Monthly Archives: July 2015

Reunions…Serious Stuff

BLOG ReunionHow can this be? Twenty years have flown by since high school graduation. Each year goes by more quickly than the last. I remember hearing old people say that when I was younger. I guess I have joined the ranks because it is so true! I can also remember when older people would be asked their age, and in their response, would pause – some longer than others – as if they were counting the years. Oh my! It has happened to me. My sister who is 18 months my junior had to remind me of my age when I accidentally lied – no really, it was an accident! And yes, I have admitted it now publicly that I am the older sister – she just loves being labeled the older sister – not really …must be my mature behavior that throws people off or her added wrinkles? 😉 Just kidding, sis…
Anyway – It happens. What happens? Life happens! And really – aren’t we glad it does?!

This past weekend we celebrated our 20-year class reunion. This made me think a little bit about reunions… What in the world are reunions for anyway? Why did reunions start in the first place? Reunions give us a chance to catch up. With the addition of social media to our lives, reunions may not hold the same purpose of “catching up” with classmates as it once did. Because of this and the busyness of life, we didn’t have the best turn out. Okay- not a good turn-out by any statistical means. But since we didn’t really need to catch up with everyone, reunions allow us a chance to reminisce and laugh. We had fun! The more years that go by, the more level the playing field from our first days of adulthood in high school.   According to Clarence Page in the Chicago Tribune, “Reunions have a therapeutic value” (2011, para 3). Reunions give us a chance to relive the good parts of high school.

Now a word of advice that someone should have told me years ago…if you take away one thing from senior year in high school– don’t run for a class officer position…. You get to plan the reunions! Actually, we have a good time planning the reunions, and have every five years since graduation. Here is our class officer picture… it has been our official pose since our senior year. We are missing our VP – she moved to England so I guess she has an excuse to avoid us. 🙂


And if you take away one thing from reunions and life – Don’t take yourself too seriously. It doesn’t matter what your name is, what your title is, or what your bank account looks like… Drop the stereotypes from high school and just be and enjoy each other’s company. How – you may ask? Laugh – not a little but a lot. This is the reason I look forward to class reunions. We laugh so hard we cry – literally. We reminisce on stories that we survived to tell from high school. Something different this time is that we started to share our medical stories at this last one – from needing pig cartilage for someone’s knee to a mechanical heart valve to hearing aids. Not sure how it happened exactly – but we all aged and became those old people we used to look at sympathetically as they were past their prime. But were they? Are they? We know – and no need to vote on it either – life’s prime is where you are now. Make it what you want and don’t forget to laugh. ~SV


Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Page, C. (2011). Why reunions matter so much. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from:

It’s a Tragic Day in the Neighborhood

BLOG tragic day

The picture above was posted on my Facebook page Saturday night. It was captioned “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Just a few hours later, that beautiful day in the neighborhood turned disastrous. It was a tragic evening at the lake where we park our camper!!

We arrived at the campground around 5:00 p.m., played a game of bean bags, grilled some steak over the fire, ate our dinner, and then went for a walk. While making our way back to the campsite walking on the beach, a female adult and two children asked us if we had seen a blonde, five year-old girl. We said no, asked where they were staying (the lodge where we are camped at) and asked for her name.

By the time we got back to the campground, most campers were gathered together searching for this little girl. A family member dialed 9-1-1. When several emergency personnel arrived, one of them took charge and asked for volunteers to form a human chain and walk the lake hanging on to hands, sweeping the lake floor. And so my husband and I, along, with MANY others, headed to the water.

The scene that took place after sweeping back and forth a few times in that warm lake water keeps playing over and over in my mind, friends. And my eyes keep leaking every time I see it!

We had just swept the left side of the dock in deeper water. We turned around and returned to the dock in shallower water with a line of about 15 people. We then moved to the right side of the dock to help with the sweep in shallower water. One group of volunteers had moved straight out from the dock where one of the emergency guys was searching for her body. As our group of 15 was walking to the west, we heard one of the guys behind us yell.

We all turned and the site we saw shattered our hearts. The blonde, five year old little girl’s limp body had been found and was being handed to another emergency personnel who was on the dock.

The screams and cries of anguish from the beach, where many people were watching including her mom and dad and siblings, were agonizing. We watched in great sadness as the EMT’s gave this little girl CPR while she was lying in the sand on the beach. Her body was then rushed away in the ambulance.

This precious little 5-year old girl drowned Saturday night.

No words.


More heart shattering than any call I was ever on as an EMT!

I am thankful it was an emergency personnel who found her and not one of us volunteers in the water. And, I am also thankful she was found before dark. I was told that victims who drown in lakes aren’t always found that quickly.

On Sunday, we found out a little bit more about this little girl. Her family was visiting other family members at the campground for the day on Saturday. She had been out playing in the water earlier in the day in the same area they found her body. People had seen her bouncing in the water and having fun in that same spot. It seems that she went back out to play in the water without telling anyone.

Thoughts that I have after this tragic event, and I write these with no judgement passed forward and no fingers pointed at anyone:

  • Please insist that your children wear life jackets while at the lake. Especially if they can’t swim.
  • Make sure the life jacket fits comfortably so they get used to it.
  • PLEASE be vigilant in keeping an eye on your children. We all know how quickly they can disappear.
  • Go hug your children—right now!

My eyes haven’t stopped dripping since Saturday! Please say some prayers for the family who lost their youngest child, and for ALL the people who experienced this tragedy!! ~Wendy

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

We Are Made To Be More

BLOG Whitney Burmeister
As we strive to do more each day in our careers and lives, we were recently reminded, what we really need to do – is to be more. We can allow our days to fly by with schedules full, but what does it mean if the days mean nothing at all but items to check off the list?

This past week the NSIC – Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference met for the summer annual meetings. We gather together to consider what has passed – to celebrate successes and to move forward together to strategically plan for future successes. We are an optimistic group! 🙂 By the way, it happens to be the best NCAA Division II conference…not that I am biased!

At the Honors banquet, we celebrated the Willis R. Kelly Award recipient, who is the top female scholar-athlete in the 16-school conference. This award is based on a combination of academic and athletic accomplishments. But really, it is so much more. The faculty athletics representatives in the conference highly consider leadership and community service attributes in this decision. Whitney Burmeister, who will be a senior at Southwest Minnesota State University this fall, was selected as this year’s Kelly award winner. When I asked Whitney to share about herself, one of the highlights for her was being a class notetaker for other students on campus. She shared “it may seem minimal to others, but I love that I can help someone by taking notes for them if they need assistance.” She is also actively involved in the “It’s A Slam Dunk, Don’t Drive Drunk” campaign on campus as well as serving as the SAAC – Student-Athletes Advisory Committee serving as the secretary and working for the IFO – Interfaculty Organization office. (Working with faculty across campus is no small undertaking!) Whitney excels in the classroom as an Exercise Science major and on the court as a key volleyball player. She grew up on the farm milking cows and knowing what work ethic truly is in life, sport, and school.

She truly is an outstanding student and outstanding athlete. Moreover, she is so much more. We share this today because our goal for all of us – is to be so much more. We aren’t “just” this or that. Collectively, when we care for others, we are more.

With the recent death of my nephew, Carter, we learned as tough as days can be, the road would be so much more challenging if we didn’t have “more” from others. The outpouring of community support from family, friends, and strangers has been overwhelming. People truly are so much more. ~SV

Our goal is that we continue to move forward and pay it forward. Let us consider this example and Whitney’s example of how we can be more for others. It isn’t who you are or what you do… but what more you do that counts. As teachers, leaders, citizens, it is our responsibility to be more.

Be more.

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

How to NURTURE others to be Their Best

Blog nurture 1


My husband and I recently returned home from Long Beach, CA where the National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference took place. Dr. V. and I were supposed to present together on Tuesday, June 30th sharing with the elementary principals how to nurture their teachers to be their best.

Sadly, while Sonya was at the airport Monday morning about ready to board the airplane to come join me in California, she received an excruciating painful phone call that changed the trajectory of her and her family’s lives! Here is the text message I got from Sonya Monday morning:

Blog nurture 2

The next day, Tuesday, June 30th, the day we were to present together, Sonya’s nephew, Carter Boerboom, went home to heaven. Sonya still presented last week in one of the most difficult, challenging presentations ever…she delivered the eulogy at his funeral. She posted that eulogy on our blog last Friday. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, please do. Grab a tissue first though…you are going to need it!

So…Tuesday I presented solo. Even though our presentation was for elementary principals, I realized that our message is really for everyone. Everyone has a story. We have no idea what individuals are going through.

Diagnosed with cancer.

A painful loss.

Feeling fearful.

Living with insurmountable guilt.

Overcoming addiction.

All people from all walks of life need to be nurtured. Here are 7 ways that Sonya and I came up with to nurture others—whether they are your teachers, your friends, your family, or someone you just met on the street:

N = Nourish others with praise. We all crave a positive comment or a compliment now and then. Let the words out of our mouths be pleasing to others. Make praise authentic and sincere. Positively praising someone always puts a smile on their faces. It does ours anyway!

U = Unlock unexpected happiness. In Todd Whitaker’s book, Teaching Matters, he mentions several ways to unexpectedly bless others with spontaneous words or gifts. Some ways may be to smile, bring donuts for a treat, Tootsie Rolls with Todd, Watermelon with Wendy, Soda with Sonya. My husband came home from work a few weeks ago and shared that they had had a fire drill. When the workers all got outside, there was ice cream treats waiting for all of them. Certainly an unexpected happiness.

While I was presenting this to the principals, I asked if they would send Sonya a tweet and tell her we were thinking of her while at the #NAESP15 Conference. Below is my text to her and her response back:

Blog nurture 3R = Role model best practices. “If we don’t model what we teach, we are teaching something else.” ~Unknown. We always say that we are the CEO’s of our classrooms…the Chief Example for Others. What kind of message are we sending to others by our examples? Carter was a CEO of his world. He lived each day to the fullest, thinking of others first, trying to mend breaking hearts in his last moments here on Earth. Carter role modeled life’s best practices. Let’s all do the same!

T = Thank others often. Thank you for reading our blog. Thank you for attending our session last Tuesday. Thank you for being you. In his article on gratitude, Michael Hyatt writes that we should thank others often because it not only blesses the receiver, it blesses the giver. Being thankful reduces stress, removes negative emotions, sustains relationships, and improves health. We are thankful for that!

U = Uncork passion. It’s no secret. We aren’t passionate about everything we do in life. Dave Burgess, author of Teach like a PIRATE, mentions three types of passion…personal passion, professional passion, and for teachers, content passion Find what you are passionate about and hone in on that passion. Then share it with others.

R = Recharge with retreats. Take time away from your workplace. Take time away from your daily duties. Take time…period. My daughter-in-law loves to entertain and have people over. It’s a great place to go visit and experience calm even in the midst of my chaos. Progressive suppers are always a treat. Initiate one! Maybe have an outdoor drive-in for your little ones. Make cars out of cardboard boxes. (From Pinterest of course :-)).

Blog nurture

E = Enjoy life to enhance growth. Life is too short sometimes. Carter was only 14. Much too young. Life is a gift and we need to unwrap it every day. It’s a matter of attitude. Of a growth mindset. Only YOU can decide if you are going to enjoy today or not. You don’t need to change the world. You only need to change you. Vince Lombardi said it beautifully, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

Focus on selflessness not selfies. Start a chain reaction with your kindness! That is what Rachel Scott would want! And I know that is what Carter would want too. NURTURE others and unlock their potential. Then watch them grow.

Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.

Go Up, Up, Up


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 – has 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.

Toricarries 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.

Jesserepresents 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 – also 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


Stay Calm & Lead On!
Profs Dr. C. & Dr. V.