Monday, May 18, 2020

We Are Never Alone

It has been two weeks since our team has moved back to the FFA Center. We have been in full State Convention mode finishing up scripts, developing retiring addresses, and getting videos in place.  And through it all, our team has made it a goal to make sure that we also dedicate some time to enjoy our last few weeks in Trafalgar.
When we moved back, I made it my personal goal to walk to the Vesper Bowl every day. So far, no matter the temperature or weather, I have kept up with that goal.  However, it really was not until the other day that I realized why I made that goal.  I was walking to the Vesper Bowl with my teammate Dillon, and when we arrived, he looked at me and asked, “Why is coming down here so important to you?”  In the moment I honestly did not have a concrete answer, but I thought about that questions for the next few days, and then it finally came to me.  

A tree in a forest

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Six years ago, I came to my first FFA Conference.  That conference was Summer Challenge, which was a week-long in July that was open to members of all ages.  I was just getting out of my seventh-grade year and I really did not know anybody outside of my school, so that week seemed like eternity thanks to my nerves.  Throughout most of the week I felt like nobody wanted me at the conference; I felt alone.  By the second to last day, I was ready to go home.  I even went into Mrs. Ariens’s office to call my mom to come pick me up. 
Luckily, my mom’s verdict was for me to stay.  We had our reflections in the Vesper Bowl that night, and when the reflections themselves came to a close, I sat in the corner by myself and tried to hold in the tears until everyone left.  However, the fear and anxiety that had made me want to leave was a little too overwhelming.  And to my surprise, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I looked up to see that it was one of the State Officers, Lindsey O’Hara.  She sat down with me and talked about everything that was going on.  I soon came to realize that people did want me there and that it is impossible to be alone at the FFA Center.  The only reason I felt that way is because I never reached out to anyone.

A tree in a forest

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That is the reason that I made it my goal to walk to the Vesper Bowl every day.  During this pandemic, there have been times that I have felt alone.  With all of these changes happening from graduations, to conventions, contests, church services, and literally every aspect of our lives, I have felt overwhelmed.  However, my many trips to the Vesper Bowl and having the chance to be back with my teammates have reminded me that we are never alone; we just need to take the hands that are reaching out for us.  We are all going through this together.  Do not be afraid to ask for help, let someone be there for you.  In times like these, where we are all going through this together, we are only truly alone if we do not ask for help.

Always here,
Noah Berning

Monday, May 11, 2020

Write a Letter

One of the hardest things I have had to do during this quarantine is be away from friends and family. Social interaction is what fuels me and keeps me going. I love to hang out with friends, go on drives with my family, and spend genuine time doing the things I love with the people I love. To say that having to social distance and keep trips to an essential minimum was tough, would be an understatement. Earlier this year I wrote a few letters to a few friends because I love the sentimental idea that even years down the road, I will be able to read the words they send me.
Quarantine had me in a slump, longing for authentic interaction with those I am closest with. This sparked an idea in my head. What if I start writing pen pals while we are all stuck at home? There is nothing better than the intimate message of pen to ink that can lift the spirits of anyone around you. So I created my pen pal list. I reached out to friends and family to get their address so I could write them a letter. My letters tended to relate to the positive silver linings that I had happening in my life, small stories, and funny events that may have happened recently. I was not expecting a response from any of my twenty pen pals, but the week after I sent my letters, I was shocked. My friends started writing back! From then on the conversations began. It was a race down to the mailbox every morning and a lighthearted anticipation for the next time the mail carrier went on her route, hoping I would be able to hear back from a friend today. For the first time I had more genuine conversations with my friends and was able to learn more about them than I ever knew. There is a different feeling a letter addressed to you has that you could never get from a Snapchat or text message. Writing letters has helped me clear my mind while keeping social interaction buzzing in my heart.
If I could leave you all with any advice it would be to write a letter. It could be to a grandparent or a close friend. It could be ten pages or ten words. As we continue to battle hardships in life, letters allow us to keep an open network of support that has a deeper sense of connection than a phone could ever give.
                              Always writing,
                              Nathan Fairchild

Monday, May 4, 2020

More Than Okay

Let's think: after saying “hello” on the phone, what’s the next thing you say to the person on the other end of the line? Is it “what’s up?” Is it “How are you?” Or is it like what a few of my teammates say, “What do ya know?” More importantly, how do you respond? Do you answer with “nothing much?” Is your response “fine” or “alright?” Or is it the constant “Good, and you?”
Every time I’ve picked up the phone, not only just these past few months, but every time since I knew how to press the green button, I’ve started every conversation with the same wall. 
“How are you doing?”
“That’s great! I’m doing well.” 
The shameful thing is, even when I wasn’t doing well, it was still my answer. One to bet on. This repetition isn’t something that only I encounter, but more so an issue that plagues any and every human out there. We all fall into the pattern of saying we’re happy and “living our best life,” regardless if we truly are. It’s become especially evident in a time like this. The world is full of uncertainty, our daily interactions have changed, our habits have been altered, and quite frankly, after examining the list written down on paper, we simply may not really be “living our best life.” Let’s be real. Everything that we thought we knew months ago is irrelevant to what is today. Our natural inclination and hope for completing the same tasks every day has changed, all to help bring some sanity to our current lives. So why does it feel as though we still have to continue answering the phone with “I’m doing well?”
Before moving home, my days looked very similar- interacting with teammates, meetings with staff, and sitting at the same high table at the Franklin Starbucks to finish an excessive amount of work and coffee. Being home now, I lock myself in my room for hours to avoid my brothers, talk to my pet fish, and develop anxiety from the combination of not drinking enough coffee and completing what feels like only very little work. Yet every time I answered the phone from a teammate, friend, or family member I always said, “I’m doing just fine,” even though we both knew neither one of us were living that claim. Countless days were spent the same way - feeling discontent and confused about what the next days entailed. 
Sitting down with my mother I had a tough conversation about my feelings, feelings that made me feel as though I were the only one in the world experiencing these emotions. My mother reminded me of something: While we aren’t the only ones facing challenges in everyday life, she said, “it’s okay to not be okay.” We may be raised to be strong and daring, but it takes strength and courage to be vulnerable with our feelings. We face every day with persistence and strength, but when was the last time we admitted to ourselves, let alone to someone else, that we aren’t as happy and strong as we let on? Why do we fail to share our true feelings when someone asks? Is it the pride and armor that we shield with, or is it to avoid burdening others? Why does it feel as though it’s not okay to ‘not be okay?’
Every day, each person on this planet is faced with challenges. Many are faced with financial burdens, others encounter harmful relationships, and many feel lost without true belonging or purpose. However, even though so many feel the pressure now more than ever, it’s not a conversation that we have very often. We don’t ask on the phone, “how are you really doing?” We know we aren’t the only ones, yet we act as though it’s all okay.
I’ll start - I do not have it all figured out, and some days are a little crazier and messier than normal. I ask dumb questions and forget tasks. I’m one to say “I’m okay,” to save my pride and uphold a higher image. However, I’ve learned that trying to be perfect is exhausting and never let others see the person I was and tried authentically to be. Trying to “be okay” only prevented me from finding my true belonging and truly finding a way to “be okay.” At this time more than ever, we may still not have it all figured out or feel inside that we are doing just fine. Why don’t we? Because we’re human. We can’t, and shouldn’t, expect ourselves to be perfect. When we stop appearing to others that we’ve got it all figured out, we can then begin to be our true selves and be proud of who we are. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be yourself and own who you are. It’s okay to not be okay, because at the end of the day, we’re all still trying to figure out who we are in this world. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s more than okay to be yourself.
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” - BrenĂ© Brown
The next time you answer the phone and the person on the end asks how you’re doing, answer how you really are doing. With full hearts and the courage to be you, you’ll see from the world that it really is okay to not be okay.

Still trying to figure it out,
        Morgan Ann Hinz

Monday, April 27, 2020

FFA Members Are Impressive

I think it’s hard to describe sometimes what FFA does for its members because there are so many opportunities. When my friends and family outside of FFA ask me about my year, there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe my feelings towards this organization. So instead of trying to come up with the right words, I put up a poll on Instagram and asked my friends, “If you had to describe FFA in one word, what would it be?”

Here are some of the responses I received:

I couldn’t agree more with the answers that flooded in. 

For the first time in history, Indiana FFA had to cancel an in person State Convention, and is instead going to a virtual one. Students are trying to do their school work without access to a stable internet source. Seniors don’t get their proms, graduations, or goodbyes that they deserve. Parents are risking their lives to work on the front lines, filing for unemployment, or are working from home. All of these things, in the words of my teammate Nate, suck. They really do. 

But the beautiful thing that is going on in a world full of uncertainties, is all of the FFA members rising up to the challenge. And it’s impressive. FFA members are impressive. No matter where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with, they rise up to any challenge thrown their way. When the Governor said school was closed, FFA members adapted. When we said we couldn’t have in person interviews, normal CDE’s, or in person LDE’s, FFA members adapted. And when we said we couldn’t have a traditional State Convention, FFA members supported us and chose to be excited about the plans that are being created. 

FFA is many things. It’s life-changing, inspiring, full of opportunity, and downright amazing. But FFA is all of these things because of its members. Without each member’s hardwork and dedication to serve this organization, FFA would not be where it is today. And for that, I say thank you. Thank you for giving my teammates and I something to work for. You give us the momentum to keep working when we don’t want to. You inspire us, you motivate us, and you’ve made our year memorable. Thank you for believing in FFA. 

Always impressed, 
Caitlyn Lewis

Monday, April 20, 2020

The 3 Fives

Have you ever had one of those days where you are just mad at everything?  Mad at the smallest of things such as your pencil falling off your desk or messing up your locker combo? Well, this past week I was having one of these days after a fight with my siblings. I texted a friend to vent and this is what they told me. 

Will it matter in 5 days, 5 weeks, or even 5 months? 

At first I thought what on earth does that have to do with my situation right now. But then, I thought about it a little more and this is what I came up with:

5 Days
In 5 days my family and I are going to be hooking up equipment for Spring planting. That's simple enough to think about. I thought about how spring planting meant the beginning of a new season for farmers. One where the famous Paul Harvey puts it as, “And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours. So God made a farmer.” This quote rings true in so many farmers' hearts. This time is meant for new growth and new beginnings. Farmers are able to start over with a fresh season. It is a time to be replanted and to watch you and your crops grow. It is a time to hold your chin a little higher and tell yourself you can do anything.

5 Weeks 
In 5 weeks the State Officer Team will be deep into planning the State Convention. We will have early mornings, late nights, last minute changes to scripts, and more importantly - team bonding. The stress may be a lot at times, but that can be undone by watching our team show, Criminal Minds.  We will work tirelessly to make sure that convention is everything our members deserve, while still finding a little bit of time to take a break by swimming in the center’s lake.

5 Months
In 5 months I will be studying at Purdue University. This is a big one to think about. All of those classes to take, new friends to make, clubs to get involved in - it sounded like a lot. But I tackled it one step at a time. 
  1. Classes - I can do classes. I finished most of my general education courses in high school so a large majority of my classes will be agriculture. I love agriculture, and let’s not forget how much I love Purdue agriculture, the department, and the people I’ll be surrounded by.
  2. New Friends - I already have so many friends from the FFA world at Purdue, as well as all of my friends from Jay County already there. 
  3. Clubs to Get Involved - In high school most people would have told me I have “too many irons in the fire” or “I've spread myself too thin.” But I love being involved through helping others. Looking at the list of clubs Purdue offers, there is a plethora to choose from. I was told by an upperclassman from Purdue to get involved in 3 clubs: one with your major, college, and campus wide. So I intend to do just that. 

Once I broke out all of these down, I was able to tackle all of them one step at a time. College will be a challenge when I look at it as one whole picture, but it is a challenge that can be easily tackled when it is broken up.

After thinking about my three 5’s, I realized the argument I was having had nothing to do with any of these; therefore, I should not make a mountain out of a molehill as I had been. Sometimes it is better to take a step back, reflect on these three 5’s, and take a deep breath. When we do this, we not only improve our relationships around us, but we improve ourselves. We leave ourselves less stressed and more blessed. 

So, next time you get frustrated or worked up, will it matter in 5 days, 5 weeks, or even 5 months? 

Keep Thinking,
Dillon Muhlenkamp

Monday, April 13, 2020

Valuable Time

These past few months have been far from normal. From events getting canceled, to
having to move back home with my grandparents. Many of the things I have looked forward to
all year are just not happening. At first I was frustrated and mad about everything going on, but
then I thought about something I hear all the time, live in the moment. There have been several
times this year that I have been so focused on something that was several months or even half
a year away, that I was not focused on what was going on in the present.
I started to think more about what was happening right now and not all the things I
would be missing out on. Here are a few things I noticed. Since the quarantine started, my
grandfather has been home almost every day from work, so we spend almost every day
working on a new project around the house. From fixing my truck, building a shed, to organizing
the garage. We have gotten so much done around the house and I have learned several new

A group of people standing in a yard

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One day my grandmother and I spent most of the day going through old pictures of me.
There was a lot that I did not remember, so she filled me in with the details of all the stories of
me as a little kid. I learned a lot about not only me, but my family’s history. Then later that day I
helped cook with my grandmother and aunt.
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Since being home; I have learned valuable skills, looked at family history, and spent so
much time with my family. I know the situation is not ideal, but I am extremely grateful for the
time I have had with my family.
Living in the moment,
Eion Stephens

Monday, April 6, 2020

My Biggest Supporter

This year has been probably the best year of my life. With that being said, there definitely have been some struggles and a lot of new things of getting used too. When I first moved into the officer house, it didn’t even cross my mind that I wouldn't pester my younger brother everyday. My brother and I haven’t always had the best relationship. We often spent many days arguing about things that didn’t even matter. For example, who was going to watch tv, why I wouldn’t take him everywhere, and why I was taking too long to do my make up in the bathroom. We often heard the words from my mom “If you two don’t stop fighting, I’m taking both of your phones… period.” I would roll my eyes and go to my room. I didn’t think I could possibly miss these days. 

After being home for the past few weeks, I’ve realized how much I missed my brother. A couple days ago, we spent the night playing two handed Euchre. It was neck and neck pretty much the whole game, and he barely took the lead and won! After that, he asked me if I wanted to go on a drive with him. I responded with “duh, let’s go.” Lane and I hopped into his car that we call the “Swagon Wagon” and rode up and down the back roads of Bargersville.  When we got home, we enjoyed ice cream and some great life chats.

    Spending these past couple weeks at home with Lane has made me so thankful to have such an amazing brother. I never really took the time to appreciate how supportive Lane is of everything I do, and the great memories we can make together. Looking back through old memories, I’ve noticed a common theme. Lane has always been there no matter what.

Here are some of my favorite memories below:

Lane and I at Disney!

State Convention 2019

Fire Banquet 2019

Even though Lane and I might argue or fight sometimes, he is one of my best friends. I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work he’s put in for FFA and the work he puts in at his job. Make sure you take the time to enjoy those around you and cherish the time you have at home with them. 

One proud big sister, 


P.S.  I will miss you bunches once I move back to the center….