Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

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

AFA Alliance Forum

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

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

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

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



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


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

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

Wichita

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

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

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

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

Trade Talk

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

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

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

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 22

{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}

Colorado

During the last week of May, I was in Estes Park, Colorado for a work trip. My mom tagged along and we tacked on a few days for a mini-vacay, which included a great hike to Gem Lake.

Girl Time

Lately the girls from my young adults bible study have been making lots of plans together. Earlier in June, a few of us did the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, which was a bit more challenging than I expected… but such a beautiful day to be outside and chat with these girls who have added such a positive light to my life lately.

This last weekend we had a laid back girls night hosted at my place and then spent another afternoon at Quattro Goombas Winery for wine slushies (insert all of the heart eye emoji’s here) and awesome pizza. The location also has a brewery and a great outdoor space.

Kansas – National Festival of Breads

Earlier in June, I made a quick work trip to Kansas for the National Festival of Breads. Yes, it was a awesome as its name sounds. The festival is hosted each year by Kansas Wheat, and brings together eight finalists (that competed against hundreds!) to compete for the title. The festival also features a small trade show, a demonstration stage, a kid’s interactive section, a BBQ, live music and more. I spent the day of the festival taking pictures and enjoy a “few” samples! This event is a great way to showcase the diversity of bread and the quality of U.S. wheat.

Obviously since I was in Kansas, I made the most of my down time by catching up with friends that I don’t get to see nearly enough.

So many of my favorite things wrapped up in one. If you visit Manhattan and appreciate a good wheat beer, you NEED to try 1863 Wheat at Tallgrass Brewery!


College friends turned commodity colleagues.


Considering I just saw Leah, Ryan and Robin a month ago in Colorado,  I was so happy that they made the drive from Topeka (on Father’s Day nonetheless) to see me again. It doesn’t look like it but I swear Miss Robin was happy to see me…

Kansas Wheat Harvest

During my trip to Kansas in I spent a day out on a farm in central Kansas that was in the middle of wheat harvest. In my mind there are few things more beautiful than a wheat harvest. I took lots of great pictures and shared them in a separate blog post.

Ed Sheeran Carpool Karoke

To know me is to know my obsession with all things Ed Sheeran. So really when you combine that with my obsession with James Corden (Craig!!) then basically you know that dreams really do come true.

I have probably watched this at least 6 times now.

Happy Birthday Jancz

My sister Janci turned 23 last week!

True Friendship

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.


Pictures from home make me happy, especially when they include my sister and my favorite little guy Wesley. (Also, super jealous she got to hang with him for the day.)




Sugarloaf Mountain Winery is so picturesque, and their wine is pretty good! Enjoyed a lazy Saturday afternoon there.


Eastern Market finds.

Missed out on getting a group picture, but my work took an afternoon for an outing and enjoyed a Nationals game together.

These adult coloring postcards are my new favorite stress reliever.


My Life in Memes

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

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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 21

{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}

1. Baby Ego

Most people who know me personally have heard me refer to Josh “my uncle who is more like a brother since he’s only a few years older than me” (which is usually my go-to line). So anyway because of this my sister and I do not have any first cousins on that side of the family.

Well after 23 years WE ARE FINALLY GETTING A COUSIN!

Don’t get me wrong, we obviously enjoyed growing up with our grandparents all to ourselves, especially since we have a family flower shop and we grew up just down the street from them, but its safe to say that Janci, me and the rest of the Ego/Spoo clan are pretty darn excited.

Baby Girl Ego is due mid-July and even though I wasn’t able to be home for any festivities, my family made sure I was included via FaceTime and SnapChat.

2. Speaking of Babies…

My best friend Richole is also expecting at the end of 2017. She shared the news with me a few weeks ago before she made it public but the excitement was a bit delayed because apparently I was a bit distracted that day…. click the image below to see our funny conversation.

3. Face App

My sister texted Josh and me about this new app that allows you to take your picture and then adjust it to be a girl, boy, old, young, etc. When she tried the boy version she thought she looked a lot like Josh, which she does…. but not as much as me. Regardless, its pretty funny and it shows that we are definitely related!

Janci as a boy, compared to Josh.

Me as a boy, compared to Josh.


Me and Josh, as “normal” as we can be.

4. Ellie

A few weeks ago I wrote a little tribute for our family pup, Ellie, who passed away. She was the sweetest dog I’ve ever met and I am sure going to miss her when I am home next.

5. Turnpike Troubadours

This concert definitely made me miss the Midwest and Manhattan, where there is at least one (or more) red dirt concerts in town every weekend! Surprisingly though, this was my first time seeing Turnpike Troubadours ever! A group of Kansas kids and other friends caught this concert at the Fillmore which wasn’t my favorite venue in the area, but it wasn’t too bad at all.

6. Girls Night 

Thankful for these bible study small group girls who’ve turned into friends….and thoroughly enjoy margaritas and dancing as much as I do.


7. Snapchat Voice Changer

I am well aware that most people probably don’t find the SnapChat voice changers as funny as I do…. and that’s just too bad, because I think they are hilarious.

So when I having a ridiculous time trying to navigate the ONE MILE between work and home because of a ONE BLOCK DETOUR, I figured the occasion deserved to obnoxiously documented.

8. Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

Had a great time visiting my friend Chelsea in Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech spring game a few weeks ago… so much that this was the only picture that I took the entire weekend!

I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed this from Trader Joe’s, considering it was an impulse buy while I was waiting in line.

Virtual meeting with Kansas agriculture commodity and university folks means chatting up with all of your friends and mentors.

Another week, another bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s.

…so a 10 minute drive home turned into 45 because of traffic.

9. My Life in Memes

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

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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Friendship, Kansas

Quality of Wheat, Quality of Life.

Life man. It sure throws you some twists and turns. After an insanely busy couple of weeks, some of it expected and some it not… my goal is to get caught up on the blog with a few posts this week, because not only do I enjoy sharing my adventures with you (Hi Mom and Grammy!), but this also is my way of journaling. Right before I left on my trip I posted this graphic on social media. As usual, my life over the past few weeks was right on target.

weird life

So first up, my trip to Kansas, May 20 to 27…

“Quality” is a general characteristic that I think most people would agree is hard to define. We determine quality based on what we value, or more simply on what our needs are, and those variables are obviously going to vary from person to person. With quality usually comes discussions on consistency, efficiency and impact. And then there is the question of the value of quality versus quantity.

My trip to Kansas was all about quality.

I traveled out to Kansas to join one of my colleagues in leading the Overseas Varietal Analysis (OVA) Hard Red Winter (HRW) Wheat Quality Summit. My organization invited overseas wheat customers from five countries (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Israel and Nigeria), who have participated in our OVA programming to travel to Kansas to discuss HRW quality directly with wheat breeders, public researchers, grain handlers and farmers. These customers represented some of the largest milling and baking companies in their respective markets. We were also joined by three of our USW overseas technical staff who were accompanying the customers on the trip.

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group photo edited
The HRW Quality Summit group at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center.
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Two of my fellow USW colleagues from Nigeria and Korea.

In the United States, there are six distinct classes of wheat grown, each one providing different baking qualities important for different products. So while you might use the same all-purpose flour for everything you cook at home, the products we enjoy from the store or bakery are going to vary in the class of wheat that was used to make it based on characteristics such as texture, protein content, moisture, color and weight. Without going into a huge lesson, the challenge is that quality targets are not the only thing to focus on. The breeders develop different varieties for each wheat class that also focus on yield, disease and drought resistance, and more, and that process takes many years. In grain handling, there are also processes in transportation that impact the overall quality and export process. And then the farmers have the task of choosing the variety that are best for their farm and growing practices.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

Like I said, quality is important. If you want to read more about the Summit and my work click the link below for an article I wrote. (Psst..it’s the second story down.)

Overseas Customers Discuss Need for Stability and Consistency in HRW Wheat Quality

So as I thought about the importance of quality and how we each define it in a different way, I thought about the rest of my trip and my life in general.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative and as hard as we try we often spend too much of our valuable time focused on things that don’t matter in the long run. I don’t know if I am just plain lucky, but the amount of QUALITY people in my life, in every place that I have lived, is humbling. These people love and accept me, and make me always want to be a better person. My “me” time while in Kansas for work was pretty short, but it never takes long for me to be reminded why I will forever be so thankful for my QUALITY time living there.

It’s hard sometimes living in a new city, with a new job and having to make new friends. I want that instant gratification of the QUALITY of life that I have built before, and in my impatience, forget that like breeding and growing QUALITY wheat, some things in life take time,  and trial and error.

During my vacation part of the trip I was able to FINALLY meet my best friend Leah’s new little one, Robin Michele. That look you see on my face below is pure joy! I had to wait two months before I got to hold her, and all the pictures and text messages in the world were just not enough for me.

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Instagram Caption: Finally got to meet and cuddle with baby Robin Michele. She is such a sweetheart, I wasn’t very good at sharing.
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Kyla and Baby Robin

I also got to spend some QUALITY time with friends and enjoying the place that I called home for six years. My old co-worker Jodi invited me and our friend Jancey out to her home for dinner. Her little girl #outlawainsley was born while Jodi and I worked together, and I had a wonderful evening flying a kite, “hopping through the onions,” eating “puppies” (puppy chow) and throwing rocks down a dirt road. My friends Kyla and Nathan came up for the weekend to visit which included walking through and seeing all of the new construction on K-State’s campus and a reminiscing night out in Aggieville. The real champ of week though, was my friend Brandi, who let me crash on her futon for a few nights until I could check into my hotel for work. We watched way too many episodes of Grey’s (she finally got me addicted), drank a decent amount of wine and were obnoxious as can be watching The Bachelorette premiere together.

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Instagram caption: “I wouldn’t give a nickel to have it paved in gold. Everything I love is at the end of a dirt road.”
kites with ainsley
Flying a kite with Ainsley and Jancey.
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Kyla and I stopped by Smurthwaite, the women’s leadership/scholarship house where we first became friends.
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Instagram caption: I couldn’t imagine going through life without friends who just get it… Who get me, who laugh at the same things, who appreciate a good glass of #wine and obsess over the same ridiculous things
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Besties back in the Ville.

At this point I would end my blog post complaining about the awful time I had trying to get out of Kansas and back home to DC in time to meet my Mom who was flying in to visit and help me move. Out of all of the crazy travel stories, it might be the best one.

But my trip to Kansas also gave me a good reminder lesson on perspective. That week Kansas saw three days of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and one of the farmers that I met at the Hays Field Day, went home that evening and lost everything on his farm and home just a few hours later. Twice I drove along I-70 near Chapman where one of the tornadoes crossed and saw just a little of the damage it had caused. It angers me when news reports say the “thankfully” a tornado “only hit a rural area,” and seem to forget that those areas are people’s whole livelihood. I only lived there just short of 6 years, but I consider Kansas home just as much as I do Oregon. I love that state so, so much and the people there even more. I’ve complained my fair share, but I would welcome all of my “troubles” over and over again if it meant those people still had their homes to sleep comfortably in.

Quality people, it’s important, worth recognizing and worth being patient for, in all walks of life.

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Thanks to Pat for snapping this picture of me!
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Instagram caption: #Kansas, blue jeans, Romeos and #wheat… These are a few of my favorite things.

Cheers, friends!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post!

 

 

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Rachel

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

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

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I think there is quote that says something about people being in our lives for “a reason, a season or a lifetime,” and I really believe that is true. I have now lived on the West Coast, in the Midwest and now on the East Coast, And between college and my short career, I’ve already had quite a few great experiences. But the most significant part of all of that to me is the different people I have crossed paths with. I think it is really powerful to think about how people flow in and out of our lives, sometimes because of an intentional decision, or something that is entirely out of our hands, and other times because of something simple and fleeting.

I’d like you to meet Rachel. I first met Rachel at some point in college, though to be honest, I really couldn’t tell you when. Rachel is childhood best friends with my college best friend, Megan, which is my complicated way of saying that we now share a lifelong best friend. Megan has always told me that Rachel and I are alike in many ways, and knowing a bit about her over the years, I’ve always had a lot of respect for her. Rachel is very creative, independent and has a kind, old soul. She recently has picked back up on blogging, and focuses on making everything in her life intentional – her conversations and relationships, how she treats herself and how she invests her time. Because of our mutual friend, I have been able to follow a bit of Rachel’s post grad journey and as I started this series, I knew Rachel would be someone that whose story I wanted to share.

-Amanda

the road i traveled RACHEL

Basics

Name: Rachel Williams
Age: 25
Hometown: Wichita, KS
College: Newman University, University of Denver
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Communication, working on a Masters of Professional Studies in Organizational and Professional Communication
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Communications Specialist at Spirit AeroSystems
Blog: Postcards by Rachel

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
Who remembers the great recession of 2008? I was lucky enough to turn 18 and pick my college right when the economy crashed. Newman University offered me a fantastic scholarship. I thought I wanted to go to KU, but it was cheaper for me to stay in Wichita and go to Newman. It turned out well and I ended up loving the experience (and meeting my husband!). I left undergrad with zero loans because of my decision to go to the less expensive school. I can’t say the same about grad school…

I started as a business major and changed to communications because the classes sounded a lot more fun. (And they were).

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
The nice thing about attending a small school is I was able to get involved in almost everything. I played collegiate golf, sang in the honors choir for four years, tried being an RA, and studied abroad twice, once to Guatemala and then to Europe. I interned at United Way of the Plains and worked at The White Dress, a bridal shop.

graduation
Celebrating graduation with my husband Raymond.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
My dad died from cancer five weeks before graduation. It was crushing. Besides the overwhelming pain of losing him, in my grief, I lost touch with close college friends. Looking back, I wish we all had known how to communicate better. All I could see at the time was pain and grief. If I’d been able to tell them how I felt – overwhelmed, crushed, depressed and hurt – I think we would still be friends. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. People change and people drift apart.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be open to new ideas, people and experiences. Don’t take anything personally. Take an extra year and study abroad.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
Mid-senior year I started a job at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, KS. The Museum houses amazing exhibits – dinosaurs, mummies, military items and more – and I had the chance to work in a nonprofit while developing professional skills. I met amazing coworkers and still see them for drinks or dinner all the time. My boss was incredibly supportive when my dad died, when I got married, when I decided to enroll in grad school and when I ultimately left the organization. I worked in marketing and development there for almost three years before I started at Spirit AeroSystems. Spirit is the largest employer in Wichita; we design and build aerostructures for both commercial and defense programs. Working in Corporate Communications, I communicate with Spirit’s nearly 16k global employees daily. I work on both internal and external communication efforts for the company. It’s an amazing opportunity and I love my job.

Spirit
I love working in communications! You never know what fun opportunities might come up

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I worked with amazing professors who cared about me and knew my name. Some focused on professional skills, others on better understanding the world and people. Newman University employs some of the best professors I’ve ever met.

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

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Podio, Evernote, my iphone and my Macbook! Podio is an awesome project management app (best on desktop). I put everything into Evernote – work, grad school, and volunteer notes – so I can find everything in one place. Pro tip: organize by tags instead of Notebooks.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I worked really hard in the last year to be more intentional in my conversations, meetings and calendar. I have a weakness for wine and chocolate… and spending too much money traveling.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Self-care. If I’m feeling overwhelmed instead of challenged, it usually means I’m not taking care of myself. For me, that can mean anything from a five-minute break to call my husband, taking a Saturday off to stay home, meeting up with my book club tribe, working out or making a cup of tea.

SanFran
Here’s a photo from Alcatraz on our latest trip to San Francisco in December

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
In the past year, I’ve realized I need to eat real food, get to the gym several times a week, and have quiet time before or after work to decompress and feel balanced.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I feel like I changed my life. I made intentional decisions to change my health, mindset and future. My husband and I live on the 24th floor of the tallest apartment building in Wichita. We decided not to sacrifice our urban living dreams to Kansas jobs. Right now, I’m in the middle of my second to third-ish Whole30, a nutritional program that revolutionized how I think about food and what I put in my body. We travel several times a year, I made new amazing friends founded on mutual support and I left my nonprofit job in such an open and honest way that a few months later they asked me to join the Board of Directors.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
One class at a time, I’m plugging away at grad school. I’m a #Whole30 graduate and Paleo advocate! I’m a leader for Real Life Book Club, a women’s personal development group. I also curate a blog, Postcards by Rachel, where I document my journey of creating a more meaningful life, one conversation at a time. To round it out, I volunteer on the Museum’s board and I’m chairing the organization’s annual fundraiser committee.

Wedding
#whenyouworkatamuseum… you take wedding photos with a T.rex.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Breakfast and coffee. On Thursdays, workouts with a personal trainer and Megan, my BFF that guest posts here sometimes. I’ve learned accountability is worth paying for.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee in the morning, hot tea the rest of the day. Does my Macbook count?

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
A yoga teacher, personal trainer, nutritionist, life coach or travel agent. Oh, was I supposed to pick one?

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Thanks to study abroad opportunities, my husband and I lived in Europe for four-five months. I think it cost us total about $10,000 (for the both of us). I think my summer in Guatemala cost me about $2,000. That is SO CHEAP. We’ll never be able to travel that cheap again.

Florida
Megan and I on a girl’s trip to Florida last summer (before we both lost 20 pounds – the Whole30 is legit).

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Rachel, thank you so much for being so sincere and sharing your story with me. I LOVE reading your blog posts and am inspired by the way you see the world. I am so glad that we both call that crazy girl our best friend and look forward to our paths crossing again in the future.

Cheers!

Year in Review

Where It All Begins: 2015, A Year in Review

With the new year approaching, I was struggling to come up with a witty way to review my 2015, like I did at the end of 2014. But then again, that post always makes me laugh, because so much was about to happen and I had NO CLUE. Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about that new year’s celebrated on San Antonio Riverwalk with my friends during our Alamo Bowl trip. I remember being really happy, and though I had told myself two months before that I wasn’t going to look, but was going to be open to new job opportunities, I really did love my life in Kansas. I had no clue that just nine days later I was going to apply for a job in Washington D.C. and that a very short two months later I was going to start all over and move halfway across the country AGAIN to the place I had dreamed about since I was little.

2015 was full of adventure and taking risks. It was a year where I challenged myself and when I really learned about value. How to work toward better valuing my friends and family, criticism and praise, life and opportunity. Many of my values were strengthened and some I chose to question. And I learned to better value myself. In the book “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie F. Downs that I have (very) slowly been working through there is a line that says, “–that I am who I am on purpose.” That thought really struck me and I’ve carried it with me ever since (literally, as the picture on my phone’s lock screen.). In the blogging world, a lot of people talk about choosing a “focus” word or phrase for the coming year and at the end of 2014, I thought I would join. My Grammy had given me a token that said “Shine From Within,” and I thought about how that sentiment could mean so many different things. I don’t know if I “focused” on that phrase as much as I said I would, but I do believe that I worked toward being my more authentic self. Of course there are always many more miles to go, and maybe I’ll find new definitions for that phrase, but I can say in full confidence, that I like where I am headed in 2016.

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Let’s not skip past 2015 though, because it’s certainly not a year that I ever want to forget.

In 2015, I took a new job and moved to Washington D.C.

On January 9th I heard about a job opening at U.S. Wheat Associates
On February 9th I accepted a job there as a Communications Specialist
On March 9th I was all moved in and had my first day as a “wheatie.”
And by April 9th, I knew I had found someplace special.
The learning curve is still really steep and I might live by “fake it till you make it” forever, but I honestly love my job. I love my office environment, the work, the farmers I work for and feel so lucky to have so many great co-workers. I love the feeling that I’m doing something that benefits others and in an industry that I believe in with every part of me.

I REALLY miss both Kansas and Oregon, but I am confident that this is where I need to be in my life right now.

In 2015, I explored my new home.

Looking back I don’t really remember much in March and April. I think it was all I could do to go to work and learn as much as I could everyday and curl up on the couch when I got home. But I’ve always dreamed of living here and eventually I began explore. I am fascinated by this place. So much history, so many unique people and there is always a dozen or so fun events going on here. I am continuing to slowly work my way through the tourist attractions (saving some for when I have visitors) and searching out some of the lesser known sights. I love visiting Arlington Cemetery, running on the Mall and saying Hi to Lincoln. I crossed off an item off of my bucket list and watched fireworks on the Mall and enjoyed the cherry blossoms in the spring. Anyone who would like to visit, let me know, I am honing my skills as a tour guide 🙂

In 2015, I had so many opportunities to travel.

My job took me back to Kansas, San Diego, Phoenix, Lake Tahoe and on my first big international trip to Guatemala.
I had the chance for a quick trip home and to the cabin over the summer, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday in Las Vegas, my 25th birthday back in Kansas and witnessed my friend Blaine’s wedding. I spent Friendsgiving in North Carolina and Christmas at home again with my family.

At one point in the summer I went 8 weeks where I never spent more than 8 days in a row in D.C. This is the life friends. There is a lot of ugly that goes on in the world, but I still refuse to believe that it’s not beautiful.

In 2015, I really valued my time with my family and friends.

My grandparents are the true rockstars of the year. They cut their anniversary trip short to fly to Kansas to help me pack and then made the drive East with me. And I don’t know which was more horrible, the weather on the drive or my attitude. I put all of my stress and worry on them and all they did was love me back. I am still incredibly grateful for the help and support.

Even though I moved to the East coast I still got to spend quality time with people that I love and as I mentioned above, shared many celebrations together. I had a few visitors to my new home, including my best friend Richole from Oregon and my college friend Chelsea, who is now a fellow Virginian at Virginia Tech. And most importantly I am starting to build a life here and making new friends

In 2015, I did things that made me happy.

I became a resident of Virginia and began to embrace my new home.
I began a window garden again, and failed, AGAIN.
I continued to do some DIY projects and finished my very first crochet project.
I discovered the BEST semi-annual book sale at the local library and added so many new books to my own library.
I finally got a professional camera and am enjoying learning how to better use it and sharing those images with others.
I really dove into blogging, sharing my love for music, scrapbooking my life and felt so rewarded and motivated by my new “The Road I Traveled” series. And those are all just SOME of the highlights.

There is a lot that I am hopeful for in 2016.
I hope that I continue to grow, build my self confidence and be someone that I can be proud of.
I hope that I keep learning and become a better communicator and agriculturist. I hope to better serve others, both in my career and everyone who deserves the best from me. I hope to continue to have wanderlust and be brave enough to take risks. And most of all I am always hopeful for health and happiness, for myself and those I love.
There are a lot of things that we can be in this life, but I think just being simply happy, is the best there is.

I have lots of goals and adventures to be had, so 2016, I hope you are ready, because I am not slowing down.

And of course, my list of favorite music this year is long, but these four songs are what motivated me and spoke to my heart this year.

Cheers, and Happy New Years!