Archive for the ‘Parenting’ category

The Grandparents’ Farm

July 19, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       July 19, 2019

 

I have great memories of spending summer weeks at my Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s farm In Staffordsville, Kentucky. Staffordsville was not a town, but more like a post office with a store next to it. Since no one knows where Staffordsville is I’ll say that it’s close to Oil Springs. 

I’m sure that clears things up for you.

The Helton farm had front porch swings, another back porch swing, a smoke house, coal house, chicken coop, pig pen…and a creek that ran between them, a barn with a hay loft, well water that we’d lower a bucket down into for a drink that was cold and sweet-tasting, trails up into the woods, countless barn cats, gardens and pastures, and fresh air and farm smells.

It was a kid’s playground. There was no need to have anything that had the sole purpose of entertaining children. We made our own entertainment, mimicking the livestock and pretending the porch swing was an airplane about to take off. 

Mamaw Helton cooked a breakfast every morning that Cracker Barrel tries to recreate: fried eggs, bacon, sausage, homemade biscuits right out of the oven, potatoes, and fried apples. My Papaw would drink buttermilk…yuck!

But things change!

            Mamaw passed away first and Papaw remarried “the widow lady from down the road.” Several years later he and the “widow lady” passed as well and the farm was sold to someone who didn’t have the same appreciation for its memories, traditions, and importance in our lives. 

Last week my sister, brother-in-law, and I were traveling back from having lunch with my brother and his family in Frankfort, Kentucky. Our plan was to travel back to southern Ohio by a route that would allow us to stop at the cemetery where my parents have been laid to rest. My Mamaw and Papaw are buried there, also, as are several other relatives. The cemetery is close to the Helton farm, so our plan was to do a drive-by. 

However, we missed the turn that would take us past the Staffordsville post office and then the farm. My sister looked at me and asked if we should backtrack to find it and I said no.

It was a sad “no”, filled with disappointment and lost laughter of the past. I had driven by it a year before and she had seen it several times. Each of us knew of its reverse renovation. That is, whoever lives there now isn’t concerned about curb appeal and cleanliness. It has slid down the slope towards trashed. The front porch swings are long gone. In fact, the yard and porch are so cluttered it’s hard to tell where the front wall of the house begins. Weeds have been welcomed and have taken over the chicken coop and pig pen. 

No longer does it give an appearance of being inviting. It resembles more a scene out of a Halloween horror movie.

And so we did not feel the need, dare I say, or have any desire to drive past what was significant in our past and see what it has transformed into being.

It’s one of the downsides of growing older that often gets forgotten. We focus on aging joints and more prescription bottles in the cabinet, what gives us constipation and heartburn. We have discussions on taxes and Social Security, doctor appointments and AARP. To see the deterioration of our childhood places wounds us deeply. There’s the grief of losing someone close to us, but there is also a different flavor of grief where we lose what we’ve known, the place that has helped shape who we have become.

Things change, often for the better, but sometimes they change in ways that couldn’t possibly be any worse.

“I Don’t Like Faith!”

July 16, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  July 16, 2019

            “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’…” (Matthew 17:20-21, NIV)

Last Sunday I was speaking at First Baptist Church in Simla, Colorado…or, as I refer to the folks of the small congregation, the Saints of Simla. As is my custom, I also do a children’s story that goes along with the sermon theme of the day.

I asked one of the older kids to define the word faith. He gave a great answer, saying that faith is “believing in someone to the point that you trust him with your life.”

Awesome answer.

I asked a five year old boy if he would help me illustrate what faith looks like. He stood beside me and I explained that I was going to ask him to close his eyes and fall backwards. I assured him that I would catch him as he was falling. All he had to do was have faith that I would be true to my promise.

Instead of closing his eyes he brought his hands up and covered his eyes with them. Once again, I assured him that I would catch him. He seemed to be a little unsure of this.

Maybe someone had told him about my experience in the seminary class called Ministerial Duties where we practiced and performed baptisms on our fellow students. (Yes, we did!) Bonnie Bell was my baptizing partner and when we practiced without the water she had been reluctant to trust that I could catch her as she leaned backwards. I said, “Bonnie, trust me.” And she did…and I dropped her like a lead balloon on to the floor. 

This boy, however, only weighs about 40 pounds, so I said to him, “Trust me.” I counted to three.

“One, two, three.”

On three instead of falling backwards he just sat down on the floor. No fall, no faith, a lack of belief that Pastor Bill could do what he said he would do. 

It was too scary for him, and when I asked him why he didn’t fall backwards he looked me in the eye with concern on his face and replied, “I don’t like faith.”

Classic!

I worked those words into my sermon that morning with the adults, because the words of the five year old echo in our hearts. There are enormous areas and situations in our lives where we don’t like faith. Faith is risky. It demands a plunge into the unseen that, once begun, can’t be halted…so we don’t like to even begin to lean. 

Churches are like that, also. They adopt a budget that gets referred to as their “financial faith vision”, and then a  number begin grousing about how unreasonable it is. 

I recently connected with an old college friend, who had also been one of the groomsmen in my wedding. Randy was diagnosed with a serious illness a number of years ago that weakens the heart muscle. He had to step out of his middle school teaching position because of it. He has doctor visits and checkups, but he credits the progress in his health to the power of prayer and the healing of Jesus. It’s his picture of “falling backwards and leaning into faith.”

“I don’t like faith.”

I said to the little boy, who looked at me with fear in his eyes, “It’s okay. Most of us have a hard time with it, too.”

Laughers, Lamenters, and Losers

July 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  July 13, 2019

                        

I was telling my sister a story from my middle school substitute teaching experiences of this past year. It probably was the one where a seventh grade boy tried to hide in the library and play video games on his cell phone. 

She laughed and said, “Oh, Bill, you make me laugh every time you come to visit us!” 

Shortly after that we drove past a section of run-down houses and properties along the banks of the Ohio River that made us shake our heads and I said, “I’ve come to realize that there are those people in life who make you laugh, those you make cry, and those who just make you shake your head.”

Laughers, lamenters, and losers.

I’m in the laughing category. I had enough lamenting during my 36 years as a Baptist pastor. There was plenty a Sunday where someone who looked like they had been sucking on lemons before they arrived at church, continued siphoning the joy out of the congregation. When I retired…kinda’…at the end of 2015 laughter moved back in with me. 

Being a coach and a substitute teacher with middle schoolers brings multitudes of laughter into my life. 

Like the kid who decided he wanted to sit under his desk one morning as school was beginning. My advice to sit IN his seat went unheeded and so he found himself in the principal’s office before we had even said the pledge of allegiance.

Or the young lady who noticed that I was giving nicknames to several other students and she wanted one. So I named her “Beano”, which was just a slight variation from her real name. I heard her grumble to her friend, “Oh, great! He gives me a nickname that deals with farting.” The next year I changed it, after discovering what a great young lady she was and her level of intelligence. She became “Braino”. She liked that better.

I love to laugh. In most situations of life (Notice I said most!) I can find an avenue towards laughter.

Lamenters are those who have endured the traumas and trials of life and you feel for them. Long illnesses, tragedies, unfair circumstances, heartaches…the list of life events leaves the listener saddened and empathetic. 

There are some lamenters who feel almost at home in the residence of drama. They wear the moments like a dark sweater that fits well. 

Lamenters sap our energy. We hurt for them, try to walk with them, and offer encouraging words to them. 

My dad was a laugher and my mom was a lamenter. Through 65 years of marriage he encouraged her and walked with her. He loved her dearly and they were about as devoted to one another as a couple can possibly be. 

Lamenters aren’t bad people. They tend to simply be more pessimistic. Laughers are, more often than not, optimists.

But then there are the losers! That is, those people who just make you shake your head. They are the ones who after hearing what they did, you mutter to yourself, “What was he thinking?” They are folk who overslept the day common sense was being distributed, and tend to think that the solution to their financial debts is just one more lottery ticket away. 

Like the man in Oregon who burglarized a house, along with his cat. (Does that make his cat a “cat burglar”?) He was caught INSIDE the walls of the home. He had eaten two and a half cupcakes that were in the refrigerator, and had put on a “onesie” that belonged to the woman who lived in the house. The cat was wearing a tee shirt. It’s a story that you read and you just shake your head…”what was he thinking?” 

Laughers, lamenters, and losers, that pretty much sums up people. I suppose I could have come up with a few other “L’s” for categories like “Lame”, “Laid Back”, and “Leave Me Alone!”, but I’ll just LEAVE it at that!

Signs of Age and Age Distractions

July 6, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 6, 2019

                            

Every day one of our local TV stations has a paid 30 minute program where an auditorium full of smiling women listen to a presentation about beauty products and wonder creams. One of the products miraculously makes wrinkles disappear. 

We love to stay looking young…even when we aren’t really even close to be young. There are, however, certain signs of a person’s advancing age that can not be solved with facial creams and hair pieces.

For me, I am horrified by the bushels of hair that grow like weeds out of my ears and nostrils. I trim them, but they’re like dandelions; pull one and two more sprout up!  I can’t hide it. My dad didn’t have that problem. Of course, he had several rounds of radiation for skin cancers on his ears, so he had about half of his ear lobes missing.

Another sign of advancing age that is my giveaway happens when I sit down or stand up. The “moan and groan” audible sounds occur without fail. I’ll be kneeling in front of my basketball team’s bench and an intense battle is happening on the court. I go to stand up to argue a call and the first sound out of my mouth is “Ohhhh” in a pained core of way! The official sympathizes with my plight.

I’ll go to sit down in my seat on the plane and the same sound accompanies my connection with the seat. I don’t remember making those sounds ten years ago.

I know what you’re thinking. Not remembering things is also a sign! I may not remember, but I’m perceptive enough to figure out where you were going with that thought. 

You may be right, however, in your connecting memory with age. A couple of days ago I was talking to someone about the Big Red Machine of the mid-70’s. I can remember the potent lineup of that baseball team…Bench, Perez, Morgan, Concepcion…but I couldn’t remember the new password I chose two days ago for a certain web site. What’s up with that?

This may be too much information, but my morning trips to the bathroom are also a sign of my times. In fact…I’ve got to pause for a moment right here and…

I’m back! Last week I was playing basketball with some thirty-somethings and I did a cross-over dribble with the intent of heading to the basket. The young man guarding me, who is not that quick, easily blocked my way and then when I did a step-back to shoot he swatted my shot away. He’s maybe 5’11”! It was a sign that any illusions I might have had about still being quick were squashed and stomped upon. (To my credit, I did score on him a minute later with a left-handed half-hook shot! Boom, Baby!)

On the other side of the age indicator fence, I’ve learned how to fake it to make people think I’m kinda’ cool and young. Mainly, if the subject being talked about is totally foreign to me I’ve learned how to nod and make other facial expressions that cause me to look knowledgeable. For instance, I am totally clueless about Fortnite. My four year old granddaughter knows more about it and she’s never played or seen it! But I can make people think I am a Fortnite pro without saying a word. I just need to make faces that give a glimmer of intelligence. It’s an age distraction!

I’d better close now because it’s getting close to the time for another of my age signs…my afternoon nap! It’s what I look forward to shortly after I arise in the morning!

Like…and Other Annoying Words

July 5, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      July 5, 2019

                              

Maybe I’m getting crotchety in my advancing age! Maybe, just maybe, I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by certain things.

It’s like this…I get tired of the word “like”! It…like…gets used too much! I grind my teeth when the word “was” is placed in front of it. “I was like, I’m not sure I can like do that this week, like I don’t know if it will work out.”

Reality TV shows…like…”Teen Mom” have destroyed the easy flow of conversational language. They use “like” more often in 30 minutes than a lifetime of Facebook “likes” for my blogs. 

Two nights ago I was at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game. My sister had purchased tickets that were…like, really, really great seats. Two women sitting in the row behind my brother-in-law talked non-talk in steady streams of meaningless dialogue punctuated frequently with “like”. My brother-in-law thought he was being afflicted with an audio episode of “Days of Our Lives.” He was…like, I can’t stand it!

“Like” gets used as filler space to complete useless information or incomplete sentences. Mrs. Blauvelt, my 7th Grade English teacher back in Williamstown, West Virginia, would have had a hissy fit if we had used “like” back in those more grammatically correct times. She may have “sentenced” us to diagram the sentence, or lack of sentence, we just said. Sentence diagrams were Satan’s tool to make us despise Language Arts!

The two women sitting behind my brother-in-law would have needed three pages of notebook paper to complete one sentence. Both of them seemed to be reluctant to bring a period into the conversation. If the game had gone extra innings my brother-in-law might have gone…like, ballistic on them!

There are other annoying words…like “Gucci”, “extra”, and “adult” that come out in the dialogue of young folk to confuse and isolate old people like me. On those I just shake my head like I know what they’re talking about, and try to make my escape.

I’m annoyed also by folk who can’t complete a sentence without inserting an expletive. Someone who says “I was like” and then transitions immediately to an expletive, I can’t handle. I mean, like, learn how to talk like Mrs. Blauvelt is your teacher!

Like’s reputation has been tarnished by how carelessly it now gets thrown around. It needs to regain its proper place in the English language. We need to return to the days when it was used in statements such as these: “Joan likes you. She wants to know if you like her?” “I like how that outfit looks on you!” “I would like to stay for dinner, if it’s okay?” Each of those statements would bring a smile to Mrs. Blauvelt’s face…and would be easily diagrammed.

In her eyes that would be extra Gucci sic!

Bathroom Humor

July 2, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      July 2, 2019

                                       

I’m not sure when it became okay, because it was never quite okay with my mom. She was kinda’ proper and well-mannered. I say kinda’ because I can still see her looking my dad in the eye and saying, “Kiss me, slobber lips! I can swim!” 

So for me to be comfortable with bathroom humor must have happened away from our home. It may have started in high school while I was hanging out with my friends Dave Hughes and Mike Fairchild. For some reason belching and farting became normal and welcomed. All of us coming from families where such actions were shunned, perhaps we felt freed when we were together to live on the wild side and exercise the fine art of the fart. 

It could have also started as a result of using the outhouse at my grandparents’ farm in Oil Springs, Kentucky. Long before there were port-a-johns there were outhouses. My grandparents’ outhouse was balanced precariously beside the creek that flowed behind their house. No one went swimming in that creek!

So by the time I got to college I had been well-versed in bathroom humor. Bill Schultz at Judson College was known for playing “Bombardier” while he stood on his toilet. Your mind can probably figure out the reason for the name!

Artie Powers used to come into the restroom where I was “sitting”, take paper towels, get them wet, and then throw them over the partition into the stall I was occupying. There was more than one time where he had a direct hit on me, leaving a nice big wet spot on my shirt or pants.

We started creating a new kind of language to fit the crime…er, humor. “SBD’s” stood for “Silent But Deadly”. There were certain people that disguised themselves as conversationalists, but were just biding their time before infecting the scene. We categorized various types of flatulence like the “Squeaker”, “The Blow-out”, “The Great Escape”, “Time Released Capsule”, “Eighth Wonder”, and “Rhythm and Blues”. Marc Didier was known for his “Blue Flame” performed for the Sunday evening restaurant crew at the Ramada Inn across the street from the Judson College campus. All of us who worked there on Sunday nights were college classmates. We were awed by his “talent”!

Bathroom humor is a gift from God. There, I said it! It breaks the stiffness of overly-rigid religious people who seem to believe that Jesus never smiled, laughed, or ate beans. It’s not a part of our fallen nature, but rather a sign of how God created our physical bodies to properly function. Guys I’ve been in bible studies with, on mission teams with, prayed with, and been in deep spiritual conversations with I’ve also laughed with uncontrollably because of a category of bathroom humor. 

My oldest daughter, who teaches third graders, lets her students know at the beginning of the year that flatulence is a natural part of what we do. There are giggles that ripple across the classroom, but it calms the nerves of her new students and their anxiety about their new teacher.

My friend, Ron McKinney, another teacher, has mastered the SBD around me. I always try to stay upwind from him. When he seems to be trying to extend a conversation while standing close to me it’s a sign that the air raid siren is sounding. One year he abstained from eating meat during Lent. The increase consumption of bean dishes made him a potent weapon until the resurrection of Jesus. 

If you asked my family who the best belcher is our youngest daughter, Lizi, would be the unanimous selection. She is amazing in her deep burping proclamation voice. It’s her gift! Our family has come to expect to be amused by it.

Some might read this and frown at the uncouthness of it. BUT (one ’t’) my guess is that most people will smile and chuckle…and maybe wonder exactly what Marc Didier’s “Blue Flame” was?

How Am I Still Alive?

June 26, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 26, 2019

                                

There are numerous reasons as to why I should no longer be alive. They mostly fall into two categories: 1) Stupid Acts and 2) The Times We Lived In. I suppose I could do a third category, kind of a hybrid…”The Times We Lived In and The Things We Didn’t Realize Were Stupid!”

You be the judge. For instance, when we were growing up, and before kids were strapped into seatbelts, we roamed the back section of our family car freely. There were always the siblings’ squawks about my brother, Charlie, touching my sister, Rena, or me. Being the oldest, Charlie felt he had the right to antagonize us. 

To make more room in the back seat I’d sometimes lay down on that console under the back window, you know the area where the box of Kleenex would be set. It was nice and warm back there and on my family’s perilous road trips from Winchester to Paintsville, Kentucky, I’d take rear window naps. If, during one of the numerous curves in the road, my dad had collided with another vehicle I would have been a dead goose…a “flying through the front window” dead goose. 

Imagine if a law enforcement officer saw a kid laying in the back window nowadays as the Buick went down the road!

Yes, we gambled encounters with Death and came out without a road scratch.

And then there was the fog machine in Williamstown, West Virginia, that rumbled through town each evening in the summertime. Williamstown, being situated on the banks of the Ohio River, had its healthy share of mosquitoes that sought to take over the town. The fog machine pumped out some kind of pesticide fog to do battle with them. And what did we do as kids? We heard the fog machine coming and we’d run along behind it, inhaling the smoke and staying within the fog as long as we could. 

That couldn’t have been good for us!

We didn’t know that we shouldn’t have been doing those things, staying warm in the back window and breathing in toxins. We were just doing normal!

And then there was my personal encounters with stupidity! Like when I was experimenting with my brother’s chemistry set, mixed a couple of chemicals together, and decided to drink the mixture! I don’t know what it was I drank. I remember that it tasted bitter, like my mom’s perfume…not that I tasted her perfume, but I remember that being the thought that came into my mind. 

I was into experimenting. Like when I did an experiment with a facial tissue. I wanted to see how quickly it would burn, so I lit it with a match. 

Experiment Conclusion: A facial tissue will burn very quickly.

Teachable Moment: When setting a facial tissue on fire make sure you are a safe distance away from the kitchen curtains!

I was lucky enough to not set the whole house on fire, but unlucky enough to leave scorch marks on the curtains in the kitchen…right next to the table where we ate dinner. My parents were suspicious of the pile of books that suddenly had been stacked in front of the curtains that night. Busted!

And then there was the time I tried to light firecrackers in a pill bottle and put the cap on before it went off. The firecrackers I used were the next level up in potential danger, but I thought it would be cool to see want would happen. 

Well, what happened is that I was not quick enough to get the cap back on and it exploded in my hand. I can still remember the stinging sensation in my fingers and the ringing in my ears. Stupidity had made a special visit to me and exploded before leaving.

And I survived! 

When you think about it, it’s a miracle that any of us survived! We all did stupid things, stuffed ourselves (and still do) with processed food, and acted the fool! We thought “organic” had something to do with playing the church organ, Caster Oil was the cure for everything, and the more Coppertone you lathered on your skin to bake in the midst of a hot sunny summer afternoon the better. The browner we were the more awesome we thought we were!

How are we still alive? There’s only one reason, and that is so that we can tell the younger generations to not do the stupid things that we did!