Monday, October 21, 2019

Built-in Best Friends

“Wyatt? Are you up?”
“It’s Saturday morning, I’m sleeping. What do you want?”
“I’m at your dorm, can you let me in?”
“Are you kidding me, Morgan?”
“Uhm. No.”
Standing at the door of Moffat Hall on Indiana University’s campus, my twin brother, Wyatt, was not thrilled to see me. It was nine o’clock in the morning and as his “wombmate”, I knew to never disrupt his sleep, but did it anyways. This was the first time we had seen each other since I moved to Trafalgar and he to Bloomington, and it had been way too long. He arrived at the door and grumbled over my presence. I smiled and he stayed quiet, proud of the crazy surprise, but we both knew that I wasn’t leaving. He got ready for the day and I explored his room and texted every detail to our mother from his reaction to his Pizza X cup collection.
Wyatt and I were twins and defied every stereotype that stood with being such. We were fraternal, didn’t necessarily “enjoy” being a twin, and were complete opposites in personality. Wyatt is shy around family but the ‘coolest’ with peers, while I preferred to be with those older than us. Wyatt is by far the funniest and most sarcastic person I know, while I struggle for a single laugh. Wyatt is calm, confident, sharp as a tack, where I can be nerdy, awkward, and slightly clumsy. When together, we were either ‘two peas in a pod’ or oil and water. There were many days where Wyatt and I wouldn’t acknowledge each other and few of being the built-in best friends that we were. We rarely saw eye to eye, but something felt different these past few months, at least for me.
Since we’ve both moved from our home, Wyatt and I have been living in a different world. Wyatt lives in a dorm room by himself, whereas I live with six individuals who were once strangers. We didn’t have someone who truly knew the way we tick or work the way we do. We didn’t have the other to challenge or fight with. Life has been pretty sad once I came to this realization: I miss Wyatt. And while he may deny it, I think that he misses me too.
After little bantering, I managed to bribe Wyatt into a free breakfast. I pestered him with questions about his new life and for the first time in a very long time, we were able to talk about things that made us resent each other a few months before. For the first time in what felt like forever, we saw eye to eye because we still cared and respected each other. For so long I refused to understand or respect my brother because he was different from me. I refused to see it from his side of the fence and used the excuse that he didn’t care to see from mine. I refused to believe that he cared or loved me until it hit me in the face these past few months that he really did care. And here we were, enjoying our pancakes and toast, as if we were still built-in best friends. 
When I watched Wyatt walk back into his dorm and I drove away, I had a bittersweet smile as I honked in his direction. I was sad to leave someone that I called my best friend, yet thankful for the moment together. At the end of the day, it’s not about being oil and water and always fighting to be right, it’s about taking down the fences and seeing from the other side. Even if it is with your built-in best friend.

A loving sister,
        Morgan Ann Hinz

P.S. Wyatt, if you’re reading this, we’re having breakfast together soon.

Monday, October 14, 2019

My Stress Relief

I absolutely LOVE to read. There’s nothing better than sitting down underneath a blanket and reading a good book for hours on end. And this obsession with reading isn’t a new occurrence; in fact, I remember when I was younger, my mom and I would go to the library in my hometown to check out books all the time. 

    When you start to read a really good book, time flies by. It’s normal for me to begin reading, and when I look at the clock somehow it’s been five hours without me evening realizing it. I think that’s why I enjoy reading so much. I can immerse myself into the book - the story line, the plot, the twisted endings. I can be sitting in the same spot for hours on end, and be one thousand miles away at the same time. 

    Sometimes when life gets too busy, I stop reading for awhile. I ignore the book I am in the middle of because life is just a little too crazy at times. This was normal my senior year of high school, and especially the past few months of my State Officer journey. Within the past few weeks though, I’ve made it a point to take a few moments each day to read. Whether it’s a chapter, two chapters, or finishing an entire book, I’ve tried to make sure I can fit it into my schedule. 

    For me, reading isn’t just a fun thing to do to pass the time away. It’s a stress relief. When I open up a book I forget where I am - even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. 

    I think it’s important for everyone to have a stress relief. It doesn’t have to be reading - there are times when reading does nothing to take my mind away from the task at hand. Sometimes my stress relief is taking a run around the Leadership Center, or watching a good movie with my teammates. 

    Whatever it may be, make sure to schedule time to enjoy the simple things, and to enjoy your stress relief moments. I can promise you that everyone needs some of those moments. I know I do. 

Find your stress relief,
Caitlyn Lewis

Monday, October 7, 2019

The Importance of Being Aware

It’s that time of year again, HARVEST. Wait, What?  Conference season. For me, it has been  very odd to be writing curriculum, creating decorations, organizing supply needs, as well as practicing flags and reflections. I am used to greasing the combine, checking the pressure in tractor tires, setting up the auger, or filling what seems like everything with fuel. 
Coming from a farming family, I basically bleed crops, steers, and turkeys(even if my brother Damon thinks I’m a city kid). It’s hard for me not to be rushing home after school to help take care of the animals so my brother and dad could go out to the field. Instead, I’ve been rushing to develop activities for our SOAR Conference. But whenever I travel to various chapter visits throughout the state these past few weeks, I have seen families out in the fields and on the road farming.  This reminds me of home and how my family is doing the same. However, this time of year also brings up something that is very important for me. Farm Safety.

Not only do all of the drivers need to be aware on the road, but farmers need to be aware of themselves and their surroundings. Farm Machinery is out on the roads much more and we need to be diligent of them around us. It does nothing to us if we get upset or frustrated to be “stuck” behind a tractor for two miles. Being behind a farmer for two miles is the same as waiting two stop lights in town.  Just let the farmers have a few miles so they can find a safe spot to pull off the side of the road so they remain safe and that you do as well. It is important to have patience around this machinery so everyone remains safe. 
But pedestrians and onlookers aren't the only ones at risk-farmers stand a very high chance. Out of 100,000 farmers, 21 will have their lives taken. If we are aware of our surroundings we will have a much higher chance of remaining safe this season. Taking five more minutes out of your day to remain safe is much better price to pay than a lifetime of grief for your family. 
My FFA Chapter gives out the Michael A. Alig Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was formed after Micheal was killed in a farming accident. I had the honor of receiving this scholarship this past spring. Every since I won this scholarship, I have realized how easy it is to have an accident on the farm. After realizing this, I take more time to do some of my chores, I am also more aware of my surroundings. Taking these cautions I am safer on the farm and so is my family. 
As we begin to get into full swing this harvest, Be aware of your surroundings, Be patient, and Be smart. 

Be Safe Out There, 
Dillon Muhlenkamp

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

It's Fall Y'all

My favorite time of year is here! The weather is just right, not too cold and not too hot. There’s usually a nice crisp breeze blowing. The colors are vibrant, and the outside air outside is perfect. There’s also something amazing that happens during this time of year - thousands of blue jackets take over the streets of downtown Indianapolis for National Convention!
    National convention is absolutely mind blowing! I can picture opening session, waiting in the sea of blue jackets to get in. Inside there will be music flowing through the building, lights dancing, and the sound of thousands of FFA members cheering. The sessions are a magical time where we will be inspired by the wise words of the keynote speakers and the retiring addresses of the national officers. In the time in between the sessions one of my favorite things to do is visit the career show.
    Walking into the career show can sometimes feel overwhelming. I would rush around trying to visit every booth and get as many goodies as I could. This year I look forward to using the career show to my advantage by talking to the companies that I might end up working for one day. What makes the career show so special is that there are so many companies in many areas that support the agriculture industry. Then it’s time to put on my cowboy hat for the concert and rodeo!
    While having a great time we also get the chance to serve at National Days of Service! I love getting to serve on such a massive level. It seems like time flies by so quickly during the service project, I get caught up in conversations with people who I would not have met if not for the awesome opportunity we all have to give back. It seems like every part of National Convention goes by extremely fast, and before you know it you’re back on the bus headed home. This is usually the only sad part of convention - the end. Cherish the time you spend there because time flies by.

Anxiously waiting,
Eion Stephens

Monday, September 23, 2019

Road Trip!

There’s just something I love about small town Nashville, Indiana, especially in the fall. When I go, I can go to the hill top and see for miles and miles. The leaves on the trees are a fiery orange and red. As I walk around, I can feel the leaves crunch beneath my feet and hear the laughter from the other families who are enjoying the same view. 

Photo Courtesy of Midwest Living

 That was just a glimpse of why I love Nashville, but there’s so much more. My friends and I always find joy here. We always make time to visit at our six favorite stops in the sweet town of Nashville.

↠Common Grounds for coffee and coffee beans! 
A little secret-Mint Chocolate Chip is the best!
↠Artist Colony Inn for lunch
↠Magic Store- he performs live and free! 
↠Dress Shops
↠Miller’s Ice cream- home of the best homemade ice cream EVER! 
↠Brown County State Park-Horse back riding and swinging

Nashville is my home away from home. The windy back roads and passing different places that I have the chance to reminisce on, builds within me. For example, on 252 in Trafalgar, I pass the FFA Center “2” sign and Hannah asks “What does the 2 mean? Where’s FFA Center 1?” Not knowing that it means two miles.
Or driving through Morgantown seeing Kathy’s restaurant where my step sister and I walked to lunch quite frequently. My favorite must be the gas station at the four way stop, where my dad and I rode our lawn mowers to get gas. These are the little things that I will carry with me. Always remember: It’s not where you go in life, but it's who and how you go about it that counts.

Appreciating the little things,
Taylor Roy

Monday, September 16, 2019

Call your mom

“Two eggs over medium, potatoes, white toast, a slice of ham, and a black coffee.” 
    That was always my order every time I sat down at the local diner in my hometown of Monroeville, Indiana.  The Blueberry Pancake House—which my friends and I commonly call the ‘Cake House—was characterized by these same kinds of consistencies growing up.  
    Every time you walk in, you can bet your britches that someone will give you a wave and a grin from one of the booths on the east wall; it’s likely you’ll get a handshake from one of the men from church, and they’ll ask if you’ll pick up their check with a wink and a smile.  You never had to feel too bad about hanging around after grabbing a bite to eat.  It’s no surprise to see someone who had come for breakfast at eight o’clock that morning hang around long enough they decide to put their order in for lunch too.  
    I will let you in on a little secret.  For some reason, when I left to move to the FFA Center, I told myself I would not and could not be homesick.  I believed that to fully appreciate the adventure I was about to go on, I would have to momentarily move on from my hometown.  I believed that there was no way I could possibly get homesick.  I stopped checking in on my town paper, I skipped the “Monroeville Bulletin” on Facebook, and I scarcely texted my mom.  I thought I had my life figured out beyond my hometown.

    This past week we were on chapter visits all over the state.  While we were in District XII, I had the chance to grab some breakfast at a local diner with my two partners for Chapter visits.  When we walked in, a few of the gentlemen waved at us, and we could tell that they were not used to seeing three high school-aged students arriving fully clad in Official Dress.  When the waitress asked for our orders, I instantly blabbed out my usual: “Two eggs over medium, potatoes, white toast, a slice of ham, and a black coffee.”  Once I said my order, I felt a slight twist in my stomach.  I saw all the older men catching up and cracking jokes, but I knew that I could not join in.  It was bittersweet.  It had been just over a month since I’d been back home, and it felt so weird to see small town interactions without actually being able to join in.  
It made me miss home, and I had begun to catch a pretty rough case of the homesick blues.  I began to peek back at the town paper, and I texted my mom a lot during our visits.  I tried to do anything to resolve that twist in my stomach.
    This past weekend we had our weekend home.  Seeing all of the small towns that we had been going through last week, that feeling was compounded tenfold.  However, on Sunday morning we had the chance to return to the one and only ‘Cake House.  Of course, we were greeted by the usual wave, and the jokes from the older gentlemen in the restaurant.  Almost instantly that twist in my stomach from being homesick was alleviated.  I was glad to be home.  
    In life we have all types of opportunities to embark on an adventure.  Some may be close to home; some may not be.  And often times we may find ourselves excluding ourselves from our home communities when we go on these adventures.  However, we have to realize that its alright to feel a little homesick.  We need to make sure we keep in touch with where we are from, instead of ignoring it.  So, go ahead and enjoy the other side of the fence, but never forget to read your town paper, scroll through the town Facebook page, and always make sure to call your mom.

Yours truly,

Monday, September 9, 2019

Falling in Silence

September brings one of my favorite seasons. It’s not football season or pumpkin spice season, but something much greater; hunting season. I have spent many long days in a tree stand, watched countless sunrises in a duck blind, and stood for many hours waiting on doves to fly by. But there’s one thing that always remains the same – it’s pretty boring! 

At least that’s what I used to think. 

I would bounce my legs around, sigh as loud as possible, and do my best to let my dad know I wanted to pack up and go home. I was never a fan of sitting and waiting around all day in the quiet. I was always wishing to be back at home playing video games or taking a nap. Somehow though, my dad never seemed to mind the quiet. I thought that defeated the purpose of hunting, seeing as we were supposed to be shooting guns, right? 

When it comes down to it, hunting was way more than that.

As I grew older, I found myself enjoying the quiet woods. Being able to look across the marsh as the world wakes up around me is always something magical. In no other hobbies are you blessed with the chance to spend hours with friends or family, with the only task being to pass the time. Some of my fondest memories are those of being on a hunt with my dad. The best days I’ve spent with friends were on a stool in the middle of a field waiting on doves. For those of us who are familiar with hunting or fishing, we know how precious those times in the field can be. 

As the leaves change and the fields are harvested let’s all remember that our fall activities are more important than we think. Every hour we spend in a field on a hunt; in the bleachers of a football game; or in the cab of a tractor we can be sure that they will become memories we will never forget.

Peaceful Minded, 

Nate Fairchild

Monday, September 2, 2019

Living a Life With Regrets

I’ve lived a life with regrets. It’s something that’s never openly admitted, or cared for to be shared, but these past few months have shown me how to come around to the idea of my regrets. In the house I was raised in, we frequently joked about the kind of people we were. Strong, independent, and every move made was to benefit us and those we care about most. There were fewer times of sharing with each other how we felt and more about how we were going to advance in our own ways. The way my parents raised my siblings and I is something I take great pride in and can credit every strength to, yet as they somewhat send me into the “New World”, there are a few things that rest unsettled in my past. I regret not taking the time to enjoy some precious moments with friends and family because I was too focused on the big picture. I regret spending more time on my schoolwork than with my family, and not thanking my parents as often as I should have. I regret letting go of the ones I cared about most instead of settling our own differences. Many days were spent fighting for an upper hand when it came to the future of an organization, and I regret not focusing on the youth’s potential instead of my own opportunities. Because when we get down to it, these regrets cause us to miss out on those freedoms to build relationships, or even build ourselves. We just may spend more time worrying about how our actions have affected those around us and forget why we made the decisions in the first place. Have we really been too stubborn to see the big, Big picture?
I came to a point lately in regretting some of the actions and decisions I’ve made in the past, and I won’t deny that something better could have been done. However, these regrets have shown some beauty in the decisions, to turn the regrets into examples of building better future experiences. These regrets have taught me to value not only experiences, but the experience with those around. It truly is okay to call Mom and Dad every now and then about what drives me or instils the fear of God in me, and to always say an extra “I love you”. Losing ones you care about most can show just who will always stand by your side, but how to rebuild those bridges again. While it may be hard to stop focusing on the future, these regrets have taught me to focus on others’ futures as well. The decisions we’ve made shouldn’t boil down to other missed opportunities or relationships, but rather the unique memories and friends we’ve gained along the way. We’ve grown into stronger, wiser people who learn more about right from wrong. It truly is okay to do what may be right for us, because we then have the opportunity to focus on those around us. These regrets shouldn’t just be regrets that may hold us back, but rather push us more to find new successes and make new mistakes. Why let the past hold you back, when the future is full of new and better opportunities?

Always seeking the positives,
Morgan A. Hinz

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reaping Rewards

As summer is winding down and school is beginning once more, I’m taken back to last year - most importantly, the start of my last season of volleyball. 

Before I began my senior season, I sat down and talked with my coaches about a major decision I had made in my life. I had recently received the position for District I President, which meant I was about to undergo some large conflicts within my schedule. I was scared of disappointing my volleyball team, but I was also terrified of letting down my District team. Both were counting on me, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make things work. 

When I had the conversation with my coaches about the games and practices I would be missing, they were understanding about it. They told me that an open line of communication was going to make my schedule work. That they still needed me on the team, even if I wasn’t always there. 

But sometimes, open lines of communication don’t fix everything. 

About two weeks into the season, we had our first two games. I was benched for both, as I didn’t have enough practices in. That was really hard for me since it was our last season and I wasn’t on the court with my classmates. Eventually though, I had enough practices, and was able to get back out on the court. 

But not to the degree I wanted. 

I would go in for a set, maybe two if I was lucky. But never an entire game. It was one of the most frustrating things I had ever had to deal with. I showed up early to practice, went to every optional practice offered, made sure the line of communication was open, and put in the work whenever I could. Sure, I missed a few practices and games, but I was committed to doing my best. Why wasn’t I reaping the reward?

The entire season, I was frustrated with this thought. Even after the season ended, it made me angry to think about how my entire senior season I was usually sitting on the sideline.  

It wasn’t until recently that I realized why I sat the bench.

I may have thought I was committed to the sport. That I worked as hard as I possibly could, and that my heart was in it. But I really wasn’t, and my coaches knew that. My coaches saw where my true passion was, and it wasn’t volleyball. My heart wasn’t in the sport, and they couldn’t put a player on the court when they didn’t want to be there. 

Looking back, I wish I would have realized this earlier. I spent so long regretting the season, wishing I wouldn’t have “wasted my time” playing the sport that I never actually got to play. If I would have really looked into it, I would have noticed how supportive my coaches were of my FFA career and all that I was doing. They weren’t trying to ruin my senior season - they were trying to help me get to where I wanted to be in my FFA career. 

I sat the bench because the passion I had in the blue jacket outshined my passion for being on the court, and my coaches wanted to support me in that. Not because my coaches didn’t like me, not because I didn’t care, and not because they didn’t care. No. It was because they did care. They cared about my future, and I am forever thankful for that. 

I have coaches that support me in everything, on and off the court. People who care about me as a person, not just me as an athlete. Individuals who taught me lessons early on that I wasn’t appreciative of in the moment. 

All last year I asked myself why I wasn’t reaping the rewards of my hard work, when in reality I should have been asking myself how I could repay the hard work my coaches put in to help me get to where I am today. 

If you’re questioning why you aren’t reaping the rewards of your hard work, take another look at what you’re doing. Look deeper into what you’re passionate about and you might find the answer. And remember…. Always thank your coaches.  
Forever thankful,
Caitlyn Lewis

Monday, August 19, 2019

Try Something New

Try Something New           
When I was in high school, I went to a very limited number of sporting events. For one, I live on a farm so I was always taking care of the turkeys, feeding the goats, or grinding feed for the steers. Second, I did not play any sports in high school. I was involved in many other intra curricular and extracurricular activities. These consumed my afternoons and evenings, which meant going to sporting events was not really something I thought about. Third, I didn’t really like sports. I thought sports were silly and why would someone pay $6 to watch an hour or two of something. I refused to buy the $60 Student Ticket that would get me into anything. All in all, I didn’t really like sports. 
    Then in my junior year, I went to a few soccer games and enjoyed them. I thought it was amazing that they could run for so long and not seem to be tired. As my senior year rolled around, my sister Hannah played volleyball. Being a supportive big brother, I went to a couple of her games. I would watch her play and then leave before  varsity started. I continued to go to some soccer games as well as Hannah’s games. For volleyball, Senior night was getting really close and I was friends with basically all the seniors. I told myself that I would go to that game to be supportive of all my friends. I absolutely loved the game. The constant back and forth had me at the edge of my seat the whole time. Everytime one of the girls got an ace, the team and the bench would kick a foot out and scream “See Ya.” At first I thought it was the silliest thing ever, then as it continued through out the game, it started to grow on me. Since I was sitting in the little student section that was there, a couple of us started joining in on the little chant. It was the most fun I had had in ages and it gave the team more encouragement. By the end of the night I was a pro at “See Ya.” I went up to all my senior friends and told them how much fun I had. From that night on, I went to every home volleyball game there was. I even started to help out a bit. On the breast cancer awareness game, I helped sell t-shirts to support the Jay County Cancer Society. This gave me something to do as well as a different atmosphere to be in. 

I then started to go to basketball games with my friends Katie and Aaron. They taught me to enjoy another sporting event in the school. I went to almost every home game that season with them and loved every minute of it. Turns out that I enjoyed watching a good game of basketball with even better friends. I mean if I didn’t would I even be a Hoosier? I was able to build relationships with the people we sat around at these games that I would not have had. 
 I always thought that sports were not for me and by thinking so, I did not allow myself to get out and try something new. As a lesson, I learned to always try something new, even if I was unsure of the possible outcomes. See Ya, Dillon Muhlenkamp