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About educonnections

A Tale of 2 Profs... Sharing our stories about teaching, learning, & living... Dr. V & Dr. C (Claussen-Schoolmeester)

This is Who We Thank

Blog gratitude

Student teaching is the final hoorah of all teacher prep programs. You work and work and work at your studies and then the big day comes when you are placed in a classroom with a mentor teacher so you can learn and grow as a professional.

Sometimes the placement is AWESOME, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes your university supervisor is AWESOME, and sometimes, not so much. Whichever circumstance you find yourself in, you CAN learn from it. You can learn what to do and what NOT to do.

I (Wendy) was placed in a 4th grade classroom in Worthington, MN.  I purposely asked to be placed there to escape a certain professor/university supervisor. I naively thought he wouldn’t travel that far from SSU to supervise anyone. To my chagrin, this supervisor ended up being mine. I was a nervous wreck!

As I look back on this experience over 30 years ago, it was the BEST experience of my life! My classroom mentor in that 4th grade classroom was Paula Krekelberg. Can we say DYNAMIC teacher? Passion, energy, enthusiasm, creativity…all in one package! Lucky me!

She was the 1986 female version of Dave Burgess before #tlap even existed. She was phenomenal, and I became a Paula Krekelberg. I begged and borrowed and tweaked ALL of her teaching ideas, plus her teaching style and teaching philosophy.

Gingerbread House Day in December is still one of my favorite memories from Paula’s classroom. She collected milk cartons, graham crackers, and candy galore then invited parents in to make Gingerbread Houses with their kids. I started the Gingerbread House tradition in my first 3rd grade teaching position at Brown Elementary. I no longer teach there, but the Gingerbread House tradition still prevails…over 30 years later.

Thank you, Paula, for being the best mentor teacher ever.

The gentleman who was my university supervisor was also one of my professors at SSU. He wasn’t one of my favorite professors because he intimidated me. 😮 So when I found out he was my supervisor, I was deflated…and a lot scared.

Lesson learned…he was the BEST supervisor I could have wished for. His personality was slightly different as a supervisor than it was as the professor. I adored him as my supervisor, and he gave me so many helpful hints after he would watch me teach a lesson. Forgive me, Lowell, for misjudging.

I’ll never forget the first time he came to watch me teach, I was over prepared. My plan was to knock his socks off with my awesome teaching skills. Well, needless to say, the lesson bombed. As I cried through our conversation afterwards, he kindly said to me… “Wendy, it was a good lesson. You just forgot to give them your expectations.” It was that simple. From that day forward, I always share my expectations of my students with my students about EVERYTHING.

Thank you, Lowell, for being the best supervisor ever. 🙂

My student teaching experiences were much the same… I (Sonya) had wonderful days and days that I cried to cope.  I just did not understand why those cute little kindergarten kids could not tie their shoes.  I mean – I built them a rainforest fort to go along with the literacy unit I was teaching. How could that not impact their motivation to successfully tie their shoes?!  My awesome classroom mentor, Lynn Robertson, very kindly and gently helped me see the error in my novice ways and that the children were simply not all developmentally ready for my expectations.  Keep in mind – this was kindergarten over 20 years ago – so a much different place in a crayon-centered world. Thank you, Mrs. R.!  I am grateful for your guidance.

After my feelings of failure in kindergarten, I moved into the 5th grade for the second part of my student teaching experience, and there – I found my people.  My classroom mentor, Deb Krimm, and the students taught me so much.  I can picture my desk.  I can picture Mrs. K.’s smile and her outfits.  (After all – I was trying out my new teacher clothes and style so I took notes!)  I can picture the room.  I can picture lunch duty in my brown plaid jacket that made me feel like a teacher.  (Never underestimate the power of a great suit …professional attire that our teacher candidates LOVE …or maybe hate?)  I will never forget learning to make wax candles, soap, butter, and more for the 13 colonies unit the night before my students, and being so excited for all the learning that went into it – for me… for my learners.  I am grateful for that.

My university supervisor’s name escapes me…I want to say “Jan….”  (Clearly Dr. Wendy’s memory is better than mine!  I would search it up in my files on my floppy disks, but I am aiming to meet a strict professor’s deadline – aka my blogging partner-in-crime, Dr. Wendy.) 😉   Please don’t mistake my error of name-filing for lack of impact.  I can clearly picture her in my mind, and more importantly, I can still hear her words and feel her challenges that helped strengthen my teaching.  I walked in to student teaching a little intimidated of her, and it grew into a sense of respect throughout the term as I learned that I am not perfect, and that’s okay.  None of us are.  She taught me that if I am not challenging myself, I am not challenging my learners, and that’s simply not okay.  Don’t settle for anything less than my best. For that challenge, I am forever grateful.

Lesson learned… perfection just means it’s time to set a new challenge.  Be grateful to those around you who help show you how to grow.  Life is simply boring otherwise.

Be grateful for your past. It brought you to today. Be grateful for today.  It tells your story for tomorrow (Thank you, Dave Burgess for the #tlap, #gratitude challenge).


Stay Calm & Thank a Teacher!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 



Know When to Engage, Mavericks

Blog top gun

One of our favorite movies is Top Gun starring Tom Cruise (Maverick) and Anthony Edwards (Goose).

In the movie, Commander Viper reprimands Maverick and Goose for breaking one of the Top Gun Rules of Engagement. Viper sternly reminds them that:  “…Rules of engagement exist for your safety and for that of your team. They are not flexible…obey them.”

We offer the same advice to our teacher candidates when it comes to the battlefield of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. If the ‘conversation’ on either one of those turns sour, DO NOT ENGAGE.

Sometimes schools can become the target of negative comments on Twitter or especially Facebook. A few outsiders can become ‘vocal’ and shoot written bullets through these social media platforms if they do not agree with decisions being made.

If this should happen to you or your school, we strongly recommend you stay out of the conversation. Do not engage. If personal expectations are not met, people tend to get upset and there is nothing you can do to change their minds. Even positive comments back to them may not help (speaking from past experiences of our own…we Mavericks should not have engaged). 😮

An elementary principal once shared this wise advice… “anytime a written message is sent out to 25 (250) parents, that message can be interpreted 25 (250) different ways. Choose your words wisely.” Wisdom right there!

Now that a brand new school year is in session, always seek out the positives, and stay far, far away from the negatives. Always do what is best for your kids. And, please….be smart on your social media platforms. “…Rules of engagement exist for your safety and for that of your team. They are not flexible…obey them.” Know when to engage, Mavericks!

Blog Top Gun Convenience

Stay Calm & Obey the Rules of Engagement!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 


Be Yourself

BLOG 8.30.17 Be Yourself

So a week done and already into the next… time sure flies when you are having fun!  That’s what school is for us. Let’s be honest – not every day is a joyride, but life can be a rollercoaster and some days are like that – and most days are fun if we let them be.  Just as we preach to our teacher candidates to be reflective practitioners, we must be, too.  So now that we are cruising into week two and beyond, what are some take-aways that we can offer as we continue to move forward along this semester of life.  There is just so much that we want to share… where do we begin?  We begin by being who we are – who we are meant to be.

Words of advice for this new school year – be authentic. Be real. Be yourself. Aim to be the best that you can be. But be you. Be the best you that you can be.  In this fast pace world filled with fake news and drama, we owe it to ourselves and each other to experience today together and celebrate our unique and diverse selves. We aren’t all the same, and that’s beautiful.  I’m no good at being you, and you are no good at being me. If we can model this as teachers, administrators, staff, coaches, and parents, our kids will be better off – and so will we. If we can be honest with ourselves and each other, we can build relationships and not walls in our classrooms, our schools, our homes, our world. What a surreal thought. What a sweet thought. It may be idealistic, but why not be? That’s who we are – and we are trying to be the best “we” that we can be.  With a new year we can hope again and try again.  We can pick each other apart where we faltered last year or we can pick each other up.  We can shake off failures and strive for victories again.  We can model this for our learners and challenge them to do the same.  We do this by starting to be who we are and who we are meant to be – you and me.

A new song out by Seth Alley, Be Yourself, has some great thoughts for us as we start this new year and build and renew our relationships starting with ourselves.

I want to be great, but I ain’t cause I fake what I make.  Yeah – I think that it’s time for a change.  Stop waiting on the world for help. Stop worrying about everyone else. Be yourself.

There is no one else you can be so stop trying to be. Be yourself – be your best you.

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


We Are Helping Others Learn What We Love

Blog class of 2021

We love teaching and learning. That’s what we do! It’s a big part of who we are!

I was reminded of this the other day while listening to Sheltered Reality Drumline perform in South Dakota.

This group of young drummers wowed us with their entertaining abilities on the drums. And boy oh boy do they enjoy entertaining. However, the mission of Sheltered Reality® is to “engage and motivate their audiences to make positive changes in themselves and the world.” Sheltered Reality’s® main message the other day was three-fold:

  • Take a chance
  • Never give up
  • Believe in yourself

YES! For our aspiring educators who will begin their classes today, this message is for you too!!!

Take a chance…you will be challenged by us, your education professors, to take several chances throughout your teacher prep program. Embrace these challenges. Go for the gusto. Take risks. Shoot for the stars. Take a chance on this new endeavor.

Never give up…there will be days you will want to throw in the towel during your time at SMSU. Questions? Ask! Concerns? Share! Please know you are not alone. More importantly, know many have felt this way. BUT…they have stuck it out and have gone on to be successful, outstanding teachers!  Never give up, teacher candidates. You will make it.

Believe in yourself…focus on trying. Leave your “I can’t do this” mentality in the dorm or apartment or wherever you reside. Develop the mindset of “I CAN do this.” Will you make mistakes? Of course. We all do. Learn from those and move on. So…kick your ‘stinkin thinkin’ to the curb!

Sheltered Reality® involves the audience during their show. I happen to be one of the audience members who was chosen to go on stage and drum for the first time ever…in front of a lot of people. 😮 I took a chance! I never gave up! I believed in myself! And guess what???

Yes, I messed up a few times!! Okay…many times. Who cares! I had the time of my life! 🙂

Blog drum me

The Sheltered Reality’s® lead drummer ended their performance with this one last powerful statement: “We are helping others learn what we love.”

Exactly! That’s what we are doing too!!! We are helping YOU learn to do what WE love—teaching!

Have the time of your life this year as you prepare to become the most successful, outstanding teachers you can possibly be. We are excited for the new year, and we hope you share our excitement.

Show us YOUR teacher super powers by taking a chance, never giving up, and believing in yourselves. You got this!!

Stay Calm & Help Others Learn!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 


What is EMSP? Collaboration and Solidarity of Aspiring Educators

Blog EMSP LeAnne_Me

Professor LeAnne Syring and I will be co-advisors for the Education Minnesota Student Program (EMSP) at SMSU beginning this fall. I have been the advisor of this esteemed group of future educators for quite a few years. Last spring when I asked LeAnne if she would be willing to co-advise with me she graciously accepted and then said, “You are starting to phase out, aren’t you?”

Yes, LeAnne. Yes, I am. With retirement just around the corner, it is time to have someone join me on this adventure. Thanks a big bunch of roses for being willing to take this journey with me! 🙂

We attended the first ever EMSP Advisor’s meeting in Brooklyn Park, MN, and below are a few of the highlights of that meeting…

  • EMSP is headed for a name change. At the Student Leadership Conference held July 2017 in Boston, MA, the EMSP members expressed their wishes…they do not want to be called students. They are asking that the S in EMSP be changed to aspiring educators. We will find out in April 2018 what the final decision will be.
  • The Student Leadership Conference will be held June 30th – July 5th, 2018 in Minneapolis, MN. This is great news for all of us! Less travel!!
  • Education Minnesota offers many professional development opportunities for the university aspiring educators. There are seven modules which can be presented at chapter meetings or during education courses. These modules are 1. Member Promotion, 2. Collective Bargaining, 3. Organizing, 4. Member Rights, 5, Why Politics?, 6. Education Issues, and 7, Professionalism. In addition to the modules, a few other professional development options offered are Degrees Not Debt, Teacher Licensing, Energize Yourself, Use of Social Media, and Student Bullying. All education professors may use these PD services.
  • The Minnesota Board of Teaching (BOT) is now called the Professional Educators Licensing Standards Board (PELSB). Our governor will be appointing new members to this board. You may go to the Secretary of State’s webpage to see the names of all those who have applied thus far.

Blog EMSP Good bye BOT

  • New teacher licensures that are projected to begin July 2018 are Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4, Short-call substitute license, Long-call substituted license, and Life-time substitute license. According to the gal presenting, Minnesota has been considered a powerhouse in teacher licensure. Sadly, she stated this is beginning to change because of this new rule making on licensing. We were told we will be kept posted on this.

Blog EMSP Tiered Teaching

  • Education Minnesota will be leading the state’s educators in a movement to live equitably and practice equity literacy. It’s time for all of us to work together to take down the fence that hinders.

Blog EMSP Equality

A fun surprise was at lunch when we were blessed to see a few of our kids…our SMSU EMSP officers. Thanks ladies and to ALL officers, for all the hard work you do for our EMSP Chapter.

EMSP…collaboration and solidarity of aspiring educators. Here’s to a great year! 🙂

Blog EMSP Group

Stay Calm & Aspire On!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 



The Waiting Game: Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up!  We need to be on time.  The game is about to start! What game you may be asking? The waiting game that is.  You know… the one in life that we all play together.  We are on the same team – us v. time.  We get going to where we need to be… and wait to leave, and wait to arrive, and wait to start the game, the appointment, the … (you can fill in the blank) – life.

Here are some very common examples of waiting:

Waiting for a high school summer league basketball game to start…

Waiting at the mall…

Wait dancing is a common practice is it not? 🙂

Dr. Wendy waiting for her PT appointment and waiting to feel better while her grandson is waiting for her…

Fathers and sons bonding while waiting for doc appointments…

Kids waiting for an oil change…

Brother waiting for his bro at the dentist…

BLOG 8.1.17 Waiting12

Traffic waiting…

Check-in waiting…
BLOG 8.1.17 Waiting22

Ferris wheel waiting…

Are we there
yet waiting…

We wait on average an hour a day for the next thing in life to happen.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal until we do the math… something like 5 to 6 years of our lives – waiting.
Waiting can be challenging and try our patience – especially when we are in a hurry to get on with what is next in life.  In our world of instant gratification, waiting can upset us and drive us to become mad – out of our ordinarily calm demeanor.  Who you and me? Maybe. What’s important to remember is that good things come to those who wait.  Right?  Don’t be miserable while waiting for life.  A good attitude and perspective can make all the difference.  Enjoy the wait.  What are you waiting for?

What do you do while you wait?

Stay Calm & Wait!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

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. 

Hey Carter

It is this date again – June 30th. I remember walking with Stella in the early morning sunshine last summer remembering a year before that – in the hospital watching my nephew die.  We prayed for a miracle so that he could stay. We prayed for a miracle so that he would peacefully let go.  It was a struggle that we all shared. It is a struggle that we continue to share.  Today’s blog is in memory of Carter Joseph Boerboom; it is written by his father, Wade Boerboom, for families who are fighting cancer and praying for their own miracles.

Father and Son Carter

Anyone who knew Carter knew how much he liked his gift of gab.  We can’t imagine where he got that from… Have you met his parents and extended family? 😉 These are the real words and raw emotions from his dad in a letter to his son, putting into print the many chats they frequently have.

Hey Carter,

So get this, Aunt Sonya asked me to guest blog for her website.  Yeah I know, homework in the middle of summer, right?  But she asked that I use it as writing a letter to you.  I guess she didn’t realize I talk to you every day.  Oh well, I guess to humor her I will pretend I don’t and write this out to you.

So, what else has been happening you ask?  Well, I suppose we should catch up on everyone.

Freaking Lebron & the Cavs won the NBA title in 16, but the Warriors got them back in 17!  Kevin Durant ended up going to the Warriors this last summer in free agency.  I think just to stick it to Lebron.  They went 16-1 in the playoffs.  Only lost one game to the Cavs.  I wanted the sweep, but losing just 1 isn’t too bad either.

Oh, I feel bad about this one.   When we were told your cancer was back, on June 10th, 2015; you said “does this mean we can go to Duke?”  You were too ill to travel, so Joy and I decided to check it out this fall.  What a cool place!  They beat up on Grand Canyon. The kids/crowd were going nuts the whole time.  You would have loved it.

Katie is on her 3rd college & 3rd car.  Yes, she really is.  She attended Morris for her freshman year.  She did ok, but I think she spent more time in Alexandria with Tom than she did in school.  She wanted to try St. Cloud fall of sophomore year.  She lived in Tom (Geske) and your mom’s house in St. Cloud.  There was a crazy stabbing in the mall where she worked.  Thank goodness she wasn’t there.  I’m thinking that was the turning point, and they both just didn’t really love St. Cloud anymore.  She came home to SMSU, and is a 3.9 now.  Yes, she really is!  She just rented a little house in Marshall.  She’s growing up, I guess.  Tom is working at Action Track Chairs.  As for the cars…  The Dodge basically just died.  Then last week we had hail & it took out the Focus we replaced it with.  Damn kids and their cars…..

Belle went to Mankato last year.  She lived with her cousin Alex and a few other girls.  Interesting year.  They had a gathering that got busted before school started & then got robbed over Christmas break.  She is doing well in school.  She job shadowed a chiropractor and a dermatologist this summer.  Let’s hope she really makes money after graduation, lord knows she likes to spend it.

Sam graduated this year.  Get this, he has a girlfriend!  Yes, our Sam.  She came to the house the other night for venison/b-day picnic.  Our tradition of having those for you kids continues.  We had yours this year too.  Sam is planning on going to SDSU this fall.  I can’t wait.  Division 1 hoops!  They actually made the big dance this year.  Sam and his buddies have a company now –  Average Angling.  They upload videos, and get paid for it.  I think they have made something like 17cents off their fishing videos now.

Maddie is driving now.  Katie and your mom go to lunch with her from time to time.   She looks like she is doing well & having fun in school.  We see on Facebook that she does lots of sports & time with friends.

Sam and your buddies all miss you too. I think they are still up to the same shenanigans – maybe not shooting hoops off the top of the golf cart anymore though.  Sounds like Sam is going to St. John’s University for school next year. Of course we figured he would.  His family brought you to a couple of Johnny’s games.  I think they are pretty big fans of SJU.

Joy is training and coaching full time now.  She left Schwan’s to start a gym at the office.  She started with personal training and expanded to Rock Steady Boxing.  It’s boxing exercises to help Parkinson’s patients with their symptoms.  Her clients seem to really like her, even though she yells at them & beats them up.  The Rock Steady Boxing thing was something we saw on 60 Minutes.  The best part was that her training was in Indianapolis.  Joy worked, and I got to go to the Big 10 Tournament.

Kailen & PJ are workout bffs now.  Both are getting pretty fit too.  I think they work out twice a day.  Sounds like Kailen will be the running back in Cottonwood this fall.  Should be fun to watch.

Lori, Tori, and Tiffy moved to Bloomington.  Lori is a VP or something I guess.  Big time, right?  Tori is driving and will get her license soon.  Tiffy is in basketball, softball and volleyball.  All this summer.  They are pretty busy.  I think the Beer-Straights think they live there, too.  They are up there usually three weekends a month.  They usually bring the dog too.

Jack is going to camp after camp for football.  Sounds like he is headed to Ohio for one in July.  He just got his moped license.  Crashed the other day.  Just a little skinned up.  Not bad enough to come see you.  Jonah and JR both played SW Slam this spring.  We caught a few of their games.  JR seems to favor the 3 pointer.  He is not as proficient as you, but he is still young.

Bill and Missy are doing well.  Still camping & riding motorcycles.  They went to Arizona and rode to Vegas last spring.  No pictures of ass-less chaps have shown up, so we are all good.  They chase Wyatt around a lot.  He is pretty good at hockey now & made a couple traveling teams.  One tourney was up in Duluth.  He lifts weights now at the high school.  I think he is finally starting to grow.  Cody is buying Lori’s old house, and has a roommate-Dylan.  Let’s hope they don’t kill each other.

Braden bought a house in Cottonwood and got engaged to Amy.  20 years old,  going on 30.  He is farming with Ron and building a hog barn.  I bet Ron never thought in his wildest dreams that he would have hogs on that farm again.

Tam is not an empty nester yet.  She still gets one more year of chasing Kailen around to games.  They like to fight a little, but I think they are both going to miss each other.

Grandma Glenda sold the store.  Yep, the days of free ice cream are long gone.  She travels a lot.  She likes the bus trips they do around the different parts of the country.  She lets the kids drive her corvette for prom.  Sam went and then kept the car for about two months now. Nice grandma, huh?

Grandpa Ron and Lois like to camp & travel.  They went to Hawaii last year.  He still farms with Braden.  I think he plans to delegate more of the work soon.  He is just waiting for Braden to get the barn done.  He wanted to see his “home” farm last year in Belgium, but there was a bomb at the airport so we all chickened out.  Looks like we are finally going to get there this fall.

Grandma Nancy wants to retire, but Grandpa Steve doesn’t want her to yet.  Maybe another year.  She has shorter hours in the summer so she can spend more time in the garden and tinkering around the farm.  Grandpa still drives all the time.  He still loves to catch the grandkids’ games and tries to get to as many as possible.  He of course runs a little hot when things don’t go quite right, but he is getting a little more mellow.  Maybe that is where Bill gets it???? 

Grandma Betty and Grandpa Joe have an apartment at Boulder Estates now. They still visit the farm and like to have coffee there. They are as funny as ever. They celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in May. They are looking forward to seeing you again one day, too.

Your mom & Tom are also doing well.  They like to get to the cabin as much as they can.  I’m glad you got there a few times before you had to go.  They named it Carter’s Cabin.  Lynd just got hammered with hail, so we won’t have to worry about siding contractors for quite some time.  Tom will stay busy!  Your mom started teaching – subbed at Holy this past year.  I think she really enjoyed that.  That gets me thinking of all the homework we tried to make you do your last year.  It’s like you knew you really didn’t need to spend a lot of time with that.

The Pats and Ore & Jenny are doing well.  Morgan is getting married and has a baby. So I guess that makes you a second cousin? Or a first cousin once removed? I don’t know. They are well and miss you.

So now that you are all caught up on everyone, what’s been going on with me.  Get this, in the fall of 2015 I was told I have Melanoma In-Situ.  So cancer, but just on the surface of the skin.  99.5% curable.  Nothing like what you went through, but still cancer.  AGAIN, the same year????

The Agency is doing well.  I just keep plugging away.  After 30 years of eating and drinking, we finally have KB’s as a customer!  Persistence pays off.  You know, you were supposed to come work with me and take over one day.  I still have the letter in my office from when you were in 1st grade.  It said you want to sell insurance and take pictures of houses.  That’s not all it takes, but you had about 90% of it down.

We are repeat “Over 30” city league champs!  I know, my 3 point per game average is not the difference anymore.  It has a lot (everything!) to do with Shuan Wisdom.  I like to golf as much as I can.  Somedays it goes well, some days it doesn’t.  I like to get up early and play.  Gives me time for our “talks” early in the morning.

Carter and his dog

One thing I have been thinking about as your anniversary comes around is that I don’t think I took the time to realize everyone lost you.  I was pretty wrapped up in feeling sick/sad/pissed/poor me, that I sometimes forgot that everyone else lost you too.  The thing that really struck me was even though I was shook up, you took it pretty well, and it was happening to you.  That really helps me believe we will have this talk in person again one day.

Friday is two years since you moved away.  I gotta tell you, it was rough at first.

Carter 123

A couple things I will never forget about that day.  You were all sweaty, so we decided to change your clothes.  We kicked everyone out of the room except Tom, nurse Dan and myself.  We figured we would put you in Duke apparel.  If you are going to go, go in style right?  Anyway, as we are changing you (yes, shorts and all) your eyes popped open and you threw a punch right at nurse Dan’s face.  I guess waking up with ½ your clothes on caught you off guard.  He didn’t get hurt too bad… you were high on morphine after all.

The last two things you said in your first life will remain with me forever.  First, you said “I was chosen, I am going to die”.  What an incredibly profound statement to hear.  Even more so from a 14 year old.  Always wise beyond your years.  I couldn’t believe it.  Was it faith?  Was it God talking to you?  Was it to comfort all of us?  I think it was a little of all those.  I also believe it was your way of telling us that you were going to be okay.  For you to know it and accept and acknowledge the situation was incredible.

You said something about “My babies! Where are my babies?!”  We all leaned in close & asked “What babies, Carter?”  You said, “I have two babies.”  “The dogs?” your mom asked.  “No, I have two babies.”  I like to believe in some life you do. One bit of advice for you.  If your kids want to shoot hoops in the driveway when it is late and cold out, do it anyway.  In April of 2015 when you were feeling good, you wanted to shoot hoops.  After a while I went in the house.  I sat for about five minutes and then said to Joy, “I think I have to go shoot hoops in the cold with the kid some more.”  I thank God all the time that I went back out there with you.  Even though it was colder than shit out.

See you soon,  talk to you tomorrow.   Pops.



Stay Calm & Shoot Hoops!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.