Welcome to 2016, my fellow MSU Extension Spartans!

Welcome to 2016! I am thrilled to get a chance to highlight everything I’m learning about the amazing work that you are doing here in Michigan. I am looking forward to the chance to meet you and getting to know you. I would like to invite you to get to know a little bit more about me by checking out my About Me page.

This is another month to be proud of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the work that we do across the state. At Issues Identification listening sessions in Hancock, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie, we heard again about the appreciation Michigan residents have for you and the expertise you bring to their families, businesses and communities.

In Flint last Thursday, the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a new collaboration between Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center, was announced that will further focus attention and resources on Flint and children who have been impacted by toxic levels of lead in the water system. In the coming weeks and months, your MSU Extension colleagues will be doing even more along with partners from the Genesee County Health Department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the College of Human Medicine at MSU. To read more about this initiative in Flint, you can read my previous blog post.

Of course, this week more than 600 of our teammates have also been providing breastfeeding education; helping families, farms and those with new product ideas to navigate difficult financial terrain; and opening doors to new learning opportunities for kids ranging from horsemanship and raising crops and animals to civic engagement and leadership. There is much to be proud of. We will continue to support, communicate and celebrate all that we do and have traditionally done at every opportunity.

We can also use our history, relationships, knowledge and expertise to develop new ideas, approaches and opportunities that are required of us in the 21st century. When my girls were small (Amanda and Rebecca are now 25 and 20, respectively), I struggled with a common issue experienced by nearly all parents with small children: how to keep them safe while traversing parking lots. Our rule was that once they got out of the car, they had to keep one hand on the vehicle until they held my hand, then we would walk hand-in-hand to our destination.

But kids are kids. They would be excited about where we were going or who we were meeting and would sometimes drop my hand and take off. My (I think fairly typical) response would be to yell sharply and run after them, which meant we would end up at our destination across the parking lot with crying kids and a grumpy Dad. No fun.

Then we discovered a solution and we can thank the Beatles. Our new rule became this: if you take your hand away from Dad’s hand, he will sing the chorus from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as loudly as he can right there in the parking lot (“I wanna hold your hand, I wanna hold your hand, I wanna hold your hand”). The moment you reattach your hand to his, he will stop. Sounds crazy, but it worked. Not only did it accomplish safety in the parking lot, but there was no more crying and grumpiness. (Hint: If this does not work on the first attempt, you are not singing loudly enough to completely embarrass them.)

Try it. Find your voice. As you tackle your responsibilities this week, think about the challenges you face in helping our friends, neighbors and constituents through the work that you do and consider whether an unusual solution like “singing in the parking lot” will help. Creative interventions and singing/spreading the word about the incredible work that you do can help you to achieve your goals, open new paths of opportunity and enable us to do even more to serve people throughout Michigan. Take a risk, f it does not work the first time, perhaps you are not singing loudly enough!

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