Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's More Than Just A Season

            “I’ll see you all next year!” I can’t tell you how many times I've heard that same corny joke from one of my teachers just before I leave their room for Christmas break. All I can think about is how I’m going to have so much fun over the break. Hanging out with friends, spending Christmas with my family, and not having to worry about school for a while. I always get excited about the great times that I am going to have during the holiday season, however there are many people that aren't as fortunate as me. For some the holidays are a very tough time. Whether it be mourning the loss of a loved one or being tight on money there are many things that can bring down people’s spirits. For this reason it is important to remember the real purpose for the holidays, to spread joy and happiness to others.

            Someone that can attest to the power of the holiday spirit is Amy Scharman of Mapleton, Utah. She remembers very distinctly the first Christmas after her parents had divorced. It was a hard time of the year, her mom was raising Amy and her siblings alone without any child support. None of them were expecting much to happen Christmas day until they heard a knock on the door late Christmas Eve. When they went to the door no one was there but there were bags of presents left on the doorstep. “It was such an overwhelming feeling to see such generosity from some I don’t even know.”

While this act of kindness was above and beyond what most people expect that doesn't mean we can’t adopt the mindset of doing what you can to help others. Something that I’m doing this winter to help spread the spirit of joy is being a Secret Santa Rematch. I participate in the largest Secret Santa Exchange in the world. It’s done online and is a lot of fun. However there are people that don’t follow through with delivering their gifts so I sign up to send more than one gift. This isn’t something big and I don’t go too far out of my way but it makes a big difference to the other person.

            “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge truly captures what the holiday spirit is all about. We need to embrace the holiday spirit and take the time to think of others. Do what we can so this is a time of year everyone can enjoy. Make sure to enjoy your time with friends and family and relax because it is well deserved, but also make sure to remember why we are fortunate to have this break and to pass on the goodwill of Christmas.

Stationed by the Rising Sun,
Jack Roessler

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Dog

            Earlier today I saw a person in my dorm room run through being half pulled by his puppy.  It made me think about the life of that dog.  However, the life of the dog that I saw is unknown to me, but I know my dog’s life very well.  Ever since I got my dog, I have treated him like he was my baby.  Every night that I am home, I will sleep in my bed with him curled up next to me.  I have bought him toys and treats more often than I should and, of course, I have thought of him as a family member.  My dog, Riley, means the world to me, and many dogs mean the world to their owner.  However, no matter how good their lives look from our side, we can’t help but think there is a lot of uncertainty in their lives.  When I leave to go to work or school, I know that I am coming back, but how does Riley?  He sees me walk out the door and never knows the length it will take for me to come back.  Sometimes I am back within twenty minutes, but sometimes it’s days on end.  Even though he doesn’t know I will return, when I do, he is elated and loves to see me.  That uncertainty doesn’t matter to Riley because he has complete faith in me and knows that I care about him very much.

            But my life doesn't relate to Riley, right?  When people leave for something, I talk to them about where they are going and when they will come back.  I have communicated with them and know what is going on, and I trust them to come back.  Just like Riley, I trust they will return.  Life is just as unpredictable to us as it is to Riley, but both of us have confidence someone will return.  In life, there are many things that are uncertain to us, like the weather or what will happen the next day.  However, one thing that we can count on is the people around us.  Riley counts on me every time I leave to come back and care for him.  Every time someone leaves me, I know I can trust them to come back.  There is a reason we have trust in people, whether it be shaking their hand or looking them in the eye and feeling they are telling the truth.  There is trust in people because of the good they will show to everyone they meet.  Riley trusts me to return every time I leave.  Are you being the person your pet trusts to return every time you leave?

Stationed by the Door,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Now what?"

The other night I was on the phone with one of my friends. She was confused with the direction life was taking her because it seemed as if everything she tried out for or applied for, she was declined. “Now what?” she asked me over the phone after listing off opportunities that did not fall in her favor. I struggled to put words together to make her feel comforted. I have seen this lady succeed in many things and this point had never existed before. The words lingered in my mind during the duration of the conversation, “Now what?”

Since we were little kids, we did silly tasks or chores for rewards. The feeling of victory or an extra $2.00 in our pocket, we enjoyed the reward. But once we succeeded to get that reward, we went to the next project or duty, asking ourselves, “Now what?” We craved the feeling of accomplishment. You see, I am blessed to have a tight relationship with my two sisters but we are definitely at different stages in our lives. My sister Sara recently got engaged. Planning her wedding is the next step in addition to working her job at AgStar. Jill, or Jilly, is a recent graduate student at University of Missouri (Go Mizzou!) studying nutrition. And as for myself, I am a student who has fun with FFA members. Among us Larson sisters, we all achieve different rewards. Our “Now what?” seems to be at different stages in our lives. What stage are you in?

We all make some sort of progression in our life. We complete one goal or finish attending a class or trip and we ask ourselves, "now what?" Christmas is coming up soon and once December 26th hits, many people will throw their trees on the curbside thinking, "now what?" We are a progressive society that always keeps our minds on the next BIG thing! We thirst for the next opportunity to focus on, but sometimes that is difficult to do. Not everything goes as planned and we again ask ourselves, "now what?" 

Let's look at it at a different angle. It’s all too easy to compare our beginning to someone else’s middle. Being the livestock showing freak that I am, I find this photo worthy to share. ------------->
Take 7 seconds and think of someone you look up to. Someone who is confident in his or her shoes. Someone who is skillful and knowledgeable. Have that person in mind? Do you think that their pathway to get to where they are was fun, easy, and painless? Please tell me you answered no. Think of how many times that person questioned their motives and direction. Think of how many times they asked themselves, “Now what?” after standing up after a failure or hardship. Maybe that’s a reason why you look up to that person, because they stood their ground no matter what tried to break them down. What does it take to be like that person you admire so much? What does it take to know that the “Now what?” question you might ask yourself might lead to some pretty extraordinary things. What’s your answer going to be after you ask yourself “Now what?”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Black Friday Lessons

For me this Thanksgiving season was the first time that I ever went shopping during that crazy late night. It was very spur of the moment since we were just driving by a Target on Thanksgiving night. I saw the cars filling the parking lot, so we decided to stop by and experience the chaos simply to say we had. We had no agenda, goals, or shopping list. As I walked through the store, I was amazed by all the people that came to shop at the small Target in a town of only 11,500 people. I had two initial observations while at Target: 1) we can never let shopping take over the true meaning of Thanksgiving and 2) if I ever want to be a successful black Friday shopper, I need to do my homework.

Each year I can’t help but notice that the black “Friday” sales are coming out earlier and earlier. I put Friday in quotations, because it seems that the sales have spilled over into Thanksgiving Day with stores opening up around 6pm at night and having huge door buster sales. It always makes me think, “Are we losing the true meaning of Thanksgiving?” I am not saying that if you shop on Thanksgiving or black Friday, you are wrong and you shouldn’t shop. However, we can never forget
the true meaning behind Thanksgiving. When our founding fathers formed Thanksgiving Day, it was meant to think about all we have and give thanks. Some years I find myself thinking there isn’t much to be thankful for or nothing has changed from the year previous. However, that thought always brings me back to my Grandpa’s quote, “From the day you were born until you ride in a hearse, it’s never so bad that it couldn’t be worse.” It always reminds me that no matter what state I am in my life, there is always so much to be thankful for. In my life I am thankful for good health, my great friends, my cows, a roof over my head, my family and so much more.

My second observation from going shopping during black Friday is a life lesson. I walked in to the store spur of the moment with no idea what to expect, and if I were to rank the successfulness of shopping on a scale of the best deals, I was completely unsuccessful; I got nothing. The majority of the people in Target that night had some sort of plan or shopping list; they had an end goal. These people where the ones who were successful. They had done their homework and searched through all the flyers to find the best deal. They had created their list of what they needed to buy so they
could squeeze through all the people and get to exactly what they needed. This shows us a valuable lesson in life, look at the difference between the successful shoppers and the unsuccessful shopper, me. The successful shoppers did their work and set goals, they had a clear cut plan that was probably written out, but I had nothing. In life to be successful it helps so much if we have a game plan and an end goal. With a goal we know exactly what we are working towards so we don’t get sidetracked on other things, and we know when we have succeeded. Without my goal, I wandered around and tried browsing through the store, something I found was impossible on black Friday. Set goals and write them down; that is how we get things accomplished.

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,

Brady Wulf

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FFA Thanksgiving

Minnesota, Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA, 2012-2013 Chapter Historian, Valerie Earley, read my FFA jacket.

As I zipped up my FFA jacket, I was filled with excitement and pride. Although it felt like I had just put on a cardboard box because the arms were so stiff, I was anxious to see what I would experience, who I would meet and how I would grow while wearing the corduroy.  

In large gold letters on the back of my jacket the word “Minnesota” was proudly embroidered. Minnesota is known for many traditions including funny accents, hotdish and great sports. Well, maybe not sports, but Minnesota is known for its strong agricultural industries. Although our advancements in agriculture have played a large part, it has taken strong leaders to continue Minnesota’s tradition in agriculture. One person that has become a role model in agriculture in Minnesota is Kevin Paap, Minnesota Farm Bureau President. While playing a vital role in the continued success of agriculture, he has taken the time to help me grow and understand that my voice in agriculture is valuable.  

Spring Valley-Wykoff and 2012-2013 Chapter Historian, my chapter and office, were written on my jacket. Spring Valley, the home of the stapler, and Wykoff, the town I grew up closest to on my family’s farm, are two small towns in southeast Minnesota that I am proud to be a part of. Although they are both great towns to live in, the things that make these towns great are the people. Mrs. Derby and Mrs. Cleveland, my two English teachers, are two of these wonderful people. Whether it was practicing the FFA Creed my freshman year, a speech for region office or for the Prepared Public Speaking CDE senior year, they always made time in their busy schedules to intently listen and help me improve each time.

Valerie Earley. While I am thankful for a unique first name, it is my last name that represents my family. Throughout my life, I have had endless support from my family. My family is the reason I first wanted to get involved in agriculture. Whether I was celebrating success or facing a challenge, I am proud to be a part of family who is supportive to one another.

In this jacket, I have met people from all over the United States, grown from a shy freshman to a confident leader and found my voice in my community and in agriculture. However, all of these would not be possible without the people who supported and encouraged me along the way. From leaders in agriculture to my English teachers to my family, my growth through FFA would not have been possible without the people who supported me while I wear the blue jacket.

Our FFA jackets represent the unique parts of our lives. They represent each of us and the impactful experiences we have had. They represent our communities and the support people have given us in the FFA organization.

There are many opportunities in FFA that keep our schedules busy, but they give us the experiences we need grow. However, we often forget an important part. We forget to thank those who have supported and encouraged us. While Thanksgiving brings delicious pumpkin pie, stuffing and mashed potatoes, it also brings a time to reflect on the growth in our lives and the people who have made it possible.

While we enter our Thanksgiving festivities this week, together let’s take time to thank three people. Whether you write them a thank you, thank them in person or send them a message on social media, showing appreciation is the most important part of this season. While the corduroy has a rich history on its own, it is because of the people we will thank that our experiences become impactful.   

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Valerie Earley

Monday, November 17, 2014

The First Snowfall

When my sisters and I were little, we could not wait for the first snowfall of the year. Snow meant that we got to get out our Polaris 120 snowmobile and pull each other around in a sled. Boy did we love that thing! We would spend the first two weeks of winter on our snowmobile without even stopping for lunch. The only way mom could get us to come in was to tell us she had fresh hot chocolate waiting for us. Also, the first snowfall meant that Christmas was coming! My sisters and I would continue riding snowmobiling, playing in the snow, and sipping our warm hot chocolate until about January 1st.  We loved all that winter had to offer... until Christmas that is... then we could not wait for all of the snow to melt and the weather to warm up. We would trudge through the three feet of snow and count down the days until it would all be gone; we could not wait!

About three weeks ago in my Foundations of Leadership class, my group and I were assigned a presentation on authentic leadership. This presentation had to be 30 minutes long and consist of a fun activity that involved the whole class. We had about a month to complete the project knowing it would be a huge part of our grade. At first, I was so excited for this project! I love presenting in front of people and I knew my team and I were going to do a great job. I started to brainstorm different ideas and ways we could demonstrate authentic leadership to the class. After a few days and eventually weeks, I began to put the project to the side and I completely forgot about it. Now I am rushing trying to figure out a plan on how we will get this task accomplished with as much quality as I had intended in the first place. This got me thinking about how it relates to that same feeling my sisters and I had when we were snowmobiling.

Have you ever gotten that feeling? The feeling of sheer excitement at the beginning and then the situation being a nuisance? Well, I definitely have (more than once). It began to bother me how I could be so pumped for something and then I become mad that I have to deal with it. I begin to start counting down the days until it is over rather than enjoying each day we get.

In FFA, we are given many opportunities to participate. At first, we cannot wait to get started! Maybe it is that CDE team you are starting to study for or the announcement of your new officer team. Everyone has the moments where we cannot wait to get started on the task at hand. I like to call this phase the
'honeymoon stage.' We are all happy, there is no fighting, new ideas are being tossed around, and we begin to set goals for ourselves. The honeymoon phase is great until the dreaded slump stage takes its toll. After dealing with this situation numerous times, here is a list of tips that I have came up with to stay focused:
1. Remember what you signed up for - keep in your mind the real reason you signed up for the situation and who it will impact.
2. Set goals! - Keep those goals on a piece of paper and keep them where you can see them every day.
3. Find an accountability partner - It is great to know you have a friend, teacher, or mentor who can keep you motivated to perform to the best of your ability.
4. Always remember to have fun with what you are doing!

I hope these few tips will help you keep pushing forward in whatever situation you encounter. Remember: "Don't count the days, but make the days count."

Stationed by the plow,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Motivation and Goals Go Hand in Hand

There are so many great things that happen during these frigid months of winter. Snowboarding with my brothers, having snowball fights, and playing hockey.  However, there is one thing I hate about winter, and that is being cooped up inside. Sometimes I end up being inside for days on end. While I do keep myself busy with my long list of things to do, there is still down time. How is that time spent? Sitting around the house. Sometimes I drive myself mad, because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything worthwhile. I end up watching way too much Netflix and playing video games. Yet I keep doing it, because I don’t really know what else to do.

I sit down and look at my life and really think. What am I accomplishing? I’m the kind of person that needs to feel like I’m actually doing something with my life or I feel worthless. I like to have goals so that way I can work towards something. Sometimes these are small goals like beating my high score in a video game. The reason I set a goal is so I feel some sort of accomplishment once I complete it. However, one of the biggest goals, and perhaps a more serious goal I have right now, is to become a teacher. Becoming a teacher is something I realized I wanted to do in high school and have been working towards for years.

This goal is how I find motivation to do my homework (and trust me my motivation is really lacking at some points). It’s the reason why I’m at the University of Minnesota. Becoming a teacher is how I know I’m going to impact other's lives with my career. Working to become a teacher has become a focal point in my life. But what is your big goal in life? What is that one thing you want so badly that you are willing to put hours on end into? Is it making it to the state tournament in your favorite sport? Is it getting accepted to your college of choice? Maybe it’s saving up so you can get your first car.

Whatever your goal is, it should be your motivation for the day. Having this goal is the spark that sets you into action. If you don’t already have one of these goals, then take the time to figure what you really want. Think about what you want to be proud of when looking back a week, month, or even a year from now. Setting one of these goals is what helps me find motivation and it should do the same for you. Now before you go out and accomplish great things with your life I’ll leave you with the words of Lou Holtz.

“If you’re bored with life, if you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things, then you don’t have enough goals.”

Stationed by the rising sun,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Starting Over

            I was sitting in a tractor watching our five shank ripper pull through the freshly harvested corn field.  I know the reasons as to why we turn the soil at the end of the year, but I couldn’t help but think about how I was witnessing the entire year’s work being turned over and forgotten about as everyone works to get ready to start again next year.  Although the end of the year is very close, most still realize the importance of what they are trying to push under the soil.  They realize that they are starting over, and they are preparing themselves to begin again fresh.
            Many people don’t think about farming and field work when they have to start over.  They think about what their situation is and why they are starting over.  However, when starting over, tillage is a great metaphor for a person’s life.  When having to start over, tillage is trying to push all the leftovers from harvest into the ground and create a fresh spot to start again in the spring.  Like tillage, people who start over want to erase everything they knew.  They want to rid all the memories from good or bad times just like what is done during tillage.  Regardless if the year was great with plentiful rains or bad with strong winds, tillage erased what happened on the lands.  Both tillage and starting over are accomplishing the same purpose, but in a way, they do the same for the future as well.  Tillage, although it is erasing the past, it is preparing for a better future.  Every year farmers clear the land in order to prepare themselves to plant again for another year hoping to accomplish the same or better than before.  This aspect is not something most people think about when starting over.  They jump to how they have to start over, potentially with nothing, but also they have to try to forget what good or bad things had happened to them.  Most of the time, they don’t realize what good can come.  A farmer tills his land because he knows it will be better to start over again the next year.  A person starting over will have to face starting over in order to get the same experience as the farmer does.  The person that takes a leap of faith to start over will get to those better times just as the farmer does.

            Even though one is putting their good or bad times behind them, the thought of starting over is very hard for many people.  However, like tillage, when starting over, it is important to remember that better times and bluer skies are on the horizon.  Everyday we get the opportunity to start over and new with the rising sun.

Stationed by the door,

Dalton Kampsen, Minnesota FFA Sentinel

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

National Convention Tips and Tricks

“You have to witness the Sea of Blue!” one older FFA member yelled at me trying to convince me to go to National FFA Convention when I was in 10th grade. Confused by what they meant, I managed to wipe the strange look off my face and replied with a long, “Sure…”. That next month I did witness the Sea of Blue and all of it’s glory while walking down the streets of Indianapolis, Indiana. I found myself often times looking around to see the name of the state on the nearby jackets. I returned from the National FFA Convention that year with a brand new perspective of the National FFA Organization and was energized from what I heard during the sessions and what I saw from the Expo center. Since that first year, I have made my way to National FFA Convention a few more times. So I have created 10 tips for you about National FFA Convention…

1. Go to the First General Session. I promise, you won’t regret it! Imagine 60,000 members and guests gather in one building. The energy level is crazy!

2.   Do the signature page challenge at the back of the Convention Handbooks. It’s a great way to meet new friends and members from all over the nation!

3.  Get some sleep. Wither it’s in the bus/car beforehand or while convention is going on, sleep is very important. Convention is constant ‘high energy’ and you’ll want to not be tired for the experiences of a lifetime!

4. Have a buddy! Everything is always better when you experience it with someone else. Plus, you won’t get lost! 

5. Communication! It’s important that you stay connected with your advisor or whoever is liable for you. Have a game play with your advisor and try to keep your phone charged!

6. Expo! Take advantage of the National FFA Expo. You’ll get the chance to network and explore opportunities with over 450 industry-leading exhibitors. Bring a drawstring bag/backpack to collect all the awesome stuff they give away!

7.  Stay alert! The sessions are a great time to be inspired by the National FFA Officers or Session Speakers! Take notes and get ready to take action.

8.  Got Social Media? Post about your adventures of the day to keep those at home informed. Does your FFA chapter have Facebook or Twitter? Great! Post on the chapter page as well. It’s great to get updates from the National FFA Convention and Expo!

9. Branch out. National FFA Convention is a great time to know others wither they’re from your home state or not. Some of the best friendships are FFA friendships.

10. Have fun! It’s all around you. Not only are there multiple concerts and dances, but you’re with the future leaders of agriculture and people with the same PASSION as you! Celebrate!

How you use your time at National FFA Convention & Expo is up to you. Be sure to bring ideas back to your chapter and get ready to make a difference and GO ALL OUT!

Grow Always, Serve Endlessly,

Erin Larson
MN FFA State Reporter 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Like Water, Like Life

Sometimes life breaks against the rocks but it will always return to calm water.

This past weekend I got the wonderful opportunity to go and visit the picturesque city of Duluth in what some may argue the most beautiful time of the year, fall. The leaves where all turning bight fall colors and there was a slight chill in the air as the waves swept against the rocky shore. I stopped to admire the scene and God’s creation and captured this amazing picture.

The first thing a lot of us want to do when we get a great picture, at least me, is post it on social media! I got ready to post the picture but decided that this picture can’t go without a good quote.  I sat and thought about all the things water can mean, we hear analogies all the time with water and water breaking against rocks, so I decided to compare this picture to life with my own original quote, “Sometimes life breaks against the rocks but it will always return to calm water.”

In life there are events and periods of time that can really get us down, everything around us just seems to be falling apart and nothing is going the way we want it to. I know I have had these times and have definitely been discouraged by them. When comparing it to the picture, our life is the water, moving freely always going somewhere and then at any moment we can hit a rock. That rock may look different in each of our lives; it could be failing a test, losing a loved one, or a fight with your best friend. After we hit that rock we feel there is nothing we can do and everything is just chaos, just like that water is being sprayed everywhere.

There is good news, although this picture doesn’t show it, two seconds later the water was falling off the rock and going back out to the calm Lake Superior. Just like in our lives, the chaos will fade and life will move one. It may take more than a few seconds like the water but it will eventually return to the calm. We need to do our best at looking forward and keeping a positive mind set because in the moment everything may feel disoriented but it will soon return to the calm that we are familiar with.

Just like the water wears down on the shore by breaking against it, we can learn and grow from the rocks and tough times in our lives.
Brady Wulf
Minnesota State FFA Treasurer