Stanford Doctor Persists, “What do you want to do?”

The medical model that focuses on what I can’t do as far as symptoms, asks me to decide what I want to do. Three November blogs lay the foundation for this continued story. “Art Therapy Depicts Values Poster;” “Can Do Versus Can’t Do;” and “Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability.”

Over the next few weeks I compile some coherent thoughts.

The next time my Stanford doctor asks what I want to do, I have some answers. “I could do some research. Maybe I could teach a class somewhere. Or I could do some more speaking for MOPS. Or write some articles. I’d like to develop curriculum for a new child development college degree. Or . . .” And so my unrealistic list drones on.

But my doctor doesn’t like my list. Week after week, she persists, “But what do you want to do?”

I guess she wants me to be more specific. For example, I’d like to get a job as a ____ and ____. But I can’t.

  • First, I keep being reminded that I’m unable to return to work.
  • Second, I don’t have the cognitive skills to function very well even in daily living.
  • And finally, if I ever was well enough, there are many possibilities. I could be an author, speaker, educator, researcher, or advocate. Actually, any combination of these might work. Why limit my nonsensical dreams?

I continue my weekly jaunt to Stanford during my third year on disability and not working. I’m able to begin some new activities. I help weekly in Parker & Khloe’s preschool classes. I begin bike riding to improve my brain. I enroll in a quilt class & make Parker a quilt. I attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. And I join the Stanislaus Child Development Local Child Care Planning Council that meets monthly.

One day Rick comes home from work and says, “A Modesto City School’s director called today. They want Youth for Christ to train their staff on the school-to-prison pipeline and restorative justice (RJ). You and Marty will be perfect. Can you meet with them?”

Marty Villa, the Director of Family Concern Counseling and I schedule a meeting with the District representative. After years of floundering, this unanticipated meeting launches a new focus and passion in me.

Graphic source:

Restorative Practices & Resolving Conflict: Affective Statements

It’s a new year. This is a perfect time to try a new restorative response. Here’s how a Modesto City School teacher at Shackelford used the simplest form of restorative practices.

“When two students had an ongoing issue at recess, we started to resolve the problem using I messages. Although the behavior did not change right away, the students began using I messages on their own. The conflict was not resolved right away, but it was a step in the right direction.”

— By Cohort 2 Site Team Member, Year 3, November 7, 2016

“I” messages provide the foundation of affective statements. This Tier 1 response is the most informal restorative response and can be used with all students. Affective statements are the easiest and most useful tool for building restorative classrooms and relationships.

Simply begin with an “I” statement and provide additional clarification with a feeling and a behavior. It is a personal statement made in response to someone else’s positive or negative behavior. It tells students how their behavior affects you or others.

Below are two examples of common situations and possible affective responses.

Situation #1: Students are rough housing in the hallway

Affective Response: “I want everyone to feel safe here and I can see that what you’re doing is making some of the other kids nervous.”

Situation #2: A student calls another student a name

Affective Response: “That hurt my feelings and it wasn’t even directed at me. I’m wondering how what you just said fits in with the school’s commitment to respect.”

How can you use an affective restorative response today?



  1. The Restorative Practices Handbook: for Teachers, Disciplinarians and Administrators, Bob Costello, John Wachtel, & Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices, 2009.
  2. Ed White Middle School Restorative Discipline Handbook. Accessed 9/11/2015.
  3. Graphic: Cartoon Speech Bubble Clip Art []

Outdated Paper and Pencil Track Record Bike Mileage

At the end of my ride on the Dry Creek Bike Trail in Modesto, I have a friendly conversation with a dad and two boys getting ready to ride.

“Do you keep track of your miles?” the dad asks.

“Oh yeah.”

He inquires, “What do you use?”

“Paper and a pencil,” I respond.

He looks at me as if he’s never heard of these ancient items.

“What do you use?”


Yes, I know there are many other more technical methods, like Strava, Map My Ride, Garmin, and apps for iphones. Some riders calculate their annual mileage using the basics for free on the

Three years later, I still use the same method. Where else can I note, “Way to go girl!!!” “Finished 40 mile Blossom Trail Ride!! Woo hoo!” “Two minutes faster.” “Stopped at Cold Stone for chocolate lava meltdown.” “Fed ducks today.” “Took photos at pumpkin patch.” Yes, the paper and pencil method works fine for me.

Chocolate Lava Meltdown @ Cold Stone

Periodically I tear off pages from my 5” x 7” spiral bound notepad and enter the data into my Excel spread sheet titled Bike Ride Log. I’m actually not the only one to use this method. I discovered a number of riders on who also use Excel.

I enter the date, day of week, location or route, mileage, average MPH, maximum speed, ride time, and notes. The notes column helps me remember milestones and special times on my rides. Or not so special times, “April 5, 2016 Bike Accident. Truck backed up on me.”

With the New Year, I finish entering my data from October through December. Not a huge number of entries to make. For the first time, I add the total annual mileage I rode in 2016. I was so surprised that my total was 608 miles.

Curious, I did likewise for 2013, 2014, and 2015. With the increase in miles, I wondered how many times I rode my bike each year. So I added them as well. I made a table so I could see my progress.

Year 2013 2014 2015 2016
# of Rides 42 46 62 82
Annual Mileage 428 331 510 608

I’m pretty proud of my miles and that I’m riding my bike more often. I appreciate each of you who encourage me in my riding endeavors, ride with me on SCBC (Stanislaus County Bike Club) rides, and those I meet along the way.

Today’s paper and pencil entry: Jan. 14, 2017, Sat.; MJC bike routes; 11.5 mi; 9.6 ave.; 14.6 max. 41-43 degrees. Feet cold. Chocolate lava meltdown @ Cold Stone.


Nativity Sheep Raise Questions

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Live Nativity at Modesto Free Methodist Church December 17, 2016

Visiting a live nativity is a family tradition we did with our daughters when they were growing up. Now we enjoy following the same tradition with our two grandchildren who live in town.

On our recent visit to the live nativity at Modesto Free Methodist Church, the sheep triggered the most questions in between the narrator’s story and characters moving about.

“Why do the sheep have to be here?” asks eight-year-old Parker. I suspect they’re scaring him.

“The sheep are here because the shepherds were the first ones the angels told of Jesus’ birth. After they heard the news, the shepherds brought their sheep with them to the manger.”

Narrator: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9 (NIV)

Next, six-year-old Khloe asks, “Are the sheep real?”

“Yes, they’re real. They’re holding really still right now. Oh look, one just moved his head.”

Not satisfied she inquires, “Do they poop?”

“Yep, sheep poop,” I answer matter of factly.

Narrator: “But the angel said to them, ’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV).

Parker looks down and says, “I feel sorry for the sheep. Are they cold?”

I assure him, “The sheep have lots of wool. See their thick wool? It keeps them warm.”

“But what about their legs?”

Warm From the Outside In

What about their legs, I wonder. Upon looking at sheep photos, sheep do have some wool on their legs. A sheep owner answers a similar question from a farm stay visitor. “Sheep have their own natural source of insulation all over their bodies. Their wool keeps their body heat in and the cold out. The lanolin in their wool also prevents moisture from getting to their skin.” 1

Warm From the Inside Out

I discover another way sheep stay warm, Veterinarian Dr. Mary Gessert says, “The process of rumination, with its fermentation of fibrous materials, generates a great deal of heat. The more forage a ruminant eats, the more heat its body produces.” 2 She adds, “There is no need to house wooled sheep indoors during the cold winter months.”

I’m equipped with a much better understanding of how sheep keep warm for another conversation, but my mind keeps wandering back to the shepherds.

What about the Smelly Shepherds?

I integrate information about the shepherds between the grandkids’ sheep questions. “The shepherds are a really important part of the Christmas story. You know how some people make fun of the homeless because some of them smell? Well, the shepherds smelled too. They spent their time out in the fields with the sheep. They probably even got sheep poop on them. They didn’t take a bath very often.”

“Uckk. Smelly,” the grandkids reply in unison.

“People thought that the dirty shepherds were not worthy of God’s love and a waste of time. Why didn’t God tell the wealthy or educated first?”

God’s Message

“Because God sees every person as important, even shepherds and the homeless. He wants everyone to have the opportunity to have a relationship with Jesus. Just like both of you have.”

Narrator: “ … they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 6:17b-18, NIV).

Here’s a prayer that resonated with me from Proverbs 31 Ministries.

“Dear Lord, today I rejoice with the shepherds in the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Help me to set aside those traditions that have become commonplace and explore the amazement of Jesus’ birth. Thank You for sending a Savior for me. I want to spend my life sharing this news. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” 3

What about you? What will you do with the angels’ message to the shepherds? “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”





  1. How Can Sheep Survive Bitter Cold Weather by Kate. Farm Stay U.s. Posted February 26, 2015. Accessed 12/21/2016.
  2. “Winter Sheep Care” by Mary Gessert, DVM. Originally Published in the Shepherd Magazine. Sheepdogging for Newbies. Accessed 12/21/2016.
  3. Why God Told Shepherds First by Glynnis Whitwer. Posted December 23, 2010. Accessed 12/21/2016.


  1. Cold_Sheep_-_geograph_org_uk_-_299528 [wiki media commons]
  2. 3-shepherds-and-the-anouncement-of-jesus-birth []

Medical Leave Ends in Permanent Disability

The 2011-2012 school year on medical leave passes by. merced-collegeDespite extensive hospitalization and classes, I’m unable to return to my job as a college professor at Merced College. I’m now on permanent disability.

All my friends are returning to work in August, except me. I’m devastated. Sad. Angry. Depressed. Alone. And incompetent.

I spend most days roaming around the house aimlessly. I’m unable to function and complete daily living skills. I don’t remember to look at a to-do list. I forget to eat. Just getting ready takes hours. I can’t read a book because I lack comprehension skills. I still pull the weeds. One may think my lawn would be weed-free by now, but what I can do is slower than a snail’s pace.

After six years of symptoms, Stanford Hospital finally diagnoses me in the fall of 2012. I begin a two-year weekly program to learn skills to manage my symptoms so they don’t overtake my life. I do a little writing.

I attend a few Youth for Christ events. I spend time with my grandchildren,  Parker & Khloe, who are now four and two. Plus I’m blessed with my new four-month old granddaughter, Kylie Ann. But mostly I pull weeds. It requires little thought and gets me outside which I enjoy.

I run on empty, trying to focus. What I loved to do is gone. I reach out to God over and over, but He doesn’t seem to answer. What do I do now?

Logo source: Merced College []


Wrong Station Turns to Thankfulness

Don’t cry. It will ruin your make-up. You don’t have time to re-do it, I remind myself. It took forever to put make-up on this morning between tears trickling down my sagging face.

At that moment I hear the Lord’s voice in my head. “Where are you driving to?” He asks softly?

To Oakdale, I acknowledge.

“That’s right. Carry on,” He whispers with a nudge.

How did I not realize what path I was on? I know who’s behind this.

My conversation turns to the liar of all lies, Satan. This is your undoing. Go away. I have a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group waiting for me at The River in Oakdale.

All morning I’d been listening to the wrong station. I was tuned into lies. The downward spiral went something like this. “If God really loved you, you’d still have a real job.”

“If you were working, you’d have more important things to do than talk to moms and yard duty staff.”

“No one really cares what you have to say anyways? Exactly how many followers are on your Facebook site?”

“If God made you well, you could have one of those important jobs you dream about.”

How did I get here so fast? I ask. Just last week the Lord used key values I identified six years ago. Those values fit exactly where He has me today. I wrote several journal entries that clearly showed God’s purpose and plan in my life and for His change in my plans. Removing me from the community college professor sandbox to a very small sandbox of my own. The author, speaker, trainer sandbox.

With Satan’s channel turned off, I eagerly drive towards my destination. Actually, I’m driving towards the destination God asked me to do months ago on this very day. I gently remind myself, I did my editing. I’ve prayed for the moms and myself. I sent the handouts over a week ago. I practiced. My make-up is intact. I’m prepared.

I arrive happy and joyful for the opportunity the Lord arranged just for me and each of the MOPS moms attending today. The energy in the room increases my joy.

A number of moms interact with me after my talk, from “I was friends with your daughter,” to more serious parenting challenges. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is God’s call and God’s plan. I’m thankful.img_0781

After I’m done, the MOPS coordinator hands me an envelope and a check for mileage. “We also made this for you last month.” She hands me a 4” by 24” sign that says, “THANKFUL.” I almost cry. I’m overcome with the timeliness of the gift.

The sign is already hung up featuring two turkey hands created by my two oldest grandchildren. “Lord, I am thankful.”


Can Do Versus Can’t Do

Another year passes. It’s now the 2013-2014 school year. flashback-youtube-comI’ve now been off work two long years. I beg daily for God’s direction, but don’t hear from Him. It doesn’t help that my neurologist at Stanford keeps asking me, “What do you want to do?”

“What do you mean, ‘What do I want to do?’ I want to go back to work. But I can’t. I’m on permanent disability.'” I’m angry and tired of her unrealistic question.

One of the biggest challenges in overcoming my major life change is the constant focus on my symptoms. My deficits. What I can’t do. All 35 identified symptoms. Not only do medical experts continually document my deficiencies, I’m expected to document these daily as well.

Every week I maintain charts of symptoms and rate the degree to which they’ve affected me. I also check the skills I’ve applied. The hope is that the number and degree of symptoms will decrease showing that the skills I’m learning are helping me.

And then in the next breath the physician dares to state, “You need to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.” How am I supposed to focus on what I can do when  you require me to focus on what I can’t do? This medical deficit model isn’t working if you want my focus to be on what I can do.

Lord, I know you’re here with me, but your voice is silent. It’s been several years and I still have no direction from You. Lord, I’m still waiting.

Logo source: Flashback []


Art Therapy Directs Values Poster

“What are your values? What’s most important to you?” asks the art therapist. This is just one of 100_0697the many classes I attended in June 2011 looking for any glimmer of hope or diagnosis of my brain impairment.

I wonder – does it really matter? I can barely function. What difference will it make if I create my values on a poster? I’m on medical leave from the college.

I remind myself that I’m here to get help. I plan to return to my position as a college child development professor in a year. If there’s a small chance this can help, I’m in.

Typically I enjoy the directed art projects, so I begin to think. Commitment is extremely important to me. This includes my commitment to God, my husband, my daughters & their spouses, my two grandchildren, my career, to teaching, my friends, to volunteering at the food bank, and helping others. Yes, commitment is the overarching principal that covers everything most important to me.

I finish the not-so-artistic project with six key values decorated with a few squiggly lines in colors I like. The 18” x 24” poster features: Trust God, Adventure, Inclusion, Family, Creativity, and Flexible. I hang the poster in my vacant and hollow office. I rarely see it these days, but somehow it seems important enough to keep visible. Some days I need to be reminded of my important values.

Learning at RP International Conference in Historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania


Most workshops are held at Hotel Bethlehem but some are at the iirp classrooms on Main Street

I’m in the beautiful historic city Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the International Conference on Restorative Practices sponsored by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (iiirp). Today’s been a great start to the conference.

I began the day attending the workshop Students Lead: Developing a RP Student Leadership Team. This is a missing component in the training we do. I’m excited to share more about this during Year 2 and 3 trainings. I also learned a new way to teach the Social Discipline Window. Tons of great ideas.

The second workshop was RP: Transforming School Climate From the Inside Out. It was a good reminder that RP is not a program or curriculum. To get educators with initiative fatigue to engage they need to know what’s in it for them.

I gained a much better understanding of “Community.” He defines this as any organization that works with or has contact with students after school, such as law enforcement or boys/girls club. This really helps as I make final edits to year 3 training, Continuity, Collaboration and Community on November 7th.

After lunch I participated in Circle Up! Using the Framework of RP to Facilitate Diversity Dialogue. The presenter gave us three doorways to enter to begin this conversation. With my child development background, the Intercultural Competence is the “door” I’m most likely to use in engaging advanced cohorts in this hot topic.

The last workshop was Engaging Adult Learners. As a trainer, I’m always looking for new ideas and strategies. They gave us three extensive examples of time line planning by school sites. Its way more detailed than what we currently do. It’s definitely something I’ll think about, but I’m kind of partial to what we do.

We also got a great list of prompts for content learning circles. For junior and senior high educators, this is the only type of classroom circles most will consider implementing. We’re doing content circles in Year 3 so I’m happy for more prompts.

All the workshops were great, but meeting people from all over is an important component. I prayed specifically that I’d meet some people from California to network with. I’m happy that I’ve met several already. So thankful I can be here and learn from experts.


Reluctant Rider Gets New Bike

img_5955By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D. ©2016

Most of my mild injuries from my April 5th bike accident were gone in a few weeks. Eventually it’s determined I hit my head so I purchase a new helmet. However, the back pain lingers.

I am blessed that the driver’s insurance will cover the cost of a new bike. I just have to choose it.

About a week after the accident I reluctantly stopped at World of Wheels. Eric, the sales clerk, clearly explains the differences between the two bikes similar to my wrecked bike.

“I like the coral color better.” I know color won’t be a deciding factor. I’ve ridden enough miles to recognize I want the features I had on my old bike. “I’m going to get the fluorescent yellow one.”

“It has to be ordered,” he says. “We don’t have your size.”

“That’s okay. I need to wait for the insurance check anyway.”

Five days later the phone rings. “I’m calling from World of Wheels. Your bike came in today. When would you like to pick it up?”

Silence. How did it come in so fast? “Ummm. When will it be ready?”

“By the end of today.”

“Okay.” I thought I’d have longer. I’m not ready to actually pick-up the bike yet.

Then I remember a delay tactic. “Eric said, If you bring in your old bike, we’ll transfer your GPS, pedals and seat to your new bike.” A sigh of relief. I don’t have to get it yet.

My husband asks, “Do you want me to pick up the bike for you?”

I’ll get it when I’m ready. It’s paid for. It can just sit there a while. “No. I need to get it myself.” I know actually picking up my bike is part of the healing process. But you can take in my old bike tomorrow so they can transfer the stuff.” That will buy me more time.

On Saturday, Rick totes the mangled bike to the bike store. While he’s there he tells Eric, “Marian’s pretty scared. She’s only riding a little bit in our neighborhood on her old bike.”

Another voice pipes up. “Hi, I’m Brian. I work in the back. We’ll have your wife’s bike ready in an hour. I overheard your conversation. I live out in the country. I’ve helped other riders after an accident. Your wife can ride with me and other riders on Monday and Tuesday mornings. There’s almost no traffic so she’ll be safe.”

Rick relays the offer to me. A safe place to ride my bike. Riding with someone else. Away from traffic. That could work. God had intervened. It wasn’t a coincidence that Rick’s conversation was overheard and a solution was offered.

But if I am going to ride on Monday, I want to ride my new bike.

Late Sunday afternoon, Rick drives me to the bike store. I’m pretty nervous. I’m not sure how I’ll respond when I see my bike. I imagine myself bursting into tears. I wander cautiously towards the back of the store.

Then I see it. I grin. That’s my new neon yellow bike. The clerk holds my bike while I awkwardly climb on. Then he adjusts the seat height. “Do you want to ride it?”

“No. Not today. I’m going to ride tomorrow morning with Brian and Josh.”

That was on April 18, 2016.

You can read about the bike accident in my blog, 81 Days to Victory.