Wednesday, December 30, 2015

TOGETHER WE...Dare to Dream

Here we are at the close of 2015.  What an amazing year, to say the least.  I have always been a goal setter, perhaps you would even call me a dreamer.  If anyone I met ever told me I couldn’t do something, I worked twice as hard to prove them wrong.  Does this mean that all of my goals have been met without some challenges and strife, or that all of my dreams have come true?  No, absolutely not, but setting goals and having the courage to dream are what has defined my path.  And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, even with the goals I couldn’t quite reach or the dreams that didn’t quite come true in the way I envisioned. Because in the end, the journey to those goals and dreams led me to something even better. 

When I was in senior high, I was a three sport athlete.  I played volleyball, basketball and softball.  All three sports all year round.  I was in band and theater, and of course, I was in FFA.  My mom used to say, “You can do anything, you just can’t do everything.” Believe me, I tried very, very hard to prove her wrong. 

When it came time to start thinking about colleges and a career path, I knew I had to narrow down my passions, and get a little more focused on what I wanted to do with my life!   From 9th grade on, I had worked really hard in sports because I thought I really wanted to play college basketball or volleyball.  I invested immense amounts of time playing basketball in the off-season trying to gain the skills I needed to perhaps play at the college level.  I dreamed of playing on the college court. 

I was also very involved in FFA all throughout high school.  I loved every minute of every one of my FFA opportunities.  One day, early in my senior year, I had a revelation so to speak.  I was beginning to come to the realization that college sports just may not be my calling. I pondered what direction my path may lead if sports wasn’t at the front and center of my goals. Then it hit me.  My parents are truly amazing and supportive, but the conversation my mom and I had after I came home from an FFA event one day, dressed in my corduroy finery, is one I will never forget.  She explained to me how after every FFA event I attended, I would come home so excited and be “bouncing off the walls for days.”  She reminded me how I talked endlessly about the people, the places and the things of FFA.  How proud I was of my SAE, how I enjoyed serving as Chapter President, and how I wanted to share agricultural information with everyone I met.  I was stunned.  There it was: my goal, my path, my dream to follow.  It had been there all along, and I was already pursuing it!  I just needed to trust in my journey.  I did love all things FFA and agricultural education.  I also loved sports and many other extra-curricular events I was involved in, but none gave me the excitement, joy and drive that FFA did. 

After my little epiphany, I began to focus my college search on agricultural education instead of sports, and it immediately felt right.  I dared to dream I could attend the University of Minnesota.  I dared to dream I could continue my journey with FFA.  I dared to dream about running for state office. I know well enough that not all of my dreams will become reality, but that is the beauty in dreaming.  Sometimes we have to just pay attention to what actually makes us happy to see the dream that really suits us. I don’t feel like I gave up my dream of college sports, I just found the one that better suited me and felt like a natural fit. 

I want to encourage all of you to set goals and follow your dreams.  Have you thought about getting more involved in FFA?  Taking part in a CDE that is new to you?  How about a new part for your SAE?  As FFA members we have the opportunity to dream big about making strides in agricultural education and facing the challenge of feeding the 9!  Together we can dare to dream about sustainable agriculture for our world! Just think what can happen if Together we…Dare to Dream! 

Follow your dream whether it is in sports, music, FFA, or theater.  If you want to major in chemistry, math, agriculture, or be a healthcare professional, do what gives you joy.   Dare to dream about what you can achieve alone and what you can achieve together with others.  Goals and dreams are what take us down the path of life. 

My basketball coach once told me, “God gives us the outline for our lives, it’s up to us to write the story.”   I encourage all of you to dare to dream and write your story. 
Together We… Dare to Dream

Stationed by the Flag,

Madison Taylor

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Together We... Reunite

As the holiday season comes around, people begin to gather for religious holidays and for the New Year. People get together with family and friends they haven’t seen in a long time to celebrate and catch each other up on the previous year. It is also a great time for high school and college students to get together over the break from classes.

I was able to have one of those reunions today with the Region VIII Officer team from two years ago. That year I served as Region VIII Assistant Officer with 9 other people from whom I learned a lot and was able to become good friends with through our year together. Today, nearly 2 years later, was the first time since we finished our term that we were all in the same place at the same time. This was a task that, even while we were officers together, was nearly impossible to pull off. Today we did a throwback to our year as officers and went ice skating again. It was a great time being able to reminisce on the year we served together and to hear everyone’s college stories. I look at where we are now, and amongst the 10 of us, we now go to college in 5 different states, are pursuing different degrees, and are involved in different activities. But no matter how much it seems we are drifting apart from each other, we are still united by our common experiences.

On Christmas Day I will be able to get together will all of my family in one place - that usually only happens once a year. It is a time of giving and a time to be together. Being together is such a simple concept, but we don’t truly appreciate it until we are apart for too long. Even though you may not have the chance to talk to everyone at a gathering, being together and celebrating the same thing is enough to revitalize that connection. I truly believe that 5, 10, even 25 years from now, I will be able to meet up with people from that region team and have a great conversation.  No matter how different the paths we take in life, at one point we shared the same fork in the road.

It is important, especially around this time of year, to gather will people you haven’t seen recently. I often struggle to keep in contact with people as I am sure many others have the same problem. We all get caught up in our day to day lives and it just slips our minds. This holiday season I ask you to join me in reaching out to those we haven’t talked to in a while and just start by saying hi. This way we can reunite and together we can catch up with those valuable relationships whether they be family, friends, or FFA “family”.

Value the time you spend with others!

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Quote Your Dad

From inside jokes to newborn life and from discussions about school to heart-to-hearts, some of my best memories come from time spent working in the barn. I recall one evening in particular. On a bitterly cold night in the middle of February, my dad and I were working together to finish milking the cows. We had spent time talking about the usual: school, FFA, my favorite cow named Bacon, family and friends. At this particular time I was coming to the point of making a big decision in my life.

“Mariah, have you given much thought to running for state office?”

For me, the answer to this question was not very simple.  You see, the previous year I had run for state office and not been selected as a member of the team. How could I go back and try this again? The application, the preparation, the eight rounds of interviews, the waiting, the nerves, the emotions… How could I do it all again?

My dad watched as these thoughts streamed through my head. Without me saying a word, he began to tell me what a mistake he thought it would be for me to not try again. He shared observations about why he had all the confidence in the world in me. He knew how much I craved meeting the FFA members around Minnesota. He believed in me. However, he also knew I was afraid.
This fall I thought back to that night when I opened the wrapper of a Dove Chocolate. Dove Chocolates have sayings inside their wrappers. I normally overlook them, but this particular wrapper said something that grabbed my attention…

“Quote your dad.” My dad has a lot of sayings, but thinking back to that particular night in the barn right after he finished telling me how he believed in me and why he said 11 words I will never forget.

“Being afraid of something and doing it anyway is called bravery.”

So simple, but so profound.

Recently, a mentor of mine gave me a journal entitled “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Its purpose is to give a new challenge each day to step outside my comfort zone, try something new and realize things I may not in my usual scheduled-out day.

It can be so easy to get in a routine of comfort in our lives. When an opportunity arises, it can be downright scary. Will we fail? What will people think of us?

We don’t have the power to know what each day will hold. While those questions can linger in our mind and hold us back, who’s to say doing something every day that scares us won’t be the greatest thing that has happened in our lives? It was for me.

So next time you are contemplating if eating lunch with the person sitting by themselves would be “cool,” just do it. Who knows, they may become your best friend. When you are walking down the hall and see someone upset, stop and talk with them. Maybe they just need to know someone cares about what they are going through. Grab a friend and volunteer at a homeless shelter. It may offer you an incredible change in perspective. These small actions can make a big difference in your life and the lives of others. It’s okay to be afraid sometimes, but remember, doing something you are afraid of is called bravery.

Be brave.

Do something TODAY that scares you.

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Take Time

I always knew that moving to college would come with a lot of adjustments.  Whether it’s adjusting to living away from home, the classes or the friendships, one of the biggest adjustment I have found is actually something really small… a hand dryer.

I know this sounds silly, but using a hand dryer after washing my hands instead of a paper towel takes time (literally) to adjust to!  I was so used to quickly drying my hands on a towel and moving on with my day.  So when I came to college and I didn’t have the quick option anymore, I would do like everyone else; wash my hands, wipe them on my jeans and leave the bathroom.  However, I would always regret not drying my hands because everything I touched for the next few minutes would get wet. 

30 seconds.  That’s how long it takes to fully dry off my hands.  I could spend 30 seconds and dry my hands or I could save that time but regret it later… The obvious choice to me is to invest my time.  A lot of times in life we have to make the decision to invest our time to get the outcome we want. 

My freshman year of high school I took an art class.  Now I am by no means an artist, far from it actually.  But in my art class we were required to take one of our favorite pictures and draw it.  Naturally, my favorite picture at the time was of my show cow, Delilah, and me.  Now, I was so stressed about drawing this picture.  My drawing skills weren’t as good as everyone else’s and it was a big portion of our grade. 

For the first week I struggled and struggled with my picture.  The lines weren’t smooth like the girl next me was and it was hard to tell what I was even trying to draw.  I went up to my art teacher to ask for help and all she said was, “You just need more time put into it.”  So everyday that I came to class I fully invested myself into drawing my picture.  I stayed after school, came in during study time to work on it and got help from my peers.  In the end, I was proud of my picture. It may not be as pretty as everyone else’s but I had done the absolute best I could do.

Like I said, I am NOT an artist... but I am still proud of this!

Too often in life we think that the grass is greener on the other side.  But in reality if we just take the time to water our own grass it would be just as green.

If our goal is to make it to state in a CDE, spend an extra 15 minutes a day studying for it.  If we aren’t getting the grade’s we want, stay after class one day a week to ask for help.  If we miss a note every time we play a song, or can’t make a certain shot on the basketball court, all we need to do is invest our time.  Invest time into what you care about and I promise that will help so much in the long run. 

Take time to dry your hands and water your grass.

Stationed by the plow,

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Being a Fan of the Away Team

I’ve loved football for a long time. Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved turning on the TV on Sunday afternoons to watch professional football.  And even better than watching on TV is going to an actual football game.

There is nothing quite like going to the big stadium, cheering on your team in person, and being surrounded by thousands of fans who are cheering for the same team you are.
Wait, I need to rephrase that.  It isn’t always true.

There is nothing quite like going to the big stadium, cheering on your team in person, and being surrounded by thousands of fans who are cheering for the same team as you are, as long as you are cheering for the home team.

I learned this very quickly a few weeks ago.

Me wearing one of my St. Louis Rams shirts
For some reason, when I was younger, I became a St. Louis Rams fan. I’m not sure why, but I did, and I have been a Rams fan ever since. I still love the Minnesota Vikings, but the Rams are #1 in my heart.

Knowing I loved the Rams, a few of my friends who happened to get tickets for the Rams vs Vikings game a few weeks back called me and offered me a ticket to go watch my favorite team come play here in Minnesota. I was ecstatic.  I got dressed, putting on a long-sleeved Rams shirt with a jersey of one of my favorite Rams players on top.  As I went to the game, I was bouncing like a toddler who had just been given way too much sugar and a 5 hour energy.

Then I got to the game.

Do you know the term “Minnesota Nice?”

Yeah, I realized that doesn’t hold true when it comes to football games.  

From the start of the game to the finish, I was heckled to no end. Now I will admit, most of it was playful and said with a smile, but nevertheless, I was called some very mean things.

I was sworn at, called an idiot, and told to go home more times than I can count. At one point, a mom squatted down, pointed at me, and told her little toddler son, “those are the bad guys.”

C’mon ma’am, I don’t think I’m that bad of a guy.

All I wanted to do was watch and cheer on my team; I didn’t ask to be heckled.

Throughout life, we are going to have times where we believe and support something, and the majority of people might not agree with us.  They might laugh at our ideas, make fun of us, and tell us we’re wrong.  And it can be really hard.

But you wanna know what the bright spot was for me at the game?

The other Rams fans.

Even though there were thousands of people against me, there were a few people in attendance who were cheering for the same team as me. Who believed what I believed.

Just like that, when we stand by what we believe, there will be others who believe that too, even if we don’t see them right away.

When I reflected on my day at the football game, I realized it had taught me two main things.
1. It’s important for us to stand by what we believe in.

It is going to be incredibly difficult, but we need to stand up for what we know is right.

For instance, if we see a fellow student getting picked on, we need to stand by what is right and stick up for them, no matter what we think others may think of us. If we believe we can accomplish a goal, such as competing at state, we need to keep believing in ourselves, even if others doubt us.

There are going to be others who believe in us, others who agree. Family, friends, teachers. All people who can support us and cheer alongside of us.

2. We need be accept that not everyone thinks the same as us.

There’s a big difference between supporting your own idea and looking down on someone else’s.
How hard would it have been for those fans at the game to cheer on the Vikings without having to say rude and mean things to me? They could have cheered just as loud and been just as good of a fan without heckling those who they thought felt differently than themselves.

This year our officer team has picked out the theme, “Together We.” I love this theme, because it is focused on people coming together. People acting as ‘We’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘You.’

When we come together, we are always going to have different opinions on some things, and that is a good thing.

But it is important for us to always be listening to understand where others are coming from.  We need to try to see it from their perspective, and respect the fact they might think differently.  For instance, if a classmate shares an idea which we don’t agree with, we need to stop and think about where they are coming from and the positive aspects of their idea. I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to admitting I’m wrong, so I have to work extra hard to keep an open mind and respect what others think or feel.

If I had the option to go back to another football game as the away team, I would totally do it again. There were moments it was really hard, but at the end of the day I was proud I stood for what I believed in without letting others dictate my actions.

And if I were to ever go back as the home team?

I would cheer on my team, but there’s no way I would heckle the visitors. I would understand what it is like to be in that position, and I would respect their willingness to come watch the game amongst many people who do not cheer for the same team as them.

We need to stand by what we believe and respect those who feel differently. That’s what that fateful football game taught me. And through all the heckling and name calling, I can still proudly say,

Go Rams!

Stationed by the Rising Sun.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Together We...

In FFA, we often teach, learn, and stress the importance of teamwork. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, teamwork is, “the work done by people who work together as a team to do something.” The key part of that definition: work together. We all know that teamwork is vital for an effective group, but what about the success at the end? This is exactly what the 2015 Minnesota FFA State Theme is trying to envail!

Together we can accomplish great things. I know for my local FFA chapter, along with many other FFA chapters, we participate in an annual corn drive in the fall. Members who are able to participate come together to collect grain from farmers in our community. We go out and talk with numerous farmers about FFA and ask if they would like to donate grain with the proceeds being donated to True Friends, a camp for individuals with emotional, mental, and physical disabilities. This is a fantastic event where we get to connect with our local supporters and raise money for a good cause.

As we participate in the corn drive each year, it doesn’t seem like we are raising much, especially as a smaller chapter. However, we have to think about the entire picture. We are raising funds to provide individuals with an experience that may light up their world by attending camp. We are helping individuals learn skills that may never have been possible. We are potentially changing an individual's life.

When we sit and wonder how our small contributions are making a difference, I remember back to this past weekend when we had an FFA Board Meeting at True Friends in Annandale. One alarming fact was given to us: Since 1953, Minnesota FFA as donated 5.5 MILLION dollars to True Friends. Together we are providing thousands of individuals with an experience of lifetime! Together we are making a difference in the world. Together we are building a stronger community. Together we are serving those across the state of Minnesota. We all know teamwork is important, but more importantly, we need to know that TOGETHER WE can accomplish extraordinary things!

To learn more about True Friends, please visit their website at

Stationed by the Door,

Sam Johnson

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November...A Season to Give Thanks

Wow, I can hardly believe it, November is here.  When I think of November, the first thought that usually comes to mind for many of us is the Thanksgiving holiday.  As you know, another major holiday that is celebrated in November is Veteran’s Day.  I think it is completely wonderful to be able to celebrate these two holidays in the same month, because we are all blessed with freedom and liberties in our lives, thanks to those who serve and protect our country.

Veteran’s Day has been established as a day of celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  All of these sacrifices are made for all of us so that we may continue to enjoy a life that is filled with opportunities to live in a world where we are able to get an education, join the workforce, and have a life filled with family and friends.  We are blessed with the opportunity and freedom to pursue our dreams. 

Wendell Gesme,
WWII Utilityman,
US Merchant Marines
Both of my grandfathers were Veterans.  My mom’s father, Wendell, served in World War II, as a Utilityman in the US Merchant Marines.  His duties were onboard a supply ship in the Pacific Ocean.  My dad’s father, Walter, served in the US Army during the Korean War.  Although they have both passed on, I am honored and thankful for their service.  I am grateful to all military veterans and for those currently serving in the military, so that we may enjoy our freedoms. It was wonderful to see so many schools in Minnesota and across the nation celebrating with Veteran’s Day programs. 

Celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday gives us another opportunity to give thanks for our bountiful lives.  We are not only blessed with freedom, but we are blessed by the grace of God with what comes with that freedom.  On Thanksgiving Day many of us “go home” to gather with family and friends to celebrate with intentional gratitude for our lives. We have amazing meals of turkey, gravy, stuffing, and all the fixings. It is a celebration of harvest, and to celebrate the bounty that nature has given us after our summer labors.  We get and give warm hugs, have lots of laughs, and maybe shed a tear for memories of those no longer present with us.   We are wrapped up in the magic of this special holiday, and all of its blessings. It is a time of peace. 

There are truly very few days each year as meaningful as Veteran’s Day or as wonderful as Thanksgiving Day.  But what if we took time more often in addition to these two special days to be grateful for our blessings and be and more intentional in our thankfulness?   What if we made time more often in this month, or this season to give thanks to God and show gratitude?  I think it’s possible we would find a life that is filled with more joy and happiness.  I think it’s possible that by giving thanks and showing gratitude, our lives will be richer and full of more peace.

I am going to make this month into a season filled with more times of giving thanks and showing gratitude.  I will thank God more often for my many blessings.  I will thank others and show my gratitude for service.  I will let my friends and family know how grateful I am to have them in my life.  Will you join me in making this a season of giving thanks? 

In closing, I want to say thank you for being the wonderful FFA members and Agricultural Education students you are.  I am truly blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be part of the Minnesota FFA Association, and this amazing organization.  I wish each and every one of you a very blessed Thanksgiving and a wonderful season of giving thanks.

Stationed by the Flag,
Madison Taylor