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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Eavesdropping on the Everyday

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Ireland with my three children. I lived outside of Dublin for about a year when I was in my 20s, and while I have been back a few times since then, I was especially excited to see the reactions of my kids during their first overseas experience. We had a fantastic time and the kids have great stories to tell about what they saw and did.

Friends and colleagues have asked what the highlight of the trip was for me. I definitely enjoyed the historical sites and the country scenes, the energy of Dublin’s city center, and the sea side walks in Galway. But it’s funny: When you have lived somewhere, you recognize that the “touristy” stuff doesn’t necessarily capture the spirit of the place.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The State of the Center

Trish Olson and I highlighted key achievements and offered other updates on the Center for Family Development at the Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference earlier this month.

Trish gave a quick snapshot of the center’s programming and budget for 2014. She noted these accomplishments from FD’s annual report: 
  • Reached 43,749 people in direct opportunities offered by Family Development, with almost half of adult participants representing racially and ethnically diverse populations.
  • Reached over 313,000 people through our website, publications, and social networking.
  • Published 103 journal articles, evaluation reports, curricula, and other resources.
The center received about $15 million from federal, state, and county sources; grants and contracts; and earned income. SNAP-Ed drew the most funding at $8.4 million, followed by EFNEP at $1 million annually. Other funds included state, earned income, foundation grants, and county grants.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

‘An Advocate Always’

After two days of listening to presenters and participating in table conversations at the FD Qualey-Skjervold Conference, I looked for folks to debrief with on Friday morning. I found small groups of FD staff discussing their experiences, and one person told me, “We should have encouraged staff to block off Friday morning to reflect as an individual or in groups!”

One activity that I reflected on as an individual was the question Brother Menkara Tezzat asked: “How have you and your people impacted the planet?” The results of my recent DNA test showed that my heritage is 90 percent Scandinavian; the report also provided history pertaining to Viking invasions of European coastal areas to explain my DNA results that were not Scandinavian. So I could focus on a history I am not so proud of — that of the Scandinavian Vikings pillaging and raiding northern islands and coasts of the North Atlantic, North Africa, Russia, Constantinople, and the Middle East in the late 700s.

But during that exercise last week, I thought of another seafaring Scandinavian, Fridtjof Nansen. While he started his career as an Arctic explorer, he became a diplomat who created the Nansen Passport. The League of Nations issued Nansen passports to stateless people and refugees who needed travel documents, but could not obtain one from a national authority.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Renewed Appreciation for Family

Dear Colleagues,

On Wednesday, April 8, I will see many of you at the annual Qualey-Skjervold Professional Development Conference at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. After six months of medical leave to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I returned to work on February 25.

The memories and emotions of my journey to complete remission are beginning to fade, but several positive outcomes remain fixed in my heart. My husband and two daughters plus their spouses were rock stars of support and care. It was not always easy for them, especially during the six hospital stays for chemotherapy, as well as the recovery from a broken leg caused by the cancer (another separate hospital stay of six days).

Word Matters: Get Organized!

Of all the challenges in writing, one of the biggest is organization. And it’s a particular challenge when putting together big projects like curricula and longer reports.

Organized writing reflects clear thinking, and clarity is essential to effective communication, not to mention engaging your audience. As Kate Kiefer with the English Department at Colorado State University says, "If the organization does not provide readers with the information they are looking for in an orderly manner, they will quickly lose interest."

So how can you make sure your writing is well ordered?
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