Monday, March 30, 2020

Grandpa's Camera

    In my family, every family gathering has its consistencies.  Grandma’s dog will always meet you at the front door.  There will always be good food—and plenty of it.  There will always be some of Grandma’s sweet tea on the table, and there will always be a race to pour the first glass.  More importantly, Grandpa will always be taking pictures of everyone enjoying the family time.  

A group of people posing for the camera

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From random groups put together in the moment, to candid pictures, to big organized pictures, there was no doubt that they will all be taken at any given family gathering.  It is a Lortie tradition that at some point in time Grandpa’s red digital camera will make a celebrity appearance.  If you are lucky, you will even have the chance to sit down and look through the old pictures in the camera with Grandpa.  Holidays, birthdays, family reunions, and everything can be found in the time capsule that is Grandpa’s Camera.  With every click Grandpa has a new story for each picture.  He asks, “do you remember this?” or “look how different they look now!”
In the moment of the majority of those pictures, I was most definitely the stereotypical teenage boy; I was very reluctant to jump in any picture.  My cousins and I would do anything we could to slip out the room early so we could miss out on more pictures.  It was not until recently that I really understood why we took so many pictures.  

A picture containing person, outdoor, man, water

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With everything going on in the world right now, I have had my own time to look through my own pictures.  I have looked through my Snapchat memories, different albums on my phone, and have looked through old printed pictures.  As I sifted through all these pictures, I finally understood why they were so important.  With each photo, memories of those moments rushed back to me, and I was finally able to get my mind off the madness that surrounds us. 
When was the last time we took the chance to do this?  Spend today looking through your camera roll, beginning to end.  Look through some old pictures with your parents.  Find the camera and look through it.  In this time where we may feel trapped, or that we do not have much to do, take the time to look through those memories.  Relive those moments; feel the happiness, the love, and the laughter come back.   Spend some time to appreciate the memories that your own version of Grandpa's camera captured.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Resiliency: An Infectious Cure

“This sucks.” How many times have you said those words these past few days? Be honest with yourself. Granted, it might have not been those exact words, but something along the lines of “This isn’t good”.  You’re not alone. For the first time in a long time, we have a subject that is wreaking havoc in everyone’s life. I mean everyone. People down the street, people in the next state over, even people on the other side of the globe are sharing your struggles, but I’m talking to you. The person who went to the grocery store because they didn’t believe it was really that bad, but it was really that bad. I’m sorry that event you’ve looked forward to for so long is now cancelled or postponed. I truly empathize with your now “all for nothing” mentality to see friends, family, or even some sunlight these days.
We have never seen anything like this, at least not in our lifetime. We’ve all heard stories about The Blizzard of ’78. (If you haven’t, now is a great time to call someone over the age of 45 and ask them about it.) My dad told me stories of how school was out for five weeks and they would climb to the second story of a barn just using the snow drifts. While I’ll be the first to admit that is pretty hardcore, we are on the brink of something worse. Most students today are facing seven or eight weeks away from school with important events getting cancelled daily, but I’m not telling you any breaking news or things you haven’t heard. You’ve likely spent the past few weeks at home because school is cancelled, or work has shut down which has given you the chance to truly understand what “binge-watching” means.
Maybe work isn’t shut down and you have a shift today, or cattle to feed, or tests to run. If that’s the case, be safe. Thank you for what you do. It must be important if it hasn’t stopped operating. Just recently the Department of Homeland Security deemed “Food and Agriculture” one of only 16 critical infrastructures America has during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take a second and be proud of that. Hearing that statement drowns out all of the negative media that is directed at agriculture these days. Now, we can brag that it’s a government statistic that agriculturists are critical to this country! We may be thinking “Yes, of course we are critical. Everyone has to eat. We know this Nate,” but it is my strongest opinion that we are critical for more reasons than the obvious. There is one thing rural America thrives on - Resiliency. 
Rural Americans are some of the most passionately resilient folks I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. To be resilient is to bounce back from hard times. I’ve watched communities brace the waves of hardship many times before. Where else does the rain decide what profit margins look like? Who else relies on the unpredictable factors such as weather, health, the grain market, and much more? Our current struggle in America reminds me of a time I watched a whole community recover from difficulties. 
Tragedy struck in October 2017 when a local, well-respected farmer in my small Decatur County community suffered some serious injuries after falling off a fuel tank. He was left in a tough situation with 210 acres of corn still left to harvest. That’s when nothing short of a miracle happened. Within one day, our community had coordinated 50 people, four combines, and as many grain trucks as necessary to help harvest the last bit of corn. That is resiliency.
America shows resiliency on a daily basis, and we have been for quite some time. My peers and I were born into a country showing us what true resiliency can be. The 9/11 terrorist attacks plagued this nation with fear and anxiety, yet 18 years later we stand stronger and more prepared. So why let this pandemic be treated any differently? We can all do our part to help this country back to its feet. I know deep in my heart we can make it through anything, we just have to adjust our perspective by understanding what we can control. 
Earlier I mentioned “this sucks” and I meant it. In no way, shape, or form am I about to belittle the hardships we’re all facing right now. What I will do is say it is out of our control. We can’t control the cancellations, restrictions, and postponements. We can’t control our broadband reliability or our inclination to go hang out with friends. Frankly, we can’t control the scary feeling of not knowing what is next. 
While this is an absolute bummer, there are a few things we can control. We can control the spread of the virus by practicing healthy habits and social distancing. We can control our own health by avoiding touching surfaces and washing our hands as much as possible. We can control the creative things we do with this amazing device we are using to read this very blog. Did you know a smart phone has 100,000 times more processing power than the Apollo 11 Guidance System? Purdue Alumni, Neil Armstrong, made it to the moon with that guidance system. Imagine the positive impact you can make with a smartphone in your hand.
With that said, I will end this blog on the most positive note I can. We have all seen the wonderful TV show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. (If you haven’t, now is a great time to call someone under the age of 25 and ask them about it.) I would like to present Nate’s Declassified COVID-19 Survival Guide, where I share some tips on fighting cabin fever! 
Always practice a safe sneeze!

Tip #1: Do something different every day. We know how these days can clump together, so it’s important to change it up and break the monotony. I have already fallen victim to repeating the same tasks every day at the same time. Make sure to switch it up!

Tip #2: Follow along with Indiana FFA’s #ForgeThroughTheFire. I may be biased by saying it is one of the best social media campaigns happening right now. It gives each of us the chance to share our story every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday across our personal social media!

Tip #3: Indiana is home to 25 state parks and 3 national parks. I mean this nicely when I say it: Take a hike! Get out in nature. Hiking has been proven to lower your risk of heart disease and strengthen your bones. If not at a state park, at least get outdoors. Maybe even with a dog or a horse. 
Riding horses (or mules) is good safe fun

Tip #4: Call anyone and everyone. I’m sure we want to get in our cars and go hang out with people like nothing has changed, but things are a little different and we have to adapt. A quick call to some family, or a Facetime to some friends is one way to fill the gap of social distance that comes with doing our part. You’d be surprised at the number of apps that let you share a face to face video call.
Facetiming my pal Vic, even though I’d rather go see him

Tip #5: Only worry about what you can control. The next few weeks will surely hold uncertainty and maybe restrictions with which we don’t agree. It’s always good to step back and ask yourself “Can anything I say or do change this situation?” Odds are the answer will be “no” and you can go back to enjoying what you can control, instead of worrying about what you can’t control.

             How will you decide to face adversity during these hard times? Will you let it tear you down or will you face it head on with resiliency? We can do many things; some are good, and some are bad. We can complain, mope around, become frustrated at things out of our control, or we can be resilient by adapting when plans don’t go our way. We can be resilient in our work, social lives, and everywhere else we feel affected. I hope we find the time today to adjust our perspective and be resilient during these tough times.      
                                              Keep your stick on the ice, 
                                                                                                                         Nathan Fairchild

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Words We Choose

“Rocco, slow down!” 
Yeah, he’s not going to make it.
Flying past me on a slushy “More Difficult” run at Crystal Mountain, I had a good feeling that my youngest brother, Rocco, would bite the snow, hard, at the speed he was going. He would dive, dodge, and dip around skiers on their Sunday stroll, jump hills for more thrill, and face plant at the bottom of the ski lift. 
“Morgan! Did you see that?” He would ask excitedly, ”I shredded the gnar, dude!”
My much more collected self responded, “Rocco Blaine, do you have any idea how fast you were going? How many innocent children you knocked out of the way?”
“Yeah! And it was awesome!”
While I was proud of Rocco for using “snowboarder lingo” to simply describe an awesome run, I instead debated whether to scold Rocco for being a snowboarding junkie. However, there was something different about his smile and his big blue eyes. As he anticipated my approval, I stopped to think about it. 
Whatever I say, valid or invalid, kind or hurtful, it will affect him for the better or worse.
As a family, we make trips once a month in the wintertime to go skiing or boarding. We all have a lot of experience on the snow, but Rocco has never been one to master snowboarding even after countless lessons. There are many days of Rocco’s feet being binded to a snowboard, but this might have been his first day of making it down a hill without feeling angry and defeated, let alone without wiping out. On previous ski trips, Rocco would look towards his brothers to receive approval of how he boarded down after every run. Every fall would include a fit thrown and refusal to be alongside anyone as he developed the craft. His once bright, blue eyes, became dull from his lack of confidence. 
It’s undeniable that so many individuals struggle with self-confidence or seek affirmation from others to feel accomplished. It can be hard to believe in one’s self in this day and age when so many image altering apps exist or how easy it is to eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese (unfortunately). There are many physical instances that affect our confidence, but nothing compares to the emotional words from someone dear to us. We’ve all experienced an instance of either receiving painful words or hurling them over walls at another. So often we can get caught in our emotions and use words without ever considering just how much they weigh on others. We can be quick to judge or be defensive, we can dismiss how others feel just because it doesn’t reflect our own feelings. But when was the last time we’ve thought for a moment on how the words we choose may affect them, positive or negative? When have we considered someone’s feelings over our own before choosing the words that will affect them? It can be a rare occurrence to choose our words, just as it may be difficult or easy to do. We can refrain from highlighting a negative by showcasing a positive. We can compliment instead of keeping our head down. We can be supportive in another’s pursuit for self-progress, just as we wish for their support in ours. It’s not always going to be beautiful, but it’s beautiful seeing someone gain just a little bit of that confidence back. The words we choose have the power to affect someone forever.
Rocco looked at me with a grin that covered his face. 
“Rocco, you really did shred that. I’m proud of you, lets keep going.”
We loaded onto the ski lift and Rocco jittered with excitement. While he was trying to push the limits, Rocco pushed me to see just how we can impact someone with one simple sentence. It’s really up to us to choose whether that sentence gleams or dulls another’s bright eyes.


Morgan Hinz

Monday, March 9, 2020

Living In The Moment

As I sit here writing this blog post, I can’t help but think that this year is moving way too fast. I could have sworn that it was just yesterday when we were being rushed onto the stage in Elliott Hall of Music as people shouted “slate passed” and “congratulations,” at us down the aisles. Everyone told us to “cherish the moments because in the blink of an eye they’ll be gone.” I never truly understood that saying, but now I’m understanding it way too clearly. 

So far in our year of service, my team and I have had the chance to meet new people, visit new places, and try new things. It has been a year of growth, challenges, and changes - all of which will continue in our last four months of office. I remember looking forward to everything we would get to do during our year of service…

  • We started off the year going to DC for training with State Officers from all across the United States!

  • For someone who hasn’t experienced the Indiana State Fair much, I got the full experience this past summer! It was a blast hanging out with members from across the state all month long.

  • We had District Kickoff season, where we traveled to districts and chapters for two weeks facilitating at schools and events!

  • Next was conference season. It’s always awesome to catch up with new and old friends at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center!

  • National Convention was the next stop for our year. While we were busy serving as delegates throughout the convention, we weren’t too busy to enjoy an awesome concert at Bankers Life! 

  • During the month of December, we traveled to quite a few businesses and industries that support Indiana FFA. Throughout this time, we learned about the inner workings of their organizations and were able to make connections with so many people!

  • Our most recent adventure - FFA Week! I had a chance to visit the southeastern part of the state, traveling to parts of District XI, all of District XII, and Liberty FFA! From teaching in classrooms, visiting petting zoos, and going ice skating, it was by far my favorite part of this year!

    At the start of our year, I remember looking forward to everything that was going to happen. But now, I can’t believe these things are already over. Sooner rather than later, we will be stepping on the stage at Elliott Hall of Music one last time. As the year is winding down, take time to appreciate each day. In the blink of an eye, it will be over - cherish the moments you have and don’t take anything for granted. 

Living in the moment,
Caitlyn Lewis

Monday, March 2, 2020

Teach On

I had an absolute blast on my FFA Week travels through District VIII & VIX! I was able to attend 22 different events as well as facilitate 18 different classes. The memories and experiences I had will stay with me forever. Being able to see how so many different FFA Chapters both big and small, participate in various FFA Week activities was amazing. 

I saw members dressing up in crazy outfits for their FFA Week Dress-Up Days, ones constantly bugging their advisors, as well as ones that were ecstatic about literally anything and everything having to do with FFA. 

I saw advisors pushing their students to do the best they can to achieve their dreams, advisors dancing crazily on the dance floor, ones that can play a mean game of Kick-Ball, and ones that get a little teary eyed when they see their students understanding the true meaning behind FFA. 

I saw chapters rallying together to support scholarship funds, creating deeper friendships  with each other, as well as joining together for the greater good to help support each other. 

I also saw the community members and alumni supporting these chapters and members by attending pep sessions, coming to community breakfasts, and cheering on members in the stands at an intense Volleyball tournament.

Each of these individually are not that strong, however put together, all of these things are unstoppable. FFA Chapters are able to establish scholarships for their members, send members to National or State Convention, or even create new opportunities for members. Being able to put all of these together is what makes FFA such a great organization to be apart of. 

Before FFA Week, I was struggling if I really still wanted to be an Ag Teacher. You see I have always wanted to be a teacher since I was in the First Grade! When I was having second thoughts about being an Ag teacher I was honestly scared because I never had had any other thoughts. I went into FFA Week with an open mind as to what to do with my life. After facilitating a few classes and attending a few events, I remembered why I had wanted to be an Ag teacher. I wanted to be an Ag teacher because of the ag community and the members. At one event, a member showed up late but he explained to the advisor that feeding had taken longer than planned. Another thing would be all of the cowboy boots and mullets I saw during the week-true FFA members. Or when I was driving down the highway and stopped at a 4-way and witnessed a farmer holding muddy manure covered boots out the window while his wife drove. Or seeing a family shooting clay pigeons in their backyards and even the iconic two finger wave that almost everyone knows. Seeing those things remind me of why I love the ag industry and the FFA members involved in it. Not all FFA members are from an ag background but FFA makes sure they understand the ag industry. FFA and agriculture have become my way of life and after FFA Week, I want to help inspire that next generation by becoming what inspired me. Thank you to all of the advisors that have inspired me over the course of my FFA career and FFA Week. 

Teach On, 
Dillon Muhlenkamp