Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thankful for: Chipotle, Ignorant Jokes, and the Blue Jacket

The countdown for Thanksgiving break is imbedded in many our minds as the holiday approaches us. As we think of the table set with all the great food and surrounded by even greater people, it makes our tummies and hearts happy. We are often most thankful for our food, family, and our health. But as we dig into our food and the meaningful conversation that is to follow the evening, what else should we be thankful for? What should we be thankful for as FFA members and supporters of the most giving industry, agriculture? What experiences should we be thankful for?

Recently, Chipotle announced that several customers had developed E. Coli after eating an item off the restaurant’s menu. My Facebook feed was filled with many in the Ag industry being frankly pleased somehow by this. Personally having never ate at this establishment, I was still shocked by the reaction. We should not be smirking at Chipotle’s unfortunate news. We instead should remind ourselves of how Chipotle is a restaurant with a different ideal to food consumption than many of our own and that is perfectly okay. We as Americans live in a first world country where the option of having the Thanksgiving Day turkey be genetically modified or not is an extremely blessed option to have. We have so many choices when it comes to our food supply, and that is something to be truly thankful for. Which leads me to a greater blessing to be thankful for: diversity.

The diversity we have in our food supply and what we choose is unlike any other country in the 21st century. Not only is it seen in our food supply, but the faces behind it. That’s right, the people who work in this industry all bring important and unique input to the table (no pun
intended, unless you like puns). Be sure and look beyond the basis of the agriculture industry, production agriculture. We are the future of an industry that provides approximately 1 in 5 jobs in the United States. That means we are farmers, economists, journalists, educators, lawmakers, engineers, doctors, salesmen, scientists, and the list goes on. Therefore, it is safe to make the assumption that not all the work in the agriculture industry comes from the typical production agriculture background. These inputs drive us to greater achievements not just as an industry but as a society. How does the diversity in the agriculture industry make you thankful?

Shifting gears, I recently was reminded of how grateful I am for my relationships in FFA. While attending National Convention, a convention of 65,000 people mind you, I ran into numerous fellow members and friends. Some from our association and some not. Friendships that might be separated by miles and time but when put back together are just like they were before. I also was given the opportunity to meet new friends across the nation. How are you thankful for your friendships in FFA?
Going a little farther back in time, I think of when I recognized how thankful I am of my experiences in FFA. This past fall at the State Fair, my teammates and I help set up and run the Wick Building, as well as the livestock shows. On the first night upon arriving at Hutchinson, we decided to help a friend unload their showing equipment. A man seeing what we were doing started a conversation with us, asking the basic questions of who we were, what we were doing at the fair, etc. My teammates and I explained and the question was then asked if any of us were to show this weekend. As we answered it was stated that I was not from a traditional agriculture background, to which the man replied, “Oh you’re a city boy, well the rides are over there in case you’re wondering.”

He laughed at his ignorant joke and I couldn’t help but laugh along with him. I couldn’t help but laugh along with him because I knew how wrong he was. The experiences in FFA haven’t taught me everything about agriculture, but they’ve definitely taught me the importance agriculture holds in my life and how I plan to contribute to the industry in a way that only I can and am able to. This man didn’t know the amount of time, memories, nor energy I and many other non­traditional agriculture members devote to an organization and an industry that gives so much to us. He did serve a great purpose to me, and that was being reminded of the incredible experience and amount of learning I’ve had being an FFA member.

So Kansas FFA, as you pass around the however genetically modified or not modified feast, think of your experiences in FFA leading up to this. I know that I’m grateful for my experiences in the blue jacket, are you? 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Carpe Diem

One can often learn a lot about a person by what they like to do with their day; and so I’d like to share a little bit about myself through a day that was not too many moons ago.

My day started with a morning run of 3 miles. I LOVE to run! Running has always been a fun challenge for me. I ran cross country and track in high school, and did several road races over the years. Most recently, I ran the Bill Snyder Half-Marathon back in May.

I also had the opportunity of meeting the man himself, Coach Bill Snyder!
On the right, is a view of one of my routes I run.
Then, I got ready for the day and had breakfast. I never miss this meal because frankly, who doesn’t like some waffles or eggs & bacon, or my personal favorite–breakfast smoothies!

Next, I went to Topeka and met with some of the Kansas Department of Agriculture and Governor Brownback’s staff for his Ag tour week. From there we flew out to Southwest Kansas (S/O to our SWD FFA members) and toured several aspects of Kansas agriculture. I absolutely loved learning about the dairy farm we went to and the greater potential for cotton in SW Kansas. Educating others about agriculture, like I experienced that day, is what I want to do with my life and is why I’m majoring in Ag Education here at KSU.

On the plane ride back to Topeka, I did what I always do when flying: look at the breathtaking view from above the clouds or the beautiful earth that is far below. I’ve always loved flying, and traveling in general for that matter. I’ve grown up in a military family that like any other has done its fair share of moving from state to state (Iowa, Alabama, New York, Arizona and Kansas in case you were wondering). Traveling has become a part of my life and leaves me wanting to continue on adventures!

Finally, as my day wraps up I usually think about what the next day has in store for me. As I sign into my Netflix to watch my absolute favorite show of all-time, "Friends", I think of my own. Since being elected to serve Kansas FFA in May, it’s been filled with excitement in being given the incredible opportunity to serve Kansas FFA members and work on a team with five other friends that mean more than they’ll probably ever know. Our days might seem to drag by and blend together but I guarantee if we take a moment and find the good that is in today, then we will all be able to 'seize the day'.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Love Five Times Over

I had a bit of trouble coming up with a story or topic for this blog. I sat and stared at my computer screen for a long time. I had a case of "writer's block." During my block, I received a Snapchat from my teammate, Bethany. Then, it hit me. My blog could be all about my teammates! Each one has made an enormous impact on my life, and with Convention slowly approaching, I thought that it was only appropriate to tell you all about these 5 individuals!

After being elected to serve as State Officers, we decided to go to dinner as a team. We all sat around the table telling stories about our lives and how excited we were to create even more memories with Kansas FFA members. We laughed and relaxed. After a rather large dessert, we made our way to the city park, and proceeded to play “tag” until it was dark and we couldn’t breathe. It was a great bonding experience to say the least.

Today, we are still a team that really enjoys a nice game of “tag” every now and again, but we have grown together in a way that is difficult to describe. We’ve gone through trainings, conferences and college together. We have grown as individuals too, which has been interesting to watch. Each one of us has experienced some sort of “light bulb” moment where everything just clicks, and we are reminded of our purpose. We truly care for one another, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For me, my teammates are my rocks. They hold me together. They’ve seen me cry, listened as I poured out my heart and have made me laugh until I couldn’t take it anymore. What’s great is that each one serves as a different type of friend to me.

Taylor and Bethany are the two I call for anything. I have called them before just to hear their voices when I was feeling lonely. I call when I need a new or creative idea. Sometimes I call just to catch up. They are my #1 advice providers and always are ready to listen. They keep me grounded. Additionally, they are always up for an adventure, even at 12:30 in the morning. Walmart or Sonic run anyone?

Nick, Jeff and Kyle are the ones I run to when I need an attitude check. Just a smile from either one of them will brighten my day. I know that when I hang around them long enough, something will happen that will be some sort of an “iconic moment” in our friend history. The next time you see Kyle, ask him about his skateboard incident.

I cherish the times that my teammates and I are together. They make me a better person. They allow others to shine as well. Kyle, Taylor, Bethany, Nick and Jeff, thank you for being my friends, adventurers, motivators and amazing human beings. I thank God for you every day.

In our lives, we will have people that come and go with time, but when we find those incredible ones that allow us to be the best version of ourselves, we find true, everlasting friendship. Hold onto those people. They will create such great memories and happiness with everyone they come in contact with. I ask that you love those people with your whole heart so that you may receive love in return.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

So You Think You Can't Dance

Dancing: it's really never been my thing. I can swing my limbs around as much as I want, but I guess that doesn't really count. During those awkward middle and high school dances, I was a really big fan of fist pumping, jumping up and down and line dances (mainly because I didn't have to make up the moves). I also thoroughly enjoy "dancing" ALONE in my dorm room when my roommate isn't there to witness it. In any case, showing the public my "moves" just isn't something I like to do...ever

Recently, I had the absolutely incredible opportunity to travel to South Africa for the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. There were about 75 of us state officers, all hailing from various parts of the United States. The fantastic part about traveling with these 74 people was that we all are weirdoes. Not kidding. It's great. You never get judged for how weird you truly are because everyone understands. It was a mutual thing. Anyway, these people were all amazing human beings, and I miss all of them like crazy. 

While in South Africa, we traveled to many different farms to witness the varying agricultural practices, immersed ourselves in the culture and ultimately learned a lot. There was one day where we traveled to Soweto (Southwestern Township) to tour the community and its attractions. We first stopped to eat lunch at Chez Alina Restaurant. This restaurant is locally owned, and it boasts some pretty tasty food.

As our meal was winding down, we began to slowly make our way outside to play with some adorable little children. When everyone had made it outside, three street dancers stood in the middle of the street, and began performing for all of us. A couple of little dancers joined throughout the performance as well. Two drummers provided the beat, and suddenly, the energy increased. All of us bystanders stood cheering and clapping. I stood towards the front of the group tapping my foot along with the beat. One of the dancers broke away from his fellow dancing partners and began to walk in my general direction. Realizing what was about to happen, a million different thoughts raced through my mind.
“Oh my dear Lord. Avoid eye contact. Someone from this group is going to have to dance with him. Please pick anyone else but me. Oh no. He’s getting closer. Please not me, not me, not me, not me…”

The dancer then extended his hand, inviting me to join the performance. I grabbed his hand, and he led me to the stage (the street).
“I am going to have to dance in front of all of these people. These dancers are extremely talented, and all I know how to do is the Cupid Shuffle. Alright, you’re going to have to summon all of the confidence you can and do this.”

My adrenaline was pumping as I tried to mimic the dancers movements.
“Ok, this isn’t so bad. This is fun. No one is booing me. You can do this. Just watch what he’s doing. Keep moving.”

After a series of movements, the dancer squatted to the ground and invited me to try it out for myself. Not being quite ready yet, I asked if he could show me a few more moves. He agreed, and we began the process again.
“Dude. This is a blast. You should dance like this all of the time!”

He then squatted down for a second time, and I knew that I would be performing all by myself. I bowed my head, giving myself just another second to breathe and gather my confidence, and jumped up with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. I tried to copy as many moves as my dancing partner had shown me, while also trying to do it halfway decently.
“Move your hands. Move your legs. Kick. Sit down when you're done.”

After finishing my little routine, I sat down on the ground, and looked at my partner. He had a toothy grin on his face, and that was all I needed. He shook my hand, and I retreated back to the group with the same toothy grin on my face. Another group member, Sydney from Ohio, had the chance to dance with them as well. I could tell by the look on her face that she loved it too.

After some “cool down” and “reflection” time, I realized one key lesson that I learned from this dancing experience. Even though I was terrified, I stepped, or rather danced out of my comfort zone. If I declined his outstretched hand, I would not have the memory from that day that I do. I felt confident and joyful in those brief moments. Those are the moments that I will cherish forever.

                           I hope you can seize those moments that require you to step, skip, dance, hop, jump, fly, etc. out of your comfort zone. You may be unsure at first, but once you find the joy, you can fully immerse yourself in the moment. Your comfort zone can always use a little work. J

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blessed Reminders

As I stare at my to-do list, I feel overwhelmed. It seems as though there is not enough time in the day to accomplish even the daily "routine" activities. Then, out of nowhere, three more items come to mind, and become apart of the to-do list. The list seems never-ending, and I do not even know where to start. I look at the clock, and try to schedule each item for a different time in the day. I feel anxious, but hopeful. I can get this all done...right?

For the past couple of months, I have created many (so many) to-do lists in the optimistic attempt to decrease my stress level while tackling various items. These to-do lists range in length, but always seem to have a thorough compilation of schoolwork, FFA duties and necessary tasks to keep my life in order, like laundry. Even with these to-do lists, I face stress and worry. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Should I sleep more/less? Lots of "what ifs" cross my mind, and pretty soon, I turn into a tense version of myself, and I do not like it.

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel from Manhattan to Hill City, Kansas. Hill City is where I attended high school and was a member of the FFA chapter. The Hill City FFA Chapter was conducting their Joint Alumni Meeting, and invited me to present on
my experiences as a state officer and the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers that I am attending in January. When I stepped inside of the school, I was greeted by hugs and "Hello's" from alumni, community members, parents and members. I was almost taken back by the warmth and love. I just smiled and prayed that I would not jumble all of the words trying to escape from my mouth. Sometimes, words are hard.

Throughout the entire night, I was reminded of the support system that I still have at home. My immediate family was present, but I slowly began to realize that my extended "family" was there as well. Every single person in the cafeteria (where the meeting was held) made me feel welcomed, happy and relaxed; something I had not felt in a while. When the meeting ended, all I wanted to do was stick around an bask in the joyful environment that was created.

The moral of my story is this:
When you feel anxious, stressed or your to-do list grows to an immeasurable length, remember that you can turn to the ones that love you the most. When you spend just a little bit of time with them, your worries do not seem so big, and you are able to relax and smile. You realize that you are so incredibly blessed. In fact, you are just too blessed to be stressed. 

How can you be a source of love and joy for others? 

The Hill City FFA Chapter Officer Team
"Guys lets lift her up!" 
So this happened.

Two of the Greenhand Officers. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Eyes Wide Open

It seems hard to believe that a month ago, the 2014 Kansas State Fair was in full swing! There were families touring the exhibits, carnival rides providing lots of adrenaline rushes and my personal favorite, people showing their animals.

         My fellow officers and I traveled to Hutchinson to assist with the Swine, Sheep, Goat and Beef Barns. Taylor was in the Goat Barn, Nick was in Sheep Barn, Jeff and Bethany were in the Beef Barn and Kyle and I were in the Swine Barn. That’s right. Kyle and I were in the Swine Barn.

        Here is a little background information about me: I never showed any animals. I had the opportunity, but I never seized it.

         I would like to think that Kyle is a pig guy. He showed them, raised them and I will also say that he really does love them. Don’t tell him I told you that! I on the other hand, have little to no experience with pigs. Needless to say, I was just a little nervous when I found out my barn assignment. Kyle also deserves a big “shout-out” for keeping me calm and collected during the walk to the barn.

         When we arrived at the barn, Kyle and I were given separate tasks to accomplish. My first task was nothing too “earth-shattering.” I was in charge of registering the 4-H/FFA members and their animals for the showmanship competition. Later the same night, Showmanship began, and I was given another task. I was to write down the numbers of the placers, and return them to the announcer. Accomplishing this task meant that I was required to physically be in the show arena with the members showing their pigs. After about ten minutes of trying not to be in the way, I relaxed and was able to truly see the competition. The intensity and determination was written all over the members’ faces. Their pigs were very skilled, and were able to move throughout the show arena with ease.
         For the next couple of days, I assisted in the show arena by collecting event cards from each member, writing their corresponding numbers down and presenting ribbons to those who were in the top ten. I absolutely loved these jobs. I found myself just wanting to “hang-out” in the show arena with the pigs at all times. I was so impressed by the members and their care for the animals. I remember witnessing one girl squatting down and kissing her pig multiple times because she had just won. In the short time that I was able to assist, I gained a new respect for the people that show and their animals.

         I want to end this post with a simple “thank you,” and a challenge.

         Thank you to those of you that raise animals, show them and care for them. My eyes were opened to the entirety of the hard work, dedication and responsibility it takes to own an animal in general. I learned so much, and I have you all to thank for that. The memories I made while in those barns will stick with me forever.

         My challenge to those of you reading this is to always keep an open mind. When you do this, new information will present itself to you in ways you never thought possible. Trust me on this one.
Look at them go! 

It's show time! 
The Grand Drive! 
I made a friend! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Servant Heart

Servant leadership; a term that I have heard quite a bit throughout my time in FFA. I remember being asked how I demonstrated servant leadership in one of my chapter officer interviews. I was taken back by the question. At the time, I was not so sure on the exact definition of what "servant leadership" truly was. How was I supposed to answer the question? Well, my answer consisted of a story when I helped serve at a luncheon at my church. I thought that it was a pretty good answer for a question that I was not 100% on! However, I later learned what "servant leadership" really was, and how I could apply it to my daily life. 

Robert K. Greenleaf put the modern servant leadership movement into motion with his 1970 publication of his essay, The Servant Leader. He defined the "servant leader" as follows:
       "The servant-leader is servant first...It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions...The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature." He then goes on to say...
       "The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

After my interview, Mr. Lyder (our Advisor) told a few of us interviewees what a "servant leader" really was. Essentially, he informed us that a servant leader puts others first. Their desire is to assist others in growing as individuals and leaders. The knowledge that I gained from Mr. Lyder directly corresponds with Robert K. Greenleaf's essay. Something that has stuck with me from what I have learned about servant leadership is to serve with your whole heart. Nothing else. 

As a State Officer this year, I have challenged myself to make sure that this journey does not become about me, and that the people around me are my top priority. I am confident that when I serve with my whole heart, everything else will fall into place. My challenge to you, the reader, is this:

1. Strive daily to be a servant leader by putting others first. 
2. Smile every day. When you present a happy self, others will follow!
3. Develop a positive attitude. Life is better when you are optimistic!
4. When life seems difficult, PRAY!
5. Turn to others when you are feeling down. 
6. Live every moment to the fullest! 

   I have just a couple more things before I end my first blog post! :)

      A few things you should know about me, Chantelle Simon...
   1. My family and my faith are my top two priorities. They both keep me grounded. 

My wonderful parents without my younger sister and brother!
   2. I am always moving...always. Just ask the other state officers! :)

   3. I LOVE meeting new people!

    4. My passion is FFA!! :) 

   5. I love my teammates! :) They are all amazing people! 

Kansas FFA, how will you serve with your whole heart?