Posted tagged ‘laughter’

The Laughter of Forgetfulness

April 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   April 11, 2018

                           

For most of my life I’ve been a laugher at the lighter moments and unusual occurrences. I take after my dad in that respect. My mom was the more serious parent. Laughing, from my perspective, was an ointment of survival in my thirty-six years as a pastor.

Like the Sunday we ran out of communion cups before everyone had been served. I remember pretending to drink the communion juice out of pretend cups, as did the others who were up front facing me after serving the congregation. Some may have stressed about the “pretending”, but I thought it was somewhat humorous. I guess who could call it “Communion Lite”!

Carol and I seem to be advancing in age and we’re encountering a few incidents of forgetfulness. No, I don’t believe we’re in the beginning stages of dementia or some other heart wrenching affliction that we see so often these days. I don’t believe I’m experiencing the effects of football-related concussions either. I tried to stay away from being tackled or tackling someone else. I was proficient in my avoidance of contact. My helmet was as clean as a well waxed Corvette at the end of the season.

This week we had planned on having dinner with Marie one night- Marie Calendar’s, that is! Pot pies to be exact! We prefer to bake them in the oven instead of the much shorter time in the microwave, so we preheated the oven to 400 degrees. They take about fifty minutes to bake, plus another five minutes to cool. I went upstairs to do some writing and Carol continued watching Dr. Phil, or some other show where someone is willing to let the whole world know that they are screwed up!

An hour later I came back downstairs. Carol was relaxing on the couch and as I walked into the kitchen I noticed two pot pies sitting on top of the stove. “Oh! They’re done!” was my first thought, and I walked over to help serve them.

But they weren’t done! They weren’t even started! We had forgotten to put them in the oven that had now been heating “nothing” at 400 degrees for the last hour.

“Ahhh, Carol!”
“Yes, dear!”

“We forgot to put the pot pies in the oven.”

“You’re kidding me!”

“Nope!”

And we both laughed! “Well, where would you like to go for dinner?” (Perhaps each of us subconsciously wanted to go out for dinner to begin with!)

We both laughed at our mental slip, and we had a great dinner out that night!

My dad was a great storyteller. What he didn’t realize, or the better word might be remember, is that he had told the same story to me several times, and even though I knew some of his stories so well I could have finished telling them for him, I still laughed at the end. The way he told them always caused me to laugh, and he also always laughed at the end of the retelling. He passed away not quite two months ago at the well-lived age of 89 and 2/3’s! His life was well-oiled with chuckles and laughter.

Twenty years from now I’m hoping my three kids will be sitting at the dinner table with me and willingly listen to my retelling of some stories that I had forgotten had already been told…several times. And I hope we laugh as much then as Carol and I laughed a couple of nights ago after staring at those two stone cold pot pies sitting there impatiently on top of the stove.

Channeling Dr. Ryder

February 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 1, 2018

                                    

Dr. Stuart Ryder was an institution at Judson College (now Judson University). A professor in the English Department for “centuries”, in his later years he also assumed the role of Athletic Trainer for the school’s sports teams.

Dr. Ryder was also a master of puns. His sharp wit would rise to the surface suddenly with a humorous line that caused occasional laughter and, more frequently, groans.

For example, before a cross-country meet one of the runners was walking around barefoot, and Doc Ryder voiced, “I guess we must be smelling ‘da’ feet!”

Now, decades later I find myself using puns in the middle school classrooms where I’m teaching to the groans of the seventh grade students. It is as if I’m channeling Doc in my attempts at witty humor. It emerged again this morning at Starbucks when one of the baristas was fixing a cup of tea as I walked up to the counter. “Just a minute, Bill! I’ve got to fix the tea before the customer gets here.”

I quickly channeled Stuart Ryder. “I guess it wouldn’t be good for the cup to be ‘emp-ty!’”

She chuckled and said “Good one!” Seven A.M. humor at Starbucks is greatly appreciated in the midst of bleary-eyed customers who are waiting  with heightened irritation for their first cup of java.

In the classroom “pun humor” keeps the middle school students alert. Some of it is too deep for them, but that’s okay! I don’t understand the math they’re doing either!

Dr. Ryder used to say a pun and then give a personal chuckle that involved some rapid and short inhaling and exhaling. When I utter a pun I just smile and look for understanding.

“Mr. Wolfe, see my baggie! I think someone stepped on my cookie that’s in it!”

“Well, I guess you could say that’s how the cookie crumbled!”

“Mr. Wolfe!”

Another situation while we were outside.

“Mr. Wolfe, I had my bag of chips sitting here on the rock and the wind came and blew the bag off. The chips went everywhere!”

“Gee, that’s too bad! I guess you might call that an example of ‘being chips off the old rock!’” (Loud groan in the midst of chip grieving!)

It’s Doc Ryder’s seeds from the past rising again in new life.

Our lives are cultivated by different people in a multitude of ways. Dr. Stuart Ryder planted, watered, and helped students grow.

Every time I find myself beginning a sentence with the words “I guess you could say…” I can hear the rumble of his laughter within me!

Re-entering The World of First Grade

September 20, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         September 19, 2017

                               

The six year old boy stood beside my desk and looked at me. “I’ve never had a boy teacher before. I’ve always had girl teachers.”

“Oh, is that so?” I replied.

“Yes, and I’ve always wanted a boy teacher. If I didn’t have a boy teacher by the time I’m eight or nine I was going to be really upset!”

“Okay! Well, I’m a boy!” He smiled and walked back to his desk. My morning of teaching first graders was beginning with one young man’s personal agenda being fulfilled.

Being a substitute teacher in first grade is a delightful experience…mostly! There were the moments when movement in certain students legs required them to get out of their seats and wiggle for a few seconds, and there’s always a student who wants to answer everything, be the one who is always chosen, and the one who is always first in line…but, for the most part, it’s an enjoyable experience. Someone’s pencil falls on the floor every five seconds, but no one ever throws a pencil at another student. That doesn’t become a problem until like…middle school!

Being a man…or a “boy teacher” in first grade causes the mouths of first grade students to drop open as they see the teacher of the other gender standing there as they arrive.

Some people who know me would say that my maturity level is similar to a first grader’s. At the school I subbed at a classical piece of music is played over the speakers in the classroom to begin the school day. I could not help myself as I swayed and moved my head from side-to-side in front of the classroom. The students giggled at my gyrations! In my opinion first grade needs to include a lot of laughter and giggling. Each day needs to be an experience in education, not a task in learning.

I led them on a journey with a nomad tribe, as we studied history. I made a fool of myself by intentionally saying the months of the year incorrectly and having them tell me when I messed up. I told them about my family as they enjoyed their mid-morning snack. My granddaughter is in first grade this year, and they thought that was pretty cool!

But this first grade class steered me back on the road when I was straying off-course. For example, at the beginning of the day the date is written on the board and I was forgetting to do that. STOP! As we were heading out for recess I had not taken the whistle that was hooked to the wall right by the door. One cute girl with a very serious look on her face corrected me. I repented of my omission and grabbed the whistle. I believe she has a future in law enforcement.

At noon the teacher who had been at training that morning…a girl teacher!…returned and I turned the rest of the day’s journey over to her…a little sad that I was leaving and blessed to have been a part of it!

Class Expectations

January 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          January 21, 2017

                                     

Two weeks finished as a long-term substitute teacher for 7th Grade Social Studies! 120 students each school day filtering through one door into a roomful of desks that, unlike when I was in school, have no one’s initials carved into them.

Yesterday a young lady, whose family I’ve known for years, came up to me with “the long face” on. She looked at me and moaned, “Everyone loves your class!”

She’s not in it.

I don’t have a degree in teacher education, or been licensed/certfied by the state. I am not knowledgeable about educational philosophy, techniques, and curriculum. I’m simply an old fart who is enjoying the experience. It goes to what I told the class on my first day. I presented them with 15 Class Expectations, kind of like flags on a ski slalom course to show the downhill skier where he/she needs to go.

Number 8 on my list is “Expect to enjoy what you are learning!” There’s classrooms and times when straight lecture is the needed form, and there are other times when student input and discussion is the best road for discovery. I realize that I am not a grizzled veteran of the educational system, but I’ve listened to the stories of my sister, who taught university students who were looking towards careers as teachers, and my daughter who currently teaches 4th Grade. They found, and find, a balance between learning and enjoyment. My daughter greets her new class of students each year dressed up as a grandmother. Her students love her, and she loves her students!

I remember many of my teachers…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I remember the classes that I trudged to and from each day, wondering if there was an end in sight. My vision wasn’t on what I was learning, but rather on survival!

I replaced a teacher who the students loved. Several times in the past two weeks students, in referring back to him have begun sentences with the words, “Remember when we…”

I see it as an opportunity to guide students towards enjoying what they are learning, as opposed to turning them off to knowledge.

Number 10 on my list of expectations is “Expect to laugh…but never in a way that mocks someone else!”

Laughter is the saddle that keeps the student on the educational thoroughbred. We’ve laughed a lot these past two weeks as we’ve talked about “Supply and Demand”, “Taxes”, and other economic topics. They were tested on the material yesterday. I haven’t graded the papers yet, but I’m optimistic that almost all of them did well. If not…I may be blogging a retraction tomorrow!

As I would tell a story that made a point, and also cause laughter, students would raise their hands and share their own stories about similar experiences. Our laughter and chuckles bonded us on the road to understanding.

There is a definite connection between being in a new experience and the level of enjoyment of it. I understand that. After being a pastor for 36 years I recognize that my enjoyment level had taken a dip. Being a rookie often comes with optimism and enthusiasm, before the blood of too many parent-teacher conferences gets sucked out of you. I may have only one week left in this teaching position before a new teacher is brought on board. Maybe that’s a good thing, because I’ll leave still in a state of enjoyment and a volume of laughter.

And will have learned a lot! Oh, that’s number 9 on my list of expectations for the students: “Expect to teach me as we go!”

Story Toes

November 23, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 23, 2016

                                             

I sat down on the couch to survey the crew. The crew consisted of our three grandkids: eight year old Jesse involved in a game of Super Mario Brothers; Corin (Rennie) scampering around the room as fast as a 20 month old body can go; and five year old Reagan whose attention was focused on the fact that her grandfather thought he was going to relax for a couple of minutes.

“Tell me a story, Granddad!”, she demanded as she plopped down on the couch beside me and draped her feet over my lap. “Tell me a story using my toes!”

A few weeks ago I was telling a story to her and Jesse from the same couch seat and I grabbed their feet as a visual aid to help me tell it. She giggled and giggled as I told the made up story about little piggies.

And Reagan never forgets! Her enjoyment in something translates into it becoming a tradition…thus two feet staring up at me with their multi-colored striped outfits!

“What story should I tell you? How about a story about a little worm named Squiggly?”

“Yes! Tell me a story about Squiggly!” Her toes wiggled in anticipation.

“Once upon a time there was a worm named Squiggly who decided he was a big enough worm to leave his Mommy Worm and crawl around by himself.”
“And did he have brothers and sisters?” Reagan likes to know all the details in any story I tell that I happen to be making up on the fly!

“Yes, he had many brothers and sisters, but he was the oldest worm child, so all of his worm siblings were still at home with Mommy Worm. So Squiggly said goodbye to his mom, they wrapped themselves around each other in one final worm hug, and off he went crawling through the dirt to discover what was on the other side of the mud patch.

“His mom probably missed him.”

“I’m sure she did. Your mom would miss you if you moved away, wouldn’t she?”

“I’m only five, Granddad!”, she informed me as she did the eye roll thing.

“Yes, I know…well, anyway, back to the story! Squiggly slowly crawled away, whistling his favorite worm song, “Way Up High In An Apple Tree.” He was all wiggly with excitement about the new places he was going to discover.”

“He probably misses his mommy.”

“Probably! After he had crawled across the mud patch and into the weed forest on the other side he got to thinking to himself, “I’d better find some place to sleep before nightfall.” He thought about the warmth of his mommy and remembered that he had left his worm blanket back at home. He got to thinking about the chilly darkness that would soon be upon him with no mom or snug covering to keep him warm.”

“He didn’t plan very well.”

“So he looked all around and around and finally…finally…he found a nice place that looked like it would be cozy and warm and almost like home.”

“Where was it?”
“It was right between two toes of a little girl named Reagan.” I burrowed one of my fingers between two of her toes and she squealed with tickling laughter. “Yes, it was right between two little toes,” I explained as she quivered with giggling. She pulled her feet off of my lap and hopped down to the floor. Her sister stared at her with a smile on her face.

About the time I took my next breath she was back on the couch, settling her feet into their place across my lap once again.

“And then what, Granddad?” For Reagan “story toes” have many chapters and episodes…and giggles!

Questions An Old Man Mutters To Himself

June 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       June 29, 2015

                          

People say I’m not old, but I bet if I went to a swing dance party no one under fifty would be hoping I’d ask them for a dance. I’m married anyway, and I’m not sure what “swing dance” means. “Swing” is something my four year old granddaughter asks me to give her a push with.

So a lot of people humor me with sympathetic looks attached to words like, “Ohhh…you’re not old!”

Actually I’m two-thirds gone! And that’s if I live to 92!

So now I’m in the muttering stages of  my life. I mutter to myself! I mutter questions to myself that don’t need to be answered.

Why can’t the newspaper delivery person hit the driveway with the morning toss? How can they hit the pile of snow that’s about three feet wide with the paper, but miss the thirty foot stretch of concrete? Of course, the yearly renewal notice comes in May…after I’ve forgotten about those frustrations!

Why do people pay fifty bucks to get dirty running a 5K race? Back in college we went out in front of the dorm and played football in the mud…for free! Why do people pay fifty dollars to get color thrown on them? I can lay down on the deck and have my grandchildren use me for a marking board…once again, for free!

Why does my bedtime seem to get earlier and earlier…and yet as soon as I lay my head on the pillow I’m wide awake?

Why do people in sporty cars with tinted windows think other cars are like orange cones on a race course? Strictly there to weave in and out of!

Why does my next door neighbor’s barbecuing smell so tantalizing, but I can’t seem to make any kind of meat smell good? Why doesn’t my next-door neighbor realize how unfair his cooking aromas are for the rest of us?

Why do people rush to get on a plane? If I’m sitting in 22A does it matter if I get on the plane in the first batch or the last? Speaking of planes, why can’t we have the little bags of pretzels again? Why do the airlines give coffee in 6 ounce cups but Coke in a 12 ounce can? What’s up with that?

Why are my toes so ugly? My feet look like they went through six hours of prep and make-up for a horror movie! It looks like I have painted toenails distributed unequally amongst my ten toes.

Why do my ears look like they have crabgrass growing out of them? Good Lord! I’m thinking about sprinkling them with Weed-B-Gone!

Why do dogs seem to think 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. are appropriate times to start barking? That causes me to mutter to myself while I’m still lying in bed…still trying to sleep! But, of course, that 6 a.m. bark alarm wakes up my bladder…and it ain’t going back to sleep!

Oh! And here’s one more that I’m still muttering about! I got one of those print-out coupons at King Soopers that said I could get a free…I say it again…free Starbucks “Refreshers” drink that comes in a can. So I went looking for my free can…and guess what? They don’t have it! The store employee who was very gracious and kind wasn’t even sure they carried it! Wait a minute! I have a coupon for a free one, but they don’t carry it!

Would that cause you to mutter to yourself?

 

Coaching Three Year Old Spiders

September 6, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 6, 2014

                                 

This morning at way too early…with wet grass glistening…nine three year olds arrived at the soccer field, accompanied by parents holding cups of Starbucks coffee, for our second practice and first game.

Thirty minutes of practice followed by thirty minutes of a “game.” To call it a game would be similar to calling the school custodian a maintenance bio-engineer- there is some element of truth hidden deep within the title.

Coach Carol- also known as Mrs. Carol Wolfe- bought a balloon to take to the game with Spiderman on it. We tied it to one of the goals to help our confused three’s know which was our goal. It also helped us figure out our team name: Spiders! One young guy who had worn a Spiderman jacket the first week was totally excited about that being our name. Plus, I wasn’t really too enamored by the suggestions from last week: Butterflies, Butterfingers, Pink Toes, and Pizza Hut!

In our short practice we worked on kicking the ball hard. Some are still not comfortable with such violence. I assured them that they could not “bully” their soccer ball. They looked unconvinced!

We welcomed four new kids who missed the first week. One of them ran around most of the time pretending to be an airplane.  Another was so scared she never left her mom’s side. “Playing time” is not a big concern of hers right now, unless you’re talking about the swing set.

Right as we had herded the spiders to the correct side of the field to start our game two of our players needed a drink of water. The “airplane” player was coming in for a landing…on the next field over!

The game started and we kicked the ball…not necessarily in the right direction, but we kicked it. One of our girls runs like a horse- not a thoroughbred, mind you! A prancing play pony on two legs. One little girl fell and ran to Mommy. One little boy kept asking when snack-time was going to be. Another little boy was contesting the soccer ball one time with a boy from the other team. “Winning the ball” had not been clearly defined to him. He did a two-hand shove of the opposing three-year old and took the ball away. An opposing player picked up the ball one time and started heading towards the parking lot.

And then it was over! All survived and all got the much-anticipated snacks of the morning. I asked the Spiders what they had learned that day: Kick the ball at Spider-Man, kick the ball hard, and stop being so cute (Just kidding)!

Kids left with smiles on their faces, parents checked iPhone photos taken, and Coach Carol and Coach Bill started thinking about nap-time!