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Monday, May 13, 2013

Taking a Break from 4H

After almost ten years of 4H activities, our family has decided to take a break from our involvement in 4H.  It is hard to believe we walked into that meeting place back in September of 2004 without a clue of what we were doing!  We did not know anyone either as we were new to town.

I always thought 4H was that farmer's kid club where they learned about raising animals and gardens.  However, over the last decade, we learned that there is so much more...and we did it all...except that misleading livestock project!

We started out in a run to try to do all the projects we could...we never seemed to really slow down.  Our children have been in various projects from Food & Nutrition to Forestry.

Amanda led the way with her love for outdoors in Wildlife and Forestry.  She could not help but love the idea of Food & Nutrition and Clothing & Textiles as well.  She even ventured out of her comfort zone with Entomology just to improve her score for the forestry team.

The boys were right there tagging along and then went off on their own adventures with a Dog project, Horsemanship, Robotics, and Photography added to our list of projects.  We loved every minute of our adventure, and we will never forget all the friends we gained along the way.

A special thank you to those who helped us on this journey:

Janey Phillips was our first club manager.  She had such a love for the children and a passion for nature that I admire so very much.  She was our first example of what 4H means.

The Morgan family was an amazing start to our 4H experience!  Myra, Eddie, Josh and Caleb were right there to welcome us and help us figure out the ins-and-outs of 4H.  Myra was the club manager for the majority of our time in 4H and also the leader for our main projects. I know Amanda and the boys (as well as myself) have learned so much from them in our projects and just in life.

Connie and Traci Byers were also some of the first members we met in 4H.  Connie and Traci did a great job teaching us about nature.  Traci convinced us that 4H was where we needed to be and that there was so much more than livestock.

Mr. Whiteman and Sandi...they are such a great team and ran the 4H for our county with precision and expertise.  A lot of people find them tough but I like knowing that when I go into the office for help, they know what to do and how to do it.  Mr. Whiteman retired a few years back but Sandi is still working hard in the office making sure everyone is staying on track.  I can never thank her enough for helping me when I had a million questions...I still have a million more!

Ryan Merrell has brought a new spin on what makes 4H work in our county.  I have enjoyed working with him as our 4H agent.  I hope he sticks around for many years to come.

Sheri Jones and I did not always see eye-to-eye about things but we always made it work out.  I appreciate her honesty and forthright character.  She has helped Sean with his Entomology project for several years and I am thankful for her patience with him.

I hope for the best for Brenda and Jamie...transition is hard and I will pray long after we are gone for the club and that all will go well.

I am sure there are many others who I am forgetting to mention.  Many of the parents have helped me with projects and have been good friends as we learned together.  I hope we can stay in touch in different ways outside of 4H.  These friendships definitely made it hard to make this decision.

So, why are we giving it all up?  After all, we could still have another twenty years of adventure with our youngest only 9 months old.  However, we have spent the last year in a state of stress.  There is no reason to hash it out here on this blog, but for our family it has become too much and we have decided to take a break.  The desire to keep the fun of 4H centered around the youth and not the adults has not been up to our expectations or past experience.  We are not giving it up completely...I am sure we will register as always come next fall, but we will not be active members.

And, once the decision was made...I realized it will be nice not to be known as the 4H family...I would much rather be known as the family who cares about nature, photography, food, science and learning...the family who cares about the community and how we can help those in need.  4H has given us a venue to make that happen but 4H does not make us the family that we just enhanced a desire to make these things happen.

Some will say we just are burnt out and that is why we need this break.  That is far from the truth.  In fact, the boys and I are already thinking about what we can do to share what we learned with others.  I think we will use what we learned to create a nature photography club.  We can combine our love of these two interests to go out and explore the world without worrying about if we are learning the right things for a contest.  We can also be more spontaneous about where we go to learn.

We still have one more big event before we are completely done for this year...our state WHEP contest that we have worked so hard to compete in is in mid-June.  We are looking forward to this again.  I know I will blog about it.

As I read over this post...I thought about how many times we have joked over the years that the adults should be able to turn in a record book.  I think this post is my attempt at writing the story of my 4H experience.  Through it all I have always tried "to make the best better."  I hope that I can continue that motto beyond 4H as well.  I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.  I am not sure what the future holds for our family but we are looking forward to the new adventure.

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