It has been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to write a weekly column for the Times for the last 22 years. I have talked with many of you by phone, corresponded by mail and in recent years by email. I love writing my weekly column because it has been another chance for me to learn and share.
I will be retiring from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service at the end of June. It is hard to imagine that I have worked with this wonderful organization for nearly 29 years. Time flies when you are having fun!
I have seen so many changes in food preparation and nutrition since I started as a county extension agent in 1982. I was hired as a home economist. As times change, even my career title changed; instead of home economists we became known as family and consumer science agents.
I remember when I first started working as a home economist extension agent in Peach County that we were promoting our microwave oven correspondence course. People would call my office and have questions on how to use their microwave. Were they safe? How did you adapt conventional recipes? How do you clean it?
My mother had bought me my own microwave while I was in college at UGA. It was expensive and huge and took up nearly half my counterspace. Things have really changed since then.
Even in the early 1980s, extension home economists were teaching classes on controlling diabetes through diet and exercise. But at that time the general theory was that we could not prevent diabetes, you just treated it.
Studies have shown that people with prediabetes who lose weight and increase their physical activity can prevent or delay diabetes and return their blood glucose levels to normal. People with prediabetes who do not adopt a healthy lifestyle have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In 1982 children did not develop type 2 diabetes (known then as adult-onset diabetes). However, in the last 2 decades, type 2 diabetes has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the epidemics of obesity and the low level of physical activity among young people, as well as exposure to diabetes in utero, may be major contributors to the increase in type 2 diabetes during childhood and adolescence.
Even the foods in our grocery stores in the South have changed. I remember going to the local Piggly Wiggly in 1982 and buying some of the first kiwi and spaghetti squash I had ever cooked. The cashiers didn't know what they were. Most people did not eat whole wheat bread, sugar-free, fat-free or high-fiber foods. Now our choices are nearly limitless.
I have never laughed so hard as when I had my first experience with self checkout at a grocery store. I was in Savannah with two other extension agents (and best friends) in 1996. We were buying food for a nutrition class we were teaching for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents meeting.
Between the three of us, we had more than 60 years of work experience. None of us had ever scanned our own groceries. We were trying to read food labels and not putting the food directly into the bags. So the store employee kept coming over to tell us to put the food immediately into the bag.
When we filled up the small area, we started loading the bags into the cart, which again alerted the store employee. We finally paid and headed out the door. But we couldn't get out, the doors wouldn't open; we kept trying until we realized we were going out the entrance. We still laugh when we recall our adventure with technology.
I will miss writing my newspaper column but most of all I will miss you and the people I have worked for and with. I love teaching, writing and answering phone calls. I loved all the extension trainings that have kept me on the cutting edge of research. I enjoyed serving on hundreds of committees with caring people who have made a difference in our community and state.
I plan on traveling even more. I am headed to Bermuda in July and to Turkey in November. I want to visit all the state parks in Georgia. I want to go to every state in the United States. I have been to 49 already; I've just got to make it to Iowa to complete all 50.
I want to spend more time with my family. I will become a great-aunt in August. My mom has all kinds of projects lined up for me to help her out with.
I will visit friends across the United States and hopefully make new friends. I want to take some digital photography courses. I want to learn how to Zumba. I want to go bird watching. I want to sleep in till at least 7 a.m. during the week. I have so many plans for the future.
I want to thank the editors and publisher of the Times for the wonderful opportunity to submit my weekly column.
Readers, thank you again for your friendship and support. Please keep in touch.
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.