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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone

I’ll share a little secret with you. On December 20th when I departed from the Leadership Center for Christmas vacation I was ready for a break. I missed my family, my friends, my house, my bed, my “normal sleep schedule,” and conversations with people who don’t know me better than I know myself. However, on that drive home before I made it to the North side of Indianapolis, the sense that I had just forgotten something substantial began to permeate my mind. I did a quick analysis of my packing checklist and was sure I had everything. It might have been my subconscious telling me that I had forgotten my only bed pillow at the Center, but I truly believe what I was missing was my teammates.

It is now 1:18am on Monday January 5, 2015. And I sit awake in my bed while the hours that I have left at home are slipping away.  I have spent that last 15 days and 6 hours away from my teammates. Although my time with family was nice, and it was great to catch up with old friends, I CANNOT wait to see those 6 hood rats. And it is that moment that is hindering my sleep tonight.

As a State Officer, there are various reasons to be excited. I am excited to continued visiting the few sponsors that we have left. I am excited to experience the Fort Wayne Farm Show on the other side of the table. I am excited to get back out on the road and travel to chapter and districts for FFA Week, District Conventions, and Chapter Banquets. I am excited to facilitate our last conference (LDW 2 Feb. 6-8th, be there or be square), and I am excited to embark on the journey of planning the 86th Indiana FFA State Convention. But what is keeping me awake tonight, what is pulsing through my veins causing my mind to race is the excitement to reunite with my teammates.

Six months ago when that gavel tapped, I knew that I was bound for a year full of experiences that only 7 individuals every year are able to have. Little did I know that the greatest thing that I had just gained was more than teammates, more than friends, and even more than family, I’m not even sure that there is a word in the dictionary to describe what those six individual mean to me. The best way to explain it is that each of them, Derek, Jacob, Lindsey, Brittany, Kathleen, and Dakota, have become a part of me; a part that I have been missing these last two weeks, a part that I am excited to reunite back home at the Leadership Center .

We have all heard the saying “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” I had gone 6 months knowing that these individuals had become my family, but not truly understanding what that meant until I hit the North side of Indy, and they were absent from the moment.

So what do you have? What are you overlooking in your day to day life? Or, what part do you know exists, but do not truly understand? I challenge you. Find that thing in your life. Become excited about it. Live it. Love it. Appreciate it before it’s gone. Mine was absent for two weeks; hopefully you are that lucky as well. 

With a heart refueled with passion, and a mind racing with excitement,
Skylar Clingan
State Secretary


Monday, December 29, 2014

Not Just a Break in the Gingerbread

            My holiday season is filled with something that I have not experienced in some length of time. Outside of traveling, Christmas parties, lots of food, and the other usual Christmas festivities; my life is full of little else. In fact, I sit now in a warm, cozy house in a padded seat unwinding as my day comes to a close.  This evening will be filled with a cup of hot coffee and perhaps a dish of some black raspberry ice cream. I will probably eat more than I’m hungry for and stay up later than I should. Regardless, I have no plan and in essence, I am taking a break.
I once received some advice to “just relax and be a kid for a little while.” After hearing this I was immediately filled with the perception that I must do nothing and have no agenda in order to relax and take a break. Today I realize that this is not the case. In fact, a break can look a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. For instance, being in a new location with little time constraints is a break for me. I have always been one to work often so taking a break from everything just isn’t something I find occurring often.
If I could impart any knowledge on you, it would be just that. Breaks look a lot of different ways to a lot of different people. This holiday season may be one that allows you to take some time off and get some good ‘ol R&R. Perhaps you’d rather spend every waking second with friends and family. Maybe you’d like to set the world record for attending the most holiday gatherings. Possibly you’re like me and have a healthy mix of all the above…family gatherings, hanging out with friends, rest, relaxation, and just a bit of work along the way. Whatever you need this holiday season, do not be afraid to get just a little of all of it.

I know that it is winter break, and it may seem as if you need to sleep in as late as possible, eat as much as possible, and do as little as possible. I also know that this may not be the case. Above both of these options, I know that this is a chance to relax. This may mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask so I encourage you to do this: find your own way of relaxing. Yep, that's it. It is incredibly simple when you really look at it. Find what makes you happy this holiday season and do it. More importantly than all, enjoy the time you have now…especially those in which you get to share it.

Good tidings to all,

Derek Berkshire
2014-2015 Indiana FFA
State Sentinel

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Lesson Learned in Mud

I love mud! Growing up, I can remember in the back yard my momma’s colossal garden. My dad every year would bring out the tiller and work diligently turning the soil. However, the best part was when my brothers and I would have a dirt clod fight. We would find huge chunks and chuck them at each other  till we were covered in mud.Needless to say the boys and I had a real good time. My mom however never thought it was very funny. Anyhow one day my thoughts were completely changed about mud through a sermon I heard online. 

I came across the sermon thinking, hmmm this could be interesting. I clicked on the video and began watching. The pastor was talking about how there is a message in the mud. I thought the man was crazy. How could the thing that was the main ingredient in most of my pies growing up could have a message in it? The man began with a question “What does the mud really mean?” After posing the question he told the story of the blind man in John Ch. 9 who Jesus ordered to put the mud he made on his eyes. Jesus ordered the man to go wash his eyes. Once the man cleaned his eyes he could see.
The pastor started talking about different points. The more I became engrossed in the sermon the clearer it all became. The very last point blew me away. Miracle in the mud, is always messy. He broke it down. The dirt equaled opportunity and failure equaled fertilize. Just like before the man was blind and then the mess of the mud was washed away creating the miracle of sight. My mind was blown! In milliseconds I connected this to my passion agriculture.

Agriculturist see dirt as an opportunity. The opportunity could be crops, a location for livestock production, an agribusiness or simple just innovation. Those obstacles or failures that one encounters is only fertilizer to drive that goal farther.That fertilizer fuels that passion. But if you choose to see the mud as a mess you’ll totally miss your miracle. 

Reflecting back I know I can relate to this idea that the pastor introduced. We all have had some real messy times in our lives. But once we finally found clarity... is truly feels like a miracle.Whether you’re a young kid having dirt clod fights or an agriculturist that deals with soil on a daily bases or simply someone that enjoyed the earth think about it. We are messy people. But we miss interpret the mess of life. Mess is the meaning of life. How will you find the message in your mud? Will you see it as a simple mess or will your choose to see the mess as a miracle. No matter what, don’t be afraid of the mud.

Much Love Indiana FFA,
Lindsey O’Hara
NRVP 2014-2015

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Count Your Blessings

As I sit here peacefully in our living room, I cannot help but think of everything that happens throughout the holiday season. As state officers we have just begun our business and industry visits this week. A couple days ago we began our travels at Elanco by starting with a tour of their facilities and new additions to their company while also having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a couple of their key employees. We are incredibly thankful for Elanco’s constant support of the FFA and us as a state officer team. They always provide an uplifting atmosphere within their headquarters that is so inviting to FFA members across the state.

As we made our way to Elanco in the morning traffic, I realized that through the hustle and bustle of this season there are little moments that we never notice or little actions that we are not thankful for, simply because we miss them. Christmas is coming up and some dread the holidays because to them it means rushing around the city to find those last minute presents they forgot, or they may even dread driving in the ice and snow; however, what they do not realize is all the good that happens within the magic of the Christmas season.

As I make quick runs to Wal-Mart it always seems to be a blessing to drop some cash in the Salvation Army bucket. Who could have guessed that such a small contribution could give so much hope to one person? While we go into those stores to find the last minute gifts, what if we thought of those thousands of children who would not get a Christmas gift all season? Just by purchasing a few toys and giving them to organizations, we could change Christmas for so many children this year. The little things we do for others or what others do for us are often lost in the commotion of life moving at such a fast pace. Sometimes it is just a good idea to sit back and reflect on life and see all the small blessings that have been placed in our lives. Whether reflection to you means prayer, journaling, or even listening to music that reflects your life, there is always time we can carve out of each week to just sit. To be able to sit and let all the stress of this life go and just see what we have been graced with is one small ability we have to handle the commotion of the season.

As I sit listening to music about being grateful for life, I think of how many things I have that I should be thankful for: my state officer family, my family back home, my friends, FFA members, an education, the ability to attend church, and even a warm house. There are so many things we take for granted every day that we have the tendency to only be thankful for on Thanksgiving, but sometimes in the chaotic moments it is more important to remember what we have rather than be disappointed at what we do not have.

It has been a blessing to see all the changes of seasons from the window of the state officer house, but what is even better is seeing all the positive changes FFA members make after leaving the FFA Center. My teammates and I cannot wait to spend the Christmas season with FFA chapters around the state and share what we are thankful for during the holidays. Through the chaos and hustle of the season, there is always a light shining on the blessings we are given each and every day. The only question is: Will we notice that light over all the headlights we pass in traffic? It is always the small things we sometimes miss that can make us the happiest. One great quote I love goes like this:
“Enjoy the little things in life….for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”
Through the holidays take time to notice and love the small moments within the big moments. Be sure to enjoy the crazy moments with friends while you are shopping, appreciate the person standing for the Salvation Army in the cold, sing Christmas songs like crazy with your family, decorate too much, dance like no one is watching, and love always.

Forever Blessed
Dakota Westphal
2014-2015 Indiana FFA State Reporter