Rather busy than bored-A look back on the year

When I look back at 2010, I can’t help but think of how crazy life has been. Between visiting high school agriscience programs; travelling to Kansas City for NAMA Convention, Lexington, Ky. for my internship, Chicago for the first-ever AgChat Foundation Conference and then again to visit one of my best friends from high school, Indianapolis for National FFA Convention and Las Vegas for National NAAE Convention; taking classes; working three jobs; staying involved in Collegiate FFA and NAMA activities; co-moderating #AgEduChat; AND doing my homework — it feels like I haven’t stop running for the last 12 months!

Stopping (for 5 seconds) to reflect on the year, though, I find that I’ve met some wonderful people and experienced some wonderful things amongst all that craziness.

I am super thankful for the #agchat and AgChat Foundation community of friends I’ve come to know over the past year. It’s so odd to think that I barely talked (or typed) to any of them last December. Kelly (Twitter | Blog) has become my sister-from-another-mister, Jeff (Twitter) is the cowboy voice I can’t get out of my head, Darin (Twitter | Blog) is the voice of reason, Janice (Twitter | Blog) is one of the most self-less and sassy people I know – traits that I admire in anyone ;) – Mike (Twitter) is one of two Buckeye’s who’s always around for a good laugh (or contest to get on the most lists!), Drew (Twitter | Blog) is my fellow ag education buddy and partner in crime with #AgEduChat and Michele, Beth, Sara, Ashley and Jill are my Spartans in cyberland. The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say that I could not imagine what 2010 without #agchat. Our time spent from 8-10 pm EST (plug! plug!), in Chicago, on Buzz and beyond has formed friendships and connections that I hope are only just beginning.

In 2010, one of my best friends from high school got engaged and will start the (long) chain of people getting hitched. It’s weird to think that my friends and I are reaching that point in our lives. In any case, I look forward to seeing how people’s lives continue to change.

This year was also the start to the last leg of preparation for graduation and a career in agricultural education. I started my senior level ag ed classes, wrote many lesson plans, taught in front of my classmates and visited ag programs around the state. Luckily, I was able to pass my teacher certification tests on the first try, which means that the only thing that lays between me and a job is graduation in May and next year of student teaching. I never fail to be impressed with the work that ag teachers and those working in the youth agricultural programming around the country are doing and I can’t wait to join their ranks.

2011 will start my final year of undergraduate studies at Michigan State and inch me even closer to the “real world”. I hope to spend the next year meeting amazing people, having valuable experiences, and “agvocating” with all I’ve got. Based on 2010, I can only imagine 2011 will be one to jump into with both feet!

You know you’re growing up when…

I haven’t lived at home for more than a couple of weeks for nearly 4 years. Between summer internships and my inability to be productive during a weekend home, I probably only make it there every 4-6 weeks or so and on breaks for a little while.

Apparently my parents understood that real quick and determined that I had shifted into guest mode about 3 years ago. What does this mean, you ask?

That’s right. No bed.

For 3 years, I’ve been painfully and uncomfortably sleeping on the couch for every visit and break at home. I get woken by the sunshine thanks to no blinds and the first sounds I hear are those from my family who has a distinct inability to be quiet in the morning. My bed was given to my stepbrother who still lives at home and my sister evaded the bed disappearance phenomenon because her room became the guest bedroom. Unfortunately her mess tends to follow her onto the bed, leaving little to no room for me to share with her.

Thankfully, this Christmas break, my parents were kind enough to blow up a halfway decent air mattress for me to lay my pretty little head on at night. It has been much appreciated (even though I was awake most of the first night thanks to a clock with a bell that goes off every 15 minutes…<sigh>…a girl just can’t get a break) and hopefully I’ll be able to convince them to keep it around for future visits.

Still, it’s weird to think about all of my things disappearing from home and the new ‘home’ being my house in Lansing. Words of wisdom to all you college freshmen out there: watch out. You’ll know you’re growing up when your bed disappears.

Waiting for the day to come

When I was younger, I always remember the start of our fair week included my dad leading the livestock exhibitors meeting on Monday. He’d welcome everyone, wish them luck and impress upon each of us how important it is to think about everything we do when we’re caring for our projects.

When I was real little, I didn’t think too much about it. My dad would say things to the extent of ‘some things that we know are okay for our animals, other people may not agree with’ so it was really important that we think through everything. As the years went on, the speech morphed into ‘if you see anyone with video cameras that you don’t know, find your group leader or another adult’.

Wait….what?!

In 10 years, my dad’s speech went from just thinking about everything you do in case there’s someone who doesn’t understand what happens with livestock to the fact that there may be people out there video taping youth in order to ‘expose abuse’ on the Internet. That never fails to boggle my mind.

When I raise my pigs and sheep, I always do so with the animal’s best interests in mind. Making sure they have food, clean water and shelter is my highest priority. I think pigs are the smartest livestock species out there and sheep…well, they never seem to amaze me with their ability to get into trouble! I know the vast majority of all youth and adults who raise livestock share the same type of respect for their animals and duty to care for them as well as they can.

One of my baby Durocs!

I hope one day my dad will be able to tell livestock exhibitors at my fair that people may have questions about what they do with their animals, but don’t be afraid of having a friendly conversation with them and go ahead and answer. I hope that someday we won’t have to worry about an activist with a camera or someone writing a scathing article without asking any questions.I don’t know that we’ll ever see that day come, but we’ll keep taking care of our animals and I’ll continue to hope.

The tools of the trade

A few months ago, my friend Kelly (@kmrivard on Twitter and you can find her website here) suggested this topic to me as an idea for a guest blog post. I’ve been holding on to it and realized I can’t hold out anymore! So here we go! (And, yes Kelly, I’m sure we’ll come up with another awesome idea for your blog when that time comes!)

For the past six months or so, I’ve been experiencing Mac envy really badly. See, I’ve been struggling with my Dell that I’ve had for four and a half years that was dying a slow painful death. Viruses, crashing hard drive, hardware falling apart in places–you name it, the Dell was experiencing it.

Beyond the painful death part, the Dell also wasn’t able to handle some of the work I really want to do. I love playing with web design and want to get better at print design/photo editing. My Dell really wasn’t up to being able to handle Adobe Creative Suites and other similar software, so I wasn’t able to get better at some of those things I really like.

Well, two weeks ago my laptop finally went to its grave (after being backed up that morning, thankfully) and I got a brand new MacBook complete with orange case and keyboard cover :D It works great and I love learning all the new things I can do with it.

My new MacBook and the struggles with my old laptop drove me to look at a question that many of us must ask: Do I have the tools of the trade to be successful?

Now, for me this revolved around something physical–a real tool, so to speak. But, for all of us, the tools of our trades are more than just equipment–they’re rooted in the skills and abilities we possess. Are you a strong interviewer? Can you have a conversation and build a relationship with someone in order to make a sale? Can you understand a situation in order to write a story that people can’t help but read? No matter what profession you go into, these are the types of ‘tools’ that will truly make the difference for your future.

In agriculture, the ability to tell the stories of our livelihood is a tool that we all MUST have in our toolbox. Other tools like social media, newspaper articles, interviews and conferences will give us an arena to share our stories, but we have to know what to share–and understand that we have to share–before we can utilize those outside resources to their fullest potential.

Are you a college student? Farmer? Businessman? A mom? What tools do you have (or still need to get) in order to be successful in your chosen field? Where did you obtain those tools? How are you helping others to build their toolbox?

I’d love to hear from you!