Over the weekend we took a quick trip to Southern California to visit family. I am always taken back at how warm and relaxing the California air and sun are to my winter-weary self. Somehow Oregon has a way of slipping from the warmth of summer into the deep wet cold of winter without me even realizing it. Stepping off the plane into the mid-morning sunshine made me feel like anything was possible, although I also might have been a tad affected by the enthusiasm of all the kiddos on their way to Disneyland for the weekend who joined me in the happy sunshine.

We checked into our hotel and then scoped out the pool and other important places. Walking down the long hallway I passed a small conference room, the type that can be found in most hotels. Many of us spend a great deal of time in these types of room teaching, attending conferences, or hosting workshops. They all look the same: tables, chairs, a podium, flip charts and projector, along with an earnest speaker trying his or her best to capture the attention of the audience. Continue reading

As the Oregon winter wends on we have been treated with a few bright sunny days where the east wind scoops up the remaining leaves, swirling them away down the dry streets. Yesterday we had the return of cold winter rain, the kind that chills you to the bone, rain that promises to stay for a few days. I know for those of you in other parts of the country our mild Oregon winters hardly qualify as winter. But regardless of where we live, I think we are all eagerly awaiting signs of spring, at least I know I am.

One of those signs is the light that now lingers into the very early evening. I especially like this time of year with the bare trees back lit by the deep blue sky just before the sun goes down. And yesterday, as I walked down the hill I thought I could almost see little buds starting to form on bare branches, and I definitely could smell the winter Daphne drifting by on a gust of wind. Continue reading

I had the most lovely of surprises this week when Dr. Shauna Tominey stopped by my office to give me a copy of her hot-off-the-press new book entitled Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have with Young Children. I can’t wait to read it, and I hope you will too! Dr. Tominey is a parenting education specialist at Oregon State University who, like me, is fascinated by the process of human development, especially in understanding the things that help – or hinder- positive development. Also like me, Dr. Tominey has a keen desire to ensure that the important research generated through the sciences of learning and development is shared with others and put to good use making a difference in the lives of youth and families.

One of the greatest things about my position as a 4-H Youth Development specialist is that I get to live in that liminal place between research and practice, which means I work daily with youth development practitioners as they work directly with youth, families and communities. On the academic side, I also get to work with and learn from lead researchers who generate the critical information we need to do our youth development practice well. Continue reading

Practitioner Tip Tuesday

By Guest Blogger Mike Knutz, 4-H Educator Yamhill County, Oregon

Growing up with three brothers on a small farm, my parents would often echo the phrase, “Many hands make the work light.” Now as a youth development educator, I continue to live this mantra as I work with teens in our 4-H Camp Leadership Program. This program prepares youth to serve as camp counselors through training in positive youth development, leadership, teamwork, and communication. I have been amazed at how the annual camp evaluations can motivate our counselors to step up their game. Continue reading

Fairy Roots Glendaloch, Ireland

Each year as the Season of Busy begins to wind down, I select a new biography to read in the coming year. Last year I chose a marvelous and inspiring biography of Beatrix Potter (by Linda Lear) whom I learned was far more than just the author and illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books. In fact, Potter’s life was so complex and interesting, beginning set against the back drop of Victorian England, and ending as a respected sheep farmer and conservationist in the Lake District, it took me most of the year to make it through the book.

What I find fascinating about biographies is the detail, the back story, to the person described in the book. Invariably, these stories are ones of struggle, determination, and setbacks, that are reflective of the personal grit we explored in this blog in the past few months. While the stories are typically ones of eventual success, it is what happens in between the beginning and the fame that is most interesting to me. Continue reading