Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fully Engaged

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those girls who has always dreamed about my wedding day and planned exactly how I wanted it. I’m not kidding when I say that most girls do. We grow up around Disney princess movies, romantic advertisements, and the dream of having the most beautiful wedding ever. Pinterest boards about future weddings are not in short order with us, teenage girls, and most of us think we pretty much have it all planned out by now. As we picture the perfect dress, flowers, and decorations, something else comes to our mind: the engagement. Being proposed to is the stepping stone for any wedding, and someday, it will be one of the greatest days of our life. Girls can’t help but fall in love with the idea of having someone fall in love with them.

Engagement is something we as a society have been taught to look forward to, but in reality, a life of engagement is something we should be embracing now. Being engaged isn’t really about a guy on his knee with a ring, but it’s about living a life in which you go all in.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend Timberland, a camp put on by the Sleepy Eye, Marshall, and Tracy FFA Chapters. We spent the week learning about FFA, playing games, enjoying free time, and sitting around the bonfire. It was a week in which I formed countless relationships that mean the world to me, and as the week, came to a close the end of camp banquet and talent show arrived. The night before two girls in my cabin, Lauren and Josie, decided that they were going take part in the talent show performing none other than High School Musical. Now, I’m a huge fan, and I just couldn’t believe that Troy Bolton was going to be at camp. How could this get any better?

The night before I sat on the floor of the cabin and listened to Lauren and Josie sing their hearts out into the best kind of microphones: a hairbrush. I laughed and smiled as they filled the room with joy. Energy is contagious and in that moment, there was nothing truer. As I sat there with a smile on my face, I couldn’t help but notice just how much they were putting into something that someone might think of as “just a camp talent show.” Josie and Lauren didn’t think that way though. They were thrilled to be able to showcase their spunky attitudes, sweet dancing moves, and joyful personalities.
The night of the talent show arrived, and as expected, Josie and Lauren rocked it: they even won. As I watched all of the talent performances that night, I couldn’t help but admire the way that they lived an engaged life. You see, I recently finished an amazing book called, Love Does by Bob Goff. In one of the chapters is a quote that I can’t help but fall in love with. “Being ‘engaged’ isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee and puts a ring on his true love’s fingers. Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. I’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light.” The more that I’ve gotten to know these girls, the more I realize how much they exhibit this way of life. They live a life not of mediocrity but a life that is all in.

Living a life that is all in is something I want to do every day: we should all want to. As we enter into a season full of sports practices, FFA meetings, and piles of homework, we are called to not to go half in but all in. To go all in throughout our lives could be going out of our way to help a friend or putting a little extra effort into our homework or maybe even spreading a little more joy than we normally do. Living a life of engagement means to never stop finding ways to show our passion, love, and aspirations. It is about giving everything we have so we can live a life that is never ending with joy: we put everything we have into it. It’s a life in which we do things big. It doesn’t matter what it is. Each person and part of our life is important. Where in your life can you give a little bit more?

These are the parts of our life in which we can look to Josie and Lauren as an example. You see, they showed me that it doesn’t matter where or when. It doesn’t matter if it is a camp talent show or American’s Got Talent. What matters is that we grab ahold of life and put everything we have into it. They taught me that I should never stop showing how much I care and I should always give everything I have. You see, I used to dream about the day someone will propose to me, but now, I am not going to just dream about that one day because I want to live engaged and in love each and every day.

Stationed by the Plow,

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Looking Up!!

        I crouched down on the branch, repositioned myself in the tree and launched myself towards the next branch. I put all my focus on that next branch about 7 feet above me and nothing else. As soon as my feet left the tree I got a rush of excitement as I climbed higher than I ever had before. I get a thrill from being up high, whether that be in a tree, on a plane, or a high ropes course; so when my team and I had the opportunity to get a tour of the ropes course at Camp Courage, I was all for it!

         My teammates and I got a hands-on experience with the one and only wheelchair accessible high ropes course in the world. Upon arrival, we had to get harnessed up and clipped to a braided steel wired rope to ensure we wouldn’t fall to our deaths below, and I immediately got a rush of excitement… but not all of my teammates had the same feeling. As soon as I could, I had jumped onto the course and started navigation my way through as fast as possible. Then I took a moment to look back at my teammates and came to realize that while I was loving the risk involved the same could not be said for them. They had some fear and anxiety about the course which involved some definite risks. One of my teammates, in particular, had been injured on a similar ropes course before, and so there was definite fear and risk associated with completing this course again. Everyone gets a thrill from something, whether that be heights, giving a speech, or competing in an event; and each one has different levels of risk. But we need to remember that even though something has risk, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something, it just means we need to measure that risk and decide that we have what it takes to go for it.

          Even though there was risk in the ropes course, every one of us had pushed through that risk factor and finished the circuit! Now we each had different perspectives on the level of risk involved, but yet each one of us had overcome that barrier of risk that all too often can shut us down from accomplishing our goals. Whether it be joining a new sports team, club, a more difficult class or going out for a new CDE; there is a level of risk associated with each activity that can sometimes keep us from striving after it.

         Being able to evaluate that risk and being able overcome it takes dedication and strong determination, and motivates us in different ways. When looking at what you have to gain from taking that risk, you will find that the reward is much greater than what you have to lose by letting the opportunity slip by. So set your sights higher than ever before, and strive for that next branch.

Beneath the Rising Sun,

Spencer Wolter

Minnesota FFA State President

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Momentous Microburst

Ever since I was a little, pipsqueak first grader, I have always been fascinated by the weather – especially severe weather. I “played radar” on Microsoft Paint, took weather observations on a daily basis and talked with friends, family members, and sometimes, complete strangers, about the weather for hours on end. I also was fascinated by KSTP-TV’s one and only Chief Meteorologist Dave Dahl. I even did the weather report with him on TV one night at the state fair when I was in second grade! In fact, to this day, I still have his autograph hung up on my wall in my room in between a huge poster of a tornado and the lightning bolt curtains I’ve had since I was 10. You could say I was, and still am, a little bit of a weather super nerd meteorology connoisseur or just a flat-out nut. I’ll let you decide.
Although I love severe weather, I still get a little worried when I am actually in it. But honestly, who doesn’t? Severe weather can be a little frightening for us all, especially when there are people, property, animals or crops at stake. A few weeks ago, I encountered a huge microburst on my way up north. Let me take a second to put on my meteorology nerd hat. A microburst is a huge, sudden downdraft of hail, rain and high wind gusts that could lead to some significant property damage if conditions are right. In case you’re curious, a picture of a microburst is above!
Here’s how it happened. I was driving along, listening to some of my favorite tunes with the windows down. It was a nice afternoon, about 78° and mostly sunny with a calm breeze from the west – one of those nice, classic Minnesota summer afternoons, but that quickly changed. I was driving into St. Cloud and, pretty much out of nowhere, I saw a massive black cloud pop up. Within five minutes, the sky turned a creepy greenish-orange color, and I began freaking out! Then, things really picked up once the lightning and thunder started rolling. It started pouring so hard that the windshield wipers weren’t even close to keeping up with the speed of the torrential downpour. I couldn’t even see the cars in front of me, and I was only driving 15 mph on the interstate. Then came the wind. It started gusting so hard that my truck was shaking like a wet cat. The force was so strong that even my door started to shake and it felt like it was going to fly off any second. And just when I thought I had made it through the brunt of the microburst, it started to hail. I was shaking in my boots because I was nervous. Was I going to drown? Get in an accident? Go off the road? At that point, it was so loud outside that I forgot I was listening to my jams. So, instead of panicking more, I cranked up my music to the maximum volume and just started belting out those tunes, especially one of my favorites, (which seemed fitting at the time...) Travis Tritt’s “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” It helped me realize that even though the sun wasn’t shining, it was still behind those dark, scary-looking cumulonimbus clouds.
The microburst’s intensity kept going for what felt like hours on end, and so did my voice. At one point, there was well over three inches of standing water on the ground. “When will all this end?” I thought to myself. But seconds later, I looked out in the distance and saw the sun breaking out of the clouds. Calm was on the way and I was ecstatic that I not only survived, but I was also pumped that I somehow managed to keep my cool. I was so ecstatic that I even pulled over to snap the picture you see below!
As FFA members, we will often times encounter these microbursts. Form many of us, our first FFA meetings of the school year are just about to happen. Even though the start of the year can be a little chaotic and create a lot of “noise,” I challenge you to channel it and turn that noise into something positive. It is so important for us to find a way to channel the noise of these microbursts into something positive and unforgettable – to be the sun that is shining behind the clouds and noise. For me, belting out those tunes to block out the scary microburst allowed me to be like the sun! As FFA members, we can do this through setting goals for ourselves and chapters, recruiting new members, and of course, having a positive, upbeat attitude and outlook on the year ahead. What do you think your next microburst will be? How will you handle it so you can also reach the sun or rainbow at the end? Let’s always remember that even if we are in a microburst, the sun will always be shining above the clouds and be sure that our next microburst isn’t mortifying, but rather, momentous.

Stationed by the Door,

Joe Ramstad

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Reaching Your Finish Line

At the Minnesota State Fair, the CHS Miracle of Birth Center is full of life, noise, and of course people. Throughout the twelve days of “The Great Minnesota Get-Together,” I had the chance to visit with countless fairgoers and FFA members, just as I had done many times before. This year was unique however when I had the opportunity to visit with two aspiring FFA members named Sarah and Veronica.

Sarah and Veronica walked into the Chapter House and Leadership Center after a long day of 4-H shows. We introduced ourselves and began visiting about the state fair, their 4-H projects, and what they were excited for as school began. Soon enough I found out they weren’t in FFA, which really surprised me. Their passion for agriculture and respectful presence gave me every reason to believe they were two unbelievable FFA members. Although they weren’t FFA members, I quickly realized that they wanted to be. Their school had no agriculture program, but they came to the FFA Chapter House to find out how they could make it happen. Their excitement fueled my energy to share all that FFA has to offer, so I began telling my own story. We discussed how principals, teachers, and parents could all serve as resources to help establish a chapter. Before I knew it, our conversation had evolved from exchanging names to exchanging contact information!
As we said our goodbyes, Sarah and Veronica walked out of the FFA Chapter House knowing they had a challenge in front of them. This year they will attempt an extremely hefty task that not many would have the courage to take on. The cool part is that they have everything it takes to succeed. Both Sarah and Veronica have taken simple steps that will help them work towards establishing an agriculture education program and FFA chapter in their high school.

Have you ever seen someone running on the side of the road? It’s a fairly common sight and in most cases, people are passive to everything about that runner besides whether or not you will hit them with your car (Don’t worry…I promise I have never hit anyone on the side of the road!). But try to take a deeper look. Why are they running? What does their day look like as a result of going on that run? Whether we realize it or not, these are all things runners work through as they exercise. In a similar way, Sarah and Veronica are beginning a long distance run.

Preparing to run and going on a long-distance run can be split into a few different parts. Looking at each will help us see how Sarah and Veronica are enduring their own run.

The Precursor: Runners know exactly what they want to do. They have made up their mind that they will run, find a route and decide on a time. They also have an end goal in mind, whether that is to be healthier, lose weight or train for a race. Sarah and Veronica did this exact same thing when they decided they wanted to establish an agriculture education program and FFA chapter in their high school.

Stretch it Out: Now that runners have decided what route they will take and when they will run, they have to prepare their body for the exercise. Long distance runners will stretch much longer than those that don’t run, just to be sure they are ready for the intensity. In a similar fashion, Sarah and Veronica had to learn about FFA in order to be more successful in their route to establishing a chapter. The more information and resources they have, the better off they will be.

Put on Your Running Shoes: Before the runner can begin, they must have support for their feet. Besides protection, running shoes will ensure a much easier course. At this point, it is essential for Sarah and Veronica to develop a strong support team. These people will be instrumental in finding an advisor, members, and community supporters for their program. Having a strong Alumni or support group is beneficial to any agriculture education program and FFA chapter.

Stay hydrated: In any form of exercise, it is important to keep your body hydrated. Not only does it keep you going during a run, it maintains important daily body functions. Runners recognize this importance and make sure they stop to refuel with water. This year, Sarah and Veronica will often be exhausted. In fact, there will be times when giving up seems to be the easiest option. They also have the option to keep going, however. In order to continue, Sarah and Veronica understand they need to take care of themselves in order to reach their finish line.

My friends Sarah and Veronica have a very impressive goal and I dearly hope they are able to achieve it in the near future. But let’s change gears and talk about your goals! This year, we will each have the opportunity to cross a finish line, and that finish line can be whatever you decide. Take a moment to think of that one bucket list item you want to check off, the Career or Leadership Development Event you want to win, or the class you want to ace! For example, I always wanted to win the Region II Dairy Cattle Evaluation Career Development Event. Once you know exactly what you want to do…you have mastered the precursor to success in your long distance run!

Crossing the finish line in your long distance run requires the simple steps that Sarah and Veronica will also endure. After many hours of studying and practice judging with local farmers, I was able to achieve my goal of placing first at the Region II Dairy Cattle Evaluation Career Development Event. If we remember to stretch it out, put on our running shoes, stay hydrated, and take some time to cool down, I'm confident that we can all reach our own finish line.

Stationed by the Flag,

Rebekka Paskewitz

Minnesota FFA State Reporter