3 Things I Learned Working in a Factory

I believe that no matter where we are in life, there are always lessons to be learned if we are willing to look for them.

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This is going to be the first post in a series that I want to do. I believe that no matter where we are in life, there are always lessons to be learned if we are willing to look for them. Because of this, I want to reflect on each of the jobs that I’ve held and highlight three things that the job taught me.

My first real job was working at a small, family-owned factory. The couple who owned the business went to the same church I did and they offered me a position when I was 19. They are wonderful people and I would definitely recommend buying from them. Their business is called Paw Paw Everlast Label Company and you can see their website here.

I started off in a General Production position working on a simple product before learning the more complex processes and becoming a Machine Operator.

So, here’s three things that I learned working in a factory:

1. Care about your employees. Steve & Terri (the owners) were really good about this. They did actually care about all of us who worked for them. There were many times when they would be celebrating something, like one of their kids’ birthdays, and they would invite us to join in the celebrating and would give us pizza and cake for lunch. Or they would talk to us about how our lives were going and would share advice if they thought we needed it. It was a very tight-knit community since it was a small business and all of the employees got to know each other. It was also common for siblings to work together for them. In fact, one of my brothers also worked there with me for a while.

2. Your performance impacts the other members of your team. This was a very important lesson for me to learn. Each job station had an established rate for how many components should be completed per hour. One day I was running one of the machines and one of my co-workers, who was working on the the step before my station, was doing a really good job of keeping up her pace. I quickly realized that I was the bottleneck in the assembly line and that it was important for me to push myself to keep up with the pace because I was holding the team back. I try to remember this wherever I work so that I can help whatever company I am with to grow and succeed.

3. Who you work with impacts how much you enjoy your job more than what you’re doing. Believe it or not, factory work isn’t the most thrilling job in the world. Sure there are days when you get to try a new, fun process. But there are also days when the novelty of the new process has worn off and you have to work your butt off churning out hundreds of components in order to complete an extremely large order (this is more common). And this is where the quality of your co-workers come in. Working with Steve & Terri and their other employees, I never once felt like I hated my job. We all tried to have a good time and keep each other entertained so that we would have a good environment and good attitudes to work with. I worked hard and sweated a lot in that small shop (they’ve since expanded), but I also laughed a lot and had some of the best times of my life with everyone who worked there.

So, those are three lessons that I learned working in a factory. Let me know what you think of this kind of post. I’ve got a few more jobs to cover and I’m planning on writing more in this “3 Things I Learned” series.

God bless!

*Photo credit: Photo by Isis França on Unsplash

Getting My Motorcycle Endorsement

Over the last month or so, every time I saw or even heard a motorcycle out on the streets I would get antsy because I wanted to be riding.

I finally did it! On April 23rd, 2019, after months of waiting, I passed my motorcycle endorsement test.

I bought my motorcycle on January 25th of this year. It’s a bright yellow 2004 Suzuki SV650. Getting this bike has been a big deal for me. It is the first vehicle that I have ever purchased entirely with my own money. It’s also the first time that I’ve I purchased an insurance plan for a vehicle in my name and covered all of the costs myself. It is also the only vehicle that I have ever been confident enough to take apart and repair myself.

Fixing Motorcycle
My work station in the garage.

The weekend before I was originally scheduled to take the endorsement test, I started having serious problems with my clutch. In addition to adjusting the clutch, I also opened the crank case and took apart a portion of the clutch in order to clean the clutch plates.

Motorcycle Open Clutch
That’s what a clutch looks like, in case you were wondering.

This morning I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to take the test because it was raining and the pavement has to be dry in order for the test to be administered. Most likely this is because the test includes a hard stop and a swerving maneuver. I was nervous, and picked up a couple points on some of the maneuvers, but the test wasn’t as hard as I had feared it would be. I was elated when, after completing the final maneuver, I was told that I had passed.

Immediately after passing the test, I went to the local Secretary of State office to fill out the paperwork for my endorsement. After that I headed out to ride around town. It was a lot of fun. I’ve been waiting a long time to be able to take the bike out on the main roads and really ride. Over the last month or so, every time I saw or even heard a motorcycle out on the streets I would get antsy because I wanted to be riding.

Motorcycles in Parking Lot_LI
The bike on the left is mine. I found this other bike parked next to me when I came out of the store. It’s a really nice looking bike. I believe it’s a Suzuki GSX-R1000, but I’m not sure what year.

I already have plans to upgrade a few things on the bike. Most importantly I want to get a license plate light and a new LED headlight so that I can ride at night and front blinkers so I won’t need to use hand signals. I’ll also be upgrading to a much louder horn.

Well, there you have it. That’s my big update for today. I’ll be spending a lot of time on that bike, so I’ll probably find an opportunity to write more on this topic.

 

God bless!

My Lapel Pin Collection

So…I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but within the last two weeks, I’ve accumulated a decent sized lapel pin collection…But, since I’ve got them, I figured that I might as well show you each of them and explain why I got them.

So…I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but within the last two weeks, I’ve accumulated a decent sized lapel pin collection. Over Black Friday I bought some nice clothes, then I saw a picture of one of my best friends wearing a lapel pin, then I bought a nice jacket, then I got some Christmas money, and now I own eight lapel pins.

…I have a problem…

But, since I’ve got them, I figured that I might as well show you each of them and explain why I got them.

1. The American Flag

 

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A classic lapel pin. I bought this one because I know that sooner or later I’ll find myself in a situation where it is considered proper or necessary to wear one. It’s probably not something I’ll wear in casual settings, but I really like how sharp it looks.

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2. The Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

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This one is very special to me. Both of my parents are from Trinidad & Tobago, and in addition to being blessed to be a citizen of the United States, I also have Trinidadian citizenship. I think that my Trini heritage started becoming more important to me after my family took a trip to Trinidad & Tobago in 2017. According to the official website of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, this is the meaning of the flag:

“Red is the colour most expressive of our country. It represents the vitality of the land and its people; it is the warmth and energy of the sun, the courage and friendliness of the people.

White is the sea by which these lands are bound: the cradle of our heritage; the purity of our aspirations and the equality of all men and women under the sun.

The Black represents for us the dedication of the people joined together by one strong bond. It is the colour of strength, of unity, of purpose and of the wealth of the land.

The colours chosen represent the elements Earth, Water and Fire which encompass all our past, present and future and inspire us as one united, vital, free and dedicated people.”

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3. The Vatican Flag

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My Catholic Faith is also very important to me. I’ve been Catholic my whole life and working with the Church has been a pretty big part of my life. Whether being an altar server, teaching religious ed, volunteering with youth group, or my current job with St. Mary University Parish, my Faith is a big part of who I am. So I thought that it would be a good idea to grab a pin of the flag of Vatican City. I like how it looks and how you can see the coat of arms on the white side.

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4. The Flying C

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I graduated from Central Michigan University on December 16th, 2018. I picked up this pin from the CMU Bookstore so that I could show where I earned my degree. They also have a nice pin of the University’s seal, so I might pick up one of those later (but this one was less expensive).

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5. The Heart Pin

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This is the only pin that I did not purchase. I found this pin while I was going through some old bags of stuff that I haven’t looked at in a long time. I don’t remember where I got it from, but it was attached to a small white card with this quote from St. Bernadette Soubirous: “Love overcomes, love delights, those who love the Sacred Heart rejoice.”

I don’t really want to call it a Sacred Heart pin, since it’s just a heart and doesn’t include any of the elements that distinguish the Sacred Heart of Jesus, i.e. the Crown of Thorns, the Cross, the Flames, or the Bleeding Wound.

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6. The Avocado Pin

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Okay, we’re starting to get into the pins that are just for fun. The simple truth is that I really like avocados. And I thought that it would be a good idea to get an avocado pin so that I can express that. I think it looks nice.

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7. The Pineapple Pin

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My roommate and I just recently finished watching all eight seasons of Psych together, and we also bought and watched Psych: The Movie. If you’ve ever seen Psych, you’ll know that the pineapple is a huge part of the culture surrounding the show. In the pilot episode, actor James Roday decides on the fly to grab a pineapple off of the fridge and ask his co-star Dulé Hill, “Should I slice this up for the road?” When that clip made the final cut, it became an inside joke for the team to find ways to include pineapples in the episodes. I’m definitely going to find opportunities to quote the show while wearing this pin.

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8. The Tyrannosaurus Power Coin Pin

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Ok, this might sound corny, but the Power Rangers were a huge part of my life growing up. I loved the TV shows, the action figures, everything. It was all so cool to me and in my mind I can imagine just how cool the show could be if the right person upgraded it from a low-budget kids TV show (some of the newer seasons have been really bad) to a real series or movie. I saw the remake in theaters and it was ok, but they really could have done a better job.

Anyways, that brings me to this pin. I’m going to let a little bit of my inner nerd show here. In the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993) each ranger drew his or her powers from a Power Coin that was based on a prehistoric animal. The original Red Power Ranger’s powers were based on the Tyrannosaurus Rex. This pin is a miniature version of the T-Rex power coin that granted the first Red Ranger, Jason Scott, access to his powers.

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I like this pin because it is connected to a big part of my childhood, but it isn’t loud or obnoxious. The design is very detailed, but it doesn’t scream POWER RANGERS! with bright, multi-colored, flashing lights. It’s actually something that I could wear in public.

 

So, those are the pins that I’ve got. I may buy some more later, but for now I’ve spent enough money on lapel pins. If you have any interesting or unique pins I’d love to hear about them.

God bless!

– Caleb

Giving the Longest Speech of My Life (So Far)

On October 11th, 2018 I had the honor of speaking on the topic of “The Church, Miracles, and the Impossible.” This was by far the longest speech of my life. I’ve given several presentations in my business classes, but these speeches, or at least the parts that I had to give, rarely lasted longer than 10 minutes…I’m happy to say, however, that this presentation lasted a whopping one hour and thirteen minutes. It is the longest speech that I have ever given (so far).

Every week the Catholic Registered Student Organization on CMU’s campus (CentralCatholic) hosts an event at the Catholic Church were I work. The event is called Corpus Christi which is Latin for “The Body of Christ.” Each week they invite a guest speaker to present on a specific topic and after the presentation we eat dinner together.

On October 11th, 2018 I had the honor of speaking on the topic of “The Church, Miracles, and the Impossible.” This was by far the longest speech of my life. I’ve given several presentations in my business classes, but these speeches, or at least the parts that I had to give, rarely lasted longer than 10 minutes. Once, many years ago, I gave a presentation to my parish youth group, but I don’t think it was much longer than thirty minutes. And, since it was before I had taken my Public Speaking class, it wasn’t very good. I’m happy to say, however, that this presentation lasted a whopping one hour and thirteen minutes. It is the longest speech that I have ever given (so far).

I can’t stress enough how valuable taking a Public Speaking class has been for me. I encourage you to take the class, and to make sure you have a professor who can teach it well. If you go Kalamazoo Valley Community College (where I got my Associate’s Degree) I highly recommend taking the class with Dr. Jake Arndt. He is an excellent Public Speaking professor and I owe a lot to him for doing such an amazing job teaching COM 101.

You can watch my presentation below. I recommend using headphones because the camera/mic is pretty far away from me and some people have told me they had difficulty hearing with just their built-in speakers.

*Photo credit: Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food

We have begun to assume that our concerns for what a person will do with the money we give them absolves us from Our Lord’s expectation that we will care for them. This is not true.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus describes how we will be judged after our death. Our Lord focuses on how we treat those around us, specifically the less fortunate. These days, however, we seem to have run into a bit of a roadblock that often keeps us from helping those around us. Namely, we have become very concerned about what a beggar will do with our money if we give it to him. We question whether or not he will spend the money on food and water, or if he will squander it on drugs, alcohol, or gambling. These are all legitimate concerns that we may have. But there is a problem: We have begun to assume that our concerns for what a person will do with the money we give them absolves us from Our Lord’s expectation that we will care for them. This is not true.

While we do not have to give money to every poor person we meet, we still need to find a way to care for the poor around us. One way to do this is to donate food, money, or time to a reputable soup kitchen/food pantry that serves the poor in our community. Another option, if you believe that it is safe to do so, would be to buy the poor person some food. Something else that I have tried in the past is to carry one or two gift cards for local restaurants in my wallet. This way if I were to give it to someone, they would have to spend it on food. I avoided carrying cards for grocery stores as many of those places also sell alcohol. These are all different options that carry their own pros and cons. How we choose to help the poor around us will depend on each of our own abilities as well as our circumstances and the degree of safety in our community.

If you can, I would suggest taking some time to work in a soup kitchen or food pantry. Even if you donate food and/or money to the organization, I think that there is a benefit to working directly with the people in your community and developing relationships with them. Working with a team of other people in an enclosed environment can be a safer way to get to know the people of your community if you live in a city where there is danger in the streets.

Let me know if you have any other suggestions on how we can serve the hungry in our communities.

God bless!

Caleb

*Photo credit: Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

Limitless Power?

Anime characters can always keep going. They never have to stop. Whether they are fueled by their emotions, friendship, or by sheer willpower, they are unstoppable…I’ve been thinking recently about what we can gain from this message and how it can effect us in the real world.

There’s a recurring theme that I’ve noticed in several of the anime that I have watched over the years. The main characters always seem to have an internal source of power that can never run dry. Digimon always have a new digivolution to reach, Goku can always reach a new level of Super Saiyan, Beyblades that should have stopped spinning a long time ago are suddenly spinning at full speed again, etc. If you never watched those anime as a kid, then you probably don’t know what any of those words mean, but it basically boils down to this: anime characters can always keep going. They never have to stop. Whether they are fueled by their emotions, friendship, or by sheer willpower, they are unstoppable. Many anime portray this by showing the protagonist being dealt a lethal blow and facing certain defeat. Then, right before the villain is able to claim victory, the lead character simply “decides” that he has to keep going. He can’t let his friends down, so he has to get back up in order to save them. And he does. Somehow, despite all of his injuries he gets back up and defeats his enemy. This message is not unique to anime as it occurs in other media, and is a common theme in our society.

I’ve been thinking recently about what we can gain from this message and how it can effect us in the real world. On one hand, it is inspiring to watch our heroes keep pushing forward despite the odds. It can inspire us to face the obstacles in our lives head on, no matter how difficult they may appear. We’ve all had days where we have to keep going. For example, there have been times when I’ve had to go a few days on minimal sleep in order to complete a project for a class. And many parents push themselves to limits that they never thought they could reach in order to care for their children. In fact, many times it is only by trying to push beyond our limits that we realize we are much stronger than we ever thought we were.

On the other hand, however, we have to be careful not to expect too much from ourselves. As much as we would like to think that we are unstoppable, the truth is that as humans we have very real limitations. I can function while sacrificing the sleep I need, but if I keep it up for too long toxins will begin to build up in my body in addition to several other harmful effects. Sometimes this is necessary, but other times we expect too much from ourselves because we feel like “I can handle it.” There have been times in my life when I’ve reached out to others for help, whether with school or in my personal life and I’ve been asked “Why didn’t you ask for help sooner?” I’ve gotten better at managing this problem as I’ve gotten older, but there is still that voice in the back of my head that says “I need to be able to do it by myself…I SHOULD be able to do it by myself.”

And that’s where I think the danger is. It is important for us to have the discipline to push ourselves harder and to keep at it when the going gets tough. But every good thing has a dark, twisted side that can rear its ugly head if we aren’t careful. It’s important for us to remember that there is no shame is asking for help when we need it. We also need to remember that we should rely on God more than on our own abilities. Trusting in His love for us takes a lot of the pressure off of our shoulders. He is the only one Who actually has limitless power so we should rely on Him if we want to have the strength to complete the tasks He asks of us. There is nothing wrong with having confidence in the abilities and strengths He has gifted us with, but keep in mind that we have very real limits and it is only with God’s help that all things are possible. He has promised that He will be there for us. The only question is whether or not we will let Him help us.

 

I’d like to thank my cousin Cherrie Ali for encouraging me to keep writing. I highly recommend reading her blog. You can read it here: possibilityandlight.com

 

The Problem With Spotify Ads

I’ve listened to my fair share of ads and “sponsored videos”, and I’ve noticed a recurring problem. Although there are some companies who’s ads are designed well, there are several ads that are poorly designed for the platform they are on.

Marketing has been on my mind a lot lately, most likely because I’m taking Marketing Communications this semester for my management major. While I may not work for a marketing company, the main project for this class involves developing and presenting a marketing plan to a real company, so I kind of have a marketing “job” right now.

The other thing that I’ve been doing is listening to music on Spotify. Since I have the free version, I’ve listened to my fair share of ads and “sponsored videos”, and I’ve noticed a recurring problem. Although there are some companies who’s ads are designed well, there are several ads that are poorly designed for the platform they are on. You see, I never actually watch the ads when they play, and Spotify allows me to lock my screen while the ad is playing, so the video ads easily become an audio-only experience. With several of the ads it is difficult if not completely impossible to discern what brand and product the advertisement is for.

This is a huge problem. People use Spotify to play music in the background when washing dishes, while driving, or in other cases when they cannot watch the video. And why would anyone want to? Even when Spotify gives me the option to “click here” to watch a sponsor’s video in order to temporarily go ad free, I just tap the button, then close my phone screen and go back to whatever I was doing while the ad plays.

This isn’t a critique of Spotify’s advertising system. What I am wondering is this: How much money are these companies wasting by paying to develop ads to be played on a music app where the brand/product cannot be identified based solely on sound? I’m not saying that the video part of the ad isn’t important, but the audio in the advertisement should be developed with the assumption that the consumer will not watch the video. The video component is an added bonus if the user decides to watch it. But there are those who, like myself, never have and never will watch the video and companies with vague, unidentifiable audio in their ads will never reach us.