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About educonnections

A Tale of 2 Profs... Sharing our stories about teaching, learning, & living... Dr. V & Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester

We Are Treasured

“…the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.” ~Deuteronomy 7:6 (NLT)

Sometimes treasures are buried deep down just waiting for us to excitedly uncover them. Other times, treasures are in plain sight. Treasures like:

A rainbow over the ocean…

Or, a sunset on the Minnesota prairie…

Or, a sundog in winter…

OR…a child’s Vacation Bible School music program finale. 🎶💝

I got goosebumps listening to my grandson and all the other children sing about being “forgiven and chosen forever, I am a treasure.” The message in that song was exactly what this grandma’s heart needed. A reminder for me, and all of us, that we ARE who God says we are.

Deuteronomy 7:6 (NLT) reminds us of this: “…the LORD your God has chosen you to be His own special treasure.”  Hmmm…why would he choose me I wonder? Why did the Lord choose us? A few verses later in Deuteronomy 7:8a explains why: “…it was simply that the LORD loves you…”

Wow! I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind, and it gives me more goosebumps. It is exactly what I needed to hear…again!

Please know, we are loved and we are treasured! It’s that simple! Both are in plain sight!

Stay Calm & Know We Are Priceless Treasures! ❤
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Mental Health Monday

May is Mental Health Awareness month. I know a handful of my students were struggling spring semester and still are even though school is out for the summer. In fact, just today I visited with one who is having a hard time dealing with life. She talked, she cried, I listened. She said she is getting professional help and is getting better (so thankful for that).

Dr. V. and I had the privilege of watching and listening to Gerry Brooks, well-known Kentucky elementary principal, give an hour online ASCD Mental Health Summit presentation on how he has uses object lessons to encourage his staff and build up their mental wellness.  

When googling the definition of object lessons, you are given several choices. The Oxford Language website defines it as a “striking practical example of some principle or ideal.”  Dictionary.com explains it as “a practical or concrete illustration of a principle.” My favorite definition is the one found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…not the most trustworthy, but hey, it’s my favorite!)… “An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object of visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.” (Carter, 2010).

Below are a few of the mental health object lesson ideas I found extremely beneficial:

Light Switch: Principal Brooks gave his staff a light switch. This object is a reminder to his school family to switch off their professional lives and turn on their personal lives when they leave the school building and go home. His professional switch goes off Friday and switches back on Sunday afternoon. His advice to his teachers is you are no good to anyone if you are stressed out so it is okay to turn off your professional switch! Many of his teachers liked this idea so much they went out and bought all their students a light switch. Teachers will ask their students to pull out their light switches and turn off their math brains and turn on their science brains…a simple but yet powerful tool for all to destress!  

M & M’s: Gerry likes to gift his staff with tasty treats. He especially appreciates M & M’s because of all the different flavors (for his diverse staff). If we were to give our colleagues these same treats would we know which kind to give to others? If we know one of our colleagues has a peanut allergy, we certainly would not give them a bag of Peanut M & M’s. We are told to know our colleagues on a personal basis. They can be a support system. Gerry encourages us to send a friendly text to five people a day and just imagine the joy you would have if YOU received such a text:

                                3 friends

                                1 acquaintance

                                1 whoever you need to track down his/her number

Reading Glasses: Principal Brooks gives all his teachers a pair of reading glasses whether they need them or not. He wants us to try our best to look through other people’s lenses so we can be the best we can be in our profession. By doing so teaches us empathy, sympathy, and understanding. Imagine you are teaching your math lesson. It is a very important concept your students MUST know for the test. You are interrupted by the school counselor asking to have one of your students come with her/him. You may be thinking…absolutely not! This child cannot miss this important lesson. What you don’t realize is this counselor has two sets of very angry parents in the office and the only child who can help resolve this issue is the one she needs to take with her. We must try our best to see situations through the lenses of others.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: This object lesson was eyebrow raising for me. I’ve known about it all 34 years of my teaching career, however, this was the first time to ever hear someone point it out and say it out loud. P in peanut butter helps Gerry remember professional, and the J in jelly reminds him of jealousy. OUCH. Truth right there. Honest to goodness truth. Professional jealousy is real!! He admitted he experiences this when he compares his school’s test scores to others. Or a teacher is asked to present at the staff meeting about something wonderful he/she is doing in the classroom and the colleagues become jealous.  A little jealousy rears its ugly head when we start to compare ourselves to others. We may begin to have a little conversation in our head that goes something like this… “what did they do to earn that score? Why did that teacher to get to talk at the staff meeting? I’ve done amazing things too.” I know I’ve made these same types of comparisons, and I’m confident you have too! We must stop this!! We cannot grow if we start to allow professional jealousy.

Valentine Heart Candy: Jerry picked out Valentine’s Day heart candy because they are seasonal. He also shared he has a freezer full of Girl Scout Cookies because once the season for those cookies is done, he cannot get them until the next year. BUT…the good news is, those cookies and those Valentine’s Day candy hearts will be back. The season without them will come to an end. We all have been in a crazy season. Our pandemic the past 14 months has taken a toll on many.  It is seasonal and let’s remember the good news is “this too shall pass!”  It WILL end.

Thank you, Gerry Brooks, for sharing your education wisdom with us. Your presentation is one I will always remember.

The last object lesson I’d like to share is a pillow. The craziest school year in history is coming to an end (thank goodness). To all of you, my fellow educator rock star colleagues…may you be blessed with sweet rest this summer. Lay your head on your soft pillow and smile when you close your eyes.  You did extraordinary things for your students this year and for that we applaud you.

Even though this blog is written from an educator’s perspective, it truly applies to all!!! Turn off your professional switch when you are done working for the day; get to know your colleagues on a personal level; be respectful of others’ perspectives and try to understand the situation by looking at it through a different set of lenses; keep professional jealousy out of your heart and mind and workplace; and when you are experiencing tough times, know it’s only for a season…this too shall pass!

Take care of your mental health, everyone! Your mind matters!!

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

Carter, S.A. (2010). An object lesson, or don’t eat the evidence. The Journal of History and Childhood and Youth. (V. 3, Number 1). John Hopkins University. Retrieved May 23, 2021 from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/370309

Seriously Proud of These 2021 Grads!

Seriously, we are so PROUD of these grads! To make it through what they have made it through…history makers for sure! You have taught us as much or more than we have taught you by your actions and persistence during this challenging year.

Now it is time to go make history again…go out and change the world one student, one classroom at a time. We have gifted our new grads with a Mustang journal to keep record of all the lives impacted by their teaching from this day forward. History is no doubt in the making with each step forward and each student positively impacted.

While waiting in line to take their turn to walk the stage and receive their diploma, these School of Education graduates were asked to share a favorite memory from their teacher preparation program here at SMSU. Some declined the question, however, a few were willing to share…

Payton B. – those people who came to Child Lit class and shared about Braille.

Rebecca M. – The Jeffers trainings in Dr. Kandy’s class.

McKenzie D. – When the bus broke down on the way to MEA in the cities.

Kara E. – Building relationships with local educators during field experiences.

Tessa C. – Working with the kids.

Alyssa L. – Meeting my best friend in ED 101.

Miranda M. – All of the great professors.

Avery L. – Oh, the clinicals.

Alyssa G. – My favorite memory was student teaching because I had the best mentor teacher in the best classroom.

Bobby H. – Frankie because she’s Frankie.

Cole M. & Payton H. – The swimming class with Frankie and with all my classmates.  

Lana W. ­– All the learning celebrations we had together.

Issac N. – I would say how helpful each of the SMSU staff were with any questions or help with any instruction.

Carry your memories in your pocket, graduates, then you can pull them out whenever you need to smile.

All of you have found your purpose – your calling – which is teaching. Seriously, we are so PROUD of you! You remind us why we do what we do each day. We excitedly anticipate your next adventure with you; the sky is the limit and SMSU is your springboard. We leave you with a quote by Kerry Washington: “Your life is your story and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”

Stay Calm & Best Wishes Always!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

One Fruit…Nine Different Qualities

Apples…I love all kinds of them. From varieties such as Yellow Delicious to Honeycrisp to Jazz to Envy, there’s nothing quite as delicious as sinking your teeth into a high-quality apple. What traits make an apple high-quality anyway? If you check out Google, there are several ideas listed there.

Personally, I want my apple to be unspoiled, firm, fresh, ripe, crisp, juicy, sweet, acidic, and versatile. Apple with peanut butter, anyone? 🙋 Or, better yet…how about a slice of warm, right-out-of-the-oven apple pie? Delightful!

One fruit…nine different qualities.

Another vital fruit with nine essential qualities is the Fruit of the Spirit. The mention of this fruit and its first-rate qualities can be found in Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. In Chapter 5 of Galatians, the Apostle Paul shares with the churches about living a life in the Spirit. Specifically, in Galatians 5:22, Paul teaches the Galatia churches (and us) the important qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  -Galatians 5:22 (NIV).

The Passion Translation (TPT) interprets Galatians 5:22 like this, ”…the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.” Oooh, I love this translation!

Isn’t it interesting to notice both versions use the word fruit as singular. Just one. According to Lee (2014), it is important for us to understand that the Apostle Paul is not referring to nine different fruits. He is referring to one fruit with nine different qualities. Lee (2014) stated, “It’s the ‘fruit,’ not ‘fruits’ of the spirit. So it’s one fruit encompassing these nine qualities.” (Para. 4)

One fruit…nine different qualities.

Oh, how I want to BE all of these qualities every.single.day. Some days, though, I grow weary and lack energy. I begin to lose faith in my circumstances or the people around me. Some days it’s hard. Really, really hard to put on that happy face and BE the fruit of the Spirit. These are the days I need to lean on God. These are the days I turn back a few pages in my bible from Galatians to 2 Corinthians 12:9 (TPT) and hold on to this promise: “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.”

I’ll always do the best I can to live a life according to the fruit of the Spirit. Won’t you join me? Just like that sweet, warm apple pie, living in the victory of the Holy Spirit will be delightful!  

Stay Calm & Find the Victory!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Lee, D. (2014). Fruit of the spirit includes nine godly qualities. The Spectrum. Retrieved May 4, 2021 from https://amp.thespectrum.com/amp/9319377  

We Are Who God Says We Are

One of my favorite movies from childhood is Mary Poppins.  Do you remember the scene when Mary Poppins reaches down deep into her bottomless bag and pulls out her measuring tape? She wants to see how the Banks children measure up. Michael is ‘extremely stubborn and suspicious.” Jane is “rather inclined to giggle and doesn’t put things away.” When the children ask Mary how she measures up, Mary finds, as she expected, she is ‘practically perfect in every way.’

I have to admit, most days in my life are far from practically perfect in any way shape or form. Can any of you relate?

Those times when we feel insignificant because of life’s let downs. We didn’t get the job we interviewed for or we didn’t get an interview at all. Because of ‘rule’ changes, we are told we are no longer qualified to teach a class we’ve been teaching for 18 years. We aren’t allowed to visit because of someone else being there. Or, when no one liked our Facebook post or our Twitter post or our Instagram post. 🙄

If you are anything like me, I’d say we oscillate between feelings of disappointment and feelings of failure. We begin to think negatively and even say negative thoughts out loud.  “I’m not qualified enough, good enough, creative enough, knowledgeable enough. What is wrong with me? I’m such a loser.”

Let me reassure you right now, those negative thoughts are all lies from the enemy! We need to capture such thoughts and lift ourselves up by speaking life! We must speak truth.

Let’s always remember that we are who God says we are, NOT who the world says we are. So, who exactly are we according to God?

I’ve created Bible ABC cards to remind myself of who God says we are. It helps me focus on truth and not the lies of the enemy. I’ve listed a few of these promises below…

We are…

Accepted: Romans 15:7 reads “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…”

Blessed: Ephesians 1:3 promises “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Children of God: 1 John 3:1 states “See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”

Forgiven: Ephesians 4/32 assures “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Healed: Isaiah 53:5 declares “…by His wounds we are healed.”

Protected: 2 Thessalonians 3:3 proclaims “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Valued: Luke 12:7 affirms “And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are more valuable to God than a flock of sparrows.”  

The next time life hands us disappointments and tries to make us think negatively about ourselves, let’s capture those thoughts and replace them with God’s truth! We ARE who God says we are.

(If you’d like a deck of the Bible ABC cards, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to send you one 😊).

Bible ABC’s

Stay Calm & Capture Your Thoughts!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Develop Informed Opinions on MN State Social Studies Standards: Being Critical Consumers of Media

Image result for mn state social studies standards committee

Photo Credit: http://www.mcss.org/resources/documents/2011%20social%20studies%20standards.pdf

This is a guest blog post written by Brandon Raymo, a lifelong resident of Southwest Minnesota. He grew up in Madison, MN, graduated from Lac qui Parle Valley High School and then pursued a degree in history from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. Brandon graduated from SMSU with a degree in history and a license to teach 5-12 social studies. While in his first years of teaching social studies at Yellow Medicine East in Granite Falls, he went to Minnesota State Mankato and graduated with a Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Brandon is currently employed as the Assistant Director of the Minnesota River Valley Education District in Montevideo, where he resides with his family; wife Katie, children Adelyn, Gretta, and Eli. Brandon is also a volunteer firefighter on the Montevideo Fire Department and serves as the Vice Director of American Legion Baseball in Minnesota. In his spare time he coaches baseball, hunts, and spends time with family and friends at the lake.

The views below are those of the author and in no way reflective of the views of his employer or any other organizations.

For any social studies teacher, or teacher in general, the past few months have been a gold-mine of material! You wake up every day with something new and exciting to talk about with your class. Every day has provided us an opportunity to teach a lesson in civics, history, economics, and even geography. It could be about learning how the election process works, impeachment history, the economics of a stimulus bill, or the Electoral College geography puzzle. I would give anything to be back in my social studies classroom teaching these very important topics as we live them.

As depressing as the divisiveness in our nation is, it is also providing us with an opportunity to teach some very powerful lessons to our students. This divisiveness has also allowed us to reflect and further our own understanding of the world around us. Sometimes these lessons are hard to swallow, or very difficult to teach to students. Moreover, the conversations we have with our families or colleagues over these divisive topics can be very difficult. Regardless of which side of the aisle we fall into politically, or side of a topic we agree with, we must always respect one another.

As a former member of the MN social studies standards review committee, I have continually been reminded of a couple very important lessons. The first being respect, or at the very least, tolerance for one another. As I read through the public comments from draft 1 of the social studies standards, it became apparent that Minnesotans are passionate about social studies education. It warms my heart to see such passion over a content area I love so much. But, what makes my heart ache is the number of people who resort to name-calling and personal threats.

One can get insight into the public comments by simply searching on Twitter or Facebook about news articles associated with draft 1 of the standards. Read through the hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of comments. It won’t take too many comments to realize that this country needs a lesson on respectful civil discourse. Civil discourse is healthy for talking and debating over any topic. However, productive dialogue cannot occur without both parties being respectful of one another. Name-calling and threats will automatically put one party into a defensive position. Conversations cannot be productive if one party is constantly trying to defend themselves. We cannot approach our conversations with the idea that I am right and you are wrong. Instead, we need to come to the conversation with a mindset of, “I have ideas and you have ideas, let’s put these ideas together to create something we both can agree upon”.

Draft 1 of the standards is based on the C3 Framework (College, Career, and Civic ready). The catch 22 to all this uproar is that the people providing feedback, critical feedback, or threatening feedback, are doing exactly what is being called for in the new standards according to the C3 Framework.  Within the framework, it calls for people to develop claims and take informed action. However, many of the people providing the threatening feedback may need a lesson in developing claims based upon credible evidence and then taking informed action. Many of these people have developed claims based upon reading one article or hearsay and their choice of action was providing public comments, however, ill informed.

The second important lesson that has been a great reminder for me and would be an awesome teaching tool for my students is the ability to be critical consumers of the media. I lost count of the number of people who have come to me, clearly upset over draft 1 of the standards. My initial response to all of them is to stop, take a breath, and brush off the knee-jerk reaction to reading one article. As hard as any writer tries, there is bias in every article. Some writers will cherry pick “facts” that further their argument regardless of the context. Some writers will be defensive and try to refute the facts, regardless of the context. Some will try to provide more context to clear things up. We can’t fall into the trap of reading one article, believing it to be completely factual, and then reacting. Part of being a critical consumer of the media is the ability to recognize bias and take in multiple perspectives and formulate your own opinion. I often use the example of my students writing research papers. I wouldn’t allow my students to formulate their opinion based upon one source.

On the issue of the social studies standards, regardless how you feel about them, please hear all sides, do your own research, and ask your own questions. Many people that come to me, who are shocked about the changes to the standards, have typically read a couple articles. The first article being an opinion piece in the Star Tribune from Katherine Kersten titled, Woke Revolution Looms for Minnesota Schools. The second being MN Social Studies Standards are Under Revision: Here are top 5 areas of concern written by Catrin Wigfall and published by The Center of the American Experiment.

Now, if I had read only one of these articles and didn’t have any other information, I too would be upset. However, as mentioned, in order to be a critical consumer of the media, we need to be able to recognize bias and take in multiple perspectives to formulate our own opinions. We then can direct our attention to another opinion piece in the Star Tribune titled, Counterpoint: Why the shift in social studies standards is needed, by Aaliyah Hodge, member of the MN social studies standards review committee.

We need to read everything with an open mind. Bring in as many perspectives as possible and formulate our own opinion or ask further questions. Even our Minnesota Senators have fallen into this trap of reading one source and believing it to be factual. Senator Dahms released a video outlining his concerns over the standards. However, as you will see in Mark Westpfahl’s Twitter thread, had Senator Dahms been more informed on the topic, his video could have had a different message. The video by Senator Dahms is a knee-jerk reaction to one source and he is spreading misinformation and fueling the flames of divisiveness.

Instead of providing a knee-jerk reaction to draft 1 of the standards, maybe we need to be asking more clarifying questions?

  • Why are so many aspects of history not included in draft 1?
    • Mark Westpfahl offered an excellent explanation of this in his Twitter thread on the topic.
  • What is the C3 Framework & why was it chosen as the base document for draft 1?
  • How can I become more informed about the process of standard review?
  • What opportunities will I have to participate in the process?
  • If I don’t agree with something, what means of appropriate civil discourse do I have?

As a former member of the committee, I can assure you that more specificity is coming in draft 2. In the introduction it specifically states on page 2 that more specificity is coming, along with everything Mark Westpfahl states in his Twitter thread. I urge everyone to become informed about the topic before jumping to conclusions. Read through the whole draft, take-in multiple viewpoints with an open mind, and ask your own questions. Then formulate your own opinion and decide on informed action if needed.

I close with a story. I have a 4-year old son, Eli. We were home for a couple days during the 2nd impeachment trial. Eli was putting a puzzle together while I watched the coverage of the trial. The House Managers were showing video of the insurrection at the Capitol. The violence, screaming, chanting, etc… that had ensued. My 4 year old looks at me and asks, “Dad, this isn’t real, is it?” I got choked up trying to answer him in a way he will hopefully understand. After fumbling my way through what I felt was an appropriate answer, he looks at me and says, “Dad, we shouldn’t act like that if we don’t get our way, right?” If a 4 year old can understand respectful civil discourse, I have faith that our country/state/communities can as well.

Stay Calm & Be a Critical Consumer of the Media!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Our 40 Day Sugar/Facebook/Alcohol Fasts

On January 4th, my hubby and I joined a bunch of other folks to participate in a 40 Day Sugar Fast, a book written by Wendy Speake.  In addition to this, Dean and I decided to add a few extra fasts to this challenge.

This morning marks the 41st day of our trifecta fast…40 days of no sugar plus no Facebook and no alcohol. Why those three? Well, last year I attempted the sugar fast alone and only made it about 20 days. Facebook…well, because I was tired of the negativity on there. 🙄 We enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and one after dinner, so we decided to take a break from that too. While we didn’t quite make it all 40 days from sugar and alcohol (ahem…can we say Super Bowl Sunday 🏈), we did survive without Facebook with no problem! Overall, we believe we did extremely well during these three grand challenges! I’d like to share a few of my takeaways from the past 40 days.

Daily Devotion! The 40 Day Sugar Fast book has a new bible verse and reading for each day. These stories helped us to focus on what was really important during the fast…running to the Most High rather than a sugar/Facebook/alcohol high. Although the book is about sugar, you can replace that with whatever fast you are on. An example from the book would be Day 3’s reading titled When Sugar Walls Crumble. Replace sugar with your choice of fast whether that be shopping, gambling, wine, social media, Netflix, coffee, or whatever. For us it read, When Sugar/Facebook/Alcohol Walls Crumble. We usually read these daily messages in Wendy’s book together each evening and this kept our spirits up to help us keep our fasts up. Wendy’s 40 Day Social Media Fast begins February 17th if you are interested. Just google it.

Remove the Temptation! We emptied our house of all sugar treats and alcohol, and I removed the Facebook app from my phone. It’s a must, that’s all I can say.  

Find a Challenge Partner! The first two weeks were H.A.R.D. I mean REALLY HARD!! Several times I just wanted to throw in the towel and say forget it. I’m so grateful my husband joined me on this journey. He encouraged me to keep going, and a few times I encouraged him too (he has a much stronger will than I do). Get an accountability partner if you want to give any fast a try! It really helped having my fasting buddy right by my side. No cheating, no ‘stretching the truth.’ Couldn’t run, couldn’t hide. Thanks Deano!

Meal Planning! Each Sunday we talked about what we would eat for the week, wrote out our grocery list, and off to the store we would go. Planning ahead made it much easier to stick to the fasts.

Sugar-Free Treats! While the book encourages staying away from sugar-free foods during the fast, we did try a few sugar-free treats. I made some sugar-free spice donuts which were very good. I also had a root beer float using diet root beer, sugar-free frozen yogurt. I found that sugar-free foods do not like me, and caused a bad after effect. 😲 I didn’t have any more during the 40 days. My favorite ‘candy’ treat was/is grapes. Especially frozen grapes…yum.

Mocktail Cocktails! We had fun re-creating cocktails with no sugars or alcohol. These mocktails proved to be very tasty and became our dessert after dinner. I’ve shared many of these recipes at the end of this post.

Now what? Now that our 40 days are done, do we just go back to our normal routine? I don’t think so. We have decided we like the changes we have made, and the confidence gained because we can say “we did it!”  While weight loss was not a goal, it did happen for both of us. I am no longer bloated like I was and my skin and eyes are brighter. I do not miss the drama on Facebook, however, I do miss wishing people a happy birthday. So I’ll be on there occasionally but not like before.

We like the changes we’ve made so we plan to stick with them. Maybe we will try a few new fasts in the near future. Join us anytime! 😊❤

Stay Calm & See What 40 Days Can Do!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.   

Mocktail Cocktails w/Low to No Sugar

Mocktail Mule (My Favorite)

The What:

½ lime fresh squeezed juice

½ cup Diet Ginger Beer

Club Soda

Ice

The How:

*Juice ½ lime into mule mug

*Add ice

*Add ½ cup diet ginger beer

*Top with club soda

*Add a lime slice for mug magnificence 😍🥃

Raspberry Lime Tonic

The What:

Diet Tonic Water

4 Raspberries

½ lime fresh squeezed juice

Ice

The How:

*Squeeze lime juice from half of a lime into a glass

*Add 3 raspberries & muddle to release juices

*Add ice

*Top off with Diet Tonic Water

*Add whole raspberry & slice of lime to garnish if you want to make it extra pretty 😍🥃

The Ginger Rogers

The What:

¼ c. water

1 inch fresh ginger

1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

6 mint leaves

4 oz. Diet Ginger Ale

Ice

The How:

*Pour ¼ cup water into a sauce pan

*Add 1 inch ginger peeled and sliced thin to water

*Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let steep for 45 – 60 minutes

*Add water/ginger mixture to glass

*Add 6 mint leaves to water/ginger mixture and muddle to release mint leaf oils

*Add 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

*Place in cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 10 seconds

*Pour into glass with ice

*Top with about 4 ounces of diet ginger ale

*Add a lemon slice & mint sprig to garnish if you want to make it look fancy 😍🥃

Strawberry – Basil Mule

The What

3 – 4 strawberries (depending on size)

4 large fresh basil leaves

½ lime fresh squeezed juice

6 mint leaves

4 oz. Diet Ginger Beer or to top

Ice

The How:

*Muddle 2 – 3 strawberries and 4 large mint leaves in the bottom of a mule mug to release juices and oils

*Add juice from ½ fresh squeezed lime

*Pour into cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 10 seconds

*Pour back into mule mug now with ice

*Top with about 4 ounces of diet ginger beer

*Add a few basil leaves & fresh strawberry to garnish if you want to add fun drink décor 😍🥃

New Fashion

The What:

Slices of fresh orange peel

1 Cherry

Aromatic Bitters

Orange Bitters

Club Soda

Ice

The How:

*Twist then muddle orange peel in the bottom of a glass

*Add ice

*Add a dash of aromatic bitters and orange bitters (contains a tiny bit of alcohol)

*Top with club soda

*Add an orange peel and/or cherry for garnish 😍🥃

Mocktail Mojito

The What:

6 mint leaves

1/2 lime juice and wedge

Club soda

Ice

The How:

*Muddle mint leaves with ½ fresh squeezed lime juice in glass

*Add ice

*Top with club soda

*Garnish with mint leaves and lime wedge for glass gorgeousness😍🥃

Storm Home Love

As I sit here gazing out the window watching the snow fall and whip around in the 25 mile per hour winds, I remember a fond memory of when my son, Kyle, was in first grade. The elementary school my son attended was also the same school where I taught third graders.

An expectation at our school was the parents of students who lived out in the country on the main highways or the gravel roads were required to sign a form listing a safe place, or storm home, located in town where their children could go just in case they weren’t able to make it back home. Even a few town kids were required to have a storm home listed.

One blizzardy day in January (kind of like today but worse) a winter storm came upon us. Even though the district had made the decision to let the children go home early, it wasn’t quite early enough. Busses weren’t able to travel on the gravel roads so those kids who lived out in the country were being rerouted to their storm homes.

One little boy was quite worried about my son. With great trepidation, he kept repeating to his teacher “Kyle doesn’t have a storm home! He NEEDS a storm home!” Miss Wolff, a wonderful first grade teacher, gently reassured this little boy, “Kyle will be fine because his mom works at the school. Kyle doesn’t need a storm home.” That concerned little classmate didn’t buy it. He demanded Kyle go with him to his storm home so Kyle would stay safe.    

Don’t you just love that story? The innocence? The purity? I sure do. That little boy might have been anxious about my son’s safety, but his insisting on Kyle going with him to his storm home was noble, kind, admirable, and genuine love.  

Our nation…our world needs that kind of love more than ever! We need that little boy’s innocent, genuine, pure love and concern for others! Philippians 4:8 says, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Dear friends, let us love one another! Let us challenge each other to intentionally think about such things. Let us focus on being honorable, righteous, wholesome, commendable, extraordinary people who care for human beings because it’s the right thing to do.

Whatever is true...(hand lettered) Philippians 4:8 8 by 10 print

Stay Calm & Find a Storm Home!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Enfold Yourself in Joy

I recently received a Christmas card from a former student and now friend (thank you, Am). It had the lovely family picture on it, but it also included a poem on the back. A poet and poem I had not heard of before. It has echoed over and over in my heart so I want to share its beauty with you.

Joy by Nikki Banas

Make your life about joy.

Celebrate your big and little wins. Grow every day.

Enjoy the first sip of your morning coffee,

and the second, and third and fourth.

Find something to smile about on your commute.

Give hugs often, compliment others whenever you can.

Get inspired. Nourish yourself.

Go outside and spend time in nature.

Take chances. Make the art.

Watch the sunrise. Climb the mountain.

Because life is just too short and fragile

to not live a life of chasing joy.

After ruminating on this poem, I sat down to pen out a few of those simple things in life that bring me great joy. From this humble activity, I found that no matter how unique or unprecedented this year has been, finding joy in the little things has made my year an exemplar or precedented one.

Wendy’s 2020 Joy

Find joy in the little things.

Restoring my soul by focusing on the small wins.

Blessings like a sunrise or a sunset;

Unconditional love from the grandchildren;

The glow from a campfire;

A grandchild’s phone call using Alexa;

Unexpected colored pictures, notes, cards, and letters in the mailbox;

Coffee, lunch or a walk with a friend;

A big ole dollop of whip cream;

A warm bath by candle light;

A 20-second therapy hug from the hubby;

Coloring a picture or drawing on the chalkboard;

A round of golf on the Wii in winter;

An uplifting devotion;

A dazzling display of Christmas lights.

Find joy in the little things.

May I invite you to do the same? Sit down with your favorite cup of tea and pen out a few of those simple things that have brought you great joy this year. It is an activity I know will bring you…JOY. 😉🙌

We pray you find joy in the little things. Happy holidays from us to you…

📸 credit: Pam O., Wendy’s niece.

Stay Calm & Celebrate Joy!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

My Mom and Nair® Face Cream

November is National Family Caregivers Month. A time to give thanks to all those folks who are taking care of a loved one who is struggling with heath issues that cause serious impairments.

My mom was my dad’s caregiver for several years. My dad lost his eye sight to Macular Degeneration and he lost his memory to Alzheimer’s. She gave 150% of herself in taking care of my dad which caused her own health to begin to fail miserably.  The time came to make the very difficult decision to place my dad in a nursing home. The stress she experienced from her caregiver role was irreversible.

The kind of stress she experienced was not good. She often became dehydrated which would land her in the hospital. She lost all of her hair from stress which caused people to ask me if she was going through chemotherapy. She lost an incredible amount of weight and she wasn’t a very big person to begin with. And, her memory also started to plummet. I became my mom’s caregiver. One of the most uncomfortable hats I have ever worn.   

My mom eventually ended up in the same nursing home as my dad. She was showing signs of dementia as she was becoming dangerously forgetful. I have some crazy memories of the time my mom and dad were in the nursing home at the same time. Some memories are humorous and some not so much.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are so puzzling. One day my mom would be just fine, and I would question my decision of placing her in the nursing home. Then the next day, she would be so off that she was unpleasant to visit. Several times the social worker at the nursing home said to me, “Wendy, stop trying to rationalize with an irrational person.” Hard to do when it’s your mom and you just long for her to be okay.  

I would take my mom on a weekly visit to her favorite pharmacy. There she liked to shop for items such as toothpaste, cough drops, lipstick, and gum. I remember it was a good day for her on this one particular visit. She seemed alert and jovial.

She saw a small tube of Nair® Face Cream. All you women reading will understand this. As we get older, we start to grow whiskers. Not cool. So she wanted this cream to help her get rid of her unwanted facial hair. I totally agreed with her so I let her buy it. Keep in mind, she was having an alert day.

The next morning, I received a phone call from the nursing home. They were not happy with me and could not understand why in the world I would let my mom buy Nair® Face Cream. I told them because she asked if she could and she knew why she wanted it so I said yes.

Well, regardless of her alert day, her evening was not. She spread the Nair® Face Cream all over her face because she thought it was moisturizer. The nurses at the nursing home said her whole face was red and slightly ‘burned’ from this. I am sure you can imagine how badly I felt. I hung up and sobbed. Not from the scolding, as they had every right to chew me out, but from the unintentional hurt I caused my mom.

I was thankful when I went to visit her that day. Yes, her face was red, however, she was as happy as could be. We had coffee together, sang songs together, laughed together, and visited my dad together. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are just so puzzling.

Thank you, caregivers. Thank you for your endless love, your sacrifices, your patience, your commitment. I pray for you. I pray you find calm in the chaos that surrounds you. I pray you find peace in the decisions you must make. I pray you realize it is okay to ask for help! I pray you find the courage to know when you are no longer able to care for your loved one! I pray you take care of YOU! I love you and I honor you today and every day!

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