Archive for the ‘Story’ category

First Day of Cross-Country Practice

August 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 14, 2018

                            

It was an optional practice day so the other coaches and I were a bit surprised that about 25 middle school students showed up for it. “I thought there would be four or five!” exclaimed Coach Barry.

But here they were! About 25 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders wondering what the next hour and a half would hold for them, their lungs, and their legs!

“I’m Coach Wolfe, and it’s great to see all of you here this afternoon!” 

Some smiled back at me.  Others looked down at the ground like they feared a sudden sinkhole would open up and swallow them down into the depths. One girl with shaking knees was hoping for a sinkhole!

A hand shot up. 

“Coach Wolfe, what will we be doing in our cross-country practices?”

“Well, let’s see! We’ll watch some Justin Bieber Youtube videos, have Fudgesicle eating contests, and finish each day with some tug-of-war competitions.”

He looked at me in disbelief.

“No, that’s a different sport I’m thinking of! In cross-country we’ll…RUN! We’ll run long, we’ll run fast, we’ll run easy and hard, up hills and down hills, on paths through the woods and sidewalks around the neighborhoods. We’ll run down to 7-11 and get Slurpies and to Boriello Brothers and get pizza…okay, strike the pizza idea! Basically, we’ll run in a variety of ways!

“Coach Wolfe!” This time the girl hoping for a sinkhole had her hand up.

“Yes.”

“How far will we run?”

“Some days further than others. Roughly three miles a day.” Her eyes opened as wide as the sinkholes she hoped for.

“Just three miles?” asked a new sixth grader. “I’ve been on a running team that competes in the nationals each year and we usually do six to seven miles a day.”

“Go for it! When we get done with our practice you can do a Forrest Gump and just keep running!”

A young man with blonde hair and a heavy dose of anxiety raised his hand halfway and looked at me.

“Yes, sir!”

“I just moved here from Texas. Do you think I’ll have a hard time with the altitude change?”

“Yes.”

“Oh!” he replied with a facial expression that resembled when the time his mom told him Santa Claus doesn’t ride in a sleigh.

“It will take you a while, but you’ll get used to it.”

“Thank you,” he said as he bit his lower lip.

“Each of you is at a different point than everybody else. Some of you have been running since you were about the size of a ladybug and others are brand new. Your coaches will seek to help each of you get better as a runner and also understand how to run. We’ll expect you to work hard, but we also want you to have fun!”

At the mention of having fun a few eyebrows went up, like I was saying that it was fun to go to the doctor and get a flu shot, or it was fun to wear underwear inside-out and backwards! 

But it will be fun! In fact, today…Day 2 and another optional practice before the first official practice on Wednesday…I’m getting popsicles for the end of practice. For a popsicle I bet the one young lady would even jump over a sinkhole! 

And I’ll high five each of them and joke with them and then send them all home thinking, “This is going to be awesome!”

Parents Following Directions

August 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             August 12, 2018

                                   

This past week I was doing laps around our middle school track. It was also a day when students were stopping by the school to check in and get their assigned locker. Most of them had a parent with them.

Our middle school is undergoing a construction project at the school entrance to provide a more secure environment. The work is not done yet, thus there were two construction indicators on the sidewalk leading up to the entrance. The first was a sign that informed parents and students that construction was being done on the entrance. It directed them to enter the building by the side entrance. The large arrow pointing the direction to the side entrance was visible at least twenty yards away.

The second indictor was a line of orange cones across the sidewalk. 

Each time I came around the track I saw the decision-making process taking place. First, a parent and their child, or children, would walk up the sidewalk to where the sign was located. They would then either turn and walk towards the side of the building…or walk past the sign and past the orange cones and proceed to the front entrance. 

A rough calculation of those I observed indicated that half followed directions and half didn’t! (One good thing about the experience is that it took my mind off the laps I ran!) 

Half followed directions and half did their own thing! And these were the parents!

Was there misunderstanding? Were the orange cones not bright enough? Was the arrow pointing towards the side entrance confusing? Was the sounds of the drill and the pounding of nails disorienting?

There may have been a few reasons why so many of them continued on the forbidden path. My cynical and critical nature tells me that some of them felt the sign didn’t apply to them. It was for those OTHER people! Kind of like those handicapped parking spots are okay to park in when no one is parking in them! Or that additional check-out line that just opened up  at the grocery store is meant for them even those six people are in front of them in the previous line! Or that person who believes he can speed by the waiting line of cars on the highway even though the road sign a mile back told him his lane was ending due to road construction!

There’s parental entitlement that is seeping through in various subtle ways. 

I know, I know…it’s only a door! Yes, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but my guess is that all of us have experienced every one of those situations I mentioned…and we gritted our teeth in frustration or dropped our mouthes open in disbelief. 

Perhaps Little Jimmy’s apple of attitude didn’t fall too far from the tree!

The Mystery of the Backyard Peaches

August 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 11, 2018

                          

It laid there in the grass, like it was trying to hide in the midst of all the apples that had fallen from the backyard apple tree. I caught sight of the out-of-place visitor and picked it up. 

What is a peach doing in our backyard? I muttered to myself. Was it getting too ripe to eat and so Carol had tried to toss it from our deck all the way to the compost spot in the back of the garden? She couldn’t have missed by that much!

We don’t have a peach tree. Our youngest daughter, Lizi, and her husband have two of them in their backyard, but we have zero. “Carol, did Lizi bring some of her peaches over?

“No!”

“Well, we had a peach in our backyard.”

“Really!”

Weird, we both thought!

And then it happened again the next day, and then again two days later. Whereas, the first two backyard peaches had a bite taken out of each of them the third peach was perfect- no bruises, no bites, no scars from being tossed from a long distance away.

We looked at each other with investigative expressions. I put my best Hercule Poirot face on. “Sacrebleu! This can not be! We have no peach tree, but we keep discovering peaches!” 

“Maybe a squirrel is bringing them to us!” Carol offered.

“It makes no sense!” I exclaimed with a Poirot Belgian accent in my tone. “Could it be that our apple tree is producing two types of fruit?”

“And that happens…often?” she asked in a way that sounded like she was wondering about my thought process.

“What other explanation could there be, my dear? I find it hard to believe that our youngest child is traveling over here at night, sneaking into our backyard, and planting a peach just to confuse us?”

“Probably not! Driving your parents mad does not seem to become her!”

“And I do not believe that one of our friendly resident rabbits is trying to pay us rent with a “prunus persica”!”

“Oh, good Lord! Have you been on Wikipedia again?”

“Yes, my darling! I’m trying to find out as much as I can about this unique type of fruit, 56% which is produced in China!”

“Nice to know, but it does not help us come any closer to solving the mystery.”

“What about the rabbits?”
“If you can find a rabbit that can carry a peach to our backyard without putting any teeth marks in it, we need to catch it and call “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not?”

“There must be some explanation, my dearest!”

“Perhaps we may never discover it.”

“What if I put some security cameras around our backyard and get some video footage. Then we might discover the answer to this tantalizing riddle!”

“You want to spend a few hundred dollars just to find out why three peaches landed in our lawn?”
“Is it not the quest of our curious natures to discover the answers to such mysteries?”

“I am content to read of mystery solutions in Agatha Christie novels.”

“But, my dear, how can this blog post end without a solution?”

“Easy. Just ask your readers to offer solutions to the puzzle of the peaches. Maybe one of them can lead you to the light bulb moment.”

“That would be peachy!”

“Ugh!”

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 Troubling of Sports Officials

August 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  August 8, 2018

                          

It’s a situation that basketball game assignors started dealing with a few years ago: too many games and not enough referees to cover them safely and effectively. So a trend started! Games on heavy volume days began to be rescheduled…or, in a few cases, officials had to cover three games in one day…often at two different locations. 

It was a warning sign that most wanted to pretend wasn’t happening; that the number of people officiating basketball games was gradually decreasing while the number of games being played gradually had been increasing. A few people saw the impending crisis, but most went on like there wasn’t any problem. After all, how do you fix the part of the basketball game that is best seen but not heard. That is, officials long to run up and down a court where the participants with numbered uniforms play the game fairly and under control, to the point where a whistle rarely needs to be blown.

I still remember a girl’s varsity game I officiated several years ago at St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs. St. Mary’s was hosting Trinidad. Two excellent coaches, George Dasko and Mike Burkett, led their teams. I can even remember my officiating partners for that game: Rachel Martinez and Kevin Kizewski. We rarely had to blow our whistles in a contest that was well-played and close the whole way. I remember that, even with the ten minute halftime and the uncertainty of the outcome down to the last few seconds, the contest was finished in an hour. 

Unfortunately, most basketball games are not like that! And that hints at the problem. It gives us an inkling of why the number of people willing to put on a striped shirt, run up and down a court with a whistle in their mouth, and have their intelligence questioned is slipping.

I’ve been on both sides of the sidelines, wearing a black and white striped shirt inside the lines and a shirt and tie on the other side of it. I’ve asked coaches to stay in their “box” (the designated area in front of their team bench that runs now from the baseline to the 28-foot line) and also been the one standing in the box.

Sixteen years as a basketball official and twenty plus years as a basketball coach. After the 2017 high school basketball season I decided to hang up the striped shirt. I made that decision for several reasons. 

The first two were quite simple; I wasn’t getting any younger, and I enjoyed coaching much more than officiating. Two good reasons…except for the acknowledgment of my advancing age as an AARP member!

The other reasons, however, were troubling. 

Parents! How do you fix parents, specially parents of young athletes? In the increasing of games that need to be covered, youth basketball games are like a locust storm. In helping out our game assignor in the covering of some of these games I had to deal with parents that were belligerent, unrealistic, and obnoxious. One mom, who I asked to relocate from underneath one of the baskets to the side of the court because of her language during a 5th-6th grade game, told me she had paid admission to get in. Since I heard her urge her son (I’m assuming it was her son!) to kill one of the opposing players I moved her and informed her that we weren’t going to start the game again until she relocated. She had lost perspective! She forgot that this was a game that was being played by young boys and it was for their enjoyment, not for her “revenge on life” attitude!

How do you fix parents? I tell the parents of the players I coach to keep perspective on what it is we’re about. If anything needs to be said to an official I’ll say it, not them. 

In saying that let me also say that most parents are great! They understand that having their child’s team beat the archival is a great moment, but not life-defining. Finding a cure for cancer would be life-defining for the discoverer and the people helped by it. Being a community peacekeeper would be life-defining. Walking with a family through struggles and heartaches would be life-defining. Most parents understand that and help their adolescent athletes develop a balanced view on life.

Here’s another reason! The blurring of authority. That is, the minimizing of the respect for the ones blowing the whistles. The disrespect comes from fans, coaches, and players. For every coach with integrity like Mike Burkett there’s a coach on the other side of the fence who sees the referees as the enemies. In recent years the number of assaults on referees has increased. A recent basketball game between two club teams ended with players from one of teams physically attacking the officials. Physical assaults happen just as much at contests between teams of younger-aged players as they do with high school teams.

In other words, those wearing the striped shirts have become the targets to aim at for frustrated players, coaches, and fans. People have forgotten what the purposes are for there to be people wearing the stripes. Perhaps it’s simply a smaller arena example of how authority has become blurred in our culture. 

Ask public school teachers if changes have occurred in regards to the respect of their authority during their teaching career! 

Ask coaches about the attitudes of their athletes. Even though the size of the ball has remained the same the way they coach their players has to now contend with some attitude warts.

The examples of the abuse of authority has contributed to the disdain of authority. 

As a coach I keep perspective on how things are. Last year I coached two middle school basketball teams and a freshman team. The officials we had were often new officials who still make the same boneheaded decisions that I made in my first few years of refereeing. So I would tell my players that new officials need to start someplace, and we’re the place they usually start…so it is what it is! Let me be the one to ask them questions! My players saw that I wasn’t contentious or abrasive, but rather that those wearing the striped shirts and I each had a role and a purpose and we, in most situations, tried to work together to be participants of a great athletic contest. 

After all, if there aren’t any people to wear the stripes and officiate the games who will do it? 

The parents?????

Is There Another Word?

August 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 7, 2018

                                  

Carol and I were watching a DVD movie last night and I found it ninety percent enjoyable. It was a comedy that was creative, included surprising twists and witty humor. The only distraction for me as I watched it was the language.

Okay! Call me old-fashioned and a fuddy-duddy, but profanity more and more seems to be an attempt to fit in rather than searching for that word that raises the level of the manuscript or dialogue. 

In the film the f-bombs that got tossed out as abundantly as bird seed in a park for the pigeons had no purpose. That is, they didn’t add anything to the film’s plot or flow of action. They just…were there! Like they were trying to make the film more appealing, more certain of it’s “R” rating. 

It seems that our culture is very sensitive about language that could be construed as degrading to a certain gender, ethnic group, or social class, but indifferently tolerant towards language that if uttered in the range of our moms hearing would have them sprinting to us with bars of Dial soap in their hands. 

The “F word” especially has become mainstream. Even people who don’t say it are being drawn towards it. I hear words like “freaking” and “frecking” being used by people who are being drawn to the edge of the cliff but they still have enough self-control to not jump into the “ff-ing chasm!”

A basketball coach friend of mine, whose teams have been successful year after year, doesn’t allow profanity from his players at practice or during games. He holds to the biblical principle that James writes about in his New Testament letter. James spends a good amount of time talking about the use of the tongue and the effect of our words. He writes, Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, NIV). 

I’d like to take this “language” issue in another direction, however. I’d like to think of the benefits, the positive directions, that our words can take us. Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

I live in the world of words. Quite often as I write my “Words from WW” I sit and ponder what the next “right” word should be. What I write can lead to apathy or interest, laughter or yawning, confusion or clarity. And so I search for the word to help paddle the blog boat on down the stream.

We live in a culture that is language lazy and more concerned with looking relevant than intelligent. It is a culture that’’s comfortable with shallow talk instead of communication that goes deeper than superficial.  Deep ideas and profound words of wisdom make us think, and not everyone is comfortable with that.

What do you think? 

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!