Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Weave of Life

For the girl who dreaded going to school each day, monsoon tears flowing down both cheeks as her mom pried her from her leg to get her on the bus, Lois made the days a little brighter. With short, curly black hair, glasses perched on her nose, and a bright smile on her face, bus driver Lois welcomed each of her passengers each morning with warm kindness and a jolly greeting.

Eventually the girl who simply could not fathom the idea of missing all the goings-on at home on the farm while at school slowly discovered the social aspect of school and how much fun learning could be. Soon the quiet, tear spilling girl turned into a social butterfly and bus driver Lois became one of her favorite people and best friends. As soon as she stepped on the bus, plopped her backpack down in the seat behind the driver, she would half stand/half sit, and Lois’s ear would not find rest for the remainder of the route. Lois’s love for coffee was soon discovered by this sweet girl, and before long the early morning conversations were partnered with strong coffee and even stronger stories. From lambing updates on the farm, to the latest and greatest thing her little brother did, Lois heard it all. And she didn’t turn a blind eye (or ear) to the girl who needed it most.

Soon that girl grew up. She made new friends on the bus and started to move further back in the seats on the bus. Of course, Lois was always ready to engage in conversation if prompted, but those early morning consultations soon faded away. One first day of school, the girl stepped onto the bus ready to be greeted by Lois’s warm, bright smile, but was instead ignored by a middle aged man fumbling with papers trying to figure out where he was off to next on the route.


People have this funny way of coming into our lives when we need them most - at the right time, in the right place, for just the right reason. As a 5 year-old, Lois was my perfect person. All throughout elementary school, while teachers and classmates changed each year, one thing remained constant in my life - my bus driver. And I loved that woman. She was kind of like another grandma honestly. But as I grew up and time went on, our conversations diminished, our relationship grew a bit weaker, and then one day she was just...not there.

This is my very first note from Lois. 

While I was sad Lois was no longer my bus driver, I knew I no longer needed her the same way the 5 year-old me did. My mama would tell you Lois was a saint; Lois was the only reason I went to school and the bus rides were my favorite parts of my day. Mama was incredibly grateful for Lois, her friendship, and confidence I was going to be okay. She would send me handwritten notes with cute drawings or sometimes even call to update Mama. Lois would go out of her way to ensure I was comfortable in an uncomfortable space.  It made my mama’s inability to let go a bit easier knowing I had Lois. How do you go out of your way to make a positive difference in someone else’s life?

Throughout life, individuals are weaved in and out of our lives as we need them.

My relationship with Lois wasn’t the only one where I have encountered this realization. Whether it be a friendship with someone much older or younger than you, or a more serious relationship with a significant other, learning how to re-adapt to life can sometimes be challenging.

Specific people can teach us a lot about ourselves in a short amount of time. They can set us back on our feet when we seemed to have lost our footing. They can make us realize how great we really are and the potential we each possess. Sometimes individuals can be weaved back into our lives too - and you never know when that might happen. And sometimes it is okay to step back and see the bigger picture.

Who has weaved their way in or out of your life? How did they impact you? What did you learn from them? Who do we need most? Who needs us? Why?

Life is crazy. Relationships make it better. Surrounding ourselves with others who are going to make us better people is such an important thing to remember. Jim Rohn once said,
“You’re the average of
the five people you spend
most of your time with.” 
Those you surround yourself with are likely influencing your success and could impact your life down the road. Sometimes we have to realize not everyone is good for us either; they taught us our lesson, and now it is time for us to be the bigger person, learn to let go, and move on.  We all need five influential people in our lives. Who are your five? Who considers you part of their five?

We all deserve to be happy. The weave of people in our lives is so, so important. We have the opportunity to embrace it - and control it (sometimes). Once we have determined who and what makes us happiest, we simply get to dance through this weave of life with smiles on our faces (and a few tears sometimes) and enjoy the dance.
Stationed by the ear of corn,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

No, Seriously We Have a Spreadsheet...

It was all because of a mouse. A simple drawing that came to life on a screen that allowed Walt Disney to pursue his dream. We often associate Walt DIsney with dream,because Disney was a man with big plans and even bigger dreams. For me it always seemed like a mystery how one man could accomplish so many of these dreams in his lifetime. I was really good at picking a dream, and well, dreaming that dream for a long time, but I never got closer to that dream. Why? It was simply because I never really had a plan to get there in the first place, and more importantly, I didn't have people to help me get there. But good old Disney was a wonderful man and leader, because he had qualities I lacked; where I had only a dream, Disney had a dream, a plan, and a team. Making his dreams happen, and more importantly, making the others around him dream just as big as him. Disney had the ability to unite people over a common goal.

So, if you haven't noticed already, I LOVE Disney and it just so happens that most of my friends also love Disney. So naturally we came up with a little dream to get together and watch as many Disney movies as we could. So, as often as we could, we would gather at one house and watch as many movies in one night as possible. Now, if the thought “cute” crossed your mind, imaging a bunch of high school seniors crowding onto one couch watching Finding Nemo and Hercules, let me explain a little more. We took this endeavor very seriously. We have a spreadsheet. Let that sink in,
because, no, seriously we have a SPREADSHEET. This spreadsheet not only marks attendance and what movies we watched, but it is also color coded. We also had a very strategic voting system for choosing movies that involved paper ballots and goldfish. Well, if you are not laughing too hard yet, because I know it sounds silly, it was actually quite enjoyable. And now that we have all graduated and left home, I miss Disney nights so much. I don't even miss watching the movies, but I miss the girls and the time we spent together: laughing, eating Patty Jo`s amazing food (thanks Momma Erickson!), and telling our favorite stories. And even though it is only in a simple (and some might think silly) way, these girls and I gathered under one thing we loved, Disney movies. We united as friends and fellow Disney lovers to accomplish a goal. Because we were able to do this, we ended up watching lot of Disney movies and accomplishing our dream of enjoying being a kid a little bit longer.  

It might seem like Disney made his dream a reality fairly simply and with ease, but he had to work just as hard as the rest of us. On one occasion, Disney wanted to design a place where dreams could come true. A place of Disney's own creation; a world to be precise. One of Disney’s famous quotes shares how he made his dream a reality; “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” So he assembled a team to make it happen, and then they created a plan. However, to make his dream a reality he needed one more person on his team, that man was Admiral Joe Fowler. A master at designer and construction of naval ships, and he could help Disney make his dream come true. So naturally Disney was going to stop at nothing to get Admiral Fowler to help him. After pursuing him once only to get rejected, Disney did not give up on his dream so easily. He kept pursuing Fowler, until he believed in Disney's dream as much as Disney himself. It is because of this skill of uniting a group of people under one common goal that made Walt Disney's career so incredible.

As FFA members, we know how important community is and how even more important it is to actively help improve our communities. We are given a place to dream of bettering our communities and ourselves. So dream big!  We can all strive to think a little more like Walt Disney; find a dream, make a plan, and unite a team under one common goal. What is your dream for your community or chapter? Once you have a dream, take the steps to make that dream a reality. Come up with a plan, and then take that plan to your chapter members. Advocate to take on this project and inspire them to dream big too. It will take hard work and dedication, and at times it might seem impossible, but as Walt Disney said himself, “It's kind of fun to do the impossible...” 

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington, 

Spencer Flood

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours

This week was hands down the worst weather I have seen in Crookston since I moved here. Every day for a week straight, I woke up to the shrill holler of my alarm clock, looking outside only to see the grumpy grey skies swallowing up any sunlight. The walk outside was even worse. Before doing so, I had to prepare myself mentally and physically to combat the gloom. After sliding my grey softshell over my shoulders, placing a headphone each ear, and throwing my hood over my head, I used all my body weight to push open the residence door and step out into the drizzling rain.
One day in particular last week, it was especially dreary. You could tell everyone else felt it too by the lack of smiles and motivation. After sitting through a lecture, I headed down the hall making my way outside back to my dorm. I was so focused on myself I almost didn’t notice the girl kneeling on the ground right in front of the door until I almost hit her as I was going out. As I kept walking, I looked back to see what she was doing. When I looked closer, I could see a wing poking out of her grasp and a beak at the top of her knuckle. She carefully carried the creature to a small grassy area outside the doorway surrounded by smaller trees, placed it near some brush and rose to her full height. I was pretty blown away at this point. Still standing in the misting rain, I walked back to my dorm and thought more about what I just saw. This girl who probably was just as busy as I, if not busier, took time out of her day to make someone’s life just a little bit better.
I thought back to the last time I was inspired by an act of kindness. A friend I met at SLCCL this year takes time out of her day to post encouraging words for those around her to see. Today it was, “You are loved. You are precious. You are important. You are special. You are smart. You are gifted.” I guarantee quite a few people needed to hear these words today. I know I did.
Almost all of us have heard the quote, “ When it rains, it pours.” Now that I think about it, why can’t this be the case as far as kindness is concerned? One small act of kindness, whether it be holding a door for a stranger, saying thank you at the drive through window, or even picking up a can that just barely missed the garbage can spiral into an uncontrollable series of kind acts until kindness is literally pouring all around us. When we complete small acts of kindness, we inspire others to be kind as well. Sometimes, it seems like our day is just full of rain. Maybe we fought with our best friend, didn’t do as well as we thought we would on a test, or maybe spilled coffee on our homework, but despite these things, we can still throw a little kindness into the world, because when we do so, kindness starts to pour around us.
As FFA members, we have so many opportunities to touch other people’s lives with kindness. We simply inspire those in our chapter, school, and community by our small acts of kindness like coaching a young CDE team, helping fill out a state degree or proficiency, or even taking time out of hanging with our friends to talk to a new member during a meeting. All these small acts turn into inspiration for other individuals to grow as leaders. This is the point when we definitely learn how to dance in the rain instead of moping in it.
How will you show kindness to others?

How will you inspire others to be kind?

Stationed by the flag,

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Change a Life, Give a Turkey

Jumping up and down, my brother Jack and I could hardly believe our luck! Our close family friend, Penny, hopped out of her car with the eagerly awaited cardboard box. Jack and I rushed up the driveway and pried open the flaps on the box. I peered inside and saw the ten cheeping turkey poults that were now mine to raise. My parents had hesitantly agreed to raise the birds for the summer, and a few google searches later we felt prepared to take on the new challenge. The turkeys were promptly named after thanksgiving foods (including Cranberry, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, and Gravy) and lived in the dog kennel on the side of our house. I didn't know it then, but that day in July would change a lot in my life. The cheeping cardboard box that held those turkeys also held a future for me I never could have imagined.

After that summer of raising turkeys (and a phenomenal Thanksgiving dinner), I was ecstatic for the next spring to come in the hopes of having more birds. My parents supported my interest in birds and brought home a brooder full of chicks from a local auction one night. I was beyond thrilled. In third grade, Penny had helped me pick out my own birds from the local hatchery and with her support I showed them at the county fair. Because of this, I became involved with tons of 4-H poultry activities and events, which my 4-H program coordinator and poultry project leaders mentored and encouraged me through. Because of my experiences in 4-H, I was elated to join the FFA poultry evaluation team where my advisor pushed me to study hard and lead our team. Being a part of FFA broadened my interest in agriculture as a whole and connected me with people from across the nation. Because of the network of people that I met in the agricultural industry through FFA, I have found my place in agriculture, and I am choosing to study agricultural education at the University of Minnesota. Because of Penny and those that supported me along the way, I am where I am now.

The past years have been filled with many people and experiences that have shaped my life, but I know the day I got those turkeys opened a new door. Without any connection to agriculture in my family, it’s unlikely I would be where I am now if I had never received those ten birds. One action started a chain reaction of support and encouragement from the people in my life and gave me opportunities beyond measure. Something so very simple changed the course of my life. I doubt that Penny realized how important her decision to give me turkeys would be. Small things have a lot of power in our lives, and we often don’t realize the magnitude of our actions in the lives of others.

People are powerful. We have influence beyond comprehension. Often people talk about the grand notion of changing someone’s life as if it has to be a monumental gesture. However, sometimes all it takes is going out of your way to help someone out or to encourage them. What if you brought someone to your next FFA meeting and helped them find their career? What if the younger student you tutor looks back and remembers all you did to help them as they graduate from college? What if you knew the smile you gave someone in the hallway was the reason they could get through their day or week? Every action you take matters and influences those around you. You, yes you there reading this blog, YOU have the power to change someone’s life today and every day. Live each moment with purpose and set out to make a difference in the small things you do. You never know when you’ll end up changing someone’s life. What will you do today to make a difference in someone’s life?

Stationed beneath the rising sun,

Katie Benson

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hamburgers: love 'em or hate 'em?

Image result for hamburgerI used to hate hamburgers. Absolutely hate them. But, when I got older, every time they were put in front of me, I had to eat them. Why? Because of the pure fact that I wish I liked them. I believed if I ate enough burgers, eventually I would acquire a love for the food and desire to eat it, maybe even crave it. And now, I do. Hamburgers are one of my absolute favorite foods!
You may think I am completely crazy, but studies have proven “we don't just eat foods because we like them, we like them because we eat them.” The more we eat foods, the more accustomed to them we become, and we even begin to like them as we grow up and continue to make it a habit to eat them. As a kid, I was a very picky eater; at one time my sister even told me I couldn’t be a part of the family because I didn’t like hamburgers and my family ate them so often. (I can laugh about it now!) However, after eating hamburgers for so long, I gained a long tolerance for them, then a liking, which turned into a desire.
Image result for gallup clifton strengthsI don’t know if all this food talk is getting you hungry or just curious about why I am talking about eating food. However, this same concept can be compared to our strengths. The past few years I have been exposed to the Gallup CliftonStrengths Test, and ever since then, I love seeing strengths in those around me. This has led me to realize the talents I have,  the choice I can make to develop them further into strengths, and helped me realize why my talents have been developed into my top five strengths.
I love the analogy I have heard about the 34 talents being compared to a person working at  a desk. On the top of the desk are our top 10 talents, readily available and easy to grab at, with the top 5 being directly in front as we have developed them into our strengths. The next 10-12 are in the side drawers, so it takes a little bit of time to get to them but they are still available with little work. While the last 10-12 are in the recycling bin, so you have to get up from the desk, and shuffle through the bin to find them. However, we can strengthen our talents and move them from one part of the desk to another through our usage of them, just like we can eat certain foods to make ourselves like them.  The creators of the StrengthsFinder assessment help me understand this by sharing: “Talents, knowledge, and skills -- along with the time spent (i.e., investment) practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base -- combine to create your strengths.” (Learn more at: http://strengths.gallup.com/help/general/125543/difference-talent-strength.aspx)
Image result for gallup clifton strengths achieverI have taken this strengths assessment three different times, and every single time “Achiever” is in my top 5, but only recently rose to the top strength for me. This is because, as I have gotten older, my desire to succeed has also risen. Sure, when I was little I wanted to be good at school (I once cried because I got three wrong on a spelling test), but that desire to achieve was not present up until the last two years when I was filling out scholarship applications and competing in different events for FFA.
2016 Minnesota FFA 1st Place
Parliamentary Procedure team -- HLWW FFA 
I used my talent of achieving nearly every day of my senior year, and it became so evident that it floated to the top and truly became a strength -- “Achiever” is like hamburgers. I worked toward developing that talent into a strength, or eating that food on a regular basis. This is a strength I now KNOW I can rely on and love, it’s always there (just like the hamburgers). If I wouldn’t have even looked into the possibility of eating another hamburger, I definitely would not eat them today as frequently as I do. Similarly, that “Achiever” talent would not have became a strength and could not have gotten to where it is today without my work to develop it.  We all naturally have things that we are good at, but to truly excel we must practice, improve, and put in the time to develop the talent into a strength. In other words, you could say:
We don’t only practice strengths because we have them, we have strengths because we practice them.

What are you naturally good at? Have YOU ever noticed that the more you do something the better you become at it? What are your hamburgers?  As we begin another school year, we have the chance to make the choice to take our talents to the next level - to make them a strength. How can FFA help you continue to strengthen your talents? How are you going to ensure that you work toward developing those possibilities and talents into strengths?  
Stationed by the door,

Maddie Weninger

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

When Life Gives You Lemons...

After 3 days in a hospital bed, this girl needed to see
blue skies again, so Mama found a wheelchair and
we went for a stroll. 
This summer did not go according to my plan. During the crazy month of June, I started to get sick. And not just your common head cold. Nope. I was down and out for the count. Turns out, I had Mononucleosis (more commonly known as Mono). After eight long weeks of still not feeling much better, countless blood tests, no answers as to what was really going on with me, passing out while showing sheep at the county fair, a four day stay at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, more tests, a whole lot of rest, amazing doctors and even better family and friends, an Epstein Barr Virus diagnosis, and Lyme’s disease treatment, I am on the mend.

When I first got sick, I was really upset. Upset at myself for getting sick. Upset with God for making me sick during the most important year of my life so far. Upset with life going on around me while I sat at home and watched. Upset because I was not going to be able to show cattle this summer because I did not have enough energy to walk out to the barn and spend hours doing what I love to do most. The absolute most difficult moments though, were when I witnessed the rest of my state officer team going and doing events -- without me.

My perspective began to turn around with the help of a few key people in my life. First of all, I am pretty sure my mom is Wonder Woman. Honestly. Throughout July and August, Mama Teresa was there for me for whatever I needed; whether it was a glass of water, forcing me to eat something, grabbing me an extra blanket from across the room because I was too weak to get it myself, or just a conversation to keep my mind busy, Mama was there. I am so blessed to have her. Throughout the summer, she constantly reminded me, “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.” She never gave up on me. So I never gave up on me.

After one terribly long day full of no results and the waiting ensuing once again, I got a phone call from a familiar voice I had not heard in awhile. I was taking the evening to read my Bible but I was only getting more and more frustrated with my situation. My phone rang, I saw her name and caring face pop up on my screen, wiped my tears, and answered the call. “Hey Kylee!” Emily’s chipper voice came through the phone. Through a blubbering mess, I updated her as to the new tests I had done that week and what results we were still waiting for. I expressed my anger with my situation and Emily’s positivity began to rub off on me. When we hung up the phone almost three hours later, both of us felt so much better. The phone call that started with sullen tears, ended in tears of laughter. I am extremely grateful for friends like Emily.

Now, there is a famous saying that goes like this: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Taking those tart little citrus’ and turning them into a delectable, sweet refreshment of summertime is an art.

It was during conversations with Mama, Emily, and a few other individuals close to me, I realized something. This life is full of lemons. Some are sweeter than others, but we all have this cute, yellow citrus in our lives. Whether those lemons be challenges, bumps in the road or major hurdles. But what if we didn’t have to make lemonade? What if we made something else?

I like to look at that famous saying a little differently these days: “When life gives you lemons, make apple juice... and leave life wondering how you did it.” Who needs more lemonade? We have the opportunity to overcome the “sour” lemons in our life and look at it all from a new perspective. Maybe from an apple’s perspective instead…

During challenges in life, we have two options: 1) give up, OR 2) make apple juice… and leave life wondering how we did it.

I won’t deny it; there was a point this summer where I just wanted to give up. But then I would realize how much worse it could be and decided to make apple juice out of my lemons. I took the opportunity I had at home to spend time with my family before I left for college. I prepared myself for the upcoming months as much as possible. I called friends I hadn’t talked to all summer and caught up. I watched a couple of my brother’s baseball games I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend. Going out to the barn to help my brother work on lambs became a normal occurrence. I supported my team from the sidelines as best I could. But most importantly, I took care of myself. I made apple juice out of my situation because I did not want to sit and bathe in any more lemonade.

You do not have to be extremely sick in order to make apple juice; every day new lemons are thrown our direction and we can either make lemonade or apple juice. 

Which will you choose to make?

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What lies at 32 Feet

Did you know that a rhinoceros can only see approximately 31 feet in front of them? Did you also know that the average rhino can run about 35 miles per hour (mph)? This is why a group of rhinos is appropriately named a crash. Now you might be wondering, why I am spewing out random facts about rhinos, but I assure you they are actually very interesting creatures and we can learn a lot
from them. For example, even though rhinos can only see 31 feet in front of them, they still charge fearless forward at 35 mph. They do this while not knowing what is in front of them. Maybe this is why rhinos have that big horn in front of them to make the impact of running into something less harmful to their bodies. So why do these creatures travel so fast? I know if I could only see 31 feet in front of me, I would never attempt to drive a car going 2 mph, let alone 35. Alass, rhinos stampede on to see what lies at 32 feet in front of them. Maybe it is their next meal or maybe a mud puddle they can bathe in; but one thing this is for certain, they will not find out unless they step into the unknown and see what lies at 32 feet.
 In the book The Baranian Way, the author Erwin Raphael Mcmanus talks about groups of
rhinos like the rhinos described above. While reading this, and learning the many facts about rhinos I now know, it sparked my interest about what opportunities lie out of our sight. I know from experience that FFA provides many opportunities to us as members, especially opportunities we never imagined were possible.
The summer before my senior year of high school, I decided I would put my name into the hat and run for my county's royalty program. I with 7 other girls of Wright County were all running to become one of three ambassadors for our fair. We spent time together preparing our speeches, interviewing, and making memories. I would be lying if I said I didn't think I had a good chance of being one of those three ambassadors. I was confident in my abilities and was looking forward to coronation day. After waiting on stage for what seemed like forever, it was finally crowning time. We stood in a line as the girls danced around us with the crowns. The first girl got crowded, and I was
beyond excited for her. Then the second one, both girls were ones I had become very close with. I thought that even though there was only one crown left, I still had a chance. I waited, and just like that a crown was placed on the head of a girl next to me. And that was it, I didn't get a crown that day. I was sad, but I did not regret the memories I had made with those 7 girls and the fun we had together. Little did I know that even though I did not receive a crown that day, the good Lord had other plans for me, and a few short months later I was elected to serve Minnesota FFA.
          Sometimes when we see an opportunity lying at our feet, we jump at the chance to grab it. For us as FFA members this might be the chance to compete on a CDE team or serve as an officer. Even though these opportunities are available to us, not all of us get the opportunities we pursue. As the old saying goes, “when one door closes, another one opens.” Maybe for you, this door lies at 32 feet, just out of sight. Do not let failure discourage you, and next time you do not get the opportunity that lies within your sight of 31 feet, I implore you to take a couple steps forward and see what lies at 32 feet.  

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington

Spencer Flood