That's Life

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2011-2013…Looking Forward to the Dash

Reflecting back on the past 365 days, I can’t say I’m one that’s rushing to kick it in its butt and push it out the door. It wasn’t a bad year; it was certainly better than 2010. And 365 days from now, I’m hoping I can say the same thing about 2012.

This year saw a lot of changes for me. Mostly, I’m speaking about the new job and my new home. Many things didn’t change, however. I was still surrounded by the concrete love of family and so many friends and co-workers. It was an extremely busy year, and I can’t believe I’m sitting here, by the fire and lake in the northern woods of Michigan, already bidding adieu to another year complete. I’m thankful for each and every day where the comma was followed by 2011 every time I wrote the date.

The biggest change came in April when Congressman Dingell called and offered me a position in his district office. There was no chance I was turning that down, and each day since has been filled with wonder. Working on his campaign in Monroe County was challenging, amusing, and ultimately rewarding. Working for the Dean of the House, the longest serving member in Congress, the author of some of the most landmark legislation, and the ultimate public servant is a complete joy, from the time the alarm clock rings to the moment I lay my head on my pillow. One of the greatest things he has told me is, “We are not important people; we just have important jobs. The minute we start thinking we’re important people, we’re in trouble.” I think of this every morning since it’s what my iPhone alarm reads.

Working for the people of Michigan’s 15th District comes with certain challenges, but much delight as well. Two of the biggest projects I take care of each and every day are the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. These two projects have made great strides in 2011, and I can’t begin to express how excited I am to see what will come in 2012. Maybe a groundbreaking on the visitor center for the Refuge? The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is upon us, and the Battlefield will be the epicenter of these commemorations. I suspect you’ll see lots of tweets and Facebook posts on both of these two over the next twelve months.

But, the phone calls from constituents who call our office each day, looking for help because they don’t know what else to do are the most important things I’ve learned about in the past eight months. In 2013, Monroe County leaves our district, and that’s extremely personal for me, but change is inevitable. I’m learning to greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet so many new and wonderful friends in the Downriver communities, and I look forward to strengthening those relationships in the new year.

The other biggest change has been moving out on my own into my very first apartment. It was tough saying good bye the Mike, Jessie, and Taylor in May after moving in, but we’ve all adapted and remain extremely close. Some days I feel like I’ve already outgrown my small apartment, and Lord, I don’t know how I survived in June and July before spending the cash on an air conditioner. The most important thing to note here is that I’ve made it my home. It was a goal of mine in December of 2011 to get my own apartment, and I’ve done it! I’ve had many guests come through the doors and I’m a lucky man to have a roof over my head and a welcome mat rolled out.

Some other things that have happened in 2011 include entering (FINALLY!) my senior year at the University of Toledo, and I can’t wait to hang a $40,000 piece of paper with my name in old English script on my wall. I’ve certainly had classes more interesting than others, but I’ve managed to maintain a decent GPA, and will embark on the next semester (and second to last) on January 9th. Personally, it’s been great fun keeping up with friends and family, near and far, and making new friends along the way. The next year I’m going to maintain those relationships and place an even greater value on those who lift me up each and every day.

I celebrated my 27th birthday this past May, and I continue to recite my belief that it’s just a number. At times, even I don’t believe it! I found my first gray hair yesterday, gained a few pounds (which will come off in 2012), own a gray cardigan sweater with elbow patches, and listen to music that’s older than me. I got an umbrella for Christmas that I can’t wait to use and find it harder and harder to keep myself awake for the music act on Letterman. But, I know I’m still young, and the day after the next still gives me thrills. I can’t wait for the loads of living I have left to do, and that’s why New Year’s Eve has always excited me. 2012 has big things in store, and I feel it!

I’m very anxious to find out what 2012 is going to mean for me, but I’ll enjoy and savor each day, from January 1 through December 31. I’m going to try my best not to rush it through, and enjoy the four seasons, the trying semesters, the congressional recesses, the “me” time, and the time I share with so many of my friends and family.

So, my resolutions. Yes, those faux promises so cliché that many make in the final week of December and are struggling to “get back on track” by March 1. Well, mine are your same ole, same ole. I’m going to drop 20 pounds, get my file cabinet organized and my checkbook balanced. I’m going to paint the kitchen, save more money, write more hand notes, and take an out-of-state vacation.

Most of all, I’m going to appreciate the moments. I’m not going to worry so much about tomorrow, but enjoy today. I’m not going to look forward to the weekend, and I’m going to soak up Monday. I’m sure if I look back, some of my greatest memories in 2011 were on Mondays. And Tuesdays. Wednesdays and Thursdays, too. The most enjoyable memories were in the cold February days, the hot August nights, and every other month, too.

I hope I meet some people that change my life along the way and give me some memories to look back on that will leave me cracking up. I’m sure doubt, worry, sorrow, and sadness will creep in here and there. But, with the memories of 2011 and past I keep close, and the ones I love and appreciate surrounding me, 2012 will be epic!

Happy New Year!

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Day 3: Freedoms

Month of Thanks Day 3: Freedom of Speech

This morning while sitting in my International Relations course, I realized what I would be thankful for today.  I’m thankful that I have the freedom to express my views and not face prosecution for doing so.  IR class today was loaded with debate across an abundance of issues from the auto bailout to the Democratic Peace Theory to American foreign aid.  We discussed what was better: a democratic country or an authoritarian.  I certainly disagreed with many opinions that were shared, and I’m sure plenty of people disagreed with my feelings on the topics.  Sure, I got passionate and I defended my positions as best I could, but I wasn’t hauled away in handcuffs.  I feel I could go on and explain fully in this entry exactly what I argued and my views on each of these topics, but that’s not what this post is about.  I’m thankful today for the freedoms that I have living in America.

Filed under Freedom Democratic Peace Theory International Relations Foreign Aid Month of Thanks Thanksgiving Auto bailout Democracy

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Month of Thanks: Day 1

Day 1: My education

This is a difficult item to be thankful for when I have 3 exams this week.  However, I find joy in the stress.  I’m happy that I have the opportunity to afford furthering my education, and sadly I’m luckier than so many others.  The area I’m studying engrosses me, and I crave to learn more about it daily.  It is applicable every day in my life and my career; it’s well worth the money.  I’m thankful most of all I’m a senior and seven classes away from graduating.  I’m thankful I finally settled on a major and have stuck with it. 

Filed under Month of Thanks Education University of Toledo

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Month of Thanks (My New Project)

So, I’m writing once again that I have not blogged in a while.  I’ll blame it on a rather busy pace of life as of late, or the fact I’m tweeting more instead.  But, nonetheless, I’m going to try something new starting Tuesday.

Tuesday is November 1st (for those without a calendar handy).  Obviously the start to the month where we focus on giving thanks. I’m going to use this blog site as a way to start a new project. Each day through the month of November, I’m going to post one thing that I am thankful for.  I’m going to try to be strict with this and keep at it everyday, and I hope you’ll hold me to it. 

Here’s a little background on where this project is rooted (and also a sneak peak of what’s to come).  Yesterday I was able to attend the homecoming ceremony for the Michigan National Guard 1776th Military Police Company.  They returned home to Taylor, Michigan after serving a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan. 

I have to say this was one of the best days I’ve ever had since I started in the office I work in.  When the 158 troops walked into the Truman High School gymnasium that was packed with a crowd well over 300, the energy in that room was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I’ll admit, I shed some tears.

                      

                 

Those 158 troops were deployed for their mission last November.  That means they have not seen their families in about a year, missed a Christmas, anniversary, birthday, and so on since they’ve been bravely protecting me and my neighbors in Afghanistan.  Those families ran down at the end of the ceremony and hugged, kissed, and cried.  I stood back and watched.  And cried.  Before I left, I went to the company commander and thanked him on behalf of my boss and welcomed him home after a job well done.  I cried again.  So did he. 

                 

So, today I’m sharing that I am thankful today that those 158 soldiers returned home yesterday, each and every one that left last November.  The 1776th suffered no casualties.  I’m thankful for the soldiers, active or not, serving our country and protecting our liberties all around this globe.  I’m thankful those serving in Iraq will be spending Christmas with their families this year.  And I’m thankful those in Afghanistan made the choice to serve our nation, sacrificing their Christmas at home.  I’m thankful for the veterans and their duties and great sacrifices.

Filed under Month of Thanks National Guard Afghanistan Iraq Veterans Thanksgiving

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Where I was on 9/11/01

I remember the day so vividly, just as you do I’m sure.

I woke up excited.  It was going to be my first day working in the City Clerk’s office at Monroe City Hall as a co-op student.  I was a senior at Monroe High School.  I remember I was in SRT (Student Resource Time, or study hall) with Mrs. Evans in upper A-wing when Assistance Principal Ms. Cyr came over the PA and told teachers to turn their TVs on.  Just as Mrs. Evans turned the TV on, we saw the second plane slam into the World Trade Center, and we thought it was just a roll of video of the first plane.  It wasn’t.  Along the bottom of the screen, the rumors swirled.  The White House was next to be hit, the Capitol, the buildings were swaying, and on and on.  The room was silent- and we just sat there, scared and still in our desks.

I remember it scared the hell out of me when the bell for the next class rang.  I walked down the stairs to my locker in lower A-wing.  I passed a friend of mine in the stairwell who pointed at me and said I was going to be drafted into war.  I couldn’t stopped in my shoes right there, but I moved on in a daze.  I was scared.  I grabbed my books and went onto my Senior English class with Mrs. Strevel.  Again, we sat glued to the TV.  I felt sick…and scared.

I left after English to go home to change to get ready for my first day at the City.  My mom was home on her split shift, and I just remember hugging her when I walked in the door, glanced at the TV, and called City Hall to see if the building was open.  It was, and so I changed into a purple shirt, khaki pants.  This is memorable because it was my first “shirt-and-tie” job, something I always saw for myself.  I listened to the news from our apartment to City Hall.  I was working the front desk and switchboard that day and a co-worker and I just watched the computer all day.  The Social Security office on the third floor closed, just like every other federal office. 

At 4:30 when City Hall closed, I went home and met my mom again.  We went to my Aunt Janet’s and Uncle Grant’s house and decided to walk to Trinity Lutheran Church to give blood.  They were closing, and so they turned us away.  We just went back home and watched TV, even more TV.

I remember lying in bed that night flipping through the channels and counting how many were covering the events of the day.  Every station it seemed.  It was so consuming to me, and I couldn’t turn it off.  I think that was out of fear- a fear that something else was going to happen, and I wanted to know.  The staggering death toll and missing numbers.  The families posting those “missing” posters all over the city.  The portion of the Pentagon that had been hit was all lit up, as was the meadow in Pennsylvania. 

Those are the main memories I have of the day, though they seem more vivid than these words do justice.  It was a day I wish I could forget, but never will.  It was a day I wish had never happened, but that’s not reality.  I had never felt so sick, so scared, worried, lucky, void, or helpless in my whole life.  I have lost personal loved ones, but I had never experienced something so horrific and tragic.  Never.

Today, I was telling someone that I think it hurts more to see the video and accounts than it did ten years ago.  Ten years ago, we didn’t know what was going to happen, how our lives would change as a result.  We didn’t know if 11,000 had died, or 500.  Today we know.  Today we realize how our country changed as a result of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

                        

I feel a pit in my stomach every time I hear someone recall that America was under attack.  It’s hard to imagine that our country could be attacked and shaken so hard as we were that day.  Those two words: “under attack”.  I don’t ever want to experience anything like that ever, ever again.

I’ll be praying for our country tomorrow.  I’ll be praying for continued healing, strength, unity, and help for my fellow citizens and our nation’s leaders.  I’ll remember those innocent lives that were instantly ended the morning America was attacked.  I’ll probably shed a tear or two, I’ll admit.  God help me the day I stop feeling this way on September 11th.

                                           

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Routines

Although I love summer, there’s something to be said about it winding down and taking us back into the comfort of daily routines. 

Classes start for me today.  I’m nervous and anxious and excited, all at the same time.  I’m anxious about juggling 3 classes with the crazy pace of my full time job.  I have the best boss who is happy I am back in the classroom and more than agreeable to work with my schedule.  But, it’s still going to be a bit hectic.  It’s worth it.

Last night I caught most of the Cowboys/Chargers game…Sunday night football is back!  The temperature read less than 60 degrees on my dashboard this morning.  Even some of the leaves are starting to turn from green to yellow.  This means we’re on the cusp of autumn- my favorite time of the year.

It’s time to settle back into the routines that keep us consistent.  Although I hate the shorter daylight hours and the long, snowy months of late winter, it’s nice to get back into the swing of things.

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"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People

This is a catchy little tune that Pandora introduced me to that got stuck in my head up north last weekend. What are your thoughts?

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Logging back on

So, I didn’t check how long it has been since I last posted, but I’m motivated to get back in the swing of sharing bits and pieces of my days with whoever is interested on “That’s Life.” I hope you’ll venture on back here more as I post more and let me know your thoughts and comments, too.

I’m surprised I am awake and up posting this at 11 on a Sunday evening. But, lately I’ve been evolving from a morning person to more of a night owl. I’ve been a lot more productive in the evenings than I used to be, and I credit it to a changing work schedule. Notice I said, “credit.”. I like getting so much done at night. And since we have a wicked heat wave blowing into town lately, I’ve been running after dark, which leaves blood pumping through my veins a little faster at night.

I still wake up and function in the morning, but it takes some time for the eyes to open and the mind to speed up to 100%. And if you know me, you know it takes a bit of coffee too (a bit = a pot).

This has been a little rant to start back here, and just a few thoughts I felt like sharing. Until next time, remember… that’s life.

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Celebrating the Resurrection

"In the bonds of Death He lay Who for our offence was slain; But the Lord is risen to-day, Christ hath brought us life again, Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud, with cheerful voice, Hallelujah!" -Martin Luther

                         

"Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and Hope triumphant say
Christ will rise on Easter Day.”
-Phillips Brooks, An Easter Carol

 

"Don’t be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ " -Mark 16:7