Search This Blog

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Reason Why Our Country Hasn't Fallen Apart

When I was on pilgrimage for the March for Life in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go to the Holocaust Museum. I mean, how fitting since my group had just prayed in front of one of the most active abortion clinics in the country earlier in the morning. Since it was a holiday, they weren’t performing abortions and thus were closed for the day. Whew. But! What better way to continue reflecting on the injustice of the vulnerable and innocent than by refreshing on or learning more about the Nazi’s Holocaust of the Jewish people, others they deemed unfit, and others who stood in their way.

While standing in line waiting to go into the Museum, I noticed a religious brother had gotten in line just behind me. Talking to him was simply irresistible because religious brothers are just awesome! After talking to him for a little while, I learned the basics: the name he goes by is Ignacio, he’s from Texas, he is of the Benedictine order hence he is a Benedictine monk (but not a priest), and he’s been assigned to their monastery in Washington, D.C.

As we were talking to him, I was surprised to learn about his monastery because I didn’t know there was a Benedictine monastery nearby. I mean, I knew of the Franciscan monastery because that is normally part of our itinerary for this pilgrimage for the March for Life. Not only was it nearby, but the Benedictine monastery is also near the Franciscan one. Huh, I would have never guessed…but…cool!

During the course of our conversation, my buddy asked him how he liked being here in D.C. He said he loves it and that it’s an exciting place to be. I’m a Texas boy too and big city life like Washington, D.C. would surely be full of not dull moments.

He said one thing that sticks to my mind more than anything. Brother Ignacio said that it is really important to have a Catholic presence in our nation’s capital because of all the power and influence that reside along the Potomac River. Just by my knowing of Br. Ignacio’s existence pointed to the reality that there must be a greater Catholic presence in D.C. then I had previously thought about up until that point. And what he said made sense regarding such density of authority in the capital. Of course! It is very important to have a Catholic presence there because of all the crazy things we have to deal with as a nation, and a certain handful of people in our capital can make decisions that affect each and every single American's life.

He jokingly said that the reason why our country hasn’t completely fallen apart is because of the Catholic presence of religious brothers and sisters constantly praying for our country and our country’s leaders at the heart of all the political action. We all laughed, and it’s funny because there’s truth to that. I couldn’t help but wonder what other Catholic friaries, monasteries, convents, etc. exist in and around Washington, D.C. Like I said, I knew of the Franciscan Monastery, and also the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration just down the street from them. Also, there’s Catholic University of America with the behemoth of a Catholic church that is the Basilica, which I know many priests and seminarians pass through those halls. And to think…all of them (plus all the others I have yet to find out about) praying for us and for our country...

Sure, the best ways to help our country would definitely come through physical, tangible means. You know, making laws, decisions, etc. meant for the betterment of this country that we love so dear, from sea to shining sea. And then actually following through with those. But as a practicing Catholic, I’ve come to learn and appreciate that just as much as there is a physical reality to things, there is also a spiritual reality. That’s where prayer really helps. Through prayer, we approach God in humility asking for His help because without His help, we wouldn’t get very far. If we carry this interior disposition to truly love and serve others in a genuine way by seeking their ultimate good, that will carry through in our actions and manifest in physical reality.

I'm glad that we've got presence in the capital, and that joining them in prayers for our country is myself and the gray-haired ones who warm the pews on a daily basis when no one else is around during the week. Our prayers will be unceasing. How can I truly help my fellow Americans and serve them?

At the very least, I think it's cool that I randomly had this opportunity to speak to a Benedictine brother for a little bit. Haha! He ended up meeting the rest of my group and pretty much abandoned whatever group he was chaperoning. He hung out with us for a long while after we were done.

Story time with Br. Ignacio.
- JD

Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Being An Aggie Helped Me Land My First Job

First, some very brief background. When I was in college, I had two reasonable goals for when I graduate: 1) Find someone to marry and 2) Find a full-time job. Neither happened.

Let's focus on 2) because 1) deserves a whole different line of blog posts.

Again, I was an aerospace engineering major at Texas A&M. This is a dangerous major because it awakens individuals' inner rocket scientist. After 4.5 years, I'm still not certain how a plane flies, but anything can fly if you strap a big enough Thrust-Generating Object™to it (or TGO, if you like acronyms...which I just made that one up...).

While suffering through aerospace engineering, my appreciation for airplanes grew and got pretty fly (for a nerdy guy). I had some appreciation already because I'm an American Airlines kid who flew frequently (still do, through not as much). I started to develop a liking for fighter jets and V-tails and flying fortresses. By the end, I knew I wanted to work with airplanes directly, but I wasn't entirely sure how exactly.

Throughout college, I interviewed for companies like NASA, Lockheed Martin, Continental Airlines, Siemens (wind turbines), and NAVAIR. Didn't. Get. Any. Of. Them. No internships. No co-ops. No full-time positions. Nothing.

Not surprisingly, during my last semester of college I was freaking out because I had nothing lined up. In all humility, I had to suck it up and continue working as a customer service rep at my home city's rec center but now with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. I never thought it beneath me to engineer solutions to real problems in a recreational facility setting like changing TV channels, getting yelled at by impatient moms trying to book birthday parties, and refilling coffee for The Morning Coffee Club. Throughout all this, I hung on to the hope that I would eventually stop dealing with all that. In the mean time, I learned how to make wicked awesome workout towel swans.
Creating magical moments was literally part of the job description. Though this is a generic picture. Still magical.
I did that for eight months after graduating. That whole time, I found myself caught in a cycle of pessimism and despair because I hadn't yet found full-time employment. I mean, as much as I loved working at that rec center, it wasn't what I ultimately wanted to do. It couldn't pay the bills. I think in my sadness and negativity, I kept myself pretty distant from family and friends. I was also dealing with a weird skin issue at the time. Just all around Mr. JD-Not-Enjoying-Life.

Then I had my lucky break. I saw that my city had an opening for an engineering intern in our Public Works department. Landed that one!

While this intern position was technically more civil engineering-related, I still appreciated that this new opportunity would look good on a resume. Also, the project engineer for my city is an Aggie, and naturally we talked about the good ol’ days at our alma mater.

After becoming an expert at scanning civil engineering drawings and making at least two McDonald's deliveries to my coworkers, I had a renewed sense of needing to find a full-time engineering position. I also got a lot of support and advice from my fellow coworkers on finding opportunities. Their help somewhat had a double-edged sword effect because they were of the mindset that it would be easy for an Aggie to find a job. Sure, maybe not me. After working as an intern for a little while, I was starting to enter into in another cycle of negativity because I hadn't made any sort of real progress in landing interviews for a full-time job. But then...that changed after I worked as an intern for two months.

But first! More background: during my (first) senior year of college, I had a team of guys that I worked with to do our senior design project. We designed an attack UAV.

Ascension Aerospace's FQ-1 Phoenix--taking sexy to the skies
Together, we made a wind tunnel model and RC model of our aircraft. After we all graduated (though at different times), we went our separate ways but occasionally got back together to have dinner, hang out, and catch up. It was through one of these mini-reunion dinners that I found out that one of my teammates had recently landed a job nearby with a company that makes commercial airline seats. Practically desparate for anything, I decided to hit him up to see if there were any available positions at his company. Conveniently, there was!

After talking and working with my classmate, I was able to submit my resume to several open job positions at his company. He worked with me and worked with upper management to make sure that I would get noticed. That effort was fruitful because it did, in fact, land me an interview at his company. I suppose they liked me well enough and were impressed by my dorm room designs done in CAD since I brought them with me to the interview. They hired me!!!

It took me a long ten months after graduating in order to land that job, but it was totally worth it in the end.

Long story short, I've been with that company for the past three years!

I even made a new BFF.

Omg my BFF Fred--he crash tests our seats
I'm grateful that I had kept in contact with my AERO buddies after college. Without my friend-who-helped-me-get-my-job's help, I wouldn't be where I am today. Through his willingness to help me with anything and everything that he could do to help me get hired, I was inspired to do the same with two more of my AERO buddies from college.

The Aggie Network works.

- JD

Ole Miss makes Aggie very sad from
Towel swans from WikiHow

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


So I didn't pack a lunch this morning.

And because I didn't pack a lunch this morning, I fully intended to spend money at my work's cafeteria.

I've been training with a coworker for the past week and a half, and he's normally one to bring his own lunch and eat at his desk.

However! Today, he happenchance'd to invite me to eat lunch in the cafeteria as an easy way to meet up for me to transition over to his area (since he works on the completely opposite side of the plant from me).

I got to meet a few of his buddies at lunch as I enjoyed a delicious taco salad. Pico de gallo. Mmm.

My coworker-who-is-training-me is expecting his third child to be born here very soon, and that was a topic of discussion during our consumption of foodstuffs at lunch. I kind of got the vibe that his two buddies eating lunch would make fun of him. You know, because it's totally bro to make fun of the bro who is tied down in marriage having kids (sigh).

But he said something that resonated really well with me like a resounding chorus of djembes. Why djembes? I dunno, but it was awesome. In the discussion about kids, he briefly talked about his two-year old daughter who is now beginning to talk. He said something to the effect of, "The best word in the world is 'daddy'." He continued on with something like, "There's nothing more awesome than being called 'daddy' by your children."

Because of my initial shyness around new people, I didn't outwardly express my agreement with him apart from a nod and a big smile. On the inside, I briefly reflected on how awesome of a profound thing that he just said. Without a doubt, I know he has a sense of pride because I could sense it from him as he made these comments.

To me, it just makes total sense! Why shouldn't a father feel immense pride to hear his own kids call him what he is? A daddy! A father!

You see, in this brief moment, he modeled what authentic masculinity is to me. And that sort of pride, that sort of comment, resounds well with me because that's something I hope to one day experience. A very full and authentic expression of what it means to be a man.

- JD

Picture of father and daughter from Or So She Says...