Monday, March 2, 2015

FFA Week and Das Fernweh

Into the state officer house I trudged, arms laden with luggage. I dropped my things at the foot of my bed, and proceeded to change into sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Then, I flung myself onto my bed and let out a deep sigh. I was home at last. After eight days on the road for FFA week, I was home. As it ceaselessly does, my to do list for the next day started forming in my mind. Something odd struck me, though—I didn’t have one. There was almost nothing that I needed to do the next day. I could wear sweatpants for twenty-four hours uninterrupted. I could sleep until I wasn’t tired anymore. I could drink coffee and read books to my heart’s content. For the first time in weeks I would be able to relax. My fatigued body was overjoyed. But, my mind was conflicted. I was happy to be home. However, there was part of me that still longed for the road. My mind drifted off to a time only a few days before…
It was late, maybe 11:00 p.m. I was on the interstate, rushing through space and time at seventy-five miles per hour. The radio was off, as it often is when I drive alone. Only the engine noise and the road noise consoled me and my churning thoughts. Chief among my thoughts was the list of things I had to do when I reached my destination. I needed to write a speech; I needed to memorize that speech; I needed to write presentation curriculum; I needed to respond to emails, and I needed to be up at 4:30 the next morning to again get on the road. I was tired. It had been a long day, and there was still a lot of it left. Tomorrow would prove to be no shorter. However, despite my fatigue, I found my situation to be utter bliss. The traveling and the presenting was taxing, but I absolutely loved it. Speeding down the dark and empty interstate that night, I hoped it would never end. Tired as I was, I hoped it would never end.
In German there is a word, Fernweh, that has no perfect English translation. It is sometimes described as a homesickness for somewhere else. It is that feeling that makes you want to go somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes we English speakers use the word wanderlust in its place. Laying in my bed after the conclusion of FFA week, safe and sound in the state officer house with nothing but relaxation and recuperation on the schedule, I found this fernweh eating at my conscience.
Perhaps it is because I’m nineteen and am yet unburdened by “grown up responsibilities.” Perhaps it is a pathological fear of becoming sedentary, and falling into a routine. Perhaps it is merely an inborn fondness of being on my way to somewhere, to meet someone, or do something. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are obvious. I love being on the road. This year I have had countless incredible opportunities to crisscross what seems like every road in Indiana. In the depths of my conscience I know that in just a few short months my journey as a state officer will end, but I can only hope that my travels will not. Here’s to us that wish never to stand still. Here’s to those of us possessed with das Fernweh.

I don’t wish to outrun my youth
I’m fighting no sort of battle
I just long to see scenes sweeping past—
Past these long straight roads I travel

I’m not seeking some great truth
I’m not fleeing some great rabble
I merely crave the movement
Down these long straight roads I travel

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A True Thanks...

As a state officer, I have had the opportunity to travel the incredible state of Indiana and see or participate in numerous things. I could talk about the travels during chapter visits and the diverse scenery around the Hoosier state. I could explain which historic landmarks are in which part of the state and recollect on the memories I have there. It seems too often I find myself working, preparing, talking, sleeping, thinking…but not often enough do I find myself thanking. During this, National FFA Week, isn’t that what we are celebrating? Celebrating the longevity of this organization, celebrating the opportunities we have, celebrating the friends we’ve made, celebrating our gratitude for all of this.
I often overlook this simple act…thanking.  Right here, in Ellettsville, Indiana, I say thanks…
To my team: I thank you for the opportunity to do life with you this year. We are blessed to call our glitter, love, white-walled, loud, comfy, laugh-filled house a home. You all are the reason I am able to wake up each and every day and feel loved, cherished, and important. I love you all and cannot wait for our futures to become a reality.
To state staff: I thank you for your unwavering support this year. We have asked a lot of questions and said a lot of things, but you have embraced it all with open arms and a happy heart. Your guidance, knowledge, and passion for Indiana FFA is genuinely appreciated. We couldn’t do it without you.
To my family: You have been not only my support system but my rock this year. Through thick and thin, you have been there for me. Whether it be late-night phone calls, last-minute requests for food, a plea for help, or simply a call home…you have been there. You have provided for me my entire life, and I thank you for allowing me to be in this position. I love you.
To Indiana FFA: Where to begin? You have welcomed me into your homes and schools. You have allowed me to catch a glimpse of the incredible things you are doing around the state. Most importantly, or perhaps most memorably, you have treated me like family and provided me opportunities I would have had nowhere else. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of this and so much more. Your passion for the industry, tenacity in challenging the status quo, and perseverance in making positive change in the world is inspiring. You challenge me to become a better person and make me realize just how blessed I truly am.
As I sit here admiring the world around me, I am overflowing with gratitude. You all are amazing people bound to do incredible things. I thank you for all that you provide me and the opportunities you present.

Love All Out,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

It's a Process

To say the least, state office is a learning process. We are now about nine months into our year (I cringe just typing that)  and we’re beginning (yes beginning) to learn the tools and tips of the trade. Having said that, let me transport you about six months back in time to when the gang and I were learning how to facilitate.

I love opportunities to grow….that is after I’ve grown from them. Facilitation training is unique because the only way to really get good at it is to completely face plant a couple times. And, when I say face plant I mean completely mangling a couple direction sets, forgetting what you’re going to say, and looking like a goon while all the while being in front of a group of people making notes on what  you can improve on. This sounds pretty terrible, but luckily for me I was with a group of people who were all in the same boat. I remember one time in particular when I was working on a direction set; I had gone through this set a couple different times, and it was just not clicking. As I mentioned earlier, I love opportunities to grow; one of those opportunities for me just so happens to be patience. After tripping over this set more than once I was getting a touch frustrated. Mr. Martin (our program specialist) happened to be walking by at that point, so he stopped and talked to me. While helping me with the direction set, as well as giving me a small pep talk, he offered me a piece of golden advice. As I told him how I just wanted to come running out of the gates with a perfect direction set, he smiled and cocked his head.

“Kathleen it’s not going to be perfect. State office is a process….don’t expect perfection.”

This hit home for me, so much so that I have his quote hanging over my desk so I don’t forget. So many times people assume that the first time they do something it has to be perfect. Whether that be nailing your first lay up in basketball or placing first at district in your speaking event, most people want to get it right the first time. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the perfection of something rather than seeing the beauty of the journey. My experiences this year have taught me more lessons than I can express in one blog post, but one of the most important is that you need to enjoy the journey and let it grow you as an individual.

The next time you practice for a speech and keep stumbling on the second line of the third paragraph, take a deep breath and say it to the mirror yet again. It’s a process. The next time you land on your back rather than getting a goal in soccer—smile and try again. It’s a process. The next time you’re studying for a calculus test and keep forgetting the formula, don’t throw down the pencil—keep working on it. That is DEFINITELY a process (I speak from experience).

I don’t think many people sum it up as well as Asha Tyson; “Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don't think you've lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”

Each and every person reading this has amazing potential inside of them. Maybe you’ve reached that potential or maybe you’re just beginning to learn what your potential is. Regardless, I hope you are enjoying your journey. Take time to learn from your mistakes, be willing to take constructive criticism from others, and be excited to try again. Remember: it’s a process don’t expect perfection.

Wishing you the best of journeys,
Kathleen Jacobs
Indiana FFA State Treasurer 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Prepare Yourself for a Good Laugh

One day, I was coming home from a very long day of school. You know those days where you have a gazillion tests, everyone is grouchy, and all you really want to do is go outside! Everyone has one of those days. It seems like things are going in sssllloooowww motion. Anyhow, I shuffled off the dusty bus which was a two-hour bus ride and I was ready for a snack! I was absolutely ready to get all the days events out of my head and relax. I grabbed the mail and looked at the long pine tree line driveway….I told myself,” Alright, Let’s go!”

*10 minutes later*

Finally I made it to the garage! We left the garage door about two feet open so that Carl and Dolly could come in and out during the day. I rolled under the garage door because 1.) I didn't have a key because I lost it and 2.) I felt like a secret agent. Once I got under the large door I stood up. Not thinking twice... I glanced over to the steps inside the garage that led to our house and there curled up was Carl. Or so I thought... 
This Dolly! 
This is Carl as a kitten!

Carl is a huge cat and he is darker colored. I approached the house, opened the door and walked in. As I was walked in I heard something shuffle in front of the door. The door to our house is blue with glass windows. I peer out the windows…

THERE OUTSIDE THE DOOR WAS A HUGE. ALIVE. HUGE. RACCOON!!!!! This animal was definitely not Carl!!! I became hectic and mad at this THING. I needed to save Dolly and Carl, I had to save their lives. This raccoon was obviously sick because it was in the daylight and I knew that raccoon weren't supposed to be out when it was light. I threw my book bag down in the mud room and reached the house phone within seconds. I dialed up my mom’s work number. This was the last thing I needed I thought.

Beep. Beep. Ringggg…Ringg.

“Par-Kan Company, how may I help you?” asked a very nice calm woman.

“Loni O’Hara... PLEASE!” I half yelled into the phone.

*Elevator Music Plays*

“Hello Lindsey, did you make it home okay? Are you in the house? Have you washed the dishes in the sink yet?” my mom said asking me many questions like most moms do.


All I hear was her ever so famous laugh. You know those laughs that are contagious, the ones that you can pick out in a huge crowd. My mom has one!

“MOM….Mom…I am serious! I am not even kidding this time, this is REAL life!” I exclaimed really mad that she didn't believe me a word I was saying.

“Alright honey, we will talk later. Love you, bye!” she hung up.

Fine, if she didn't believe me I was going to prove it! I ran to the back of our house where a door led out into part of our backyard. I slowly made my way to the door that opened up into the garage with the key I surprisingly found in the grill (it was my lucky day).

 Slowly, I unlocked the door. Slowly, I opened the door there it sat…HUGE…FAT…RACCOON sitting in front of the door. I quickly took about a thousand pictures of it ready to prove to the world that this actually happened. I sent the pictures to my mom, then decided that there was no way that I was going to get this raccoon out by myself. I grabbed the pets and headed for the barn obviously saving their lives. I decided to wait till my brothers came home to attempt to get this thing out of the garage.
This is the REAL Raccoon!

Moral of the story, don’t ever think your cat is actually a cat if you are for sure. No, just kidding that’s not the point. The point is, sometimes we get wrapped up in the day’s details and forget to take a look at the big picture. We don’t have to carry the same attitude throughout the day. We can at any time change it. It’s deciding to accept your day isn't going great and still try to make the best out of it. I definitely did not react in the best way and I ended up being grouchy that night. All I needed to do was laugh hysterically and realize that I had no control over this raccoon. Someone once told me: “It’s never too late to turn the day around.” No matter how bad your day is... take a deep breath and realize that it can change if you choose so. I challenge you to take a deep breath because life is 2% of what happens to you and 98% of how you react. Smile! It'll be okay!

Keep a Smile and Love Always,
Lindsey O'Hara
Northern Region Vice President 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Limited Life of Learning

            I was reading an article the other day about some of the hardships in life and why they can be necessary. Now don’t get me wrong, I have heard it before…hardships and failures teach us far more than successes and victories ever will. Thinking about this, I agree with the statement. However, this article I was reading got me thinking about something else.

            As I was reading, the aphorism “learn something every day” kept coming to mind. It seems that every day of our lives we have a chance to learn something. Granted, these lessons may be vastly different in effect from day to day but something is to be taught in this life we live. For instance, just the other day I learned that although the appearance of a parking lot may look dry, it quite possibly could be covered in ice and be quite slippery—be cautious of the world around you. Then there are days like today where nothing unprecedented has occurred. Despite this, I have learned that there is this food in New Zealand similar to Ramen noodles but much better—there can be foods better than Ramen. Lessons are all around us—to varying degrees of course—we just must be willing to look for them and then accept them as something we do not already know.

            Again though, a different thought kept pushing its way into my mind. The majority of the lessons taught to us occur when we are young. Now as I say this, I want you to be aware of the context in which I say it. Young is a very subjective term. In this case, I’m declaring it the first twenty years of our life or so. During this time, we learn an incredible amount of information, data, facts, and form our opinions based upon the previously mentioned. When we are infants, we learn the fundamentals of life. As we age, we begin to learn our likes and dislikes, our friends and enemies, our morals and values, our hopes and aspirations for the future. In essence, we figure out who we hope to become and what we aspire to accomplish.

            After this period of time—youth—the aggressive learning in our lives seems to slow down quite a bit. From this point onward, we adapt as necessary but make very few fundamental changes in both our paradigm and values. We do the most learning in our younger years. There are several other aspects of life that have not yet been spoken for, however. Two of these are the fun and hardships we encounter through our time on earth. We are constantly making memories to fill the void created by those times we would rather forget. The culmination of these three areas of life—learning, fun, and hardship—ultimately help to create the core of our person. Eighty years from now, you will be able to look back on the life you have lived and probably come to the same conclusion as I…it all happened for a reason. All the lessons learned, all the hardships, trials, and tribulations faced, all the memories made have been for a reason.

            I suppose I’m saying this for a couple of reasons. Our time on earth is limited. But more importantly our time to learn—aggressively learn—is limited as well. Whatever you find yourself learning today…tomorrow…and of course the days following, fully embrace it—however unique, uninfluential, or ordinary it is. Whatever you face in life, the fun or the bleak, accept it. One day, you’ll look back and know it all happened for a reason. Ultimately, look around at the life you are living and learning from and take it all in…it’s amazing what you may learn. After all, your time to do so is running out.

Appreciatively Here,

Derek Berkshire
Indiana FFA State Sentinel

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Day in The Life

            This morning I woke up at 8:00 a.m. and immediately picked up my phone (that sits next to my head all night). I quickly scrolled through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to catch up on all the excitement that happened on social media in the eight hours since I checked it last. I then rolled myself out of bed, glanced down at the four blankets on my bed twisted into one big spherical knot, opted not to do anything about it, and walked across the hall to the bathroom. Once there, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put in my contacts, did my hair, and so on. After I was groomed and ready to take on the world, I made my way to the kitchen.
            The kitchen is where every day really begins. That is, the kitchen is where coffee is made. In my standard fashion, I filled up the Kuerig and put in a cup of Folgers Black Silk. While I waited on my coffee to magically dispense into the mug I had placed under the Kuerig, I located my Ipad and sat down at the kitchen table. It was there that I began the never ending chore of checking all five of my email accounts. Normally, Derek would join me for this part of my routine—making his own cup of coffee. On this day though, Derek was still in bed appearing to be deathly ill. So, I sat alone at the kitchen table this morning. Once I had finished checking my emails I began scrolling through all my news outlets. I skimmed through the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Forbes. Then I quickly looked at capital markets around the world, and thus concluded my morning news reading.
            With coffee drinking, news reading, and email checking out of the way, I could now begin work on everything else. The first thing I wanted to accomplish this morning was nailing down which stories I wanted to use in my speech for upcoming banquets. In need of some inspiration, I grabbed my notebook and headed into the woods here at the leadership center. It was a beautiful day: warm, sun shining.  For a while I just sat on top of the dam and took in the beauty of the still frozen lake. Then, I headed down the dam into the leafless woods below. Eventually I found a fallen tree that was lying across a small stream, and I took a seat on it with my legs dangling above the water. It was to the murmur of running water and in the company of sun soaked trees that I brainstormed and wrote out the stories and points I might use. Once I was satisfied with what I had written I packed up my notebook and trekked back to the state officer house.
            Once I made it back to the house it was about noon so I located some pizza rolls in the freezer and threw them into the microwave for lunch. This time I was joined by both Skylar and Derek, both of whom were also eating pizza rolls. While eating at the kitchen table the three of us scrolled through our social media feeds, occasionally stopping to show the others a cat video or a cool picture someone had posted. Lunch could only last so long though, and it was soon back to work.
            Back to work is often a loosely interpreted concept, however, and Derek—sick as he was—decided that laying on the living room floor might alieve his ailment. Not being one to abandon a friend in a time of strife, I also laid down on the living room floor and proceeded to stare up at the ceiling for the next few minutes. This was productive staring, mind you, because I was all the while brainstorming what I might do for the Friday night activity at the upcoming LDW. 
The girls holding down Brittany to write on her face
            Not long after I left the floor we had a meeting with Mr. Martin at the long conference table in our living room. It was an exceedingly productive meeting that lasted some forty-five minutes. It was about an hour after the meeting had begun that I had to sit back at my vantage point at one end of the table and take note of my surroundings. Mr. Martin was at the other end of the table having a conversation with Derek. Skylar and Lindsey were on the other side of Derek, having their own conversation that I was more or less a part of. On the other side of the table Kathleen had gotten up and was holding Brittany down while Dakota was writing on Brittany’s forehead with an ink pen. Needless to say, Brittany was not fond of having her head written on, thus the need for Kathleen to restrain her. As I sat there taking in all that was going on around me, the thought that this is not so uncommon amused me. I also realized that most members probably have no idea what this, a normal day as a state officer, is like.
The sun setting over the lake 
            With my newly conceived idea evolving in my mind, I left at the end of the meeting and began writing this very blog post. I worked on it for the better part of the afternoon, and at this moment I am finishing it while sitting on the dam watching the sun set over the lake. Tonight my teammates and I will probably watch a movie together, and make more pizza rolls or mozzarella sticks, and another incredibly blessed day as a state officer will conclude.
            As a state officer we spend a lot of time on the road. We spend a lot of time giving speeches, and presenting workshops, and visiting chapters and businesses. But, some days we don’t. Some days are spent in the house working on whatever event is on the horizon. And while no day as a state officer is normal, these are the days we have learned to call “normal” ones. So I hope that through this rather long post, I have provided you at least a glimpse of a day in the life.

Jacob Mueller
Indiana FFA Southern Region Vice President

Thursday, January 15, 2015

From the Ft. Wayne Farm Show to the FFA Leadership Center

I guess you could say that I am from the south. Coming from the small town of Hope, Indiana I can honestly say that we usually do not get that much snow. As I have traveled our beautiful state over the past six months, I have begun to realize that not only do we have a lot of corn, basketball, open roads, and beautiful scenery, but up north, they have a lot of snow!
As we began our trek Sunday night to Miss Kathleen Jacob's house, it was a chilly evening and the rain had turned into sleet. Kathleen's parents greeted us with a warm welcome, open arms and they definitely fed us well. There's nothing quite like home cooking. Monday morning, things got real interesting. We discovered that Kathleen's younger brother had a two-hour delay which eventually turned into a cancellation. It was then that we realized that the roads would be a challenge to say the least.
As we left "Drifty Lane Farms" we drove with caution and hoped that the roads would get better as the day went along. Our mission for the day, was to go from business to business picking up donations for the Ft. Wayne Farm Show. After a long day of pickups, we all met at the coliseum and began creating baskets and organizing our booth. We ate at Texas Roadhouse that evening and discussed our game plan for our first official day of the Ft. Wayne Farm Show.

Tuesday came and we were ready to go! Our game faces were on. We were split up into groups of two and each group was assigned a specific section in the coliseum. We then went from booth to booth asking if companies would like to make a donation to our annual FFA Live Auction which happened at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Businesses were extremely generous with their donations and they gave things such as gift cards, gift baskets, toy tractors, tools, and bale spears to contribute to our auction. Some even made monetary donations which we were very grateful for.

Wednesday's game plan was pretty much the same as Tuesdays. We continued going from booth to booth asking if businesses wanted to sponsor us and we even went back to a few booths who had asked us to check back in at a later time. These two days were a blast! Dakota and I were paired up to cover our section and we became friends with so many of our supporters. All were extremely helpful and they understood the importance of donating to our auction. Not only were their donations going to benefit those who wanted to buy things at our live auction, but they were benefiting FFA members from all across the state. The money made from the auction goes to things such as leadership programs and scholarships.

Now I know you must be wondering, "How much did you make over the two days that you were at the Ft. Wayne Farm Show?" That is an excellent question!
I am pleased to announce that not only did we set a record, but we made roughly over $23,500 dollars from our 2015 live auction!!!

After two long but extremely successful days of the Ft. Wayne Farm Show, we all left the coliseum with smiles on our faces and unforgettable memories from talking with the business and sale representatives to getting lost in the parking lot Wednesday night looking for Lindsey's car (Yes. This happened.).

It was great to see many of our wonderful FFA members helping pass out papers and greet people at the door as they arrived as well! I even ran into a few members when we were out and about getting donations! You all did a great job representing Indiana FFA.

I would definitely say that the past two days were quite a success! We could not have done it without our avid supporters and sponsors! So thank you to those who contributed to our efforts!

As soon as we made it back to Trafalgar last night, we walked over to the EMR to discover that Ag teachers were everywhere.

If you are a student, you may have noticed that your Ag teachers were not in school today. No they were not skipping, they were actually at the teacher in-service at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar. The in-service consists of teachers all across Indiana coming to the center to further their education on recent changes or new ideas in the agricultural education world and with FFA. I enjoyed having lunch with my Ag teacher, Mrs. Aleesa Dickerson today and I'm sure my teammates enjoyed lunch with their advisors as well! When your teachers come back to school and share new and exciting things that they learned with your classes, make sure you thank them for all that they do! They are not going to these sessions to help themselves, they go to further their knowledge to help you! The students! I want to challenge you to write your Ag teacher a note thanking them for what they do or even give them call if you want! Sometimes it helps to know how much you are valued and appreciated! Enjoy the sunshine today and don't forget to thank your Ag teacher!

Serving with a grateful heart,

Brittany Young
Indiana FFA
State President