I bleed green, with a dose of black and white

I stared at a blank computer screen for the better part of 10 minutes late Wednesday afternoon because I was in a bit of a conundrum.

It’s National 4-H Week this week. It’s also National Newspaper Week.

Both are near and dear to my heart.

If it wasn’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today; and if it wasn’t for newspapers, I wouldn’t be able to brag about area 4-H’ers and their accomplishments in print.

Last week I attended my first session of the U-Lead Advisory Academy, a 10-month program sponsored by University of Minnesota Extension. In a nutshell, U-Lead is geared to building leadership skills and expanding participants’ knowledge of Extension’s role in Minnesota. Extension, for those of you who don’t know, also leads the 4-H program.

I was asked to take part in the academy because of my new role on the Nobles County Extension Committee, but others in the group of 24 have been long-time volunteers in the 4-H program. In other words, I think we’ll get along real well during the next six in-state sessions and five-day trip to Washington, D.C.

One of our projects in St. Cloud was to create a story board to introduce ourselves to the rest of the group. We were asked to bring photos, objects and stories that “define” who we are.

After procrastinating until nearly the last minute (it’s a reporter thing!), I tossed a collection of photos into a bag, printed out a blog I wrote, and snatched a hardanger ornament from my small collection of finished pieces.

It wasn’t until I actually sat down with my piece of poster board and collection of items that I realized something — nearly everything in my stash had something to do with 4-H.

It kind of surprised me, though I’m not sure why. 4-H has always been a part of my life.

I was an 11-year member of the Ocheda Beavers 4-H Club, yet I went to meetings long before I became an “official member” at age 8. I have two older brothers to thank for that. (Back in those days, they didn’t have a special Cloverbud program for kids ages 5 to 7.)

I had a brief stint as a collegiate 4-H’er, volunteered for a couple of years with the Redwood Rainbows when I worked up there and, when I moved back to my hometown nearly seven years ago, it wasn’t long before I was lured back to the club I grew up in. I’ve been a volunteer leader with the Ocheda Beavers ever since.

My story board didn’t reflect any of those roles. Instead, it featured a picture of my favorite goat, Travel’R. Because of 4-H, I learned about, raised and showed goats for more than a decade.

The hardanger ornament, along with a photo of the last cross-stitch picture I actually finished, are also directly attributable to 4-H. I can’t thank Worthington’s Jean Weness enough for all the time and talent she offered in teaching me how to express my creativity on fabric. How far I’ve come from the days of ripping out stitches and cursing those knots that always seemed to form in my thread!

The rest of the board is filled with things like my “I love 4-H” and “Relay for Life” buttons, a Minnesota Newspaper Association lanyard, fishing bobber, photos of me with my 10 nieces and nephews and new great-niece, and a small section representing my experience covering the inaugural Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota.

4-H, newspapers and the kids in my life — not necessarily in that order — I guess is what defines me.

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