Dry Feet!

I am not one for plugging products unless they are absolutely STELLAR. Not to set expectations high or anything.  Given that I’m doing my darnedest to exercise on softer surfaces, such as wooded trails and grass, I have spent hours in wet shoes.  I love my Mucks for gardening and farm work but they don’t offer the support my feet need so I opt for dealing with wet running shoes, wet socks and of course WET FEET.

In the past, at first, I try to tread carefully, lifting up my feet and setting them down squarely so as to keep my shoes as dry as possible.  That works for about 10 minutes, tops!  I try to put a positive spin on the squishy sounds and sensations and tell myself I’m connecting more to the Earth and all its greatness.  This works for a while longer.  But then my skin reaches a saturation point.  We’ve all been there.  I accept the futility of staying dry in the woods and after about an hour or ninety minutes, I’ve had it.  My feet are warm because I’m moving my body but I know I’ve got to get the wet stuff OFF and get dry within minutes of getting into the house or I’ll get chilled.  This is just what happens in Spring and Fall in Wisconsin, some summers, too.

Not this morning though! I’m so pumped!!  Yesterday I picked up a pair of waterproof trail shoes and had to try them first thing this morning.  If my to-do list wasn’t so full, I’d have stayed in the woods all morning.  Dry socks, dry shoes, AND dry FEET?  Can this be true?  The foot beds are comfortable, have the right combination of comfort and support, the treads are not so deep that I ended up on platforms of mud.

AND my feet are DRY! My socks are dry, my feet are dry. They have those great little zip lacers — not sure what the technical term is.  All I know is that my dog didn’t have to wait long for me to get laced and tied up.  Two seconds and I was trail ready.  Did I mention my feet stayed DRY?

Clearly this is one of those situations that I had tolerated because the other aspects– being in the woods, exercising, being with my dog or friends–  were all extraordinary but when the negative aspect was improved, the entire experience can be stellar.

What a difference DRY FEET make!  Thank you, Solomon, for engineering these gems.  I’ll be singing their praises for years to come, I’m sure.

Do any of you have experience with waterproof trail shoes?  How do you keep dry?

A Little Shaky Sometimes

My favorite musical growing up was Fiddler on the Roof.  I first saw it when I was about 8 years old in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin, at the Northern Lights Theater.  I was fascinated by the Jewish religion and culture portrayed in the musical as it was completely foreign to my experiences as a young person from a rural Wisconsin town that was largely Protestant and Catholic.  In one scene, Teyve, the poor farmer and father of 5 daughters feigns a nightmare in order to trick his wife, Golde, into letting one of their daughters marry the tailor rather than the butcher.  As a child, this  “dream scene” terrified me!

The show came around to the Northern Lights Theater again when I was 16 and I saw it with new eyes.  This time the flying ghosts were more entertaining, humorous even.  I understood the impetus for the dream scene –it can be terrifying to broach tradition.  Tevye needed help from the spirit world to convince his wife this was the right thing to do!

Fast-forward 25 years (yikes!) and my kids and I were playing around on our shed roof, getting a new perspective on our backyard I couldn’t help myself but think of the song, “Tradition.”

Who day and night, must scramble for a living, feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers….

Who does Mama teach to mend and tend and fix…preparing her to marry whoever Papa picks?

Tradition!  Tradition! 

I have followed traditions in many aspects of my life.  Career-wise, my mom was a teacher, an older brother was a teacher, I became a teacher.  Also, I was fortunate enough to have had many inspiring teachers over my lifetime.  Why wouldn’t I want to follow in their footsteps?  By the same token, I’ve often reveled in doing things a little differently, rather than traditionally.  While I enjoy cooking and sewing, I also know how to mix and pour concrete, tape & mud gypsum board and use a wide variety of hand and power tools pretty proficiently.

For nearly 20 years, I have been a classroom teacher.  I’ve taught children ages 6 through 18, in public and private settings, both in the US and abroad.  Several summers were spent earning a Master’s in Education.  Yet this spring, I felt a a strong pull to do something else and resigned from my full-time teaching job.  Yikes! What will this Wetzel do next?  Stay tuned, folks!  I have a feeling I will no longer be following a traditional path but forging one of my own.

As always, I’m curious:  Why did you follow your chosen career path?  Did you follow in someone else’s footsteps or go off the beaten track? Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? What were your impressions?


What’s Behind the Name

What’s the story behind the name “Wetzelslearn” you, like others, may wonder.  Here’s the scoop.

Until I wed, my last name was Wetzel.  While I chose to hyphenate my last name, I still answer to Wetzel and am proud of my family…my name…what I know of my heritage and all my many incredible relatives.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE learning.  Whether I’m learning how to weld or just deepening my understanding of a word, I deeply enjoy gaining knowledge and skills.  Over the years, I’ve found that I retain more information and internalize knowledge better when I’m engaged in different ways, especially in some physical way.  This is true for many learners or so say “current researchers.” I also will wake up with an “ah-ha” after muddling through something– another sign that our brains are working even when we are not.

Wetzels is plural for a reason, too.  When I started this blog, I had the idea that I’d invite family members to be guest bloggers.  Growing up, I was always learning something new from older relatives (and there are a lot of them!)  My son gave a clear  and concise explanation of how to change pitch with his euphonium mouth piece one day.  My daughters teach me about who they are becoming on a daily basis.

The bottom line is that I hope to inspire others to KEEP LEARNING.  So that’s it –short and sweet.  My name and what I love.

I’m curious.  What do you LOVE learning about?  Under what conditions do you learn best?  What are your top sources for information? What are you exploring or researching right now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.



Plantar Fasciitis — a painful teacher

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had 20+ years of injury-free running.  Oh sure, I know how nasty an IT band can be or a how a tight glute can hamper the desire to finish hard.  However, the vast majority of my running years have been free of icing or ibruprofen.  I credit great coaches who designed smart and safe training programs.  They taught me the importance of not increasing weekly mileage more than 10% week to week and I’ve stuck to that over the years.

To stay injury-free, follow The 10% Rule

This spring I felt an uncomfortable poke in the bottom of my heel after sitting or sleeping.  I ignored it, hoping it was nothing and would go away.  Great strategy, right?? A doctor confirmed my suspicions and told me I’d need to stop running until it healed.  I decided that I’d stop running on the road and just run on the softer shoulder.  Of course I should have listened to the good doctor but I couldn’t quite imagine my days starting any other way than with a good ol’ sweat-it-out-run.  The pain increased of course so I heeded the advice of many and STOPPED running.  Surprisingly, the world did not end.

I learned to fill my morning run time in other ways:  yoga, meditating, lifting weights and TRX classes.  I even logged time on an elliptical machine.  Our family dog, Charlie, got many brisk walks in the woods.  The forest floor was soft and comforting and I thoroughly appreciated the healing the woods offers.

Magical, no?

As much as I truly enjoyed all these activities, none have quite filled the void.  Lately I’ve even had dreams of running.  No lie!

I’ve found a number of therapies and am using them all religiously in hopes of hitting the road the road sooner than later.

What’s Working for Me

  • Rolling my heel on a sock-covered frozen water bottle 
  • Heel inserts
  • Expertly fitted new shoes
  • Wearing a “boot” while seated and as long as possible at night
  • STOP running completely (to my great disappointment!)

What has worked for you?  If you’ve been plagued with plantar faciitis or other similar injury, how did you deal?  I’d love to hear about it!


How Do I Love Libraries? Let Me Count the Ways!

One summer I thought it would be fun to visit all 51 MORE libraries over summer vacation.   While we only visited 4, this is still a worthy goal and one I’ll keep on the bucket list.

My family and I are so very fortunate to live in Western Wisconsin and have easily access to the Indianhead Federated Library System, a consortium of 51 libraries. The closest one is an easy walk from our home and the farthest is about a 90 minute drive.  We can search for and request over a million items AND get them delivered to the library of our choice– really!

I’m not just taking books here, folks!  Remember your CD of favorite 80s music that got lost in a move?  Looking for the original Broadway recording of your wife’s favorite musical and can’t find it on Netflicks?  Your kids got a fascination with the human body? Or dinosaurs?  Want to be an inventor? Want to make cards or scrapbook but don’t want to invests in stamps or fancy paper punches?  Thinking about learning how to play a ukulele?  There’s kit for that!

Librarians have built kits focused on one topic; each kit has a variety of books, activities, and sometimes even a movie all in one sturdy tote.  They have done the work for you — all you need to do is check it out.  Some of these kits even have Makey Makey boards!

Libraries are the great equalizer, putting pricey resources in the hands of anyone with a library card.

Believe it or not, you do NOT need to buy every Wii, Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo DS your kids beg for because you can borrow those from a library, too. Audio book in a variety of formats are also available. Are you thinking of buying a baby carrier and want to try some out?  The Rice Lake Public Library has several for you to test drive.

Social justice important to you?  Many libraries have a Food for Fines month.  During designated times, members can bring in non-perishable food items in exchange for $1 or $2 off their library fines. Please make sure food is not expired.  Fines are forgiven & hungry people in your community get food — that’s what I call a win-win.

And those librarians?  Those folks get their very own page. In the mean time, what do you value about your library? Do you have a favorite?  What do YOU love about your library?



Louise Erdich, Storyteller Extraordinaire

So I lied when I said I would start with the more obscure books, assuming that most teachers and parents are familiar with the big names.  Then I remember how The Birchbark House took Read Aloud to a whole new level one year and I decided to dedicate a page to Louise Erdich.

I remember reading Caddie Woodlawn as a kid and loving it.  Who wouldn’t love Caddie as she found trees to climb taller than the ones her brothers climbed and wasn’t afraid to pick up snakes or cross creeks?  I also remember looking for books to read to my class, revisiting Caddie Woodlawn and deciding NOT to read it because of how Native Americans are portrayed.  I found what I was after when I picked up The Birchbark House.  Little wonder it was a National Book Award finalist in 1999.  Mostly I’m surprised it didn’t win.

This is one of those treasures that can be read and re-read.  Characters become friends you’d want to have in real life.  Every family, no matter the ethnicity, needs a Nokomis, a Deydey and a Yellow Kettle.  Real tears were shed in my class the day Neewo lost his battle with smallpox. Nearly every child can relate to the challenges Omakayas faces with her siblings and the chores she is required to do.

As mentioned in an earlier post, students in my class typically do some handwork while listening to me read a chapter or two.  Spontaneously, while listening to one of Nokomis’ stories, students put down their colored pencils and came to sit at my feet, completely enraptured.  One child, a newer reader, even stood silently at my side, following along over my shoulder. Almost as if they wanted to be closer to the story. This has not happened since or with any other book.  Erdich truly spins magic into each page.

Realistic Fiction

The Great Whale of Kansas by Richard Jennings 160 pages  

An 11 year old boy digs in his backyard (in Kansas, of course!) and unearths an entire whale skeleton. Amazingly, Kansas was at one time, a VERY long time ago, underwater.  The main character is unnamed through the entire story and is mentored by a Native American book store owner and his middle school science teacher.  There is a unique ending and listeners/readers get to contemplate who and what went before current inhabitants.  Though this is not based on fact and it is fairly improbable, I decided to classify it here.  Does it belong in fantasy instead?  I suppose that’s open for discussion.

Jumping off points:  Landscape architecture, archaeology, Native American rites & rituals, and allegories.




Proud Running Moments

When runners get together and talk shop, sometimes we end up sharing PRs (personal records) from the various races we’ve run.  Perhaps because I haven’t raced in the last year or because of this new perspective I’ve chosen lately, I’ve learned to be proud other runs, too.

  • The morning run after one of my kids had the flu and I was on mom-duty from 2am to 5am.
  • The afternoon I was just cranky and didn’t really want to talk to ANYONE or do ANYTHING but I got myself out the door ANYWAY.
  • The insanely sub-zero run that required more layers than I care to count.
  • Running even though my to-do list was filled with a baseball tournament (or swim meet or basketball game or family gathering) an hour away, grocery shopping, laundry and school work.
  • More morning runs after nursing marathons. Those dang growth spurts!

I didn’t get a medal or even a fancy shirt after these runs.  No one was cheering me on at the finish line and there were no pre-race butterflies to calm.  No age-group awards or trophies.  So why I am I so proud of these runs?  Because they are proof positive that I’m a runner, through and through, and that I can keep the plates spinning in this great magic show of life. I’m a firm believer that first we need to take care of ourselves, then we are much better equipped to care for others.

And those PRs?  I’ll brag about those some other time….


About Me

  • First and foremost, I’m a MOM to 3 incredible children.
  • I’m also a runner and

    Twin Cities Marathon
  • A Montessori Guide (aka teacher) at a public charter school in Wisconsin.
  • Life partner & wife to Bryan. I could not do any of this without the love of my life. He’s supported me in a number of crazy ideas and even followed me half-way around the world (REALLY –we got engaged in the shadow of Seoul Tower in Seoul, South Korea).