chad Scott Toddler. Long story). And they joined me in my goofy travel pictures (a tradition I started with my college roommates.) At Hadrian's Wall, a girl and I did the requisite Karate Kid pose on old pillars and one guy took this picture of me in Edinburgh.

Here's the story of why I am spitting on Scotland: This heart on the pavement marks the site of an old prison where citizens were wrongly held and tortured. The people of Edinburgh hated this prison. They felt it oppressed the heart of the people. And so, when it was torn down, they marked it with the heart. The people so hated that prison, they would spit on the marker to show their disdain. And so did I.

One of my favorite moments with the teens was at Versailles. One of the ornate murals depicted a very romantic rendition of the artist himself painting a picture surrounded by cherubs. "Oh, I said, so that's how all this was painted. I bet all the floating naked babies helped." One of the kids didn't miss a beat and said dreamily, "And the paint is made of love..."

8) The Crag. I like to climb stuff. I'm not like a full-blown climber with rappelling equipment or anything, but I love hikes in areas I'm visiting. I've climbed smaller mountains in Alaska and in Colorado. And in Edinburgh, we spied a crag from the grounds of Holyrood Palace. While we didn't have time to climb it then with all the kids, Pure Heart and I decided to take any volunteers up after dinner. Six went with. We got amazing views of Edinburgh, had great conversations, and worked off a filling meal of Bangers and Mash. Oh, and took funny pictures, too!

7) Castles. Not much more needs to be said. I love castles. We saw several amazing castles in Edinburgh (pictured below), Stirling, Durham, London, etc. Loved it. I wish I lived in a castle.

6) Discovery. One of my favorite parts of traveling is unknowignly stumbling onto something that blows your mind. My favorite memory from when I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a group trip (much like this tour) after my senior year of high school was one of these accidental discoveries. During a long free time in Lucerne, Switzerland, my friend Eric and I decided to go do shopping.

Before we knew it, we were outside the main shopping district. We were in a residential area. And we were lost. As we wandered around we found this old medieval wall that used to surround the whole city. Only 12 of the original 80 towers were left. We got to climb it and had amazing views. It was almost better because 1) no one else on the trip had found it and 2) it was something that seemed like ours because we were told about it or taken there--we discovered it.
On this trip, my wife and I were on free time in York. Most of the group went shopping. We ate lunch and then popped from shop to shop. I saw a sign that said "Castle Area." I was like, "Oooh, a castle!" We followed the signs to find only a shopping center. Oh, I thought. I guess that is just the name of the shopping district. But then, we turned a corner and saw Clifford's Tower. Among all the shops and praking lots, was this big green hill with a massive, round castle keep jutting from the top. We hadn't ever heard of it or anything, and so it became one of those little special Easter eggs.

5) Traveling with the Wife. Other than our laid-back short-distance trip of a honeymoon, this was out first time traveling together. Now, because we were with 22 high school students, it was not romantic or like "our" trip. In fact, we saw many of the sights with her at the front of the group and me patrolling the back of our group. We'd meet up later and be like, "That was cool, huh?"

But still, we got to share the experience. We held hands under the Eiffel Tower, took pictures of us in front of amazing sights, learned history together and made fun discoveries. It was all the more special that we were in England, the place which she'd told me on our first e-Harmony correspondence was her "heart's home." I cannot wait to return and share it again--without 22 friends.

4) Conquering the French. I took two years of French in high school, and I remember only the very very basics (and how to announce I'm taking my sheep to the pool.) Being in small French towns, I regretted that I remember so very little of the language. I wanted to talk to the people and let them know that I wasn't an ignorant American (OK, point taken). I also needed to find the right stamps to mail postcards.

All morning on the bus ride, I studied the French phrase book and took notes on how to ask for stamps. After a very bad experience (more on that in the 5 Lowlights List), I walked into a small Tabaac. I was stressed out. In French, I asked the clerk if he spoke English. He said, "Non." So, I mustered up courage and started rattling off the French I taught myself, "What is the postage to send a postcard to the United States?"

Somehow, he knew what I said. He held up a sheet of purple 86-cent stamps. "Oui!" I said. He repeated: "Oui!" And then he asked something that I assume was, "How many?" I held up 6 fingers. And so, capitalism was completed and I walked out of that shop triumphant.

3) Those Intangible Local Moments. There are some moments in traveling that just hit and you go, "Am I really here? Am I in a postcard?" These experiences are made by those little details that seem surreal:

Being on a Scottish slope with the breeze blowing and only the sound of sheep bleating around you. Watching the Tower Bridge lifting to let a boat by. Walking alone through a small local French market, hearing music, feeling excitement and smelling food. Running down a small dirt road through French farmland--like Allied troops laden with gear would have done. Eating a pastry in the center square of York with pigeons all around. Seeing a French woman walking her bike down the street--with a long loaf of French Bread on the back. These are just special moments.

2) The Day of D-Day. One morning on the trip, we awoke at 5:30 a.m. on a boat. We were approaching the coast of France. The beaches of Normandy. Like on D-Day, we arrived across the English Channel early in the morning. And for us too, it was our longest day (and most moving). With an expert World War II guide, we visited Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Sword Beach, and the tiny town of St Mere Eglise (where a U.S. parachuter was stuck on the church steeple--as seen in The Longest Day). I was familiar with all these locations from reading, from WWII movies and even from video games.

It all becomes so much more real when you are there. When you stand on the beach that early and breathe in the cold air. When you see how the land is still pocked and cratered form massive shelling. When you stand on a French dirt road, look over the fields and don't have to worry about someone shooting you. When you smell the death lingering in the bunkers.

The day ended with a visit to the American Cemetery overlooking the beaches. It was far more emotional and striking than I imagined. And I knew it would be both moving and impressive. But this is a very well done tribute. My wife and I both teared up a few times because of seeing older men walking through the seas of white crosses, obviously looking for comrades and friends. It also made me think how lucky all of us are who had grandfathers return from World War II.

1) Living History. The thing that struck me about all the sights on this trip was that it was about more than WHAT we saw. Each building was pretty or majestic or ahead of its time, sure. But what really gets me was the sheer idea of history in each and every place. This isn't just a magnificently ornate room with actual gold trim, but right there, that door is the door Marie Antoinette fled through from rioting French citizens. (Dang French.)

Below is Holyrood Abbey, the remains of a massive cathedral destroyed by anti-Catholic rioters. I was obsessed with this structure. It has such history and nobility. It's a tribute to the Scots that they've let it stand (even after the roof fell in during the 18th centry) to echo the history it's seen.

We'd see cathedrals that weren't just awe-inspiring because craftsmen were able to do that in the 1100's, but because of the role they played in the reformation, literature, politics, the coronation of kings and queens. We ate in the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would meet with the Inklings and read their new works. We saw where John Know led a reformation in Edinburgh. We observed the items around Oxford College that inspired Lewis Carroll to go to Wonderland. We walked where William Wallace did.

We saw History.



Over at the site for The Simpsons movie, you can make a Simpsons character of yourself.

So, I couldn't resist. Here's Todd as a Simpson (I'm the one with the blue T-shirt on, not the one passed out):

The Return of Wedding Wednesday! Yah!

Wedding Wednesday!
I had thought that my weekly Wedding Wednesday updates were going to end once the wedding happened. But I've decided to bring them backbecause I'm getting married again. Haha. Just kidding.

Instead, I'm gonna keep Wedding Wednesday going in order to tell some wedding stories that got lost in the shuffle of the England trip.

Today, I just wanted to quickly share something that made me really giddy: The gift for our four excellent ushers. (As you can no doubt tell, I had way too much fun with the gifts that my Bride and I gave to others.) We bought all the ushers Best Buy gift certificates. When I saw that you could buy the gift cards in CD gel cases, I thought, This is just too good not to have fun with...

And so, I made a special cd cover using a pun on "usher" that was all Pure Heart's idea.

Next week on Wedding Wednesday: The "special" gifts we received from others...


The Big Question

I almost forgot to address the question I'm sure all PTOIT reader(s) are wondering:

Did The Todd Give France a Chance?

The answer: I did. (Even though I didn't get the chance to take my sheep to the pool!)

In fact, I now have an updated stance on France. I no longer hate France. No, I didn't see anyone wearing berets (except for tourists). No, I did not spot any pencil-thin mustaches and long cigerette holders. In fact, having now been to France, seeing it's enchanting countryside, sitting in awe of how greens are more green and blues are more blue, and soaking in it's local flair, I now submit Todd's New Official France Stance:

I like France a lot. It's just too bad the French live there.

(More on that in the Bottom 5 Not-So-Goods coming soon.)

Thoughts On Going Away...And Going

The big Scotland/England/France trip was one of those times that feel as if time flies by--but, at the same time, also feel like 2 weeks laste about 2 months. When I returned to work this week, it seemed as though I was gone longer than I thought. My office was covered in a thick coating of dust, cobwebs and even moss.

Apparently, my work friends missed me very much. (And had little to do.)

I didn't expect any pranks to have occured while I was gone, but I was very amused by it. The cave look was well done. I was concerned that the "dust," aka powdered sugar, would be a pain to clean up. But actually, it was a cinch to clean thanks to a dust buster and lots of furniture polish. Besides, had the pranksters not done the dust coating everywhere, I wouldn't have gotten one of my favorite parts: the spot on my desk where someone (you know who you are) wrote "Wash Me" in the dust.

Because so much time has elapsed since we left--and much happened on such a whirlwind tour, I'll try to recap the highlights in more detail later this week in a list of the Top 10 Coolest Trip Stuff--and a Bottom 5 List of the Not-So-Cool Stuff.

To kick off the Good and the Bad Lists, I have an important report to submit. On this trip-- quite unexpectedly--I discovered Europe's very best and very worst bathrooms. Really.

My bathroom obsession started at our hotel in Harrogate, England. The hotel, The Majestic, is amazing. Right off the bat, I was very impressed with it's decor, it's rooms, it's dining room and food. And then, halfway through dinner, I found the main floor men's bathroom. I was shell shocked. In fact, I ran up and got other guys on the trip to come back down with me. I had to show it off. I've never seen a men's bathroom like this. I know women get big, fancy bathrooms all the time. Guys don't. We get caves with holes in the floor. This was such a luxury. I even took video of it. And several photos.

The room is about the size of a battleship (give or take). It's all marble and tile. There's 12 different stalls--and they aren't just stalls. They are individual rooms with wooden doors and automatic lights that come on when you enter. The sink wall in the picture is just an island int he middle of the room that separates the stall wall from a line of about 20 urinals.

On the end of the room is my favorite part: a long bench, bookended by trees. I imagine it's there so you can just sit and think about the majesty of the bathroom.

We only stayed one night in the Majestic but I tried to milk all the time I could in that bathroom. I miss being there. It was my home.

On the flip side, I also found Europe's worst bathroom. In France, they aren't big on privacy or actually building bath-ROOMS. Instead, they very often only give guys walls with urinals hung on them. In one small town we visited, we saw several of these--where you'd just walk down the sidewalk and see a guy pulled up to a urinal. Here's one I used:

This one was actually a deluxe model with a ceiling and two-feet of tile before getting to the urinal. Another one we saw was literally a wall--with no doorway at all.

While I was going, some German woman was standing behind me talking on her cell phone. It was very distracting. Another woman came over and washed her hands in the sink--with me relieving myself an arms-length away. I couldn't really concentrate. I just closed my eyes and imagined I was back in Harrogate...


A Tale of Traveling to Two Countries

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were atop of castles. We were underground in the smelly metro.

This opening of A Tale of Two Cities (with my slight adaptation) perfectly describes our trip to England, Scotland and France. For 12 days, Pure Heart, two other adults and I led 22 high school students through about 980 historical and literature points of interest. And like Dickens wrote, the trip was full of dichotomies and superlatives. We were in some of the most beautiful places on Earth having fun. But then, the next moment, we'd all be cranky and beleagured. We made mistakes. We made triumphs. We were excited. We were homesick. We were energetic. We were tired. Such is a two-week rapid-fire tour with 26 people.

With how fast we had to move to take in our ambitious agenda in only 12 days (and drive from Edinburgh to Paris), we moved fast, slept little and always walked -- and walked and walked -- fast. Plus, we had normal travel inconviences: flight delays, lost luggage, local food that people don't like, etc. Really, you couldn't have been better set up for melodrama by reality TV producers. (Unless they'd sent Paris Hilton with us.)

On the way home, we all barely made our connecting flight to Chicago from London. When we arrived at O'Hare we discovered that although we made it, none of our bags did. (Cue more drama and tearing of sackcloths.) We'd heard from other people on the trip that the bags were being delivered to our homes--but only late, late at night--like after 2 a.m.

About 11 last night, a courier called and said that he'd be leaving my bag on our stoop in a few hours. When we checked at 4, it was just sitting there at the door waiting to be let inside. I find this whole thing amusing. What kind of a courier service delivers stuff in the middle of the night? I have theories:

1) My bag was not delivered by a courier service. Instead, my suitcase just came home when he got hungry like my old dog Elka would when she ran away.

2) My bag is still on London time. So by coming home at 4, he thought it was really 10 a.m.--a perfectly respectable time for a bag to arrive.

3) The courier service hires vampires.

4) Since the bags are coming from London, my sister suggests they are being sent by Owl Post (ala Harry Potter). This seems sensible since Owls are nocturnal.

5) My suitcase was brought home by Santa. (I wish I'd prepared some cookies and milk.)


Avec la Mouton

Well, Pure Heart and I are off today with 22 high school students to Scotland, England and France. When I come back, I will be wearing a kilt. And no underwear.

I’ve been to England before, but not to the other two countries. I am really excited that we're driving through the Scottish and English Countryside as we go from Edinburgh down to London. I’ve never seen that part of the United Kingdom. We will then keep going south to the coast of England for an overnight ferry that will land us onto the Normandy beaches at 7 a.m. It will be my own little invasion of France.

True story: When I was very young, I actually thought that the U.S. was attacking France on D-Day since that’s where we were landing. Maybe that’s why I’ve never liked the French. Serves them right, I figured. Dang French.

And so, that’s why I am all amped up for Scotland, England, and our day of World War II history…but, I am rather apathetic about France. Co-author Camerin, a true Francophile who owns 896 Eiffel tower replicas (give or take), calls me a Francophobe. Despite my aversion, she swears I will like France. She insists the French won’t all be wearing berets, smoking long cigarettes, dressing in black and snottily reading poems about hating Americans. Oui?

She tells me I need to give France a chance. In fact, for the last several months, that’s the war she’s been waging against me: The “Give France a Chance” campaign.

She’s broken me down a little. I will give France a chance. After all, I did spend 2 years in high school French class. So I’m excited I may FINALLY be able to use the one sentence of French I still remember. Roughly translated it means, “I am going to the pool with my sheep.”

I assume it will prove very handy.

If France gives me the chance to talk about sheep, I will give it a chance.

Wedding Snapshots

Before I leave for Europe and PTOIT goes on two weeks hiatus, I thought I'd post pictures from the wedding. Thanks to Laura for these. We've gotten to see a lot of great pics from June 23 in the last week. Our professional pics came in and are amazing. But it's also so neat to see the perspectives of different friends.

First, me and my momma. Awww:
And perhaps the Greatest Moment in Wedding History: Beebs, Jillio and I rocked the Bon Jovi:

We're half way there. Oh, We're living on a prayer...

Do You Have My Wallet?

When I look back, Friday is kind of a blur.

It was my last day in the office until the big England trip (and only a 2/3-day at that) and so there were a few things that needed to be nailed down. My work computer once again failed me (this time continually “dumping physical memory” so that I couldn't even log in), forcing me to relocate to my old cubicle. And I had to run around a bit at lunch to do errands.

All my hustling—and the displacement of being a Physical Dump Refugee—made it hard then on Saturday to think through exactly where in my day my wallet went missing. I know I had it when I bought a machine soda at lunch Friday. And then Saturday morning, it was gone. Vanished.

I realized the wallet was gone as Pure Heart and I were pulling out of the driveway for a 4-hour drive to her Uncle’s for a picnic. I assumed it was on my dresser. Nope. The jeans I wore to work the day before. Nope. I looked everywhere. No sign. I assumed at that point I left the wallet sitting in my usual Wallet Resting Spot at work—in front of the Eagle, next to the helmet. (Only in my office could anyone use those directions…)

Because we were going to be so far away all day, I needed some reassurance the wallet was there. I called BossMan Chris. He was kind enough to run to the office for me. He called later with bad news. The wallet was nowhere to be found. Not next to the Eagle. And not in the cubicle.

This is when I began to get nervous and attempt the reconstruction of my Friday. I ran to Wheaton college over lunch and at the end of the day, I changed into my swimsuit in the bathroom and drove to a pool party. I knew that I had not taken my wallet into the pool party, but had it even made it into the truck? Or was it on the ground atWheaton? Or somewhere weird at the office?

I couldn’t do anything but think on Saturday since we were gone. The search had to wait a full day. On Sunday, I left the house at 7 for a search mission. I went to the office, to Wheaton College, to the site of the pool party. No wallet. Pure Heart and I both tore apart the house and my truck. Nothing. At the office, I even got the idea that perhaps my wallet fell from my desk into the garbage. If you’ve never gone through my office’s trash with your bare hands, please know it’s not the most fun thing to do. These people apparently eat a lot of bananas.

At this point, I was a bit stressed. Because it was nowhere, I assumed that it very well could have been taken somehow—not just misplaced. I worried about my credit cards. On top of all that, I knew I was flying in two days. What if they needed my license and my passport?

When I got home from the search at about 10, Pure Heart and I decided that we would deal with closing credit cards and all that after church. Even with all this hanging over us, we needed to go praise God. I called my main credit card and the account had been untouched since Friday, so that made me feel better.

At church, I was able to just not think about me for awhile. I just got away from my problems and focused on God. But then, during the sermon, an image literally popped in my head. It was of my brown bowling shoe—with my wallet in it. What? I got thinking, Was I even wearing those shoes Friday? Hmmm, I think I was. And what did I do with them when I changed for the Pool Party? I put them in the swim bag with my jeans. What did I do with that swim bag? I got home, hung the towel up to dry, put my jeans away and put the shoes away. If the bag was empty (and it was) and if the jeans pockets were empty (and they were) the only place the wallet COULD be was…in my shoe!

I mouthed to Pure Heart: “I have an idea!” She motioned for me to write it on the bulletin. And so I wrote, “I think it’s in my shoe!” We both didn’t want to get our hopes up, but it felt right.

When we got home, we ran to the closet and with much anticipation we looked—and there was my wallet sitting in my shoe. WHEW.

The funny part to me is that when Pure Heart was looking in the closet that morning, she actually knocked this shoe’s counterpart off of the shoe rack and sat it back up. For some reason, she never even thought to look inside them.


Hats Off (or On) to the Groomsmen

The week before the wedding, I was obviously excited about a lot of different things. But I think I was especially looking forward to the rehearsal dinner. We held it at The Claddagh, a really sweet Irish place nearby. I was stoked because of this was the time when Pure Heart and I could celebrate with the very closest of our loved ones in a real informal setting.

To be honest, I was also really excited to give my groomsmen their gifts. I couldn't wait for them to see what we'd come up with. I worked really hard at getting my guys something unique and fun. I also wanted it to be something that 1) just screamed, "Todd's Wedding" and 2) was personalized and 3) was somewhat useful--and not just sit in a drawer.

Early on, I thought the perfect gift would be baseball hats, since I love the game and am often wearing one. I thought that having every guy getting a black hat to match the tuxes would be cool. But, that's not very personalized. So, I then became a boy with an impossible dream: What if I could make a special patch for each hat? However, I asked around and no one had heard of making customized patches.

Online, I only found stores that would make them in big quantities. Most places would only do a minimum of 100. Then I found a company, Stadri Emblems, that actually does a minimum of 12 and for very reasonable prices! Pure Heart and I realized that we would very easily usually use 12. We'd give one to each of the 5 guys: Doug, Marc, Josh, Jeff and Chad. And then, we could use the rest as gifts for our dads, for my super nephew (we put his on a very cute baby John Deere hat) and for the reception emcee. That left three patches: One for each of us and one for a wedding scrapbook.

And so, the dream came true.

First, I searched for every guy's favorite team in a black hat. That's not so easy. Of course, the Sox hats were a piece of cake. But finding black Cubs and Indians hats proved harder. I actually had given up on getting Marc a Cubs hat (mainly on principle, actually) until I found this really sweet black hat with a silver "C". The Indians hat was a nightmare. Since their color is Navy Blue, they just make no black hats. I finally found one on e-Bay.

Then, I started drawing sketches for the patch. I probably drew about a dozen different designs and finally went with an idea of featuring the groomsmen's red vests. Happy with one design, I sent in my order and gave Stadri my pencil sketch. They reviewed it and sent me back an artist's rendering of what I'd submitted:

Seeing it in this form, I really hated it. It wasn't their fault at all. I just didn't like my drawing of the vest. I was going for classy and clean. I got cartoon. Can't you just see Barney Rubble wearing that vest? Anyway, I didn't know how to fix it. I actually broke down and asked Designer Doug for help. He said the arm curves were the problem. They made it look silly. If I went with a straight, angular design, he said, I'd probably be happier. He was right. I looked online at tux vests, fired up my Pagemaker, and drew a more linear vest. I liked the new vest so much, that I made it bigger on the patch. This is the sketch sent back to Stadri:

That's more like it. I was really happy with that. Stadri did their magic, and I got back this:

I was super proud of those patches. The day they came in, I ran around the office showing them to people like a little kid proud of his first drawing. The next step was to iron them onto all the hats.

The ironing went fine until I got to Best Man Doug's hat. Here's what I didn't notice: While most of the hats had cloth adjustment bands, Doug's did not. His was the old plastic variety. So, I am ironing his hat with no cares in the world when I lift the iron up...and it won't move. It seemed to somehow be glued to the ironing board. Weird. That's when I figured it out: I'd melted the plastic strip to the ironing board. The hat was ruined. The iron was full of melted plastic. I panicked.

My first thought was that I needed to salvage this patch since I only had so many. I carefully peeled the hot patch from the hat and laid it aside, hoping I could re-apply it to a new Indians hat for Doug. But there's the rub: How was I going to find a new black Indians hat in less than a week? There was no way. It'd taken me forever--and e-Bay--to find the first one!

So I consulted Pure Heart. I asked her if she thought she could remove the melted strap and sew on another if I were to find a hat with a black adjuster band that I could steal. She inspected it and said it wouldn't be hard at all. And so, I went shopping. It's amazing how few hats have the plastic adjustable band anymore. After trying a few stores, I went to Wal-Mart, home of the cheap trucker hats. I finally found one for $5 that had a perfect band. I thought it's logo was especially fitting:

I ripped the band off the back and Pure Heart sewed it on. I was then able to re-iron--very carefully--the patch onto the rare Indians hat. When I gave it to Best Man Doug, he couldn't even tell that we'd done major surgery on it!

With that near-crisis behind me, I gave the guys their hats, we wore them in style at the reception and they even starred in one of my favorite candid reception shots by our friend Laura:


The Sound of Marriage

From the beginning of wedding planning, music was important to Pure Heart and I. We wanted the music in the ceremony to represent us. Instead of typical procession and recession songs, we chose tunes that meant stuff to us.

She walked into Sara Groves' "Fly." For weeks leading up to the wedding, we got asked the "Are you going to cry?" question. I said that if I got past watching Pure Heart walk down the aisle, I'd be fine. But I didn't. And I wasn't. At Friday's wedding rehearsal, I knew I was doomed. A friend of ours sung "Fly" for the wedding. The rehearsal was my first chance to hear her sing it. Hearing those lyrics as Pure Heart walked toward me with her dad just rocked me. I started tearing up then--at the stinking rehearsal. So I knew I was doomed at the ceremony.

What surprised me was that during the ceremony, I actually began the tearing up before Pure Heart even came in. Seeing my Super Nephew (one of two ring bearers) being pulled down the aisle in a wagon touched me. And then "Fly" started, I saw Pure Heart looking amazing in her dress, I thought about how happy we are--and I began to blubber. Big time. The pastor, a family friend, even put his hand on my shoulder to console me. It didn't help much. I considered yanking my little decorative hankie out of my chest pocket and using it to blow my nose, but I didn't. That would have been funny. Instead, I did this lip-biting thing that I am sure looks great in pictures.

We recessed to "Ode to Joy," a song that I suppose a lot of people use. But we both love it. I wanted it because: 1) it sounds cool and 2) it's got a manly edge because it's in Die Hard. Therefore, I could pretend like I was running form the ceremony before it blew up. Yippee-Kai-Yay!

All of the customized music worked only because we had a close friend, Luis, handling the music for us. It was such a gift. He's so good. He even went above and beyond with a very special arrangement. I wanted to enter the ceremony with my groomsmen to the raucous and bombastic old White Sox anthem, "Go Go Go, White Sox." But the song, originally done in 1959 by some guy called "Captain Stubby," just doesn't fit such a dignified event. We instead wanted it to be arranged so that sounded pretty, but if you knew the tune, you'd get it. (In fact, in the program we didn't call it by name but called it "With You All the Way," a line from the song.) And so, Luis the genius sprinkled fairy dust on it and made it into this beautiful keys and cello symphony. It was actually beautiful.

At the rehearsal, Luis was excited for me to hear his version. He called me over and did a special recital just for me. And I about fainted after hearing it. It was perfect. He was so jazzed about it that instead of just playing part of it as we walked in, he wanted to play through the whole thing. I agreed. But then, it all got even sweeter. In the rehearsal, we discovered that the song we chose for the bride's maids to walk in to was actually too short. So, it got moved to when the ring bearers and flower girls entered. And "Go Go Go White Sox" was extended to play while both the guys and the girls all entered the ceremony. It was phenomenal.

The best part of the song being played was looking into the audience and seeing people cocking their heads, trying to figure it out, and then laughing when it came to them.

Marriage Update:
I was afraid it would happen. And on only my second day back to work, I forgot to wear my ring. D'oh. You really can't teach an old dog new tricks.


Back and Better Than Ever

So ... I'm married!
The wedding went great, the reception was a blast, the honeymoon was a needed and refreshing get-away. Of course, I have lots of stories to share--from a wonderful period of life that spans from a morning spent decorating a church to a morning when I kissed my sleeping wife goodbye to return to work.

The wedding was everything we hoped it would be. It was beautiful and sweet. I cried uncontrollably as she walked down the aisle. The entire night was very much "us." We were surrounded by our most loved people in the world. And when it was all said and done, we were husband and wife. (You can read Groomsman Marc's great take on the wedding here.)

We returned from our week in Galena on Friday. Since then, I've just been getting used to married life, a new home and doing husbandy things like cleaning the garage. Now, I'm back to work for a week (four days thanks to to the Fourth of July) before heading out for two weeks in Europe. It's a tough life. But over the next week--and maybe more--I hope to share all those wedding stories and many pictures. (A tease: Upcoming stories will tell about the day I ruined my Best Man's groomsmen gift, the kid we stuck in a wagon, how Mark Twain tried to steal my wife, our special mystery gifts, the secret song played at the ceremony, and more...)

The one big change as far as Putting the Odd in Todd (PTOIT) goes is that my significant other can no longer be called "The Intended." I've toyed with many new nicknames: The Wife, The Mrs., etc. But she's told me for a few months that she came up with her own PTOIT nickname. On our wedding day, she revealed it to me. Her first name means "Pure" and she discovered not long ago that our last name means "Heart." So now, post-wedding, she is Pure Heart.

It is a fitting name.