Saturday, March 8, 2014


So those of you who listen to the radio, have seen Despicable Me 2 (highly recommended), or just know a song that will almost always put you in a good mood, you’ve probably heard “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. For those that haven’t, don’t despair, there’s a link at the bottom.

 With the title pretty much giving away the premise, Williams sings about that one emotion that the world doesn’t feel as often as it should. The upbeat tempo is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s face, not to mention getting the urge to dance.

My favorite part of the song has to be the hook, which goes a little something like this (sing along if you’d like):

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

One thing I have noticed whenever this song comes on is that a lot of people know the lyrics, but few seem to know the meaning to them, so let’s break it down:

“If you feel like a room without a roof” – Williams says that this is a metaphor for one’s space without limits. Too often we can become unhappy because we are boxed in by limitations, whether that’s something like being told that we can’t do something, or other emotions. There are times where we can feel “roofed in” when our plans don’t go accordingly, or we fall a little short of our goals, but that shouldn’t keep us from feeling happy. Take it from the room – not having a roof and having access to the infinite possibilities that await is a great feeling. How can you stop feeling “roofed in”?

“If you feel like happiness is the truth” – Of course it is! There’s no need to argue with it, or try to contradict it. Being happy, and especially true to yourself, is the best feeling. Don’t settle for being someone else, because their happiness might not be yours. Branch out and try something new, because you might find something that you love, all while being true to yourself!

“If you know what happiness is to you” – What does happiness mean to you? Does it mean hanging out with friends, or curling up with a good book? Maybe it means getting to spend time with your livestock, or getting ready for that next public speaking event. Like I said before, don’t take someone's definition of happiness. Find what you like to do, and make it your own.

“If you feel like that’s what you wanna do” – By this point, you should be clapping. If you feel happy, and want to stay happy, surround yourself with individuals who also stay happy. Find things in common, and always make sure to show your happiness. A smile is contagious, you know.

At the end of the day, we all have an opportunity to be happy, and make sure those around us are happy as well. We each have our own passions, and by supporting the passions of others, and finding ways to ignite our own, we can all clap along, because we’ll feel happy.

Here’s a link to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”:

Friday, January 31, 2014

Fortune Favors the Bold

Time and time again, even from when we probably didn’t have a clue as to what they were, we all looked forward to the true reward of eating at a Chinese restaurant: the fortune cookie. These golden treasure chests were just waiting to be cracked open, to show us what we can look forward to in our future. Most of us probably didn’t care for the actual cookie (I didn’t until a couple of years ago), but were much more concerned of what was inside.

It’s funny how a little strip of paper stuffed into a cookie causes us to think so much. Maybe it fills someone with anticipation, or gives someone else a good laugh. Whatever the purpose is, something clicks inside of our brains that whenever something peculiar happens afterwards, we think “that must be what the fortune cookie meant!” As always, a fortune is always subject to interpretation. “You will have a pleasant surprise” might actually mean a penny you find around the corner. “Good things take time” might just be the cookies sitting in the oven. No one really knows what power these things have, but fortunes find their way into our lives one way or another.

There’s one fortune cookie in particular that I cracked open a few days ago. Inside, it read: “Happiness is around the corner, wealth down the street.” My mind instantly started racing. Was I going to see a long lost friend? Was I going to find a $100 bill lying on the ground? Unfortunately, neither of those things happened, but I decided to take my own interpretation of it. I found happiness around the corner as when I left lunch, it had actually warmed up about five or six degrees. Those five or six degrees were the dividing line between me being comfortable in a coat and hoping my nose didn't fall off. As for the wealth that I found down the street? I found it after a walk back to my dorm, where I was surrounded by my friends, welcoming me back. It might not be the conventional wealth, but friendships are priceless. Truly, these strips of paper only have the power of our imagination and attitude. Depending on how we look at things, there are limitless possibilities. How do you look at situations? There’s probably a time or two where putting a positive spin on things can make a world of difference.

Now let’s jump back to the whole fortune cookie. They all share the same outside characteristics as one another, but what’s inside could be totally different. Does that remind you of anything? If you’re thinking of the FFA, then we’re on the same wavelength. Whether you meet someone at a CDE, or make a new friend at Convention, we all have common ground. We’re all linked by the blue corduroy, but at the same time, we’re all individuals. We all possess different outlooks and perspectives, and can impact others with our actions.

When we get to know someone, we have the chance to see what’s inside; what makes them special. What you learn might get you thinking, and want to know more. The bonds we make through FFA are strong and true, and through them, we can make a difference. How can you use your message to make an impact? How can you take that first step towards a more positive outlook? And as you meet new people, remember to be bold, because fortune favors those who are.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In the Act of Service

Polished stone stands tall, and all is quiet. On this stone sit many engraved names - those who came before us; those who chose to work towards a greater good and serve our country.

For many, this description leads us to think of many of the memorials that we see in our nation's capital, Washington D.C. Their solemn beauty stands to remind all of us of the men and women who gave their lives for our nation. What some don't consider is that something like this can reside in a small town.

Baxter Springs, Kansas, a town about ten minutes away from my home nestled in the southeast corner of the state, is home to a memorial dedicated to the veterans from all branches of the military. I attended the unveiling while I was home on Thanksgiving break, and was completely awe-stricken. Five stones stood in a semi circle around a larger one in the center. Each of the outer stones were engraved with images depicting a different branch of the military, while the center stone had an engraved dedication to America's veterans. What particularly stood out about this memorial was not the polished stones that my eyes saw, however, but the small paver bricks my feet stood upon.

Each brick was marked with a different name. Names that were family friends, and names that I had never seen before. Below each name was a description of what branch of the military they belonged to, if they had been apart of a war, and what years they had served. Each brick had a place on that path, locking between the others and serving as an entrance to the memorial.

Courtesy of Michael Rodgers Photography

The memorial project was undertaken by my grandmother several years back. With the help of friends, family, and the community she and the other members of her committee set out to build something that would stand as a reminder of those who served. The committee had gone through many years of phone calls, late nights, meetings, and construction, to honor others. Over these past years, my grandma had always had a full schedule, but between it all, she always found, and still finds, time for the ones she cares about.

I began to have some thoughts after the ceremony: service is a continuous cycle. We don't just do it once, and then we're done. Those we serve have or have had the opportunity to serve another, and the chain continues. My grandma and her colleagues worked to serve the men and women of the armed forces, as they have served our country for countless years. How can you be caught up in the act of service? How are you able to serve those in your home and community? Is there a way that you can be a part of this continuous cycle of service?

Through this memorial, we offer thanks, in the hopes that one day future generations can look upon it, and be thankful for the service that was given to ensure our safety, our ideals, and our country. To all of the men and women, past, present, and future, who live an act of service: Thank you.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Always Burn Blue

Imagine for a moment: you're far away from home (maybe in a different time zone), experiencing something that many have never seen before. You aren't really sure where to go, but luckily you are surrounded by some very good friends - all 63,000 of them. That amazing feeling of being a part of something as large as the FFA swept across Louisville, Kentucky a couple of weeks ago as it hosted the 86th National FFA Convention & Expo.

This was not only my second National Convention that I had ever attended, but this was my first time being in Louisville. I shared that "first" with many, as it had previously been held in Indianapolis, Indiana for several years past. At this National Convention, however, I had an amazing and unique experience: to serve as a delegate. The delegate body is made up of 475 members, similar to the House of Representatives. Our mission was to address different issues surrounding the FFA, with items such as how we can further broadcast our message, or ways to increase ag literacy in the public. The entire process was amazing because it shows how we can all come together to help the FFA grow as an organization.

National Convention wasn't all business, though. There was plenty of time to meet new people and hang out with old friends. The team went to a concert featuring Jana Kramer and Dierks Bentley, which was mind-blowing. The delegates also sat on the convention floor, where the Kansas State Officers had front row seats. All of the sessions were recorded and broadcasted, so I'm sure a few people saw Lindy and I jamming out to the choir's mash-up of Pitch Perfect (which was amazing, I might add), or Daryl and Elizabeth swing dancing in front of the stage. As delegates, we made sure to match all of the energy that the members brought to convention, making it so amazing to be in the sessions.

The core of National Convention is the general sessions, where FFA members are recognized for their accomplishments, National Officers deliver their retiring addresses, and amazing keynote speakers are heard. There are moments of high energy, and high emotion. Each session is chaired by a different National Officer, who bring their own personality into the light. In my opinion, one of the most amazing things to hear at National Convention is opening ceremonies, right at the beginning of each general session. The secretary calls the roll of members (62,998!), and you get to hear the thundering reply to, "FFA members, why are we here?"

The biggest takeaway were the messages that the speakers left behind. One of the keynote speakers, Josh Sundquist, said that "life is tough. But life isn't about falling down, it's about how quickly you get back up." National President Clay Sapp wrapped up his retiring address with one, resounding question: how will you start living for others? Every person on that stage had a story that would capture my mind, and all of them had a message that touched my heart.

This year is full of so many possibilities. There will be obstacles, but none that cannot be overcome. This year, we as FFA members have the opportunity to fuel our passion for the FFA. We can spark action. Our ideas and actions could be the fuel needed to spark something much bigger than ourselves. And when we fuel our passion; when we spark action; we will ignite. How can you bring passion to something, like a new project? How can you bring that passion into your communities, and spark that action?

I could write (or type) about National Convention all day. If I did, however, I have a feeling that it might be the size of a Harry Potter book. For those interested in seeing the 86th National Convention & Expo for themselves, the broadcasts are available to watch at They are worth watching, because there are some parts to National Convention that you just cannot put into words.

Each session was ended by one phrase. These words spoke about how we as individuals can shine, and as members, how we can ignite the FFA. Because I'm a science geek, I loved this phrase from the moment I heard it. I know, as did the National Officers, that we can all accomplish great things in the FFA,

"for the fires that burn the brightest, the fires that give off the most heat, always burn blue."

Fuel Passion. Spark Action. Ignite FFA.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Doctor's Advice

Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, and of course The Cat in the Hat. Stories all created by Theodor Geisel, also known as the one and only Dr. Seuss. The winner of many awards for his creations, Dr. Seuss was also known as a perfectionist. He would not settle on a story until he was sure that the theme was exactly what he wanted. It is said that it wasn't uncommon for Seuss to throw out 95% of his current work and start from almost scratch. But his endless pursuit for perfection shows in his work, providing countless lessons, laughs, and memories.

I was given a book of Dr. Seuss quotes as a gift before I graduated, and was told that if I ever need a smile, or a little extra motivation, to look through the pages. Here are some of my favorites:

"You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So...get on your way!"
-Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"Why fit in when you were born to stand out?"
-Dr. Seuss

"If things start happening, don't worry, don't stew. Just go right along and you'll start happening too."
-Oh, the Places You'll Go!

These quotes remind me that we all have a journey ahead of us whether that is achieving a goal or trying something new. There's no better day to make progress than today, and the trip becomes easier when you can just be yourself.

If I ever need a pick-me-up, or a good rhyme, I'll always be sure to find a quote by Dr. Seuss. What quote speaks to you? Is it motivational, or thoughtful? How can your favorite quotes empower your actions?

Kansas FFA, we out!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Different Styles

There I was - lost, confused, and unsure of what to do. I had many options in front of me, but I wasn't sure which was best. I was sitting at my desk typing a paper for one of my classes when I was faced with a difficult decision: what type of font should I use? I couldn't decide if this phrase should be in italics or if a certain word would look better if it was in bold. When I finally turned the paper in, I was happy with the decisions that I had made. But while I was picking through every little option I could choose for the words I had typed out, I had a thought. What if the font styles that I had to choose between are like the qualities that we want to strive for as individuals?

Be Bold: In writing, words are put in bold so that they stand out from the rest. Often times, words that are bold are of importance or have some significance. We must be bold in our actions so that we stand out, show our skills, and grow as individuals. How can you be bold in your words and actions?

Be Italic: Italics are saved for special circumstances, like when writing out a title to a book or movie, or a phrase in a different language. Italics catch the eye with slanted writing and can give a new meaning to a word or phrase by changing how it is looked at. We should give purpose to what we do, and provide that different perspective that might just give a new meaning to a situation. How can we be italic in our everyday life?

Be Underlined: Whether it’s jotting down a quick line under a key term or drawing seven marks underneath a time for an appointment, we’ve all used underlining. Like putting words in bold and italics, underlining words makes them stand out from the rest. But often times underlining is used for emphasis. Those key phrases or words that need to be remembered, or the time of the meeting so we won’t be late. By underlining, we make sure that we don’t forget, and that these things are important. By “being underlined,” we can remind ourselves to add emphasis to what we do, and that we can be remembered in a positive way. How can you underline what you say and do?

Just like the choices that I had in my paper, we all can choose how we act, and how we lead. Changing our attitudes can be as easy as the click of a button. How can you be bold, be italic, and be underlined? More importantly, how can you?

Kansas FFA, we out!