The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Tim

“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.


Today’s guest is another friend from college. I met Tim while I was living at the Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership House for women and he was at Smith House for men. Early on he gave me a bit of hard time for being in agriculture communications, while he was instead  in the journalism school, but I think we eventually got past that 🙂 I’ve always appreciated Tim’s work as a journalist. He is a great writer and professional, and I love that every time I open my K-Stater magazine, (which is always a great piece), that I know who put in all the hard work and talent to put it together. Plus, he’s a great guy and one of the biggest true K-State sports fans I know. I enjoyed getting caught up on his career and hearing about the lessons he has learned along the way so far. I hope you enjoy his story!

– Amanda

Tim Schrag
Age: 27
Hometown: Kingman, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Bachelor of science in journalism and digital media, 2012
Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Current Job: Editor of the K-Stater magazine for the K-State Alumni Association


How did you choose your college and your major?
My dad went to Kansas State University and earned a degree in horticulture. He also played football and ran track for K-State in the 1980s. He really loved that place, so I really loved it too. Then, I had the opportunity to visit and I knew immediately it was where I needed to be.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
A bulk of my time outside of the classroom was spent working for the student-run newspaper the Kansas State Collegian. I quite literally lived in that campus newsroom. It’s where I cut my teeth in journalism and really got comfortable learning how to craft a news story. I worked as a reporter, desk editor, recruiter and served three times as editor-in-chief. Looking back, I know there were countless long nights, misspellings and hard lessons learned, but I barely remember those. What I do recall, are the great people I met through the paper, the late-night discussions, prank wars, inside jokes and the basics of how to work in news organization.

I also had the opportunity to intern for the Wichita Eagle and the Manhattan Mercury.

I also lived in a scholarship house on campus, helped recruit students to K-State at the Journalism Education Association’s national conventions and worked as a class leader for a freshman introduction to leadership concepts course for the Staley School of Leadership Studies.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I probably stretched myself too thin at times. That was stressful, but then I learned that sometimes it’s necessary to say no on occasion. I wish I learned that lesson earlier.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started a job as a copy editor for the Hutchinson News, right out of college. It was a great learning experience and I wasn’t ready for it.

I knew basic design for broadsheet newspapers and Associated Press style, but I copy editing just didn’t come natural to me. Thankfully, the News’ copydesk had some really talented staff who were willing to teach me. It made me a stronger writer. They taught me to look for holes in every story, how to write a good headline and so many other undefinable aspects of working in a news organization.

I spent about three years with The News. Half of that was on the copydesk. The other half was as a late breaking news reporter. I covered just about everything from congressional town hall meetings, city government, fires (so many fires, too many fires), elections and just about everything in between.

Most of my time at The News was spent working during nights and weekends. I enjoyed the work but really hated the hours. They don’t prepare you in J-School for how much that part sucks. They tell you, but you don’t really know until you live it.

Then in 2015, my college mentor told me about a job opening at the K-State Alumni Association. They have a quarterly magazine which goes out to members. He had been it’s longtime editor before retiring in 2012. He told me to apply for the job. They hired me and now I’m telling my alma mater’s story while also learning the ins and outs of alumni relations.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being the editor of my college’s newspaper seemed to directly relate to my current position as the university’s alumni magazine editor. That’s fairly obvious.

However, I believe the professors, faculty members, staff and other students all taught me life lessons that have shaped me in some way.

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?
People talk about “adulting” and how terrible it is. In college, professors, parents and recent grads all warn us about the real world. It hit me harder than I thought it would. I wish I would have heeded the warnings a little closer.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Google Docs keeps me organized. I use Apple Voice Memos to record interviews. Adobe products help our team put together our publications.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
This always feels like a trick question. I tend to avoid it. That might be because I tend to be very direct. That’s neither a strength, nor a weakness in my book. Do your best, be honest… especially when you mess up, and don’t be afraid to ask questions — even if they seem obvious. That’s how I try to work.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Caffeine and junk food seem to always help me power through.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I don’t answer work emails after 5 p.m. or on the weekends unless it’s an emergency.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
My goal is to make a product that people want to read. Anytime a reader tells me something that can help me produce a better publication, I feel great.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I probably watch too much TV and movies. Who doesn’t these days? I also follow K-State sports (I have season football tickets), go hiking and hunting.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
When I figure that out, I’ll get back to you.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Make your bed as soon as you get up. It sounds dumb, but it starts your day off with an accomplishment.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Caffeine, specifically soda, usually Pepsi.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I guess being a student. Having so many opportunities, being able to meet people so easily. It was just a great life.


Thanks for being my guest today Tim!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Brandi

“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 series has allowed me to share a variety of different people, but my favorite is when I get to share the stories of my closest friends, and today is one of those days. This is Brandi, one of my very best friends. We met early on in college, but I don’t think we became good friends until sometime during her sophomore year and my junior year. We were in the agriculture communications department and ambassadors for the College of Agriculture, but truthfully, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that our whole friendship was originally built on sarcasm, watching The Bachelor and Sonic happy hour.

Brandi’s story is a great example of being open to opportunities that come our way and placing value in being a lifelong learner. Brandi is hard working, creative and has a knack for detail. She’s fiercely loyal, whether its her people or something that is really important to her. What I probably appreciate most about Brandi, both as a friend and a fellow professional, is that she understands the give and take of relationships. I know that I can rely on her listen and then trust that she is going to know what I need to hear in that moment. I hope you enjoy reading her story.


Name: Brandi Herman
Age: 25
Hometown: Hill City, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Agricultural Communications and Journalism
Current Location: Manhattan, Kansas
Current Job: Global Product Communicator for Caterpillar

Background Story: I grew up on a farm south of Hill City, Kansas. We currently have around 125 cow-calf pairs that we run. My Dad also plants wheat, milo, and alfalfa. I think that living in a small town with 1,500 people helped prepare me for interacting with people later on in life. I was a waitress while in high school and quite frankly, just enjoyed talking and relating to people. Also, I believe being the oldest of 4 kids and being very Type A explains the type of strengths that have helped me get where I am today.


How did you choose your college and your major?
I had an incredible ag teacher in high school who, without a doubt, helped guide me to where I am today. Toward the end of my junior year of high school, he encouraged me to start looking at colleges and different programs I might like. At State FFA Convention, I read a brochure for the Ag Communications program at K-State. I remember thinking, “this is exactly what I want to do”, and that was that. If you told my 12-year-old Jayhawk self that I would only apply to one college and it would be K-State, I would have never believed you. Honestly, I didn’t even go on a campus visit until after I had been accepted and had already put a deposit down on my dorm room. I was also a statistical anomaly that never changed my major while I was in college.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I never wanted to be overextended in college as I had been in high school. As a freshman, I took a break from being involved and just got used to being in college. Once I was a sophomore, I took the necessary steps to becoming an Ag Ambassador. At that point, I knew K-State was my home and I loved having the chance to talk to students and parents about all the different options and opportunities the College of Ag has to offer. Not to mention all the cool cats (no pun intended) I met in Ag Ambassadors. Some of my very best friends I made in college came from being in Ag Ambassadors.

I took an internship with Cargill between my junior and senior year. Internships are a good opportunity to explore something you might be interested in, but aren’t sure it’s the career path you want to take. That’s how my internship story went. It wasn’t a bad experience, but during that summer I found out that I didn’t like being so far away from home. This really helped me focus my job search and definitely helped me avoid a situation later on where I wouldn’t have been happy being so far away from family.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
High school was relatively easy for me. I never really had to sit down and study before a big test, which was the biggest change I experienced when I went to college. It definitely took a while before I felt like I knew what the most effective ways for me to review and absorb material were. If I could change one thing, it would be to apply myself more in that area and to get better grades.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
If you interview for a job and your gut is telling you it isn’t right for you, follow your instinct.

I was offered two jobs before graduation and I ended up turning both of them down. One was in Kansas City and would’ve been exactly what my degree prepared me to do, but when I interviewed and met some potential co-workers it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. The other job was more of a sales position and would’ve been further away from home than I wanted to be. So when graduation rolled around and everyone asked where I was headed, I got embarrassed when I had to answer, “back to Mom and Dad’s for a while until I figure things out”. Less than a month after graduation I had already accepted my current job. They didn’t need me to start until September, so I got to spend 3 months on the farm helping my dad and hanging out with my family. The time on the farm was priceless and to be honest, I probably won’t have that kind of an extended vacation from work until retirement.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started working for Caterpillar in September of 2014. Most of my responsibilities at that point were for the layout and upload of customer and dealer-facing media for Work Tools (things that go on the front of an excavator or wheel loader; buckets, hammers, etc.). While I mostly did layout work, some of what we do is take the words from product engineers and expertise from field specialists and morph that into customer messaging. My first two years were spent mostly doing that type of work. Last year, I had the opportunity to work on a data project. At first I was skeptical about how much I could bring to the table for this particular project. I had convinced myself I was bad at numbers because I was never good at or liked math. The project I worked on exposed me to creating data sets and connecting them together using Access, which I have really enjoyed learning. Part of that joy comes from it being a new challenge, but the other part I believe comes from having a very linear thought process. This has helped me understand how the data should relate, connect, and flow easier than I would’ve ever imagined. My job role changed a little bit at the end of last year. I will become less of a content manager and more of a content creator that is closer to touch points with our customers, but am excited for what new challenges will come my way.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
As much as I despised group projects in college, they are the reality of my workplace. Some group projects were in classes specific to my major, which wasn’t bad because the people were all similar-minded. Other group settings were in electives where there was the token no-show person and someone who can’t stand if they aren’t in charge of everything. Unfortunately, the latter is a more likely setup for real life even if it is an extreme example. Working with people from different disciplines was better practice for the real world.

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?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is learning the difference between doing something myself because it is easy versus taking the time to teach others and enable them to have the same capabilities. When I started working on the data-centric project, learning the basics of Access wasn’t hard for me. At that point, I would hear a problem and understand quickly how the data needed to be set up. What took me some time was having the patience to let others learn about it at their own pace so they could be comfortable using the data.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
When it comes to staying organized, I’m old school pen and paper. To do lists are my jam and I really like to see a whole month laid out in front of me. At work, I have a plain notebook I take notes in and write down other thoughts and questions. To me, there’s something satisfying and complete about being able to physically check something off your list.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Since I started my job and had to figure out how to budget, plan, and organize a household on my own, those same attributes became stronger at work too. Patience has been a consistent weakness I’ve had to deal with.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’ve always said that I’d rather go to work and have a million tasks on my to do list than be bored. Part of how I stay motivated is to have the feeling that I’m earning my paycheck and not just going to work to collect it. When things get busy and start to feel out-of-hand, I never hesitate to ask for a priority. For the days that are difficult and stick with you because of a person or project you had to deal with that didn’t go your way, there is always wine and massages.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
The supervisors I’ve worked for so far have been strong advocates of work-life balance. I believe in going to work and doing the best job I can while I’m there and then going home to enjoy my time with my boy and the corgi. There’s a balance to staying late one day to finish a project up, but then recognizing a day you may need to leave early if you’re feeling tired or sick. We also have a flexible time policy at work too, so if you want to get all of your 40 hours in the first 3 days of the week you can. Sometimes I try to front load my week with extra hours so the last two days are shorter. This allows me to have time to run errands or just me time. Plus, I’m not one to pass up time to get some snuggles from my favorite little doggo.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
So from a hobbies perspective, I’m really trying to get back into reading. There’s a point in college where you are reading so much for school, the desire to read for leisure doesn’t sound leisurely anymore. I heard a great quote that has stuck with me. “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” My goal this year is one or two books a month, some for learning and some for fun. Right now I’m in the middle of the first Game of Thrones book.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
When I was growing up my Dad would make breakfast for me. To this day I still need something of substance to get me going in the morning. My go-to is a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on mini bagels or English muffins and a cup of  coffee

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Chapstick. Hand lotion. Purple Beats headphones. Podcasts.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
I fell in love with working in InDesign in college. I think I still would’ve chosen a career path where I was designing, but more creative and less technical than what I do now. Prior to this job, I never knew I liked working with data and numbers so nothing in that realm would’ve been on my radar before now. OR I would be an organizer working for The Home Edit #dreamjob

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
In college, I lived with some of my best friends I made in the College of Agriculture. Next door was a house full of my best friends from high school. Having all of my friends so close and being able to drop by between classes or everyone hanging out on Grey’s Anatomy night was the absolute best.


Thanks for being my guest today Brandi! I miss these days!

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.


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!


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}


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.


So, There’s That.


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.



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.


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.


So, There’s That.


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.


group photo edited
The HRW Quality Summit group at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center.
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.


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

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

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

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.
Kyla and I stopped by Smurthwaite, the women’s leadership/scholarship house where we first became friends.
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
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.

Thanks to Pat for snapping this picture of me!
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!