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December 31, 2009

Decemebr 31 message

Good Morning and Happy New Year: I hope all of you are having a nice Holiday season. A few things to share in this final blog of 2009:

Extension Committee meetings: The First quarter Extension Meetings have been scheduled as follows. Please reserve the meeting room and send out a meeting notice from your county office to your committee members prior to the meeting.

January 11 Kandiyohi 12:00 noon
January 11 Chippewa 5:00 p.m.
January 11 Lincoln 7:30 p.m.
January 19 Lac qui Parle 4:30 p.m.
January 21 Yellow Med. 7:00 p.m.
February 4 Redwood 4:00 p.m.
February 4 Lyon 7:00 p.m.
February 8 Renville 7:00 p.m.

New Year's resolutions: My family has always been big on making resolutions and predictions for the New Year. I think those New Year resolutions (or goals) are also pertinent for our work. For example, I have several resolutions for the offices in our region for 2010:

-Be more green in 2010. No, I'm not talking about 4H; I'm referring to our office practices. For example, at a time when the state is moving to less use of paper and copies, many of our county offices have increased their copy usage to 50,000 to 75,000 or more copies per year. This is straining our office operations budget at a time when we need to be fiscally frugal. And, many of our copy practices may be based on habit rather than what our customers expect. You can think of many other "green" practices like reducing energy use, unplugging phantom uses of electricity etc.

-Show programming to stake holder / decision makers. Many times when I meet with County Commissioners it is in because of a problem or issue, be it budget, staff etc. In 2010 we need to look for opportunities to show our programming to those stakeholders in the county that will be making decisions on our budgets, MOA's and our future. Several of our counties have done a great job of getting 4H participants in front of County Boards, Master Gardeners reporting on a project that benefited the County etc. We need to have more of that type of reporting.

-Look for Professional Improvement opportunities for our staffs. Like nearly every year, 2010 will be a year of change. We all will need to adapt our skills through new learning's to adapt to those changes. Whether it is dealing with new technology such as google apps or Office 2007, organizational structural changes, or changes resulting from budget challenges, we need to look for opportunities to learn. Hopefully, we can organize some staff development opportunities for Regional and County Support staff in 2010.

More on Resolutions: I get a weekly newsletter from a program I participate in with the YMCA. Today's newsletter has several good points relevant to today's blog discussion on resolutions:

5 Tips: How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Whatever you resolve to do differently in 2010, vow also to develop a strategy to make it happen. Otherwise, expect failure.
Whether it's to eat better, exercise more, or stop smoking - Before you commit to your New Year's resolution, take a look at what is motivating you to change.
Do you really want to make the change? We often resolve to change something that we truly have no intention of changing. This can serve to be counterproductive and provide us a sense of failure. It is important to consider what we need to do to change and evaluate how we will do it.
Here are five tips to help you keep your resolution:
1. When we resolve to change, it needs to come with a strategy to change. Simply saying you want to do something does not fuel the change. Consider the strategy and outline the process of change that is simple and realistic.
2. Keep resolutions to a minimum. Attempting to stop or start multiple things may serve to overwhelm you and prevent you from doing any of them. It makes good sense to keep change simple and to tackle one major change at a time. Having multiple resolutions may be too much for the brain to process and may make change difficult.
3. Develop accountability partners. Lock in someone who will support your change. For example, if your goal is to exercise, you might want to hire a trainer. A study at McMaster University found that people who are new to an exercise activity perform better when their goals are set by a fitness professional rather than by themselves.
4. Appreciate the changes you are attempting and reward yourself throughout the process. If you are keeping goals simple, you can appreciate exercising more or better eating.
5. Studies show stress can kill you, so attend to it. Many resolutions center around things we do to help us cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking or overeating. When we change the behaviors, we need a new plan to manage stress.
The process of thinking about change is critical to developing actual change. It is a process that is helpful no matter what time of year.
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2006 supports that notion. Researchers found that when people predict that they will do a socially good deed, such as recycling, the chances of them actually doing the good deed increases.
A quote: "A clear benefit of the self-prophecy technique is its simplicity: a question followed by a simple 'yes' or 'no' elicits behavioral change."

Have a safe and Happy New Year


December 23, 2009

December 23 message

Good Morning: The weather forecasters are all saying the weather outside will be frightful. I hope each of you will celebrate the Christmas Holiday in the way that is best for you. If you are traveling, be safe; if you are staying home, keep warm.

Office closures: The Regional Offices will be closed Thursday and Friday, December 24th and 25th. County holiday schedules vary on the 24th. However, the weather will likely force some office closures on Thursday either due to a County administration decision or because the local staff simply cannot make it in to work. Please use your best judgment and don't try to travel to work on if travel is not advised.

Wheat referendum: Please review the Wheat Research and Promotion referendum. By MN Statute, when a research and promotion council holds a referendum, the information needs to be made available through Extension and FSA offices. This is to give some locations for access to referendum information. Please copy and post the attached notices.

An update from my family: As several of you know, my son Brian had surgery yesterday, December 22 at HCMC in Minneapolis to reposition the bones in his ear that got scrambled in his October 4 accident. The surgeons were able to move two of the bones back in place and the third was too far out of kilter so they replaced it with a prosthetic device. His inner and outer ear are now connected and he will fully recover his hearing in the next six weeks. We are very pleased with the surgery outcome, grateful for the skilled medical care he has received; thankful for all of the thoughts and prayers that have come his way, and blessed that Brian is fully recovering from his injuries. He will return to college in January.

Have a wonderful Christmas.


December 11, 2009

December 11 message

Good Morning: Now that we have all made it through winters' first blast, we should be ready for the season. Only a couple of items to share today:

A message to pass along concerning computing safety:

Here are some websites to check out for safe computing. Also, it is the time of year to be watching, and be careful, for the e-card email that is being sent out at this time of year!

OIT Safe Computing page - http://safecomputing.umn.edu/
Topics page - http://safecomputing.umn.edu/safepracticestoc.html

Just a reminder that if you get a virus warning and it looks like it is opening an internet window the warning is probably the virus. Close all windows, maybe even reboot the machine and start a virus scan using Symantec. Do not accept or say yes to allow it to scan.

Be aware of e-cards being sent this time of year; I suggest not opening them. If the card comes from a known contact it may be safe to send them an email asking if they sent a card before clicking on the link

4H on-line newsletters: As the staff that supports 4H is well aware, the newsletter go "on-line" in 2010. Newsletters will not be printed at the Regional or County offices. Questions on this can be directed to Pam in the Hutchinson Regional Office.

A personal note: Several of you have asked how my son Brian's recovery is coming along. Brian is improving and has been cleared to return to college with a limited course load in January. He has a series of medical appointments in Minneapolis in December and surgery to restore his hearing in December, so I will be taking a couple of days of vacation on those dates. So we are very fortunate.

Have a good weekend.


December 7, 2009

December 7 message

Good Afternoon: The weather forecasts are predicting the first real snow of the season could come as early as Tuesday of this week so it may be timely to review a few end of year and winter weather topics.

End of Year MOA billings. The fourth quarter bills for local MOA staff have been sent. The quarterly billing for the 4H PC is $16,224.99 (full time), $12,980 (80% time). It is important that four quarterly billings are processed and paid during the county's fiscal year. If you are running into any deadline issues with submitting billings, please let me know.

Winter Weather impact on office operations: Each year winter weather impacts safety and occasionally office operations. We encourage and expect staff to make appropriate decisions on winter travel to not put themselves in unsafe situations. If winter weather impacts the hours of operations of Regional offices, those changes will be announced on the Regional Office voicemail and by e-mail. Decisions on County office closings due to weather will follow decisions made by the County administration. At the Regional Office and at most county offices, if the office is closed by administrative decision, the affected staff is paid. If the office is open and staff choose to not attend work or cannot be at work due to weather and road conditions the affected staff may use personal or vacation time.

Changes in office operations: If County Extension offices in the region are not open during normal hours for whatever reason, please let me and the regional office know. We typically get calls from clientele or county officials when offices are not open at the normal times, so it is very helpful if I have a heads up on any office schedules issues.

Have a good week.