Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Estes Park, Colorado

Seeing as I leave later today for another quick work trip, I figured I better get my act together and get something about my trip to Colorado up here! Because trust me, my lack of timeliness is not a reflection on the trip.

Every two years, my organization hosts a world staff conference that brings together all of our 15 overseas offices, along with our two here in the U.S. Two years ago (really!?) we traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, and this year our conference was in Estes Park, Colorado! Even though I grew up in Oregon and lived in Kansas for eight years, I actually have never spent any significant time Colorado, aside from the airport of course and passing through on a long road trip. Our conference was hosted at the famous, historical Stanley Hotel, which might be familiar to some because it was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book, The Shining, and a few other movies were filmed there, including Dumb and Dumber.

I’ve said this a few times before, but I really do love the organization that I work for and being able to get together and connect with our staff from around the world helps remind me why my job is more than just an 8 to 5. My co-workers are very passionate about the wheat industry and the people in it. They are intelligent, kind, supportive and… hilarious. I am a better professional, and person because of them.

One fun addition to this trip was that my mom tagged along!

My organization also values family and unique experiences, so I was able to invite my mom along to join us in Estes Park. While I was in meetings she enjoyed a spa day and lots of time outside, which was great opportunity for her to just relax because she had just wrapped her own busy couple of weeks at work. After I wrapped up with my conference we stayed an extra few days for a mini mother-daughter vacay.

Though I did take a lot of photos during the conference, I’m not sharing any of them here because I don’t think its the right platform, but if you want to see those then head over to our Facebook page HERE.

It snowed in Estes Park a few days before we arrived, so I had to pull out a few winter pieces that I had already packed away for the summer. Thankfully, by the time we arrived most of it had melted and the weather didn’t end up being quite as cold as we expected.

I loved getting to introduce my mom to my co-workers and our wheat farmers!

View from the front porch of The Stanley Hotel.

The “downtown” main strip was adorable, full of t-shirt shops, candy stores and YEAR-ROUND CHRISTMAS STORES.

Mom made me go in one. If you know me personally, you know I’m the Grinch in my family and being in that store was just too much for me.

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On our first full day after the conference we hiked up to Gem Lake. A few of my co-workers did the hike earlier in the week and mentioned that even though the distance was pretty short, that the hike itself should not be underestimated. The walk from the hotel to the trail head was 1.7 miles and the hike itself was also 1.7 miles. The altitude was definitely a bit a challenge from time to time, even on the walk up to the trail head but after a while we both felt a bit more leveled out. The trail wasn’t too difficult to maneuver until the last quarter mile or so where it got more rocky. But it was all still a bit steeper and slower than we first thought. It wasn’t until AFTER the hike that we learned that the 1.7 miles climbs 1,000 ft, so that explained a lot. But it was so much fun to enjoy the views, chat and just spend that time with my mom.

She’s going to LOVE that shared that. #sorrynotsorry

Gem Lake… which is more like a pond 🙂

So growing up in Oregon, I know that you’re not really supposed to feed the wildlife, but we didn’t go up there planning too. Another hiker near us had her granola bar snatched right out of her hands by a squirrel and when she got up to leave she left of with a few nuts she had leftover, so by then we were already too entertained and curious about how close they would get to us.

They got REALLY close.

Even after we were out of nuts the two squirrels kept come back to us to double check. One even tried to gnaw on my mom’s phone!

This isn’t zoomed in. It was sitting on my backpack which was sitting right next to me.

 

“Paul Bunyan’s Boot”

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We returned back to Denver the day before our flights out and I was able to catch up (very) briefly with two of my best friends!

Kayla is one of my best friends from high school and lives in the Denver area for school right now.

This little one is no stranger to the blog. Baby Robin and her parents, Leah and Ryan just happened to be visiting family in the Denver area and made a little time for a visit!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Sawasdee Ka!

(Hello!)

If you know me personally or follow along on social media, you know that I just returned from three weeks in Thailand and the Philippines!

The initial reason for the trip was for work, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tack on a vacation to the end.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (my employer) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. I served as the staff team leader for three great farmers: Denise from Montana, Clint from South Dakota and Dustin from North Dakota. Once we were over there we were joined by various members of our overseas staff as we visited multiple flour mills and end-product manufacturers, as well as a baking school and bakery fair.

Overall, I am incredibly thankful and excited that it was (FINALLY) my turn to lead a team. The wheat industry is complex and fascinating, and in the almost two years that I have been in this job, it has become an industry that I am proud to represent. And while I am continually learning new things everyday, nothing beats getting out of the office and learning by seeing and experiencing the industry from the perspective of the customers who buy and use U.S. wheat.

I am also thankful for the time I had getting to know my team of farmers. I have said many times (especially here on the blog) that I firmly believe that farming is one of the most honorable professions there is and that I consider it a privilege to have a career in agriculture and use my words on their behalf. When the day-to-day of my job gets stressful or I get discouraged, it is the farmers that I get to know and their stories that help bring things back into perspective for me. Denise, Clint and Dustin were wonderful representatives for their fellow U.S. wheat farmers and I enjoyed getting to share this experience with them.

To read the full story on my work trip visit HERE —> “U.S. Wheat Farmers Get the Chance to See How Overseas Customers Value Their Crop.”

AND if you want to see more pictures than what I’ve included here on my blog, you can find those on the USW Facebook page HERE.

I took A LOT of pictures that I want to share from the entire trip, so today I am featuring the time I spent with the board team and then over the course of the next week I am going to share posts on my vacation with my grandparents and great aunt.

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Before heading over to Asia, the team met for a briefing that USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, where they also visited the Wheat Marking Center and  the United Grains terminal.

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We arrived in Bangkok late on Saturday night and had most of the day Sunday to adjust to the time change a bit and be tourists.

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We visited two temples, Wat Pho, which is home to the “Reclining Buddha”, and Wat Arun. I did take a lot of photos around the temples but since I also visited the temples again with my family, I am going to share those in a separate upcoming blog post.

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On Monday, we visited the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking School. USW has had a collaborative relationship with the school since 1982, where we host preeminent bakery training courses every year. I have heard so much about the work that happens there so I was excited to be visiting.

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UFM also has grocery stores, so after visiting the baking school we swung by. For the most part it was your typical grocery store, with the exception of a few things that I didn’t recognize, but I was amazed by the produce! There was quite a bit more packaging, versus fruit and veggies being just out in the open air and it was all amazing quality. And these were hands down the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen!

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Japanese noodles… which I loved so much that I took my family back to the  same spot a week later and ordered the same thing.

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On the second day, the team visited a cookie and cracker manufacturer. I was excited to learn a little more about the marketing side of the business and about consumer trends. This visit was also a great example of the technical service that USW does. One of our baking consultants actually worked with the company on developing two of the products above that got to try.

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We also had a tour through their plant. All of the different assembly lines and processes were so cool!

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We were visiting on Valentine’s Day, so one of the companies gave us these small cakes. And I ate the whole thing for dinner. #noshame

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Before we had to leave for the airport in Bangkok we made a impromptu side visit to this world market grocery store which is touted as “one of the 25 grocery stores you should visit before you die.” Tally for the bucket list that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a pretty cool.

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We then traveled to Manila in the Republic of the Philippines. Our first day we traveled two hours down to Botangas to visit the country’s #1 flour mill and were privy to this amazing view. The drive there and back was obviously long, but it gave us a great opportunity to really see the countryside.

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The final day in Philippines and on the trip was spent at the 9th International Exhibition of Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment, known as “Bakery Fair 2017.”

Bottomline: It was seriously cool.

And the party started early in the morning before I had a cup of coffee.

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USW’s booth got a lot of great attention. This piece was amazing!

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As was all of the “cakes” on display. You know there are times when I think of myself as artistic… this was not one of those moments.

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These are my co-workers, Matt, Joe and Roy that work overseas in South Asia. I was so thankful to get to know them a bit better. They are my colleagues but they are also mentors, friends and examples of hard work. Most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in a every way.
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In the afternoon we had just a little bit of time to play tourist so Joe took us to Intramuros or the “Walled City” in the heart of Manila.

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Sometimes I struggle to explain all that my organization does (because sometimes I don’t see the entire scope of it) so hopefully this shares a bit of insight into wheat export market promotion.

Stay tuned throughout the next week for temples, elephants and postcard worthy beach scenes…. the picture sharing has just begun.

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Tumon Bay, Guam

Hey hey!

I finally got through the pictures from my work trip to Guam. October has been so busy, it feels like my trip was months ago instead of weeks.

At the beginning of October, I traveled to Guam for my organization’s North Asia Marketing Conference. This conference is hosted for flour millers wheat buyers from Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and gives them the opportunity to hear about the new wheat crop and emerging market factors. Read more about the conference in my article, “Wheat Buyers Conference Reflects Loyalty and Customer Preference.” 

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I really didn’t know much about Guam before I was asked to go on this trip except that it was a U.S. territory located in the Western Pacific (part of the Mariana Islands). But as I told different people where I was going, most gave me a blank stare, so it is safe to say that it is not a place very high on most radars.  It’s a small island, only 210 sq. miles, with a population of 161,785. Guam’s indigenous people are known as Chamorros, who settled the island 4,000 years ago. If you have heard of Guam, it might be in reference to World War II. Hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was caputured by the Japanese and occupied for thirty months until the U.S. recaptured it. I won’t give you an entire overview but I learned more about Guam HERE and HERE, and of course Wikipedia threw in a few credible facts.

Even though I love to travel, I haven’t done much international travel — and yes, I am definitley counting this as an international trip, even though technically it isn’t. This was only my second time in sitting in first class and I’m pretty sure I have been ruined. I can’t even imagine that much travel in the coach. My first flight was 3 hours, followed by two more 8 hour flights, so my total travel time was about 23 hours, including layovers. Overall it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, but again I’m saying that while I remember how comfy it was to stretch out my legs and being waited on. #spoiled

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Guam is currently in its monsoon/rainy season, but fortunately we were lucky and didn’t have much rain at all. Though it was REALLY humid… worse than any humidity I’ve ever experienced in DC or Kansas. I got up early two of the mornings to enjoy the view and take pictures and spent most of the trying to keep my lens from fogging up.

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This was seriously gross.

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Guam is 14 hours ahead of DC and on the other side of the International Dateline, so I spend most of the trip pretty confused about what day it was. I left DC on a Friday and arrived in Guam on Saturday day evening local time. The conference didn’t start until Monday, so we had the first full day to ourselves, which helped immensely with the jet lag. I took the free time to enjoy swimming in the bay, which was SO WARM AND CLEAR! I’m not a huge fan of swimming but I would go everyday if it was like this.

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Monday and Tuesday were full of speakers. Aside from taking pictures and social media coverage, I also did a few video interviews which are going to be compiled later for a few features.

The conference ended with a great dinner and traditional show. I am so thankful that my job allows me to explore new places and that I work with so many people who put so much of themselves into their work.

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NOW, on the the pretty pictures…

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Unfortunately, I could not avoid being pulled up on stage for dancing, and as you can see I haven’t prioritized getting a copy of that video to share…

Guam was beautiful, and though it was a quick trip, I had a great time and it was nice to explore a new place, especially one that was warm as we head into winter here in DC.

Cheers!

Career/Professional

AFA Alliance Member Spotlight

This month the AFA Alliance featured me in its monthly member spotlight.

Being involved in AFA in college had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally. I truly believe I would not be where I am now without those experiences and the network that it helped me build now includes mentors, colleagues, a support system and many friendships.

Becoming a Lifetime Member of the AFA Alliance was important to me not only because I want to continue to learn and develop as a young professional, but also because it signifies that I want to be committed to seeing the organization grow and continue to influence college students for years to come.

Thank you Lauren and Celia for selecting me as your spotlight this month!

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In the Spotlight:
(View the original on the AFA website.) 

Organization: U.S. Wheat Associates

Current Position Title: Communications Specialist

Education Summary: B.S. Agricultural Communications and Journalism from Kansas State University, 2013.

1.      Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Hermiston, OR, which is located in what is known as the Columbia Basin in rural Northeast Oregon. After staying in Kansas for a few years after I graduated college, I moved to the Washington D.C. area just over a year ago. I currently live and work in Arlington, VA.

2.      What does your current position entail?

USW does export market promotion for the U.S. wheat industry, with two U.S. offices and 15 offices overseas. I work on a three-person communications and marketing team, so we cover a lot of tasks. About half of my work is cyclical with a number regular newsletters, press kits and reports that I help write and manage for a variety of audiences. I manage social media and incoming media requests, and often collaborate with our state wheat members and other commodity groups. The other half of my work is on support projects. I work closely with both our trade policy and programming teams, on their projects and events, to plan and implement any communications strategy and support materials needed. I am also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel quite a bit for board meetings, conferences and other events.

3.      What is the biggest professional challenge you have overcome? (or biggest professional challenge you face?)

In college there is so much focus on “self-discovery,” leadership and honing in on what our skills and goals are. As a young professional, it is a different environment and I found it really difficult to feel confident in how gauged where I was in my career, and what was the best next move for me. A year into my current job and my move to DC, I think my current professional challenges is the learning curve, work-life balance and applying myself with confidence.

4.      What advice do you have for young professionals motivated to lead?

Don’t patiently wait around for life after college to start or think that you need a few years under your belt before anything you say or do will matter. Confidence, energy and the willingness to learn are qualities that are respected no matter where you are in your career. And living in a place like DC has showed me that young professionals can have a huge impact when they are motivated to lead. Find a mentor, speak up and be open to new opportunities and networks.

5.      How do you balance your personal and professional life?

Honestly, I know this will always be a challenge for me, because unlike many, I grew up in a family who “lives to work” instead of “working to live.” And when properly balanced, I think that is OK. I am the type of person who pours my personality into everything I do, including my work, and I need to strongly believe in what I’m working toward or for. That also includes my relationships with my co-workers and colleagues. But on the day-to-day I find that the more organized I am, the better I am able to separate my personal and professional life. I think it is also important to have hobbies and interests away from work that add value to your quality of life.

6.      What is one of your habits that has helped shaped your professional career positively?

My network has been the single most important thing in helping shape my career so far. So maybe it’s because of my love for communications, but I always strive to ask really good questions and focus on being present and intentional in my conversations, whether they are in a formal meeting and a casual chat. I want to understand who a person is past just their name, where they work and where they went to school. I believe we all have something to teach one another, and a negative experience is a missed opportunity. Since I moved to DC I set a goal for myself to write a few handwritten notes a month, to express my thanks for something specific or just to further invest in that relationship.

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Of course I couldn’t make an AFA post without a few team pictures…

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2011 AFA Leaders Conference
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2011 National AFA Student Advisory Team
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The team at John Deere in North Carolina, July 2011.
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Royals game, September 2011.
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Ice cream with AFA founder, the late R. Crosby Kemper, October 2011.
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Washington D.C., March 2012.
2011 AFA Student Advisory Team and Interns at the Capitol
National Ag Day in D.C. in 2012
Reunited with my AFA Student Advisory team family.
Reunited at the 2012 AFA Leaders Conference.
Career/Professional, Washington D.C.

Celebrating One Year in DC

A year ago, today, I started my job at U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), after applying, accepting and moving to Washington D.C. from Kansas in exactly two months. (That still makes me exhausted just thinking about it). I will not reminisce too much about the decision to apply and my move because you can read about that  here, here and here.

On one hand, I don’t think it is really that big of a deal, but on a personal note, it is. Earlier today, I was reading my blog post from last year that explained why I was taking this leap

From that blog post…

“There’s just so much more I was want to do and experience. I want my career to be bigger. I want my life to be as colorful, cheesy and fulfilling as possible.  I’ve never wanted to be the person that looks back and regrets what I didn’t do.”

Looking back over this past year and seeing how full my life has been, I can say that all of that and more rings true.  I am proud of how I have grown and am very happy with where I am right now.

I LOVE MY JOB. I made a huge life change and left a place and people I loved, so there was a lot weighing on it, and it honestly could not have been a better fit for me. I get to utilize and develop my skills and talents every day, and I continue to work in the industry that I wholeheartedly believe in. While every agriculture commodity has its own unique history and set of challenges, I love everything about the wheat sector — its value, complexities and most of all, the “wheaties,” who have won me over. The farmers that I represent and get to work with are some of the finest; hardest working people I know, and have already had an impact on my life. The work is challenging and the learning curve continues to be steep, but day in and day out, they are what motivates me to be my best self. And to round that out, I could not ask for better colleagues. It is a testament when someone has been with the same organization for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years, and that is a common occurrence at USW. I am surrounded by people who are fiercely passionate about their work. They are hardworking, funny, nurturing and most importantly, they invest in each other, which creates a rich, family environment. Most days it really feels like I have been at USW much longer than a year.

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My parents sent me these beautiful flowers for the occasion. It can be hard sometimes living so far away from my family and not being a part of each other’s daily lives, but I am so thankful for their unwavering love and support.

Finally, it did not take much, but I have fallen in love with this city. In my mind, strolling past the monuments and being connected to so much history and history in the making will never stop feeling surreal. And I would not want it to. Sure, I am still a country girl at heart, but I cannot help but love the culture and variety of life here in Washington D.C. There is ALWAYS something fun and interesting going on here and the city is bustling with so many career- driven, inquisitive minds. It can definitely be intimidating at times, but this environment is exactly what I was seeking. I continue to meet people who add color to my life and after a year, my list of experiences and places to explore is still endless.

I certainly do not take for granted how fortunate I am to be living here and in a job that I love. Over the last year I have had quite a few people ask me about “my story,” how I got here, how I sorted through my options and what led me to this decision, how I navigated through my new experiences and more. My simple answer is that I listened to my gut. When my daydreams and goals were presented as a tangible opportunity, I knew it was something I could not pass up, regardless of my fears (because trust me, I have lots of them). From there I have had to work on my faith, patience and independence. My faith and trust in myself, and that things will work out how they are meant to. The patience needed to navigate so many experiences and new things to learn. The independence it takes to live in a new (and big) city and start out again not knowing anyone.

This past year has been so much more than I could have ever imagined.

I am so ready for round two.

Cheers!

 

Career/Professional, Family, Friendship, Oregon

Catching Up in 2016…

So it has officially been a month since I last blogged.

Oops. I’ve been doing so well over the past year, but I was bound to have a dry spell again, and it definitely won’t be the last time. To be fair, 2016 has already been a whirlwind, and when I wasn’t busy, I really wasn’t motivated. So today will really just be about catching up a bit and sharing what I have been up to so far this year.

Extra points for those who aren’t related to me and didn’t just close the web browser.

Homeward Bound Again

In the almost 8 years since having left Oregon, I usually always go a few months in between my trips home. This time though, work sent me back just two short weeks after I had been home for Christmas.

This is also where I should note that over those past 8 years of a LOT of air travel, I have a pretty good track record. Only once have I had to spend the night in an airport. I have had to run to make a connection maybe 2 or 3 times and again there has only been one time that I had to get a hotel because of a missed connection due to delays. But my flight to Portland on this trip? I missed completely because I slept in. Let me tell you, the feeling of dread when you wake up and see daylight through the window when you should have been at the airport before sunrise, is not something I want to feel again. I was able to catch another direct flight later in the afternoon, but I am still pretty embarrassed.

My trip to Portland was to participate in a PNW Wheat Marketing Tour with the Idaho Wheat Commission, to experience the wheat supply chain from start to finish. I really value anytime that I get to spend quality time with our farmers and I especially enjoyed seeing a city that I grew up near through a new set of lenses. I won’t go into to much detail, but I did write a short article about my experience, “Pacific Northwest Grain Industry Tour Reveals Source of Quality, Reliability” that you can read here.  My favorite part was hands down, was the opportunity to ride on a tugboat that was pushing a barge up the river.  I didn’t know it was possible to nerd out that much over a tugboat, but friends, IT WAS SO COOL. Even though I grew up watching tugboats and barges on the nearby Columbia River, transportation in agriculture is one of the sectors that I know the least about. Life on the tugboat is a unique line of work and I now have a much better appreciation for that part of the supply chain.

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The Wheat Marketing Center is one of a kind. This is a great place for tours and learning about wheat foods. They are doing a lot of really could research!
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Out on the tugboat! It was SO cold!

I was in Portland Sunday through Wednesday, when my sister drove in to pick me up and take me back home to Eastern Oregon. As always I packed as much as I possibly could into my time at home. On Thursday I went to my old high school to speak with two groups of students. My audience ranged from freshmen to seniors so instead of just focusing on same old college and career prep that they are going to endlessly hear from someone else, I chatted with them on the importance of your “own personal brand” and the role it plays — whether you have an online presence or not — in both college and the start of your career. I shared with them about some of my personal experiences, how I’ve handled both success and failure and a few real life tips. The one student that I personally knew assured me that it was a really good presentation, and I definitely wasn’t lame. .. to be honest, I was just really pumped that I was able to tie in both a Harry Potter and Doctor Who meme into my key messages. #adulting.

I spent some time with my family, watching the high school boys basketball game that my Grampy coaches, and on Saturday my whole family went to our local annual variety show, which was complete with a cast iron-cooked dinner. This is the first year that I have been able to go, and it certainly reminded me why I love my small hometown. The highlight of my weekend though, was being able to attend my best friend’s baby shower. Richole and Dustin are due mid-March, and when they heard that I would be back home again, Richole’s mother-in-law agreed to move the shower date just so I could be there. I have a few friends with babies now, but Richole is the first of my best gals, and that meant the world to me that I could be there to help celebrate.

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Love this girl so much, and I am so excited to see her become a mama.

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Winter Storm Jonas

A few days after I got back from Oregon, the East Coast was hit by Winter Storm Jonas. Now I’ve grown up with snow in the mountains and there were blizzards in Kansas, but this storm and experience was UNREAL. My college friend Jancey had been in town that week for a conference and was planning on staying through the weekend for a fun tourist weekend with me. Instead, she ending up snowed in with me and couldn’t get a flight out for another 2 days. The snowfall lasted for about 36 hours straight and accumulated an average 17 to 26 inches throughout the area. My office was closed for two full days and there were many more half days and delayed starts. When I first moved hear people tried to explain that the city pretty much shuts completely down. Of course, until I experienced it first hand I couldn’t quite grasp what that meant. Grocery stores were empty, and I had a carton of eggs stolen out of my cart the day before storm! A reporter I know back in Kansas even referenced it in a article she wrote #thingsyoucantmakeup. Jancey and I watched A LOT of movies, ventured out a few times when visibility finally cleared up and participated in an epic snowball fight outside of the Clarendon Metro Station. Oh and I had a leak in my kitchen ceiling. I might have some good stories, but its definitely an experience I am not looking forward to having again anytime soon. I really wish WordPress would get its act together and make it easier to attach videos without first putting them on YouTube, because there are a few on my Instagram and Facebook that capture quick looks at our long, crazy weekend.

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Josh Abbott Band

In college I built my budget around being able to go to concerts of all sizes and genres.  But Aggieville, the bar district in Manhattan, KS, is where I fell in love with red dirt/Texas country music. Since moving to DC I hadn’t sought any of the music scenes yet, so when a friend told me she heard JAB would be in the area, there was no way that I was going to miss it. The venue, 9:30 Club, was great, and apparently one of the more popular small venues in the area. A K-State friend who is a student at Georgetown Law tagged along, and while it was great to hear some of their new music, I was really excited to hear most of my old favorites that made me fall in love with the genre and really, Kansas, in the first place.

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Josh Abbott Band at 9:30 Club

Board Meetings

A lot of my busy schedule recently was due to the winter board meeting at work. While our summer and fall meetings are always at other locations, the winter one is here in DC. Between the holidays, travel and the winter storm, by the time I reached the week of the board meeting, it felt like I hadn’t had a “normal” since about mid-December. But even though this meeting had a different pace because the staff doesn’t travel, I really enjoy board meetings. I love the collaboration and hearing about what the different parts of our organization are working on and accomplishment. And of course I really value the opportunity to interact with our farmers and state staff. Outside of the DC office there are so many quality people who contribute to our mission, and getting to know those people personally adds so much more purpose to my career. I was especially excited though, because we recently brought on one of my good friends as a freelancer for the communications team and she was able to make it up to DC for the meetings. Nicole and I both call Northeast Oregon home and vaguely knew each other through FFA, and then ended up becoming friends as ag comm majors at K-State. It’s always nice when the world feels a bit smaller and I am so excited that our paths have continued to cross back and forth.

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Nicole and I were able to make a little bit of time for some tourist fun.

Thanks for catching up with me. Next week I will be back to a regular blogging schedule. I am pretty excited that end of winter is in sight! So far my spring calendar includes National Ag Day events, a girls weekend NYC trip with my best friend Megan, a quick work trip to Kansas, searching for a new apartment to move into at the end of May and HOPEFULLY a quick trip to Georgia to watch my sister play in the NAIA Women’s Golf Championship!

Always something to look forward to.!

Cheers.