Archive for the ‘Grandchildren’ category

Substitute Teacher Day Off

September 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 18, 2018

                                    

I did not get a too-early call this morning from Timberview Middle School. No phone ringing at 5:30 with urgency! I get did four phone calls from another school, but I ignored them. It’s gotten to the point where I rarely substitute at any other school besides Timberview. I’m like Andy Griffith in the midst of middle school Mayberry. Everybody knows me there! I coach three sports there, with this being my 18th year of coaching boy’s basketball.

So today is a day off! Yesterday I corralled 7th Grade language arts students the whole day, keeping them focused on verbs, mis-spellings, and the green grass of literature. I’ll giddy up the same herd two days from now. 

Today, however, I’m relaxing…kinda’! When I leave Starbucks this morning I’m going up to the school to take care of a couple of details and surprise a coaching teammate with a cup of Americano with a little bit of cream. She deserves it for having to teach 8th Grade math all day.

Since retiring from being a church pastor close to three years ago (Doesn’t seem possible!) my understanding of “a day off” has been altered. It used to be that Monday was the designated day off after the hyper-speed pace of Sunday. Now it’s whatever day I’m not substitute teaching. 

Could be Monday, could be Thursday, but it’s almost never Friday! 

And what do I do on whatever day it is that I’m off? I think about what’s going on at the school, wondering which students will make unwise decisions and which teachers will be ready to pull their hair out. I’ll wonder what new color of hair will appear in a classroom that day and what 8th Grade girls will look like their jeans were vacuum sealed around them. I’ve noticed- and maybe you have also- that my middle school experiences are filtering more and more into my writing. In the first month of the school year I wrote 7 blog posts related to middle school. Today I’ll write 1,000 to 2,000 words in the third fiction book I’m writing and the story will have been influenced by my recent middle school experiences. One of the two main characters is a 7th Grade boy! That’s what I do on my day off! I write about middle schoolers.

I’ll also eat a more substantial lunch today, maybe a luncheon date with Carol. I won’t need to “wolfe down” a Tupperware bowl containing cottage cheese and cucumber, or a PB&J sandwich while gulping a bottle of water. Today I won’t even have to use a plastic fork!

I’ll be able to talk in a normal voice, use the bathroom when I want to, wear a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, and sit in the swing on our back deck and read Vince Flynn. I’ll be able to enjoy a third cup of coffee on my writing stool- the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak! I can stop at the supermarket and check out the “day old food” discounted rack and play Words with Friends. I may even run by Penney’s and see if they have underwear on sale!

And in the midst of all those opportunities and “down time” I’ll be thinking about Timberview, like a kid wondering what might happen in the next episode of my favorite action TV series. 

Crazy, I know, but it brings a smile to my face! And I’ll ask myself “Was I that dorky when I was in middle school?” 

Absolutely!

5 Stars for My Book From 3 People

September 5, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 5, 2018

                           

Two weeks ago my cell phone rang around 8:00 in the evening. I was finishing up the rewrite on the sequel book to the first one…that I hadn’t planned on there being a sequel to!

I picked up my phone and saw that the call came from my oldest daughter, Kecia. So I answered, as I have a tendency to do, by speaking Spanish.

“Como esta usted?”

“Huh?” came the high-pitched voice on the other end of the line. It was my ten year old grandson calling on his mom’s phone. Jesse does not speak Spanish yet, at least the way I speak it!

“Is this Jesse?”

“Yes, Granddad!”

“Oh!” (pause) “What’s up, Jess?”

“Well, we just finished Red Hot: New Life in Fleming.”

“You did?”

“Yes, and we really liked it!”

“You did? That’s great!”

I had sent the book draft in an email attachment and each evening right before bedtime Kecia had read a chapter of the book to Jesse and my granddaughter, Reagan. They had read the last chapter that night.

If no publisher picks it up for publication I know at least three of the most important people in my life will have given it “five stars” in their evaluation. (Now they are reading the sequel at bedtime!)

Kecia told me that they had cried when a tragedy had occurred for one of the main families in the book. And she told me that they had enjoyed a certain chapter so much that they read it twice.

Both of the grandkids (Their 3 year old sister isn’t quite into the reading and listening stage yet, although she does get read to every night.) are avid and excellent readers, encouraged by their third grade teacher mom. Their reading level is far above the average for their peers. It’s a byproduct of the fact that they have ended their day with a reading time for as long as they can remember.

So now I wait to hear from the publisher who has the draft. I pitched it to the managing editor of a publisher back in May at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. He gave me his card and told me to send it to him. Since then we’ve exchanged a few emails and he’s told me it won’t be until around the end of October before they’ll make a decision.

Another publishing house of the “vanity publishing” type wants me to pursue it with them, but a good-sized payment is attached to their contract…that is, I pay them and sometime down the road…in a future life maybe!…I’ll break even! 

My two good friends, both with knowledge and experience in the print industry, continue to encourage me and tell me that it is an excellent book. They have edited both my original draft and then my rewrite…as well, as the sequel. They have been drawn into loving the characters and have come alongside me as plots have been shaped and considered. In certain times in the writing of the book(s) one of them has said something like “What if…?” or “Why did you take the scene in that direction?”

The publishing industry is tough competition these days. Companies are much more selective in what they are pursuing. In this time of 140 character tweets people don’t read like they used to. BUT people will still read a good story!

For now I have at least three people who’ve given me five stars. Actually, my two editing friends would join the three related to me, so I guess I’m at five people! 

Now I’ve started writing Book 3. It seems somewhat strange to write a third book in a series where even the first novel hasn’t been published yet…but I want to see how the story ends!

Dad’s Hairbrush

September 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                       September 2, 2018

                                     

When my dad passed away last February it was the end of a generation. It was also the end of a gathering place for family keepsakes. Dad’s apartment in the Wyngate Senior Living Complex needed to be packed up and moved out. That task fell upon my sister and brother-in-law to complete after my family flew back to Colorado, and my brother drove back to Frankfort, Kentucky.

A few weeks later a box arrived at our house packed with family pictures, an iron skillet, and various other items that had meaning to the Wolfe clan.

And in the box, stuffed down in a corner by a tube of Brylcreem, was Dad’s hairbrush. The bronze-colored handle fit my hand easily. When I picked it up out of the box a flash flood of emotions surprised me. I recognized that this hairbrush had stroked the hair on Pop’s head for years. In his last few years it would be accurate to say that it didn’t have that many hairs to brush…kind of like a cornfield during drought conditions!

Each morning since I opened that box I’ve used Dad’s hairbrush on my own head of hair…well, with the exception of the few weeks when I shaved my head because of a lost bet with one of my basketball players (See “WordsfromWW.com” 3/4/2018 blog post “My Last Day With Hair For a While”). 

I’ve moved my part over to the left slightly to allow the brush to take a longer stroke. Having a part in my hair isn’t as easy with a hairbrush as it was with a comb, so I’ve just relocated it closer to my left ear. Darla, my barber, shows me a path that I simply trace over each morning.

And each day I pick up that hairbrush and hold it in my hand I think of Dad. It’s a simple thing, a moment of reflection and connection. 

There are some people that you miss about as much as a hemorrhoid…and there are other people you miss like your heart has been cut from your chest cavity. Dad was our heart, our wisdom, the groomer of our civility. 

As I ponder the words I write this morning my emotions rise up from within. It is the way things should be; that our parents reappear in the moments of ordinary routines. 

For my mom, who passed away five years ago today, she comes back to life every time I see a crossword puzzle, or see a pair of those fuzzy looking house slippers, or eat a ham and cheese omelette. (I ate one last night!)

For Dad, he shows up anytime a Kentucky basketball game is on TV, I put hamburgers on the grill, and…brush my hair!

A lot of people think of flashy events and extravagance when they remember people from their lives. Flashy would not have been a word that anyone would have used in describing my dad. The motorized wheelchair that he used for the last year or so of his life was about as flashy as he got! His life was more like a consistent steady walk with strides of patience and humor. 

It was more like a stroke from a hairbrush, long and loving, the same day after day.

Grandparents Sleepover Weekend

August 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 19, 2018

                              

Our oldest daughter, Kecia, and her husband, Kevin, ran in “The Beast” this weekend in Breckenridge, Colorado. The Beast is about a half-marathon, but includes a multitude of obstacles and challenges throughout, like climbing walls, jumping through mud, and walking on hot coals! Okay, just kidding on the hot coals part!

Meanwhile Grammy and Granddad did another form of The Beast at home. We kept the three grandkids- ages 3, 7, and 10! Like our daughter and son-in-law we also had a multitude of challenges and obstacles. Our challenges included keeping the house from looking like a war zone, teeth brushing time, meltdown moments, and striving for most of the food on their plates to actually be eaten.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m “on break” at Starbucks at 7 AM before heading back to the fray and facing the next obstacle of getting everyone in the car to drive 45 minutes to Simla, Colorado for church. The ride home from there will be comparable to coming down the home stretch of our “marathon grandparenting” race! I’m doubting that there will be a water station and available Powerade at the finish line! That’s okay, we just need a bed!

Carol and I love our “grands”, even hoping for more! We also recognize that we’ve both been like “grandparenting sprinters”, not marathoners. We’re used to two hour stints, not 48 hour ultra events. Like an actual marathon it has been a weekend of exhilaration and exhaustion. 

Like the three year old singing with revised lyrics as she played with Play-Doh. 

“This old man, he had three; he had three on my knick-knack…and a knick-knack patio, give a dog a home, this old man comes running home.”

Or our ten year old grandson watching an international fencing competition on TV and figuring out the scoring system they use. 

And our seven year old helping her little sister, and playing “McDonald’s drive-thru lane” with her.

On the exhaustion side there was bedtime! But bedtime at the grandparent’s house is seen as being more like a sleepover, full of giggling and getting their second wind. There’s a lot of movement and talking..and movement…and “I want a drink of water”…and movement…and threat of being duct taped to the bed…and crying…and finally…finally sleep! During the night, however, like chess pieces, there’s a rearranging of where each of the slumberers ends up by Saturday morning.

Last night Carol looked at me and said “I don’t remember being this tired when we were raising our three kids.”

“We’re out of shape, dear! A bit flabby in the grandparent mid-section!”

On the positive, we took them to Noodles for Saturday night dinner and each one of them ate EVERYTHING on their plates…well, except for what the three year old dropped on the floor beside her chair! I ordered an extra plate of pot stickers because they were still hungry!

When I was growing up my parents would take my brother, my sister, and me to our Mamas and Papaw Helton’s for a week in the summertime. They had a farm in the eastern part of Kentucky. If nothing else this weekend has given me a new appreciation for their stamina, patience, and strength. 

And they had 12 grandkids! I feel a bit wimpy and weak being exhausted by three!

I’ll try to be in better shape for the next “Beast”. Kecia and Kevin are doing another race for insane people in a month. They’ll be gone a little longer next time, so for us it will be like doing the grandparenting “Ultra Beast”! 

One thing’s for certain for that next time! We’ll be at Noodles again!

Senior Adult Television Network

August 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   August 9, 2018

                          

There is a plethora of television channels that I can flip through on my cable system. Most of them are worthless! Just sayin’!

In the midst of this chasm of blah-blah-blah there is a noticeable void. Well, maybe more noticeable to me as I creep further into the amazing 60’s of my life! The gap is the absence of a television network devoted to senior citizens. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice…or we’d simply forget!

There are 46 million people in the United States who are 65 years of age and older! 46 million!!! There’s a lot of beans in that pot!

I got to thinking about the programming possibilities and the ideas flowed through me smoother than my last bottle of Ensure.

Here’s the sample Monday programming lineup:

7 AM- The Iron Skillet- Cooking the old way! My Mamaw Helton would be proud! I can smell the bacon…and the eggs frying in the bacon grease! 

7:30- The Cholesterol Physician- An actual doctor who specializes in treating people with high cholesterol because of their tendency to consume bacon and eggs for breakfast.

8:00- Old News!

8:30- Senior Discounts- The deals that go unnoticed, like free foot massages on Mondays and the cheapest places to get your hair colored.

9:30- The Andy Griffith Show! Self-explanatory.

10:00- Gunsmoke! Even more self-explanatory

11:00- Wyngate- A reality TV show based on the actual senior adult independent living complex my dad lived at the last three years of his life. Drama, humor, field trips for the residents, slow fire drills, groans and gripes with an amazing cast of real characters.

12:00- New Old News

12:30- Senior Bowling League- The best geriatric bowlers in the country compete for fame and glory.

2:00- As The World Turns- Got to throw one of those soap operas in. I remember that some of my aunts revolved their days and lunch hours around “the soaps.” 

3:00- The RV Reverend- Reverend Roger ministers to the elderly residents of an Arizona RV park. 

4:00- Senior Scambuster- Mr. Smith investigates, informs, and exposes the growing number of scams aimed at senior folk. 

5:00- World News Tonight for Seniors

6:00- America’s Got Mature Talent- Sometimes talent doesn’t emerge until a person passes sixty. Who will be judged to be the most talented elderly performer?

7:00- Penny Mason- The niece of the great defense attorney continues her uncle’s legacy of defending the falsely accused and revealing who the real murderers are.

8:00- Snowbirds in Paradise- What happens when a retired couple from North Dakota decide to spend their winter months in the south Texas town of Paradise. The plot line of every episode revolves around the couple not understanding what their new Texas neighbors are saying!

9:00- Slowing Down- In a world where people are infatuated with speed the stories from the other side, how people are going slow to do amazing things.

10:00- Octogenarian Odysseys- The amazing life journeys of those now in their 80’s, stories to give hope to those of us approaching that period of life.

11:00 Symphony Music for Insomniacs- Just the music, no picture!

And that’s just one day! I haven’t even gotten to “Gaming From the Rocker Recliner!” and “Replacements Who Are Really Hip!”

As you can see, the possibilities are almost as endless as the throbbing pain in my knees and hips. By the year 2060 the senior population is estimated to be 98 million! We desire our place, our station! 

The Rabbits of My Life (and Backyard!)

August 6, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  August 6, 2018

                          

Our neighborhood has more rabbits than people and pets combined. Rabbits are not pets on our block. They are the new neighbors who have moved in, but always keep their blinds drawn and garage door down…distant and suspicious, but always close! For our city block they are as common as sunny eighty degree July and August days. 

Each morning when I leave around 7:00 to head to Starbucks for some morning java I’m watched by at least three pairs of bunny eyes as I proceed down the street. Sometimes I feel like I’m the suspicious visitor and they’re the Neighborhood Watch. 

Last week, as I mowed the backyard, two rabbits kept hopping around from one side to the other. It was weird! Like a Hitchcock remake of Birds, but the sequel Bunnies! Although we have no film footage evidence, we’re pretty sure the zucchini that was growing in a pot on our deck has hare teethmarks. In fact, our backyard seems to be their Sprouts produce section.

A few days ago, however, our neighbor did see a hawk swoop down for dinner! We need a few more swoops, like a sale…grab one and get one!

Side point! I remember my mom serving delicious chicken one night when I was about six years old. The drumstick seemed smaller than usual, but I said “Mom, this is really good chicken!” She replied, “Thank you, Bill! But it’s not chicken, it’s rabbit!” Huh!!!

Of course, my life has its rabbits! They change positions and hop around in my life, but they are always there. Some of my rabbits are cute and cuddly, but others are irritating and invading.

There’s the rabbit of my financial obligations…every month! Many of them are now automatic bank drafts that I only see when I go online, but when I do…there they are! Every month I am incredulous as I view how much CenturyLink is charging me for “bundling” cable TV, internet, and a land line together…but then I see the other rabbit of Sprint trying to hide in the high grass of my bank statement. And it seems that these two bunnies of my existence seem to be getting bigger as they munch away on the assuredness of their necessity. 

There’s the rabbits shaped like my grandkids! They hop around and bring joy to my soul. There is the growing of their minds and bodies and their life perspectives that amaze and humor. Sometimes we miss seeing the important rabbits in my lives because we’re focused on how fast the grass is growing. If, however, there was suddenly a drought in our relationships such as these we would regrettably realize the lost moments that are no longer retrievable.

As I age I experience the rabbits of aches and pains each day. They seem to relocate from one spot to another…hip to knee, neck to back. My definition of “feeling good” has been reworked in recent years, although I have one personal rabbit who is known by the name “Stiff!” My pill box of prescriptions reminds me of this new way of life. When my dad passed away a few months ago he had a “prescription litter” in his kitchen cabinet.

Life has its rabbits! We live with them. We become accustomed to them. We mow around them! But thank God, as far as I know, there aren’t any Monty Python killer rabbits in our lives launching themselves at our jugular veins!

When You Journey Together For 39 Years

July 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 29, 2018

                          

It was a hot day in Clarendon Hills, Illinois when Carol and I stood at the front of Community Presbyterian Church and said our wedding vows to one another. It was July 28, 1979 and the baby of the Wolfe family was marrying the middle child of the Faletti clan. I had graduated form Northern Baptist Theological Seminary less than two months before that, began a ministry position at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan, and was entering a new phase of my life that could optimistically be entitled “New Discoveries”, but more accurately be called “Clueless!”

We said our vows to one another and headed down the aisle towards the exit. When a bride and groom leave a wedding ceremony they never know what they’re headed into. No, I’m not referring to the reception and honeymoon. I’m talking about the journey of walking into life together. The starry eyes of saying “I do!” soon enter the planned and unplanned happenings of a shared life. 

39 years later Carol and I have said goodbye to each one of our parents, my dad being the final one to depart this past February. We’ve had one dog and five cats. In order of their stays with us there has been Eusebius (C.B), our only experiment into the canine world, Tickles (who lived to be 20 and a 1/2), Prince Charming Kisses, Duke, Katie Katie Cocoa Puffs, and Princess Maliboo (Boo). Our daughters always named the cats, in case you’re wondering!

We’ve lived in two apartments and four houses in the 39 years. We still remember the couple that lived in the apartment beside us the first few months of marriage. They were rather loud as they engaged in their romantic activity. Carol and I thought that maybe there was something wrong with us since we didn’t make noises that sounded like someone was in pain.  We soon got over it!

The journey took us to three different hospital delivery rooms to experience the incredible blessings of God upon us of three children. The birth of our  child, Kecia Corin, involved a Code Blue as she had swallowed some fluid. I stood beside Carol’s bed in the delivery room holding her hand and praying as they worked on our first-born just a few feet to the left. To hear that first scream trumpeting from her lungs was an answer to prayer and reason for praise.

We’ve lost friends that have gone on to Glory, walked the final days of life with several of them, and cried the tears of heartache. We’ve also said goodbye to so many people because of relocation from one place of ministry to the next. The toughest part of ministry is leaving, knowing that the people whose lives have been intertwined with yours for so long will no longer be those that you walk with. We moved from the certainty of what was to the uncertainty of what is to come. 

Carol and I have journeyed together for so long that we know the story that is about to be shared by one of us without even a clue as to what is about to be said. We know our tendencies and our bad habits- my desire for Starbucks coffee in the morning and her Diet Coke from Kum and Go, with a few ounces of regular Coke mixed into it; my snore and her punch in my side; her desire for something sweet while I like something salty. 

When we exited that church sanctuary 39 years ago we didn’t know the valleys we would have to cross or the exhilaration of the mountains we climbed. We weren’t thinking about 39 years when we galloped down the aisle. I wasn’t thinking about much at all except what was to come later on that night! 

It has been 39 years where we’ve trusted in the Lord, but, quite frankly, at other times we haven’t trusted in the Lord. The grace of God has been a dominant part of our journey.

And we love each other more today than every before. Thank you, Lord!