Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Caught Between a Rye and a Hard Roll

My earliest food memory is a sandwich.

From the age of two and on throughout my childhood, my aunt, who was the pianist for the Milwaukee Ballet, would take me with her to performances at the Performing Arts Center. I loved every moment of it – getting ready in a dress and “big girl nylons,” honking our horn in the tunnel as we drove into the city, sitting dead center in front of the orchestra pit all by myself, watching the beautiful dancers on stage, and talking to Romney, Peter, Myron and the other performers after the show. 

As special as all of this was, my favorite part of each evening was walking hand in hand with my aunt to The Velvet Chair, a plush, dimly lit restaurant on the lower level of the PAC, and sitting at the bar. My aunt, in her flowing dress, with her dark hair tucked up in an artfully crazy bun and a long cigarette in an engraved holder perched between her red-tipped fingers, would wave the bartender over and order two BLT sandwiches, a Coke and a cup of black coffee. 

It could have been the 1940s-style elegance to the whole scene, or maybe the excitement of each occasion, but every time I took a bite of that BLT, I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted. That food memory is tightly linked to joy, anticipation and pleasure in my mind, and even though decades have passed, I still can’t eat a BLT without remembering those long ago days with a smile. The sandwich is a bond to happy moments in my past.

These days, I count the BLT among my favorite sandwiches even though my tastes have matured and gotten more adventurous. I’ve tried everything from basic bologna to exotic camel and love to experiment with making mile-high creations for my family. My son, Nic, used to say, “You can tell how much Mom loves us. Just look at her sandwiches.” 

Recently, I received an email from Miss Van Oyen, the Culinary Arts Para. She was teaching the 2nd year students about sandwiches. I so wanted to be in their classroom rather than sitting behind my cluttered desk! I imagined wonderful conversations about fresh breads, new ingredients to blend into spreads, mayo versus Miracle Whip, soft versus hard cheeses, white meat, red meat or no meat, an endless variety of vegetable combinations, grilled or cold, cut in half or served whole… sigh. 

Miss Van Oyen had her students study sandwiches from top to bottom, then fill out a worksheet to create a café menu filled with delectable, delicious, delightful sandwiches. They needed to include all seven types of sandwiches - closed-face, open-faced, club, griddled, cold, hot, finger and tea sandwiches.  They also needed all four elements of a sandwich - bread, spread, filling, and garnish. 

Then they named their creations.  Here are some names and sandwiches the students came up with:

-      Wade named his sandwiches:
·         The Famous Chef Wade Sandwich
·         Bomb of the Year Sandwich
·         Creativity Sandwich
·         The Salami Supreme
·         The Best of the Best Cold Sandwich
·         The Best Creation on the Planet Earth Sandwich
·         Caribbean-Style Sandwich
-      Other names were The Gobbler and Tiny Tom.

-      The students used fillings such as hummus, guacamole, cream cheeses, flavored mayonnaise or butters, etc. Not just mustard and mayonnaise!

-      They used different breads like pumpernickel, rye, sourdough, baguettes, bagels, pita, rolls, and even Triscuits for tea sandwiches. 

-      The meat they were asked to use was turkey, but they used honey roasted, smoked, turkey bacon, and turkey hot dogs to add creativity.

It was a lesson filled with creativity and almost limitless possibilities.

I hope, through this exercise, the students developed fun memories of the sandwich that will make them smile well into their golden years. 

I hope that their family and friends will feel loved when they someday eat one of these fantastical creations made by their own skilled chefs.

I hope that one day I’ll stop by a café owned by Wade to try his The Best Creation on the Planet Earth Sandwich. 

I’m sure it will become my new favorite.

Just for Fun:

Our favorite sandwiches – 

Mrs. Harvey – Oooooh! One of my favorite sandwiches is a warm Reuben, or just about anything with sautéed onions and green peppers.

Mr. Gaschke – In the summertime, I enjoy a good BLT – garden fresh tomatoes, thickly-sliced bacon, dark, leafy lettuce and Miracle Whip.

Miss Houk - Jimmy John's Turkey Tom

Mr. DeCiccio – A Spicy Italian from Subway with pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, lettuce, oil & vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Miss Miles – I like grilled chicken sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and avocado on a pretzel bun.
Jimmy John's #9 on wheat

Mr. Canright – A Beach Club from Jimmy Johns! Sprouts, avocado slices, turkey, provolone… I like to sprinkle Jimmy’s jalapeno chips onto the sandwich. It provides a little crunch to the texture.

Mr. Andrus – Jimmy John’s #9 on wheat 

Mrs. Anderson - My favorite sandwich has to be a "fluffernutter." It has peanut butter and marshmallow fluff together.  It tastes wonderful!

Mrs. Konopasek - Turkey Panini!!  Yum

Panera's Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
Mr. Kolkman - My favorite sandwich is the “Bacon Turkey Bravo” from Panera Bread. It has smoked turkey breast, bacon, smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomatoes, Panera’s signature dressing, all on Tomato basil bread. Love it!

Mrs. Kolkman - Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich!  So yum!

Mrs. Luchterhand - Ummm… A turkey and cheese bagel sandwich… Or a turkey (Sun-Dried Tomato Turkey) and lettuce wrap.

Mrs. Patton - My favorite sandwich is a BLT with swiss.
Mrs. Wright - You choose – BLT, Tuna or Peanut butter with grape jelly.

Miss Pollard - My favorite sandwich is the “Bacon avocado chicken sandwich without bacon” from Chili’s. It’s faaaaaaaaaaabulous! 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: With Respect to Advising...

Lauren Miles

Thank you to Lauren Miles, Student Advisor, and her Student Advisory Group for writing today’s blog.

It’s hard to describe the role of an Advisor. Every day, I seem to find out something new that falls under my title.  In fact, our title was changed from Academic Advisor to Student Advisor because we deal with so much more than just academics.

When I was hired, I was told to become the expert on my students - if there was ever a question about them I should be able to answer it.  While I would not consider myself an expert, I am sometimes surprised with how much I know about each student. 

A few things the Advisors do with the students include scheduling and taking them to the doctor, assisting them with budgeting and handing out their money every other week, setting and working toward goals, dealing with disciplinary issues as needed, communicating progress with their parents, and being the person they can come to whenever they need something. 

A tool that I have found to be very effective when working with my students is the Five Love Languages quiz.  I had each of my students take this quiz to determine the best way to love and encourage them.  This has been helpful when my students need a little extra encouragement. If their love language is words of encouragement, I can leave them a note in their mailbox; if it is quality time, I can stop by their residential area for a visit.  

I feel my most important responsibility as an advisor is seeing my student’s potential, even when they cannot see it themselves, and always pushing them toward it.  

I try to make every interaction I have with my students a teaching moment.  While we are not in a classroom taking notes and being tested, there are still so many opportunities to learn.  During group meetings, I address issues that multiple students seem to be struggling with including being kind to one another, being servants, learning and using the six character traits, and building their self-confidence.  We do this through journaling, service projects, writing encouraging notes to staff, looking up what the Bible has to say, and other fun projects I find on Pinterest.  

I also take advantage of teaching moments in the hallway, at lunch, and during residential life.  During lunch, we can talk about healthy food choices; in the hall, we can talk about being professional and greeting people as they walk by; and during residential life, we can focus on effectively completing daily living skills and working toward the goals the students set each semester.    

I meet with each of my students once a week, typically during lunch or right after classes, for about 30 minutes.  This is a time for students to check in and tell me how things are going.  We discuss classes, residential life, the future, their goals, medical issues… basically anything the student needs to talk about. If one of my students is struggling with something in particular, we use this time to problem-solve ways to fix the issue. 
Miss Miles with students at SkyZone.
I also meet with my entire advising group twice a week on Tuesdays for an hour and Thursdays for two hours.  During this time we talk about budgeting, fill out their student money request, give them their money, study for classes, and discuss important issues in their lives as a whole.  We also use this time to do team building activities and, every once in a while, run to McDonald’s for a treat! 

Recently, we talked about RESPECT in our Student Advising group.  I had the students write their thoughts about what respect is to them:


What is RESPECT?
“Respect – Recognizing and showing value to God, authority, others, property, and myself.  Being honest to God in order to show faithfulness.” Joshua Maher 

                                                                                                                                                                Why do we teach about RESPECT at Shepherds College?
“Respect is important in classes because it teaches you to be respectful to your boss or co-workers.  It helps you show kindness and that will get you far in life.  Kindness will help you get more friends in a job situation. You will be able to keep your job or get promoted.”  - Nikki Monroe
“Why?  Because in class talking to the teacher in a kind way with a right attitude and not using bad body language.  Being kind to students even though it is hard sometimes.  Praying for all people.”Sharon Ackerman

How do you show RESPECT at Shepherds College?
“Respect is honoring the other person.  When I respect the other classmates or roommates, I help with chores or homework.  By respecting and following the rules here in Shepherds College.”Micah Muma
“The class can respect the teacher by saying kind words, so that everyone can follow directions.  I think that to not talk while the teacher is talking.”Abby Grabinski
“How we use respect on the basketball team: To respect your teammates, to listen to them and to share the ball with your other teammates.  To be positive in the game and on the bench, then to be respectful to the other team who is playing us.”Christian Ladd

How can you show RESPECT when you leave Shepherds College?
“I can show respect in the future when I leave Shepherds by listening to others when people try to tell me something or how to do something.  Also, by having a good reaction when they do tell you something.”  - Katy Stengele
“You could show respect by working hard and staying on task when you’re at a job.  I could show respect by being honest and gentle to my boss and co-workers.”  - Charles Arnold


Shepherds College is grateful for the investment each Advisor makes in the lives of the students. We value the commitment the Advisors show in teaching, encouraging, disciplining and caring for the students as they grow toward lives of Appropriate Independence. We respect and thank Lauren Miles, Alyson Piatt, Daniel Gaschke, Laura Pollard, Elyse Cyr, Erin Luchterhand and Karli Luchterhand.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Host

Thank you to first-year student, Micah T. Muma, for writing today's blog.

Nick, a host on Preview Day
Last week was great as I got ready to be a host for the visitors on Preview Day. If a potential student wanted to be here to see what Shepherds College is like, Abby, Nick and I were their host.

At lunch on Preview Day, we all sat down and talked while we ate the great and amazing food Chef McCarthy made with his students. The sandwiches were filled with chicken salad mixed with grapes and crunchy celery. They tasted spectacular.

All I want to say to the students who want to head to Shepherds College is, “Be strong. Don’t let the world mess with you or give you a battle you can’t fight.

“In all, when you come here, I hope you enjoy it. You’ll learn a lot. If you don’t know much about God, be prepared to be taught about Him and the Bible. There are a lot of great things here. Faculty and staff will show you countless things and give you helpful advice for life. We are all hosts here, I guess!

“A Shepherds College education is life changing, and you can learn a whole lot. The Bible itself gives you a verse on it. In Proverbs 1:5 it says, ‘Wise people can also listen and learn; even smart people can find good advice in these words.’”

So anyone can learn, and we can all act smart and, as a result, we will all learn something new by the end of the day.

And our biggest HOST is God so don’t ever be shy or scared to ask God for anything. 

To all who may read this, may you have a blessed day, and to all the ones who want to visit here, don’t be shy or be afraid for God will help you.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Thursday, April 3, 2014

World Autism Day

This story is one about ignorance. My own.

 Several years ago, something bad happened to my family, and I started pulling away from the church. The pastor, bless him, tried to stop the outward ebb of the Griffis family by organizing a motorcycle trip to Iowa. He drafted me as a driver in the break-down van to trail behind several of my dearest friends straddling hogs and Hondas as they roared down hundreds of miles of country roads. He thought it would be healing.

After bad weather, engine trouble, messed up hotel reservations and the awkwardness of dear people trying to pretend that all was right in the world, we headed back home. 

I don’t know what road we were on, and I don’t know what state we were in, but I was in the passenger seat with the pastor’s wife behind the wheel, watching our little biker gang take a huge, blind curve. Suddenly, there were rhinoceroses standing at the bend in the road. Even as my mind was registering that these life-sized beasts were made of stone, I jumped, the pastor’s wife startled, and the motorcycle directly in front of us, the one ridden by my friend Angie, swerved and lost control. We screamed and yelled frantic prayers to God as we watched Angie and her bike skid, drag and flip end over end at the side of the road.

I tell you all this as an excuse for my next behavior, even as I know that there really is no excuse.

Due to God’s protection, Angie was banged up, but otherwise healthy. We were all shaken to the core and decided to get off the road as soon as possible to recover. Golden arches appeared after a few miles and, by unspoken agreement, we all pulled off and walked in the restaurant to order.

I was last in line. The girl behind the counter was a pretty teenager with an unsmiling face. I watched and listened as she took my friends' orders in a cold, unfriendly manner without making eye contact. With each order, I felt rage building inside me.  She was so rude! I was physically trembling, and my thoughts became loud, angry and unorganized. My pastor was directly in front of me. I could see that he was already defensive when he placed his order, but he remained in control. The girl became surly at a request he made and refused to place his order until he changed it. My pastor, a man who was trying to help me at the worst time of my life, looked upset and confused… and that was it. 

Everything in me - the hurt, the fear, the rage - boiled over and that poor girl took the brunt of it all. I told her exactly what I thought of her, her rudeness, her arrogance, her teenaged snottiness. I made her cry. The other staff members gathered around her while trying to placate me. I demanded her manager. A tired-looking older woman approached me with caution, and I let her have it too. Did she care so little about customer service that she would let this insolent jerk behind a register? Why wasn’t this horrible girl in back with the deep fryers? Why didn’t she receive better training? Why wasn’t she disciplined? Why wasn’t she fired?!
The manager endured my barrage of furious questions with lines of exhaustion on her face, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…” over and over again. When my rant was finished, she simply said, “We hire people with disabilities. She has autism.”

The rage was gone, replaced by a soul-deep tiredness. I was raised hearing my dad say, “There’s rarely a reason not to be nice. Show the world kindness.” I thought, ‘Wow. The first time I ever lose my temper in public, and it’s at a young girl with autism.’ Why didn’t I listen to my dad? And why, after working several months in the disability field, didn’t I notice the signs of disability?

It was because, while I recognized the possible speech impediments, disjointed conversations, slack jaws, protruding tongues, flat features and wondering, wandering eyes of some people with intellectual disabilities, I knew next to nothing about autism.

I don’t remember much else from that point onward. Just shame and embarrassment… and a determination that I would learn all I could about autism so, even in extreme circumstances, I could handle the disability with patience, love and control.

Over time, through reading books, magazines and blogs, and through the invaluable experience of getting to know and love the people of Shepherds, I learned about autism.

I learned that not all people with autism are socially disengaged – but some are.

I learned that some people with autism have bright, active minds while others struggle with remedial tasks.

I learned that some people with autism have sensory issues that cause them great stress – and some don’t.

I learned that all people with autism are somewhere on a “spectrum” because they all have different levels of functioning and differing abilities, much as we all do.

I learned that people with autism need support and understanding, not impatience, criticism and judgment.

In honor of this special day, I want to give you something - something that could change your life and the lives of those around you, something I wish I had all those years ago at that counter in McDonalds – knowledge.

Please learn all about autism this World Autism Day and National Autism Awareness Month.

Autism Research Institute -

Autism Now -

Top 25 Autism Spectrum Blogs -

The Best Books on Autism - 

Autism Parenting Magazine -

Autism Asperger's Digest - 

Autism Spectrum Quarterly - 

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at