Archive for the ‘Grandchildren’ category

What To Give To Someone Who Doesn’t Want Anything”

December 23, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        December 23, 2018

                   

My wife is an amazing woman, great mom, blessed grandmother, who agreed to journey with me almost 40 years ago.

She is also frugal in her spending habits, including the multiple fake wedding rings she lays by the kitchen sink, none costing more than ten bucks, but all looking like the real deal from Helzberg Diamonds.

Carol is a challenge to buy a Christmas present for. She has already waved a spatula in my face several times and said, “Don’t buy me anything for Christmas!!!” 

“Yes, dear!”

“I mean it, Bill Wolfe!” When she uses my first and last names it’s like I’m standing in front of the judge, receiving conditions of my probation. 

She’s like her mom, who when asked what she would like for Christmas would reply, “Well…ahhh…I could always use a new spatula!” Spatulas seem to be a big thing in Carol’s family…for cooking and warning!

So I’m in a quandary! Do I risk a spatula spanking and buy something, or adhere to her demands and not buy her a gift? Is there a third option, like buying a gift but pretending it’s from a mystery person? It could come from Amazon Prime, with no name attached!

Carol’s birthday occurred just two weeks ago. It creates another challenge. She accepted the new John Grisham novel as a birthday present, but Grisham has not written another book in the last two weeks to fill the Christmas void. 

So what are my other options? 

I could invite her to watch Hallmark Christmas movies all day…and actually watch one with her. But should my personal pain be a part of the gift-giving? And I’m not sure I could watch the movie and not make sarcastic comments!

I could take her out for dinner, but we usually go out for dinner once or twice a week as it is. It’s not a gift, but rather our routine.

So what could I give her that she would appreciate and enjoy?

A hug and a kiss would be a start. A hug with meaning and commitment, not too tight because of our increasingly fragile bodies, but an embrace that says “I am blessed to be your spouse!” And a kiss, preceded by a Tic-Tac to cancel out my coffee breath! She would see that as a gift!

A walk around the block, punctuated by conversation about things that interest her and thoughts that keep filtering through her mind. 

Help in the kitchen preparing for the family to gather on Christmas afternoon. That would be seen as an appreciated gift, as long as I take directions from her and don’t free lance too much! 

And maybe the best gift would be to sit back in the midst of the family and just be with them, watching the three grandkids discover the hidden treasures in Uncle David’s cellophane-wrapped ball (Now a Wolfe tradition each Christmas!), enjoying dinner together, and seeing surprised looks on young children’s faces as they open a pile of presents one by one.

Those are the things that will be gifts to Carol, moments and pictures that don’t take up space in the house, but space in her heart!

Maybe I can sneak a spatula in there somewhere!

Seventh Grade Test Personalities

December 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 December 21, 2018

                                 

I’m substitute teaching today in a seventh grade social studies class. It’s test day, an unfair educational challenge in the opinion of most of the students, since it’s the last day before Christmas break. 

I’ve observed the different “test personalities” emerging as the day has gone on. They’ve been covered up by various facial distortions and deer-in-headlights looks.

There’s the “clueless wonder”, the kid who thinks he’s all that but can’t remember his middle initial. Taking a test is his worst nightmare. He would rather gargle vinegar. Some of his classmates think he’s cool, but his intellectual stimulation is restricted to the depth of the latest  SnapChat.

“The questioner” arises in the midst of my test information questions. When I say that each student is to complete the whole test and turn it in to the class basket, the questioner raises her hand and asks, “Do we have to complete the whole test?” A nod to answer. “And then what are we to do with the test when we complete it?” I point to the class basket. “Is that where we are to put the test when we’re done with the whole thing?” 

I just stare as an answer. She gets the idea! The questioner may someday be on a Senate review panel asking 800 pages of questions to someone who will plead the fifth!

“The annoyer” makes sounds to distract people from the mission. He will drop his books, intentionally choose candy that involves loud noise-making wrappers, and disturb any sense of quiet and calm. It’s his purpose in life, or at least in seventh grade. As other students are trying to remember what the capital of Pennsylvania is he’s making squirrel sounds in his corner of the room. 

“The Ivy Leaguer” focuses on every question and quickly remembers the correct answer from the twenty pages of notes that she has studied in preparation. Seventh grade is not a challenge for her. Her challenge is spending time with seventh graders.

“The nose picker” absentmindedly inserts his finger into his nostril and digs for treasure, which he then wipes on whatever is closest to him…pants, shirt, desk bottom, or flicking off onto the floor. His classmates rarely offer him a high-five!

“Miss Probation” is not adverse to being sent to the office. In fact, the office has a chair with her name on it. She knows everyone there on a first name basis. Next year in eighth grade her locker is likely to contain some forms off contraband.

“Mr. Bored” thinks it’s important to communicate his lack of enthusiasm about whatever it is he is studying. In his opinion, if it is studied at school it must be unimportant. If a cure for cancer was discovered and then studied in science class he would label it as boring. But have someone send him a 30 second video of a snowboarder wiping out on a 360…that is crucial entertainment for him!

“Miss Awkward” is at that age where nothing seems coordinated in life. She’s unsure of herself, and some of her classmates make her nervous. She’s afraid of being the butt of their jokes and the attention of their discussions. If she could disappear into the carpet she’d feel better. She kinda’ likes tests because each classmate is focused for a few minutes on their own work, not somebody else’s business.

“The Organizer” guides the class in doing a get well card for its teacher. She makes sure the chairs are stacked at the end of the day and helps the class get over the hurdles caused by the annoyer and Miss Probation. If the classroom was filled with students like her they might be able to cure world malnutrition. BUT there’s only one of her and the teacher is bummed out by that. The hope is that some of her classmates might see the purpose and passion in how she lives, but most of them can’t see past their cell phone screen.

BUT no one cheated, and that’s different from when I was in high school! Seventh grade test personalities are as diverse as the jelly belly’s in the teachers candy jar. It makes it…very interesting for the substitute!

A Good Rejection

December 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                December 19, 2018

                                  

Thursday afternoon one of the seventh grade teachers at the middle school I substitute teach and coach at exclaimed to me, “We love your book!” I sent her the book draft in a Word Document and she had been reading a chapter each night with her two kids, a fifth grader and a sixth grader.

I replied, “That’s great to hear, because I got the rejection letter from the publishing company two days ago.” Her face announced her surprise.

That afternoon the seventh grade counselor, who I had given the first seven hard copy  chapters to came to me and said, “I really like it!”

“That’s great to hear since I got the rejection letter two days ago.”

She frowned in disappointment.

The letter came from the managing editor who had given me his business card at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference last May and told me to send the book. It had taken them this long to get it to the top of the pile. (Publishing companies are piled high with submissions and only a trickle ever being published.)

I showed my rejection letter to my Starbucks friend, who is one of the writers and producers of Adventures In Odyssey. She read it and, in a matter of fact way, said, “As rejection letters go…this is a good rejection letter!”

“Huh???”

“It shows that they actually read it and he’s giving you three suggestions as to what to do to improve it and bring it to a point where it’s ready to be published.”

“Ohhh!” My self-esteem came back up from the basement. “Have you ever gotten a rejection letter?”

“Sure!” This writer/creator of the series, that my grandkids love to listen to, had also been rejected. Several other people have told me about J.K. Rowling, who got numerous turndowns before Harry Potter became a household name. 

Rejections are stings that can make us strive for something better. After I had submitted my book draft to the publisher I went back through and revised it again. Since the rejection letter I’ve gone through and done another revision. My dear friends, Ed and Diana Stucky, are going through it again…for the third time helping with the editing and their ideas. Ed has reached out to a couple of friends in the publishing world for advice and suggestions.

Rejections can sometimes show us who will be there to help us keep moving forward. They can make us stronger, more determined, and more focused. 

One of the suggestions from the managing editor of the publisher was to cut it down to between 80,000 and 100,000 words. I was at 114,000. After going through it again I’m down to 101,000 and figuring out what the next cut might be that will not effect the quality or flow of the story.

If nothing else comes from this writing I will always remember getting a phone call one night from my ten year old grandson.

“Granddad!”

“Yes, Jesse.”

“We like it! We like your book. Mommy just read the last chapter to us tonight, and we really like it!”

“Thank you, Jesse!” 

Three months later I got another call. 

“Granddad!”

“Yes, Jesse.”

“We finished your second book tonight and…we really liked it!”

And now they are waiting to read the third book, which I’m 20,000 words into, as I also continue to revise Book 1 and Book 2.

I may never get a letter from a publisher saying “We’d like to pursue this with you!”, but two late night phone calls are all the acceptance I really need!

Sixth Grade Motivation and Just Getting By

December 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 2, 2018

                          

I was amazed and perplexed numerous times this past week, two opposite reactions in the same classroom. I taught 6th Grade Social Studies the whole week, a journey that began in the Inca Empire and ended in a Friday discovery of Canada.

Numerous students amazed me at their quest for excellence. After giving guidelines about a project related to the Incas, these students sought to raise the bar in terms of quality. They took seriously my statement: “If Mr. Smith (the school principal) came in and looked at your project would be say ‘This is awesome!’ or ‘What is this?’”

And then there were the students who sought to just get by. One of the directions said to use colored pencils or markers in the completing of images. One student asked, “Do we HAVE to use colored pencils?” He said it as if he was being asked to do a 24 hour work shift. I looked at him and replied, “So, what you’re really asking is ‘what is the minimum I have to do?’”

“Well….ah, no!”

At the end of the second day on the project some of the work was ready to be framed and sent to an art museum, and other ‘attempts’ at work made me shudder!

To one boy I said, “I can’t even read what you’ve written here. You need a class on penmanship.”

“What’s that?” he asked, puzzled.

“Exactly!”

It made me wonder about how some kids become so motivated to excel and others become so unmotivated and seek to just get by. One of my students this past week was a girl who ran cross-country for me this past fall. She’s about as tall as a grasshopper and about that wide, also! In each race she finished no worse than 3rd and always just a few steps behind the winner. She is a competitor who would be disappointed in herself if she did not give her best effort. Her Inca project was…you guessed it!…top notch!

On the other end of the spectrum was a project that was as barren as an Oklahoma corn field during the Dust Bowl years. I looked at the boy and with disappointed dismay in my voice said, “That’s it???” He looked upon at me as he finished his last chocolate do-nette and smiled. That WAS it!

How do some students become so self-motivated and others seem to think motivation is a sign of illness?

It is an intriguing subject to ponder. I talked to one of my Starbucks coffee friends yesterday about it. She has five children and they are all different. A couple are so self-motivated it’s scary, another couple are selectively motivated, and then another one wouldn’t be motivated to even get out of bed…ever! 

I’m motivated to write some days and have no motivation to write on other days. Some days I’m highly motivated to exercise and on others I am so unmotivated that I’d even rather watch a Hallmark Christmas movie…okay, not that unmotivated!

I realize that some motivation comes from within, intrinsic in nature; and other motivation is extrinsic, coming from an outside force or person. But why is that intrinsic motivation so different for each person? Why are so many students willing to just get by?

Sixth Grade Little Brothers and Sisters

December 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 1, 2018

                           

It’s been a week!

A week of sixth graders, that is! One of the sixth grade social studies teachers asked me to teach the full week for him as he recovered from a procedure done on one of his knees. Five days of teaching the future Einsteins, Feinsteins, and Non-Steins; smart ones and smart alecks!

Some names stood out to me after each 57 minute class period. They were the warts in the midst of a beautiful experience; the ones that the teacher can’t trust with a pair of scissors because they may cut the hair of the young lady sitting beside them…without her knowing! They are the ones who in hearing the words “You may work with a partner on this!” view it as giving permission to cause chaos, the ones who intimately know what the inside of their assistant principal’s office looks like!

So…I remember THEIR names! If I had an acronym of the phrase “Problem Child” I could put a name with almost every letter…Pete, Robert, Octavius, Bubba, etc.

The interesting thing is that I COULDN’T remember the names of younger brothers and sisters of students I’ve had in classes the last two years. After five days of having them I still can’t think of their first names. I’d ask a question and a hand would pop up from a boy with dark hair.

“Jill’s little brother!” I’d say, acknowledging him. He looked hurt and befuddled, as if his eighth grade sister had a more prominent place in life than him.

Question: “What does longitude measure?” Up comes the hand of a girl with a never-ending smile.

“Little Smith!” I bellow as I look at her. Her smile continues because she sees it as a badge of honor. Her sister, now a high school freshman, had told her stories about Mr. Wolfe. In fact, she was the one who made my last name sound French by pronouncing it “Wolf-ay”!

There were four or five other younger brothers and sisters whose first names escaped my memory. Of course, when I was growing up some of my older brother’s friends called me “Little Charlie” or, after being immersed in their high school Spanish class, “Carlos Pequeno!”

It was the first Spanish word I learned! I guess I’m a bit partial towards younger siblings. I’m the youngest of three, the one who got the hand-me-downs, like my brother’s bicycle all beaten and battered and shirts with mustard stains dotting the fabric. 

If I have these sixth graders again I’ll graduate to calling them by their last name. That would be progress towards knowing their whole personality. The disturbing thing is that I only know the first names of the problem children, and I’ll make sure my youngest daughter (Our “Little”) has a list of names NOT to give any future grandchildren. 

As one boy asked me, “Mr. Wolfe, do you remember my name?” 

“Yes!” I respond, pausing for effect. “Starts with an ‘A’ and ends with a ‘G’!” He looks at me ready to correct my thinking, but I break in before he can say it. 

“Annoying!” 

He smiles, and, although he began the week filling out one of the letters on my acronym, we kinda’ like each other! I wonder if he has any younger siblings?

Signs That I’m Really, Really Old

November 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               November 22, 2018

                    

People often say that I don’t look like I’m just six months away from being eligible for Medicare. That’s nice to hear. After all, not too many of us get up in the morning with the goal of looking OLDER than we are!

Recently, however, I’m encountered a few situations where I realize I AM OLD! The most recent experience happened this morning when I opened up the newspaper, stuffed like a turkey with Black Friday store advertisements. I sorted through most of them and came to the ad from Best Buy. 

This is the old part! You know you are old when you don’t know what half of the gadgets in the 16 page ad actually do. I recognized the washer and dryer, the frig, and a few of the vacuum cleaners, but other devices had me as clueless as I was in trigonometry class!

The good news in all of that is that if I don’t know what it is…I don’t yet know that I’m suppose to need it!

On to a different “old” subject”! About a week ago I bought new ear phones to listen to my Lawrence Welk music with. They are wireless- another term that mystifies me- and I opened up the instructions. THERE WERE NO WORDS! A sketched finger pointed to different buttons and tried to communicate the purpose of that button with the use of a picture. 

GIVE ME SOME WORDS TO READ! I’m guessing it was a sign of how our culture doesn’t like to read anymore. We now seem to be a society that likes to communicate by using a finger!

In the Walmart Black Friday ad there was a whole page devoted to video games that shoot ‘em up, blow ‘em up, and run ‘em over. One tiny picture at the bottom of the next page advertised three books for toddlers. That was as close to a library as Walmart got!

So I’m feeling old. We bought a new vehicle almost two years ago, but I don’t know how to use half the fancy stuff on itl…and it has a thick manual with WORDS! The steering wheel has abbreviations instead of the whole word. Give me the letters “MN” and I know the state it’s referring to is Minnesota. Put those letters on my steering wheel and I haven’t a clue!

I’m just really, really old! Lord, have mercy! I’m turning into my Kentucky grandfather, Papaw Helton! Before I know it I’ll be sipping buttermilk at supper and wearing suspenders that hold my pants up all the way to my nipples!

Wearing Black Socks With Tennis Shoes

November 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     November 18, 2018

                   

There are certain things that I once could do that I can no longer achieve, like touching the basketball rim (which I did back in my college days), not having to use the bathroom at least once during the night, and drinking Folger’s coffee without gagging!

And there are other things that I never did that I still don’t do! One of those is wearing black socks with athletic shoes. I just can’t do it! No matter what sports apparel logo is on the side of the sock…Adidas, Nike, Under Armor…I just can’t wear black socks while playing hoop or running a couple of miles. 

It goes back to my growing up days. I was not very cool to begin with, but to wear a pair of black socks in P.E. class was to risk being seen as permanently uncool! Wearing black socks with tennis shoes was something my dad did! Plus, he’d have a pair of shorts on at the time…and would be mowing the lawn for the whole neighborhood to see! I stayed inside until he was done. 

Dad would also go the other side of fashion un-coolness. He’d wear white socks with brown shoes! That was like the twin brother of “black socks and tennis shoes”!

At basketball practice yesterday there were 2 boys out of 28 wearing white socks…and one coach. Me! Everyone else was wearing black socks or multi-colored with designs. In 1972 it would have been seen as a picture of totally uncool boys. Now it’s the trend!

There are certain things in life that we just can’t adjust to. It’s like they are a part of our cultural DNA that we can’t get past. Like a redhead trying to become a brunette. After a while the red roots spring up to remind the person of who he still is.

“Y’all” still comes out of my mouth when referring to more than one person. “Why don’t y’all sit down for a few?” I can’t say “all of you” or even “you all.” They taste like sour milk coming out of mouth. 

It took me a couple of months to not feel guilty when I bought a pack of Hanes black boxer-style underwear. For about sixty years I had worn J.C. Penney’s Towncraft tighty-whities! It wasn’t until after my mom- a Penney’s retiree- passed away that I risked wearing something different. I know, this is probably too much info, but I wear the tighty-whities still at nighttime.

Our understanding of what is cool is a strong tie, but our remembering of how things were also keeps its grip on us. One happens out of the fear of being unaccepted, and the other happens out of the desire to honor family and its sense of belonging.

In regards to black socks with tennis shoes, cool was more important than identifying with Pops, but in most other things family took preference. 

Y’all understand what I’m talking about?