A Teacher’s Take on “13 Reasons Why”

A recent article said 13 Reasons Why is the most tweeted about show in 2017.

This controversial series is raising concern. The show, first a young adult book by Jay Asher, follows the life of a high school girl who leaves behind 13 tapes each with a reason why she chose to end her life.

Although Netflix has increased the warnings before the most controversial episodes, no one is stopping the series at that point. If anything, doesn’t it make you want to watch it even more?

Why do tweens and teens like the show so much? They relate. The topics are heavy and include everything from friendship to rape. While many of the topics covered in the series are not typical dinner conversations, they are real.

I work with students who, for the most part, come from loving homes. Even they deal with many of these issues. Sadly there have been days where students confide in me about bullying issues, family or friendship struggles, thoughts of hurting themselves, and even rape. I put my professional but compassionate face on for these students while we walk through the proper channels of informing the guidance office and making steps forward to help the student. What the students don’t know is that I go home and cry about these situations. When they hurt, I hurt.

I understand why students like this show because it talks about the issues no one wants to discuss. Anyone naive enough to think students aren’t experiencing this needs to be educated. Wouldn’t it be better to allow students to watch the show and open up discussions. While I, too, fear copycat behavior, I do see a need for students to know that everything they say and do has a ripple effect. Every person is responsible for their actions, and you never know what someone else is going through.

While the show romanticizes aspects of suicide, it is also giving us an open door to discuss ways people who feel alone can receive help. I even spoke with one student about the show who said she needed to stop herself from watching it because it was too real. That’s a warning sign. She needed someone to talk to who was trained professionally- not me. The show might scare a lot of parents and educators, but I’m taking the approach that it might just open some doors to help people get the help they deserve.

Seattle Highlights

I learned my way around downtown Seattle quickly. I had breakfast and coffee at the market every morning, and I usually wandered down every afternoon, too. Since the original Starbucks is located in this area, early mornings were the only time without a line all the way down the street. I walked right in, ordered my Venti coffee with hazelnut syrup, and I was on my way for the day. I’m not one to purchased souvenirs when I travel, but a Starbucks ceramic mug from the original shop was a must.

Another highlight from the trip was the Josten’s adviser appreciation dinner Saturday evening. This event was held at the Crab Pot right on the water. We took in a ferris wheel ride prior and were then served wine and more
seafood than we could consume. It was a night of trading stories and strategies with other yearbook advisers. Check out the ferris wheel views! The beautiful sunset helped me forget about the cool temperatures.

I returned home with a handful of goals to accomplish before next year’s conference. These include spending more time on our newspaper’s website, submitting student work for contests, and completing my own JEA journalism certification with the hope of someday presenting at the national level. Just typing those make me need another cup of coffee…

An Extra Valentine

img_5895Sometimes I’m too busy to check my mailbox at school. I guess I should have made time yesterday because an extra special valentine was waiting.

John and I have made an extra effort to give back to The Ronald McDonald House Charities since Elijah was born. We used this service in Iowa City during Elijah’s surgeries so that we were never more than one mile away from him. We also used RMHC charities through St. Luke’s when Elijah was placed back in the hospital at one-month-old. Both locations offered support in the form of a shower and food when we were away from home.

My eyes were opened more than ever during our stays because of the people we came into contact with who were fighting battles much scarier than our own. Some of the people had been at the RMH for a year or more as they underwent cancer treatments themselves or watched their children fight cancer.

John and I chose to skip Christmas presents to one another this year and donate to the RMHC instead. The organization lists their “needs” online for anyone to purchase specific items or give a monetary donation. They need a lot because they serve a lot of people- more than 1,000 families from around the world each year.

My Valentine’s Day gift goes with this theme and the golden chocolate bar is just a bonus. The donation was given to the St. Luke’s Family Room and will benefit families in need.

As much as I love sharing gifts with my husband, we know that when we needed help, people were there. We want to return that favor in any way we can in the years to come.

We have no intentions to stop donating to RMHC, and we are even signing up for their Red Shoe Run/Walk in May. I considered running the half marathon for this event, but I think pushing Elijah across the finish line in the stroller will mean that much more to me than 13.1 miles alone. If you’re interested in joining us, you can even see John come out of running retirement to support the cause.

Lately I’ve Been…

Lately I’ve been…

Reading The Magnolia Story: Chip and Joanna Gaines If you like HGTV, you know Chip and Joanna. I’m only two chapters into their story, and I love it! Thanks to Kaitlyn B. for recommending.

Loving the mild winter weather. It was 54 degrees and sunny yesterday, so Elijah and I bundled up and took a long walk outside. The fresh air was a gift!

Anticipating date night. One of my students is scheduled to babysit on Thursday evening so John and I can step away and try out a new(ish) restaurant downtown.

Watching The Bachelor on Mondays and The Is Us on Tuesdays. Also, if you didn’t get around to watching The People vs. OJ Simpson, it’s now on Netflix. You’re out of excuses. Watch it!

Struggling with running. I would love to say I’m motivated to sign up for a spring half marathon, but I don’t have the competitive drive right now. I’m hoping some warmer weather will arrive and encourage me to register for a road race.

Writing lots of letters of recommendation for students. Although college application letters are done, scholarship letters begin. “Are you busy, Mrs. Wagner?” My answer, “Is this a trick question?”

Planning Elijah’s 1st birthday party! It’s hard to believe he’ll be ONE next month! A birthday brunch is in the works.

Buying A few outfits for Elijah’s one-year photo session (size: 18-month because he is so tall!). We have the photo shoot scheduled over spring break. Talk about perfect timing!

What are you reading, loving, anticipating, watching, struggling, writing, planning, and/or buying?

Goals for the Year Ahead

While these aren’t exactly “resolutions”, they are ways to hold myself accountable in the upcoming year.

Goals for 2017 include:

  • Reading a daily devotional with John.
    • We started reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
  • Running three road races.
    • I haven’t determined the distance of these road races yet, but maybe I’ll aim for a variety: 5k, 8k, and half marathon.
  • Traveling somewhere new.
    • Seattle is in the works for April, and a beach vacation is under research for this summer.
  • Reading 40 free reading books and introducing Elijah to story time at the local library.
  • Attending a professional journalism conference
    • JEA National Convention registration opens next week!
  • Continuing to live in the moment with Elijah and scheduling dates with John.
    • I’ve done a good job of this since going back to work, but it’s a constant balance battle. Making it a goal will continue to help me evaluate my efforts.

What plans are you holding yourself accountable for the upcoming year?

Thankful for Perspective

2016 changed me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It gave me the title of “mother”, and it required to me to take “Let Go and Let God” to a new level.

I’ve never been stretched more in a year, and it hurt. While I wouldn’t wish our hospital experiences on anyone, I’m thankful for a new perspective. My eyes were opened to the NICU life. I saw the compassion of nurses working around the clock, and doctors/surgeons who committed their lives to saving people no matter day or night. When we took Elevator I, Level Six every morning to Elijah’s room, the doors would open at the pediatric cardiology unit or the pediatric cancer unit, and we counted our blessings. We were the lucky ones.

We woke up on a holiday at the Ronald McDonald House, and I cried for multiple reasons when I saw the Easter baskets waiting downstairs. Thirty-five rooms are booked each night, with a waiting list, to give families one less thing to worry about while going through hell.

While we all hear about babies in the NICU, about parents watching their babies fight for life, and about Ronald McDonald Charities, it’s something I now understand with my heart.

In closing, I’ll steal words from Lysa TerKeurst:

“And in that raw moment, remember it’s the most unpolished, unfiltered, untouched by perfection moments that make us into our most beautiful selves.

Because that’s when we are closest to the way God created us. Vulnerable and aware of our need for HIM.

Goodbye 2016. Thank you for the lessons.”

2016 Recap


Family Weekend Away


Baby Shower at School


Baby Shower with Family/Friends



Preparing for Baby W (and an updated photo)



Embracing March


Surprise Baby Shower at School


Elijah James 3.25.16

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The Biggest Test of Our Faith

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Rest and Recovery in the NICU for “God’s Miracle Man” and lots of Swaddles and Snuggles

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Bringing Elijah HOME!


A Minor Medical Setback



Baptism (on Mother’s Day)

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Our First Road Race



Celebrating 31 with this sweetheart!


Celebrating Six Years of Marriage


Meeting Miss Mollie



4th of July


Livin’ the Lodge Life


Vacation: Music City

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Standing by Mollie’s Side


EJW Community of Faith Scholarship


Healthy Check-Ups


Starting My Ninth Year Teaching

Another Road Race



Notre Dame Weekend


Flood Week


Celebrating SIX months



Raech’s Birthday/Wine Tour


Presenting at ITEC



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UIHC Children’s Hospital Open House




Turkey Trot 8k with Matt



Celebrating John


Christmas Blessings

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Thank you for being one of the many blessings in my life!

May 2017 offer you health and happiness.

Taking a Look Back

Before I make resolutions for 2017, it’s important I measure myself with last year’s goals.


  • “Let Go and Let God”. Remember God’s plan is bigger and better than mine. This includes discerning my roles within being a wife, mother, and teacher. 
  • Run two road races, any distance. I can’t wait to test out my jogging stroller with my son.
  • Travel somewhere new.
  • Read 50 books.
  • Keep dates with John a priority, even if it’s just our traditional coffee date after church.
    • Yes! Yes! We’ve had a high school girl babysit Elijah, but my aunt Deb is Elijah’s favorite! This has allowed us some fun date (and double date) nights. Coffee dates have changed to John picking up Starbucks on his way home from Saturday morning basketball. This is a win for all since I don’t have to leave the house, and we can play with Elijah while enjoying our java. We even have a few date nights already planned for 2017.

Whether the calendar year encourages you to make resolutions or not, I hope you have at least one goal for yourself that leads you towards becoming “the best version of yourself”.

This week…

I’m running the five mile Turkey Trot. This has been a fitness goal of mine since I had Elijah. I love this race. The distance, the cool weather, and the starting line just a short drive from my front door make it my favorite road race.

Having this annual race on my mental calendar helped motivate me postpartum.

Two weeks ago, I went to the dermatologist to have another biopsy taken from a “moderately abnormal mole”. They took the mole a month ago and were ready to go back bigger and deeper. I have had this done so many times that I figured I would be able to run through the healing. Nope. Once the numbing meds wore off, I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t sleep. Two nights of parent/teacher conferences and being on my feet extra long added to the discomfort.

I know the pain was a small price to pay for the clean bill of health I received. I know. I know.

However, I’m still bummed I haven’t been able to run. The first biopsy took me out for two weeks while those stitches healed and now another two weeks set me within days of the race.

John took my stitches out last night, and I hope to lace up my tennis shoes before Saturday morning. This race is 100% relying on





IMG_2874If I had to describe the last year in one word, I’d pick POWERFUL.

Spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally…POWERFUL.

Last year I spent a few minutes of my birthday sitting on a patio in Hawaii reflecting about the number thirty and what it meant. No part of me was anxious or scared to leave my twenties behind. I celebrated that I was no longer the same person I was a year before, and that each year gives us the opportunity to grow and make positive changes. Why look back when you can look ahead, right?!

I had no idea of the ways the year ahead would test me and challenge me.

While the happy moments of year 30 certainly stand out, it was a year of suffering and growth. Watching my best friend bury her stillborn son was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to witness. I remember going through the funeral line and telling her this wasn’t a moment we were supposed to have, me giving her my sympathy for the loss of her son. No parent should ever outlive their child. It left me with many questions and of course a broken heart for someone who is more like a family member than a friend.

Watching her go through this tragedy gave me strength in my trials to come. It’s all about perspective, and her painful journey forever changed mine.

Other defining moments include allowing myself to be 100% vulnerable while giving all power to God during Elijah’s surgeries and recovery process. Literally on my knees asking for God to allow me to bring my baby home. Praying with our family and the surgeon in that dark family lounge. Leaning on John in the waiting room as we waited to see our son time after time. Riding in the elevator and seeing other families in the pediatric units and knowing we were the lucky ones. Seeing God in our friends, family, and community members. It brings me to tears to type. It moved me. It changed me.

I’ve never been more thankful, and I’ve never had a better relationship with God. I know these two are dependent on one another.

I’m excited to see how God uses me in the year ahead, and I pray for listening ears to hear His call.