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About educonnections

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

Is She Yours?

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s former SMSU student and now good friend, Stina (Honken) Howie. Stina was Dr. Wendy’s office worker for 4 years or as Stina says “Wendy’s go-to-gal at SMSU.’  😉🙌🏼

Stina Howie loves Jesus, her cute hubby Kenton, their two-year old daughter Kezlyn, and their one-year-old son Kendrix. She attended SMSU, earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education with a Special Education minor, and had a work study job with Dr. Wendy. Stina is a former preschool teacher who lives on an acreage with her sassy little family and does daycare in their home. They have a baby in heaven, adopted their daughter, and had their son eight months later. She hopes to add more sweet babies to their family {sooner rather than later}, return to teaching when the kiddos are all in school, and do foster care in the future. Her hobbies include teaching, crocheting, playing volleyball, baking, eating ice cream, and being a mama.

Blog Adoption Stina Family

“Is she yours?” Sounds like a simple enough question, right? It’s one that I’ve heard from random strangers more times than I can count. My answer is always yes. Yes, she’s mine. She may not look like me, but she’s definitely mine.

Our sassy, stubborn, smart, sweet two-year-old was adopted at birth. Kezlyn was placed in our arms when she was four days old and I cried the instant I saw her tiny face. From the moment I laid eyes on her I knew she was our baby girl and she was my promise from God fulfilled.

blog adoption match

Ever since we brought her home we’ve been bombarded with questions and stories from friends, family, and strangers. “Is she yours?” “Did you adopt her?” “What agency did you work with?” “Why did you pursue adoption?” “How old is her mom?” “Does she have other siblings?” “Why couldn’t her mom take care of her?” “Are you fostering?” “How much did she cost?” “What aisle of Walmart did you find her in? Haha!”

As you can see some questions are more appropriate than others and some are just plain offensive. The “Are you fostering?” question, however, caught me off guard more recently and I got more than a little upset. Not because fostering is a bad thing (someday I hope that will be a part of our story), but because someone thought they needed to know my daughter’s story.

We were checking out at Walmart and Kezlyn was throwing a fit in the cart. She was hungry, wasn’t getting her way, and was just acting like a normal toddler. As I paid, the cashier asked how old our little guy was. I said, “He’s 1 and she’s almost 2.” Then she asked if we were fostering. I replied, “Nope. They’re both ours.” She didn’t say another word and I grabbed my bags and left.

After we put our kids to bed that night I started to wonder why. Why did she assume that he was ours and she wasn’t? Was it because she’s black and we’re white? Was it because of her behavior? Did she assume Kezlyn hasn’t had a stable home because she looked like a handful? Would she have asked the same question if my white kid was the one throwing a fit? Why did she even need to ask? How would knowing have benefited her? What would her response have been if I had said yes?

In hindsight I should have just asked her why she wanted to know. That probably would have revealed her intentions pretty quickly. Maybe she grew up in foster care or was a foster mom herself. Maybe she knows someone else who was fostering and wanted to connect or ask about a support group. And maybe, just maybe, she was just being nosy.

So many people think they NEED to know my kids’ stories. Please understand that it’s her story to tell and you’re not privy to all the details. I love talking about adoption and God’s faithfulness in our journey and would love to connect if that’s your intent. If you want to talk adoption please ask questions.

I wish people were more like the sweet older couples at Culver’s that night. The ones who giggled when she raced past them with her free custard coupon. The ones who assumed she was ours just as much as he is ours. The ones who carefully chose their words to ask how we grew our beautiful family.

Ultimately, I want people to be cognizant about their intentions and choose their words carefully. Please don’t ask how much she cost or what aisle of Walmart we found her in. Our kids hear what you say and how we respond. We have to explain to them after you leave why you asked what you did. I’d love to be able to tell them that you want to use adoption to grow your family too.

Sometimes people ask me why I pursued orphan and foster care. My reply is, “I didn’t. I pursued Jesus, and He led me to kids who needed families.” -Brian Mavis

The things I love to hear when I’m out with my kids? “You have a beautiful family.” “How old are your kids?” “They’re so cute.” “How did they join your family?” “We adopted our…” “If you need help with her hair try…” “Have you heard of ___? They have a support group for adoptive parents.”

My most recent interactions in public have been great. People haven’t touched my children without permission, they’ve giggled as Kezlyn ran past with her tiny cart, and they’ve told me I’m doing a good job. Those kind words have lifted my spirits and helped me get through the countless tantrums over not buying more than four bags of mini marshmallows, not letting my children eat the fruit snacks or suckers they dropped on the floor, not letting her put the giant bag of popcorn in her tiny cart, or not letting them eat grapes before we buy and wash them. Life is hard and being a mama is exhausting, but it’s so rewarding and we all need words of encouragement.

Can I ask you to do something for us? Find ways to connect with the adoptive and foster families around you. Is everyone called to adopt or foster? No, but everyone is called to support those who are. We all have different needs and want to be supported in different ways. Ask the families around you how you can better support them as they love their kids and follow God’s call on their lives. Educate yourself on adoption friendly language—check out Adopt Well on Facebook, Instagram, or their website.

Want to know how we have been blessed? People donated to our adoption fundraisers. A good friend bought us groceries when we got home from our two-week trip to Georgia. We had friends bring us meals because when Jesus blesses you with babies eight months apart you barely have time to shower let alone cook supper. They snuggled our littles so I could pee alone or have my hands free to mix a bottle. My grandmas at Bible Study welcomed two tiny tots each month and helped hold them so I wasn’t outnumbered for an hour. Friends connected with me on social media or sat on my couch and asked how I was really doing. Those conversations helped me keep my sanity while I was surrounded by crying babies. A friend who does foster care would love to have you match her socks. Another friend would ask you to wash her dishes. Above all, I love knowing that people are praying for us as we love and raise our sweet babes.

If you want to talk about adoption or foster care please reach out. There are so many sweet children who need a loving family. Do you want to know what things I’m willing to share about Kezlyn’s adoption? The agencies we worked with, the pros and cons of each one, their average cost, etc. If I refuse to answer a question please know that it is out of respect for my sweet girl and her first family.

Blog adoption foster wisdome

Let me leave you with a snippet of our story. A few weeks before our wedding a friend prayed for marriage and babies. While she was praying I heard God say the name “Kezlyn” and I held onto that name as our promise of babies.

It carried me through our miscarriage, two years of trying to get pregnant, and a failed adoption match. My preschoolers would remind me that God keeps His promises and He would give us babies in His own time.

We matched with an expectant mama, a week later found out we were pregnant, and a week later Kezlyn was born. We waited one year and one day from when we started the adoption process to her birth. Our daughter was placed (not given up) for adoption by her first mama who loved her so much.

We worked with a fantastic agency in Georgia called An Open Door Adoption Agency and love them like family even though we’ve never met them. I can see God’s hand so clearly in our lives. He brought us our precious babies (our son was born just a short time later) at just the right time. If we had gotten pregnant any sooner we wouldn’t have been able to adopt and if we had adopted any sooner we would have stopped trying to get pregnant.

Our sweet babes are the best of friends and I’m so thankful that God had better plans than I did. He kept His promise of babies to me and continues to use them to show us His mercy, grace, and love. My kids are great and worth knowing and loving. I’d love to have you join us on our journey. 💝💙

Thank you, Stina, for sharing your beautiful story. If you’d like to visit with Stina about adoption, you may contact her at

Stay Calm and Consider Adoption!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.



Twitter, Porch Swings, & My One Word

My hubby gifted me with a weekend-get-away after Christmas to help boost my spirits from my serious case of winter doldrums. We traveled across the state of MN to the Round Barn B & B in Red Wing, MN. Let me just say, my hubby is the best ever! Why? Our room had a porch swing in it! How tremendous is that! 😍

Blog Porch Swing B & B

My infatuation with the porch swing began in 2014 when I was in Tennessee for an NAESP Conference. On our last day, the hubby and I took a road trip to visit the quaint Franklin, TN. While on our drive there, I sent out a random tweet to all the ‘famous’ people who I knew lived in Franklin. Folks like Patsy Clairmont, Jeff Goins, Ken Davis, and Robert D. Smith

I let them know I was on my way to visit Franklin, so maybe I would be blessed by meeting them. Yes, I was hopeful, but I knew my chances were slim to none that any of them would tweet back to a stranger from Minnesota who tagged them in a random tweet.

Hey…can’t blame a girl for trying, right? 😉

Blog Tweet Patsy

My hubby and I finished our lunch at Puckett’s and I tweeted a few pics from our Franklin visit. Much to my surprise, Patsy Clairmont responded to that last tweet and wrote she was “right down the street from Pucketts…porch sitting!”  Let’s just say the people in Puckett’s probably thought I saw a mouse or something because I screamed out loud when I saw she had responded to my tweet.

Patsy granted us permission to come see her, but gave no directions on how to get to her house. Oh dear. We asked our waiter which way to walk to get to the residential area, and he pointed us in the direction he believed was right. With our sleuth hats on, we walked a few blocks while scanning all the homes looking for Patsy on a porch.

Then…bam! There she was. Sitting on her porch swing. I was so excited. I had seen her present at a Women of Faith Conference and had read several of her books. There she was…in person. Oh.My.Goodness.

She was so gracious and so sincere! She gave us a tour of her home then invited us to sit on her porch and visit with her and her husband, Les. How groovy is that? 😃

As we were getting up to leave, she blessed me even more by giving me an autographed copy of her book Twirl. If you have not read it, I highly recommend you do.

Blog Porch Patsty

Ever since that wonderful visit, I have loved the porch swing. My husband built me one after we returned home from Tennessee, and we now have it hanging out front on our porch during the warmer MN months. The return of the porch swing in the spring is almost more exciting to me than the return of the robins. 🙌

Blog Swing Porch

That is why having a porch swing in our B & B room this past weekend was such a tremendous gift. Swinging on that porch swing in our room lifted my spirits and reminded me that hope is just around the corner. The snow and ice WILL go away, and spring WILL be here soon. Thanks hubby…you are the BEST!

I was able to meet Patsy, see her beautiful home, sit and visit with her and her husband, Les, on the porch, and read her book Twirl all because she took a moment to respond to my random tweet on Twitter.

She responded. Such a simple gift. Makes me wonder how many times I haven’t responded to others? Did I not respond to an email, a voice mail, a text message? I know there have been times when others didn’t respond to me, which can crush the soul, and make me feel like I don’t matter. It’s unfortunate how not responding sends the wrong message.

I believe it is vital to take the few seconds and respond to others. I know I haven’t done as well as I’d like to with this, so, I have chosen RESPOND…this is my one word resolution for 2020.

Let’s ALL make the time to respond to others with grace, kindness, love, and sincerity. We will never know the impact it may have.

Blog One word 2020

Stay Calm and Respond with Kindness!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

P.S. – What is your one word for 2020?

P.S.S. – Who doesn’t love a porch swing. 😃

5 Simple Ways to Rejuvenate Our Holiday Cheer

It is simply a wonderful Christmas time, and the holidays are here. We dream of a white Christmas and sing shouts of joy to the world.  We long to get home for the holidays. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Well, for most of us anyway.

While Christmas is supposed to be joyful, joyful, there are some who are filled with sadness. An unexpected cancer diagnosis, a grandma dying, dysfunction in the family, an empty pantry, sad memories of past losses, unbelief, and loneliness are just a few real struggles recently shared with me by others. Sorrowful times that find some of us deeply desiring a silent night.

Or better yet…two or three or four of them, please.

If, for some reason, you have misplaced your holiday cheer this season, below are a few suggestions to give you a little inspiration to find it again:

  • SEEK – Debbie Macomber says, “One word can make all the difference.” One of her words is seek.  Let’s seek out those who lift us up and hang out with them during the holidays. One sure way to combat depression is to seek out others who bring us joy then surround ourselves with those folks. Or, turn that around and seek out others who may need you. Either way, Rebekah Lyons says it best, “Meaningful connections with others help us overcome grief, depression, and sorrow.”
  • GIVE – Max Lucado says, “Happiness happens when you give it away.” Let’s give to others as often as we can. It doesn’t have to cost us a dime, which is huge during this season of heavy spending. We can give away a smile, a hug, a phone call, a note in the mail (thank you, Kelsey 🙌), an unexpected text message, holiday treats, a visit to the elderly, a book you have finished, a cup of coffee, a bouquet of flowers, and/or the best gift ever…we can generously give our time.
  • SING – Buddy the Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Let’s sing all these Christmas tunes at the top of our lungs in the shower, in the car, at church each Sunday and on Christmas Eve, for our children or grandchildren (they love us unconditionally and don’t care if we can’t carry a tune ). 😉
  • DANCE – Byron Pulsifer encourages us to dance. He says, “Even if you are not that good, dancing frees the body to float along with the music, and cast off stress.” Silly as this may sound, one thing I do to delete stress is I crank up the song Beer Barrel Polka on Alexa, close my eyes, start to dance, and imagine myself dancing the polka with my dad. This little private activity always puts a smile in my heart and on my lips. 💃❤
  • SIT – Maya Angelou, in all her wisdom, tells us, “I think when we don’t know what to do it’s wise to do nothing. Sit down quietly; quiet our hearts and minds and breathe deeply.” My favorite time of day is early morning before the sun wakes up. I grab my cup of coffee with whipped cream and Stevia English Toffee drops then head to “my chair.” This morning routine is sacred to me. It is my quiet time; my devotions time. When the sun yawns and stretches out its rays, I sit in silence, breathe deeply, and admire God’s glorious show. 🌞

So, if Christmas makes us cry sometimes, and we can’t stop thinking of those who have passed away, or been diagnosed with a disease, or soldiers across the ocean, or our chaotic homes, or our feelings of sadness and/or loneliness…

…maybe, just maybe seeking out positive people to be with, giving an unexpected gift such as a note in the mail, singing along, at the top of our lungs, with all the Christmas carols mentioned in this blog, dancing like no one is watching and even if they are, who cares, or sitting quietly will rejuvenate our holiday cheer.

All I want for Christmas is YOU and me to be filled with joy. 🎄❤

“Embrace every moment, every second my friend. I can’t believe it’s Christmastime again.” ~MercyMe

Stay Calm and We Wish You A Merry Christmas!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.






☃ Leadership Advice from a Snowman ☃

Blog Snowman Leadership

It’s that time of year when our homes are adorned which Christmas accessories. I finished up the last of the decorations by placing the wooden snowman sign above the fireplace. I stepped back and looked at his advice. Being a leader of our future teachers, who are also future leaders, I thought to myself…Huh! That’s great advice for all of us educators trying to make a positive difference in this world.

Below…leadership advice from a snowman. 😉


I know…getting too much sun sounds fabulous about this time of year in the Midwest. The long, dark, cold days of winter are upon us. However, too much sun can be agonizing. I know we’ve all felt the pain of a sunburn.

Too much of anything usually doesn’t end well.

Ponder these thoughts for a moment: A little management is a good thing. Too much micromanagement is detrimental to the team. A little confidence is a good thing. Too much confidence and arrogance rears its ugly head.

So, can educators be too nice? Too self-confident? Too open? Too ________ (you fill in the blank)? Yes, yes we can according to Riggio (2013).  His solution for ‘too much?’

Balance. Balance matters and balance is a virtue. Now to plan for that balance.

🔵 Be Well-Rounded 🔵

Being well-rounded means we are well-planned for proper balance. We show interest and ability in many areas. And isn’t that the main job description of educators? Many talents? Many abilities?

Then with all our abilities, how do we find that well-planned proper balance?

*We become well-rounded in our craft by continuing to take classes and attend conferences. We never stop learning.

*We build positive relationships with those we work with and we show up for them.

*We do the same for those we love, including ourselves. We schedule family time and ‘me’ time. We find balance between work and home.

*We care for people. All people. PERIOD.

*We allow ourselves to take an occasional social media sabbatical. Put down our phones. Cheerfully walk away from it.

*We take care of our emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical selves. Eating well is a good place to start.   


Carrots are a crunchy, tasty, nutritious health food. They help lower cholesterol, improve eye health, reduce the risk of cancer, and can feed the friendly bacteria in our guts which may lead to decreased risk of disease (Healthline, 2019).

I am all in on that! I think we need to consume way more carrots.

Educators, we must take care of our health. If we aren’t healthy, we are useless to those we lead. Eating nutritious foods is one way we can take care of us. A wellness plan that has survived the test of time is the Mediterranean Diet.

The pyramid below gives an overview of those foods and beverages that are considered good for us. Please, always seek advice from your medical doctor before starting any nutrition program. Keep your cool as you begin this wellness journey. Bon appétit.

Blog Mediterranean Pyramid


I recently read a blog post by Principal Kafele asking what we would say if a former student returned and told us we had let him/her down when in our classroom. Yikes. My response to his question,

“…I’d be asking forgiveness from many students. I meant well at the time. Thought I was doing what was right at the time. We live and learn. I still reflect on my practices…33 years later.”

Blog Snowman tweet

Uffdah…makes me remember I lost my cool a few too many times. We all do. With our staff, with our students, with our own children, and yes, sometimes even with our grandkids.

I remember being on the phone, and my 2 year old grandson at that time was being disruptive which caused me to become slightly irritated. I pitched him my most threatening “teacher look.” The “look” was so intense he actually ducked when he saw it coming. 😲 Sorry about that, Warren!

Years ago, I yelled so loudly at a student in the hallway it caused other teachers to step out of their classrooms to make sure we were all okay. Sorry about that, Greg!

So, what are some ways we can stay cool? I googled it and here are several suggestions.

*Avoid what pushes your buttons

*Take a few deep breaths

*Count to 10

*Remove yourself from the situation if possible

*Think before you speak

*Stop taking issues personally

*Find out the why behind the behavior

*Walk away

*Say you are sorry

*Remember we are human, and

*Take a walk. Preferably outdoors.

🏕 Spend time Outdoors 🏕

There’s just something about being outdoors that gives energy to the soul. The fresh air, the sunshine, the scenery, the breeze on our faces…such tranquility. The outdoors elevates our mood. Not only is being outside good for our mental health, it’s awesome for our physical health as well.

I take a Vitamin D all year round. I take a higher dose in the winter. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, depression, and weight gain. Any chance I get, summer or winter, I am outside for a walk to soak in all that delicious Vitamin D.

Outdoor exercise will help lower blood pressure. And after a hectic day at school, which can raise the blood pressure, a walk or jog outdoors is a beautiful way to find some peace. We must schedule this into our calendars, just like we would a meeting. Then…let’s not be late for this appointment!

Being outdoors aids with sleep. If you are an insomniac like me, we know how frustrating it is not being able to fall asleep. If being outdoors is going to assist me with my sleep, I’m heading out the door right now. 👋

It is sure to boost my joy!

😃 Be a Jolly, Happy Soul 😃

Jolly = cheerful. Happy = content. Joy = great pleasure. Those are my kind of people. I want to hang out with jolly, happy, joyful souls. Surround yourself with them!

Some of the most jolly, happy, joyful souls on this planet are children. They find pleasure in tasks we adults find mundane. The other day, my grandson was out shoveling snow off of the driveway and he was having the time of his life.

Children wake up ready to play. Well, after a few snuggles first. How do we wake up? Shuffling our feet trying to get to the coffee pot as quickly as we can? Or do we rise and shine and have some pep in our step?

I know some of you night owls are giving me the ‘teacher look’ right now. 🤷‍ I truly believe we adults need to start having a childlike attitude. I believe we would have more fun. Let’s learn to play again. Share a smile, a wave, a high five, a hug. Play games, create with Play-Doh®, build with Legos® or Snap Circuits®, shoot some pool, go swimming, paint, color, draw, build an indoor putt putt golf course, and/or build a snowman.

Blog Warren Putt Putt GolfBlog Snowman Tyus

Being a jolly, happy soul reminds me of a book I read years ago called Fish! Philosophy. This philosophy is modeled after the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, WA. It is a technique which is aimed at creating happy individuals in the workplace. The four practices of the Fish! Philosophy are:

1). Be there – be emotionally present for people.

2). Play – tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic, and having fun! Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind.

3). Make their day – find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful and memorable way.

4). Choose your attitude – take responsibility for what life throws at you. Your choices affect others.

Blog fish philosophy

There you have it, folks. Dynamic leadership advice from a snowman. Actually, it’s fabulous LIFE advice, don’t you think? Don’t get too much sun, be well-rounded, everyone ‘nose’ carrots are good for you, stay cool, spend time outdoors, and be a jolly, happy soul. Hugs from us to you. 🤗

Stay Calm and Lead Like a Snowman!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

The Day My World Stopped

This is a special guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s niece, Haylee, whose farmer found peace while looking directly into the eyes of death.

Haylee Spronk is a daughter of the King, created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. She currently lives on a farm in rural Minnesota with her farmer, 2 sons, a daughter, pigs, and a couple cats. Haylee grew up in a “loosely” defined family with 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and lots of foster siblings. Her foster siblings inspired her to pursue her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a degree in clinical social work from St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. She has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice and loves the stories of the geriatric population. She has also spent time working with those who struggle with mental illness and trauma. She enjoys baking family recipes, being average at triathlons, a good cup of coffee, weird foods, and spending time in deep conversations with those she loves.

“Just pray for my safety” is all the text said from my farmer. My heart just stopped, and I typed back, “Why…” I never received a reply to that text message. My father-in-law knocked on the door and said words that stopped my world point blank. “I called 911, Alex is stuck in a grain bin.”

My head immediately went to all the news articles about farmers drowning in a bin of corn and the time it takes to save a person from a bin.

My father-in-law directed me to the bin and said I could talk to my farmer through the walls. What do you say? What if this is the last time I get to talk to him? As I talked to him through my tears, he simply told me, “Just pray and get as many people to pray for me as you can.” I prayed with him through that bin wall and immediately ran to text people who I knew would drop to their knees.

What is the difference between a grain entrapment and a grain engulfment? An entrapment occurs when a victim becomes buried in grain beyond the point of self-extrication, while an engulfment is an incident where the victim is completely buried or submerged beneath the surface of the grain. Approximately half of grain entrapments lead to engulfment which in turn are almost always fatal (Purdue University, 2011).

My farmer had been working in the bin due to a leaking roof causing pillars of rotten corn. The corn was not getting through the auger, so he had to go in and break up the corn. We needed that corn to feed the pigs.

One of those pillars broke loose, sweeping my farmer off his feet, pushing him to the side of the bin and trapping him against the bin wall. He managed (miraculously) to get his phone out of his pocket and call a hired man to shut down the auger. My farmer was gripping a bar in one hand and calling with the other praying he would not get sucked in the running auger.

Once the auger was safely shut-off, the corn had nowhere to go but pile up around him. Ultimately, the incident left his head and arms free, but corn pressed on his back up to his shoulders. It may seem like an easy task to just pull him out, but it wasn’t possible. My farmer said even when the corn was to his waist, he could not really pull himself out. Think quicksand situation. The scary part was more corn could break loose at any point and cover him completely.

Why does out-of-condition grain contribute to an increased risk of entrapment? Grain that has not been dried properly (Or in our case water leaked in) will begin to spoil and form crusting, or large clumps of grain glued together by the mold and spoiled material. This crusted material can prevent the grain from flowing freely and causes plugging at outlets. To maintain flow through the outlets, workers will enter the grain storage structure and use long pipes to reach the outlet to break up the crusted material. This may expose them to crusted surfaces covering voids or sudden flows of grain that are nearly impossible to escape from. In addition, crusted material can stick to the walls of the storage structure. A worker who attempts to break the crust from the wall from below can be buried under an avalanche of grain from the wall (Purdue University, 2011).

Blog Psalm 69

Outside the bin, first responders arrived on the scene and began to climb the 100 foot stairs to the top of the 80 foot bin. Each step they took caused a little more corn to slide towards my farmer.

My mother-in-law and I watched helplessly as people scurried about trying to assess what the next move was going to be. The amazing part was the few texts my mom-in-law and I had sent brought about a flood of people arriving to help. Our pastor arrived and prayed with us through his shaking hands. In my head I just kept praying, “He’s scared Lord, just let him be calm and breathe.” I just could not pray long words, I just wanted God to rescue him. “Please Lord, just let him live.”

Blog grain Psalm 86 1 2a

Even if a living victim is roped, they cannot simply be removed that way. Grain creates friction that resists the force used to pull them out. It requires 400 pounds (180 kg) of force to lift a victim buried up to their waist; removing a human completely trapped in grain takes 900 pounds (410 kg). Both of these amounts are above the level that can cause permanent spinal column injury (Purdue University, 2011).

Time seemed to slow down yet speed by in that situation. I know at some point the first responders came and told us they had gotten the corn shields around him. Imagine a 50-gallon plastic drum with the top and the bottom cut out. The drum then cut into 3 pieces to slide in around my farmer and keep the corn from continuing to press against him.

The first responders then auger the corn out from around him so the pressure can finally come off. Once the pressure is removed, they can finally pull him out with a harness.

I remember reading in a newspaper about how the first responders run drills to practice saving people from grain bins. I am incredibly grateful they knew exactly what to do and owned the equipment to do the work.  Once the corn shields were in place, my farmer was not in as much danger because the corn had less chance of going over his head.

Blog grain Psalm 86 2b

I was so busy praying, “God rescue him,” I did not even think about what damage could be done to his legs. He had been stuck for at least 2 hours at this point. The pressure on his legs can do damage when the blood circulation gets cut off and can lead to muscle injury.

I also had no idea what he had been doing before he was trapped. Did he have a broken leg, or did something get pinched? I was thankful he was safe and alive but now worried about what condition he might be in.

The first responders are trained to prepare for the worse but hope for the best. They called an ambulance in from Pipestone with paramedics with more training they assured us. They also discussed having a helicopter nearby and I believe the helicopter was flown to the Pipestone hospital just in case.

Time stretched closer to 2 and half hours and first responders told us it wouldn’t be too much longer before they would have him out. Responders used a firetruck ladder with a stretcher to reach the top of the bin.

I had a friend pack a bag for me because I had no idea if we would be going to Pipestone or Sioux Falls depending on my farmer’s condition. We all waited with our breath held. I asked friends near me to share stories about their day and what they had been up to just to pass the time. I did not want my mind to go to places it should not go, all while continuing to pray.

Blog Grain Psalm 86 6 7

What I did not know was the flood of prayers surrounding us. This flood was much more powerful than any flood of corn. From the few text messages my mother-in-law and I had sent, my farmer was blanketed with prayers. (Afterwards, my farmer shared that within 10 minutes of those texts being sent out, he felt an overwhelming sense of calm). He even began praying for me and our children instead of his safety. He said he knew he was going to be okay no matter what but wanted us to be okay.

My mother-in-law had spread the prayer request to all my farmer’s aunts and uncles who spread it to all their children. Their children had passed it to friends and relatives. My farmer’s aunt had the whole education department of SMSU praying, and her daughter had the education department at USF praying.

Our niece had recently started praying for my farmer and me out of the blue. Our 4-year old daughter told our pastor, “Jesus will save him with His big strong arms.”  My parents were on a vacation but by the time my farmer and I had reached the ER, a pastor friend of theirs was waiting for us with prayers and a hug. The amount of text messages telling us they were praying was overwhelming. I felt their prayers were literally holding back the corn and saving my farmer’s life.

Blog Grain Bin Psalm 86_7

I do not think I can even write the emotions I felt when my farmer came out of that bin. I joked with him; I have never been so glad to see his bright red beard (I could tell it was him the second he came out because of his beard.)

Even more relief washed over me as I saw him hold his neck up. My mother-in-law wrapped her arms around me and said, “I see him holding up his neck! Tears streamed down my face because he was alive and moving okay. Once the fire truck ladder brought him down, I saw him move his legs too. It was such a beautiful sight.

Everything was going to be okay and God had answered our prayers in a big way.

Blog psalm 86 8

The crew put him in an ambulance, and I rode in the front seat. I joked with him if he wanted a date night all he had to do was ask! He laughed back and it was such a beautiful sound! I could not really talk to him on the ride to the hospital which was grueling because I wanted to hug him so badly!

The doctor examined him and stated my farmer would just need some labs, and we would be free to go. It was so mystifying to think my farmer might die and now we would just be walking out of there.

Sometimes it feels so surreal all of it happening. People ask if there is any long-term consequences but my farmer just felt stiff and sore like he had run a half marathon. Eventually, the soreness went away, and he went back to work. My farmer worked in the same bin 2 days later with some precautions in place. He stated that he has no lingering fears or dreams and attributes it to the power of prayer.

We are both so thankful for the first responders, EMTS, fire fighters, neighbors, friends and family who were present with us through this very scary incident. It is amazing how God works in the training and preparations for the first responders to be able to handle a situation like this.

God worked in the prayers of the people surrounding us to keep the corn from moving, keep my farmer calm, and the ability to walk away from a very dangerous situation with a better understanding of His power and might and ability to save. I think the psalmist David stated it the best:

Blog Psalm 86 Grain Bin

Haylee’s farmer was saved that day. Emergency personnel who witnessed this rescue were jubilantly sharing with others about the grain bin miracle. ♥

With Thanksgiving this week, we give thanks for his miraculous rescue. Give thanks for your loved ones. Every day is a gift. Unwrap it!! Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃

Stay Calm and Believe in Miracles!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Frequently Asked Questions about Flowing Grain Entrapment, Grain Rescue and Strategies, and Grain Entrapment Prevention Measures (April 2011). Agricultural Safety and Health Program. Purdue University. . Pg1. Retrieved September 15, 2019.

Blog Grainbin Mr Mrs Farmer

Mrs. & Mr. Farmer 🙂

Why I Begin the Holiday Lites Challenge


Look at all these books I own about taking care of my health? Would you say I’m a little bit obsessed? 😉 Goodness gracious. Hard covered books. Books on Kindle. Most of them read cover to cover. Some…not so much.

Turning 60 this fall and reading this blog by Dave Burgess on being committed has given me a swift kick in the pants to begin again. To begin taking care of myself the best I can. To commit to a wellness plan Every! Single! Day!

Begin again…just let that sink in a little. Ahhh…big deep breath. Shoulders relax. Begin again…those two calming words wash over me like a warm, soothing shower. I’m so grateful every day is a new day to begin again.

Beginning this week, I have chosen to start swimming and walking more. Beginning this week, I have chosen to eat less sugar. Beginning this week, I have chosen to commit to a Holiday Lites Challenge. What is a Holiday Lites Challenge? I got the idea from my husband.

At his work place (he is a Software Engineer), they offer this challenge between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The goal of the challenge is to maintain your current weight through these three festive, food and drink filled holidays.


Him and most of his colleagues maintain. Some even lose weight. All who volunteer to participate, weigh themselves at the beginning and then again at the end. They even have prizes for those who end up with the most positive results. Fun!

My personal Holiday Lites Challenge has begun, and my goal is to maintain through this over-indulgence, high calorie season. I weighed myself on Sunday, have been exercising more each day thanks to Dave’s encouraging blog (it’s linked above 👆🏼), and I am very intentional about eating nutritious foods.  I want to be healthy through my 60’s and beyond!

Want to join me? Let’s do this thing together because we do better when we have an accountability partner. 💪💪 Maybe tweet out how it’s going for you using the hashtag #holidayliteschallenge

I’ll check in on you January 2nd.  👍 Good luck. 🙌 (If any of you want to borrow one of my books, please stop by).

Blog HolidayLites

Stay Calm and Join the Challenge!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Emotional Moving Day For My Dad

Blog Alzheimers 3


November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. 💜 If this disease has affected you and your family in any way, shape, or form, I offer you my deepest empathy! My dad had Alzheimer’s disease and my mom had dementia. I get it!

If you are in the midst of dealing with Alzheimer’s, may I recommend journaling? Writing down your thoughts and feelings just might provide some sense of calm in the eye of your emotional storm.  It could help you sort through your fear, anger, confusion, hope, embarrassment, sadness, and yes, even peace and joy on those days your loved one is ‘with it.’

I stumbled upon a journal entry I had written when my dad was moved into the Good Samaritan Society because my mom was no longer able to take care of him.

As I read this journal entry from 2008, I shed a few tears. However, in an unusual kind of way, my penned words provided me with some peace. It reminded me that our family did the best we could with the situation we were given.

Below is my journal entry from October 23, 2008. I hope and pray you find a tiny golden nugget somewhere in these words.

10/23/08  Moving Day

Today was the day we moved my dad out to Good Sam. We all went out for lunch and then returned to our homes.  I waited for my mom to call when it was time. Around 1:00 p.m., we headed out to Good Sam with dad. About 3 hours later, I was on my way back home…sobbing. There was a lot of activity, lots of papers for mom to sign. When we met back at Dad’s room, he was sitting in his chair, just like he did at home. Before I left, he looked a bit forlorn, like a sad, frightened child who has just gone off to camp and doesn’t want to stay. Dad asked, “Will I ever get to go home?” Oh, how that tugs on my heart strings and opens up the flood gates of tears. I think, ‘No, Dad, you’ll probably be here until the day you go home to heaven.’

Freedom comes with a price tag. That’s what we say about our country. I can say that for my mom too! She has been a prisoner in her own home for about 5 – 7 years, wanting to take care of my dad because of his Alzheimer’s and blindness. Now that he is out at Good Sam, she’ll have freedom to come and go as she pleases. Her price…a broken heart. A heart that is filled with heaviness and sadness because her best friend, her soul mate for the past 53 years, is now living somewhere else.

Loneliness can be heavy on your heart. I’ll need to make sure I call her often! Go see my dad often! And…pray often!

Wow, this has been a tough day. Friends like Lisa Hubers become a great ‘pain reliever.’ She sent flowers just to let me know she’s thinking about me today on moving day. She sent some to my mom too! What a beautiful friend. Thank you, Jesus, for friends like that.

My dad’s stay at Good Sam was just short of 5 years. He died in 2013. My mom ended up living there too because of dementia. She passed away only 10 short months after my dad. Now they’ve been renewed and dance together once again in heaven. 💃

Alzheimer’s…it is a frightening, cruel, remorseless, horrid disease. For those going through it with a loved one, I shed tears with you. I say prayers for you. I grieve your loss with you. I send love to you.  For those of you who know others who are coping with this struggle…maybe send them some flowers just to let them know you are thinking about them.

Blog Dad Mom '09

Stay Calm and Know Alzheimer’s Sucks!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

Education MN Aspiring Educators (EMAE) Get an Early Morning “Lyft” to MN Educator Academy

This is a guest blog post written by McKenzie Deprez who is the SMSU EMAE President. McKenzie along with other EMAE officers and members attended MEA held on Thursday, October 17, 2019 in St. Paul, MN…
Hello all…my name is McKenzie Deprez I am from Westbrook, MN, and I am currently a Senior at Southwest Minnesota State University. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education with Minors in Special Education and Teaching English as a Second Language. I plan on walking at graduation in the Spring of 2020, and will student teach in the Fall of 2020. Along with these academic goals, I am also active in Education Minnesota. I am currently the Education Minnesota Aspiring Educators (formerly Education Minnesota Student Program) President on the SMSU campus and the Secretary at the state level. I am excited to see where the road takes me after SMSU.
Broken Bus and Lyft Arrival

The morning of October 17th was crisp, cool and dark when the early birds woke up to be on a charter bus at 4:15 in the morning. There was excitement built in all eight Aspiring Educators to see how this year’s Minnesota Educator Academy Conference would go. The crew made it all the way up to Exit 10A in the cities.

            Yep, you read that right … Exit 10A, on the side of Highway 212. I decided to all of a sudden wake up at the crack of dawn, 6:58 AM, and popped my head up just in time to see our mini-charter bus smoking from the engine. Our driver swiftly climbed out of the bus and opened the hood. The smell rapidly filled the bus and woke the rest of the Aspiring Educators.

We anxiously waited with our donuts and juice to hear the verdict of our transportation situation. We were told in order to be on time to the conference we should call an Uber. Being the Aspiring Educators we are, we decided that Lyft would be the better option. When requesting for the Lyft, Jacey Hanssen stated … “Bus broke down on the side of the road.”  Our rides quickly arrived to our rescue on the side of Highway 212, and proceeded to take us to the St. Paul RiverCentre.  Even before getting to the conference, we all learned that it is important to be flexible and to have a back-up plan in place for all situations.

Luckily, this year was a small group, so only two Lyft vehicles were needed. It’s almost like it was meant to be!

Besides the early morning bus lesson, we were all able to take away many things from the sessions which we attended…

  • Free things are always a good thing!
  • Coffee is important to ensure alertness during professional development sessions.
  • There’s always a session that isn’t very engaging; learn from that session!
  • Take away and use the tools provided throughout the conference!

Individually, our take-aways consisted of…

“There are simple ways to add yoga to the classroom throughout the day to help everyone have grounding.” ~ Mariah Schuler

“It was a great professional development opportunity.” ~Nicole Evers

“The MEA conference was the perfect opportunity to add tools to my teacher tool belt!” ~Kayla Harwick

“Take responsibility for your own actions.”  ~Danielle Olson

Blog EMAE Members

L to R: Danielle Olson, Nicole Evers, Kayla Harwick, Mariah Schuler

“What I learned from a session was ‘They are all great kids, some just don’t know it yet.’” ~Erin Stevens

“MEA is such a wonderful thing our state offers because it helps educators so much. There are free resources, tools, and support around every corner to help make life just a little easier.” ~Emily Amundson

“The most important thing I learned and took away from a breakout session was… ‘A good question can create a great conversation, as long as you talk about the elephant in the room and be real with your class.’” ~Jacey Hanssen

“When attending my last session, Where People Live: Using Culturally Relevant Pedagogy with Primary Resources, it gave me a basic understanding of how important it is to utilize other cultures, and have the students do their own exploration before providing them with answers. This gives the students the opportunity to be in the driver seat and the teacher to be the passenger. Learning is an exploration, and this was a direct strategy to give students that opportunity learn about the past and other cultures” ~McKenzie Deprez

Blog EMAE Officers

L to R: Emily Amundson, Erin Stevens, McKenzie Deprez, Jacey Hanssen (Photo credit Education MN Facebook)

MEA consisted of a general session with a keynote speaker, and five other professional development sessions throughout the entire day. While this was going on, there were also vendor booths and Education Minnesota booths which provided information, resources, and other free items. Each individual who attended was able to select their own sessions in order to tailor to their own specific needs.

At the end of the day, we were able to successfully leave with many tools and ideas to implement not only into our future classrooms, but our own lives too. We were also treated very well with a new charter bus to bring us all the way back to Marshall. Overall, MEA was a great professional development opportunity for all Aspiring Educators, Educators, Education Support Professionals, and Retirees in the state of Minnesota.

Blog quote EMAE

Thank you to our dedicated SMSU EMAE officers and members for taking the opportunity to learn and grow professionally at the MN Educator’s Academy! We are proud of you!

Stay Calm and Keep on Learning!
Profs Dr. Wendy  Dr. V.

Then God Gave Me a Farmer

This is a special guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s niece, Haylee. Harvest time will soon be here and Haylee has some insightful thoughts to share with those who are married to a farmer (or any of us who are married). Haylee Spronk is a daughter of the King, created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. She currently lives on a farm in rural Minnesota with her farmer, 2 sons, a daughter, pigs, and a couple cats. Haylee grew up in a “loosely” defined family with 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and lots of foster siblings. Her foster siblings inspired her to pursue her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a degree in clinical social work from St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. She has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice and loves the stories of the geriatric population. She has also spent time working with those who struggle with mental illness and trauma. She enjoys baking family recipes, being average at triathlons, a good cup of coffee, weird foods, and spending time in deep conversations with those she loves.

Blog Harvest Tractor Eccl.


“You know I’m going to be gone a lot.”

I nod my head emphatically as I gaze into his perfect blue eyes and admire his flawless smile. In my lovesick state I think, “I’d do anything for you!” I mean c’mon, spring planting and harvest can’t be that bad, right? I can ride with my farmer in the combine into the wee hours of twilight. I’ll bring him hot meals just so I can see his cute butt climb up the steps to the tractor. It will just be sublime and somewhat romantic! Seriously though, I have always been a very independent woman…

Fast forward 5 years and now we are married, have 2 kids, and I am holding a full-time job. Harvest is fast approaching, and I am already having anxiety about the the next couple months. It means lonely evenings, fights over the phone, parenting by myself, planning lunches for my farmer (bologna sandwiches anyone?), and trying to emotionally hold it together whenever someone asks me how I am doing.  It is hard to make choices by myself such as “Do I take the baby in to the doctor?”, “How do I balance a checkbook?”, and “What bills are due again?” I start to become very angry and bitter in my heart for him “leaving” me for months on end (Yes, a bit dramatic since he was home every Sunday).  Something had to give soon…I just can not imagine doing this for the next 50 years.

We’ve now been married 11 years, have 3 beautiful children, and I no longer hold a full-time job. I still do not look forward to spring planting or fall harvest but God has worked a miracle in our marriage to help us become stronger in Him.  So if you are where I was a short 6 years ago here are a few lessons God has taught me from 11 harvests and 10 spring plantings.

  1. Check your expectations at the door. Unchecked and unrealistic expectations can damage a marriage no matter how long you have been married. The media, our friends, and our family of origin create certain images and portrayals of what a husband and father look like. For example, my dad worked very regular hours with some on-call hours. I felt as though I had commandments in my head for my farmer such as, “Thou shalt not work longer than 6 pm and thou shalt have every holiday and weekend off.” And “Thou shalt take out the trash and be really handy in the house.” Even though my farmer had attempted to warn me about the long hours, I still pictured him home at 6pm fixing up our house all cute! I had to realize God has called husbands to different occupations with unique talents which require varying work hours. I could not find my commandments anywhere in the Bible!

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17

  1. Understand each other’s love language. Reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a game changer in our marriage. It helped us understand how to make our spouse feel “loved.” When we were time-crunched, we could meet each other’s love language in a very specific way. For example, my farmer was willing to engage in deliberate time and conversation with me, and I could give him a back rub or even just a back scratch instead of wasting time on things that did not make our spouse feel loved. It takes sacrifice, at times, to be willing to meet your spouse’s needs above your own for the sake of your marriage. I will tell you it is well worth it though!

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” Rom. 12:10

  1. Assume the good about your spouse. Of all the things on this list, this is still the most challenging concept for me. It means a deliberate choice to assume the best in my farmer’s intentions instead of the worst. For example, I would assume my farmer was really enjoying the time away from us. I would assume my farmer was angry or upset with me during short conversations we would have. I never really asked him if my assumptions were correct. What would happen if instead I would assume he really really missed our family? What if I would assume he was having a bad day during our conversation instead of thinking he is angry at me? For example, “It feels like to me your upset, but I am wondering if that is correct?” It would be and is a game changer for my attitude.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor. 13:7

  1. Talk about expectations and frustrations as they come. Early in our marriage, I wanted to keep the peace even at the expense of bitterness growing in my heart. It was helpful for me to tell my farmer about the struggles I was having at home. The tricky part of sharing was doing it in a calm and non-confrontational way (This takes practice and I have not yet perfected it). It also means allowing space for him to share how much he missed us and missed being a part of the family. It was equally hard for him to not be there for the kids’ programs, good conversations, and homework. It also means asking clarifying questions and really listening to the answer. So often I would guess at the meaning of things he said instead of asking what he meant. When we both practiced non-judgmental listening, experiences could be shared, and we could walk away both feeling heard (even for a 5 minute conversation).

 “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Ephesians 4:26

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Ps. 141:2

  1. Find a spring planting/harvest support system. During harvest, I lose two very important pieces of my support system…my farmer and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law is a very calm and grounding presence in my life. My farmer creates the fun and light heartedness in the house. I miss them both dearly during harvest! God has provided a different support system during harvest. I have a girlfriend whose husband works crazy hours and we can call each other at night to talk about how we are surviving. I join a Bible study during fall which happens while my kids are at school (daycare provided). It also may include paying for daycare a day a week so sanity can be maintained. I try to be very aware of what my needs are and keep a regular routine during harvest. Do not be afraid to seek out people who are willing to share your burden.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

  1. Find the joy and lesson in this season. One of the greatest gifts God has given me through harvest is an appreciation of my farmer’s presence in our family. When he is gone, some of the joy is missing in our household. It makes that joy much sweeter when you have missed your farmer. I’ve learned to do things I would not have otherwise learned to do such as run the lawnmower, do the farm books, pay bills, rely on others for support, allow myself to be vulnerable with other people, and learn to rely more fully on God’s presence. I have also learned the importance of having regular time with God in the mornings so the rest of the day flows from my relationship with Him.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph 3:17

Even though these 10 plantings and 11 harvests have been difficult to navigate, I would not change my farmer’s occupation! Ultimately, God has changed my heart through these seasons of trials. I really think Paul says it best:

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Blog Harvest Haylee Farmer

Haylee and her farmer ❤🚜

Stay Calm and Have a Safe Harvest!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


Talk like a Pirate Day

Blog Pirate Bitmoji

Ahoy thar, mateys. Happy National Talk like a Pirate Day. Shiver me timbers…me educator hearties be enjoyin’ this holiday.

You might be wondering why in the world anyone would want to be using pirate lingo. Especially educators! Well, to tweak a few words found on the first pages of the children’s book How I Became a Pirate written by Melinda Long and David Shannon…

“I know about pirates, because one day, when I was minding my own business and cruising through social media, Twitter friend, Matey Mel, sailed into my life.” 😊

This Twitter friend turned out to be a neighbor who lived only a few blocks from me. We met for coffee, she introduced me to the book Teach like a PIRATE written by Dave Burgess, and on that day, I became an EDU pirate. 🏴‍☠️

Why educators are talking like pirates is because of Dave’s teaching/leading/insert your profession pirate message. In the introduction of his book, Captain Burgess tells us WHY we want to be EDU Pirate Rock Stars:

So why a pirate? After all, we don’t want teachers who attack and rob ships at sea. Teaching like a pirate has nothing to do with the dictionary definition and everything to do with the spirit. Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success. They reject the status quo, and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence. They are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value. Although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew. If you’re willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail. Pirates don’t much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance (Loc. 95, Kindle).

Since my visit years ago with that friend and educator, Matey Mel, I have had the pleasure of seeing Dave present 5 times at different locations.  I can honestly say each time I gained new knowledge and new ideas. Most importantly, each time I came away with a renewed spirit. And that, folks, is why we educator pirates are enjoying Talk Like a Pirate Day today.

Blog Talk Like a Pirate Day w Dave

Shiver me timbers, Mateys, dig up yer treasure by sailin’ over to Amazon and git yer copy of Teach like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life. Aye, yer lads and lasses will be thankin’ ya.

Stay Calm, Mateys and Be Teachin’ Like a PIRATE!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.