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About educonnections

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

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 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  

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:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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. 

It’s Gonna Be Okay

Photo credit:

Yesterday in my Classroom Management course, teacher candidates were discussing the Three Dimensions of Discipline found in the book Discipline with Dignity: New Challenges, New Solutions by Curwin, Mendler, and Mendler (2008). The first dimension, The Prevention Dimension, has 7 key points. One key point mentions how to handle conflict with students.

Together, we brainstormed how they see themselves handling conflict with their future elementary students. They tapped into all the information gleaned from this course and gave excellent examples. It was a proud moment for me. 😊 Then, the discussion landed us on a chat about the teacher’s lounge. You can about imagine where that conversation took us. Yikes…

I mentioned to them I believe THEY are experiencing conflict in their lives right now. This turned the focus of the discussion onto them, so I asked these teacher candidates how THEY are handling their life conflicts. How are they dealing with their stresses?

One stressor they are coping with this semester is worrying about getting their field experience hours completed. COVID is playing havoc on their field experiences with schools closing down for weeks at a time.

“What are we going to do if we can’t complete our hours?” they question with sincere concern in their voices.

Another stressor they are dealing with is they are in their methods year, which can be quite intense with several assignments from each methods class…sometimes all due on the same day. They have lessons plans to write and lessons to teach and research papers to write and presentations to give and articles to critique and edTPA commentary to review. They begin to doubt their abilities.

Dog pile on top of all that, the majority of my teacher candidates work an outside job to help pay tuition. That’s a lot. That’s a lot for any of us.

So…back to my question directed at my teacher candidates. How are they handling all this personal conflict? The number one answer from all of them in this class was…

They vent! They vent to each other (and sometimes to their mom).

They talk it out and when they realize they aren’t alone and know others are going through the same thing, it surprisingly helps them calm down. They have become family. I told them it was okay to vent.

One of the teacher candidates shared with the class she cries a lot. I told her it was okay to cry. And then I said to them: “It is going to be okay.” This same teacher candidate who said she has been crying a lot, asked if she could get that recorded for proof. I smiled and told her of course she could. She pulled out her phone, and I said it again only this time with a little more power…

IT’S GONNA BE OKAY! (Maybe I made it on Tik Tok??). 😉

Tasha Layton’s song came into my thoughts after I spoke those words out loud, so I started to sing these lyrics to my teacher candidates…

It’s gonna be okay

It’s gonna be okay

You’re gonna be okay!  

You got this, teacher candidates. 💪💪 Air hugs for all of you! 🤗 It’s gonna be okay. 🤎💛

Stay Calm & Go Ahead & Vent & Cry!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Now He Sings with the Angels

Forty years ago today. That seems like forever ago! And, yet, some days it seems like just yesterday.  

It has been 40 years since my brother, Randy, died as the result of a car accident on November 7, 1980. I was 21 and he was 23. He was two weeks away from his 24th birthday. The picture above was the last picture taken of him.

I received the call from my dad at about 3 o’clock in the morning. I remember the L O N G drive back home to my parent’s house, which was five hours away. The whole way home I convinced myself it was a horrible mistake!  It was someone else who had been driving his car! My brother was going to be just fine.

I’m so thankful for many memories of Randy. These memories of my brother bring such joy to my heart! I’d like to share just a few… 

I remember when we were young in 1966 and walking home from the Orpheum Theater downtown Pipestone. As we walked by the old courthouse on Hiawatha Avenue in the early darkness of evening, a man popped out of the bushes, and this stranger started to chase us. Randy grabbed my hand and took off running like a deer that had been spooked. I felt like I was flying behind him.  He never let go of my hand. 

My brother protected me.

In October 1979, Randy was driving me back to Marshall, MN because it was an ice storm and he wanted to keep me safe.  When we got to the Holland hill, there was a car on the other side of the road having troubles getting up the hill because of the ice. Randy pulled his car over to the side and got out to go help ‘push’ the car up the hill.  He didn’t hesitate once to get behind that struggling vehicle. I thought if he could do it so could I, so on went my mittens, and I hopped out to go help him. Eventually, all of us pushing that car up that icy hill experienced victory.

My brother was always willing to serve others.    

Another memory I have is of Randy driving us to Minneapolis to visit my dad’s side of the family in 1974. It was just him and me in his gold Chevy, windows down, hair blowing, music blasting, and my 14-year old self was feeling pretty groovy at the time. The song Taking Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive (BTO) was blaring from his cassette tape.  When this verse

Take good care

Of my business

When I’m away

Every day

boomed through the speakers, I glanced over at him and caught him looking at me while singing at the top of his lungs and grinning from ear to ear because he changed the lyrics to

Take good care

Of my sister

When I’m away

Every day

…almost as if he knew I’d need taking care of later in life.  

My brother loved me. 

Randy was an excellent singer and guitar player. That is the one thing I miss the most about him…his musical talent. I honestly believe if he were still alive today he would be a well-known country singer; even though he loved rock and roll (shh…don’t tell him I said that). 😉

Or, maybe, just maybe he would be a Christian singer. Do you know who Zach Williams is? The guy who sings Chain Breaker and There Was Jesus? Click on the links to give him a listen.

That is who my brother sounded like when he sang (kinda looked like him too). My brother would have made a fabulous Christian singer. 

Now…he sings with the angels in heaven. 

Losing a loved one is painful. A bible verse that brought some comfort to me after losing my brother was Isaiah 57:1. I know in my heart the Lord rescued Randy from something evil in this world, and for that I am thankful!

If you are struggling with grief right now, I pray you find a bible verse(s), possibly a book or two, and someone (God would be the perfect some One) who is a good listener to help you find healing. A book that may bring you comfort is No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending by Esther Fleece (2017). Esther wrote this book to “give you permission to grieve, to ask questions, to hurt—and to do so without apology” (p. 18). “All of us need lament. All of us long to be rescued from pain” (p. 19). My friend and colleague, Kandy Noles-Stevens, wrote a book called The Redbird Sings the Song of Hope which is a beautiful tender expression of what grieving people wish others knew. I highly recommend both books.

May I ask you a huge favor? Please love your siblings! If you are estranged with any, please find reconciliation and forgiveness in your hearts! Please love your family. Our days are numbered and we never know how long we will have our family around. No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

In joyful memory of my only sibling, Randy Lane Wussow, the lucky guy who got to give Jesus a real hug 40 years ago today. I can only imagine what that was like.

Love you, Bro!!! Keep strumming. Keep singing. I know I will see you again someday! Until then, I am thankful for my fond memories of you.

Stay Calm & Love Your Siblings!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V. 

Fleece, E. (2017). No more faking fine: Ending the pretending. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.

Noles-Stevens, K. (2016). Redbird sings the song of hope. Westbow Press.