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40 Before 40: Why I left the church

Many of you know me from my work in the non-profit world. I invested the first 15 years of my career working with not for profits and religious institutions, and I enjoyed it. I had a great time working with my team to come up with the most incredible thematic elements we could come up with for any given weekend topic. I enjoyed being able to play in a band from time to time when I wasn’t executive producing from the back of the room trying to keep things running smoothly. I even enjoyed being up on a ladder for 3 hours at a time plotting out a lighting diagram for an upcoming weekend event.

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Macro shot of my guitar by Brianne Liddick

There were many things that I enjoyed while serving in local church ministry, but as my last ministry position came to an end, we took a bit of time to evaluate our career paths.

We realized that over the past 15 years we had gathered a few miles.

  • Lived in 3 states
  • Lived in 5 different homes
  • Lived in 11 different homes on a temporary basis as we moved from job to job
  • I had worked with 4 different churches in 6 different ministry positions
  • Melissa had taught every elementary grade from 1-5 in all our moving around and even become a preschool director for a time
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Choir rehearsal before an event

We came to a few realizations.

  1. Moving Stinks – We were tired of making friends with people and then having to move away because of a job change.
  2. Family Matters – We wanted our kids to grow up knowing their extended family. Living close to family was super important to us.
  3. Indiana Just Fits Us – We tried out Minnesota and Michigan, and they like it cold. We apparently like it slightly less cold.

 

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Christmas Dinner Theatre Prep at Stoney Creek Church up in Michigan

So, we were left to tackle a couple of things as a family

  • What were we put on this Earth to do?
    • I have a firm belief that we all exist to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. How we do that in our local setting differs for everyone, but for us that meant that we would be involved in helping others develop in their relationship with Christ and we would be worshipers.
  • How would we fulfill that?
    • In the second half of my church career, I was introduced to the idea of small groups in the local church. I fell in love with the idea of getting people in circles instead of rows and living out life together. It was something that Melissa and I got to do together, and we loved it.
  • How would we earn a living?
    • Yeah, so this is the big one, right? If I wasn’t going to earn my paycheck from the local church, how would I still afford house payments and keep our kids in Lego bricks?
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Weekend Service up in Minnesota

Skills & Abilities

As with any family that makes the transition from “church staff member” to “recovering former church staff member” we needed to do an assessment of our skills and abilities. There was one aspect of my job that I absolutely loved and wanted to do more of. That came in the form of continuous improvement. I absolutely love looking at something that is working and making it better or taking something that isn’t working and developing a strategy to turn it around. As the kids today would say, “That’s My Jam.” (Ok, I don’t know if the kids really say that, so I’m guessing I’m probably channeling Parks and Rec here.)

Another aspect of my job that I loved was working with outreach communications and digital marketing. I could lose myself for hours online looking at amazing websites and seeing how they worked to be effective at moving people. I loved working my way through the online presence of effective ministries and seeing how that improved their effectiveness. These things fascinated me, and it seemed that even though I worked at rather sizable churches, we never had the manpower or budget to make significant change.

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The Phone Call

While we were contemplating our next move, I got a phone call from one of my favorite people in the world, Bryan Mueller. Bryan works for American Metro, which is a fantastic cash register rental company up in Minnesota. Seriously, if you ever need to rent a cash register, call these guys. Bryan and I worked together in Minnesota, and now his company was looking for a new website. Bryan called to ask me if I could make sense of how the same website could be quoted by two different companies at $5,000 and $25,000 for their company. I took a look at the quotes and could see that both web companies were full of bologna.

One company didn’t give any type of specification about website length or function and wanted 25k. The other company laid out how big the site would be and who would write the content for each page, but didn’t have anything in the contract about what the site would be built to accomplish. I told him how I would do follow up questions with each and get the whole story they needed to make a decision. I hung up, and I was honored that he thought to ask me.

What I didn’t expect was about a week later when Bryan called back and said, “Hey man, these guys seem shady at best and working with them seems like a bad idea. Why don’t you quote this website and you do the web design? You’re not doing anything right now, right?”

Ha Ha. Not doing anything. Just pondering my existence and trying to determine the future of my family…

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That was the day that Fusion Creative was born. We quoted and won that web design contract and then got another one, then another one… you get the point. What started out just doing web design for a good friend ended up being our new venture. We are the proud owners of a digital marketing company that works with Churches, Not-For-Profits and Small to Medium Sized Businesses developing online marketing strategies that work. Want to get to know our company? Visit our website by clicking on this link. Come on over and check us out!

General curiosity not enough to get you to click over and see what we’re doing now? What if I said that we were giving away a free website in the next 18 days? Would that be enough reason to click on over to check it out? We’re giving away a free website with a year of hosting and maintenance to 1 lucky ministry, not-for-profit or small business, and you get to nominate them! Come on over and see what we’re up to, you may get a free website for you or someone you know.

 

 

By |September 24th, 2016|40 Before 40|3 Comments

40 Before 40: Gaff Parties

Gaff Parties

I count it a privilege to have been able to attend college only 10 minutes away from home. To some college bound students, getting far away is the goal, but not for me.

I loved being close to home. For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in the middle of the country. Our closest neighbors were about a half mile away, and those neighbors were my grandparents. I grew up next door to my grandparents farm, and as a kid I would run out and visit grandpa on the tractor. I grew up living in a gorgeous suburban home in the middle of 3 corn fields and a forest. It was like a little slice of the suburbs hidden in the middle of farm country.

What this meant in college was that I had the perfect retreat for college kids looking to get away from campus. My parents lived on 10 acres in the middle of nowhere, and when it came to getting away from campus life, this place was it.

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How It Started

During college, my goal was to gather a few friends, go bowling and then head out to the Gafford retreat for the rest of the evening. We’d watch movies, sit around a bonfire and mom would always make some kind of yummy treat to pass around.

In case you haven’t met my mom, she has an incredible gift for hospitality. If there are people coming over, she’s going to make something to help them feel welcome. That same gift is still in action today, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold. I’ve inherited that gift from mom, but that’s another post.

I would bring 8-10 friends home to my parents house, and mom would start searching through the fridge and freezer. We never knew what she’d whip up, but over the years she had become a master of appetizers and finger foods. We’d be an hour into watching Harrison Ford in the Fugitive, and suddenly a tray of pigs in a blanket and some queso dip and chips would magically appear.

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Scaling Up

What started as 8-10 friends quickly became 15-20 friends. A few months later we were carpooling about 35 people to the local bowling alley and had to call to reserve about 10 lanes each time. We had to start telling mom and dad before we would come since we were trying to cram 30+ college students into their family room. It was not something that happened without preparation.

After that first few months of getting people together, we started planning them less often. While they weren’t as frequent, they were certainly increasing in size. By the end of the first year, we were averaging about 100 college kids per party.

We quickly gained the nickname “Gaff Parties” and they began to gain campuswide recognition.

I came off of our summer tour that year and the first thing people wanted to know was when the next Gaff party was. I hadn’t even made it back to campus yet, and people I ran into were asking what we had planned.

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Year 2

We had outgrown the family room at my parents house, so we needed to improvise. What used to be a movie inside on the TV morphed into calling every non-profit we knew to see if we could borrow a video projector. We ran to Wal-Mart and bought a big white bedsheet, and it became a screen. Movies moved outside to the back yard.

The fireplace was warm and cozy, but now it was becoming a fire hazard. With nowhere to sit in the family room due to overcrowding, a fire only took out 5 valuable seats on the hearth. We decided to move the fire outside as well in a different area of the yard. We called some local farmers and asked if we could buy hay bales for people to sit on.

By the end of that second year, we had amassed about 200 college kids per party. My favorite game during those parties used to be walking up to kids I didn’t know and asking who invited them. I would also ask them if they had yet ran into the kid who lived here, and the answer was almost always no. I just told them that if they met him to introduce me later. Quite a few of them got a good laugh out of that later in the evening.

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Invitations

When it came to inviting people, there were generally only 3 or 4 people that I ever needed to personally invite, and this is where it gets fun for me.

Here’s the deal. I only ever invited about 10-20 kids to any party that I threw in college. I would always just tell the kids I invited to bring their friends, and people would show up in droves.

There were two guys that I credit with all the marketing that built Gaff Parties from the ground up. These guys were two of the most popular guys on campus, and for good reason. Brian Bradford and Nathan Kingsbury were two of the kings of campus, and they had and still have the ability to move groups of people. I would just casually tell these two guys that a party was on, and next thing you know half the campus would show up.

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Shoes

One of the memories that I have from this year was all of the shoes that littered the garage floor when people came into the house. There were shoes everywhere, and it was hard to get in the door without breaking an ankle. During one of our get togethers, a few pranksters decided it would be fun to take everyones shoes and tie them together into a long rope and hang them everywhere in the garage. It took people a good 20 minutes to find both of their shoes that evening, untie them and navigate their way out the door.

Mud

I also remember this year that we tried to get people together on a night when it was raining like crazy. While I thought it would be a fun idea to get everyone together and watch a movie indoors, we had outgrown that idea and I was about to prove it. What I didn’t account for was how soggy the yard was and how heavy cars were when they needed to park on grass. We had a blast getting people together, but when it came time to leave, it was a mud bowl. I am positive that this particular party went down as my dad’s least favorite. We had massive ruts in the yard, and even a car or two that didn’t make it home that night. We had a couple of guys that weren’t afraid of mud and just dove in to push people out, but it wasn’t enough. We had to call in trucks with tow ropes. I’m pretty sure the aftermath to the yard from that party took months to repair, but I’ll never forget seeing friends and people I didn’t even know having a great time rolling in the mud in my front yard.

Year 3

During the third year of the Gaff party, we hit a number that I never thought I would see gathered at my parents home. To start off my first senior year, (That’s right, I took a victory lap.) I credit Brian and Nathan for inviting most of the campus to our first party of the year. We had 350 kids join us that night, and I can honestly say that we completely cleaned out the fridge and freezer to try and keep kids fed.

That night we had kids in every possible nook and cranny of my parents house. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some people got stuck in a closet and nobody could hear their cries for help. It was a madhouse. The movie screen had doubled in size, the fire was about 4 times bigger than ever, marshmallows and smores were a huge hit and food was everywhere. This was the year that my mom had thrown the white flag and started calling in reinforcements.

My grandmother Marilyn was the hospitality matriarch of our family. When it came time to call in the big guns, we called Grandma. As the parties scaled in size, Grandma would just need about 3 days notice to make magic happen. Grandma would bake brownies, sheet cakes, cookies, pies, and just about everything else you could imagine coming out of grandma’s oven. She would come over a few hours before the party was set to start, and she’d back her van up to the garage. It would take about 8-10 trips to get everything into the house that Grandma had made. When I think back, I am pretty sure that Grandma had an industrial kitchen hidden somewhere in her home that she didn’t tell us about. That gal knew how to cook like it was her full time job. Her contribution to the Gaff Party legacy has been relatively unknown, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Now that Grandma has gone to a better place, I can tell this story without worrying about her shaking her index finger at me and giving me a talking to.

There were a few kids who knew about what Grandma and Mom were doing to help put these events together, and one night they decided to give back. Two girls named Melissa (who I would one day marry) and Kristen grabbed baseball hats and went around collecting money to help cover the costs that grandma and mom put out each time. They worked their way through the crowd without letting mom see, and at the end of the evening presented my parents with a couple of hats full of cash and clapped for them like crazy. It was a really fun moment for me. I got to see a bunch of college kids express their appreciation for a couple of people who always worked in the shadows but were vital to every event we had.

That year, we knew we had created a monster when about a month into the school year I received a call from the admissions department. A guy named Tom asked me if they could make future parties an official admissions event. He said that kids were telling them that it was a reason that they decided to choose IWU. Apparently the invites were going out from students to high school kids that were having college visit days, and they were also in the mix. That’s when we had a pretty good idea that things were completely out of control. What began as a trip to the bowling alley with friends had ended up a recruitment event for the university.

I think we ended up having 1 or 2 events after getting the call from admissions, but that was the party that I’ll never forget. What made it really stand out is the topic of my next post, but don’t worry. We’ll get there in a day or two.

What I Learned: Doing something that makes a difference for a large group of people doesn’t happen without the efforts of a dedicated few. There was a group of about 6 college students that helped me pull these off over the years, and without them it never would have worked. I learned that doing something amazing may come from a simple idea, but it won’t ever grow to its potential without gathering the right team. Even if you have the best idea ever, don’t go it alone. Find a group of like minded people and have them bring their talents to the table. If you’re going to set out to do something amazing, I recommend not doing it alone.

What You Can Do: Share a comment below of your favorite story, memory, food, person, or anything else you can remember about Gaff Parties. I know there are literally hundreds of you out there who will read this over time, so share your memories with everyone and see who else remembers with you. I’m sure there are many stories even I don’t remember from way back, so tell us your story.

By |September 19th, 2016|40 Before 40|5 Comments

40 Before 40: That Time the Army Showed Up

During my time in college, I spent 3 years with the same roommate. I was lucky. I found one of the good ones in the first 6 months of college, and I stuck with him until the end.

His name was Stephen, and I was convinced that he was going to be a cabinet member for a future president. This dude is crazy smart, and I liked hanging around him while he debated the merits of historical events.

Not everything we did was of a scholarly nature though. I attended Indiana Wesleyan University, and there was a rather strict no boys in girls dorms and no girls in boys dorms except for 1 day a week where we had open house hours. We were always looking for ways to get girls to stop by since we didn’t know that many in the early days.

With Steve being an education major with a strong emphasis in history, we decided to work with what we knew. We went out to the local dollar store and bought about 6 bags of those little green plastic army men and about 10 packs of plastitac.

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When we got back to the room, we grabbed our desk chairs and plotted out the battle of Antietam on the ceiling of our room. I know what you’re thinking. #ChickMagnet – and you’d be totally right. We’d just leave our door open during open house nights and inevitably we’d have a group of girls come through to see our ceiling. I believe today we’d call that #NerdCred.

In our final year, Steve and I moved out of the dorms and into an on campus house called Bridget house, and we shared it with 4 other guys. We had a lot of fun in that house with guys like Josh and Theo. It seemed like between the 6 guys who lived there, a game of Nintendo 007 was always going on. Theo was a film aficionado, and for all the crazy films he watched it was Tommy Boy that he seemed to know the best. I think I remember that he once made it 30 minutes into the firm before he missed a line of dialogue. He had memorized almost the entire movie, and he took up our challenge to mute the movie and have him recite it as far as he could go. It was absolutely EPIC.

Of all the things we did together, there are two that stand out above the rest for me.

In our dorm room, we had a land line phone. Everyone did. On that land line phone, solicitors were constantly calling us and asking for one of us to come to the phone. We didn’t have caller ID back then, so you just answered hoping it was one of the girls who liked our army men ceiling and wanted to meet for lunch. Inevitably, we would get a call once a day from a salesperson, and Steve had finally had enough. We might be studying with some classical music on in the background or playing 007 on the Nintendo, it didn’t matter. They were interrupting and needed to stop.

Whenever a solicitor called and asked for me, he would say, “Sure, hang on a sec, I’ll get him.” And then proceed to put the phone down on the counter and walk away. We would keep doing whatever we were doing and then about every 5 minutes he’d check back in. “Hello, are you still there? Great! He’ll be with you in just a minute.” Most callers hung up in the first 5 minute wait, but the best ones stuck around for the long haul.
I remember a time where Steve checked back in with a salesperson over a period of a half hour, and he was still on the line. I remember we were playing a video game, and he could certainly hear the noise going on in the background on the other end of the line. After about a half hour, we asked him why in the world he was still waiting, and he told us he got paid hourly, and listening to video games on the phone was as good a half hour he’d seen in awhile. I don’t remember how long he stayed on after that, but that guy was our favorite.

The other thing that comes to mind is the campus mailbox. When you’re in college in the 90’s, you check your mailbox at least once a day. Turns out there’s nothing more disappointing than going to the mailbox day after day and not getting any mail. I’m not sure how it started, but somehow Steve and I decided that an empty mailbox was something we shouldn’t have to endure any longer.

We started sending each other whatever free sample or free anything that someone wanted to send us. The Internet was a thing back then, and there were plenty of websites just dying to send a free sample of their product our way. We got packages in the mail of everything from educational classroom posters to little squares of memory foam over the next year, and going to the mailbox became much more exciting. We had a contest going to see who could send the other person the best free stuff, and I’m sure I lost. My mailbox was always full of one of those little plastic cards that said I needed to check in at the mail desk. I had packages too large to fit in my mailbox. My friends would be in awe as I would always be picking up a large package to take back to the dorm. I think that square of memory foam ended up touring Europe as an in flight pillow if I remember correctly. Nothing but the best from my roommate.

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What I learned: I learned that when you find one of the good ones, you stay connected to them. Over the years since college, Steve and I have lived in different states, worked different jobs and both started families. When we get together though, it’s like no time has passed. He still asks me how I’m doing, how he can help and now that we live only 5 miles from each other, when the next time we should schedule a guys night and go see a movie our wives have no interest in seeng. If you’ve found one of the good ones, and you’ve lost touch, use this as a reminder to reconnect. If they are truly one of the good ones, it can feel like years have been weeks and you can pick up right where you left off.

By |September 11th, 2016|40 Before 40|0 Comments

40 Before 40: The One With The Broken Guitar

Yesterday I wrote about how I spent my summers during college traveling around the country in a 15 passenger van. For the last 2 years of that time, I did some singing, but I mostly played the bass guitar as we toured around.

There were many memorable events during that time, and as I’ve been spending some time reminiscing, I’ve remembered one that stands out above the others in my mind.

We were probably 4 weeks in to our first summer tour as a newly minted rock band, and our concerts began to look the part. Our volume went up, the amount of running around and jumping on the stage increased, and things were hoppin!

We even took every opportunity to put the drums up on a riser like all the big boys did. That first year, we would grab whatever we could find when we got to the venue and try to build some type of 2-3 ft. platform for our drummer. It wasn’t really for the drummer per say, it was more for the lead singers Josh Buck and Micah Kephart to jump off of and stand on as they sang.

(A side note here. If you know Josh Buck, send up your prayers for him as he’s in the hospital having a rough go at it and could use some divine intervention. You can learn more on Facebook from the Bucks’ Ministry Page.)

We were playing the final concert of the venue in the 4th week of our tour. The kids were hyped up, the adults were into it and things were peachy. We were playing as hard as we could during our final song, and that’s where the wheels started to come off.

During the ramp up part of the song, our lead singer was feeling it! He jumped up on the drum riser and was hitting cymbals and singing at the top of his lungs. Adrenaline got the best of him, and he leaped off the drum riser and took a pose straight out of footloose in midair.

Lead Singer Jump

I was standing with my mouth agape watching him soar through the air when all of a sudden I got knocked back. After I was knocked back, I felt something hit me in the knee, and I had to look down to see what it was.

Turns out, our lead singer’s midair pose was absolutely perfect to match his knee with the stock of my guitar. The headstock of my guitar cracked in two, and two of my four strings were dangling from the guitar connected to the piece of broken headstock.

Needless to say, everyone’s mouth was agape now. I couldn’t think of anything better to do, so we just kept playing and finished the song. I still had two strings that were functional, so why not, right?

We all stood around and stared at my new/broken guitar and wondered what to do since we were due the very next day at another venue.  I wasn’t flush with cash either, since I was but a young college student.

We made a call to our college friend Chris Collier over at IRC Music in Indianapolis, and they came to the rescue. We were going to be driving from Michigan to Kentucky I believe that next day, and he told us that they could save the day.

We drove down to Indy and I took both pieces of my guitar into the store with me to see what could be done. Chris and Rick (Chris’ Dad) took a look and told me that they could insert a rod and fix the bass and even help me sell it.

I started to look around the showroom for what would be my next bass, and I found her. (In case you didn’t know, bass guitars are female.)

That guitar was the lady in red, and I was ready to dance with her. Chris and Rick gave me a stellar deal and gave me credit already counting on the fact that the repaired bass would sell for a good price.

We were back in business, and on our way to the next engagement.

What I Learned: I couldn’t think of anything much worse at the time of being a musician without my axe. I had just bought the thing and it was sitting there in front of me in two pieces. I learned that great things can come from misfortune. Great friends who are willing to help you out in a time of need are worth their weight in gold.

By |September 8th, 2016|40 Before 40|0 Comments

40 Before 40: In A Band

There was a time in my younger life when I traveled in a band. It didn’t start out as a band per say, but it ended that way somehow.

My Second Job:

In college, I had a “job” representing the college in one of their singing groups that toured schools, churches, and camps across the nation. As many of you are aware, we pretty much lived in a 15 passenger van and hauled a huge trailer behind us everywhere we went.

When I started this job, I landed the illustrious gig of singing baritone in an all male quintet. Why a quintet instead of a quartet? Because you can apparently never have enough tenor in Southern Gospel music.

We went from place to place singing the favorites from groups like the Cathedrals, the Gaithers, and other Southern gospel groups of the day. Southern Gospel you say? Really?

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You betcha. I was raised on the stuff. There was always something about that harmony that fascinated me. Let’s be honest, those boys can sing. If you took time to listen to Guy Penrod or David Phelps, they’re some of the best voices on the planet. Our goal was to go out and give out a reasonable facsimile of these amazing singers and recruit for the University.

For the first couple of years of the group, we did just that. We traveled to churches and not for profit groups on the weekends during the school year and sang our hearts out. During the summers, we traveled from camp to camp serving as the musical guests and most of the time also getting to be camp counselors for a group of pre-teens.

Oh the stories I could tell you from those summers out on the road. I’ll just have to save some of those for another time…

On The Road:

One I will share is when we decided that Southern Gospel music wasn’t exactly working for summer camps full of hundreds of teenagers. We got tired of showing up to camps and having the people in charge “sigh” and try to figure out what to do with a Southern Gospel singing group at a teen camp. It got to the point where they wanted us to help out and run the camp, but our music was a bit of a nuisance since it just didn’t fit with the current music the kids were listening to.

The kids were walking around with their Walkmans (Yep, remember those?) playing D.C. Talk, Newsboys, Sixpence None The Richer and other popular bands of the time. I totally get where the disconnect was for them, and so we called a group meeting. We took a look around the group and we asked if anyone played any instruments.

We had two guys who played the piano/keyboard, one who played the acoustic guitar and the rest just stood there and stared at the floor. We knew that we needed drums and bass guitar at a minimum in order to pull it off, so we made a decision. I was one of the guys who played keyboards, but I was up to learning something new. Our group leader was also up to the challenge, so he and I needed to decide who learned drums and who learned bass guitar.

Rock, Paper, Scissors:

What better way to decide something as epic as this other than a round of good old rock, paper, scissors.

Jason Grate (our fearless leader) won with rock over scissors, so he got to make his pick. Jason chose drums and that same day I decided to go out and buy my first bass guitar.

I drove down to Marion’s own “Marion Music & Sound” and plopped down $200 for a black Epiphone 4 string bass guitar. Turns out I didn’t know the first thing about playing the bass guitar, but I did have a friend from high school who played. Jason Sandefur was a bass player, and even though I hadn’t talked to him in 3 or so years at this point, I gave him a call.

Jason gave me my first bass guitar lesson over the phone and taught me where to play and when to play. He told me how the hand positioning worked and I was off to the races.

It’s probably worth noting here that I don’t think at this point in time we had asked the University for permission to drastically alter the group. To us, it made total sense to change our group from a Southern Gospel group singing with cassette tracks to a rock group that played D.C. Talk. I’m not sure at that point in time that the University was in on the game, but we were too busy rehearsing and learning new instruments to have long meetings about it. Let’s just chalk that up to #younganddumb

Timing Is Everything:

It’s also probably worth mentioning that we made this decision to become a band 10 days before we hit the road that summer. So, let’s put this into perspective, shall we… Here we are, 10 days before we are supposed to show up at a camp full of hundreds of teenagers. It makes total sense to us that we should drastically change our group from Southern Gospel to a Rock Band, and two of us had never played the rhythm instruments that our new band was supposed to have as the foundation of the group.

Probably a good thing we didn’t try this when we were older. Looking back it seems completely nuts, but to those guys at 21 years old, this all made total sense.

We picked out 5 or 6 songs and changed every one of them to the key of G so we only had to learn one key to play in. Yep. True story. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

So, we pile into the van 10 days later and we were off as a newly minted rock group ready to play for a bunch of screaming teens. What was yet to be seen was if they would be screaming because of excitement or because of sheer terror.

Things get a little hazy for the next 3 weeks as we spent the day being camp counselor and the night learning how to be a band. I think we were up in Michigan for those 3 or so weeks, and I’m pretty sure that things went relatively well. It turns out that apparently the camp staff and the kids at each place would rather have a terrible rock band than a pretty decent southern gospel group.

Overall, we started something that summer that ended up being pretty special. Over the next two years the group would change members, change styles a bit, and even branch out into new keys! Along the way we somehow still became one of the best recruiting groups the University had seen. 

What I Learned:

Oh, the things I learned during my time with that crew. So many things… If I had to narrow it down to just one for this post, I would say that I learned that there are times when launching a half baked idea can be better than maintaining a mediocre status quo. When faced with a lackluster present, charging into uncharted territory with half an idea can be much better than doing nothing at all to improve the situation.

By |September 7th, 2016|40 Before 40|2 Comments

40 Before 40 – My First Job

I’ve been paid to do quite a few things to date, but one that many of you probably haven’t heard about was during the summer after I graduated high school. I needed something to do that summer that would bring in a little income, and a friend of my dad suggested that I look into security. Security sounded like fun, and I imagined that it would be a little something like the picture below.

Security-Fantasy

It turns out that being a security guard was much more accurately portrayed by this picture.

Security-Reality

Can you guess where I ended up working that summer? Yep, that’s right. The assisted living and nursing home in my hometown.

There weren’t any motorcycles involved or body armor, just my little security guard uniform and the can of pepper spray that they gave me to protect myself.

I have to admit though, this was a pretty awesome job. I was hired to protect the nurses as they got off work and make sure they got to their cars safely at night. It wasn’t a well lit parking lot, and there had been a few domestic situations rise up in the past. “Loved ones” hiding in the lot waiting for someone to get off of work to finish an earlier argument or fight. So, I donned my 6 Cell Maglite flashlite like a baseball bat and went out to protect those nurses as many nights as they’d schedule me.

It turns out, there’s not much that happens in a nursing home and assisted living facility around 9pm, but there are the rebels who stay up late that you have to deal with. The most rowdy of the bunch stayed up in the assisted living wing and worked on puzzles until the wee hours of 10pm every night. In between locking all the doors of the facility and guarding nurses as they left, there was quite a bit of downtime over an 8 hour shift. I was encouraged to spend as much time with the residents as I could afford in between tasks.

The puzzle room was where it was guys. It was the Times Square of Colonial Oaks.  The evening group called themselves the “Puzzle Crew” and they were always up to no good. Every evening I would sit down and listen to this gang of senior adults tell tales and spin yarn about days gone by. Some of them were a rather racy bunch in their day, but their stories were fantastic. Occasionally they would hustle me at pool or bring me a bowl of ice cream, but most every night, it was the puzzles that kept us busy.

That group taught me that you never start putting together a puzzle with anyone else without taking 1 or 2 pieces and hiding them first. Nobody wants to be left out when the last piece is put in, so these guys all took a few pieces without telling the others for every puzzle they made. We’d get to the end of a puzzle and there would be 10 pieces missing, and they’d all look at each other like none of them had any idea where the missing pieces were. They always said, “Well, I guess they’ll show up eventually.” and over time that’s exactly what happened. Slowly but surely they’d bring the final pieces back over a period of days to finish their work of art. It was a hoot.

The coolest part of this job though were the relationships that came out of it. That crew adopted me for the next 5 years and came to every vocal recital, performance and concert that I was involved in. If I was in it, they were there. I had a built-in cheering section for any event during my college career, and my friends in college ended up working their way into the gang as well. I’d bring a friend with me to work and have them build puzzles for a couple hours, and once you built puzzles with them, you were in. They would chart their schedule as well and be there for any of their events too.

What I Learned:

I’ll never forget my first job, and it wasn’t because of the times I chased after thieves trying to steal meds or the occasional dustup in the parking lot with an angry spouse. The “Puzzle Crew” have all passed now, but their lessons live on. They taught me that it’s not always about the job, it’s the people that can make any job amazing.

By |September 6th, 2016|40 Before 40|0 Comments

40 Before 40 – Introduction

Well folks, it’s officially upon me. I hit the big 4-0 in 40 days. Time to start visiting car lots and buy that Corvette I’ve always wanted to get my midlife crisis started. ;)

To celebrate the new #4 digit added to the beginning of my age, I’m going to write something I’m calling my 40 before 40. That is, 40 posts in 40 days. I’m going to write them here from my personal blog so I don’t blow up everyone’s Facebook feeds with crazy long stories, but I’ll post links on social if you’d like to sit around the campfire and do a little reminiscing.

So, on with the show, right? I’m not getting any younger I’ve been told. You can read more starting tomorrow right here at www.davegafford.com

If you’d like to have the series sent to your email inbox, just follow the link here and we’ll send the new posts your way.

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Enter your email here and prove that you’re not a robot by entering the random letters.

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Once you’ve done that, you’ll get an email in your inbox asking if you really want to get these sent to your inbox. There’s still time to back out in case all of this was a huge misunderstanding.

The confirmation email will look like this.

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Just click on the HTML link there at the bottom and viola!

We’re going to have some fun in the next 40 days. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. You never know, you may just show up in one of these…

By |September 6th, 2016|40 Before 40|2 Comments

Labor Day the Gafford Way

For the holiday today, Melissa and I decided that we were going to start a couple of new traditions for the family.  They may be too young to remember them this year, but we’re hoping that it’s something that they begin to look forward to (and then loathe as they become teenagers) and then look forward to again as they launch out on their own years later.  We started with a rousing read from Wikipedia about what Labor Day really celebrates and why we all get the day off to celebrate.  Ethan actually seemed to be more enthralled than Addison surprisingly…

We decided that Labor Day should start with a picnic breakfast at the park.  I think half the fun for Addison was the anticipation of coming downstairs this morning, seeing the activity chart for the day and noticing that there was a doughnut on it.  For a girl who is starting to read, she loves looking at the marker board when she wakes up to check her daily agenda.  When Melissa draws pictures on the board, her excitement level easily doubles.

We stopped by the supermarket on the way to the park and let the kids pick out their doughnut.  5 minutes later we were across the street at the park, and the festivities began.

Doughnut Picnic Kiddie Doughnut

After the doughnuts were gone, it was time to swing, slide, and dance off that sugar.

Labor Day 2014-5Ethan Peek

Whenever I have the opportunity to push Ethan on the swing, he loves it when I get him going and then reach around and tickle him.  Melissa caught a great picture here of him looking for me.

David & EthanEthan Giggle

Ethan loves to boogie, and he heard a tune and just started going at it right in the middle of the playground.  I think he was in the middle of “the Dougie” in this picture.

Ethan Dougie

After the park, we settled down in the backyard and started up our campfire to teach the kids a couple of favorites from our extended family traditions.

Labor Day 2014-15

There was Addison’s first Fluffernutter sandwich.  If you haven’t had a fluffernutter, it’s peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on white bread.  Nothing special, except that it’s incredibly delicious for having only 3 ingredients.  If you kick it up a notch (thanks Emeril) and roast marshmallows in a campfire and then make the sandwich, it’s just plain amazing.

Labor Day 2014-16 Labor Day 2014-17

We cooked Ethan a Nathan’s Hot Dog (are there any other kinds?) and taught Addison the art of how to cook over a campfire.

Labor Day 2014-13

I also brought in a truly Gaffordian tradition by showing Addison that a Bugle just isn’t complete without a little love from its friend EasyCheese.

Labor Day 2014-14

We also introduced the idea of the hobo pie to the kids.  We went out in search of the campfire pie cooking utensil today and found them at Menards for $3 each after rebate.  Couldn’t believe it.  (Probably still on sale if you want one.  In Fishers, it was on an endcap in the camping section.)  Addison picked out Peach pie filling and we made dessert in the campfire.

Labor Day 2014-12

After the kids had their rest time, we ended up dropping the rest of our plans since Ethan decided to create an art project all over his room using the contents of his diaper… showing us the true meaning of Labor Day.  We’re hoping the park and the campfire return next year as Labor Day traditions, and we’ll be just fine if Ethan’s tradition is a one and done.  My apologies that there are no pictures of the second half of Labor Day… #you’re welcome.

 

By |September 2nd, 2014|Cooking, Parenting, Photography|3 Comments

Passport To Employment

During the last few years, I have known many people who have been out of work for quite some time.  They often tend to go it alone and not ask anyone for help because they don’t want anyone else to know that they’re in career transition.  I have to tell you, that’s a rough way to go in my opinion.  Every now and then,  I am going to be covering some of the ways that people and organizations in the greater Indianapolis area are helping people when they’re looking for work.  Whether underemployed or unemployed, groups like this one exist to help individuals into their next career.

One of the best is called Passport to Employment.  It is a ministry that is supported and founded by members of the Church of the Crossing located very close to Keystone at the Crossing.  The group has been meeting for right around 7 years, and they have some pretty impressive stats to back up their effectiveness.  This past Monday, they were able to announce that through their program, they have been able to connect 692 people to new positions in 315 weeks.  Just this past week alone, there were 5 people who found new positions with their help.

Like every effective organization, there’s going to be a face with the place.  For Passport to Employment, that face is Earle Hart.  Earle has been here since the beginning, and he’s not going to let you off easy until you’re employed at the level you should be.  This guy wants you to have the job that you were designed to have, and he will equip you with the tools to land your dream job.  Earle can’t do it alone, and he leads a team of coaches, counselors, recruiters, and trainers who are all ready to jump in and help you with your search for a great career fit.

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Passport meets every Monday night from 7pm until 9pm. (except for a few holidays that are stated on their website)  Show up at 6:30 with a pile of business cards and be prepared to meet 30-60 people who you can connect with and expand your personal network.  Starting at 7pm, you’ll need a notepad because the information is going to come fast and furious for the next 2 hours.

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Every week is different, but know that this group works hard to keep content fresh and new guest speakers coming every week.  This past week in particular brought in recruiters from two different areas and allowed them time to speak to the group about how to stand out in an environment where 300+ people will possibly apply for a single job.

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The cost is free, but you’ll learn that once you get your new position, your first task is to bring cookies back to the group and share effective tactics that you used.  It’s always great to hear from people who come back & share their success stories, especially if that means they’re bringing cookies!  There’s nothing like hearing from someone who’s been underemployed or out of work and seeing the joy on their face as they return to a job they’re passionate about.

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Maybe you’re in a place where you could use a little support from my friends.  If that’s you, drop by this Monday night and tell them that David sent you.  I promise that you’ll get no special treatment and that they’ll probably have no idea who David is.  That’s what’s great about this place.  Their desire is to help you as much as they can and then never see you again because you’re gainfully employed and flourishing in your new position.  If you want to get to your new position faster, make this one of the first steps in your journey.

By |August 20th, 2014|Career Change|2 Comments

Nutrition via Veggie Cookie

 

1 (3 of 5) I love my kids, and both of my kids love eating.  One loves eating candy and the other loves eating anything but vegetables.  While we can get the one who loves eating candy to eat other foods, the small one who avoids vegetables like the plague is a different story.  We’ve tried many things over the past 3-4 months to introduce veggies into his diet, but nothing seemed to work until the cookie came along.  Melissa found this recipe here that outlines a cookie filled with vegetables and containing only honey, no cup+ of sugar.  We weren’t sure what the outcome was going to be, but it turns out that this little guy loves vegetables as long as they are in cookie form.   1 (2 of 5)I assume that there will come a time where we can rationalize with him that vegetables come in other forms other than cookie, but for now this daddy is happy to see this little guy pounding zucchini and carrot like a champ.
1 (1 of 5)Oh, and it turns out that the one who like vegetables anyway is also a big fan.

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By |August 19th, 2014|Cooking, Parenting, Photography|1 Comment