Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cooties to Caring

"Ewww boys/girls have cooties!"
This statement has been familiar to each and every one of us for at least a small period of our lives. I'll never forget the time in middle school when boys and girls finally decided to like each other. This led us to form friendships that have stood the test of time and support each other regardless of our differences.
Fast forward about 10 years after the ‘cooties’ phase, and you will see 73 state FFA officers from around the country have the opportunity to travel to South Africa! Throughout this trip, we saw and experienced food, views, people, and so much more that we were not familiar with! The sights were some of the most beautiful I had ever seen and the food took me a step outside of my comfort zone. However, if we jump back to the moment we were stepping on the plane to fly to South Africa, joy was far from the feeling I was experiencing.  
Anxiety, loneliness, and resentment are what I just couldn’t seem to shake on the long flight across the Atlantic Ocean. As we landed, I felt shaky and wanted to go home. This country was hot (nothing like Minne-snow-ta), had food I wasn’t familiar with, and scary animals like baboons. The realization hit me that I was feeling homesick, and I did for the next few days of the trip. However, I couldn’t figure out why this was; I was never homesick, even when I moved into college, went to camps, etc. Why was this happening now, when I was surrounded with old and new friends?
While on the trip, we had small groups with adult leaders we debriefed with each night. Countless times in our small groups, we talked about what similarities there were between our countries, but I always seemed to be focusing more on the differences. It was just like back in elementary school when we thought boys weren’t like us and we weren’t willing to see that we were actually similar in some ways. It’s not always wrong to see the differences; after all, that’s human nature. However, an average person can easily identify how two people or places are different. But, it takes a true leader to fit the puzzle pieces together to find similarities. When I started to realize this, I knew something had to change, or the rest of the trip would be miserable.
As I continued to travel, I thought of South Africa as my home and put forth my greatest effort to point out the similarities between the two countries. Kind people, beautiful views, great friends, and delicious hamburgers were just a few of those commonalities that eventually helped me feel like I was truly welcome in the beautiful country of South Africa.
This can also relate to our lives as we meet new people. Often times, we look at others and immediately see the differences they have from ourselves, whether that be hair, skin color, personality, family background, or interests/passions/hobbies. We judge people in the first seven seconds we meet them, but think about how meaningful that could be if in those seven seconds we recognized a similarity.
As we leave for our trips on spring break and in the future, let’s remember that the country, or state, we are visiting isn’t all that different from our own. As we travel throughout our lives, if we recognize the things we have in common with others and the places we go, we can be united and see the beauty in all people and places.
Think of a time and place when you were homesick. What similarities could you have recognized between home and the destination?
How will you make an effort this week to recognize the similarities you have with someone else?

Stationed by the door,

Maddie Weninger

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Arachnids, Academics & Answers

I am deathly afraid of spiders. You know those giant barn spiders with those beady little eyes that bear right down into your soul? Those are the WORST. And they show up overnight and decide to create their intricate webs over my open feed bags I need to get into to feed my show calves. (My stomach is tying in knots and goosebumps are forming on my arms just thinking about them.)

Tears were inevitable for the first half of the school day in kindergarten for me. The first day I didn’t cry, my teacher sent a note home with me to my parents - that was in February (and school started in September). I was so afraid of what I was missing at home. My mom would have to be sitting on the back step exactly where I left her when I got off the bus, and she would tell me that is where she sat all day and “...absolutely nothing had happened on the farm.” While I eventually started to like school - love it actually - the thought of moving to another building to start the 4th, 6th, and 9th grades was terrifying. The idea of starting high school was hideous; the intimidating height of upperclassmen and imminent stress of the never-ending class load wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to.

Here's a glimpse at what my weeks look like.
My biggest fear, though, is the unknown of the future. I make lists - for everything. I try to plan out everything as much as possible. Details are crucial and I need to know as much as possible in advance; preparedness is something I thrive on. Setting goals and moving in that constant direction is a path I rarely stray from. But I’ve learned tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Fear can be so powerful. It can paralyze us from daily life and steal away incredible opportunities placed in front of us. But when we push past what scares us, we are able to learn, grow, and pursue our passions, goals and dreams. Sometimes other people push us out of our comfort zones, sometimes we don’t have a choice and are placed in a new environment where we have to face our fear, and sometimes we have to make the conscious decision to challenge ourselves to go beyond the fear.  

It’s easy to stick to what we know and what’s comfortable - but until we face our fears, we will never know what lies on the other side. Maybe you love to play basketball, and you’ve been working on a new move on the court, but you are too scared to try it out in a game. Once you feel prepared, take the leap of faith - face your fear one step at a time. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

What do you fear the most? What is holding you back? Is it the uncertainty of the outcome? Or maybe the rejection or hurt that might accompany the risk? Why? How will you face your fear?

Everyday, we make the decision to stick to our normal routine or live the day as if it might be our last. Facing those barn spiders is scary to me, but if I don’t, I know I will never be able to accomplish my goals in the show barn. Having teachers, parents, and friends support and push me through moving to a new school or trying something new has led to some pretty amazing opportunities. If I hadn’t started high school, I wouldn’t have been involved in FFA; and then I never would have had the incredible opportunities to travel the world, meet so many incredible people, or discover and pursue my passion. And being prepared only gets you so far - my teammates have taught me the importance (and the fun) of “winging it” once in a while. And yes, the future is scary, but that is just part of life’s adventure and it's all about the attitude we have to embrace it.

Stationed by the ear of corn, 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Something Good in Everyday

So a life update on Spencer. If you read my last blog (which I hope you did), I talked about my goal for this year and how I wanted to make everyday worth it, so at the end of the year I wanted a visual representation of how 2018 went. Well, I have been very good at filling out my year in pixels and plan on continuing with this little project of mine. (It's not too late to join!, you can start at anytime in the year.) I am very proud of the chart I made, I have mine layed out to be the following:

Top 10 Days: Teal 
Great Days : Purple
Good Days: Blue
Bad Days: Green
Terrible Days: Orange
Worst 10 Days: Red

I find a little joy at the end of each day when I fill it out, and get to see the little teal, purple, and blue boxes grow. Filling in  my boxes day by day, they remind me of all the good, happy, joyful things that happened on those days. However, this week was different. Up until this week, all of my days had been good, great, and even two top ten days! I finally had a bad day, and it was a tough pill to swallow. For a few days, I couldn't admit to myself that it was a bad day and couldn't bring myself to fill in the little box with green. I had felt like I had let myself down; like I had failed my goal of making everyday “worth it.”

Then I was reminded of some truth by a quote I saw. “Everyday may not be a good day, but there is something good in everyday.” We all lose sight of our goals at some point, and by not filling in my bad day in, I had lost sight of the purpose of this yearly summary. My goal was not trying to have every day be a good or great day, but it was to make sure I was reminded that I have the choice everyday to make it a good day. It is the bad days that give us something to compare the good days to.

My bad day might have been filled with stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation, preparation for a big exam, and words I cannot take back. But that day was also filled with working out with my teammate Kylee at the gym, talking about our days, the things to come in the week, and building our friendship and trust. It was dinner with friends while laughing about good times had that weekend. It was peace when I sat down for the first time to enjoy a breath of fresh air and laughing with my teammate after our weekly team meeting.
During this busy season of our lives, it is easy to find all the things that go wrong in one day, but it is important to remember the good things that happened that day. Trust me when I say they can be hard to find, but I promise they are there; you only have to look. Next time you find yourself thinking or telling a friend about all the things that didn't go right that day, stop and think of all the good that happened too. Find someone who will hold you accountable to this; someone who will listen to your bad days, but also tell you to switch your mind set and think of all the good things.  

I now have filled in that little box green, and it will serve to me as a reminder that it is okay to have bad days, that everyday might not be a good day, but there truly is something good in everyday.

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington 

Spencer Flood 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Home Away From Home


Sometimes I wonder who ever came up with the idea of moving. It’s a weird concept honestly. Picking up entire groups of people or families and taking them from one spot in the world to another, leaving everything familiar behind. I actually have come to know this concept pretty well. In the time since I was a child, I’ve seen the snow capped mountains of Colorado fade into the flat corn filled fields of Nebraska and the narrow hiking trails of Montana merge with the heavily wooded forests of northern Minnesota. However, with all this sporadic moving, it makes it seem as if there is truly no such thing as home.
     On January 21st 2018, the news was official. The DeMuth family was picking up and moving AGAIN to an even weirder destination: Wisconsin. However, this time is a little different because I am not going with. With the news came worried texts from family, apologetic conversations with friends, stressful packing, and one or two utter breakdowns. During these breakdowns, I continually asked myself the hard questions:

How could this happen again?
What am I going to do without my parents?
Where am I going to stay?
Will I even have a home?

     All of these questions pressed in my mind as I started packing my life into cardboard boxes yet again. Sensing a need for a break, I sat back on my heater and paged through scribbled words in my journal picturing the adventures. I filled the pages and read up on my winter visit to the Battle Lake
FFA chapter. I remembered everything so clearly, from getting lost on a forgotten dirt road to arriving at a stranger’s doorstep. However, Sage did not remain a stranger for long. She opened her home to me, sharing dog kisses and her foreign language skills, along with plenty of laughs. The next morning, we drove to breakfast with the entire Battle Lake officer team. I sat and listened to the outrageous stories and watched as smiles appeared on every face, including my own.
     It wasn’t until later that I realized this is what home really is. In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, home is described as ‘a place of residence;’ however, I believe the definition is a little deeper. To me, home is more of a feeling. Home is what I felt during breakfast that day. Home is when we are in a situation where we feel like we belong, like we’re valued and are needed there, because the people there make us feel that way. Home does not have to be one specific place. Home can be in
your house, your barn, your locker room, your best friend’s car, or even your ag room. What matters is how the people around you make you feel at home.
     As FFA members, we know this idea of home all too well, as well as what it feels like to not be at home. When you think about it, that’s why we try and create home for others, because we know the feeling. Next time you see a freshman, someone starting their first day at school, a shy competitor entering the show ring, or even someone having a rough day, try to create home for them. We can ask them about their interests and pair them into an FFA event that matches those, listen to their favorite crazy story from the show ring, or we can invite them for coffee with our friends after school. We may not be able to create a physical home for someone, but we can create the feeling.

Stationed by the flag,

Eleora DeMuth