Life Notes

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.


reverse bucketlist

— 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!


So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 18

{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}


This post should really be titled “What has been going on in Amanda’s life for the last two months to keep her from blogging even once?” But obviously that would have been a bit long and obnoxious.

Well as you will see below, I’ve been pretty busy! Every week day has been full at work and my weekends even more full. I’ve actually been slowly adding to this post for a few weeks now, and final found a moment to send it off.

I also returned last week from a quick work trip to GUAM! So as soon as I can get to the pictures on my nice camera I will be blogging about that (hopefully this week)!

Anyway, back to not-so-regularly scheduled programming…

1. NEEDTOBREATHE and Mat Kearney


I crossed two old favorites off my list of live concerts to see with my friends Sarah and Elissa. I have been a fan of Mat Kearney since he debuted about 10 years ago when I was in high school. And NEEDTOBREATHE I discovered early in college. The Monday night concert was out at Wolf Trap Park and was a great venue!

The fact that Mat is originally from Oregon and includes it in a lot of his songs definitely makes me an even bigger fan.

I LOVE when artists cover other classic songs and artists, and blend it in with their own songs.

I was a bit disappointed that we did not get a full rendition of my favorite NEEDTOBREATHE song but the acoustic snippet was still great.

2. Labor Day Weekend


After some back and forth of who was going to visit who where… Nicole made the trek up from Raleigh for a weekend in DC. I am sure I have said this before on the blog, but Nicole is a fellow kid from Eastern Oregon who studied Ag Communications at K-State, and now lives on the East Coast. Yeah, we have a lot in common…

Our weekend was filled with attending the K-State watch party, wandering through Eastern Market and Capitol Hill Bookstore, a few museums and typical DC sightseeing. I’m pretty sure she would agree that the highlight was going to the Newseum! I will never understand why I waited so long to go! There were many moments where Nicole and I both had to pause to collect ourselves, we were really nerding out.



If you are in DC or a visiting book nerd, a stop at Capitol Hill Bookstore is a must for your list. This video does not do it justice.






This story probably deserved its own blog post, but I think too much time has passed for that so I’m sharing it here.

So to get into my condo building you need a separate key from the one I use on my apartment (it is a really old building.) Because I was wearing jeans that evening I decided to not carry a purse or clutch, and just put everything in my pockets, except for my keys which I gave to Nicole to put in her clutch. Except I was trying to be efficient and just gave her my apartment key instead of my whole key ring…

Fast forward to us getting home at 3 a.m., a bit tipsy and realizing that we were locked out of the building, and to top it off the buzzer that is supposed to allow me to open the door remotely from my cell phone was not working. Right about when I am thinking that I am going to have to get us a hotel room, this guy walks up and listens to me go on and on about how I promise I live here and am not some crazy person trying to break in. He lets us in and then I continue to badger him to let me know which apartment number he is in so that I can bring him a bottle of wine. He tried turning me down (and not tell the drunk crazy girl where he lived) but if you know me you know I am persistent.

I did indeed make good on my promise to leave him some wine outside his door (and promptly left very quickly) and just so happened to have this wine on hand with the perfect name.

3. Costco


My family have been Costco members through our business since I was little and it was about time that I got my own card, you know, to spend all of that extra money that I have…


4. Virginia Tech Game


In September, I visited Blacksburg again to spend the weekend with one of my favorite Kansans, Chelsea, who is going to grad school there. I am a sucker for a college gameday and tailgate no matter who is playing… even if they do have some strange traditions.

5. West Virginia vs. K-State Road Trip


Speaking of college football… I started out October the right way by road tripping with my fellow DC K-State alum to our game versus West Virginia. The end of the game was a tad bit embarrassing but it was a great day overall, and for the most part the WVU were very welcoming. Now if I could only get that John Denver song out of my head…


Also, I just love how small the world is! Katie was a part of our group because she was visiting her BF who is at Georgetown Law and also happens to be the sister-in-law to one of my best friends from college, Blaine.

6. Eric Stonestreet K-State Video

And speaking of K-State Football…

So cheesy and so, so wonderful.
And the fact that it is narrated by everyone’s favorite K-State alum makes it 10 times better.
Just do not make me admit how many times I’ve watched it.

7. Gilmore Girls Revival

Have I mentioned lately HOW EXCITED I AM!?!

8. Chasing Bubbles

Looking for a bit of motivation or a break from binge watching on Netflix? I HIGHLY recommend checking out this documentary, “Chasing Bubbles.” It is about really seeing life as a journey and a story about how one guy sailed around the world to discover that. Of course its about a lot more than that, but you should just really watch it to find out.

For me it was also interesting because the younger brother of the guy the film is about is one of my friends through my AFA leadership network. I honestly do not know Joe all that well, but it was interesting to learn about the family he comes from and a bit of what makes him who he is. Overall, this documentary really touched me and it is a story that deserves to be shared.

9. My Puppies


I miss these two all the time, and certainly could not pass up giving them some love on Instagram on #NationalDogDay


10. My Dad and His “Kitty-Kitty”


Over the past two months my parents have been in the process of moving houses, and while living with my grandparents for a few weeks the pets had to stay at various other places.  My Dad has a rather strange affection for one of the cats and so this SnapChat from my sister is just too funny NOT to document.

11.Coffee Things

Coffee has been the real MVP lately.







12. Forever Country

The Country Music Association is turning 50 this year and recently released this medley of songs with a long list of country music all-stars.

I have yet to watch it without tearing up.

13. National Taco Day


My sister posted this collage on #NationalTacoDay.
We may or may not have a taco obsession in our family.

14. Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.




The scaffolding is FINALLY all removed, and the Capitol sure does look gorgeous!



On the Key Bridge overlooking the Potomac River


I recommend “Bilbo Baggins” restaurant. It’s quirky and cute.


Excited for this K-State friend to be in DC for the next full year!





Volunteering at a community garden with my church.


Got dinner and did some site seeing with my cousin Dave who was in town for work.

15. My Life in Memes

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





Substitute a Dirty Chai Latte for the PSL and this is all me.






Pretty sure my parents thought this on the daily for the first 10 years of my life.

img_0354 img_0357

16. Update on My Favorite Kiddos

Because this has become the best part of my “So There’s That” posts.



Wesley Ray – somewhere between 6 and 7 months old.



Robin Michele – somewhere between 5 and 6 months old.
I just LOVE the picture above of Robin with her Mama.


So, There’s That.



Janci’s College Graduation

I figured I should probably go ahead and get this blog post up before the end of another week came up…

(I’m in the process of moving to a new apartment and getting ready for a work trip, so things are a little busy around here.)

But it was important for me to take the time to celebrate one of my favorite people. Graduating college is no small feat, and my sister did it with quite a bit to be proud of.

Janci grad announcement

She was on the Dean’s list almost every semester and recognized with the Outstanding Graduate Award for her major. On top of that she was a student-athlete, finishing her final season this spring as a 2nd Team All-Conference player, an Academic All-Conference student athlete and with a conference regular season team championship. She was also given the Champion of Character Award at the conference championship tournament.


I have always admired Janci for her tenacity. As much we try, there are a lot of new experiences and challenges that you can’t quite prepare for in college, but Janci had more focus and determination than most people I know. And most importantly, she found what she is passionate about, which can be the hardest part. I am so proud of all of her hard work and of the person she became along the way. Even though I keep moving further away from home, somehow we have grown closer as sisters and now best friends.

I was pretty disappointed that it didn’t work out for me to there in person to help celebrate her with the rest of my family, but thankfully they flooded my text message inbox with pictures to make me feel like I was there.

Congratulations Jancz!
I love you~


My sister and our parents.





Mom and Janci.







With our Aunt Diane.




With our Grampy and Grammy.


With her roommate and teammate Karina.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Chandra

“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.


When I originally asked Chandra to be featured, she hesitated, worrying that she didn’t have something fabulous to share. I am so glad that she did though because her story of struggles and hard work finally starting to pay off are the type I want to share. This is a crazy time in our lives and a lot is left to chance and the unknown. I just hope that other young professionals read her story and feel encouraged.

But let’s not jump the gun. This is Chandra. We went to high school together and were friends through FFA. And really, if we are being honest, “friends” was probably a conditional term because we spent most of our time competing against each other, unless we were on the same team, and even then we were probably still trying to best each other. Looking back though, I do have some really fun FFA memories with her and it makes me laugh because I really think that much about our personalities were really similar. Chandra was smart,  creative, witty and very passionate about her interests, and as she’ll tell you below, always had a good sense of who she was. There is not a doubt in my mind that those qualities have evolved and made her into a strong young professional. I have been following Chandra’s story through Facebook over the years and admire the risks she’s taken and the determination she’s had toward pursuing her dream.

– Amanda

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of The RoadI Traveled-

Chandra Magnuson
Age: 23
Hometown: Hermiston, Oregon
College: Oregon State University
Degree(s): Bachelors of Science, Merchandise Management
Current Location: Brooklyn, New York
Current Job: OMEN PR, Showroom Manager

Background Story: I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR which speaks volumes for itself. I’m the oldest of two with my sister Morgan being 4 years younger than me. From a young age my parents instilled a certain sense of “self” into me and a competitive spirit. My father especially always pushed me to go the extra mile no matter what I was doing. I remember he would make me listen to the “Patton Speech,” before big events, so that gives you a glimpse of how much I hated letting people down. I was always very busy growing up which is something I miss now! From about 7 years old I played soccer, danced, showed horses, held a basketball and baseball bat on occasion and leapt into the 4-H program headfirst once I was old enough. I always felt a little out of place in high school, while I had friends in many different “cliques” I never exactly fit in with just one so I often felt out of place. I immersed myself in sports and school activities. I took soccer very seriously and was offended by people on my team who didn’t take it as seriously as I did. I tried to be an over achiever in FFA participating in just about every public speaking event, showing horses, pigs, steers and sheep. I developed a deep passion for public speaking once entering 4-H and I was further groomed in public speaking when I got into FFA and I served as the student council Activities Coordinator for two years. In high school I never would’ve guessed that my love of planning events and speaking would come full circle and I would later find myself working in fashion public relations in New York City.


How did you choose your college and your major?
While I applied to other colleges based off of how prestigious their horseback riding programs were I think there was never a doubt that I wouldn’t be going to Oregon State. I entered my freshman year as a General Agriculture major thinking I would graduate in 5 years ready to be an Ag teacher somewhere in Oregon. Little did I know halfway into my freshman year I would fall into a deep depression that left me feeling lethargic and wondering what I was doing with my life. While I loved the agriculture programs and opportunities I grew up with I knew I needed a change. I met a friend in a writing class that winter that introduced me to Oregon State’s School of Design and Human Environment that along with an apparel design program also had a Merchandise Management program. I had always had a love of fashion, running a small blog not worth mentioning, a love of vintage clothing and its history and in interest in the “behind the scenes” of the industry, so I felt very at home with my major switch.

Standing in front of the old Conde Nast location before it went to 1 World Trade.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations?
There aren’t nearly as many opportunities in the Merchandising program as there are in the apparel program at Oregon State. So during summer term my sophomore year in a Styling class we took matters into our own hands. Our teacher had our small class of 8 create Oregon State’s first Fashion and Lifestyle Publication, DAMchic, a project we are still very proud of today. I served briefly as the first Fashion Director than as the Women’s Fashion Editor and finally the Business Director. One of the biggest takeaways personally from the class were the industry tours we did that summer in Portland. After visiting a small production/event planning house in Portland coupled with the fact that I had recently started watching Kell on Earth from Bravo (I have since met and worked for Kelly Cutrone and I absolutely don’t recommend it. If you are wondering if she is as mean in person as she is on America’s Next Top Model, the answer is yes) I was hooked on the idea of working Public Relations and going to Fashion Week in New York.

What internships were you involved in?
It can be very, very hard getting an internship in New York when you live in Oregon. My school had a decent internship program that would assist you in finding an internship, but, for the most part it was up to you. I applied to probably 50+ internships the fall before the summer of 2013. I finally got hired by Marc Fisher Footwear as a public relations/marketing intern. While I was in New York I figured I would probably never get another opportunity to come back to New York and I was determined to get to experience fashion week. So I scoured the internet and a website called until I came across an internship that would take me. I spent the month following fashion week working with the PR team at Yigal Azrouel on his Spring 2014 show. It was a really amazing experience and both of my first internships hold a very special place in my heart. When I moved back to New York in September of 2014 I took an internship at BPCM, which is a very large agency and a lot faster paced than what I was use to at my prior internships.

One of my DAMchic Shoots I styled and directed.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
I truly feel like my biggest challenge was finding a place where I fit in. College can be scary at first and I witnessed a lot of my friends fall victim to the same things I experienced at first. You may be depressed because you’re away from home for the first time, you have to make new friends – or maybe you’re growing apart from the friends you went to college with from your hometown. You start questioning if the major you choose is really what you want to do for the rest of your life and you wonder what it would be like to do a complete 180 with your life. One I found a core group of friends who I could depend on, found an organization I could get passionate about and actually be able to envision what my future could be like, I felt a lot more comfortable and ultimately happier.

Do you have any regrets in college, or anything you would change if you had the chance?
If I could do it all over again I would’ve joined more clubs. Maybe club soccer or speech and debate. Anything that I could’ve done to make myself a bit more diverse, I’ve found not all interviewers after college care about what you did in college but, there are those few that actually want to hear about the things that get you excited and what you’re passionate about.

Post Grad

How have your experiences and involvement in college impacted your career and life post grad?
My styling class directly affected my career choices. While in high school I did not even know what public relations was! I’m pretty sure my parents and friends still don’t understand what I do and what I want to achieve. Internships in the fashion industry are an absolute must and if I hadn’t had them I would’ve probably of even been invited in for an interview.

What are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced moving from college to post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I wasn’t prepared to spend so long unemployed. Despite having the degree, despite having the internships, despite being what I would consider an easily adaptable-get a long with nearly everyone type, it took me a solid year to finally find a full-time position. I thought I found my “home” a couple times in jobs only to find that opportunities aren’t always what they seem. I would estimate that I’ve probably worked 10+ jobs over the past year. I temped in administration/special events for companies such as One Kings Lane, Calvin Klein, One Jeanswear Group and Dior. I held freelance fashion positions with Lanvin, was a Public Relations assistant at People’s Revolution, and was the Internal Events Planner and Receptionist at Rent The Runway. After my department was let go at Rent The Runway all I wanted to do was come home. I live with my boyfriend and at that point I was begging him to move back with me. I was ready to throw in the towel, New York clearly was not loving me and I wasn’t loving her anymore. Thankfully after my department got let go at this point I have some pretty good relationships with a handful of recruiters and I was able to get immediately placed into jobs. I spent a couple months at Ideel working logistics before we were told the company was going under. JUST MY LUCK.

Fashionable feet in New york_

However, a silver lining came with this. While at Ideel I had been applying to jobs like crazy and had two very good opportunities to choose between. I could go to Krupp Group as an Executive Assistant or I could go to OMEN PR as a Showroom Manager – a position that isn’t entirely glamorous or well-paid but would allow for me to be in an environment where I would at least be immersed in PR and be apart of the day-to-day functions of a fashion showroom. So I took the position at OMEN PR and I am hoping to be here for quite awhile.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Is coffee an app? Cause it keeps me in the right mindset to stay organized! Google Docs is my life, this questionnaire is the first time I have opened up Microsoft Word in a long time! We use a website called Apprello to track our samples in and out of the showroom, find out which magazine or stylists has what and when it is coming back to us. I use Instagram and Twitter a lot to make lists of influencers, track press hits and just stay up to date on what is going on. I like to start my day looking at,,, and of course

How do you stay motivated?
I have no family in New York, which has been very hard on me. My boyfriend and I got our first place together this October and he is pretty much my rock. He fully supports my dreams and ambitions and I don’t know what I would do without him and the family I have back home in Oregon. I have been so close to throwing in the towel a handful of times but, I pull motivation the most from my competitive past. Also, my boyfriend got us a kitten in June. Having a fur child around has helped me to stay positive enormously. His name is Jon Snow and despite popular belief he actually knows quite a bit. All in all, I’m not ready to give up just yet.

Jon Snow.


Chandra, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and taking the time to participate — especially since I took a holiday blog hiatus and your questionnaire sat in my inbox for two weeks! I wish you all of the best in New York and am excited to see where your career takes you!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kylie

“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.

This week I would like to introduce you to Kylie, one of my new friends here in D.C. I’m laughing as I write this because just this past weekend at a holiday party one of her friends asked me, “how did you meet Kylie?” My response? “Online.” I never would have thought that the writing I do to scrapbook my life over here in my little corner of the internet would ever lead me to making a friend in real life. But early this past summer we both linked our blogs to a bigger blogger that we both follow, which led her to find mine and leave a comment. We started reading each others posts and soon learned that she had recently moved to an apartment just about a mile away from mine. The first time we hung out we kept joking that it was equivalent to the awkwardness of a blind first date. As you will read below, life here in the DC area is typically pretty busy, so we are still “becoming friends,” but I am already so thankful to have met Kylie. She is passionate about her job as a rookie 2nd grade teacher, and is humble and honest about the ups and downs of balancing it all. She has a great sense of humor and adventure, and is so easy to relate to (except for her obsession with candy corn…)


Kylie Insta
This is Kylie’s school picture for this year… I feel like getting to take school pictures as an adult redeems one from years of awkward braces and horrible trends growing up!

Name: Kylie McGraw
Age: 24
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
College: Duquesne University & University of Maryland, College Park
Degree(s): B.S. Early Level Education (Duquesne), Master’s of Education in Reading (UMD)
Current Location: Arlington, VA
Current Job: 2nd Grade Teacher

Background Story: I’m the oldest of three and I love my brothers to pieces. My mom’s family all lives really close together, so I grew up knowing the family is really important. I went to school where my mom was a teacher, so I spent a lot of time in her classroom. I don’t remember deciding that I was going to be a teacher, but I told everyone who asked that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. Hailing from The Steel City, I do in fact bleed black and gold. I like french fries on my salads, ketchup with most everything I eat, and a cookie table at every major event I attend. Pittsburgh has really grown and changed since it gained its name as The Steel City, and I really got to know it better when I went to college! I’m a self-proclaimed candy corn addict and crazy dog lady…even though Colby and Amigo live with my family in Pittsburgh. I love coffee, the dessert menu, running long distances, and laying on the beach.

Kylie 3
With my brothers.


How did you choose your college and your major?
I never really chose my major. As I mentioned, I decided at a young age that I was going to be a teacher and that is the dream I chased for my whole life. My mom has been teaching kindergarten for 27 years so I had a great role model!

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had two jobs that I loved! I taught Spinning classes at the gym and worked as a tutor in The Writing Center. Last year when I was a full-time grad student, I continued both of those jobs at my new university, but I was also a research assistant. I like to keep busy!

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Every so often, there would be some roommate drama. Living with good friends can be harder than you think! I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so instead of addressing issues that would come up, I would just ignore them. Senior year, I ended up not talking to one of my roommates (the one I actually shared a room with) for almost four months. We said “hello”, “how was your day”, and “bye”, but that was about it. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about hurting her feelings and just said, “Hey! How can we fix this?” Eventually I addressed all the problems that arose, but not without a long awkward period in between the incident and the talk.

I also struggled with my health and body image. College is the first time when you are really in control of what you eat and how much you work out, and I was a statistic. I went to college and gained weight. I only gained about 9 pounds, but I felt puffy and bloated and I wasn’t happy with how I looked at all. I started to change my eating and exercise habits healthfully, but then I got really extreme and struggled with a little bit of orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating foods that you consider healthy. I only ate certain foods, I counted every calorie that went inside my body, and I worked out more than once a day. Most people were telling me that I looked great, but it wasn’t until a few friends said something not so nice about me behind my back that I realized I was doing something wrong. I never sought professional help for these issues because since I recognized them in myself, I felt that I could fix them, with the support of my family and friends. My mom and my best friend at the time were my go-to people if I ever needed someone to remind me that I did NOT in fact need to work out again or I was actually “allowed” to eat the piece of bread on the table.

I wouldn’t change either of these experiences because they made me more confident and healthy post grad.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
I would tell a senior in college to take advantage of all the events that their campus has to offer. You and your friends DO need to go to a football game, eat the special Thanksgiving dinner in the dining hall, and go to the Christmas Ball. All of the things that you may have skipped in previous years — get your friends and go do them. On the other hand, it’s just as acceptable to stay in and watch movies because your stress levels will probably rise as you finish up your final classes and start thinking about the real world. Remember that there is a whole summer after graduation, so if you get your diploma and you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, it’s okay. Make decisions about grad school or your first job, but take a breath. I realized that in the real world, no one really knows what they’re doing…but as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ll go places. 🙂

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Colby (bottom) and Amigo (top)

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My plan for grad school was to go to UMD for 2 years to get my Master’s in Reading and then move back home to Pittsburgh. Once I moved to this area, I loved it and couldn’t imagine leaving so soon. I was a person who said they would never do their first year of teaching while they were still in grad school because both are such huge time commitments and I wanted to make sure they were both getting my “all”. Since I took most of the classes for my Master’s last year, by the end of the spring semester, I felt like I would be able to manage my first year of teaching and taking one night class. I interviewed at a few different elementary schools in Virginia in June and finally found the right school for me. I was offered a second grade teaching position at the end of my interview! My coworkers are so supportive as I figure out what it means to finally be in charge of my own class. I expected some of the challenges I have faced so far, but sometimes I really have to go back and kind of reteach something, especially when it comes to classroom routines. This is not something that I anticipated and I feel really guilty when I have to make time to do something like that. But, my coworkers always remind me that it is vital and that they still have to do that sometimes too. My students are only 7 years old so behavior is a learning experience each and every day! I really do have a great class so I feel very lucky in my first year of teaching. 🙂

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
When I was choosing colleges, I didn’t look very far away from home. However, it was really important to me to go to a school that would let me be in elementary classrooms all throughout my program. Years ago, education students would take college classes for 3.5 years and then step into a classroom for the first time during student teaching. That was a shock for some who ended up realizing they weren’t where they wanted to be. At Duquesne, I was in a variety of different kinds of schools every semester of college leading up to student teaching. Some of my friends even switched majors (think elementary to middle school) after our first field experience! I think going to all of the different schools let me figure out what kind of school and what age I wanted to work with. Since my mom teaches kindergarten, I always thought I wanted to do that, but I had a lot of experience with second graders during undergrad and now that I am actually teaching second grade, I can’t imagine being in a younger grade (at least right now)! I was also involved in an several organizations in the School of Education that worked to support families in the community. Volunteering with families at places like the Ronald McDonald House opened my eyes to what a student’s life could be like outside of school.

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?
I didn’t expect to still feel so stressed about money. In college, you know your funds are going to be a little limited. Apparently, I had this great vision that once I finally had a “real job”, I would exhale and feel totally calm about money and buy whatever I wanted without feeling guilty. Ha! Not so. Currently, I am living within my means, but I always wonder if I can be saving more, donating more, and so on.

As far as my job goes, I didn’t expect to second guess myself so much. In each of my field experiences and in student teaching, I always felt confident in the choices I was making, but that’s probably because I had a lot of guidance. My coworkers and I plan as a team, but I still have a lot of my own choices to make in my classroom. It’s hard for me to understand that I can plan the world’s best lesson and it’s possible that it might not reach all of my students for one reason or another. I can ask thoughtful questions, assign engaging projects, and still reach the end of the lesson and see that some of my students don’t “get it”. Even though there are many reasons why a student might not get it (academic, social, emotional, etc.), I take it personally and wonder what I did wrong. I try to channel those negative thoughts into positive ones, as I am always asking myself what I can do better tomorrow, but it’s still a tough pill to swallow!

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What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I don’t know that these resources will be of any interest to the regular person, but they make sense for teachers! My teammates and I use an online planbook to write and share resources for lesson plans. I like being able to have everything in one place because if I wrote my lesson plans with pen on paper, I would probably have half my resources printed out and another half in an electronic format on my laptop! With our online planbook, I can log right in, see what I have written for that day or week, and print everything I need from one place. We also use Microsoft OneNote to plan future units and share student data. My students use TumbleBooks and PebbleGo to listen and read stories electronically. They also use Dreambox to practice their math skills in an electronic format. Dreambox is awesome because it teaches them in a game-like format and they are taught based on their current level of learning. So, for example, if they advance to the next math concept and they get a certain number of questions or problems wrong, the game automatically bumps them back a lesson to reteach the concept they are struggling with.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a team player but I also appreciate a little bit of independence. Being a teacher gives me a lot of independence in deciding how I want to teach a certain lesson, but I definitely don’t isolate myself from my coworkers. The other second grade teachers and the reading specialist have been such a huge support system for me as I get all of my ideas in order during this first year. Because of that, I try to share my ideas with them when I can! I want them to see me as a team player, too. On the other hand, I’m a worrier and I want to do everything right. I ask a lot of questions (which is a good thing), but sometimes my questions are more along the lines of, “Is it okay that I did/said ________?” I want to work on having more confidence in my decisions!

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I try to have conversations with my students that aren’t about school. They bring so many random trinkets to school and they always have a story to tell, so if I make sure to find an extra few minutes for them to share something either with me or with the class so that we can all relax. And because I am still taking a night class this year, sometimes a motivating thought is, “Life won’t be like this forever.” Regardless of what your life is like, you don’t want to wish time away, but sometimes the thought that things WILL change is a positive one.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I love to work out. I love to Spin, I love to attempt to lift weights in the fitness studio in my apartment, I love to try new classes at the gym, and I especially love to run. There are plenty of people that I know who ask me how I have time to work out while working full time, being in grad school, and trying to maintain a social life, but the saying is true: I don’t have time, I make time. I don’t get home from work and immediately feel like changing into my gym clothes, but I do. Deciding to do your workout is the hardest part. While you are running or biking or lifting, your mind is cleared of all the stress from the day. Then when you have completed the workout, you feel accomplished and oh so proud. It also helps that my principal supports a work-life balance. She encourages us to have other hobbies and interests outside of our classrooms, which is wonderful!

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m most proud of the fact that I moved away from home and created a life for myself that I love. I never thought I would be a person who moved away from her family, for whatever amount of time it may be, but here I am. And no one tells you the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with moving away from everyone and everything you know. All you hear about is the excitement of that new place! At first, you won’t have friends. You will have to go places by yourself. You will feel like everyone at home is having so much fun and you’re “stuck” in this new place alone. And then pretty soon, you learn how to put yourself out there and make some friends and life starts to feel pretty great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?.
I am passionate about Jesus, my family, fitness, healthy eating, reading, and writing. Monday through Friday, I am very focused on my job and my workouts, but I try to work out with friends to make it even more fun. 🙂 Come the weekend, I am oh so tired, but I try to get out at least once a weekend to do something new and/or fun! I still consider myself new to the area and there is so much to see and do. I’ve made new friends at running groups that I attend and I’ve made new friends at church, so it’s important to me to make time to see those people!

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Running group friends.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I intentionally set my alarm a bit early so I don’t have to pop out of bed when it rings in the morning. I like to lay around for a few minutes and read one of my devotionals. I have my Bible, Jesus Calling, my journal, and whichever faith-based book I am reading at the time on my nightstand, so I pick one of those and read for a few minutes before I get up. Right now, I am reading my pastor’s (Mark Batterson) new book called “If”. Once I am up and moving, I turn the TV on in the family room so I can listen to Good Morning America while I get ready! And typically, I am at work about an hour early. I eat breakfast at my desk and just get my mind right for the day (and usually get 107 things together before the students show up).

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I just have to have some kind of beverage! I drink water on the way to work, I sip on my coffee all morning, and then I keep refilling my water bottle all day. Sometimes a little Peach Tea Crystal Light in my water or an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon happens, but I like to think I am pretty low-maintenance (and not caffeine dependent!) when it comes to beverages. 🙂

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I would want to be a magazine or newspaper editor in New York City. In this life, I will write in some capacity for my career one day. I’m working on that now. 🙂 In college, I started writing my blog so that I could share my new adventures in running and healthy eating. The perfectionist in me wants to have a great post every day, so my blog has ebbed and flowed since it began in 2013. 2015 is actually the first year I have blogged consistently, and I am so happy to be writing more and connecting with the blogging community. You can find keep up with all of my adventures here HERE.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I am pretty introverted and I love hanging out by myself, but honestly how nice was it to have all of your friends either in your room or right next door?! There was always something to do!

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Kylie, thank you so much for being a guest on this series and being so genuine. I am so glad that these little blogs of ours brought us together!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


Linking up this Monday with these bloggers:


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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.

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

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


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.

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!


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!


Linking up on this Monday with these bloggers.

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The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Jancey

“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.

I don’t know how to best begin this introduction. I always say that I would want to be besties with celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Anna Kendrick or Taylor Swift. These women just really seem to own who they are. They are sassy, talented, hysterical and whether its true or not, have us all convinced that what you see is what you really get. I’m saying all this because by the end of this blog post I’m pretty certain you will want to be besties with the gal I’m featuring today. Meet Jancey, she’s all of those things above, and more. She was one of the first friends I made my freshman year at K-State. You see, my little sister is also named Janci, and at a meet-and-greet for wanna-be future College of Ag Ambassadors I stood up in the middle of the crowd and yelled,”Whose name is Jancey?” I had decided that meeting this girl who shared my sister’s name would make me less homesick, and not only did she walk over and introduce herself (despite the weird look she was giving me) but she ended up becoming one of my best friends. I could write an endless blog post on all of our adventures in college and post grad when we both started our careers working for Kansas commodity groups, but that’s for another day.

I am excited for you to hear Jancey’s story. She has a huge heart for serving others and for the agriculture industry. She has a lot to share about highs and lows of being a young professional, and her post today is incredibly genuine. Did I also mention that she is seriously funny? I promise she’ll make you smile and laugh.
– Amanda

Meet Jancey


Name: Jancey Saunders Hall
Age: 25
Hometown: Neodesha, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agriculture Economics
Current Location: Manhattan, KS
Current Job: Program Manager at Kansas Soybean

Background Story
I was born in Dorothy’s hometown in Southwest Kansas, Liberal. My Mom is a teacher and my Dad was in the ag industry. I moved to Southeast Kansas when I was a wee tot. My Dad passed away from cancer, so my Mom was a B.A. single parent and raised 2 kids and a menagerie of animals including dogs, goose, tortoises, and more! I was involved in all the things growing up except anything involving fine arts. To graduate high school you had to have a fine arts credit and a language didn’t count (lame), so they put me in choir. Most days I had a pass from either of my ag advisers or our school counselor (the choir teachers wife) excusing me for being late.  They didn’t put a time on it and if they did they always put like 5 minutes after I left them so that I could take my time and talk with the art teacher on my way. I think my choir teacher was OK with this because in order for me to think I’m a good singer my car volume has to be at least a 57 on its max of 62. I’m a lover of books, mac and cheese, the color purple, corny jokes, smiling, Mexican food, roller blades, and the Oxford Comma.

(Note from Amanda: I do NOT believe in the Oxford comma, and I’m pretty sure Jancey added that just to see if I would go through and edit them all out… which I didn’t, even though it pained me not to.)


How did you choose your college and your major?
I’m a 4th generation Wildcat and I would’ve been a 5th if my great grandma would’ve been allowed by her dad to go to college (she wanted to!).  My Dad was on judging teams at K-State, my Mom  was on the volleyball team starting in its second year as a program, and my family is from Manhattan and owned the city dairy for years.  Purple is kind of in my blood and Manhattan has always been my second home.

I majored in Ag Economics aka ‘I don’t know what I want to do when I have to #adult and this has a lot of courses that can be applied to a lot of majors, but I’m never going to be able to make a decision to switch so in four years I’ll leave with an AgEcon degree.’

Probably not the recommended way to choose.

What were you involved in outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was an Ag Ambassador and I served as the College of Ag’s honor code representative (sitting on the panels who listen to cases involving honor code violations aka kind of scary/intense stuff.  Trust me, cheating is not worth it, EVER). The organization that had the biggest impact that I was involved in was Alpha of Clovia, a 4-H based cooperative living house of 62 girls.  We did all of our own cooking and cleaning.  Well, I didn’t cook because I love to lick spoons and don’t care about food safety things #ImmuneSystemOfSteelPerks, but I cleaned a lot of bathrooms…

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My 25th Birthday

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Well, I definitely wouldn’t tell you ‘it’s fine’ to not be engaged/be in a serious committed relationship or that ‘it’s fine’ that you don’t have a full time job on graduation day and ‘you’ll figure it out… eventually.’  Those people deserve to be slapped. (Shout out to my Mom for teaching me that just because someone says something you don’t like, doesn’t mean you can slap them. Sorry about kicking you in the shins with my football cleats that one time in 5th grade.)

But here’s the thing. Even if they are the worst, those people are kind of right… Keep working hard, loving life, growing, and just being you. Everyone’s life path is different and although that tends to make me anxious, it’s a good thing.  In the past 2.5 years since I’ve graduated sometimes I’ve felt on top of the world  and blasted T-Swift on my commute home and danced like I wasn’t driving a major interstate at 83 mph. Sometimes I haven’t and I’ve blasted T-Swift and balled my eyes out on my commute home like I wasn’t driving a more conservative 81 mph on a major interstate. Life happens and I think God really just likes to laugh at our (well at least my) plans.  So I’m going to do my best, enjoy the ride, love fully, and make the world a better place while I’m here. It will turn out somehow and even if everything’s not alright (because life definitely isn’t perfect) you will make it through.  Look beside you at your support system and trust me, those people love you a whole lot.  Find your people and you’ll never be alone.

On an unrelated tangent… find a mentor at your school- a boss, professor, just someone you admire and trust and bother them a lot. Continuing bothering them after you graduate. Also, when you graduate find other people to bother. You’ll thank me later.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started as an intern and then I was hired full time.  I work for Kansas farmers, and MY farmers are the best (no they are not mine, but I’m possessive about things). I work on their behalf to do a conglomerate of things from talking to farmers at farm shows, showing 4th graders how soy touches their everyday lives, and more.  Soybeans are THE coolest crop and have many uses.  I could talk for hours about what all I get to do because soybeans are ‘da bomb.’

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
My senior year of college I had some incredible bosses that expected a lot out of you, but let you figure out how to get it done, yet they were always there if you needed them. Combine that with my role that was juggling a lot of humans, many I had never met, with unexpected surprises of the good and bad variety popping up at any second and having as little as no seconds to figure out how to handle the situation. The skills and lessons I learned that year have taught me about having a solid plan, but being able to roll with the winds as they change if needed. So valuable not only in my career, but all things life.

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The 2014 Real Pig Farming Tour included a stop at a soybean farm.

On the flip side, what are your biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I never realized how dependent I was on relational time with my gal pals to thrive. I mean, I lived with 62 girls and had friends in college outside of my house so even if I wanted to escape them I couldn’t.  Now, I work primarily with guys and they are great, but it’s not the same.  I’ve been able to develop some strong friendships and mentors with others in my industry and just realized how to better connect with those gals I used to see a million times a day, but now only see here and there.

What apps, technology, and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Oh my goodness gracious, I could go on for hours about my Emily Ley Simplified Planner. If you want me to elaborate, I can, but I’ll stop for now… I really hate always having a phone on me so I constantly battle my desire to be super techy and my desire to live in a log cabin in the back woods with no Wifi.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I love sending personal notes of the snail mail variety, because when I receive them it makes my heart sing and although I’m forever behind on birthday cards, I excel in going thru a lot of postage stamps. Legitimately, there is nothing as special as receiving a handwritten note, so why not send more? For November I’ve written a note every day to someone I’m thankful for as part of #Thankfulemeber (I just like making up words).  I’ve sent them to people I see every day, those I just see here and there or only on social media, and to those I haven’t seen in ages, but impacted my life in some way/shape/form. It’s actually been really random.  It’s kind of crazy how doing this every day has taught me to look at every human and ask myself ‘why am I grateful for their existence’ – it makes you love other humans more. It’s really nothing revolutionary, but it’s one thing I can do each day to make others smile- even if you do it just once a week, I know it’ll change your outlook. On the flip side, spelling/grammar and concise writing is not my strength.  I’m working on that and learning how to use spell check in excel.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
For me, it’s the opposite.  How do I stay motivated when work is slow and I have no pressing things coming at me? Things to work on.

Work-life balance?  How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Realizing that even if I feel alone, I’m not.  Leaning on those gal pals that I have and telling them ‘yo, I need a heart to heart/I miss you and to cry and/or to dance and/or to eat cheese dip, can we make that happen soon’.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’ve been able to work with some really awesome humans on developing programs to take those not directly involved in the ag industry yet interested/passionate about it (see also, they like to eat) and connecting them with farmers. Seeing light bulb moments when something clicks for them and how speaking with one of our farmers impacts their perspective is SO INCREDIBLY COOL. Also, having humans understand where their food comes from and how as we get more generations removed from the farm every day is vital. Foolishly, when we started these I just thought that we would be teaching them something, but the women (they don’t have to be female but they have been) have taught me so much on these programs and continue to inspire me long after they are over. I’m grateful for all they teach and inspire me to do/learn/see/grow.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I like to roller blade because it feels like you can fly. This one time a 5th grader actually told me it was lame and I told him he was a bully and then I listened to Shake it Off by T-Swift. I live with my Grandma who is basically snow white.  Seriously though, living with my gram is the best. I want to make a quilt and become a consistent crocheter.  I also really love hanging out with my Gram’s cronies and helping out the American Legion when they do different projects/programs.

jancey 2
With my Gram and Mom

Just for Fun

How many alarms do you set in the morning?
17 – I really need to establish a firm bedtime/wake up time so this won’t be such a problem. I usually wake up on the 11th alarm. Sometimes it’s the 2nd and sometimes it’s the 16th.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workplace?
I am constantly trying to get un-addicted to Dr. Pepper and Mt. Dew.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
An event and wedding planner and/or a teacher. Both of those have been major life considerations since I was 6 and dreaming about having my own classroom, imagining light bulbs clicking and making intense party schedules and to-do lists. My current job actually manages to combine some aspects of both of those jobs, which is strange in a good way.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The sleeping porches, which meant 30-some girls in bunk beds in one giant room. They were freezing so I slept basically in a cocoon. We weren’t supposed to talk, but I always ended up on the obnoxious sleeping porch where that was kind of OK if you whispered. Pranks were played. To some it probably seems nightmarish but for me it was just the best.

(Note From Amanda: Fun fact… these sleeping porches were the ONLY reason I chose Smurthwaite Scholarship House over Clovia. To each their own.) 

What’s the best interaction with law enforcement have you had?
Well one time I was taking food to our tailgate and it was realllllly windy and the lid to my truck wouldn’t stay down with rope and so I had to rearrange the food (it was in warmers).  A state trooper ended up stopping and helping me. I tried to thank him with ribs and cookies.

What’s your #1 bucket list item?
To see all 50 states. I just visited Nebraska for my 25th state in my 25th year (yes it’s ridiculous that it’s an hour from me and I’ve never been there…). I really just love adventures.

What am I most proud of on this questionnaire?
That I didn’t substitute “so” with “soy” once.  For me, that’s kind of remarkable.


Jancey, thank you so much for sharing a little piece of yourself in this post. The world is a better place because there are people like you in it. I can’t wait for you to visit me in January!

As always, thanks for reading friends!


The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Kayla

“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 the series introduction post HERE.


I am so excited to introduce you to my first guest feature, Kayla! I met Kayla through our involvement in AFA. I know we started out as freshman in the program together, but I didn’t get to know her until a few years later when we went to a couple of country concerts together with our mutual friend Lance. As we both got involved with AFA leadership, I learned that this girl has simple, steadfast love for agriculture. She’s genuine, very sharp and has a great sense of humor. Part of the reason I chose Kayla for my first feature is because I admire her strength. As she’ll share below, she comes from a family farm and her first job has taken her 2,000 miles away. I also come from a family business and I understand that when your family’s livelihood is such a big part of your everyday life, it makes it even harder to leave those things behind.

When I reached out to Kayla about being featured she shared that the quote above that I partially chose the name of this series from, is actually her favorite quote. I am not one to believe in coincidences and that in itself, encourages me. Kayla’s story is unique, but it is also relatable and I’m hoping like me, there is something in it that either inspires you and just makes you feel a little less alone on the journey of being a young professional. – Amanda

The RoadI Traveled_Kayla main image

Name: Kayla J. Petree
Age: 25
Hometown: Tipton, MO
College: State Fair Community College and University of Missouri
Degree(s): Plant Sciences, Crop Management emphasis (MU) and Associates Degree, Chemistry (SFCC)
Current Location: Chico, CA
Current Job: Production and Supply Development Program Associate, Syngenta

Background Story:

I have your average Midwest farm kid story. I grew up in Tipton, MO, a small town smack dab in the middle of the state on a family farm as the second oldest of five children—Marcus, myself, Laura, Jessica and Angela. Our farming operation includes both crop and cattle. We grow corn, wheat and soybeans on rotation, have hay ground for our own use, and raise Black Angus cow/calf pairs. When I wasn’t helping out on the farm growing up, I was playing every sport I could—mainly softball and basketball—and being very active in CTSOs (Career Technical Student Organizations)—FFA, FBLA and FCCLA. I held many officer positions over the years, showed steers at the county fair, and participated on several contest teams. My favorite contest by far was Parliamentary Procedure because of the impromptu nature of the performance and because our team was First Runner-Up in state my junior year.

Throughout my childhood, the farm was always the main focus. We were all expected to help out, whether it was working ground, helping plant, putting up hay, working cattle, combining the crops and/or dumping trucks. We all helped out with everything. The ‘family’ aspect of our family farm was and still is the most integral part. The farm is where I learned to drive a truck across the pasture sitting on my knees while dad tossed hay to the cows. It’s where dad taught me to drive a stick shift grain truck by telling me to get it to the edge of the corn field. (I killed it a few times, but I made it.) It’s where my siblings and I bucked bales that were about the same size as us and led steers around the corral way after the sun when down. Most importantly it’s the place where my parents instilled in me a hard-working determination, an appreciation of the little things in life, and a love for my family. It’s where my passion for agriculture began and it is the place where I hope to return someday.

No disaster can overtake you, no plague come near your tent; He has given he angels orders about you, to guard you wherever you go. -Psalm 91:10-11

Playing in the shed at 4 years old. My Dad was a Pioneer sales rep when I was younger and he inspired my interest in the crops and seeds business.
The family at my sister’s high school May 2015 graduation. Front Row (L to R): Laura, Angela and Jessica. Back Row (L to R): Me, Mom, Dad and Marcus.


How did you choose your college and your major?

My senior year of high school, I had my heart set on going to the University of Missouri, majoring in Hotel Restaurant Management, opening a floral shop, and becoming a wedding and event planner. However with the cost of tuition, my parents thought it made more sense for me to attend the local community college and commute from home. (I think my dad secretly also wanted me to hang around a few more years to help him with the farm.) While I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time, I do not regret attending State Fair at all. I left debt free and had some really great advisors and professors. One in particular was my Chemistry teacher. Jack was a really inspiring professor who taught using a hands-on approach, forced me to think critically, and taught me to look beyond just getting the answer correct. This type of learning atmosphere and a combination of continuing to help my dad out on the farm inspired me to change degree paths when I transferred to the University of Missouri to Biochemistry in hopes of pursuing an agriculture research position. However, after a year into the program, it was obvious biochem was not for me. After talking to several advisors, my parents, and peers, I made another switch into Plant Sciences at MU and finally found my home. I’ve always known the agriculture industry is where I wanted to be, but it took a few tries and forward thinking to find what fit me the best.

My Mizzou Graduation in 2014

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

While at State Fair, I became really involved in PBL (Professional Business Leaders), the collegiate level of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). At the end of my freshman year, I became the State Parliamentarian and was able to attend the National Leadership Conference. The following year, I was again elected to my state position and decided to apply for a National Officer position at the encouragement of my adviser, Jodi Fudge. One of the biggest surprises of my life was winning the National PBL Parliamentarian position. It led to a whirlwind year of meetings, trips, conference planning and practice, and meeting people from all over the country. A highlight during my year as an officer was getting the opportunity to attend the National Association of Parliamentarians Convention with other National CTSO Parliamentarians. Call me a nerd, but getting to meet Henry Robert, III and having him sign my Robert’s Rules of Order was incredible!

The constant in my college career and an organization I hold dear to my heart is Agriculture Future of America (AFA). As a senior in high school, I was selected to receive the AFA Community Scholarship sponsored by my hometown, which included the opportunity to attend the AFA Leaders Conference held each year. To put it simple, the ‘AFA experience’ blew me away and my journey with AFA hasn’t ended. I attended all four tracks in college, traveled to DC with the Policy Institute served as a Campus Ambassador in 2012, and was fortunate enough to serve as a Student Advisory Team member my fifth year of college. For me, AFA is so much more than a conference. AFA provided critical professional and personal development, opened my eyes to the diversity of an industry, fostered my internship with Syngenta, and introduced me to some of my closest friendships. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without my involvement in AFA.

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

Transitioning would probably be my biggest challenge going through college. I’m sure several people have felt the same way when you finally settle into the routine of a semester just as it’s getting over and then you have to begin the next. In my case, the biggest transition was when I moved to the Mizzou my junior year and had no idea what to expect. I went from having classes with friends and about 30 people at the most to 300+ class sizes and not knowing a single person. I’ll be honest; it was scary, intimidating and frustrating. On top of it all, there were classes I had to retake because they didn’t transfer correctly, which added to my uncertainty and frustration. That first year at MU was rough to say the least. However, I wouldn’t change it. I look back on that time as a growing experience. It forced me to get outside of my comfort zone, create new friendships, and really figure out what it was that I wanted to do.

The one thing I might have done differently was to explore additional classes or looking into getting a minor. Based on the things that I now enjoy in my job, I think a communications minor or a few more ag business classes would have been fun and beneficial.

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

I would give two different types of advice. To freshman, I would tell them to take the time your freshman year to explore different interest areas and get involved with several organizations. However over the course of your college career, you need to hone in on what organizations are most meaningful, what experiences will really benefit you in the long run, and what classes will challenge you in a good way. My advice to seniors would be to enjoy your last year to the fullest. Cliché, I know, but extremely true. My senior year/victory lap was my favorite year of college. My classes were the most enjoyable because they aligned with my interests, I spent as much time with my friends as I could going to country concerts and having study nights, and I just soaked up as much as I could about Mizzou and Columbia because I wasn’t sure when/if I would ever be back. So to put it simple, enjoy it.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?

My career so far has been quite the adventure. Never in my life have I lived more than an hour from home. So five months before I was to begin my first big kid job, I found out I would be moving almost 2,000 miles from Missouri to California. To say the least, I was scared and nervous and excited all at the same time. I work for Syngenta in the Production and Supply Development Program. The program allows associates to experience 3 separate rotations within different areas and locations of Syngenta during a two and a half-year time period. My first rotation was in Santa Maria, CA working with brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, endive and celery) production and processing. This past February, I moved to Northern California to work in Glenn, CA in the production and processing technology group for sunflowers. This rotation entailed assisting with the sunflower plots and different trials at the site. My third and final rotation will begin sometime in January when I moved back to the Midwest to work in Waterloo, NE at one of our corn sites.

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

I would definitely have to say that outside of the skills and learning experiences I gained growing up on the farm, AFA would be the biggest experience that helped foster my success in post grad life. AFA’s programming is unlike any other. They provide opportunities for delegates to not only hone their professional skills, but also develop those soft skills and personal skills that employers are looking for in candidates. I also have to mention my parent seed internship with Syngenta in Washington, IA, which lined me up with my current job. During college, I spent most of my summers at home helping out on the farm. The summer before my senior year of college I was able to work in Iowa in parent seed corn production. This experience gave me my first real look into the working world and opened my eyes to the hundreds of opportunities available to me outside of my hometown.

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?

I’m not sure I have enough room for this question. There are hundreds of things I never had to worry about before and another hundred I thought I knew about but was severely mistaken. My biggest struggle without a shadow of a doubt is being so far from home and my family. I never thought in a million years I would be living on the other side of the country so far from mom, dad, Marcus, the girls and the farm. My family is probably my biggest life-line, biggest support system, best friends and comfort zone. Being so far from them is something I still struggle with every day. However, I will say that technology has become my biggest resource for staying connected with them. It’s not the same as being in the same room with the people you love, but I would definitely say it lessens the pain of being so far away.

On another note, no one ever tells you how hard figuring out these first few years of a career can be and how lost you can feel at times. I think sometimes we put blinders on at college graduation and think, “Now I’m finally here. I made it. Adult life here I come.” I’ll admit I was in the mindset that I was going to go out into the working world and make a huge impact right off the bat. Not that I haven’t contributed to in each of my roles, but over the course of my early career I’ve come to realize it’s up to me to find the impact behind the tasks I perform and to seek out the little opportunities of growth in a job. No one is going to hold your hand. No one is going to tell you what you have to do every day. It’s up to you. Your career will become what you make of it.

Last thing, lamps are more expensive than you think, Swiffer Wet Jets need batteries, and always set a timer.

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

I am a paper and pencil type of person, so I tend to not use many apps for my job. Now I’m also the type of person who also doesn’t like to plan things out by the minute. I like to have some flexibility in how I work. When I need to buckle down to get something done or plan a meeting, I can set an agenda to get it done. That being said I stay organized without having a set-in-stone schedule by writing lists and I always have my Day Designer planner by my desk when I need to reference my calendar. I use my computer obviously a ton for work, especially Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and my email. The few apps that I do use for work are the weather app, Pandora or Spotify, LinkedIn, and IDWeeds (University of Missouri Extension app). GoogleMaps is by far my best friend when it comes to trying to navigate a new location and area.

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

This question is always a tough one to answer. At this point , I would say that some of my strengths revolve around being very hands on in my job, being willing to take on new challenges and new opportunities, communicating well with others, and being very meticulous when working on a project. Areas where I fall short would center around a lack of confidence in myself. I’m still new to the big kid world and I find myself doubting or second guessing my abilities and knowledge base when making decisions. However even during the past year and a half, I have seen myself grow and become more sure of myself. It’s a growing process and one that I feel everyone overcomes and works through at some point in their life and career.

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

My best friends are some of my biggest life savers. When work bogs me down or stresses me out, I call up a friend. I feel like there are so many of us who are going through the same struggles in their early careers and feeling the same uncertainty as me that it is important to reach out to them. For me, a few hours of talking out a concern or a project with a friend is the main way for me to figure out what my next steps are. It’s also something that I do when I have a success or when I get excited about a new project. Sharing those experiences with someone helps motivate me when things get difficult.

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

Similar to the answer above, staying connected to friends and family is how I stay afloat and refreshed. They are what keeps me going during the day, make me smile and laugh, and talk me through the hard times and challenges I face. A warm bath, good smelling candle, and a glass of wine are my other outlets. And when neither of those options work, I get in my car and do a couple of rounds at the batting cages. There is something about when my bat connects with a ball that relieves my stress. Standing at home plate is the one place where everything disappears and the world makes sense for me. My only goal is making contact.

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

Moving so far from home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I am slowly but surely finding exactly where I fit into this whole puzzle. However, moving away from home and everything I had ever known has to be one of my proudest accomplishments thus far. It takes strength, ambition, spunk and a some nerve to move 2,000 miles from home. But it’s been one of the most exciting times in my life because I’ve met so many great people and learned so much about different crops and different parts of the country. Life right now still seems surreal. I joke with my friends and family that most days I still feel like a 12-year-old trying to figure out life. But it makes me proud knowing the knowledge I’m gaining out here and the personal growth that I’ve had since graduating college.

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

While I work in the agriculture industry, outside of work I am still very passionate about ag. I continue to volunteer my time with AFA by participating in application reviews, programming reviews, and the AFA Leaders Conference. It’s my way of giving back to an organization and an industry that has given me so much.

I try to stay active by playing co-ed softball every week, which has also helped me meet new friends. My other hobbies include exploring Northern California, going to the Chico Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, baking of all forms (especially cookies), checking out the local shops downtown, reading books, and watching sports. My newest hobby would be photography. I bought a Canon camera a few months back and have been getting used to all of the settings and taking pictures any time I can. And of course going to country and red dirt concerts as often as I can!

Enjoying a Cards/Giants game with a co-worker.

Just for Fun

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

I wish I could say I’m a morning person, but that card has never been in my stack. So to get my day started off on the right foot, I need coffee, coffee and coffee. If I do not get at least a cup of coffee in the morning, then I basically can’t function. I also have a pretty set in stone makeup routine. I have to wash my face every morning (and can’t go to bed without washing my makeup off).

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

Coffee is my vise. I make my travel mug of coffee at home, drink it on the way to work, and usually finish at my desk while I check emails and start the day. After I finish my coffee, I switch to iced water with a straw. I also have to have either my Day Designer planner at my desk or some form of paper and a good pen to write my lists. When I need to be super productive, I put my headphones in and listen to some good red dirt country.

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

This is a tough question because I currently love my job and what it allows me to do. While I changed majors in college away from it, I think I would still love to work as a wedding planner or florist. I’ve always loved weddings, the promise they symbolize, and the joy it brings people and families. I’m a sucker for a good love story.

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

My friends!! I miss all of my friends so much! If I didn’t live on the other side of the country, I would probably visit and see my friends more often. However, I’ve been very fortunate that my friends and I do keep in touch by calling one another. I’m also pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve been able to meet so many new friends and make new connections with people. It’s definitely broadened my network.

The other part of college I miss would definitely be Mizzou football and basketball. There is absolutely nothing like Columbia, MO on a Saturday during football season. So much black and gold, tail gates everywhere, and the excitement in the air is addictive. I absolutely love it!!

My family farm.


Kayla, thank you so much for being brave and stepping up to be the first guest in my series!

Next week I’m stepping outside of agriculture to feature a friend who is rocking her career in interior design, with a great guy and toddler to keep her busy…


Linking up with these other bloggers here, here and here this Monday.