Sunday, February 17, 2019

Snow Days

Since January 19th, my hometown has received 37 inches of snow. It seemed like every night we would see the closings roaming in. Students were barely going to school and getting plenty of time off. Often I would hear my friends from back home complaining about the weather their time inside on their day off.

This made me think of my times spent outside on snow days.
I remember when I was in middle school and used to jump up and down when we got a school free day. I would wake up at nine and throw on my snow pants and head outside.
that was clipped to our snow sled. We would whip each other around the snowdrifted yard. We took breaks to build jumps and ramps to block the trees and fences.
We spent the whole day out in the snow.
Now when I look online, I see a lot of my peers wishing it was summer and complaining about the upcoming forecasts. We have all been there, complaining to others about the snow storm because that is what Minnesotans do. We may even find ourselves closing our eyes in front of the fireplace pretending the heat is coming from the sun. We spend so much time worrying about things we cannot change. We spend so much time complaining about where we are at in our lives.

My brother would have already moved all the snow in our four-wheeler and all the snow we
were about to move would be strictly for entertainment. We tied a rope to the back of the
four-wheeler snow and often came in at night to get food before going back out again. Over the years, this became our snow day ritual often doing our online school work when the sun went down. We loved and cherished our snow days.




At the beginning of each FFA conference, we set these rules or expectations. One of them always stands out to me the most: Be Here and Now. We add action to remind us of this expectation by pointing to the ground and looking to where our feet are. We want to be in the moment with the people that are around us. We aspire to be off technology devices and set aside things that take our minds away from the things around us. This ultimately optimizes our experiences. We make memories and cherish our time together because of our be here and now mindset.


The snow will always go away and disappear sometime in the spring (and probably return a few times), so we need to optimize our time with what we have around us. Take each opportunity as a time to find joy for what is around us and too look at what is given to us whether that is family, friends, weird tasks or opportunities and seek purpose from them. We can choose to find joy in the simple things of life. If you have a snow day, choose to make the most of our time in this winter wonderland. Make do with what we have around us. Find joy in the things we cannot control. Love what the world has given us and take opportunities ahead of us. Chose to be here and now.

Stationed by the Flag,
Lauralee M. Eaton

Monday, February 11, 2019

Right

As many of you know, the United States government was shut down for 35 days. There are multiple reasons why the shutdown occurred. Whether you’re an elected official, high school basketball player, or a member of a group for a school project, personal ego can lead to a shutdown.


The government shutdown meant that all non-essential personnel did not work. For TSA agents at airports, they worked in hopes of receiving back pay for working their standard hours. For other government workers, their building of work was locked and they weren't even allowed inside. Many of us didn't necessarily notice all of the services that were lacking because of the shutdown. For example food inspection, processing applications for Federal student loans or mortgages or approval of medical trials didn’t actually happen.


The government shutdown was due to a disagreement between different sides about how to handle the same issue: immigration. President Trump wanted a little over $5.7 billion for a border wall. The Democratic party leaders wanted to approach the same problem with $2.3 billion for border security (but not necessarily a wall). Even though both sides want to take action on the same issue, neither appears to be willing to take action on a solution that isn’t their own. Because no deal had been struck, the government of the United States was shut down.


Simply stated, the shutdown of the United States government was a giant game of chicken. In all honesty it still is. The current deal is that there is a three week opening of the government to try and solve the issue. So it begs the question, who will break first? Who will realize no one is winning? We live in a country in which many of our elected officials are more interested in being correct, not being proved wrong, and winning, than doing the right thing for the American citizens they were elected to serve. Just like our elected officials often get caught up in their ego, we all do sometimes. Some ego is healthy; it drives us to be more successful. Other times, it can control the actions we take, simply to be right, among several other reasons.


We have all found ourselves in arguments or disagreements before. Each time it happens, we have a choice. We can force our idea in an argument to prove ourselves right to the point of alienating the other person, or we can either work towards a compromise or simply agree to disagree.


The next time we find ourselves in a disagreement or argument, ask yourself “is ‘winning’ this argument worth the consequences?” By doing this, we check ourselves to make sure we are discussing for the right reasons; to learn more and to share ideas, not to prove the other wrong and show how right we are. Sharing our ideas, letting the other person know why we think the way we do is a great step. An even greater step is listening to the other person’s thinking about the matter, and why they think that way. Listening is just as important, if not more, than talking. Sometimes the justification for a solution isn’t obvious, so it takes some explaining.


We are not always going to agree with others. What we do after we disagree with someone shows more about who we are as people than the side we find ourselves on. Are we going to burn a bridge for the sake of winning? Or will we be civil, and work with others to work on a solution that suits everyone? As leaders, we have to learn to control our ego, before it controls us.


Stationed By The Door,
H. James Mathiowetz

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Wrinkle in Time



Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time traveling. Traveling to Detroit, New York, Africa 
and beyond.  When waiting to catch a plane to South Africa for the International Seminar for State Officers I had some time to journal my thoughts and I would like to share some of those thoughts with you.


Spending time at the airport  makes me feel a certain type of way, almost like I am living in 
the space between what happened and what is about to happen. This thought then leads me to think of Christmas and the Season of Advent which some of us recently experienced. Advent is also seen as a period of waiting, or preparation.


This feeling doesn’t only come when I am in the Airport waiting for a flight, it also seems to 
appear the moment before the exam is passed out, while on the bus or at other times. I also 
think that this feeling represents a phase or time period we often experience in our lives.  Below
is a quote from my pastor that I found while scrolling through my facebook timeline.


“It was the waiting, the suspension in time, the pregnancy of the moment that caught me 
today and again brought me to my knees. A wrinkle in time. I was not so keen on waiting 
today, much as I love Advent. It did not resolve itself cleanly, or easily, or beautifully. The 
beauty of advent is that it doesn’t demand easy resolution. The hard, messy moment simply 
was, and is.”


This was the evidence I needed to confirm that others are aware of these periods of waiting, 
these times of uncertainty. Her mentioning that it felt like a wrinkle in time, reminded me of afavorite childhood book of mine. In the book there is talk of time travel. The idea behind 
traveling of any kind, is that the fastest way to get there is a straight line. A line from point a 
to point b.


We often see our journeys - paths to reach our goals, the progression of earning a degree - as astraight line. Point A - where we decide to do something and Point B where it happens. 
Straight line Right?


In reality the line tends to be not so straight.  Often it involves waiting. Waiting for the right moment, waiting for an email or waiting for your hard work to pay off.


I think the key to capturing the moment, to getting to point b, is to embrace the waiting. A 
Wrinkle in Time states: “I don't understand it any more than you do, but one thing I've learnedis that you don't have to understand things for them to be.”


What if we begin to allow things to just “be” ? The next big thing doesn’t have to happen 
tomorrow, just know that tomorrow is going to happen either way and you can either choose 
to make it a big day or you can choose to wait for the next big thing.


With the start of a New Year, we were all eager to make our resolutions and make this year 
the most successful in terms of progress towards ‘living our best lives’. What if we reframe 
our thinking? Instead of trying to race from point a to point b, we learn to trust the process?

What if we begin to see that change does not have to be in an instant, it doesn't have to be 
clean or easy or beautiful. Sometimes life happens in the waiting. 
Let’s choose to embrace that.

Stationed Beneath the Rising Sun,

Grace Taylor

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

I Hope You Dance.

“Oh, I’ll just do that tomorrow.”
“I’ll have more time for that later.”

“I’ll do that in the new year.”
As 2019 has officially begun, often times we find ourselves wrapped up with the craze of New Year’s Resolutions. The truth is, why did we have to wait until January 1st to get started? A common phrase we hear this time of year is “New year, New me.” Everyone has big plans to ensure that in the new year they transform into the best version of themselves, but shouldn’t we always be aiming toward that goal?

Becoming the best version of ourselves is different for each person. It might look like growing in our faith, starting a fitness journey, changing our behavior, or simply spending more quality time with family. No matter what it is, why wait? Life is too short to wait until January 1st each year.


In the song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack, the lyrics say, “May you never take one single breath for granted, God forbid love ever leave you empty handed.” This song rings true to me as it emphasizes the fact that we should never take anything for granted. Too often, we think to ourselves that tomorrow will be a better day to take action. The problem is when we continue to push it off through each tomorrow after that. Why wait to better ourselves?

The song continues to say, “Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” Each day, we have the opportunity to let time pass by or rise up and make a difference. We can either share our passions and live out our purpose, or wait for another day until it’s easier. When we push things away and avoid accomplishing goals, our why isn’t big enough. How do we make our why bigger? We focus on what truly matters. Focus on the joy in life, be gratefull, and give thanks always. Our why will grow when we see the good in those around us.

Each day may not be good, but there is good in each day. So why sit back and watch the potential when you can be a part of it?

This year, I challenge you to live out the good in each day. Instead of making excuses, push to be the best version of yourself everyday. How can we ensure we are living out our why each day? Will we sit it out or dance?

I hope you dance.
Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Laura Church

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Storytellers

Just before I got into my car to come home from college, I got a call from my Grandma Donna. “I made dinner and your cousins Amanda and Mitch are here, so you’ll stop by around 12:30, we’ll eat, and you’ll tell us all about your adventures,” she said! Somehow, she knew the day I was coming home, exactly what time I’d be going through her town, and that the promise of food would definitely get me to stop in. After two hours of driving, I pulled into the driveway of my grandparents’ house in Springfield, Minnesota, where I was greeted by hugs and smiles.

Soon after I got in the house, we sat down for what felt like Christmas dinner, as my grandma had made enough food to feed at least three families! We talked about how college was going, what my cousins had been up to lately, and what trips Grandma and Grandpa were planning next. Finally, we settled on my favorite subject, stories from my Grandpa.

Almost every time I stopped at my grandparents' house, my Grandpa went into storytelling mode, grabbed some photo albums from the basement, and began telling us all about his adventures. It didn’t matter if they were stories from his time in the military, out in Washington or Korea, his time working for Delta flying across the country, or about my grandparents’ marriage; we were always excited to hear about the lessons he learned on his travels. This time, the story was one I had not heard before.

When my uncle was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, my grandparents didn’t have much money or stable jobs. Through a series of events, they ended up living in the home of a veterinarian, who was a complete stranger when they first met him. He agreed to let them stay in one room of their family’s house if my grandparents would help out around the house and community. My grandma babysat the veterinarian’s kids along with my uncle, cleaned the house and helped out at the local church, and my grandpa picked up odd jobs around the community and in Las Vegas and learned a little bit about what it takes to be a veterinarian. Long story short, they ended up staying there for two years, keeping an alligator, and becoming great friends with a veterinarian and his family.

My grandpa says this was where he learned what hospitality looked like. When my grandpa, grandma, and newborn uncle had nowhere to go, this man and his family took them in, helped them get on their feet, and ended up becoming great friends in the process.


As we sat around the dinner table looking at black and white photos of my grandpa, his alligator, and his ’61 Ford, I could see the light in his eyes as he relived those moments. Through telling those stories to us, my grandparents taught us invaluable lessons from the past we can use today. While this story was new just a few days ago, I've already been able to show hospitality to guests for the holidays. As we enjoy the holidays with our loved ones, let’s ask for those stories, look back with the storytellers, and learn.

Stationed by the Plow,
Kegan Zimmermann

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Annual Ride


The holiday season is in full swing. I came home from college to find my family’s Christmas tree up and decorated. Personally, Christmas is not my favorite holiday as I believe it is very commercialized. However, there are things I do love about the holiday season. I enjoy spending time with family. We take time to be grateful for each other's successes for the year. Growing up I assumed everyone celebrated the same way I did. However, I remember learning about my friend's white elephant Christmas gift exchange and how she received a pack of bacon flavored gum and other odd treats. This was a tradition her family had done for quite a while, but it my family does not have a tradition like this.

My family has a few Christmas traditions. We go to church on Christmas Day and my Nana and Papa’s - my grandparents- on Christmas Eve. Over these two days, we always go sledding with my aunts, uncles, grandpa, cousins, immediate family and of course the dogs. Every year there are often new sleds for our Christmas slide, but my Grandpa always grabs his wooden toboggan and makes his way to the hill.  Now, this is a joyous time of running up the hill, laughing and jumping out of the way of the incoming sled. We pile five or more on to my grandpa’s toboggan and whoosh down the hill. At the end of our time on the hill, we all take one last ride on the toboggan before returning home. This is my family’s special holiday tradition. No matter the lack of snow or how full we are; we are there together on the hill. This is one of my favorite things over the years.

However, two years ago my Nana and Papa thought it would be fun to have the holiday in Florida.
I am one who loves knee-deep snow, but I realized I was going to have find my pair of flip-flops and venture down south.
On Christmas Eve, I imagined what it would be like to be sliding down the hill with my family. I looked around me and my family was around, but instead of sledding that year, we went shell collecting on the beach (not a bad trade). I realized that year that it's not because of the snow or the sledding that I love Christmas Eve, but rather the time making memories with others is what matters. It was the time dedicated to people who mean the most to me. The people are what makes experiences notable.

I will always treasure the memories made on the hill. Traditions may change sleds to beach chairs, but the true meaning still stands. You are surrounded by the ones who matter the most whether that’s family, friends, church groups or your FFA chapter. Dedicating our time to be with those who matter dearest is what is important about traditions. I challenge us to spend the holiday break with those who matter most. If they are states away, call or send a message letting them know how grateful you are for them. Make the most of your time with those whom you love. Start new traditions like running 5k’s, ringing bells for the Salvation Army or baking with your Nana. I want to know what traditions you have and why they are important to you.

Stationed by the Flag,
Lauralee Eaton

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Asking for help

Finals week is approaching. Although I don’t have any final tests, I had several final projects due. Whether it be a final paper, lab report or a 12-page word document stacked with questions, asking for help would have made these all easier.
This semester I am taking an agronomy class called “Crops, Environment, and Society.” This class has both a lecture and a lab. In the lab portion of the class, I walk to the greenhouses across campus, grab a worksheet and get to work. This isn’t like any lab I did in high school. This was basically the students finding the plants around the classroom, taking a picture, and memorizing the plant and name. It also included memorizing the seeds and the scientific families among other things. I really struggled through the first two lab tests. I didn’t know how to study and didn’t know how to remember all of this new information. For the last lab test, I took a different approach. I talked to a friend of mine, and we sat down and go the information down. I asked a friend for help and I was able to get a nearly perfect score on the last lab test.
Sometimes we don’t ask for help in situations where help is exactly what we need. It can be because we are too proud, overconfident, uncomfortable, or don’t know how to ask for help. Sometimes that one person to keep us accountable and focused can lead to more success than we could have thought possible. As humans, we all need help. We all need someone to support and help us. Asking can be the most difficult part, but it is crucial. The next time we are struggling, let’s ask for help, and if you see someone else struggling, ask them to let you help. The world needs a little more help and kindness.