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Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.

If you have zipped up a blue and gold corduroy jacket you know exactly what those words stand for; if you haven’t you might not know that is the motto of the FFA.  I have spent a lot of time thinking about this motto this weekend (a lot of seat time will do that to you whether it is a saddle, tractor or car.) 

I have specifically been thinking about the first 2 lines and how following this motto since I was a greenhand FFA member has led me to be the woman I am today! 

Learning to do…Doing to learn

My mind started swirling a little on Friday as my Mom and I tackled a few things (just the two of us) it started with a plan to go trail riding but a feisty quarter pony thought she would give us a run for our money in the trailer loading department.  Mom and I worked together on something we had “learned to do” years ago, we kept working with her and did not give up. Once she was loaded she was unloaded and loaded again! Why? Because she needed to “do to learn” to know we weren’t going to let her by with being a stinker. 

Jen and Mom riding horses
Trail to Mitchell

After our ride and some lunch we noticed a few things that needed to be done around my parents’ farm, but in reality knew the guys wouldn’t be getting to them until November at best with harvest in full and sometimes slow swing, as it often goes.  I had never operated my Dad’s extremely fancy skid loader but knew just enough of how to run it to be dangerous, so off we went to move some bale rings around and move some bales. Next up was unloading and setting up a 14 panel round pen for the horses.  We worked together to get them unloaded, undo each wire, and set the pen up with 0 problems!  I couldn’t help but think to myself if I hadn’t been taught to tackle hard things and didn’t learn by doing I probably wouldn’t have even suggested we try to get the “honey-do list” done. We were pretty darn proud of ourselves and only needed to do one quick facetime to my honey for a skid loader question otherwise projects done and complete on our own!


Then came Saturday, another opportunity to live out the motto!  I woke up with a to-do list in my head, but that quickly changed when the decision was made to combine the cornfield to the south of our house.  I completely stepped out of my comfort zone hauled wagons with our neighbor's tractor, dumped grain, and ran the auger on my own.  Why? Because I am learning by doing and doing to learn. Learning to do things I may have never done without the drive instilled by my family and the FFA.

You see this operation is not just my husband’s operation, this is our operation and while it may be small it is still ours and it allows us to live out dreams we have had since being those young greenhands.  I wasn’t just out helping my husband yesterday either, I was doing my part to haul in our grain while using the phone to bid on cattle at auction that I had hoped we could add to our operation. I say this because I often hear it is nice of you to help out, but when I hear that I can’t help but think it is part of who I am and my role in this operation. I liken it to someone saying a Dad is babysitting.  A dad is not babysitting, they are parenting their children just like I am working on our farm. 

Jen hauling corn with a tractor and wagon
Hauling corn

Without the motto of Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to serve on repeat in my head I am not sure I would have tackled half of the things I have in life, let alone the things accomplished this weekend. I hope I am serving as a role model for others that need to dig in and try things to learn and serve as a role model for those wanting to tackle things that they may be afraid of trying. I am here to tell you that you can tackle the things you put your mind to and when in doubt, thanks to technology, you can always check on YouTube,  facetime a brother or facetime a husband for a little help! 😉

Jen unloading corn from wagon into an auger.

What have you tackled this weekend?

How do you live out the FFA Motto?

From the gravel road,



This is not a post to brag or boast, in fact it is quite the opposite. It is a confession of sorts...

Running history

I began running in 2011. I was a  stay at home mom with a 3.5 year old and a 6 month old that began to crave my early evening runs on our gravel road a few nights a week, it was my “me” time.  Some of you know my story and know that the next 4 years of my life included running, teaching fitness classes and triathlon as well as a weight in the "normal" BMI range for the first time in my entire life! In 2015, I bit the bullet and signed up for my first full marathon. Unfortunately, my Crohn's disease reared its ugly head with a vengeance and I was hospitalized only a month before the marathon and decided it was best to sit it out. I ended up requiring surgery later that year to remove a section of my small intestine. I had something to prove, though, so when sign up for the marathon came around again I think I may have been the first runner to submit my registration. I ran Grandma’s Marathon in June of 2016, then I quit. Like literally quit on myself.

I blamed it on working full time. I blamed it on being a busy mom. I blamed it on pretty much everything but myself.  I signed up for runs, started training and quit. I had a brief glimmer last winter of what was to be a relay race only to have Covid strike and I half-heartedly got my miles in mostly walking.

2020 Panic

Fast forward to the fall of 2020 in the middle of a panic stricken state due to the pandemic, I finally took control. When I started running I ran for my weight loss, my physical health, but also my mental health as a stay at home mom. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner (like in the beginning of Covid)? In November I started ALL over at the very beginning, day 1 couch 2 5 K program I had done in 2011, same gravel roads, same structure but thanks to advancements in technology I was no longer carrying a flip phone and a stop watch with ink on my arm to tell me when to run and when to walk.

I was pretty silent about this adventure. My family knew, I did a couple of Instagram stories while running and I eventually told one of my biggest cheerleaders via text that I felt like “I” was back.

In addition to starting couch 2 5k I hired a coach. Do I know how to eat right? Yep! Do I know how to plan workouts? Yep! Did I stick to my plans over the last 4 years? Nope! Time and time again I would quit on myself only to feel worse and ashamed that I was failing myself, my family and community that I had previously led on their wellness journeys. So I did the only thing left to do, I started over from THE VERY BEGINNING! Day 1 taking care of my mental health, Day 1 couch 2 5k, Day 1 having my amazing sister-in-law as a coach guide me with a fitness and nutrition plan that I could LIVE with and one that didn’t require hours of working out!

Starting over

I started over. Completely started over doing all of the things that I know work to make me a better ME! I have journaled at night everyday since November 1st, not missed a planned workout since then, and tonight I did my final run of the Couch 2 5 K program, with the fastest mile I have run since my “restart”! I stayed committed in a way that I haven’t in many years. All but two of those runs have been outdoors which has meant layers, wind, darkness and sometimes rain/sleet.

Like I said this is not meant as a boast or brag! It is a reminder that sometimes, sometimes you just have to go back to where you started to find your way again. Even if you are hanging your head a little when you start again I guarantee you by the end your head will be held high and you will be so proud of your accomplishment (whatever it is) wellness, financial, writing, any commitment.

If you made it to the end, thanks for reading and I hope this sparked some of you to take a deep, long breath and start again!

Good luck in your adventures, I would love to be your cheerleader! Give me a shout and tell me what your "starting over" looks like!

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