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On Parachutes, Grizzly Bears, and Tree Trunks

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

The start of fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year for those of us who love the four seasons of the Great Plains. However, it is also one of the busiest time of the year for work and family life. For me, travel both in and out of state to meetings picks up dramatically. Over the last two months, I’ve taken three noteworthy trips.

Last week’s edition of Family Matters highlighted Congressman Tom Emmer’s participation in a Cooking Matters® Minnesota class for youth in Big Lake. I also attended this class and had the opportunity to see Cooking Matters in action as well also to talk about SNAP-Ed and other Family Development programs with the congressman and his aide.

The most fun involved tasting the healthy chocolate chip raisin cookies and watching the class members play with a parachute in order to get some physical activity. Watching all this made me so proud of our work!

The second trip came several weeks ago when I attended the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in Big Sky, MT. I grew up in a poor family with seven children in a blue collar suburb of Milwaukee and never imagined myself having the opportunity to travel to places like Big Sky. Outside the window for the meetings were the stately Rocky Mountains and they were tugging at my heart to get out and walk. One afternoon when I found myself with two hours, I hiked to a meadow not far from the conference site.

Before embarking on my walk, I stopped at a shop to inquire about bear spray — grizzlies are known to populate the area. When I found out the spray cost $50 and I could not take it home on the plane, I decided to sing and yell “Go, Pack, Go” instead as I walked to scare away any grizzlies. Needless to say, the bears left me alone.

My last trip was to the wetlands and woods one morning behind my home. You might be wondering, "Is that really a trip?” Well, when I was on medical leave two years ago, I was unable to take walks behind my home or anywhere. Now that my mobility is back, I treasure the ability to do so again. This particular morning walk behind my house revealed beauty that may have exceeded the Big Sky meadow. For example, I spotted a small tree trunk that grew around a fence post.

I also caught a fleeting glimpse of a white-tailed deer as it dashed away and the head of a six-point buck peeking out of the bushes and much more.

So my message is this: In the midst of getting ready for a new program year and attending conferences, remember to stop and behold the beauty around you. Focus on the fleeting splendor of fall for a time — whether 5 minutes or 2 hours. You’ll find yourself better equipped to deal with the stress of our work and energized to tackle it.
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