The ‘What Ifs’ of Sixth Graders

Posted September 8, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , ,

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 8, 2018

                      

Squirrels were named after sixth graders! When you’re around sixth graders for very long you just automatically blurt it out. “You’re squirrelly!” And then someone saw a furry looking hyperactive, confused critter climbing the tree in their front yard and he said, “Wow! I’m not sure what that thing is but it’s as squirrelly as a sixth grader so I’m going to call it a squirrel!”

Okay! It probably didn’t happen that way, but it’s a good story, and if you’ve been around sixth graders for very long you understand how plausible the story sounds.

Yesterday I was teaching sixth grade physical education. It’s kind of like filling thirty balloons with air and letting them go all at the same time.

We were teaching the students a new game, which was not complicated to understand. It involved trying to get all of the people on one team to the other end of the field without having the flags they wore around their waists pulled by someone from the other team. 

Simple, right? 

The other teacher I was partnered with that day explained the game thoroughly and then said the words that she wished she could take back, the words that cause body tremors and sweating. 

“Are there any questions?” Hands shot up in the air like 4th of July bottle rockets.

“What if…someone doesn’t mean to fall, but he does? Does that mean he’s frozen until he gets freed by one of his teammates?”

“Yes.”

A future lawyer. “What if…the person who falls has been tripped, pushed, or in a collision that results in his tumble? Would he be held liable for the consequences of the action, or would you take into consideration extenuating circumstances…AND, is there an appeal process in place for the defendant?”

My teaching colleague has a blank stare for a moment. “We will consider each action individually.” The student starts to ask a followup question, but my colleague ignores her and looks at the body attached to another raised hand.

“What if…I’m running down the field and my flag falls off just because? Can I just put it back on? You know…like the wind just blows it off of me, because that wouldn’t be fair!”

“If your flag falls off because of the wind or as the result of some other act of nature you can put it back on and resume the game.”

The future attorney is raising her hand and waving it wildly as she considers her case before the Court of Sixth Grade PE Appeals. The teacher contines to ignore her, and turns her attention to a squirrel sitting on the top row of the bleachers.

“What if…someone calls my name and when I look to see who said my name a different person from the other team runs by and pulls my flag off?”

“Then you are frozen until a teammate frees you.”

“Ahhh!” he responds with a look of agony.

Redheaded girl with a bored look wishing she was in math class. “Do we have to play?”

“Yes.”

Blonde boy who has a tendency to want to always say things that makes his other squirrelly classmates giggle. “What if…someone’s shorts rip right down the middle and their underwear is showing?” Giggles from the gathered.

“If that happens they will be out for the rest of the game.”

“That’s not fair!”

“By the time they go back inside, change shorts, and come back out again, our class period will be over.”

Future prosecutor’s hand going berserk. 

“Is this question relevant?”

“Yes, absolutely!”

“Okay! Last question because we aren’t going to have that much time to actually play the game.”

“I’m not throwing any accusations or inferring that a certain person, who will remain anonymous, would do this, BUT…what if someone from the other team made some offensive remarks about another person in the course of game play? Would that be grounds for, so to speak, legal action?”

My colleague looks at her with a facial expression that communicates “No comment!’

“Okay! Mr. Wolfe’s class is red and my class is yellow! Let’s play!”

And the squirrels rush the field to play the game for the one reason we’ve planned it for. That they will run around like crazy for the next fifteen minutes!

5 Stars for My Book From 3 People

Posted September 5, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, coaching, Community, Freedom, Grace, Grandchildren, Humor, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Clueing In The Almighty

Posted September 3, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Freedom, Jesus, Parenting, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 3, 2018

                               

(The seed thought for this blog post comes from hearing a sermon by Rev. Ed Stucky)

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14, NIV)

Sometimes we treat God like he’s the parent of teenagers…and we’re the teenagers! Remember those days? You know, when, in your opinion, your parents were completely clueless!

We believe it’s necessary sometimes to tell God what he doesn’t seem to know. It’s one of the ways we can stay in control, believing that God doesn’t have it all together, a divine being with developing dementia. 

The Bible gives us more examples of people trying to correct God’s poor decisions than people who took him his word. Moses tried to straighten him out at the burning bush. He was sure that God had mistaken him for someone else, kind of like Isaac mistaking Jacob for his brother Esau. 

Ananias felt God needed an update on who Saul (to be renamed Paul a little later!) was and what he had done. Like a royal advisor, he brought necessary intel to the Almighty All-knowing on this man coming to his city. 

If the Scriptures are filled with examples of people doubting God’s directives we can be assured that it’s a recurring story in our faith journeys. When God directs it’s rarely for something that we would naturally do. For instance, he didn’t have to tell me to go to Starbucks this morning and order a cup of Pike Place coffee. He knows that it’s part of my routine. However, if while I’m at Starbucks he nudges me to give a $20 bill to a man who has just walked in I might very well inform him that I only have one “Jackson” left in my wallet. To which he would reply, “So?”

Faith in the Lord is a slippery thing. We talk about it, learn scriptures that convey it, read stories of it’s existence and magnificence…but when the rubber meets the road of our life we challenge Jehovah God’s intelligence and wisdom. It is the evidence of our fallen nature. We’re prone to believe in the wayward guidance of the Deceiver that sounds good rather than the trusted voice of the Deliverer that causes a queasiness in our digestive systems.

Lord, we believe! Help us in our unbelief! 

Dad’s Hairbrush

Posted September 2, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Community, Death, Freedom, Grace, Grandchildren, Humor, love, marriage, Parenting, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Being Taught By Special Needs Students

Posted September 1, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, Grace, Humor, love, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            September 1, 2018

                               

I was asked to substitute teach one day this past week in the classroom that serves as the base for the students at our middle school who have special needs. As the day went on I realized that I was the student and they were my teachers. 

They treated me special!

One young lady let me join her in the morning for a few minutes of lego-building before she headed to class. I built a Starbucks drive-thru, which she flashed a smile about, but then threw me a look that told me that I needed to get back on task and stop goofing around.

A boy drew me into being a customer at his pretend restaurant, but when I didn’t put both of my legs squarely under the table he gave them a slight shove to get them where they are suppose to be…before taking my order of a pretend double cheeseburger and onion rings. A couple of minutes later when I had gone to the pretend restroom and then back to the table he repositioned my legs once again under the table like they are suppose to be.

Another young man drew an amazing picture of a mountain nature scene. His classmate flashed a “dab” for me a few times and explained to me what each of the three rubber snakes draped around his neck were with accompanying vital information that might save my life if bitten. 

Towards the end of the day the lego-building student “instructor” was working on math problems. She pulled another chair up close to her and smiled at me. 

“Would you like me to sit down?” She smiled, nodded her head, and patted the seat. Since my lego-building skills were suspect in her eyes, maybe I also needed math help.

Let me interject here! The para-professionals who work with the students are awesome. They guide them towards success in its various forms, whether that be improving their organizational skills, completing assignments, or relating to the other 1,200 students in the middle school. Every day is punctuated with the extreme emotions of tears and laughter. 

The students who take on the role of “peer partner” during each class period of the day are just as incredible and important. They walk with their students to class, help them conquer difficulties, and bond with them in lasting friendships. 

Last year an 8th Grade special needs student was on the school basketball team. Coach Achor told him he would play in a game sometime during the season. His anxiety was evident as he faced the possibility of that, but then the day of the game arrived. All of the special needs staff- para-professionals, teachers, peer partners, and other special needs students- were there. When he went into the game they all cheered. 

And then when he made a basket they all cheered…and cried!

Last week I went back to school for a day to be taught. By 2:45 I had learned a little bit about acceptance, grace, the love of life, and the humor hidden in the simplest moments of life. 

The next day after that I was the guest teacher for 8th Grade science. The student who had drawn the incredible picture of nature was in one of my classes. 

“Hi, Mr. Wolfe!”, he said immediately upon entering the class. “What are you going to do this weekend?”

“Well, (his name) I’m going to do some running, some reading, some relaxing, and some writing.” I should have added, “In fact, I’m going to be writing about you!”

The Warts of Seventh Grade

Posted August 28, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 28, 2018

                               

Today, Tuesday, is my day off this week. I substitute teach the other four days of the week. Last week I manned a classroom Wednesday through Friday. Most of my days so far have been spent being the sheep dog for seventh graders. You know, chasing behind them and barking loud enough that the ones threatening to become wayward from the flock correct their perilous destinations!

Seventh graders in August are like caterpillars who haven’t cocooned yet. They are still wobbling around trying to find their way. The incredible thing is that most of them will evolve by the following May into beautiful butterflies of various brightness. Resisting temptation, their teachers will abstain from squashing a select few! 

Last week most of the seventh grade flock headed towards the green acres of educational grazing, but there were a few who seemed drawn to the brier patch. I’ll call them “the warts of seventh grade”, the oddities who stand out like a bald man wearing a petticoat and drain teachers of energy and patience.

There are the warts that LIKE to be noticed. When the attention of a class gets too focused on knowledge and away from them an outburst deadens the pursuit of discovery. One wart’s stainless steel water bottle redirected the attention of her class half a dozen times as she dropped it, tipped it over, and kicked it. Each drop had the same effect of someone raking their fingernails across one of those old chalkboards we used to have…back in the old days! the student squealed in glee at her ability of distract.

One boy, resembling a bad rash in the midst of academia’s complexion, must not only be ADHD, but a few more letters added onto that. Like a bug headed for a zapper, he doesn’t seem to be able to keep himself from being sent to the principal’s office. 

And then there are the few who mistake their warts for being adorable freckles. Like a bad case of acne on the teenager’s face, their teachers will be applying steady applications of disciplinary Clearasil to help their classroom complexion. For an even more select few there is now Clearasil Ultra that applies even deeper forms of correction.

In August “the warts” stand out. By next spring the beauty marks will, thankfully, command more of the attention. It’s why teachers teach! They teach for what they believe will be the result towards the end of the nine month journey, the vividness of their students’ discoveries, and the hope that warts can even be transformed along the way.

Going Back To Familiar Places

Posted August 26, 2018 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Death, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Jesus, love, Pastor, Prayer, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 26, 2018

                            

In recent weeks I’ve revisited places that had been part of my life from the near or distant past. Some of the spots brought back memories of when I ran around in child-sized jeans, white tee shirts, and Converses…like my old elementary school, Victory Heights, in Winchester, Kentucky, where I attended first and second grade…and Central Baptist Church in that same town where our family frequented three times a week- Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. 

Other places I revisited brought tears. I drove past the farm where my Papaw and Mamaw Helton lived until about 25 years ago. It now like an ongoing rummage sale, cluttered and in disrepair. grimaced at the loss of what was.

I I traveled up the road to the cemetery where my dad now has been laid to rest beside my mom, and I weeped and smiled and weeped again, thinking of the good times and now the loss.

This past week I substitute taught in the classroom where my friend, Greg Davis, taught. If he was still teaching it would have been his 8th Grade social studies class I would have been instructing that day. Greg passed away not quite two years ago having fought the brain cancer courageously for 6 years. There were a multitude of Fridays when I would have lunch with him in that classroom, talking about the triumphs and the struggles. As I led four classes of eighth graders this past week I was acutely aware of previous conversations I had had in that classroom. 

This morning I return to the church I pastored for 16 years to give the morning message for the congregation’s 60 year anniversary service.  A quarter of my life has been spent in that building leading the congregation. I retired at the end of 2015. Even though I delivered almost 700 sermons in that sanctuary, today will seem strange. It will be the first time, besides the Sunday when I was candidating to be their pastor in June of 1999, that I will deliver a message NOT as their pastor. I’m now “a former!” 

I’ll look forward to seeing folks I haven’t seen in two and a half years. I’ll remember and smile, and maybe even cry.

There are places we’ve been that bring chuckles back to our soul, and places that cause us to remember the pain…and often the most meaningful places of our lives are the ones that have been a mixture of the two extremes.

At my old church I remember the incredible people, the special stories that got written and lives healed, and I also remember the difficult meetings and the individuals who had the spiritual gifts of agitation and annoyance. 

Of course, I can also remember the same chapter titles from my 15 years as pastor of the First Baptist Church back in Mason, Michigan…the saints and the sinners, the blessed and the beasts.

When you live most of your life from a place of grace, love, and hope you see the warts and the warmth. 

Today I’ll look to remember the changed lives and disregard the challenges to the Body’s life. And God will be glorified!