Our Favorite Things

Blog favorite things

Grrr…I forgot to do my online discussion post.

That math quiz was so hard!

I’m still not feeling well so I can’t get to class.

How do I upload my edTPA video?

When will you have that assignment corrected?

I’m snowed in and can’t make the drive to campus.

How many lesson plans do we have to write?

Where do I put this on Live Text?

 I’m just not sure I can do this!

What do you do when frustration and worry, stress and unhappiness slam against your heart and soul? Do you pull the blankets up over your head and try to hide from the loud thunder?

Some days can feel like a blustery storm, can’t they?  Sometimes the turbulence of day-to-day challenges just makes us want to have a good cry.

Maria, the main character played by Julie Andrews in the movie, The Sound of Music, has some sound advice for us on those turbulent days. She advises…

“When anything bothers me and I’m feeling unhappy, I just try to think of nice things.”

Ahh…nice things. Favorite things. Think about such things. Maria sings about some of her favorite things like raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Girls in white dresses and blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on her nose and eye lashes.

I asked our teacher candidates to share a few of their favorite things with me. Below are their answers along with mine. Let’s sing it together… 🎶

Maddy:                Softball and family, spaghetti and puppies

Tiahna:                 Family and friends, dogs and good movies

Wendy:                Hugs from the grandkids, the joy that this brings

                                These are a few of our favorite things.

Mary:                    Chocolate, alfalfa sprouts, gyros and red wine

Wendy:                 Hugs from the grandkids and morning devotions time

Wendy:                Geese in formation, the porch swing in spring

                                These are a few of our favorite things

All:                         When the work bites, when edTPA stings

                                When we’re feeling sad

                                We simply remember our favorite things

                                And then we don’t feel so bad.

When the lightening in life says something to our thunderous life challenges, and the thunder answers back and it makes us scared and sad…simply remember our favorite things, and we won’t feel so bad. 😊🤗

Stay Calm and Think of Your Favorite Things!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.


“I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” ~ Marla Gibbs

Blog everyone

Everyone.  It takes a village, right?  You bet it does. It takes everyone. Every single one of us. Everybody.

In Everybody Always, author Bob Goff shares that we cannot love the people who we do not know.  We need to get to know each other. As educators, our job is to get to know the learners counting on us.  “When joy is a habit, love is the reflex” (p.21). I used to tell my students that they did not need to love everyone, but that they needed to respect and be friendly to everyone.  Maybe it is more than that? Maybe we do need to believe and model for our students to get to know and love everyone.  Can you imagine what this world would be like if we did more than attempt to respect others?  What if we lived in a world where we respected and loved everyone? Everybody.

When we watch a team compete, we see successful teams count on everyone.  Each team member has a role to play no matter how big or small.  Coaches guide team members to work together.  Likewise is true for teachers in the classroom.  We are preparing students for a social world.  We integrate collaborative learning in many lessons, and guide our students to learn the art of collaboration and being part of a team, something bigger than ourselves.  As Babe Ruth once expressed, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Blog Everyeone TEAM

We need to understand and truly believe how we are all important members of a team, our team. As John Maxwell states, “We behave in light of our beliefs. If you don’t like people or don’t believe in them, you won’t be able to fake it…If you desire to add value to people, then you need to value them first” (2004, p.104). We need to be authentic in our relationships with everyone: students who are in general education or students who are in special education, students who are English proficient or students who are English learners, students who are big or students who are small… “Students thrive when they learn together and construct their learning  in an inclusive classroom where everyone’s thoughts are heard, valued, and respected” (Dennis, Holmes, & Smith, 2015, p. 204). We need to add value to people.

Each day… show up… add value to those around us and to the work that we do together. As Thomas Jefferson shared, “A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle.” This is true for us in education.  Be the candle to help light up the world for everyone. Help light the path. Listen and learn about others and their stories.

As humans we are natural storytellers. We weave narrative into nearly every relationship  we build and value. …Regardless of age or status, if you’re not satisfied with the path you’re on, it’s time to rewrite your future. Your life should be a story you are excited to tell. …It requires strength of imagination. It relies on that ability we each possess to suspend belief in the restraints of today to enable the possibilities of tomorrow. Most of all…each morning that we make a choice to bring positivity or negativity into the world, and that with every single person there lies an extraordinary story waiting to unfold. Braun, 2014, p.250-251)

We write our story together.  Are we listening to what we all have to say? How can we start to share our stories and to really listen to one another?

Blog everyone Story

“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” ~Mattie Stepanek

Blog everyone Unity

Stay Calm and Love Everyone!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from the POWERFUL E Chapter in our book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available at Kendall-Hunt Publishing: https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).

The Storm Only Lasts For A While So Smile

Blog Mental Health storms

It’s no secret that our SMSU teacher candidates work their tails off during their junior methods year. In addition to their outside jobs and lives and losses, they are juggling at least three methods courses per semester plus trying to fulfill 45 + hours of field experience each semester.

Just typing that made me want to crawl back into bed and slumber for a little bit longer.

Last Tuesday during my Social Studies Methods class, the teacher candidates seemed lethargic. I asked if they were tired and the majority of the class shook their heads yes or quietly verbalized they were. Please understand, this group of candidates does not complain so I knew it was sincere exhaustion they were feeling. Unfortunately, last week was only week two of our spring semester. Goodness gracious.

I was thankful I had planned a Mental Health Check activity for my two sections that morning so I could demonstrate for the teacher candidates how they might check in on THEIR future students’ mental health. Clearly, my teacher candidates needed checking in on too!! (I tweaked this from an idea I found on Pinterest. Click on the picture below to read more about it).

Blog Mental Health

I gave each teacher candidate a sticky note and had them write their name on the backside so their name would be hidden when stuck on the chalkboard (yes, chalkboards still exist). The columns I placed on the chalkboard looked a little like this:

I’m Great!     I’m Okay!     I’m So-So!     I’m Struggling!     Help Me!

After all sticky notes were on the chalkboard under one of those labels, I had five (5) sticky notes in the “I’m Struggling” column and one (1) in the “Help Me” column. When class was over, I headed to my office computer and sent out an email to each of those individuals to ask how I could help. Below is a picture of the email I sent along with a picture of a response email from one of my struggling teacher candidates.

Blog Mental Health Email2

Blog mental Health email

While walking this morning, I heard this song by Sidewalk Prophets on the radio and it made me think of you, teacher candidates. ❤🙌  The lyrics are spot on and meant for you…

Lost your way, lost your cool
Then you straight up lost your mind
Tried so hard to stay ahead
But you keep falling behind

Life is gonna pull you down
Make it hard to see
But a little change in your point of view
Could be just what you need

There’s always a reason
To always choose joy
There’s something deeper
That the world can’t destroy

Smile, when you think you can’t
Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile

As you go forward in your teacher preparation training remember the storm of your assignments, clinical, driving time, field experience hours, research papers, edTPA, presentations, class attendance, meetings and so on…. only lasts for a while. So SMILE.

Once you have your program completed, that isn’t a guarantee the skies will always be blue and all storms will fade away. Your student teaching experience and then teaching in your own classroom will not be stormless. Storms or hardships will always be brewing on the horizon.

You’ll be okay, though. Storms produce perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope. So…when those teaching storms hit…

Smile, get up and dance
Smile, there’s a bigger plan
The storm only lasts for a while

So smile (and never give up hope)

Stay Calm and SMILE!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.


Blog laughter Lucy

One of our teacher candidates was teaching in an elementary classroom for one of his field experiences and shared this story with me.  Visualize with me this 6 foot 6 inches tall, 295 pound young SMSU college football player working with pintsize first graders.  Those tiny children had to tilt their heads all the way back to look up at him. While standing by the desk of a first grade girl, Mr. Brown was assisting her with her work.  She needed to ask for his help so she cranked her head way back and looked straight up at him.

She paused. She became a tad bit distracted by what she saw so instead of asking her question, in all seriousness, she whispered, “Mr. Brownie, you have boogers in your nose.”

Out of the mouths of babes…children say hilarious things that make us want to laugh out loud. So, please, by all means…go ahead. Laugh. Giggle. Snort if you must. Laugh. Laugh a lot every single day.

Blog laughter emoji snort

As educators, we are interacting with others all day long. We are with our colleagues, but most importantly, we are with our students. Be joyful! Be quick to share your enjoyment of life. Try hard to be thankful in all circumstances. By doing so, you will enhance the joy and laughter of those young people in your schools. What a powerful way to make this world a better place.

A retired teacher told a story about a day he had been in the hallway supervising students before they came into his room. He stopped to grab a drink at the water fountain on the way in. A student had put a piece of gum over the water spout, sending the spray directly onto the front of his pants. Yikes!

He had a choice to make about how to handle that. He dried himself off as best he could with paper towels in the restroom nearby, and then went into class. Rather than try to hide behind a desk/podium and ignore it, he immediately pointed it out to the class, noting “Some dirty bird put gum on the water fountain! And it got me good!” Laughter echoed throughout the classroom.

By making a joke out of it and addressing it right away, it cleared the air, and class went on as usual. Had he tried to hide it, it would likely have been a distraction for the entire class time.

The moral of that story…we get to choose our response to life’s experiences – yell, cry, or laugh. Find gratitude in your situations. Choose laughter…it is the best medicine.

Shawn was a brand new teacher hired a few months into the year because of a large 4th grade class. She held class in the library until a classroom was cleared out for her. Students were packed into the library like sardines, and their coats and backpacks had to hang on the back of their chairs while they waited for lockers. This did not deter Shawn’s ability to ‘bring it’ during her lessons.

The principal scheduled Shawn’s first observation with her and while he watched her do her magic, Shawn’s foot got caught on one of the student’s backpacks causing her to fall, face first, to the floor. Her students looked on in shock. When she stood up, she calmly commented, “Good thing I didn’t wear a dress today,” and went about teaching. Her students laughed, her principal laughed, and life went on.

I guarantee that you will have those embarrassing moments during your careers as educators. It is a-okay! It’s okay to laugh at ourselves in spite of ourselves. And, it’s okay to laugh with your students as often as you can. Laughter is contagious.

I remember one year, I had a student who made me laugh so hard I had a difficult time regaining my composure the rest of the day. Hopefully, you’ll find this funny. Maybe it’s one of those stories where ‘you had to be there.’

Here it goes:  The class was discussing foods that were traditional in their families around the holiday season.  The students would tell me about the food and where it originally came from.  For example, one student asked if any of us had ever had lefsa. Several had and others had not.  He told us he was Norwegian so I asked him where lefsa came from. He said Norway. Nice work.

A different student shared that her family makes ‘ole ballin’ which is a Dutch treat similar to a donut hole. I asked her where that came from and she said the Netherlands. Excellent!

Another fifth grader shared that his family makes baklava, which I had never heard of. I learned from this student that this is a sweet treat, and when I asked where it came from, he replied Lebanon. Wonderful!

Wade, who was sitting in the fifth row and the last desk, was bouncing up and down off of his chair, frantically waving his hand for a turn. I called on him to see what food was traditional in his family.  He excitedly said, “Anise candy.” Because I love this candy, I was excited to learn where it came from. So I inquired,

“Oh yum…I love anise candy, Wade. Where does that come from?”

In all his fifth grade seriousness, he replied, “The bakery.” BAHAHAHA. 😂

I lost it. I busted out into laughter, tears and all, which caused the whole class to chuckle.  Throughout the day, I would get the giggles because of that one little innocent comment, and when I did, those fifth graders laughed right along with me.

This last story comes from a preschool teacher whose name is Cat, who was a teacher candidate in many of my university courses. A few years ago, she was doing her student teaching in a 6th grade classroom. She had a habit of winking at people. It was one way for her to show others and her students she cared about them. Well, she found out that 6th graders have a different perspective of winking.

One day while she and her students were having a discussion, she smiled and winked at one of her 6th grade boys. Without missing a beat, this 6th grade boy blurted out in front of the whole class, “You want me, don’t you?” Cat did what we all should do…she snickered at his joke, then clearly stated that she wanted him to keep working hard.

When you begin your career in the best profession on earth, you will have many humorous moments with your students and those you work with. May I suggest you write these moments down then put them in a book? I’ll be the first to buy it because I love a hilarious, rib-tickling school story.

Children do say the silliest things so laugh a lot with each other. Enjoy their innocent sense of humor. Life is just so much better when you are filled with laughter and joy.

Blog Laughter Tyus

Stay Calm and Laugh Lots!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

(This is an excerpt from the book POWERFUL Teaching co-authored by Dr. Wendy Schoolmeester, Dr. Sonya Vierstraete, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, and Dr. Mary Risacher. The book is available for purchase at Kendall-Hunt Publishing, https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/powerful-teaching).

Heigh-Ho Heigh-Ho It’s Back to School I Go

Blog Dwarfs

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to school I go this week. I’m looking forward to getting back to the classroom. I’ve missed the students and my colleagues. Mostly, I’ve missed TEACHING!!! Where have I been? On sabbatical.

The goal of my sabbatical was to visit with local high schools and see if they would be interested in starting an Educators Rising Club. Club members would consist of high school students, grades 9 – 12, who might be interested in becoming a teacher.

The idea came to me after a July Minnesota Rural Education Board meeting when a superintendent from a quite large school district shared that one senior in his high school was interested in teaching.


That broke my heart. Something needs to happen to get high school students interested in the grand profession of teaching. We must grow this profession!!

Now that the semester is over, I can honestly say I’m a little disappointed in the outcome of my sabbatical results. After contacting several area schools, only ONE agreed to start up the Educators Rising Club.


While the other schools had acceptable reasons for not starting this club, I was still disappointed.

I had false hopes. I believed all schools would be knocking down the doors to begin this club. I had unrealistic expectations.

Thank you to Pipestone Area Schools (PAS) for being willing to take on this risk.  Thank you to the PAS high school principal, Mr. Cory Strasser, who allowed me to visit with each grade level individually to poll their interests. Thank you to the two PAS teachers, Mrs. Wajer and Mrs. Danks, who agreed to be the co-advisors. And, thank you to the PAS high school students who have faithfully shown up for all the meetings.

Even though my sabbatical is officially done and the work was definitely worth it, I WILL NOT give up on the Educators Rising mission.  Minnesota is one state that does NOT have a state wide coordinator…YET!  So, let me ask you…any school district interested? Any students/teachers/administrators interested? I’d be happy to travel to your school and visit with you about it. 😊👍

blog sabbatical ed rising

SMSU, thank you for the sabbatical opportunity. Pipestone Area Schools, thank you for taking on this challenge. Teacher candidates, thank you for your patience as I get back into the swing of things. 😃

Stay Calm and Start an Educators Rising Club…PLEASE!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.

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. http://www.adoptwell.com

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 kristinabeth09@gmail.com.

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 🙂