Photography

I really need to get in the habit of writing this blog. I want to, but it has yet to find its way into my routine. To get started, I’ll do a short post. I took this picture last summer, during salmon fishing. It’s the channel near my house that goes from Muskegon Lake to Lake Michigan. You can see the red lighthouse that stands at the end of the south breakwall. The building that looks like a lighthouse is actually a Coast Guard station. The sun was setting, and reflected perfectly in the top window of the station.

Hopefully this short post will get me back into blogging more. Even if all I do is post pictures of Lake Michigan.

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Firsts

I had my first day with AmeriCorps/Red Cross today. It was pretty boring. I spent, with my co-worker, about 1.5 hours doing paperwork. Then we spent another 2 hours watching informational videos about the Red Cross. After that, we were sent home early. The rest of this week is spent in Grand Rapids, training some more.

Today was also my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary. That is certainly not a first. Well, it is, in a sense. It’s not their first wedding anniversary, but it’s their first 30th anniversary. Moving on from that bout of existentialism…

We went to a “fancy” restaurant. As fancy as you can get in Muskegon. It was a very nice place, with excellent food and was generally pretty classy. It was even overlooking the lake. However, the waitresses wore t-shirts. Classy/fancy rating nosedive. The food was good, though. Complete with items that can’t be found at Applebees’s, which makes it unique in Muskegon.

In the end, we’ll wait and see about my job. I did find a plus in Muskegon by dining at The Lake House. On the down side, the average price of dinner is $20. Currently, my salary is a “living stipend” and not enough money to eat out with every week.

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You can, in fact, go home again

I graduated from college last May. I spent four years away from my hometown, living on my own for the most part. After a summer of searching for a way to delay graduate school, I was accepted by an Americorps program.

In my hometown.

I would be lying if I said that this was my plan: to move back home and live with my parents. My plan was to find a temporary position, potentially still with Americorps, and save up money for grad school. I had elaborate and grandiose dreams of spending a year in New York City or Washington D.C.  Someplace away from the west side of the mitten where I grew up.  However, that did not happen. Instead, I find myself with a job for a year, doing something I think will be enjoyable, making the aforementioned money and living with my parents.

I start my job on Monday. I have a week of training in Grand Rapids, then I apparently get to go camping for more training. I am trying to be optimistic about living in Muskegon again once all my training ends and my job officially begins. After all, I just spent the summer and all of my childhood here. It can’t be that bad, right?

To that end, I have decided to document not only my year with Americorps, but my journey to learn to love my hometown. I will valiantly try to post once a day, potentially with pictures. We’ll see what happens, and how I feel about Muskegon next August.

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Lessons from Disney movies

I grew up in the 1990’s; the height of the Disney Renaissance. The time when Disney surged with a new movie every year. Each one was just as good as the last. I have decided to look back at those films, plus other Disney movies, and write a few sentences on what I learned. I will not be listing every Disney movie; that would be a long blog post. I reserve the right to skip over some films.

1. The Fox and the Hound (1981) – This was one of my favorites growing up. At the time, I thought it was a fantastic tale about friendship. Now, I think it is still about friendship, but also about growing apart from childhood friends. However, no matter how far you drift apart, you can always count on an old friend to help save you from a bear.

2. Oliver and Company (1988) – Everyone deserves a home. Everyone will eventually find a place where they belong and are loved. Even if that place is slightly dysfunctional and perhaps dabbles in illegal activities.

3. The Little Mermaid (1989) – Sometimes a person wants and needs to leave what they know. The desire to experience something new is in all of us. Occasionally, getting the new we want means leaving behind the old that we love.

4. Beauty and the Beast (1991) – Love will happen when you don’t expect it. You can’t spend your time wooing someone who does not return your affections. Love is much more natural. If two people are meant to be together, they will meet. Then they will fall in love, despite outward appearances and some personality flaws.

5. Aladdin (1992) – Another of my favorites. This is another movie that teaches about love occurring where it is not supposed to. This time, Disney took that theme to occur between two social classes. I also think the movie is about being true to yourself. You will still be able to get what you want without pretending to be what you are not.

6. The Lion King (1994) – You cannot outrun your past or who you are meant to be. The past can be painful, but it already happened, so why spend time worrying?

7. Pocahontas (1995) – Again, the story of love between unlikely people. This time Disney broached the subject of race. However, there are other lessons to be learned. Such as being true to yourself and following your heart. Your heart will always lead you in the right direction.

8. Toy Story (1995) – I was never a fan of Toy Story. The only thing I got from the movie was an obsessive need to save my old toys because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. Since, you know, they come alive when my back is turned.

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) – This movie almost strays into the unlikely love scenario, except that the titular protagonist does not get the girl in the end. It is a movie about acceptance. No matter a person’s appearance or background, they deserve to be treated like any everybody else.

10. Hercules (1997) – I think the ultimate lesson I got from this movie is that everyone has a place where they belong. Also, you do not need Godly powers to do great things. The main character does not have any strength when he saves the love of his life. At that moment, he is an ordinary person, able to accomplish the impossible.

11. Mulan (1998) – Ah, the girl power movie. That pretty much sums up the movie. One unlikely hero(ine) can save the day. And be respected for who they truly are as a person.

12 Tarzan (1998) – I think the message to take from this movie is about family. Accept your family and love other creatures on the planet. Be ready to defend those that you love. Also, have the strength to adapt to new situations.

13. Lilo and Stitch (2002) – Family does not have to fit a specific criteria. Any group of people, and aliens, who care for each other make a family. “Is little, and broken, but still good.”

14. Finding Nemo (2004) – As we enter the Pixar realm, the messages and lessons become more complex. There are also more in every film. In this one, I think the most important is to never give up. No matter your goal, be it to swim the ocean or clog a filter, never give up until you finish.

15. Ratatouille (2007) – Never be afraid of going for your dreams; even if other people tell you not to chase them. Even if your dream is completely opposite of what is expected of you in life, you should try to achieve the goal. You might just turn out to be great.

16. Wall-E (2008) – Is the save the planet message too obvious? Yeah? I thought so. Anyway, I also took from the movie the lesson to be yourself and never change. If you are yourself, people will be drawn to you.

17. The Princess and the Frog (2009) – Again, the theme of following your dreams and finding true love apply. The message I took is that I need to go to New Orleans to hear more of their music.

18. Up (2009) – This was the movie that got me thinking about all of this. I read a post where a person posited that the lesson was to chase your dreams and go on grand adventures in life. I disagree. I think the lesson in this movie is to appreciate the small things in life. Even if you never go on a grand adventure, life is an adventure itself. We should all enjoy the journey. “The boring stuff is the stuff I remember the most.”

19. Tangled (2010) – This movie had all the classic lessons: follow your dreams, find true love and be yourself.

20. Toy Story 3 (2010) – I stated above that I was not a fan of Toy Story. I saw the sequel, but hardly recall what happened. This one, however, really got me. Perhaps it is because I’m the same age as the character and was in the process of cleaning out my old bedroom when I saw it. The message I took from this movie is that we all have to move on in life. It is sometimes painful and difficult and we resist. The lesson, though, is that we still have to move on and change. Eventually we do have to say goodbye to the things of our childhood. We keep the memories forever, but physical objects are transient in our lives. We cannot hold onto something forever. Eventually, we all need to let go of something.

That is my list. My lessons that I learned from Disney movies. There are many others, but I did want to keep this post short. Not that I accomplished that. No matter, I still had fun writing this. It made me realize how much of my personality, morals and values stem from Disney animated films. So, if you don’t like who I am, you now know what to blame.

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Memorial Day

I get strange looks from people for many things. I wear Star Trek shirts, talk to myself in parking lots while searching for my car and my favorite holiday is Memorial Day. Somehow, people feel the need to judge my favorite holiday. Many people find it strange and perhaps slightly morbid. I have decided to put forth my reasons for loving Memorial Day.

I am fiercely patriotic. My roommate once remarked how odd it was that I would rant for hours about the failures of the Government, yet cry during the National Anthem during football games. My patriotism stems from my love of history. My dad loved it and passed that to me. I even took that love to college and now have a degree with a history minor attached. That being said, I know how fragile the American nation is, and how great it can be. I know about the events that created this nation; how close the USA came in the past to disintegrating. A lot of the time, the breaking of our nation was avoided by ordinary American citizens who did extraordinary things. Soldiers did not go into battle to become heroes. They did not do it to garner thanks. Young men and women went into battle, and still go into battle, because they believe in what America stands for in this world. They have the deepest love for our country and they prove it.

The least I can do is show my profound thanks to those men and women. I acknowledge how good I have it living today in the USA. I know how hard people had to fight for my way of life. I am eternally grateful and I appreciate the opportunity to show it. I do love the USA and I’m glad that I have the chance to love America. That, in a nutshell, is why Memorial Day is my favorite holiday.

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Pets

I follow a blog that is written by a television producer/writer. I first began following him because he wrote about Stargate, the show he worked on, which I loved. I got behind the scenes pictures and anecdotes that fueled my obsession with the franchise. Obviously, the man has a life and I read about that as well. Aside from very nice meals out (oh, to have money) he wrote about his dogs. All four of them. Now, the adorable pictures and stories of the dogs make me smile. A recent post discussed how dog people can be seen as crazy. He wrote about what he does for his dogs and it was a nice post.

I do not have dogs. Currently, in my living situation, we have the two family cats and my sister’s younger cat. I think that I am a cat person out of laziness. You get all the love of a dog without the work. Plus, cats apparently lower blood pressure.

However, I had dogs when I was younger. I remember begging my parents for a dog. Finally, when I was in 2nd grade, I got one. She was a mutt that we got from a friend’s neighbor for 20 bucks. I named her Katelyn, after a friend I had who moved away. For three years, Katy was an awesome friend. My sister and I weren’t the most responsible pet owners, but my parents made up for it. I loved playing with her, both inside and outside. She was about 3 years old when she died. She had a habit of wandering away. We didn’t have a fenced in yard and she left my dad, sister and I in the back yard and crossed the road in front of our house. My mom saw her across the street in the woods when she got the mail. She called Katy and, for maybe the first time ever, the dog came when she was called. I can still hear the yelp when she was hit by a truck. My mom started yelling for my dad and the three of us left what we were doing and ran to the front of the house. I recall looking and seeing a red truck further down the road. Then I turned and saw Katy lying in the ditch. My dad told my sister and I to go inside, get blankets and the car keys. I remember racing back outside with those items to find my dad in the ditch, attempting to pick up Katy to take her to the vet. She growled and whined, but eventually we had her in the car. Three hours later the vet called us and said that Katy had died.

A couple of months later, we got a new puppy, Minnie. Minnie was a beagle/something mix that was free. She was just as awesome. I still missed Katy, but Minnie was fun. She would play soccer with me. She lived for five years until we had to put her down. She had gotten fat and strangely old. She was only five, yet burnt her nose on the fireplace glass because she couldn’t see. In the last year she just laid around and looked sad. The vet told us she had some degenerative disease, making her older than she was. In a sense, we had a 15-year-old dog, not a 5-year-old.

Since Minnie, we have only had cats. I think I want to get a dog again in the future, but I’m not sure. Cats are easier and mine stay inside, so they can’t get hit by a car. Plus, my sister’s cat plays fetch like a dog and is generally very puppy like. Maybe the solution is to only have cats like Artemis, the best of both worlds.

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Regret and guilt

You know the saying excuses are like noses, everyone’s got one? I think a similar thing goes along with regret. Everyone has something in their life that they regret. It isn’t necessarily a big thing, most of us only have small regrets. As time goes on, the regrets get smaller. For instance, as I graduated high school not at the top of my class, I regretted slacking off and not doing homework assignments. Now, as I graduate college, I couldn’t tell you where in my class I was in high school. Somewhere in the 60-70 range I believe. The difference is that I don’t look back and regret not doing better in high school. People may glance at the GPA on my resume, but it’s not that big of an issue.

The problem is having regrets that stay with you and turn into guilt. If you want a silly example, I once kicked my dog. I was about nine and didn’t know how to properly express anger. I recall feeling immediately guilty and hugging my dog in apology. I still get a twinge of guilt when I think about the incident. Clearly, I still regret kicking my dog 12 years ago.

I am graduating college on Saturday. I have regrets, but none have turned into guilt yet. Recent events with some (former) friends top my list of regrets. I am completely responsible for burning those bridges. Honestly, though, I didn’t see our friendship lasting past the summer, if that. We were just too different from each other. I regret my actions, but I didn’t do things cavalierly. Everything I did and said I believed in, at least at the time. So maybe I don’t regret my actions. Maybe I regret what I lost as a result of my actions. I don’t really regret much in college, looking back now. I never went out and partied, but I’m too introverted and legal-minded to get involved in that scene. There were some classes I could have tried harder in, but that is becoming like the high school scenario. Besides, I did learn from skipping class freshman year. I learned that my grade will be lower than I expect, even if I know the material. I don’t regret getting involved in my extra curricular activities. As much as RHA frustrated me, I have way more good memories than bad. That was really the only thing I got involved in, and I don’t regret not doing more.

Thankfully for myself, regret is different from guilt over past actions. If everything I regretted I also felt guilty about I don’t think I’d be able to function. Guilt, I think, stems from regret when you realize that you never have a chance to change things. I can always go back to college and get better grades, so I don’t feel guilty. My dog died, so I never have another chance to show her my love.

In the end, there are things that can be done with regret and guilt. You can wallow in them and it will consume your life. The other option is to take all you regret and guilt, accept it, and move on. I am a huge fan of quotes. Clearly, famous people, singers and poets will always be smarter than me. Anyway, one quote is from the musical Rent: forget regret or life is yours to miss. The second is a song, with which I will end this post.

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