Get Some Grit

Poor Bailey went to visit the neighbor’s horses by slip-sliding across a massive ice-field that developed during something Minnesotans often experience in winter: a cycle of big snow > short thaw > quick freeze. The small pasture just past the gate had good footing from leftover fall grass. There were even a few edible morsels to nibble . However, after a couple days, I noticed Bailey was still standing alone, way across the ice field, away from the round bale feeder and water. I felt awful we hadn’t noticed her away from the hay sooner. Yikes! I bundled up, got a halter, and went to make sure she was OK… and barely made it across that ice field without landing on my bum. Poor girl, I could see it in her eyes, she was afraid to step back out on the ice! This is Miss Piggy I’m talking about; she who never misses a meal!! After apologizing for not coming sooner, I put her halter on and with a little coaxing, we inched our way along the fence where a little sand peeked through the snow and finally made it to the water and hay. Whew!

As I thought about it later, I wondered what “ice field” is frozen between me and my goals or dreams? Sometimes, I take on a fun exciting project, but before I can get to it, everything freezes up and I’m stuck. I just can’t find the courage or GRIT needed to get back out on the slippery slope to follow through. Do you ever feel like that? Maybe you completed college or training for a new venture, (maybe even Horse Powered Reading?) but then got “cold feet” when out of nowhere a sudden freeze hit. NOW what do you do?

What we did was buy 25 bags of “Grit”. It is actually for chickens - they eat it so their gizzard can grind their food -but it’s also great to keep from slipping on ice. It gives the horses enough traction so they can get moving again. We spread it between the water, hay feeder, and shed.

Where do you find the grit you need to keep going when things get slippery? Maybe like Bailey, you have a friend to partner with or serve as an motivator. A terrific book called Grit by Angela Duckworth describes how important that kind of perseverance or grit is for success. It only develops through hard work and determination, but the rewards will “feed” you in lots of ways.

Oh - and by the way, Bailey didn’t learn her lesson the first time. I had to escort her across the ice two more days until she got her footing. So don’t give up! Phone a friend, get your hands on some Grit, and go for your goals!

What's BUGGING you???

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It’s that time of year again in Minnesota! Tails are swishing and swatting! Biting flies and mosquitoes torment the horses. They drive Flynn bonkers!  He wants to get out on the pasture to enjoy fresh grass, but after a few minutes he comes roaring like a freight train back to the sandy, safe arena trying to run away from the flying monsters.  Sometimes he rolls and rolls trying to squash them. But he just gets really dirty & dusty!

What’s bugging you?  So any of these behaviors sound familiar in your life? Biting bugs aren’t a surprise. They are a constant annoyance that comes every year. The funny thing is, all it takes is a thin coating of good bug repellent and AHHHH they can get back to the work of enjoying their grass!

So – lessons for humans:

>   ID the bugs and situations/times that they are most likely to attack;

     o   Then simply plan ahead – what attitude or behavior will protect me from the frustration of little biting bugs?

     o    Sometimes it only takes a bit of thankfulness for the joy of grazing/working in a great pasture/job.

>  Don’t forget to put the bug repellent in your ears too.

     o   You don’t have to listen to the negative gnats that want to buzz in.

     o   The lovely scent of your joyful spirit will drive them away

>  Put a little extra layer on your sensitive parts too (The boys, Flynn & Mo, especially appreciate that!).

     o   If your feelings get easily hurt by perceived slights, or comments, TAKE ACTION!

     o   Sometimes you need to squash that bug by going directly to the source. our Spalding Fly Predator does that all summer – the “good” flies eat the biting flies while they are still in the pupa stage.  Before hurt grows up to bites you, have a conversation with the              source!

No need to get BUGGED!

Be Blessed,


Poop Power!

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For anyone involved in “horsekeeping”, you know that poop scooping (also called shoveling sh** ) is a never ending opportunity!

 While scooping this morning I was pondering my latest read; The Adversity Advantage by Paul Stoltz & Erik Weihenmayer. Of particular interest was the Adversity Quotient (AQ). People with a high AQ use adversity to accelerate their development. In the process of adversity, they unleash tremendous energy and innovation and actually gain momentum (pg xxi).  HMMM this sure sounds a lot like the Productive Struggle students experience in Horse Powered Reading activities!

Now back to my poop scooping metaphor for today –

Instead of feeling sorry for my self out there in the heat scooping poop, I thought about how Adversity (any challenge in your life) can actually serve as fuel if we allow it to be converted into positive energy, growth, strength, and peace! (Sounds like Romans 5:3 “…we also rejoice in our suffering…”)

If the horse poop were simply scattered into the dry sandy arena, flies are attracted, neighbors don’t appreciate the stench, it looks ugly, and people step in it! However, when the same poop is gathered and composted, it slowly turns into rich fertilizer sought after by gardeners! That nasty stuff becomes the fuel to nurture and grow beautiful flowers and delcious vegetables. In my case, it is also an opportunity for exercise, sunshine and peaceful meditation. 

Who could imagine so much power in poop?!?!  Leave it to God to turn gross, smelly, waste into something so amazing?!!?!

Be Blessed,


Start - Use - Do


START where you are!!

Nothing can begin until you do!

Every journey begins with just one step. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, he said to the man, “stretch out your hand!” What would have happened if that man had said “What are you talking about – can’t you see it’s crippled? I can’t – I won’t do it!“.

Only YOU can make take that first step, plan your first activity! No one else can do it for you.

 Use what YOU HAVE! 

I only remember one cheer from my single semester as a cheerleader in high school,

What do we got?

We got a lot!

We’ve got a team that’s Red Hot!

Not great grammar, but so true! Most of us are incredibly blessed! So, how are you going to USE what you have? It is not necessary to go out and buy lots of new tools and toys to do HPR. Just look around and see what you already have. I started out using boards, fence posts and empty cat litter buckets (actually, I still use cat litter buckets LOL).

DO what you can!

In the iconic words of the famous commercial: “JUST DO IT“.

I’m quite sure you know much more than you give yourself credit for, and way more about Horse Powered Reading than your client. They don’t know (or need) all the things you still need/want to learn. It would only confuse them. Take whatever you DO know, and DO something with it! Make a difference in someone’s life!


YOU Have the POWER to give HOPE and HELP to struggling students!

 START where you are - USE what you have – DO what you can!!

"Pickled" Pennings


"Pickled" Pennings is a way for us to play with my name (Pickel rhymes with Michele – but most people can’t spell so they say “Pickle”), and to “iron” out (I know, very few people still iron their clothes much less their thoughts) scrambled, scrunched up thoughts and ideas.  This is also a place where we can play with divergent ideas and thoughts and pull them together to create a place of synergy for new innovations, ideas, creations, and solutions to gnarly problems! Perhaps I will also get to practice wrestling with Phenomenological Research ideas as I make observations and then process those observations through writing. Of course, you KNOW I will also share, exciting insights I hear from God during my devo/exercise times. When writing for work or publication, I feel compelled to use more traditional, accepted writing conventions, but HERE since it is MY blog – I can use all the CAPS, ( ), – - , “ “, and … that I want. Just think, if you follow Pickled Pennings, you will never miss a “Pickelism”

Where Did Horse Powered Reading Come From?

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“Where did Horse Powered Reading come from?”

GREAT question!  Answer: The same place pickles come from! Take a plain ordinary lumpy cucumber, clean, slice, ice, chill, pack in a sterilized container, mix & boil a dozen ingredients (pickling salt, 2 kinds of vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, celery seeds, cinnamon stick, allspice berries plus a pinch of allspice, whole cloves plus a pinch of ground cloves, turmeric), then process the filled jars in a hot water bath. 5 hours later you have my favorite- sweet bread and butter pickles.

In much the same way, a synergy of “ingredients” and hard work came together to create Horse Powered Reading!  All the pieces were already in existence, but at just the right time they merged into an idea, then with time, experimentation, and work, grew into HPR.  I simply followed the steps to creative problem solving.

According to Anita Woolfolk (Educational Psychology 2016 p.340), General problem-solving strategies usually include the steps of:

1.       Identifying the problem  [students struggling needlessly]

2.       Setting goals [use EAL to help them]

3.       Exploring possible solutions and consequences [experimenting with Cole and Caroline]

4.       Acting [Working on new activities with 12 kids over six months]

5.       Evaluating the outcome” [pre-post assessments and interviews 2012; SPED summer school 2016; Rocky Lane School 2017-18]