Archive for the ‘Humor’ category

Am I Too Nice?

November 29, 2020

Carol and I went through the drive-thru lane of Culver’s recently for some pick-and-go-home dinner. I ordered at the brightly lit marquee and said thank you to the voice that repeated my order back to me. I pulled ahead, waiting for the two cars in front of me to pay before offering the next young lady my payment.

She thanked me for dining with them that night, took my cash, and I said a heartfelt thanks back to her. We moved to the next spot where we waited for another employee to bring our carry-out bag of food to the car. When a young man hustled to us carrying our dinner I thanked him before driving off. Then I turned to Carol and asked, “Am I too nice?”

“No, dear. You’re fine!”

“Carol, sometimes I wonder if I’m just too nice. I said thank you three different times, once to someone I couldn’t even see.”

“You’re polite, Bill.”

“It’s how my dad was. I can’t help it! If someone opens a door for me, I have to say thank you. Sometimes I think I should be…I don’t know…less nice. Nice-less, if you will!”

She let me voice my questions. Since it was dark inside our vehicle as we drove home, I couldn’t tell if she was rolling her eyes or not. After all, she’s very…nice to me!

I realize I probably get taken advantage of sometimes because I’m too nice, like when one of my students turns in an assignment two weeks late. I need to develop a crotchety attitude about that time. A teaching friend of mine made two of his students cry when he scolded them about how they had treated the substitute teacher for his class…me! I can’t remember the last time I made a student’s knees shake with repentant fear.

I was even too nice during parent-teacher conferences about six weeks ago. Instead of telling a parent that their perfect child made me grind my teeth and break out in a rash, I’d talk about their “unrealized potential” and my confidence that he/she was going to wow us in the coming weeks of school. Listen! If a teacher talks about your child’s unrealized potential it’s a hint that he’s driving them crazy, but they’re too nice to say so!

Like I said earlier, my dad was nice. He was polite and gentlemanly, treated everyone with respect, and sought to serve my mom for 65 years, even the last few years of her life when she wasn’t able to get around and then became bedridden. He modeled niceness for me. I’m cut from the prime!

I realize that most of my friends are also nice. Cranky people make me constipated. If someone can’t see the humor in life my niceness is not going to change them. So I hold the door open for little old ladies with canes heading into the doctor’s office, make my Starbucks baristas smile with comments about how awesome they are and a thank you as I leave with my Pike Place, and yield at the four-way stop for any car that is even remotely close to having arrived at the same time that I did.

Niceness. I guess it’s a curse and a blessing! Come to think of it, it may be the reason why Carol married me. All these years I’ve been thinking it was because of my nice looks and chiseled 120-pound frame (when we got married, mind you!), and now I’m wondering if maybe it was just because I was nice!

Smile, Students!

November 24, 2020

Since I’m a fill-in teacher this year, kinda a fake instructor, I do some things that are a little bizarre and lacking in academic seriousness. Like last week when I started adding stuffed animals to flank the Cabbage Patch doll that was neatly arranged at the desk close to my classroom desk. I refer to the troupe as my fill-in students, since in-person students won’t be in the classroom until January.

On my back wall I had the word “Laugh” for a couple of weeks, the letters formed by Far Side cartoons. Last week I rearranged the letters, inserted some new Far Sides, and spelled out “SMILE”. Unfortunately, our school went to remote learning before my students had a chance to see it, but I’ll keep it pinned to the wall until they come back.

It’s difficult for them to smile much these days, being partially in class and partially virtual until now, and now they are totally remote. My teaching teammates and I started doing virtual lunches with them to help keep the connection. As they sit and eat their PB&J, they can log into one of our communication channels and converse with other classmates and teachers. It’s like an online cafeteria.

I want them to know that it’s okay to say they aren’t okay, to say they don’t enjoy this distant educational experience. If, in the midst of that, I can bring a smile or a chuckle I’ll have led them toward a moment of normalcy. If I can make comments about their on-screen backdrop or mention that they’re looking awesome that day, perhaps they will let their defenses and reservations down for a few moments.

This year education is more about instilling a calmness in the midst of the pandemic storm. It’s about getting these adolescents to trust in the belief that it’s going to turn out okay.

It’s getting them to rediscover their ability to smile.

The Popularity of Extremists

November 22, 2020

They make me cringe and want to floss my teeth for no apparent reason. The extremist views of the right and the left are…well, extreme!

And popular! Not popular, because mega-number of people agree with them, but they attract attention because they are so “out there”. They are the political versions of The Real Housewives of Wherever, another cultural favorite that makes me run for the bathroom cabinet.

Being a moderate, I have to shake my head and go for a walk. And yet, as I think about it, extreme views and personalities are apparent in most areas and arenas of our world. Football players, and the whole offensive line, now make it an end zone production after a touchdown is scored. It seems like no one now scores and simply hands the football to the nearest official. Broadway has to make a showing. Speaking of Broadway, that brings back the memory of Joe Namath from the 60s and 70s, the quarterback whose nickname was Broadway Joe.

Even religion goes for the extremes, from Benny Hinn smacking people in the forehead to extreme conservative churches that frown on smiling.

In politics we’ve had the Moral Majority and the Tea Party and, on the other side, there’s the Progressive “Pack” and “The View”.

The thing is…those of us in the middle are very uncomfortable with the extreme views in just about any area. We don’t frequent marijuana dispensaries and we’re likely to have a beer in our refrigerator. Our sense of what is right is more resembling of a Norman Rockwell painting than a protest march. We don’t believe everything should be free and that work is not a four-letter word (although it has four letters).

We don’t attract a lot of attention and don’t garner the kind of Nielsen ratings that make us appealing. We’re more comfortable with farmers and the town square barber than we are with techies and fashion statements. We understand how blessed we are to be Americans, but also are willing to help those in other parts of the world who need food.

We drive Hondas and Chevys at reasonable speeds and reach for the floss as the red BMW speeds by us, weaving in between three lanes of moderates.

And we know that we’ll probably never be popular! We’ll just be average, or better yet, normal!

Redefining 7th Grade Deadlines

November 8, 2020

Since we’re living in a time when some seem comfortable in the rewriting of history, it makes sense that other parts of our culture are also being redefined.

Like at Starbucks this morning where my tall Pike Place coffee is really the small, or the email I’ve received for fifteen days that says “this is absolutely the last day for this mega-sale.”

Many of my seventh-grade language arts students have decided that the term “deadline” now has a new definition. In the middle school urban dictionary it is rendered like this:

Deadline: An estimate; a suggestion; in academia, the stated time when a student should begin thinking about working on the assignment; an approximation.

Last week- the third week of the new school quarter- I received five different assignments that were part of the first quarter. That is, they were part of the grade that had already been punched in…four weeks ago! Sorry, Charlie!

I’ll receive the glazed over looks again this coming week. “Answer the discussion question and submit it. I’ll give you the next five minutes to complete it.”

What some of the students hear: “Would you consider giving a response to this discussion question and, if it’s not too much of a bother, submit it in the next couple of weeks so that I might have the privilege of granting you a score?”

I must say this! There are plenty of students who are responsible, on-task, committed to the old definition of deadline, and in pursuit of excellence. They give me hope that my hair will not fall out in the midst of instructional agitation.

It’s interesting that the “deadline-redefines” become irritated if the school food service didn’t plan accurately and run out of chicken nuggets, or their video game doesn’t load quickly enough. So, they do show some reaction to slowness.

I’m wondering if in a few years when they become taxpayers if the IRS will understand that they might not get their tax returns completed by April 15? I’m envisioning their 2030 tax return being submitted in 2032…but only halfway done!

The Blessing of Moments

November 1, 2020

“So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” (James 1:16-17, The Message) 

A student in the special needs class at school sees me in the hallway and calls my name. I call back to him and we come together and touch elbows. I give him a “You look awesome, baby!” compliment and he grins so wide I can see all his of teeth.

I play peek-a-boo with our 1-year-old grandson, each peek punctuated with his smile and a dancing, wobbling, walking combo away from me.

I catch the last few moments of the Michigan State victory over Michigan and chuckle. One Green-and-White man’s blessing is another maize-and-blue’s curse!

I walk by Ralph’s house, our 84-year-old neighbor up the street on the corner. We talk about what is and what was, and bring laughter to each other.

They are the moments of life that too often never get considered as the blessings, special seconds that fill in the gaps as we move from one obligation to another. We have this habit of equating blessings with significance in size…promotions, prizes, and prestige. The blessing of a greeting or a peek-a-boo moment gets skipped over as we focus on the headline events of our lives.

The uncertainty of our times makes our sightings of the blessed moments even more important. They are the scattered glitter in a fabric of shadows. See them as you travel through each day…the missing front tooth in the grandkid’s smile, the Far Side cartoon that you’ve chuckled at a dozen times already, the young child who stops in front of your house and salutes the flag that flies from your front porch. Look for the moments that bring melody to your life. 

Here’s the thing! When I realize how numerous my blessings in the moments are I’m overwhelmed by…by…I guess I could simply say, my blessedness!

Saying Please to God

October 25, 2020

A dear friend of mine was telling a story to children at church on a Sunday morning. The point he was striving to make was that we don’t always get what we pray for because God knows what we need. My friend had talked about how he had prayed for a red Corvette, but never received the answer to his prayer.

As often happens with Sunday morning children’s stories, his tale of past personal episodes was slightly derailed by the side point of a six-year-old boy who felt led to explain the error of my friend’s ways. To six-year-olds the solution often seems as obvious as the nose on your face. He tried to soften the harshness of the answer with the gentler word “maybe” as the beginning of his counseling advice.

“Maybe you should have said please!”

Red Corvettes are just a “please” away. There’s a simplicity in a please, and yet if the granting of our prayer concerns was dependent upon our politeness in the words of our prayer our streets might be backed up with red Corvettes and other speed-driven vehicles. No one uttered a prayer with a please and asked for a Yugo (the car that was made in Yugoslavia and resembled Fred Flintstone’s stone-age vehicle).

Perhaps reverence in our conversations with God would connect the depth and intimacy of our prayers more. A prayer request, in some ways, should seem more than asking if the dinner bowl of mashed potatoes would be passed…please! And yet, in other ways, it should be similar to that in the naturalness of the relationship.

God, our Father, desires to hear the longings and aching of our heart. He’s okay with a please attached to it, but is touched by the pleas.

All of us have our wants that we think will bring completeness to our lives, but some of those wants dilute our desire to connect with the Giver. There are times when God gives us something that we didn’t even ask for- no please even required!- but don’t be expecting a red Corvette to roll into your driveway!

I Survived Parent-Teacher Conferences

October 23, 2020

Call me weird, but I was kinda looking forward to them. “Them” would be my first parent-teacher conferences…as one of the teachers. I had always been on the other side of the table, hearing how one of our kids was killing it…or getting killed by it: multiplication tables, biology labs, and Spanish tests.

And now I was on the other side of the virtual table, staring at thirtysomethings and a few in their forties. Would they attack my other three teaching teammates (science, social studies, and math) and me (language arts)? Would they be searching for hope in the midst of the lostness? Would it seem like they were our teammates in arriving at some solutions to their son/daughter’s academic struggles? I went into the day and a half of 20-minute get-togethers wondering. Comparing the events to an amusement park, would some of the conferences seem like a ride on the park train, chugging along at a relaxed pace and enjoying the moment, or would it like the merry-go-round going around in circles and never getting there, or the out-of-control roller coaster that caused screaming and the nauseation?

Twenty-six virtual conferences that we didn’t have to pay admission to ride! Truth be told, the worst thing about the experience was the amount of time we spent staring at our computer screens. This morning I’ve got a bit of a headache from the strain, but I’m sitting on my stool in Starbucks sipping my second cup of Pike Place and pondering the possibilities of a three-day weekend.

For the vast majority of conference attenders, there was an openness to hearing what we had to offer and suggest. They quickly perceived that our role was not to unload a torrent of complaints about their almost-teenagers. In fact, some of them were surprised that we were more interested in how they, the parents, and their children were doing in the midst of our hybrid learning structure than we were in talking about the letter grades of the students.

The pandemic has created struggles dressed in different outfits. Some students who have achieved straight A’s have struggled with the absence of school friends who they are socially separated from. Other kids who are not doing well academically have seemed more comfortable in the smaller class sizes and three days online. Students with family drama have sought words of encouragement from the teachers, and those who have always struggled to grasp concepts and ideas are looking to their instructors for a hand to keep them from drowning in the lack of in-person assistance.

I was proud of my three teaching teammates. We were all on the same page, shepherds herding our students toward safer pastures of understanding and conveying demeanors of calmness and our confidence in the abilities of our students.

We’re looking forward to Monday and the continuation of our journey on this new educational frontier.

Dear Mr. Wolfe

October 18, 2020

Dear Mr. Wolfe,

I hope you are having a very good day. I am not. I no I haven’t turned n mini of my laguage arts a sign mints, but there are mini raisins four that.

First of all, I have you’re class in the afternoon and my lap top is tired by then. My friend told me that I jest need to have my lap top take a nap. It’s kinda a “lap nap”! Ha, ha!

My freind is really smart and whys so I have been pudding my new lap top on the couch for arrest. Sad to say, but lap nap comes during laguage arts class. So lotta a sign mints don’t get done. My freind says you have to do that with new lap tops cause they are like babies that need to rest.

That is why my 16 a sign mints are missing.

You’ve probbly note ussed that I only am missing 5 of the a sign mints that I’ve done when I am there in purson. That’s not mini and is proof that I am tailing you the truth.

I wood do these a sign mints at night, but I have mini odder things to do, like math problimbs and scince xpair a mints.

You are a great teacher and sense my lap top will be older in the next quater I’m sure that I will be able to do badder!

Since surly,

Billy Bob Bricker

Dear Billy Bob,

Thanks for sending me the note to explain your mini a sign mints. I understand your dilemma with “lap naps”. Let me suggest you put your lap top to bed earlier the night before, just as parents with a newborn would do.

And for the coming quarter I have an easy remedy for your situation. When you are in my classroom next Tuesday I will have a package of notebook paper and a box of pencils especially for you. Your name will be on it. This way you can do the a sign mints while your lap top is resting and turn them in to me “hard copy” the next time you are in class. It will also give you a chance to practice your penmanship! An added bonus! It may take a little longer than actually doing the work on your lap top, but I know how necessary naps are!

That is the solution to your dilemma. I’ll be happy and you’ll be “full” of Language Arts. Have a great day! I know I will!

Sincerely,

Mr. Wolfe

Being Coach Wolfe

October 17, 2020

A teacher, and friend of mine, told me a story last week that brought an ongoing chuckle to my soul. His daughter is a sixth-grader at Timberview Middle School and run cross country this fall- a sport that I head up for the school.

Timberview’s mascot is a timberwolf…the Timberview Timberwolves. Yes, and I’m Coach Wolfe of the Timberwolves!

One day the confused sixth-grader revealed her mental ponderings to her dad and asked the question.

“Why is he called Coach Wolfe?”

It brought a moment of Jeopardy music hesitation to her dad and he realized the roots of her question.

“Well, because that’s his name.”

“It is?” she replied, eyebrows raising. “His name is Coach Wolfe?”

“Yes, dear. That’s his name.”

Yesterday, my 7th Grade Language Arts class met in the school library for each of its sessions. The sixth-grader was also at another table in the library doing her classwork. I noticed that she kept looking at me. I’m not sure if she was trying to discern if there were pointy ears underneath my graying hair and fangs inside my mouth. Perhaps the Little Red Riding Hood story was coming back to her, as I drew each group of seventh-graders into my den.

Names are sometimes puzzling. What may dumbfound her even more is when another teacher from the school goes by me who greets me with a cheerful “Wolfie”, and I return the greeting by saying her married last name.

“Fish!”

Truth be told, some days it feels kind of like a zoo!

There IS A Free Lunch! Just Kidding!

September 26, 2020

This past week my mailbox was filled with the usual assortment of political pleas and warnings to increase the fear factor of what will happen if either major political party gets elected.

BUT I also received an envelope that looked like it had a check inside. I tore into the of it to see what I might have won or been gifted with.

Sure enough! Inside there was a check that said in bold letters “Pay to the order of William Wolfe“, and underneath my name was the amount of “Eighty-Four Thousand and 00/100”. It was even written out like us old folks used to do back in the day when we used paper checks with actual ink.

“Must be my lucky day,” I whispered to myself. But then I noticed the other side of the check where it informed me that I was pre-approved for that amount from some bank or company in California.

And then this declaration in even larger and bolder letters than the amount of the fake check.

William, pay nothing until 2050!

Wait a minute! I’ll be 96 years old in 2050…if I’m still alive. So…I guess there is a free $84,000 lunch to be enjoyed. You know that’s not true! Further reading of the fine print revealed that it was a letter from a reverse mortgage company, but the bold print said things like this: Lock in $0 monthly payments, permanently! and Relax with maximum flexibility.

I’m sure the plan works well for some people, but, in essence, it meant that my kids and grandkids would be affected. Instead of the equity from the sale of our home benefitting them after we pass on, the letter was saying to use the equity now in paying for present expenses and excursions.

I read it as another way to pass the buck or, in this case, diminish the benefits for the next generations of Wolfes. Perhaps I’m erroring in my judgment, but it seems that the circumstances of our lives and the consequences of our decisions seem to be sealed in an envelope and mailed down the road for the next few decades. I realize that there are situations where “stuff” happens…sicknesses, lost employment, failed businesses, natural disasters that destroy homes…but there seems to be a growing number of people whose lives are void of pain and agony who are happy to kick the costly can down to some distant “D Day”.

We live in a time where there are those who need to be cared for but also those who don’t care about anyone else. The ripple effect of self-centered citizens shows up in the unwillingness to take responsibility for their near-sighted stupidity. It’s the procrastination of maturity for the thrill of a moment of self-absorption. Kind of like someone who keeps eating high-sugared drinks and candy, but never brushes his teeth. At some point his teeth will begin to show the lack of concern and the cost of his negligence will result in a lot of drilling as the cavities get filled.

So…I’m tearing up the fake $84,000 check and wishing for a good life for my family. AND I can only hope that our culture, likewise, will stop putting the responsibility for being responsible on those we are presently taking on a walk in their strollers.