Monthly Archives: July 2017

Stop Ignoring the Coin Boxes


All of us have seen them. We give them a quick glance, and then look up at the menu ignoring the message they are sending. Please stop ignoring the coin box.

If you are looking for a trustworthy charity, look no farther than your local McDonald’s. The Ronald McDonald House is incredible and so much needed and appreciated. We both know this because of our own experiences…one a little over 15 years ago. The other, a little over 15 hours ago.

The play area at the RMH is filled with toys and movies and games for all to use. The pantry is stocked full of breakfast options along with snacks available to all family members of the child who is in the NICU or the hospital.  The refrigerator has beverages and milk and coffee creamer and apple slices galore. Volunteers come in and prepare and then serve a delicious homemade lunch or supper for those family members who wait. And then there are the rooms equipped with beds so the family can rest their weary and worn out bodies at night time. Incredible place.

Years ago, I (Wendy) had my third graders save pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Our goal was one million. We made it to 600,000. Once those were collected, my third graders traveled to Sioux Falls, SD and personally delivered them to the Ronald McDonald House.

Sadly, since then I haven’t given the Ronald McDonald House much thought. But after recently being a visitor at the house while visiting my granddaughter at Children’s Hospital, I have decided that I will never ignore those coin boxes again. And, I will be saving pop tabs from here on out too!


It was April 2002.  I (Sonya) was going to be a new momma in the summer. I couldn’t wait!  Neither could my babe, Jackson Joseph, apparently.  I won’t share the long story with all the twists and turns to the plot, but after six weeks of bedrest in the hospital, I was set free – to stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We were cleared to leave the hospital, but needed to remain close by so RMH welcomed us. I spent two weeks there and then the day that I went home – Jackson decided to officially join us and was born.  Those two weeks in the RMH were a blessing for us.  As soon-to-be new parents, it was a stressful time.  We were able to stay there for a minimal fee while safely within the city limits and near the hospital care that was needed.  It was a bit unusual since the house is designated for families with children in the hospital. A room was open, and we were welcomed.  We are still thankful today.

Then, we were welcomed once again at the RMH in Minneapolis when Jackson was undergoing treatments for his lymphangioma from ages 1-2. We were thankful yet again and still are today!

When I returned from maternity leave, I set out to give back. My 5th grade class started to do more community-focused projects. My experience at RMH helped me to see more needs around me.  I began to wonder how could I help? How could we help?  An obvious project was to start collecting pop-tabs, which became a school-wide project.  We were able to make one of the deliveries while on a field trip so the students could see the house.  From there the project grew into other projects, and students became more involved.
Becoming a parent made me a better teacher and a better citizen.  I was engaged in this world because someone else was counting on me.  I became more engaged in this world because someone helped me.  Thanks, Ronald McDonald House and all the donators along the way.  We began to Pay It Forward

Blog Ronald McDonald House SUFU

Ronald McDonald House in Sioux Falls, SD

The Ronald McDonald House offers support to parents during one of their most stressful times in life. So we ask you, please take a moment to pay it forward today.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Do something for someone else today.

Stop ignoring those coin boxes.

Blog ronald mcdonald house logo

Stay Calm & Give Generously!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Being a Caregiver is a Tough Job

Blog caregiver burnout

Photo credit:

“YOUR DAD IS HAVING AN AFFAIR,” my mom blurted out accusingly the instant I walked into her room.

“I don’t think so, mom,” I reassured her while heaving a big sigh.

“I’ll show you who it is. Don’t look…there she is,” she grumbled under her breath trying to be a sleuth on a mission when we reached our walking-the-hallway destination.

My mom had dementia. She lived in the Lighthouse, which is a locked facility for Alzheimer’s/Dementia residents at the Good Samaritan Village. She was quite independent in spite of not having a memory or an understanding of life.

My dad also had Alzheimer’s but was in a wheel chair so he could not be in the Lighthouse with her (thank goodness). 😮 And, for crying out loud, he could not be having an affair.

The lady my mom suspected of being my dad’s “mistress” also had Alzheimer’s and needed assistance walking. Good grief…

…my poor mother.

I was exhausted from my mom’s peculiar behavior. I visited her almost every day at Good Sam, and after a few years of this bizarre conduct I was exhausted!!! Being the only child still alive, I was her caregiver. And quite frankly…I was BURNED OUT!

New scenario…

“You suck as a teacher,” hollered the 8th grade boy.

“All I am asking, Billy, is that you take off your bandana,” the teacher calmly asked for the umpteenth time. “Our district rule is no bandanas in school.”

“Not taking it off, you bitch!” Then Billy continued to threaten this teacher by writing in his notebook… I know where your daughter lives.

The above educator is a teacher of middle school students, and she is exhausted!!! She is their daytime caregiver. And quite frankly…she is BURNED OUT!

Caregiving is a tough job, but…

…someone has to do it.

Thomas Hoerr shared with us in his ASCD article (2017) that even though caregivers are usually associated with the medical field, caregiver burnout also applies to educators.

To our SMSU teachers just beginning your first time teaching position this fall…don’t let this become you! Be aware of caregiver/teacher burnout. If you think you are being gripped by caregiver burnout talons, there is help to break free.

Prevention is key! WebMD offers several suggestions for caregiver burnout. Learn what causes it and how to prevent it by clicking here: (it’s for you guys too).

According to Ben Johnson (2014), writer for Edutopia, here are a few ways to evade teacher (caregiver) burnout:

  • Have fun with the students
  • Take care of your health
  • Learn something new and share it with your students
  • Make someone’s day
  • Lighten up
  • Look for the positive
  • Trust your students

And may I add to this list…

  • Find humor and joy each and every single day

The new school year will be starting very soon, and I have always loved the beginning. Novice and veteran teachers…no matter how much you love it, there will come a time when you feel drained…wiped out…exhausted.

Whether you are taking care of an elderly parent or taking care of other people’s children, caregiving is hard work. Promise me you will take care of YOU.


Stay Calm & Prevent Burnout!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

She Didn’t Stick to the Schedule

Blog boss baby

Lucy Lavonne Claussen made her debut yesterday morning weighing in at 5 lbs. 8 oz. As her daddy said to us in his text…this little one did not stick to the schedule. Sorry, son…her being your third child…you KNOW she IS the boss baby! 😉

Welcome to the world, baby girl. You are grandbaby number four and most likely the last. I cried my make-up off when I read what your name was. I am positive your Great Grandma Wussow is smiling down from heaven because your middle name is the same as hers. And…many people told your great grandma that she looked like Lucille Ball. 😮 Oh, yes indeed…your name made my heart happy and made me smile with loving memories.

I want you to know, Miss Lucy, that you are SO loved. Your big brother and sister can’t wait to hold you and give you lots of lovin’. They look through that window and patiently wait with daddy and Grandpa to give you hugs and kisses.

Blog boss baby2

Grandma Wendy adores you and smiles with tears of joy in her eyes as she lovingly gazes through the glass window at you all snug in that little hospital bed of yours. Grandma Wendy silently gives thanks to Jesus for his goodness, because you, little one, are a miracle. All babies are. God’s creation. I praise my Lord, Miss Lucy,  because you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Blog boss baby5

Prayers, for you sweet tiny one…prayers for a beautiful life. Prayers for good health: physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Prayers for WHOLE child health!!! Prayers for a life filled with joy. A God-serving life. I give thanks and praise to Jesus for you!

Welcome, baby girl. We are smitten!

Blog boss baby1


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Stay Calm & Who Needs a Schedule Anyway!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.