Who is You?

Are you having a rough day? Go hang out in a classroom filled with kindergartners for a little while, and I guarantee it will cheer you up exponentially! Those little ones are full of awe and wonder and innocence and unconditional love…most of the time.

My daughter is a SPED Professor and she teaches college students how to become effective SPED teachers. One of the highlights of being a professor of educators is being able to go observe them when they are at the end of their prep program and are finally student teaching in a real classroom. This is their time to shine!

My daughter walked into the Kindergarten classroom and took a seat to begin her observation of her student teacher. A sweet little blonde-haired boy who was sitting close to her turned and looked her square in the eyes and asked very seriously, “Who is you?”

She whispered to him, “I am Professor Juhl, who are you?” He politely answered her and when he was done, she asked him to please turn and listen to what the teacher was going to share. He obeyed.

Who is you? This is a fantastic question to ponder. How do you think most of us would answer if asked that question? I am guessing we would give our common view of who we are and not get too personal.

Who is you?  

I am Wendy.

Dean’s wife.

Kyle and Jamie’s mom. 

Warren, Sibyl, Tyus, and Lucy’s grandma.

Education professor at SMSU.

I am ________________ (how would you fill in the blank?).

I wonder what the little boy would have said if my daughter would have answered his question with a question.

Little boy: Who is you?

Professor Juhl: Who do you say I am?

Okay, that question reversal would most likely confuse a kindergartner. Or…maybe not. Those little 5-year old children are creative creatures. Answering a question with a question might launch the conversation on a completely different trajectory. I guess we will never know unless we give it a try.  

In the bible, we find Jesus asking his disciples a similar question. He asks them, “Who do people say I am?” (Matthew 16:13).

The disciples answer Jesus’ question with the common view answer just as we might. They say John the Baptist. Elijah. Jeremiah. Some prophet. (Matthew 16:14).

Then, Jesus turns the question back to his disciples. “What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Simon Peter does not give the common view answer to Jesus. Read what he says in Matthew 16:16…Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, The Son of the living God.” He acknowledged that Jesus is divine and is the long-awaited Messiah. Simon Peter gets a little more personal about who Jesus is. 

I wonder how I would answer if Jesus were to ask me, “Who do you say I am?”  I believe I would lovingly tell Him, “I believe you are my Lord and Savior who chose the cross. You chose that cross to give me and others the gift of eternal life in Heaven! You chose to sacrifice your life on that cross, Lord. You chose to suffer for me and for all others because you love us that much.”

Mind-blowing!

How about you? How would you answer Him if He asked you “Who do you say I am?”

What if we asked Jesus that same question? “Lord, who do You say I am?” Without a doubt, I know the answer to that question. How about you? If you aren’t sure, open up your bible and read the book of Ephesians. It clearly states who we are, who we is.   

Back to the student teacher in the kindergarten classroom. When Professor Juhl had a follow-up conversation with the young teacher-to-be, she mentioned how cute the little boy who asked her the question was. This future teacher agreed and said she really loves that little boy. Then she reminded Professor Juhl about the boy who had punched her in the face the week before. This cute little boy who had asked my daughter “who is you” was him, the same kid, the one who smacked the student teacher. BUT…it did not matter! It did not matter because the student teacher just loves that little boy so much.

That is how it is with Jesus. Who is you? Who do you say I am? Jesus is love. We mess up all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. But, it does not matter because Jesus just loves us so much. We are who He says we are. We are loved. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. We are set free. That is who we is!

Stay Calm & Know Who You (Is) Are!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

Why I Ditched the Drink for 365 Days

Do you ever wonder why certain topics just randomly pop up on your Facebook page or on your Instagram account? Why is this in my feed? Why do I keep seeing this? Lord, are you trying to tell me something? Is this a nudge from You? 🤔

That is what happened to me in April 2021. Jenn Kautsch aka @sobersis appeared in my Facebook feed uninvited. I thought what in the world is this? and kept scrolling on by. She dropped in several times so I started to read her stuff. Most times I would skim through and move on to the next post. But, the more I read the more I connected with what she was saying. I liked 👍 her page and followed along for about 5 months. Then in August of 2021, I made the choice to join her 21-Day Reset program.

This program was a 21-day reset from alcohol. I had done several 30 day challenges on my own, so I knew I could conquer the 21 days without much difficulty. And I did. When I successfully reached her 21 days, I joined her AFL program which equipped us with tools to stay on this zero-proof living path. It was during this program I learned this powerful saying, “It takes 21 days to create a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle.” I was so close to 90 days so I decided to stick with the challenge until the 90-day mark. When 90 arrived, same thought… “I am so close to 100 days, I’ll go for that!”  December 7, 2021, when I saw 100 days of alcohol free living come and go, I made a bold choice. I decided to ditch the drink for one full year. August 30th was the first day I ditched the wine, and, here I am…365 days later currently living an Alcohol Free lifestyle.

I’m sure you are wondering the same question most others ask me when I share my story with them: “Did you have a problem?” My answer to you and to them is always the same. “No, I did not!”

I was not physically addicted to alcohol. I just enjoyed my glass of wine at nighttime and began to wonder if maybe I was relishing my Clos du Bois Dry Rosé a little too much. After all, I didn’t drink wine to catch a buzz. I drank wine because I truly enjoyed the taste, and because it became so much a part of my life…social events like the University Gala and golf league, colleague outings after work, wine tasting on vacations, and back yard beverages with friends. Many early evenings, I would arrive home from work and, out of habit, pour myself a glass of Rosé which usually led to the 2nd and occasionally the 3rd glass.  Yes indeed, it was time to reevaluate my relationship with wine. It was time to break up for a while.

I’ll be honest, though. Have there been challenging days where the crave wave hits? Oh, my goodness, yes! Several! Still! I enjoyed wine. But, as we all know, habits can be extremely difficult to break (just ask anyone trying to give up coffee or sugar or diet coke or whatever the poison…). My cravings for a glass of wine seem to ebb and flow like ocean waves.

For example, my husband and I will drive by one of our favorite restaurants that serves a delightful glass of Rosé and the crave wave might hit me so hard it will almost knock me down. However, when we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary in June, I turned and bravely faced that champagne crave wave and stood strong determined not to get knocked over.

During those times when the cravings overwhelm me, I say many prayers! Then I surf the crave wave and cling to my why for doing this. “Knowing our WHY gives us purpose and direction, it becomes our North Star” (Sinek, 2022). And, “You see, I think it’s when we tap into our why and see it fulfilled that we find the motivation to keep moving forward” (Lowe, 2022).

Below are my main reasons why I ditched the drink:

  1. Obedience. The Lord was nudging me to give it up and there’s nothing in this world that I want more than to be obedient to Christ!
  2. Overall health. Over the past few years I’ve been placed on two meds…one for atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and the other for high blood pressure. I have no idea how alcohol might be reacting with these medications.
  3. Alzheimer’s. My parents enjoyed many cocktails throughout their lifetime, and they both had major issues with cognitive decline. Research shows alcohol can have toxic effects on the brain such as damaging the memory center causing short plus long-term memory loss. I certainly do not want to enhance my chances for this destructive disease.
  4. Sleep. Why was I always waking up around 3:00 a.m.? I was tired of being tired.
  5. Guilt and shame. Because one side of my family had/has major problems with alcohol, I made the choice years ago that I did not want to be like that. It seemed this decision had faded a little over the years which made me feel guilty. Satan took hold of this guilt and tortured me with it. I no longer wanted to be oppressed by this guilt and shame.
  6. Choice. We all know alcohol is an addictive drug. It is the only drug that is socially acceptable. It is the only drug that you are questioned on if you DO NOT use it. If I continue to drink, there is that scary risk of addiction. It is still my choice to “burn the plow and leave the alcohol behind.”

Because of my curiosity, I have learned so much about alcohol over the past year. I’ve read books such as Alcohol Lied to Me by Craig Beck, Alcohol Explained by William Porter, and The Sober Diaries by Clare Pooley (which is hilarious); listened to podcasts such as Annie Grace’s The Naked Mind; and followed some fun people on Instagram who have shared their alcohol free living journeys.

One “eyebrow raising” fact I learned was this: did you know alcohol is ethanol? I had no idea, and this was shocking news to me!  I also discovered it is the additives that make alcohol taste good. Beer is ethanol with hops added to it. Wine is ethanol with grapes added to it (and I do love grapes). Spirits, like whiskey, are ethanol with barley or other grains added to it plus coke or water or whatever. Holy buckets of beer! Just park on that thought for a while. Like I said, it’s been quite a learning year.

A favorite part of my journey has been the drink alternatives because remember, for me, it’s about the taste not the buzz. One of my favorite alternatives to order when out at a restaurant is a ‘virgin’ mint mojito or as it is sometimes called, a mint “NO-hito.” So yummy, but also so full of sugar. If you order one, just ask for way less simple syrup.

During the winter months I enjoyed a “NOT Toddy.” I made it like a normal Hot Toddy but with a Cinnamon flavored Alcohol Free whiskey replacement. Another drink I like to mix up anytime is a Cherry Bomb; add one part tart cherry juice to two parts club soda in a fancy glass full of ice and enjoy the deliciousness. One bonus from this mocktail is tart cherry juice has natural melatonin so it might help with sleep at night.

Important note: I LOVE fancy glasses! I use them at home plus always ask for one when out. One time while at a local restaurant, I ordered a club soda with a splash of grenadine and muddled mint (also delicious, by the way). I asked our waitress to please put it in a fancy glass. Her response was perfect…“Oh, I got you. Everything tastes better in a fancy glass.”  😉

I shared earlier that I enjoyed a lovely Rosé. Well, I have found two Alcohol Free (AF) Rosés that are divine. Yes, both have sugars, but zero added sugars. The sugars are natural from the grapes used in each of my two favorites.

My all-time favorite is the 5-star rated Alcohol Free Bubbly Rosé made by Grüvi. It’s a little expensive but so worth it to me. And, it’s only 60 calories a bottle. Score!!

My second favorite is the Rosé called H2💗 Sonoma Soft Seltzer. There are extra bonuses in this one. According to their website, “Your body will benefit from H2💗’s extra burst of antioxidant Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Potassium and Calcium electrolytes.” Keep in mind that Vitamin B12 gives us energy. I drink this one during the day (day drinking 😜) so it doesn’t interfere with my sleep.

Every now and then I enjoy an ice cold beer…especially during those over 100 degree days. I’ve tried most NA beers and the only one I have found to be palatable is Coors Edge which is similar to a Mich Ultra but with less calories (my hubby’s favorite NA’s are Athletic Brewing NA’s and Sam Adams Just the Haze). Add a few giant sized olives to the chilled glass and you’ve got yourself a refreshing treat (yes, we add olives to our beer here in Minnesota). Or, you could add a little lemon which kind of reminds me of a Summer Shandy.   

On those special occasions, like an anniversary or New Year’s Eve, the Fre Sparkling Brut Champagne is my favorite. We recently toasted to 30 years of marriage with this one. 😍

My son celebrated a big birthday this year, along with my youngest granddaughter celebrating 5 years of life. The party invite said “Bouncy Castles & Bourbon.” 😛 My hubby enjoys an occasional bourbon. When we discovered an NA Bourbon, my hubby tried it and gave it a thumbs up to use for mixing. We took this NA Bourbon along to the birthday party and I mixed up a scrumptious NA Blackberry Bourbon Smash. Oh my, yummo!

Now that I’ve reached my goal of one year, I’m sure you are wondering what is next. I often ponder this, too. Maybe I’ll just have a glass of wine on special occasions? Well, today might be 365 days later, but the reality is my WHY has not changed! Plus, I can’t ‘unknow what I now know.’

The benefits I’ve experienced during this AF journey far out-weigh going back. I’ll share those benefits sometime in a future post. For now, my plan is to keep going forward and be like a domino: “It’s kind of like a domino effect: once you are already moving forward with momentum, it’s easier to keep going.” I’ll keep going forward, one step at a time; one day at a time. My mindset is parked on the thought of staying fully present, alert, self-controlled, aware, and clearheaded. Cheers! 🥂

Stay Calm & Take a Break from the Bottle!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

P.S. If you are wondering about the links I’ve shared throughout my story, please know I get NO compensation, ZERO credits for sharing these. They are just my honest opinion on products I have tried. 😊

P.S.S. If you have any questions for me about my journey, please ask in the comment section found below. 

Ready For My Next Assignment

In 1987, the Lord chose me for the assignment of serving others in the ministry of education. The classroom became my mission ground. Today begins the first day of my last year of this assignment. When I reach May 2023 (Lord willing), I will humbly hand in my 36 year old teaching assignment that I have worked at so diligently to the best of my abilities. I believe God will give me an A on it. I sure hope so, anyway!

From the 14 years of teaching third graders (8 years) and fifth graders (6 years), to the year of serving all elementary students and their teachers as their elementary principal, to the past 21 years of teaching future teachers how to be teachers, I pray I have made a positive impact on the lives of students and adults of all ages from all places.

This wonderful world of education…there has been no better adventure than this! I have been on this magical journey for almost 36 years and there are so many people who have tagged along with me on this enjoyable voyage. I will reach my final destination of this educational trip in May, however, I have had the time of my life completing this significant assignment entrusted to me!

To tweak the words of Walt Disney, I have “followed my teaching dreams to a place where exhilarating learning has come to life. I have created magical memories and discovered fun where imagination reigned.”

You, traveling companions, have given me daily splashes of happiness and laughter. I thank you and appreciate all of you!

To all my students since the fall of 1987, you rock my world each and every day. I wish I could name all of you, but that would take up way too much space. From Jeff, Dena, and Marci in my very first third grade class who are now successful adults and positive role models for their own children; to Sam, Kelsey, Andy, and Wilson in my college courses who are now outstanding educators; all of you have been my beacons of light. My students are the reasons why I continued on with this assignment for 36 years. I am so proud of ALL my past and present students!! You all mean the world to me!

To my family, friends, and colleagues…you have been nothing but supportive during this exciting assignment! Thank you for being some of my favorite traveling companions! I love you all!!

And, finally, to Ken Stanek…I’ve said this before, but I am going to say it again! You, sir, gave this hometown girl a chance in the wonderful world of education. You were my principal and my guide and you always went to bat for me. Even when the school board questioned your hiring policy because you hired a hometown girl…heaven forbid! 😜 I couldn’t be more grateful! Hugs to you always!

Two thumbs up to the 2022 – 2023 school year!! 👍👍 Educators, I know we will be giving our all this year as we always do!! And when it’s all said and done…Lord, I’ll be ready for my next assignment! 🙏😍🙌

Stay Calm & Give Your All!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

All I Know Is I Love You

As my dad’s health began to decline in 2008 and my mom became his main caregiver, I would often hear him say to her, “All I know is I love you.” And he sincerely did. 

They were perfect characters you might find in a romance novel. Dad was tall, dark, and handsome while mom was petite, blonde, and a blue-eyed babe in my dad’s eyes. He was smitten.

Dad was a resilient man who worked for the Rural Electric Association (REA). He knew how to climb poles like nobody’s business, and his interpersonal skills were out of this world, which got him promoted to the main Public Relations man. Not bad for a guy with an 8th grade education.

His electrocution in 1974 took a lot out of him, but he persevered and lived way longer than all those St. Paul Ramsey Burn Unit doctors predicted he would. He survived 72 hundred volts passing through his body so I’d say he was a walking miracle.

Alzheimer’s and Macular Degeneration are the two opponents that took him down. This is when my mom showed her Wonder Woman strength in her ability to take care of him…for a while anyway. He declined quickly and ended up living in the nursing home. She visited him faithfully every single day. During the first few years, they would still dance the waltz and two step during the live music entertainment out there at the Good Samaritan Society. And through it all, you would hear him saying, “All I know is I love you.”

Mom’s health also began to decline. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, went through the Whipple procedure, and we did not think she was going to make it. I called her grandkids home to say goodbye. Well, her Wonder Woman powers showed up again and she lived 2 ½ more years after that.

I guess it’s not the greatest to be on the operating table for 8 hours when you are her age. Her memory began to fail after that surgery, and she was unable to regain it back. Sadly, she also ended up in the nursing home.

When my dad lost his ability to communicate with others and just sat in his wheel chair with his head hanging down chin to chest, I witnessed a role reversal…it was my mom who started whispering to my dad, “All I know is I love you.” And she sincerely did. She was still smitten.

As time passed and my mom’s mind was worsening, she thought my dad was her dad. In her mind, she was still a young lady and that old man in front of her had to be her dad. Mom would say things like, “I’ll be back later, daddy.” Or…“all I know is I love you, Daddy.” It broke my heart, and yet, it warmed my heart, too, because of her evident love for him.

On August 17, 2013 at 2:00 in the afternoon, I walked down to my mom’s room to get her so she could say good-bye to my dad because he was on his way home. She sat down in a chair next to his bed, and said “Hi Daddy” then began to sing him the song she had always sung…You Are My Sunshine.

About thirteen hours later on August 18, 2013 around 3:00 in the morning, with my forehead pressed softly against my dad’s cheek while I quietly sang “God Be with You ‘til We Meet Again,” this kind, gentle, handsome dad of mine took his last breath and peacefully went home to Jesus. I ever so gently slid my brow to his chest and through my tears I whispered, “All I know is I love you, Dad.”

Here I am, nine years later, and I still say that. Only now I say it to my Heavenly Father. When I am struggling with sadness or celebrating with joy, I lift up my voice to my Heavenly Father and whisper, “All I know is I love you, Lord.” And I sincerely do. I am smitten with my Savior who holds me tight in sadness and celebrates with me in joy and has a love for me bigger than I could ever imagine.

Let’s face it, life can be really hard sometimes. So, to find peace, I place my trust in the One who I know is always there for me (Hebrews 13:5). The One who I know is always faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3). The One who I know is my light in the darkness (John 9:5). The One who I know is MY Sunshine (Habakkuk 3:4).

And when it’s my turn to go home to Heaven, I imagine I’ll run to Jesus, jump in his arms, give him a huge squeeze and say, “All I know is I love you, Lord.” Next, I’ll run to my dad and my mom and my brother for a joyous reunion, then embrace them in a huge family bear hug and hear us all say in unison, “All I know is I love you!”

And, to all of you reading this, know you are loved! Thanks for being here.

My mom and dad – 1955

Stay Calm & Know You Are Loved!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

 

A Good Friend Helps in Times of Struggle

There really are no words to describe the special connection between a grandparent and a grandchild. Jokingly, grandparents tease by saying, “If only we could have had the grandchildren first.” 😉

Grandmas and grandpas learn so much from their grandchildren. A few lessons we’ve learned from our four grandkids are:

   ❤ Becoming a better listener,

   ❤ Cultivating patience,

   ❤ Awakening curiosity,

❤ Staying active,

   ❤ Finding joy in the simple things,

   ❤ Laughing and having great fun, and…

   ❤ Discovering having great fun is A LOT of work the older we get. 😜

Not only do grandparents learn from their grandkids, our grandchildren learn from us. I think of my hubby who has more patience than anyone I know. He is a great role-model for this character trait. He also loves to do projects, so he invites the grands to explore and create with him.

We can also teach our grandchildren about our faith. I had this opportunity arise recently.

Camping is something we love to do. When the grandchildren can’t come to the camper, then we bring the camper to our grandkids.

A few weekends ago was filled with tons of camping activities. One of those was swimming. The grands were going to get their swimsuits on. My granddaughter and I were in the camper and no rooms were available to get dressed with privacy. I offered to hold up a blanket for her while she changed clothes. She accepted.

About three minutes had passed and I asked her how she was doing. She responded she was almost done. I told her I was thankful because my arms were getting tired from holding up the blanket. This brought a bible story to mind so I shared it with her while I continued to hold up the blanket and she finished dressing.

“Sibyl, this reminds me of a story in the bible. Have you heard the story of Moses holding up his staff?”

“I haven’t, Grandma.”

“Moses was leading his people to freedom. While they were traveling, they ran into some people who wanted to fight them. Moses had a staff, or a big stick, that God had given him to use to protect them. When Moses held up this staff, his people were winning the war against the bad guys. When he lowered his arms and the staff, they would start to lose. Two of his friends saw how hard it was for him to hold up his arms for that long so they went to him to help him out. His friends found a spot for him to sit down, and then one friend stood on one side of Moses, and the other friend stood on the other side. They held up his arms for him. Moses and his people won the battle. Isn’t that a great friend to have, Sibs?”

“It is, Grandma.”

“I have a friend like that. I know my friend would help me out and support me whenever I really needed the help. I hope you find a friend or two like that, Sibs.”

“Me, too, Grandma. I’m done.”

Down went the blanket and, off to the pool we went.

Grandchildren bring so much love and hope and joy to our lives. Hopefully we grandparents bring a little of those things to theirs too (with a lot of spoiling to boot). There is no better gift than the special connection we have with each grandchild. Let’s never stop sharing our faith with them.

Stay Calm & Share Your Faith!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.   

And… Go Up, Up, Up

Go Up, Up, Up

It took some time, but we finally watched the film, Clouds, a story about Zach Sobiech‘s life. It was a heartwarming, tear-jerking, awakening reminder all at once. We need to keep living and loving each precious day. It is a reminder of Carter for sure. A lot like Zach’s story, Carter lived a short but full life with lessons for us all to live, laugh, and love each day we are given.

It seems like just yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. We see and HEAR you clearly yet. The sad memories remain but the memories of living and loving are stronger.

Resharing as we honor Carter’s memory today and always…

Today I want to share about Carter – the following Eulogy was shared at his funeral.  Please excuse the ramblings and copyright infringements.

For those of you who know our family well, you know that we are a tight-knit group…who happen to be a little competitive. We have a “Who’s the Smartest” contest that has been going on for years. We each take a turn at being the brilliant one. When Wade informed me that I was unanimously voted to give the Eulogy for Carter Joseph – pointing out that I still wasn’t the smartest – I was left speechless. This would be no small undertaking – share about this boy, this young man who as his mother put it “his soul was too big for this body.” How could I possibly do that? Even though I am rarely at a loss of words… I prayed to God to give me the words. I received these words from family and friends – from all of you really – and realized that I had found the words:    …but just in case though – Big brother William has my back.

Carter left this earth at the young age of 14, but he had lived and loved with a passion beyond his years.

If only we had a little bit more time
If only we had a little bit more time with you
We could go up, up, up
And take that little ride
We’ll sit there holding hands
And everything will be just right.

We know from scripture –
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
And there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Carter would be rather upset to say it politely that we are all sad. As he told his mom over the past year and a half …and on his last day. “Will you stop crying, please?!” We know the clouds are here with us today, and there will be days like that, but we know the sunshine is somewhere up there, too.  This is kind of perfect because his dad liked to call him sunshine.

Today we have some of his cousins sharing a little bit of his sunshine:

What can I say? The kid liked basketball with a passion. From his plethora of facts and critiques of the professionals to his love of the 3-point shot, this baller had a finesse on the court and in life.

Carter was a bright light for us. He had a contagious smile and sense of humor we will never forget. His sense of shoe-style and team pride will not be lost. He is our team leader and goes before us.

His cousins, Jackson, Jonah, Jesse, & Tori carry his prized possessions from this world:
Jackson – carries Carter’s signed basketball – he loved this game and we knew even at a young age he was given a gift from God… although Jackson reminded me that he tried to turn it into hockey – that just wasn’t his game and gift. Carter loved to practice and play – whether alone or with his teams.

Tori – carries his Duke jersey and his signed poster from Duke’s Coach K. Carter had a love for Duke basketball that no one could deny. Not even Carolina-lovers, right Uncle Dustin?
Although Carter didn’t get to live out his dreams fully –his reach made it to his dreams with the signed poster from Coach K and the signed ball from Stephen Curry.

Jonahcarries Carter’s signed ball from Curry, wearing his jersey. Carter wasn’t able to Make-A-Wish, but Coach K and Steph Curry know of him and supported him.

Jessecarries the basketball that represents Carter always being told “Stop bouncing that ball in the house.” Sorry about this part, Father Paul… Carter talked to God about this and got the ok.
Well today – we hope and pray he is bouncing the ball in His house. We are positive that Carter is keeping God busy with questions and ballin’ it up.

More than even basketball, Carter loved his family and friends. One of his all-time fav foods was Nana’s pancakes.
Wyatt –carries forward the pancake bowl used to make so so so many batters of pancakes. Nana tried to get us to represent with a nice glass measuring bowl, but that is not what we knew growing up so it simply wouldn’t do. Sorry – Mom.
Carter loved going to Grandma & Grandpa’s farm for breakfast, and it was whip-cream-with-a-cherry-on-top if there happen to be a pie and 4-wheelers involved…or driving along the countryside.

Really this bowl represents so much more than food. It represents the love of family.

Carter lived and loved his final vacation at the Geske lake-home with his whole family surrounding him with love, humor, and smiles. That is how we should remember his sunshine – how he would want to be remembered.

Wyatt – carries the fishing pole that represents his love of family. He carries a fishing pole to represent Carter’s love of fishing and being with others. Again- this is really a social event for him… although he would want you to be quiet, he would want you there with him. This happens to be a sponge-bob fishing pole because he loved himself a good laugh.

Marie– carries the Carter Strong sign to represent the outpouring of community support – support from friends – that Carter and the family have received this past year and a half. May our community and region really be an example for others of how to treat and support others. Without this support, this road would be so much tougher.

Without a doubt, Carter was a fighter. He fought the good fight, and enjoyed his life. (Don’t get me wrong – he is like his dad through and through – he is really more of a lover with a soft spot for people.) Near the end when he was discussing the possibility of being accepted into a trial for treatment. He said to his mom “If I take a spot, that means that someone else will not have the chance.” What 14 year-old says that? He really cared for others.

He enjoyed his time with family and friends – all of them. We are thankful for Sam, who kept him both in and out of trouble – we are thankful for that and the stories to share. He was a dear friend and with him his last day.

We are also especially thankful for Maddy, who was able to remind him to just be and enjoy life’s moments. Maddy carries up pictures of their shared happiness. When asked what Carter said about living with cancer, her response was that they really didn’t talk about it. They would just be – living today. We are forever thankful that Maddy came into his life, and they knew that kind of love. Most 14 year-olds don’t have that – and she was an escape from pain, who made him smile and simply be.

Even through the pain, he was strong and enjoyed life.
When he was at the Mayo, he was asked how he would rate his quality of life. He immediately said a 10, which surprised his mom and dad. That is just who Carter was though. When he found out that the cancer had spread to his lungs, he told his parents something to the effect “I guess that makes this day a “C.”
I’m pretty sure even with grade inflation the rest of us would give that day a “F” for a grade. As scripture tells us, For everything there is a purpose… Let us learn from Carter’s story and share it with others so they, too, might be strong.

Tiffany – carries his cross. Jesus tells us, I am the alpha and the omega. I am beginning and the end. We know that Jesus walked with Carter on his journey from the chubby baby to the young man. Carter held tight to his faith until the end. He may not have been shouting his faith from a hill, but his strength showed us his true faith. He often prayed Psalm 91 with his Mom and Katie – God our Protector. He had many conversations with God – getting to really know him. We can only imagine… Surrounded by His Glory…Carter took his faith with him as his guide home.

His mindset showed his faith – faith in God, faith in family, faith in friends, faith. The saying holds true “It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight; it is the size of the fight in the dog.”
We know from scripture – 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. #carterstrong

And maybe someday I’ll see you again
We’ll float up in the clouds and we’ll never see the end
And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer

Carter – here’s to you – go up, up, up. Please join me as we cheer for our Team Carter. “Carter Forever!”

~Auntie Sonya

blog-12-13-16-motivation-8

#CarterStrong 

Stay Calm & Go Up, Up, Up!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Because You Have the Least Chance for Retaliation

While having dinner with friends the other night, we were chatting about the upcoming filings for local governance; those positions like school board, city council, and mayor just to name a few. One friend mentioned running for city council. When asked why, this friend said it was because there was no reason to worry about retaliation. Our friend does not have a business in the community and also does not work in the community in which we live.  

How sad. I would hope we would NEVER have to worry about retaliation.

This dinner conversation sparked a memory from my early years teaching future teachers.

One fall, many many years ago, I was appointed to mentor a colleague who was struggling with communication skills. At first I was honored thinking I must be good at communication especially since this was only my second year at this position.

I asked the Dean at that time “why me? It is only my second year.” Well, I quickly found out it had nothing to do with my personal skills. His response shocked me…

“Because you have the least chance for retaliation.”

WHAT??  

I was a lot younger back then and didn’t even hardly know what retaliation meant. Let me define it just in case some of you aren’t quite sure either. According to Merriam-Webster.com, retaliation means, “to get revenge; to repay in kind.”

I was stunned by the Dean’s answer. My response was, “do people actually do that?”  

Yes, I guess they do.

John 18 tells the story of Simon Peter retaliating when soldiers arrived at the garden to arrest Jesus.

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away!”’ ~John 18:10-11a

Amen to that command.

Some folks probably think I look at life through rose colored glasses. Maybe I do, but, I will always have hope for a world that does not retaliate. I will always have hope for a world that is only filled with people getting along, caring for each other, and loving one another. Hope…it’s all we really need.

In spite of Facebook being a platform for retaliation (and a lot of other nonsense), once in great while someone will post something that restores my joy. Study the picture below. What do you notice? What do you wonder?

📷 Credit: Theresa Stangle

This picture would be a lovely view through my rose colored glasses. Three opposing teams and no retaliation what-so-ever. This picture brings such hope and joy to my heart. From the boys, to the t-shirt message, to the words printed on the tent…all so uplifting.

Let’s put our swords away and stop retaliating. Let’s be thankful some are willing to run for City Council because most of us wouldn’t want that task anyway. Let’s be thankful some are willing to mentor others graciously. Let’s cheer each other on even when we are on opposite sides. Let’s empower each other.

Stay Calm & Put Your Sword Away!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

Finish Strong While Singing Your Song ‘Cause It’s All Good in College

Teacher candidates were walking the IL halls of SMSU, thrilled for their new year to begin.

They were so excited for their methods year, they sang this song…

🎶 We love SMSU.

We love the School of ED.

We will succeed.

We will finish strong. 🎶

Oh no!

COVID found some, a few received late placements, student-athletes occasionally missed class.

Did they cry? Goodness no! They kept moving along, and singing their song…

🎶 We love SMSU.

We love the School of ED.

We will succeed.

We will finish strong. 🎶

Oh no!

Various hours of field experience awaited, several miles were traveled, unexpected surgeries/illnesses disrupted schedules, mental wellness waned.

Did they cry? Goodness no! They kept moving along, and singing their song…

🎶 We love SMSU.

We love the School of ED.

We will succeed.

We will finish strong. 🎶

Oh no!

Pre-student teaching for two full weeks, a practice edTPA completed during that time, many assignments, many projects, many tests all while working other jobs.

Did they cry? Goodness no! They kept moving along, and singing their song…

🎶 We love SMSU.

We love the School of ED.

We will succeed.

We will finish strong. 🎶

And guess what? They did! 💪👏🤗

The moral of this story is…no matter what your SMSU methods year tosses at you, just keep moving along and finish strong while singing your song…

…Because it’s all good — in college!

Stay Calm & Finish Strong While Singing Your Song!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

P.S. Thanks to the children’s book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin for the inspiration for this blog.

P.S.S. Teacher candidates, it’s okay when you did shed a few tears. 😉

Even Though…

While playing a game of catch as we waited for the rest of the family to get ready for church this past Easter Sunday, 4-year old Lucy caught the ball then paused and looked intently out the window and commented, “Grandma, it’s snowing.”

“It sure is, LuLu.”

“But Grandma…it’s Easter. It is supposed to be shiny and bright outside.”

“We can’t do anything about it, honey.”

With only the look Lucy can give, she narrowed her eyes, scrunched her lips to the side, and said out of the corner of her mouth, “Yeah, well Jesus can.”

I smiled and took our concern directly to Jesus, “Well, let’s ask Him then, Lu.”

“Dear Jesus…it is Easter Sunday and we would really like for the sun to shine today. If you would be willing to do that for us we would be so grateful. Love you, Jesus.”

Lucy continued to watch out the window with anticipation for a few more seconds then turned to me with her eyebrows raised and in a matter of fact tone stated, “It’s still snowing.”

I shrugged and replied: “I guess Jesus wants it to snow right now then.”

She gleefully shot up from the couch she had been sitting on and even though it was still snowing outside, Lucy joyfully ran out to the kitchen with a bounce in her step.

In the bible, Habakkuk was one to boldly take his concerns to God. We read Habakkuk’s prayer in Chapter 3. In verses 17 and 18 is where we see two very significant words: “Even though…”

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet, I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17 – 18 NLT, emphasis mine).

We all have life challenges. Some more difficult to navigate than others. I think of a few I am experiencing and wonder…do I live out and role-model even though. Like Lucy, do I have a pep in my step even though…?

Even though sleep does not come, and exhaustion overwhelms…

Even though heart palpitations kick hard, and the blood thinner is mandatory…

Even though shoulders carry stress and pain intensifies…

Even though parents and sibling are home in Heaven and are deeply missed…

Even though a little forgetfulness happens and fear prevails…

Even though unnecessary words are spoken, and uncontrollable tears fall…

Yet, do I boldly and confidently bring my concerns to Jesus? Do I rejoice in the LORD even though? Am I joyful in the God of my salvation even though?

I hang on to the hope found in the last verse of Habakkuk 3: “The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (Verse 19 NLT).

What are your even thoughs? Even though life will continue to hurl challenges and sorrows (John 16:33), we can rest in the truth that God will give us the strength to get through them, to safely travel over life’s mountains. And, just like Lucy, we can have a pep in our step and be joyful knowing God has our backs.

Oh, and just to let you know, when we came out of church, the falling snow had stopped and the sun was straining to peek out from behind the clouds. Lucy was running ahead of me so I yelled the obvious to her: “Lucy…look. It stopped snowing and the sun is trying to shine. Answered prayer, Lucy, answered prayer!”

Stay Calm & Be Joyful!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V. 

Hello…I am a Child of Alzheimer’s

Hello. My name is Wendy and I am a child of Alzheimer’s. Yes, I am a daughter of parents who both suffered from cognitive decline. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and my mom was diagnosed with dementia and they lost their battles with this memory thief. Quite frankly, cognitive decline scares me way more than the virus being dealt with these days.

I had a moment of confusion the other day, and it caused a little bit of a panic in me. I was in a new school building reading to PreK children. A friend had also joined me. When we finished with the PreK students, this friend wanted to head to the first grade classrooms we had read to a few weeks prior so she could share a gift with them. As we began to venture to those classrooms, my memory failed me as I thought those classrooms were on the next floor up. She reminded me they were on the same floor just over on the other side. While we were chatting and walking to the other side, I got a little discombobulated on which way to go.  

When I returned home, I fretted about this confusion for a little while. I’m sure you can imagine the negative rabbit hole my thoughts jumped down. “What if I have early onset of cognitive decline? What if I end up in a nursing home like my parents did? What if, what if…”

I am not a fan of the words what if… As Matthew West sings in his song, “Is my story gonna have the same two words in every chapter? What if, what if? What I’m trying to say is I don’t wanna say these words again, What if, what if!”

I decided to call my daughter to talk it through with her. She is good at speaking words of reassurance to her mom.

She gently reminded me: “Mom, you know you get disoriented easily. That is not unusual for you. Don’t let satan do that to you! You are just fine. It’s a brand new building and you were in a different classroom!” After we hung up, I didn’t even try to fight the tears. I just let them fall because tears of relief have a cleansing effect.

I love Jesus and I believe in scripture! So, WHY on Earth do I allow these fears to become a stronghold in my mind and heart? I know I am to “fear not” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV), to “not worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6 NLT), and that “worry does not add any single hour to my life” (Matthew 6:27 NIV)! Yet, these fears sneak in and try shoving me into a deep dark hole. Grrr…

Well, after the encouraging words from my daughter and after my tears finally stopped flowing, I lifted up a prayer and boldly asked Jesus, again, to protect my mind and my heart and to help me replace the lies of the enemy with truths from God’s Word.   

So, here is the truth…

Hello. My name is Wendy and I am a child of the one true king, daughter of my Savior and best friend, Jesus, who loves me unconditionally. I know “His goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6 ASV) no matter what life challenges come my way. Furthermore, as Priscilla Shirer has preached: “Jesus is our savior, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord, and…He reigns to bring us peace.”

Those are the truths I want to focus on! Those are the truths I need to replace the lies!

Will I never fear again? Oh, heavens no. Every single day I need to intentionally capture my thoughts, and give my absolute best to change my mindset to thinking positive thoughts and quote the Truth instead of focusing on lies!

Here is our challenge…to think about such things such as “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).  To start speaking life over ourselves and others (like my daughter did with me when I called her) rather than speaking death. To delete all our “what ifs.” And finally, let us defeat all lies that torment us, and replace them with Truth! God’s Truth!

Stay Calm & Speak Life!
Profs Dr. Wendy Dr. V.