Life at Random

Reverse Bucket List

Today the Momfessionals blog is hosting a fun topic, talking about “Reverse Bucket Lists” on her “Show and Tell Tuesday.” I think bucket lists are important to have because they make us think about what we want in life and what it might take to get there. But personally I have always clumped bucket lists together with goal setting. Sure, its important to dream and take the time to write down your list, but I think it is so easy to never get past that step if we don’t set goals and think through the actions we need to take to get us there.

Anyway, I love the idea of celebrating and highlighting a reverse bucket list because I do think it is easy to look at other people’s lives (especially on social media) and feel negative toward your own life experiences and accomplishments. I’m all about looking ahead to what’s to come, but I think its important to remind ourselves how far we’ve come too.

As I was writing this, two things stood out to me:

  1. I included some things that weren’t necessarily on my bucket list or a particular goal before they happened, but they are significant parts of my story that I am proud of.
  2. As I browsed around for pictures to use and to help spark ideas for what to include on this post, I was reminded that though everything might not be a “bucket list” caliber item, I’ve lived a pretty awesome, fun and love-filled life so far, and that thought really made my day.

 

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— Going to and graduating from an out of state college —

DLC Photography.

Graduated from Kansas State University in 2013 with a bachelor of science in agricultural communications and journalism, and was recognized as the Outstanding Senior in my department.

— Serving on the National AFA Student Advisory Team in college —

Not sure I would call this a bucket list item, but more of a “I don’t have high hopes, but I don’t have anything to lose by applying” that turned into one of the most important experiences of my life thus far. A year of traveling with these 8 other college students to plan a student conference and learn about agriculture and careers, has shaped me personally and professionally in a way that is beyond measure, and brought so many wonderful people into my life. And more importantly, years later it is a network that continues to push me and support me in so many ways.

— Traveling internationally —

Thailand in 2017.
The Philippines in 2017.
Guatemala in 2015.
Mexico in 2012.

For three of those I have my job to thank. On those trips I got to do some pretty cool things like boat on the Andaman Sea, ride an elephant and hike a volcano! Obviously there are a LOT more places on my list to check off…with Greece and Australia at the top!

— Building a career I love —

I started out my career in the pork industry in Kansas and now I work in the wheat and trade industry just outside of Washington, D.C. On one hand I know that I am extremely lucky for the opportunities that have come my way and the people who have supported me along the way. But on the other hand, I do feel very proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put in to get to where I am only 5 years out of college. I’ve wanted to be a communicator for farmers for as long as I can remember, and that’s exactly what I am doing.

— Moving to Washington, D.C. —


I often tell people the story about how I went from randomly finding out about this open job position on January 9, accepting it on February 9 and starting in on March 9 (all in 2015). And that all included picking up and moving from Manhattan, KS, to Arlington, VA, a place where, once again, I didn’t know anyone, and was WAY different than anywhere I lived before. Looking back, I really do often think, “who the heck does that??” People have asked me whether moving here was a dream or goal of mine, and for the most part, the answer is no. I visited D.C. four times throughout middle school, high school and college, and have always been fascinated by it, but never thought too seriously about moving there. As I finished college, I looked for jobs in Kansas and the PNW (where I grew up.) I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to make another life changing move ever again and I was happy with those two areas. So when I decided that I was ready to move on from my first job, those are the areas I looked again. Yet, less than 12 hours after stumbling across this job posting on Facebook I called my parents to tell them that I had this really strong gut feeling that this was what I needed and wanted to do next.

— Attending an inauguration —

I could (and maybe should) do a post just focused on my “living in Washington, D.C.” bucket list and reverse bucket list.  But once I moved here and knew that I would probably be here at least a few years, attending an inauguration in person was definitely at the top, regardless who ended up as the President. For me, I just just excited to be experiencing a part of U.S. history in person.

— Getting a sister tattoo —


While the other major things on my list above are accomplishments and great experiences, this is more of fun to-do that my sister and I talked about for a long time before we finally decided what we wanted to get and followed through on it. Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but this is extra special because not only it is our last name, but it is written in our mom’s handwriting.

— A few others —

– Keeping up with this blog, even if it has seen some hiatuses 🙂
– Building genuine, lifetime friendships and relationships with my family
– Finding a church community I am comfortable in
– Traveling to all 50 states… I have 35 done (plus Guam) and 15 left to go!
– Buying a DSLR camera
– Visiting NYC
– Watching Independence Day fireworks on the National Mall and at Mt. Vernon
– Taking my sister to Vegas for her 21st birthday
– Learning to crochet
– Becoming a Lifetime Member of the K-State Alumni Association
– Becoming of a AFA Lifetime Alliance Member
– Traveling to watch K-State play in a bowl game (done this twice in 2014 and 2015)
– Rushing the field and the court as a college student
– Attending a game of every major pro team sport (covered football, basketball, baseball and hockey, missing soccer!)
– Too many bucket list concerts to count…and so many to go!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 20

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

These “So There’s That” posts really have become my favorite thing to blog and are essentially the core of what I share on here. I love that it allows me to properly journal what is going on in my life in a straightforward way and also share what’s making me laugh and influencing my life at the moment in various ways. Unfortunately, I went a little too long without posting one again… the goal is at least every 3 to 4 weeks. So I apologize if this post is a tad long, I’ve been busy since my last series post in mid-December!

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DIY New Patio Furniture

To know me is to know how much I hate the winter and being cold, and how much I LOVE sunshine and being outside. My family has always been all about creating spaces outside that are perfect for comfy evenings (or mornings) spent enjoying the weather and good company. All through college and afterward when I lived in Manhattan for 2 years I always had a porch/patio/balcony that allowed me to create that, but my first place in DC didn’t. I moved to my current place almost a year ago now, but by the time I found some extra time last summer it was almost too late to worry about furnishing my new balcony.

So fast forward to this spring, which I have been impatiently waiting for so I could tackle this right away. I did a lot of looking around to determine what I wanted to buy but finally decided that I wanted to go the difficult direction and make a project out of it.

This below was my inspiration from Pinterest. (Original link here.)

I used (14) 8x8x16 cinder blocks and (6) 4×4’s cut to 5.5 feet.

It was actually pretty easy to put all together. It was the loading onto the store cart, then into my car and then 9 trips from my parking garage and up into my condo (I did use a cart for the blocks) that really did me in. Eventually I will take it back apart to stain and seal the wood, and I might end up using nail glue on the top upright blocks.

I splurged a bit too much on the decorative pillows, but I couldn’t help it. Once I saw the crab pillow it all came together quickly! I do need to get rid of an extra coffee and end table set that I was stashing out on the balcony, but once those are gone I will do some planning for small table/rest of some sort and possibly some other decor and something to hold my plants that are currently inside on my window sill.

Soul Sisters

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I originally shared this picture a few months ago on Instagram, but I wanted to bring it back around because really, how cute and PERFECT are these mugs! They come as a set (obviously) and I gave Megan hers for Christmas. You can find them on Etsy from “The Sister Studio.” I love so many of her items!

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This picture is also a few months old… You see I am always building on these posts so that they are supposed to be easier to pull together and edit once I’m ready to publish. Anyway, I couldn’t not share this photo. That drive way leads into my old apartment complex and I still can’t believe that a bus driver thought it could manage it.

Travel Journal

The biggest thing that has happened in 2017 so far is this little adventure I went on in February and have been busy posting just a few posts about….

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

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Sister Act

These are all photos and videos with Jancz during my visit home in December. We love to send silly Snapchats back and forth to each other using the selfie filters, but doing them together ended up being really funny… well at least to us.

The Giving Keys

This is my original post from Facebook:

“I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the DC weather in Georgetown and we stopped for some food and to watch the end of the Masters. A family of four walks up and asks if they can share the other two seats at our high top. Later as they are getting ready to leave the 8 (?) year old girl turns and hands me this necklace and says, “Thank you for being so nice, I want to give you my Giving Key.” Then she explains that you are supposed to wear and embrace your “word” and then pass it along to someone else when you feel ready or when you feel that someone else needs the message more than you. Dear sweet Luchina, thank you for making my day and the little lesson on love. Check out The Giving Keys movement my friends. We certainly need a bit more of this in our lives. #BeTheKey

Happy People

Currently obsessed with this tune. Really in my mind, Little Big Town can do no wrong.

Happy Thursday

Thursday’s are friends, fellowship and impromptu celebratory ice cream cakes.

Administrator of the Year

Back in January my Dad was recognized as Administrator of the Year for the Hermiston School District. I am proud to see him recognized for all of this hard work!

Read HERE —> http://hermiston.k12.or.us/blog/tom-spoo-2016-17-administrator-of-the-year/

Inauguration

Since I moved to the DC area one of the top things on my bucket list was to attend a presidential inauguration and was so thankful that my friend Logan signed us up to get tickets through Senator Moran. I did have a few people question and even shame me for wanting to go. I simply explained to them that 1.) You have no idea who I voted for, nor is it really any of your business to know or make guesses and 2.) I was definitely going to go REGARDLESS of who was being sworn in because I was there to experience a really cool and important part of history.

ANYWAY…
Aside from the 6(ish) hours that we stood in the misty weather, it really was a cool experience.

*Stole this picture from my friend was working the event up close.

Friends Are Part of the Glue

There are a couple of blogs that I read regularly, and one of those is a young teacher in Texas who mostly falls into the “mom blog” category. A while ago she had a friend pass away from cancer and shared this quote that I cut out of her Instagram comment. The quote resonated with me in so many ways that I immediately took a screenshot.

I didn’t want to share her whole personal post, so I sincerely apologize that I am not properly crediting it. You can find her blog here though: http://www.momfessionals.com/

AFA Alumni Spotlight

My best friend has a pretty unique job and I was so proud to see AFA, an organization I love so much, feature her in its spotlight! Go Megan!!

Read HERE —> www.agfuture.org/meganalumni


AFA Policy Institute

Speaking of AFA, the organization brought students to town for National Ag Day and I had the opportunity to join these fellow alumni for some round table discussions with the students about career paths and our own experiences. No matter what the event is, I always leave feeling refreshed and a bit more centered when I surrounded by the people brought together by AFA.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

Girls Night Out = Korean BBQ and Karoke

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Snaps from Janci on the family farm are my favorite.

#Bromance

Last minute free tickets to Red Hot Chili Peppers? Why the heck not?!

Watched my Portland Trailblazers while they were in town to play DC. It was a pretty disappointing loss but great company!

My sleepy puppies back in Oregon.

Original caption from Facebook:

“Nicole and I always joke about how we practically have the same life story. Both Northeast Oregon girls with roots in the Oregon FFA Association who went to K-State Ag to study ag comm and had internships in the grain industry. And both of us ended up on the East Coast where I eventually hired her to do freelance work for my organization… which happens to be part of the grain industry. And that doesn’t even cover all of the other interests we have in common. But while we laugh about it when people ask us how we know each other, its actually the perfect example of how important it is to cultivate and invest in meaningful relationships, both personally and professionally, because you never know where that connection might lead you to or how that person might impact your life many years down the road.

On Sunday, we were able to share that together with Agriculture Future of America (AFA) students visiting DC for National Ag Day. We shared that we are better people and better ag communicators because we blend our personal and professional relationship. We support each other’s careers, the successes and DEFINITELY the challenges, but we are able to do that because of our friendship and respect for each other. And as a BONUS, it is just plain fun to have people to continue to share those life experiences, like #AgDay with.

This is year’s theme was “Food for Life” and I choose to think of that in terms of the relationships and my network in the agriculture industry, and how that fuels my life in every way. Without that network of people that makes me want to always strive to be better, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am in a job and industry that I absolutely love.”

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

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Gilmore Girls  GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Wesley and Robin

Obviously I was long overdue for an update on my favorite two little kiddos who both celebrated their birthday’s in the last two months.

Robin: At Christmas time wearing her new bow from me!

Robin: A new one year old!

Wesley: Fortunately my trip home over Christmas meant I got to spend lots of time with him!

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So, There’s That.

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.
So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 14

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

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1. Welcome to the World Wesley Ray

Wesley Ray

My childhood best friend Richole finally welcomed her little guy into the world on March 4! Isn’t he adorable! I am so excited for this next season of life and know that she and Dustin are going to be great parents. Unfortunately I will not be able to meet Baby Wes until I am home again in July, so for now I am Richole and her family’s number one Facebook stalker…

2. A Mentor and A Friend

There is no other experience in my life thus far that has been more rewarding, humbling or encouraging, than AFA, and I am so thankful that Russ Weathers is someone I personally call a mentor and a friend. As a student on the leadership team, we always ended our day by each sharing a “word of the day” and what it meant to us. To hear Russ choose words as simple as “friendship” and “teamwork” to describe his career, reminds me why agriculture and the people who make it their livelihood are things that I believe in with my whole heart. It is my goal to look back many years from now and be able to say, like Russ, that I have loved every job I have ever had because of the friendship and teamwork around me. Thank you Russ, for sharing so much of yourself with us and dedicating your life to students.

3. Brunchin’

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Love brunches with new friends.

4. Scaredy Cats

I am pretty sure 75% of the random stuff that my  sister and I send each other are funny cat videos…. SO. FUNNY.

5. Can You Name All 50 of These 80’s Movies From a Single Image

THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
THE BREAKFAST CLUB, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, 1985. ©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Because I can, and I did.
It is my favorite movie era, and I don’t know if my mother has ever been more proud of me ace-ing a test.
Take the quiz here.

6. Bill Murray KNOWS.

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7. Excuse Me While I Fan-Girl

The Bachelor is one of the few ridiculous things that I have no shame in being a fan of. It’s the perfect combo of hopeless romantic and quality mockery. My friend Brandi and I have watched it together since we met in college and consider our live-tweeting  a serious sport. Now that I live in D.C. we FaceTime and watch it together that way.

Obviously, our favorite season was our fellow K-Stater (and football player), Sean Lowe. During the most recent season’s finale, we both tweeted images of tweets from Sean’s season that came up on our Timehop apps, and about died when he responded.

#EMAW

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8. Hammy-Downs

Most people would tell you that my sister and I are opposite of each other in a lots of ways. This includes the fact that while writing is my favorite thing in the world… Janci, not so much. Her grades in college are WAY BETTER than mine ever were (she’s on the Dean’s list almost every semester), but I still edit most of her papers. She’s not going to happy about this but I literally teared up from laughing so hard at her error on “hand-me downs.”

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9. Criminal Minds

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I’ve spent the last three weeks thinking that Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds was going to be killed off the show. Of course, this last week just as I am calming myself back down, the story leads to him just plain leaving.

Friends, as an owner of every single season and an obnoxious super fan, it was just brutal.

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10. National Ag Day

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One of my favorite days of the year, and this year was another success! I love the industry that I work in!

11. Snaps and Screenshots

A couple of randoms  from my phone lately that make me smile.

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12. Easter Sunrise Service

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This past weekend for Easter I attended the Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial. It was a pretty early morning as I got there shortly before 6, and it was a little disappointing that it was so overcast that we didn’t get a beautiful sunrise. But aside from that, it was a pretty cool experience. There wasn’t a formal service, but a few pastors gave short messages and led a few prayers. Most of the morning was spent in song. Another reason I’ll never get over all of the unique things that happen in this city.

13. Obnoxious BFF Memes

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I am sometimes concerned by how Buzzfeed seems to know my life.
But more importantly,  I am SO EXCITED for my girls weekend trip to New York City with Megan this upcoming weekend.

If you follow me on any social media, consider yourself warned…

So, There’s That.

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Lauren

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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This week I have been traveling for work in Oregon, which meant that I had the chance for a long weekend at home with my family. This afternoon I met with a group of students at my school, and one of the key things we talked about was the importance of building your network and how it evolves throughout college and into your career.

Lauren, my guest feature today, is a perfect example of that.  Lauren is a part of my AFA network, and while I know that we have “known” each other for while, she’s an example of someone in my outer network (because of AFA)  with whom I’ve more recently connected with directly when our jobs led us to cross paths again at a conference last summer. Lauren is a fellow ag comm grad, and like me, moved to an entirely new place for her job. Lauren is incredibly kind, has a heart for agriculture and people, and she is tackling the ups and downs of what I call “the crazy post-grad life” head on. I am excited to share Lauren’s story with you. It’s refreshing and sincere, and she has some great advice!

-Amanda 

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Basics

Name: Lauren Prettyman
Age: 23
Hometown: Marion, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): Agriculture Communication
Current Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Current Job: Media Specialist for South Carolina Farm Bureau

Background Story:
I often tell people I had the best of both worlds growing up – living in the city close to my school friends, yet being able to escape to the farm whenever I wanted. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember; I lived with my mom in Marion, Ohio, a city of about 35,000 just north of Columbus, and visited my dad often, who lives on a beautiful farm right outside of Marion.

I have three younger siblings, and growing up with them was nothing less than crazy at all times. Tyler (21) is in his fourth year at Ohio State to become a small animal vet tech – I know he’ll be great at this because he is totally a dog whisperer. Wesley (15) is already a hundred times more motivated than I was in high school, and will someday reach the prestigious goal of ‘dotting the i’ for the OSU marching band (The Best Damn Band In The Land). Halle (14) has all the athletic ability that the older three of us didn’t get – she’ll be famous one day.

As it was for many farm kids, my love for agriculture grew from helping my dad on the farm. I started 4-H as soon as I was old enough. My two favorite weeks of the year were county fair week and 4-H camp week. In typical ag kid fashion, I joined FFA in high school, continuing the projects I had started through 4-H. I was the Star Greenhand freshman year, spent two years as the chapter treasurer, served as the chapter vice president my senior year and received my American Degree two years later. I was hooked on FFA and, inspired by my advisor, I set off to college to become an ag teacher.

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Hiking with my family in Asheville, NC this past Thanksgiiving

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
When I initially started my college search, I looked for schools everywhere other than Ohio. Knowing I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture, I studied the list of the country’s top ag schools before making any decisions. I visited Purdue, Penn State and a few others, but none of them seemed to fit what I was looking for. At a loss for other options, I applied to OSU and was accepted.

I started as a freshman majoring in ag education, but after participating in my Early Field Experience in a classroom setting, I knew ag ed wasn’t for me. Halfway through my junior year at Ohio State I changed my major to ag communication. I excelled in my ag comm classes and knew that was where I needed to be. I minored in production ag, which allowed me to take an entry level class in just about every part of the Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences  – food science, plant science, animal science, soil science, meat science and ag business.

Despite initially not wanting to go to Ohio State, I quickly fell in love with the university – the campus, the people, the traditions. I am so thankful God had greater plans for me than I could have ever imagined, and led me to Ohio State.

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Ohio State football game with my friends and 100,000 other Buckeye fans!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I started freshman year in a scholars program – Mount Leadership Society – which focused on scholarship, leadership and service. I quickly learned that MLS was not for me, but because of my involvement in that program, I was able to connect with the other CFAES students, and meet my best friend, whom I attribute much of my college involvement to.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year, that I truly grasped college for what it had to offer. I became involved in anything and everything I could possibly fit into my schedule – Ag Ed Society, Ag Communicators of Tomorrow, Meat Science Club, Ag Business Club, CFAES Student Council, among other things. I was accepted into Alpha Zeta Partners, an OSU ag honorary, which allowed me to travel to Brazil for a semester. I caught the travel bug and also traveled to Chile, Ireland and Costa Rica through CFAES programs.

One organization I became involved outside of Ohio State was Ag Future of America. This organization was the true catalyst for my desire to become an ag leader. The AFA Leaders Conference connected me with students from around the country who were passionate about making a positive difference in the ag industry, and also allowed me to meet industry professionals, presidents and CEOs who were passionate about educating us to be the future leaders of agriculture.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Motivation was something I struggled with freshman year. I didn’t have the desire to become involved, I wasn’t worried about my grades and I skipped a lot of 8 a.m. classes. Thankfully I snapped out of that, got my grades up and became uber involved. But once I took all of that on, the time management struggle was real. I had to learn how to balance my classes, a million organizations, two jobs, my social life, oh, and sleep at some point. Not entirely sure how I did it, but I must have learned something because I came out on top with good grades and lifelong friendships. Shout out to my parents and friends who supported me and kept me sane!

Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
I am so grateful for all of my experiences during my four years at Ohio State – good and bad. I am a firm believer in the cliché saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ and because of that, I try not to regret any decisions I have made. However, if I could change anything about my experience, I would have gotten more involved sooner. College is about new experiences and personal growth, and often we do not realize this until we’re already halfway through the journey. And internships – I would do so many more internships!

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The farm I stayed at during my homestay in Costa Rica.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far.
My current position at South Carolina Farm Bureau is new to the organization, making me the first media specialist they’ve ever had! My job description includes responsibilities like writing news releases and creating social media content, but because I’m in a brand new position, I’ve been really fortunate to sort of make it what I want and what the organization needs. I write a lot – news releases, newsletters, magazine articles, government relations content, you name it. One of my favorite aspects of my job is that I get to travel around the state visiting farmers, hearing their stories, using that for content.

I had no idea the steep learning curve I’d face when I started. I was introduced to crops I’d never even seen in a field before – peanuts, cotton and tobacco. I didn’t know what they looked like, how they were grown or how they were harvested. I didn’t even know peanuts grew underground! But I so loved learning about these crops. And parts of South Carolina have a growing season of nearly 300 days, which allows producers to grow fresh produce almost year-round. I have grown proud to be part of this amazingly diverse industry in South Carolina, and I love that my job allows me to tell the story of South Carolina’s farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Each of the clubs and organizations I was involved in have impacted my professional life in unique ways. The hard skills like time management and budgeting have definitely been helpful in post-grad life, but the soft skills were really invaluable. Communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving – these things are used in the workplace and in life every single day! My study abroad trips had an exceptionally large impact on my soft skills and who I am today, too.

Throughout college you meet so many people in classes, organizations and conferences. This is the basis for your network. All of my involvement created a large network of peers and mentors all around the country. I think that has had the largest impact on my life post-college. No matter where I am, I always know someone. But networking doesn’t stop after college – we have to be intentional about expanding our networks and staying in touch with people we’ve met.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?

Moving out of state to a new city where I knew no one. This was one of the best but most difficult decisions I’ve ever made; it was so much harder than I imagined. I thought that after interning in Kansas City for a summer and having a blast, moving to Columbia and making friends would be a breeze. I was wrong. It was difficult, but SO worth it. I have grown so much as a person since my move. I learned a lot about myself and was put way outside my comfort zone to get out and try new things and meet new people. I joined a kickball league (my team won the league), discovered I actually like to run (three 5k’s in 2015) and I’ve expanded my taste for seafood!

Feeling lost. I think Kayla talked about this in her post. When you graduate college and land a job, you expect everything to be awesome. You graduated college – what could be harder than that? Life, y’all. For me, working world is basically a 180 from college world. But the encouraging thing is we all face many of the same challenges. I get in my own world and think no one else understands what I’m going through, but when I actually talk to my friends about it, they’re all experiencing similar ups and downs with their jobs. Don’t get discouraged!

Lessons learned: budgeting is scary, home improvement is hard, termites are evil, a good glass of wine can cure just about anything.

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Kickball team photo after winning our league.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a strong writer, a problem-solver and an excellent listener. I also have a huge imagination which leads me to be curious and adventurous in just about every aspect of my life. I love to try new things. My weaknesses include long-term planning, focusing on tasks, dark chocolate and wine (hehe). If you really want to know my personality type, I’m an ISFP to the core!! (http://www.16personalities.com/isfp-personality)

And apparently I’m a perfectionist (it took me three days and about a hundred drafts to craft my perfect answers for this questionnaire).

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?

My faith, family and friends keep me motivated and on track every day. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by amazing peers, friends and family who inspire me to be my best. When I’m feeling unmotivated or too far from home, it’s the long phone conversations with my parents or close friends that encourage me to keep moving forward.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?

I had the option of getting rid of my personal phone and switching over to my work phone when I was hired. I didn’t do that. Initially because I didn’t want to sell my soul to Farm Bureau, but it has actually worked out great for many reasons. When I leave the office I don’t have to be constantly seeing my work emails pop up. I can periodically check my work phone to make sure nothing urgent has come up, but otherwise work is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Be intentional about keeping personal life and work life separate. I try not to take my work home with me or let my personal life influence my work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?

I planned a U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Food Dialogue this past November. Initially, the project was not fully mine, but because of happenings around the office, I had to take over planning. It was my first solo project. To plan out every little detail, pray people show up, and then see the event succeed was enormously rewarding.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?

My free-time is spent traveling, hiking, running, playing kickball, exploring Columbia, and staying involved at church.

My relationship with God has grown a lot since moving to Columbia. I found a church I love, was baptized and have recently started a bible study group for young professional women in the area.

My love of hiking has also grown. South Carolinians are big on the outdoors. I’ve always loved hiking, but thanks to South Carolina’s basically year-round beautiful weather and close proximity to tons of parks and trails, I hike a lot more than I ever have. It’s awesome because I’m spending time doing something I love and I’m getting a good workout at the same time!

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

I always check the weather before leaving the house – wouldn’t want to get caught in the rain without an umbrella. And I love to listen to K-Love on my drive to work – it starts my day off on the right foot.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?

Green tea! It has the perfect amount of caffeine to wake me up but keep me focused. And music. I’m addicted to Spotify.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?

Something that would allow me to travel a lot. Travel blogger/writer, or if I work on my photography skills, a travel photographer.

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Visiting McWay Waterfall in Big Sur, California with my best friend Mara.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

My friends! A lot of us who graduated together have moved out of state. I miss being a short walk from all of my friends.

The beauty of campus. There’s nothing better than the start of a new season on The Oval – the first snowfall, all the flowers blooming in the spring and the leaves changing in the fall. South Carolina hardly has seasons.

And football, of course. Oh how I miss being surrounded by thousands of Ohio State fans every Saturday during the fall. Living in SEC country is rough, y’all.

*****

Lauren, thank you so much for participating and being so genuine in sharing your story. I enjoyed getting to know you a bit better and am even more thankful now that our paths have crossed again!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Michael

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This new series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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Everyone, meet Michael. Featuring someone in grad school has been on my list of priorities for this series from the beginning and Michael is a great example of someone who spent a little bit of time in the industry after his undergrad, before returning to academia for grad school. I also want to make sure that he gets a proper shout out… generally student schedules are a bit more hectic and all over place, especially near the end of a semester. Well this kid still went ahead and returned his questionnaire back to me well-before the deadline. That’s impressive! Anyway, Michael is one of my fellow AFA Student Advisory Team alums. A few years younger than me, I first remember meeting Michael in Track 2 at AFA Leaders Conference when I was on the team and leading that track. Since then, I’ve always been able to count on him for a witty tweet and a good laugh. I think Michael is a great (and somewhat rare) example of someone who pursued a degree in production agriculture, without really having a true background it. His passion and curiosity is genuine an contagious. Plus, he’s just an all-around fun,  great guy to be around.
– Amanda

The RoadI Traveled- Michael


Basics
Name: Michael Carlson
Age: 23
Hometown: Johnston, IA
College: South Dakota State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science in Agriculture: Agronomy
Current Location: Brookings, SD
Current Job: Graduate Research Assistant

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?

Having grown up in Des Moines, I didn’t even know until my senior year of high school that SDSU existed. I grew up right next to Dupont Pioneer’s corporate headquarters, so I had quite a few neighbors and family friends involved in agronomy and plant sciences. I didn’t really know what all was involved, but thinking that it might be interesting I decided that I should major in agronomy and figure it out as I go! That narrowed down my choice of schools to primarily land grant institutions. I really enjoyed my visit to SDSU, but what sealed the deal was going to a program called “A Day in the Life,” which was put on by the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences. This program allowed me to interact with professors, sit in on a class and network with agriculture students. After that visit I was counting down the days until I could head up north!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?

I was heavily involved in the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences Ambassadors, where we went out to schools in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to talk about why students should study agriculture and why they should consider attending SDSU for their post-secondary career. I was also involved with the Agronomy and Conservation Club, serving as the club president for a year. I was also able to serve as the Honors College Student Organization Secretary for a year, along with being a mentor as a Teaching Assistant for the Honors 100 class. The last organization that I was involved with was Agriculture Future of America where I served on the Student Advisory Team in 2013. I had an internship every summer between semesters. After my freshman year I worked as a crop scout in SE South Dakota. The following summer I worked as a field research intern for Dow AgroSciences in South Dakota, and during my last summer as a college student I was the seed treatment intern for Winfield, a Land O’Lakes company.

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With 4 of my closest friends, and past Student Advisory Team members at the AFA Alliance Forum

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?

Time management was by far my biggest obstacle! Getting to know and understand how to manage time between classes, work, social life and different activities. Another obstacle I personally had was my very limited knowledge of production agriculture, but I soon found that all I had to do was ask and someone would willingly answer my questions! Personally I think the only thing that I would have changed were maybe to have taken another year of college to finish out some different minors or an undergraduate research project.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

As cliche as this sounds I would say to enjoy all of the experiences from your last year of college. And when looking for a career, don’t worry about if it doesn’t work out like you think it is supposed to, as life likes to take different twists and turns, most of which you never see coming.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

After I graduated from SDSU I started as a sales trainee for Dow AgroSciences in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I was able to learn about the sales process and to begin to call on customers for different reps while working on different projects. I then made the jump back to graduate school this past April to work on an organic weed control system.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?

Working in the corporate world has definitely given me another view which I think has helped me succeed now that I am back in graduate school. The idea of bringing added value to tasks performed isn’t emphasized as heavily in graduate school as it is in the world of sales but the idea of bringing more to the table than what is expected is still a big deal.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?

The biggest challenges that I have would be getting used to different managers. I’ve found that it’s best to ask more questions than you think you should because it’s better to ask to much than come back at the end of the year and not have done enough.

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My mother and I at our first Green Bay Packers game back in October!

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?

I use my MacBook Pro every day, but the calendar is my biggest life saver! Putting down any appointments, classes or due dates definitely helps keep my cluttered brain back in order!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?

I would say my biggest strength would be drive and a strong sense of responsibility. I would say a weakness would be sometimes jumping the gun on things without asking all the questions I should.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?

I take a lot of breaks! I don’t worry about whether or not I will get the project done in a timely manner as I tend to not put tasks off to the last second. Sometimes this means I may work wild hours, especially with my field work I have to do the work when Mother Nature allows me to.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?

In grad school it sometimes seems as if there is not much of a balance, but as I found from working in the “real” world it’s all up to yourself for creating that balance. I have a good group of friends here in town which helps me to detach from the constant questions I have about my project.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?

I am most proud about making the jump back to graduate school. It was a nerve wracking decision but I am glad that I chose to continue my education and contribute to new ideas and information.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.

Life looks hectic! Running my samples and finishing up my classes this semester are taking a lot of my time lately! But I make time to go out with friends and read a few books when I’m not reading some scholarly articles!

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Me and my close friend Whitney touring hiking around Spearfish canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Just For Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

Coffee! And looking over a simple plan of what I have in store for the day! As this has been important when trying to get my field or lab work complete when everything is a rush!

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?

Definitely caffeine — coffee makes my world go round. Also, my music. When doing doing lab work, field work or office work,  it seems about impossible without excellent music to get me motivated.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?

I would be a ski bum! Just relaxing on the slopes living in the mountains sounds like the perfect life to me!

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Me on top of Lone Peak at the Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana.  Turns out I still have work to do on my technique to ski from an alpine like peak!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

As a graduate student, I miss not having to worry about my project and any lab work that is looming over my head at all times! Haha!

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Michael, thank you so much for taking some time out your hectic schedule to participate and share a peek into life in grad school. Good luck on your research and projects!

As always, thanks for reading friends!

Cheers.

Linking up on this Monday with these bloggers.

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