Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Be Grateful. Always.

IMG_7979.JPGEarlier this fall, I was having supper at my friend Mariah’s house right before Thanksgiving. We were munching on some spaghetti and talking about life when we landed on the subject of gratitude. I had asked her if she had ever had an experience that was extremely difficult to go through but she was grateful for. She shared her answer with me, and then asked if I had ever had an experience like that. I thought about the question, and then told her my answer. My grandpa Dennis has Alzheimer’s disease and my grandma Eva Lee, who passed away earlier this year, had dementia, both of which are diseases that cause memory loss. It’s heartbreaking to see my grandparents battle these diseases and struggle to remember who I am, as well as many other important parts of their lives.

It is because of these challenges that I am even more grateful for the time I spend with them. Before my grandparents started losing their memories, I took much of the time I spent with them for granted. It was simply “another trip to grandma’s house,” and I would spend time watching TV or doing homework, rather than spending time with my grandparents. After the memory loss began, I remembered all of the good times and fun memories I had with each grandparent and decided I would no longer take time for granted because each moment has value that cannot be bought back.

So often in life, we rush through things. We strive to become more efficient, more productive, more competent. We forget our time is limited and that we are not promised tomorrow. What if we cherished every moment? What if we told those around us how much we value them? What if we committed to living a life of love, a life of joy, or a life of gratitude? What if we took a leap of faith and ran away with our dreams instead of holding back and saying “maybe next time”? Think of how different life would be if everyone lived like this!

This holiday season, many of us will be surrounded by friends and family. I challenge each and every one of us to remember the value of time and live in such a way that when we reflect on our lives, we will be filled with gladness instead of remorse. We will be filled with gratitude instead of regret. We will say “remember when?” instead of “what if?”. This holiday season, let’s put down our cell phones and instead focus on those around us. Let’s live in the moment and cherish our time spent with others. We never know where life will take us, so let’s take a moment when we’re surrounded by those we care about and express our gratitude and love for those important to us. This will help all of us live a life we can be proud of every day. We can be grateful, always!

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wendy Bauman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What's your "Why?"

It is getting close to Christmas, and therefore, I am beginning to look forward to opening the beautiful packages that decorate the bottom of my family’s Christmas tree. One thing that is on the very top of my wish list this year is a “Love Your Melon” stocking cap. All of my friends are wearing them, and they look SO cute. They come in many different of colors, and you can even get them with a pom on the top. All of these qualities are great, but the real reason I want one of these hats is because of their background. Love Your Melon was started by two college students from Minnesota. This business started as a class assignment but has now turned into a mission to improve the lives of children who are battling cancer. For every hat that is purchased, a hat is given to child with cancer. This is the reason that I want a Love Your Melon hat.

Can you think of anything you’ve wanted because of something like this? I do this all the time. There seems to always be a reason, a why, that I want something. Anyone can make a nice stocking cap, but it is the companies who have a reason behind their product that sell it successfully. Much of this concept can apply to life. As young adults, we have the opportunity to be involved in so many different things whether it is sports, clubs, organizations or youth groups. Our opportunities are endless, yet we aren’t involved in everything. We decide, and our decision isn’t truly based off what it can offer us or when it meets or how much time it takes. The decision is based off the why.

Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to spend the night at the Jackson County Central FFA Chapter’s Crop Show and Degree Night. Their chapter Vice President, Ally, had text me a few weeks back asking me if I would come speak at the event. I was immediately excited to go and began to think of what I wanted to share with them. The day of the event came, and Ally checked in with me to see if I had all the information I needed. She also shared with me that she was finishing memorizing all of her lines for the degree ceremonies. This text may have seemed so small, but it really left me thinking about what FFA members do for this amazing organization. 

I continued to think about this as I attended the Crop Show and Degree Night. That night I got to watch 37 members receive their Greenhand Degree and 41 members earn their Chapter Degree. I watched the officer team recite their opening ceremonies with pride. I listened to Mady and Kayla talk about their experiences this past summer at the Washington Leadership Conference—their love of service and adventure exuded from them. And, I spent time with Maggie, their past FFA chapter president, who came back that night just to “help out,” and well, to be my support. 

After I got home, I continued to think about the dedication that not only these but all FFA members show in all they do. Ally is truly a perfect example of this. Ally had spent her day memorizing the degree ceremony parts, contacting me to make sure I had my life together and even submitting crop samples in the crop show. Ally has spent her FFA career serving others by serving as a chapter officer and on the state nominating committee. Ally shows a dedication to FFA, but she doesn’t do it because it is just another club. Ally might do this because she believes in the future of agriculture. She might believe in the opportunity to build relationships with people from across the United States. She might believe that all people can be leaders. This may be the reason that you as an FFA member do what you do. This is our why.

The concept of “why” comes from Simon Sinek who is known for his TED talk and many books that he has written. I first heard of him when I listened to him speak at the Live2Lead conference I attended and furthered my interest when our leadership coordinator, Lavyne Rada, threw one of his books at me and told me I could read it. Sinek talks about how there is a Golden Circle. The outside circle is the “what.” Most companies and organizations can tell you what they do. Then, there is the “how.” This is how the product works or how the organization runs. These parts of the circle are fairly easy to reach, but only a few can reach the most important circle: the “why.” This circle is the hardest to reach, but once it is reached, the organization will forever be successful as long as they keep that “why.”

This “why” is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires us to do something or buy something. Just like I want a Love Your Melon hat because it will help a good cause, FFA members want to be in FFA because it builds strong leaders and nourishes forever friendships. FFA has a strong why and that is the reason we have such strong, loving members that surround us. Everyday I am amazed by the lengths FFA members are willing to go to help our Ag teachers, friends, supporters and producers. We all have a “why,” but for many of us, it will be different.

 How often do you answer the question, “Why do you love FFA?” with “because of the opportunities, the travel, the people.” All of these things are great, but these are only what FFA does. Every club can say that, but why is FFA different? I challenge us all to find our why. By finding your why, you will discover the great love you have for FFA. By knowing why you dedicate so much to FFA, you can better tell others your story. You can share your “why” and the legacy you want to leave.

Why do you memorize lines, drive hours for a competition, study binders after binders for CDES and work day and night to have a strong SAE? Think about it for a second. You all have a reason for what you do. We need to find that so that we can share it with others. In the words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” FFA Members, parents, teachers and supporters, why do you do what you do?

P.S. If you are looking for some inspiration over the break, check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk. It won't disappoint!

Stationed by the Plow,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Welding the Friendship of a Lifetime

“I DID IT! I CAN WELD! OH MY GOSH!” is what I screamed after completing my first ever oxyacetylene weld a few weeks ago. We all face some pretty scary moments in our lives, and we conquer them with a positive attitude along with a little elbow grease and some help from others. For me, one of my scariest moments happened this fall in my first ever agricultural mechanics class, and I was pretty lucky to have a great support group help me take apart my first small gas engine and weld for the first time.

Walking into my first day of my first ever shop class this semester was a nerve wracking experience for me. The fact that I had virtually no experience in a shop made me worried. I constantly compared myself to everyone else in the class since several of them had more experience than me in a shop setting. As our teacher, Mr. T, started rattling off the different things we would be doing in class throughout the semester on our first day, I was tempted to just quit and take the class some other time. But I didn’t.

At the start of the semester, I was lucky to be paired with someone who knows a thing or two about small engines and welding and is too humble to admit it, and his name is Noah - and he is as pro as the welder to the right (no joke). While I did not know him incredibly well at the start of the semester, I knew one thing was for sure, he was going to be in for a long semester as my partner. I had no idea what I was doing, and I made that clear from the minute we were paired! But, he was willing to meet me where I was at without judgements.

Throughout the semester, I have missed some class for FFA events, been confused on numerous concepts in the textbook and have missed countless demonstrations in the shop. But Noah didn’t mind - he WANTED to help me. In fact, I even thought the flywheel was the muffler when we were working on our engine… so you can see that I am not kidding when I say I was a wreck! Despite this, Noah had one overall goal in mind this semester - to help me so I knew where the parts on the engine were and how to lay a bead on my metal. In fact, he frequently sacrificed several workdays in class to help me ensure that I got my required welds completed; he put others before his own needs. This, my friends, is what we call a servant leader.

I am a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, so I believe God keeping me in this shop class happened for a reason. What is that reason? To be honest, while learning about how to take apart an engine and learning how to weld have been fun, I value the relationship that has been built and the memories that have been made between my friend Noah and I in this course. Had I given up and dropped this class on the first day, this experience would not have happened and I would not be as close with Noah as we are now. Noah and I grew so much through taking apart our engine and welding in the shop, and even though I am nowhere near perfect and still struggle at times, that doesn’t even matter. Why? Because now, we have welded the friendship of a lifetime and work together inside and outside of the classroom and I find so much more value in that. In fact, we even volunteered this weekend by ringing bells for the Salvation Army!

FFA members, I invite you to take risks. You will grow as a result, and better yet, you will be as happy as Noah and I were when we finished putting our small engine back together. Although you might be worried or nervous about how to approach these situations, give them your all because going into an experience, you never know what you can get out of them. For me, I welded a friendship. What will YOU weld next?

Stationed by the Door,
Joe Ramstad

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What's Wrong With Being Confident? Nothing!

“All I want for Christmas is you!” Currently the most popular Christmas song on the top 100 list, Mariah Carey’s rendition of this classic tends to make us do one of two things; jam our hearts out or reach for the seek button. As Thanksgiving comes to a close, we find society to be on opposite ends
of the spectrum with Christmas tunes. You could be the family who has their tree decorated before the turkey is put away, or the people who put off shopping until Christmas Eve. No matter where we see ourselves on this spectrum, Christmas music shows us just how influential music can be

Ecclesiastes 3:1 explains, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.“ Sooner or later, the majority of us are going to be singing the Christmas carols without the itch to change the station. Much like Christmas music, each genre has a time and a place it fits best. I also believe a certain genre of music has the ability to show us some pretty cool things. From the surface, each genre is unique in its sound and message, but on the inside, it also shows a certain attitude and personality.

I am a huge fan of rap music. However, I don’t like the negative messages or the profane language used quite often. Sometimes, it pays to look beyond the lyrics and general sound, though. When it comes to rap music, I really appreciate the attitude and personality that can be displayed.

We all have these two pieces in our own lives, but let’s put a definition to the words. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines attitude as “a mental position with regard to a fact or state.” Indeed, our attitude reflects what we feel inside towards a certain situation. Personality refers to the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing a person or group. In short, I like to think of personality as how others see us in correlation with how we act.

In particular, rap music exemplifies a confident attitude and an energetic personality.

“I’m so fancy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From LA to Tokyo
I’m so fancy
Can’t you taste this gold
Remember my name”

The song “Fancy,” by my home girl Iggy Azalea is a great representation of confidence. There isn’t a moment in the song where she wavers from knowing who she is and exactly what she wants to do. From the lyrics above, I can tell that Iggy Azalea will let nothing stand in her way of doing what she needs to do.

In 2013, Eminem set the record of rapping 6.5 words per second with his hit, “Rap God.” The entire song has 1540 words. American classic Bruce Springsteen averages 280 words per song. That’s quite a difference. I can’t tell you what the song says word for word, but what I do know, is the amount of energy that radiates from his skills is something to appreciate.

What music you listen to shouldn’t change as a result of this blog. As the proud follower of 90 custom Spotify playlists, I see the value in all music. Rap, however, shares the attitude and personality we should be adopting at this time of year. As the holidays draw near, we find ourselves needing more confidence and energy than usual to endure each day leading up to Christmas vacation.

Our attitude influences our personality in ways we don’t even notice. During the holiday season, we have many times when both pieces, attitude, and personality, might be challenged. With Christmas break right around the corner, many of us are preparing for final tests or turning in a long list of assignments. Maybe, you’re stressing out because of the financial burden that comes with Christmas shopping, or simply not knowing what to buy for someone. As an FFA member, it’s easy to become overwhelmed after fruit sales and fall events. No matter what you’re going through, it becomes quite easy to lose our energy as we enter the holiday rush. Take a minute to think about December and all you have to accomplish before Christmas break. For some more than others, it can be tiring just thinking about reaching that point.

Just like Christmas music, we each have the choice to jam our hearts out with confidence and energy. We also have the choice to hit the seek button, which keeps our attitude and personality the same as it was before. This holiday season, we can approach each task a little differently than usual, which can help us successfully work up to the Christmas holiday.

Recently, I made a list of everything I have to accomplish before Christmas break. Teaching violin lessons during finals week, reading my 600-page horticulture book or preparing for a trip to South Africa were just three tasks that could leave me as nothing but a nervous mess. Instead, I chose to be confident in myself, knowing that with the right amount of energy, I could accomplish them. This holiday season, will you adopt a confident attitude and exert energy into all you do? Or will you hit the seek button, hoping your tasks work themselves out?

As Demi Lovato would say, "What's wrong with being confident?"

Well friends? Nothing.

Stationed by the Flag,

Rebekka Paskewitz
Minnesota FFA Reporter 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


IMG_2779.JPG Tuesday, November 15th, I had the privilege to travel to Dawson, Minnesota to help present Mrs. Lund with her Honorary American FFA Degree. The experience was amazing. Everyone in attendance got to see just how big of an impact and how important she was to Minnesota FFA as she is our State Band Director. I arrived fully expecting to hear a band concert, but instead, I had the opportunity to listen to the Jr. High and Sr. High orchestra. I thought this was amazing because my high school didn’t have an orchestra. It was amazing to hear the difference just a few years of practice made between the two orchestras. The amount of growth those students had shown was astounding to me. Those individuals stayed in that orchestra as long as they could to help them grow as musicians and as people (even if they didn’t realize the second part).
All of us have to grow as individuals. Whether we like it or not, it’s a fact of life if we want to go anywhere. I’ve helped prepare myself for my future by taking a job at the SDSU Meats Lab. While working there, I’ve learned how to sanitize coolers, harvest the animals, and break them down into steaks, chops, and roasts. Of course with work, there are days I don’t want to go in or that I think I should be doing homework instead of working, but that has helped me grow. Working there has given me practical knowledge of how to run a meat locker, but also how to manage my time and prioritize tasks. If I wouldn’t have taken the job there, I wouldn’t know how to butcher livestock and I also wouldn’t be keeping track of assignments and work hours in a planner.
IMG_2813.JPG We have to grow in many ways, seen and unseen. We have to become educated, be accepting, develop a work ethic, and develop a plan for our life. To be able to grow we have to push ourselves as hard or as little as we want. My high school football coach would say to us every practice, “I want you to leave practice 1% better than you were when you started.” 1% isn’t a lot if you really think about it, but if you apply that to your life, that would make you 365% better than when you started the year. That is an astounding leap from one year to the next!
There is a great quote that perfectly embodies this, “There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.” Pushing yourself to grow and achieve more won’t always be easy. However, it will always be worth it. If you start pushing yourself in the morning to grow in the way you want, you will be amazed at just how much you’ve changed in a week, month, and year. Just 1% a day isn’t a lot to ask for, but the things you accomplish by growing 1% will amaze you.

Clay Newton
Stationed by the Emblem of Washington

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Find Your Firework

I sat there in the uncomfortable hospital chairs, waiting. I flipped through the pamphlet the registration people had given me, not registering what I was reading. How soon am I going to be called? Would it hurt when they stuck the needle in?

“Wendy, you can come with me,” a smiling nurse said. I followed her back towards the blue curtains, and she asked me a bunch of questions and took my blood pressure. “Okay, now we’re going to prick your finger.” Oh no, I thought. I’ve heard this is the worst part. The nurse quickly pricked my finger, did the test, and said, “Looks like you’re good to donate!” with a smile. After a few more questions, she told me to wait until someone came and got me.

Again, I sat, waiting nervously in a cold metal folding chair behind a blue curtain. This is going to be unbearable. After a few minutes, the curtain moved to reveal a woman wearing a smile and scrubs. “You can come with me!” I followed her out into the room with all of the foldable cots that were set up for donors. She told me to lay down on one and wait. After she asked me some questions, labeled my bags, and put the blood pressure cuff on my arm, the nurse put iodine all over my arm. This is cold and weird. Why would anyone ever want to donate blood and go through all of these weird, nerve-wracking experiences?

“Alright, Wendy, it’s time to start donating!” I squeezed the red stress ball three times and closed my eyes, bracing for the pain. I waited. And waited. But I felt nothing. I opened my eyes and peeked at my arm--and there was a needle, drawing blood! I hadn’t even felt it. I chatted with the nurse while the donation bag continued to fill. Ten minutes later, I was finished donating and enjoying some fruit snacks and juice at the canteen. I had successfully donated blood, and I didn’t even pass out!

Donating blood is one example of “Living to Serve.” As FFA members, service is at the heart of what we do. As human beings, I believe it’s what we’re called to do. Service can be as simple as holding the door open for the person behind you, or as life-altering as serving in the military. Either way, service should be a part of what we do every day.

A few weeks ago, I attended a church service at Cedar Valley Church in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. The pastor opened by asking who of us enjoyed fireworks. I looked around and saw many hands, including my own, raised. He went on to share a story that went something like this:

“When we think of fireworks, we think of sitting in our lawn chairs on the Fourth of July, watching the fireworks explode over a lake and enjoying it from afar. And that sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Many of us nodded along, imagining this scene in our heads. He continued, “Well, a few years ago, I was in China over the Chinese New Year. My wife and I stayed on the tenth floor of our hotel and got to witness how they celebrate. It was absolutely nothing like how Americans celebrate with fireworks; in China, anybody and everybody that wants to shoot off fireworks can. None of the permit nonsense that we have; everyone can light off their own fireworks. And my wife and I stood there, looking out at the sky, seeing that 360° around us, color and light illuminated the sky.

Service is a lot like fireworks. When someone commits an act of service, it’s an amazing thing and has the ability to light up someone’s day, or in other cases, illuminate their lives. Many times, we sit back and simply enjoy the fireworks that someone else lit off; we say, “Someone else will help that lady with her groceries,” “Someone else will participate in the chapter service project,” or “Someone else will make a difference.”

What if we chose to serve like fireworks during the Chinese New Year? Rather than sitting back and watching someone else light fireworks, what if we lit our own? Instead of saying, “Someone else…”, we’d say, “I am going to help with the groceries,” “I am going to participate in the chapter service project,” and “I am going to make a difference.”

I was terrified and nervous the first time I gave blood. I had thought, “Someone else can donate blood; they don’t need mine.” Now, I am proud to say I have donated 7 units of blood and cannot wait until I can donate again. I have found my fireworks to light off; what fireworks are you going to light? How are you going to make a difference?

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Maximizing the Genius

My little cousin is probably the cutest little girl you could ever meet. Her cute brown bob and contagious giggle are just the start of what this girl has going for her.  She is full of spunk; she loves dressing up as Elsa and appreciates any time when you play princess with her. My cousin is also brilliant. Her young mind is bursting with knowledge, but her brilliance shines the most when it comes to her ability to be herself. She is able to do this because of her mom and my aunt, Kristie. Kristie is someone who I have looked up to my entire life, and as a child, I wanted to be just like her. Kristie loves to encourage her to showcase her loves and styles, and because of this, she picks out whatever she wants to wear. Whether it is printed leggings, a tutu, a colorful sweatshirt, or funky shoes, she can pull it off.

Whenever I see kids dressed like this, I can’t help but smile because they are so proud of the outfit they picked out. The best part is the joy these children are feeling because of the mom or dad who let them choose their outfit standing behind them. As leaders, we can learn a lot from parents. Parents, like my aunt Kristie, are maximizers. They are leaders in our lives who do not think for us but encourage us to think for ourselves. They are genius makers.

During my senior year of high school, I had a genius maker that entered my life. As the fall of my senior year approached, I decided I wanted to have a part time job outside of working on my family’s farm. My mom received an email with a job posting for Lit’l Wizards, a hometown family business that specializes in educational toys and resources. I immediately felt that it fit me and decided to apply. A couple days later, the owner of the store, Maria, called me and told me she would love to have me join their team. At that moment, I was ecstatic and immediately called my mom. I knew this was going to be a great experience, but what I didn’t realize was that working at Lit’l Wizards would impact my life in a very special way.

Each of my days looked similar but were always filled with different tasks. School would get out and I would head over to work. When I buzzed the doorbell at the door in the back, Maria would come open the door and begin to tell me what I could work on that day. One of favorite things she would ask me to do was to redecorate the store. I would always ask, “How would you like me to do it?” And Maria would always reply, “However you want.”  

When I first began my job, I was terrified of these words. What I was doing would affect how people saw our products and sometimes whether they bought items or not. I wanted the store to look amazing, and I wanted to do it well because Maria always did such a great job. Now, she wanted me to decide how to decorate her store. The thing about Maria is that she never saw it as her store. She saw it as ours. Lit’l Wizards had a lot of pieces to it, and she recognized that. She wanted her family and employees to feel like they were integral parts to the store. We were never employees; we were her team. By Maria using the words “However you want,” I soon realized that she believed in me and felt as if I was capable of making our store look wonderful, and I fell in love with my job.

Throughout my year of working, I got to wear pajamas one day to work, decorate for Christmas, and use my creative mind in all parts of our store. I even got to help with social media posts and create our newsletter.  The greatest part of my job though was having a person in my life like Maria. Maria is creative, innovative, motivated, and loving. She is person who does not let anything stop her. She is a wonderful mom, teacher, and boss, but in all of these roles Maria is a maximizer.

This past fall I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference called Live2Lead in Marshall, MN. Speakers touched on all concepts of leadership, but one of my favorite points came from Simon Sinek. He said, “It is not about being charge, it about taking care of those that are in our charge.” You see, Simon talked about how Millennials (our generation) are not lazy; we are just simply looking for a place where others care about us and show us empathy. As leaders, it is not our job to micromanage people who are fully capable of doing great things. It is our job to take care of these people and make sure they feel loved and cared about.

I seriously love this mostly because I had the opportunity to have one of these leaders in my life. The true question is how can we be maximizers? How can we show empathy to others instead of looking only for results? We can do this by looking to people like Kristie and Maria. When we are leading others, let’s not do their job but help them feel confident in doing it themselves. Whether it means letting an FFA member take over a project that is normally done by an officer or asking a couple of freshmen to help decorate the FFA float. Maybe it simply means that we show someone we care about them and know that they are fully capable to accomplish what they set their mind to.

This is what it means to find the genius in others. The idea of the “genius” came from Liz Wiseman who I also had the privilege of hearing speak at Live2Lead. She talked about how each person we come in contact with has a set of unique gifts and talents. We all have a little genius within us, but sometimes it just takes a leader to bring it out. Let’s be those leaders who encourage creative thinking and self confidence. By believing in others, we will create more leaders, more geniuses, and more maximizers. As FFA members, we have the capability to do this. Look around in your classrooms, FFA meetings, sports practices, work, and band practices. Each person has unique talents and gifts that are so special. How can we help others use them? I challenge all of us to empower someone with a task, compliment, or job.

Whether is it letting kids wear what they want or empowering others to be apart of something, maximizers have the ability to change how we see the world. They give us strength, confidence, trust, and pride. We can do this, too. I have decided I am going to be a leader who finds the genius in others, and I hope you join me in this. FFA members, advisors, and supporters, let’s build our communities and grow leaders. Let’s help others realize their worth and ability. Let’s maximize the genius in all of us.

Stationed by the Plow,