Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Working On My Masonic Calendar

It is that time of year when the calendar seems to scream at me begging for mercy as I strap its legs to a wooden block. It is a process that repeats every fall as we emerge from the ease of summer. And while there are already enough events, projects, and other commitments on my personal and work calendars, it is the lodge calendar that seems to put things over the edge every year. This year has proven to be a particularly difficult one to balance.

Even something as basic as the stated meeting schedule is already met with at least one conflict in December. That was discovered even before I took a closer look at some of other blocks on the calendar. At this point, and this is by no means the end of events coming to the fore, there are certainly going to be some difficult decisions that have to be made moving forward.

Extra meetings shouldn’t be an issue as the schedule someone worked out preventing too many commitments from stacking up in a single week. However, the weekly fellowship will continue to take a hit as I need to limit the nights that I am out of the house while also juggling other events on the calendar… usually I don’t like to be out twice in one week more than once a month (if I can help it). But there are some other events to which I will bring my family such as Autumn Day, the Open House (if it comes together), and the Blood Drive (although there is a conflict that day in December as well).

While I would like to attend meetings at other lodges, be present for appendant body gatherings, and enjoy the fellowship at other communications, it doesn’t seem like that is going to be a possibility this year. I can’t remember a time when my calendar was so overloaded and I am hoping that proves to be an outlier rather than the new normal. Hopefully, the schedule next year will be a little lighter or, at the very least, I am better prepared for the onslaught of commitments.

For now, with so many other obligations I am also having to scale back on my time at the lodge even further this fall as I need to spend time with my family. In the end, family is what has and always will take precedence. Everything else is secondary. And this is something that every brother understands and all of them have supported me in making this decision. After all, our fraternity should make our family stronger.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Potty Training Postponement

Last week was an experience. Following our trip to New York, and nearly a month of our son showing signs that he was ready, we decide to take the plunge (or plop if you will) and start introducing our son to the potty. Actually, it was a matter of reintroducing him to the toddler thrown that he picked out for himself at Walmart a few months ago. Well, it was an interesting first day.

It was a completely new routine for all of us as every couple of hours we would gather around the plastic bowl and read an appropriate book to our son as he sat there patiently. While there were a few hiccups early in the morning, things were moving along about as smoothly as one could expect by the time the sun went down. He seemed to be getting the hang of it and enjoyed both the stories being read and receiving the stickers which we pulled out as an incentive for sitting there calmly. He also decided to read to us while his bare bum was perched in his seat of distinction a few times.

The following morning, while I was groggily getting ready for work, I could hear the usual back and forth above my head as my wife and son made their way from the bedroom to the bathroom. However, a few minutes later, I could hear the excitement and the clapping of little hands as our son peed in the potty for the first time. Actually, technically speaking, he peed from the potty not in the potty. Details, details. This success made for a great morning and start to the week.

By the end of the day, everything had changed. You could say that the crap hit the fan. While he was comfortable making progress at the house the day before, everything came undone at daycare. All the hard work and all of the huge steps that our son had taken were gone. We don’t know what exactly happened but it clearly wasn’t done the right way… and we were definitely not happy about the fallout! Now, potty training is on hold at daycare and we are trying to retrace those previous steps and milestones at home.

Slowly we are making progress once again. While he still isn’t as comfortable as he once was, there are small steps being made and the interest is slowly creeping back in. It is all about confidence right now as he continues to show other signs of readiness but an unwillingness to “fail” on the potty. That will return in time and, until then, we will continue to encourage him to take a load off whenever he has the urge.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Time To Keep It Simple

With all of the work being done on the house lately things have been rather complicated. So far, nothing has been as simple as it should be. Everything on our project list has had a few subsections added to it with the floors and the exterior doors being prime examples of this ongoing process. However, in the end, many of these things, all of these complications, are going to give us what we have been picturing in our minds as our ideal home. Further, many of the things that have been uncovered and a couple of the future projects have and will remove some of the complicated aspects of our home.

The best examples of this are the HVAC overhaul currently underway and the electrical overhaul that we have on the schedule. The old oil and electric system required a heck of a lot of copper pipe running across the basement and up the walls to supply the baseboard heating. The air conditioning, being an afterthought of the original homeowners, was something that was put in as inexpensively as possible leaving us with duct work running through bedroom closets and really not being very efficient. The boiler, oil tank, and all of the copper pipes are now gone, the duct work has been overhauled, and we have now simplified the two zone (the heating was originally on four zones) system running forced air for both heating and cooling.

This project is nearing completion but the electrical work has yet to be started. While a few steps have been taken to simplify this (i.e. old whole house fan has been removed) there is still a lot of work to be done with new matching fixtures being installed and a lot, and I mean a lot, of outlets and switches that are going to be removed (with a few simply being moved). This will eliminate the need for a lot of the wiring that is running throughout the house and will put things (or leave things) in place that actually make sense (i.e. I don’t need three separate switches for the kitchen lights).

It is definitely a process but, as I said before, it will simplify some of the basic aspects of our house. After all, I don’t like having excess pipes and wires running through the walls when they don’t need to be there. After that it should be much easier to maintain. So, we will have to deal with a little more complication before we can reach a point of simplicity. Well, at least until the next round of renovations and projects.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Search: The Events Of Each Generation

When researching the lives of my ancestors I am always cognizant of the larger events happening in the world around them. Additionally, I constantly think about the way of life and what would have been part of their daily consciousness during that period of time. Sometimes I am able to find direct connections to those events or ways of life like military service, prohibition, or the expansion and prevalence of the railroad industry.

However, it is important to remember (and sometimes I have to remind myself), that the stories are there we just have to allow our ancestors to tell them. We can't expect to find anything or wish to find a connection to a person or event. We must look at their lives as we do our own and cherish facts (good and bad) like memories. In my opinion, this is a critical in understanding your ancestors and the lives that they lived.

It is this same thought process that is important for us to remember in our own lives as well. While there are many people who have a direct connection to 9/11, there are even more of us that have been impacted by this tragedy in one way or another. Our lives are different because of it and, in many instances, the courses of our lives have been altered by it. Some more so than others.  

This, unfortunately, is an event that has shaped our time similar to how the various events in history have shaped the lives of our ancestors. Not only does this remain a vivid memory but the time in which we live has allowed us to experience it as it happened, in real time, and also relive the horrors of that September morning. This is both good and bad for obvious reasons.

We had instant access to information and readily available (to a certain extent) communication with loved ones. This wasn’t always the case and it actually makes me wonder if previous generations were better off simply not knowing until long after the fact. But, we can’t change the time in which we live, and, similarly, we can ascribe modern technology and thought process to previous generations… a common mistake that I see much too often.

This is life and the world in which we live. While we may not always like it, we have to accept it. And the same can be said for our ancestors. We may not always agree with the common practices or mentalities of the time but those are the realities of the world for that generation. It is difficult at times, but we have to remove ourselves, and our modern perspective, from the lives of our ancestors and let them tell us the stories about their lives.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Night Before

The small memorial at Orange County Choppers
I have little recollection regarding the night before 9/11/01. I remember that the semester was just getting started and that I had class early the next morning. I know that I was preparing for a trip into the city for the ASVAB and that I was working on scheduling a meeting with the President of the college to discuss starting an ROTC partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (a partnership was later formed with MIT). I can also faintly recall hearing the sounds of the Giants’ Monday Night Football game coming from a dorm room a few feet away but there is little else that my memory possesses.

Overall, it was just another cool New England night with the biggest concern of those around me was starting off the year right and making sure that they got to class on time the following morning. When I woke up on Tuesday morning I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary and I went about the early morning preparing for class and taking a slow walk to the Academic Building. It really was a beautiful beginning to the day with only a few thin clouds in the sky, a light breeze coming off of the bay, and the temperature remaining crisp and comfortable.

When I walked through the doors and glanced up at the television perched in the corner I could see that something was going on but didn’t really take the time to watch and process what was transpiring. I was running a little behind getting to class but managed to get there by 8:50am, there was little else on everyone’s mind and the conversation quickly lead to an early dismissal about 5 minutes later. As I retraced my steps back through the building, I once again looked up at that same television just as the second plane struck the South Tower.

This is when we all knew that this wasn’t simply an accident and as the news and speculation streamed across the screen I quickly pulled out my cell phone and called my dad to make sure that his meeting at the World Trade Center the day before didn’t carry over into the morning. Thankfully, it seems as though I was one of the last to place a successful call as cell phone service was nearly nonexistent by the time I got back to my dorm room and turned on the news. As Peter Jennings shuffled through the information we all turned up the volume of our televisions and walked outside to try and catch our breath. And as the fighter jets screamed above our heads low enough to read the warnings on the underbelly of the planes, we could hear the reports come in that the first tower had collapsed.

The rest of the week remains absent from memory as days seemingly condensed into seconds while minutes felt like weeks. Fifteen years later and I still have those memories etched in my mind. And I am sure that fifteen years from now they will remain as vivid as they are today.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Firearms Friday: A Simple Question

As I mentioned previously, this past weekend we took a family vacation up to New York to attend a family reunion. Rather than stay anywhere near the city, we decided to stay a little further out and we found the perfect place in The Thayer Hotel. Now, because the hotel is on the West Point grounds, there is a security checkpoint that you need to pass through in order to get back to your hotel room. While this may put off some people I found it rather reassuring and enjoyed the quick conversations with the guards as we presented them with our identification.

One such conversation was rather amusing when we returned to the hotel a little later than we were expecting on Friday evening. While I had my identification in hand, my wife had left hers in the back of the car. When we stopped at the gate she got out and proceeded to the back of the vehicle. While she was opening the door and reaching into her bag, the guard turned and asked me “do you have any weapons or firearms in the vehicle?”

Okay, so that is not the amusing part. The look of surprise that he gave me when I responded is what gave me a little chuckle afterward. It went something like this, “Sir, while I have a concealed carry permit in my home sate I am a long way from Pennsylvania. While I don’t agree with many of the laws and policies in place in this country in general and this state in particular, I would be an idiot to try and carry any sort of firearm in this state and an absolute fricking moron to try and carry any weapon onto a military base.”

Right or wrong, that is how I responded… and honest and straightforward response. The look he gave me was the amusing part both for his appreciation for my position and slight shock that I actually said it but what he said reminded me of the sad cluelessness that has become pervasive in this country… “You would be surprised.” A response to so many different situations.

By the time our banter concluded my wife had retrieved her identification and we were being waved to proceed to the hotel. With a quick “thank you” we were on our way but clearly that moment has stuck in my mind. In the end, know where you are going and what the laws, regulations, and restrictions are in that place and at that establishment. It keeps you legal and it may even provide you with an amusing moment of honesty.   

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Between Blog Posts: Part 3

Over the past month I have been able to find a few second and even a few minutes here and there that have allowed me to let my mind meander about and pull together different images and glimpses into the lives of fictional characters. Even while trying to catch up on the blog, there were still a few much needed moments when I needed to take a momentarily creative leave from reality. It is still unclear as to what will be done with all of these little pieces and whether they tie together somehow or if they are completely separate stories. So, following my notes from New Jersey Transit uncovered in the beginning of August, part 1 recorded in the middle of the month, and part 2 published a couple of weeks ago, I bring you another installment in this sporadic series.


The neighborhood kids called him Mr. Brown but he had many different monikers throughout his life. Whenever they would call his name in the morning he would turn his head and give him them a slight smile. No one said anything else to him. They let him be and simply watched in silence as he went about his morning routine.

He peered out the window each morning at 6am looking up at the sky. When the sun shone on the horizon he would put on his slippers, a coat when the weather turned bitter, and opened the front door with a slow and deliberate precision that baffled those watching.

His purposeful steps didn’t take him far. They carried him to the corner of his walkway and into a gravel bed surrounding his flag pole. Her he would take the flag tucked under his arm, unfold it, and raise the stars and stripes in a way that is familiar to few but respected by all who witness the ceremony.

Every morning he would pause at half-mast with a kind sadness in his eyes that revealed much more about his routine. In a moment of stillness he seemed to mutter almost apologetically before hoisting the flag to the top of the pole. Securing the rope with a figure eight and solitary knot, he would then turn and return to the front door stiffly closing it behind him as if trying to keep out the memories.

When the sky prepares to succumb to the night everyone watches as he emerges from behind his seclusion almost with a sense of relief that the evening will soon descend and another day will end in silence. He returns the flag to the earth folding into a precise triangle, tucked it under his arm, and carried it with reverence back into his home.

As the amber deepens into red and before the purple hue of dusk, a small glimmer of yellow can be seen waiving lightly from the trunk of his oak tree seemingly giving farewell. The same bitter parting he was offered when his son was deployed.

And now the tattered ribbon tethers the memories of a neighborhood as they all remember the jovial laugh that would fill the small street every time Mr. Brown came home from work. A laugh that only lives in distance echoes. But now there is only night. Now there is only silence. For one more day.