Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back On A Bipolar Year


2013 was an interesting year. It was a twelve month period of highs and lows that, fortunately, ended at the highest point on the calendar. We had our struggles but pushed through them all and came out stronger than before. And, most importantly, we took whatever time we had to appreciate what we have and looked forward to what could be rather than commiserating about what was the reality at the moment.


The year began in promising fashion as I added a day job with a financial services firm to immediately follow my night shift working the front desk of my apartment building. At the same time, I was slowly increasing my Rotary involvement and was beginning to line things up to join the local Masonic lodge. While all of this was going on, my wife was continuing to work in her chosen field and hating my hours at the same time.


As the first couple of months passed, I was struggling to establish myself in my new profession while trying to stay conscious after working all night and having to commute to Delaware daily. It was a struggle but it also helped me to figure out what my body and mind was capable of and has continued to help me throughout the year. It was also around this time that I began to increase my political involvement by voicing my opinions, showing my support for my party, and attending various events in the area.


By the beginning of April it was time to move on from my day job and really look for an opportunity in my chosen profession of public relations. It was a good thing that I did not give up my night job. By the end of the month, some significant changes had occurred as it was that by the end of the month I was no longer a man, I was a Mason. That seemed to be the turning point that served as the drive that was beginning to waver. It was with this new found self respect, confidence, and motivation that I entered May.


The month of May was one that saw many new endeavors and responsibilities. As you know, this was the month when this blog was created and, so far, has been a daily exercise to keep me writing and motivated. It was a month of fortuitous introductions as it was during this 31 day span when I made initial contact with the woman who would eventually become by boss. At some point I also officially accepted the honor of becoming president elect of my Rotary club come July and also the month when the miles began to add up as my wife and I started our Pennsylvania exploration (this travel was in addition to the New Jersey trip we took to support our friend as she received her doctorate).


The summer months all blended together as the blog posts began to rack up and the formation of the secondary Phillies related blog began. Additionally, I began doing some freelance writing for a Red Sox publication pulling together game recaps. Travel occupied much of our free time during this period as we traveled around much of the eastern part of the commonwealth. Many of the interviews, meetings, and events around this time tend to run together but I vividly remember a few of them as I was finally able to meet my current boss face to face, I was able to meet and talk to Governor Corbett, I was able to watch my niece graduate High School, attending my mom’s much deserved retirement party, and I slowly began taking additional steps in my Masonic journey. Of course, Rotary remained a grounding mainstay during the sweltering months. This was also a month of tremendous change as the level of our religious observance shifted not because of a faltering faith but because the faith and passion burning inside of us needed a way out that better fit us and our life.  

 
September was the month when much of the hard work from earlier in the year began to pay off. There were many great Rotary events and meetings, a professional turning point when I finally sat down for another interview (in a different location at a different company) with my boss, and I began taking on additional duties at lodge by assisting the Secretary which later turned into me accepting the honor and responsibility of stepping into that role at the end of the year. This was also a huge month for my wife as she started at a position in her field that was no longer a job but the beginning of a career. This month of holidays and reflection also served to reassure our previous decisions and confirmed that we were on the right path.


The past three months have been busy. I have been working hard at an amazing company, working with great people, doing the job I love (my only job as I was finally able to resign from the night position). While not as extensive as over the summer, my travel continued as I was able to see Arizona for the first time. During this time I have had to drastically cut back on my Rotary involvement because of the timing (I still graduated from RLI and attended the foundation grant training), my Masonic journey has been one of incredible growth and contained many moments that I will never forget from attending a meeting the Academy of Masonic Knowledge as well as the quarterly and annual communications, to my initiation as Secretary and receiving my 32nd degree through Scottish Rite.

 
Throughout much of the year this blog has remained a constant and will continue to be a daily log of my life so long as I am able. There are many things for which I am thankful as I look back on the year. There are also many things that didn’t quite come to fruition but that will be achieved in the coming year. Things are looking up for a change as the calendar turns and we all begin the annual routine of figuring out what we can do better with the next twelve months. While not everything was accomplished in 2013, I wouldn’t change a thing. While it had its rough spots, it was an amazing year overall and one that will have a positive impact on the rest of my life.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Holiday PITA

Not that kind of pita!

The holidays this year have made my work schedule a bit of a mess. Beginning last week I have been in one day, off two, in one, off three, in one, and will be off two more days before resuming a normal work schedule. With days off in the middle of the this week and last, many people have also simply been out for a week and a half straight making it difficult to really get a lot of things done and through the entire revision process. So while there is plenty of work that has gotten done lately, much of it at this point is simply fueling a backlog that is going to have to be addressed as soon as our schedules return to sanity.

But some schedules never change, some habits remain, and routines are pretty self-explanatory. While things were both busy and slow at the office, blog posts still had to be written, and lodge work seems to never end. Actually, since things have been turned over to me, the work is now in the exponential stage. Don’t worry, it should plateau sometime this coming year or next.

OF course, this is why I take work home with me. What started simply with blogging from home has how become a pretty substantial office where I can handle just about everything from the office and a number of things from the lodge. The lodge home work is something relatively new, at least to its current extent, as I brought home a couple of binders with me to finish a few things up before our meeting on Thursday.

That’s another thing that has to be done. Both my home office and the lodge office are both a bit disheveled, disorganized, and a downright mess. Much of this work will definitely be more streamline once these two spaces are given a pretty substantial overhaul. Looks like a few exciting weekends are in my future trying to get both of these spaces up to speed. Put it this way, they’re both in such a state that they’d be good spaces for one of those foofy television design shows.  

While there is a lot of work to be done it is all fun for me most of the time. Sometimes work can be a PITA but everything has PITA potential including the things we enjoying doing most like blogging. And don’t forget that we can each be a PITA too... I know I am on several daily occasions. Sometimes at work, sometimes at home, you never know when the PITA mod will strike.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Teacoholics

I have always been a coffee drinker. Even in high school I remember having a cup of Folgers instant coffee every morning before leaving the house. In recent years my consumption of the caffeinated nectar has increased significantly to the point that our coffee pot just wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied in the morning and night. Keep in mind that my wife doesn’t drink coffee at all so all the drinking was my doing.

My wife on the other hand likes tea. However, there are few options which she likes to drink so, occasionally, she has gotten board of the herbal options that we have found in the stores. So her consumption varies but still has come nowhere near my partaking of the black bean water.

Things began to shift about a week ago when I gave my wife a little surprise winter gift to try and brighten up a dull day. Actually, it was a few gifts that I had gotten when I previously placed holiday orders for my boss and for my niece and had a little extra credit left. I could tell when she opened them that she didn’t really know how she felt about them and whether she would use them or not. The two infuser mugs and a few bags were her first experience with loose tea.

Admittedly, I had also already stored some tea in the cabinet that was more to my taste. I have occasionally had a cup of tea when the mood struck me but I had not been a regular drinker for over a decade. Seeing her hesitance I knew that the best way to really have her see the difference between fresh loose tea and dried out bags would be to start making it and drinking it myself. The result has led me to drinking more tea in the last week than I had for maybe the rest of the year combined.

The transition in my drinking habits was not lost on my wife and today we decided to head over to Teavana in the King of Prussia Mall after dinner tonight so she could pick out a few flavors of her own (obviously I was a little off in my original selections). While we spent a little bit of money at the store all of it was still less money per ounce than tea bags and completely customizable at home which is perfect for both our budget and our divergent taste preferences.

Within 15 minutes of walking back into the apartment, we each had a cup of tea steeping. My wife has now not just seen the difference but tasted it as well and I have rekindled my appreciation for the variety and flavor that tea has to offer. At this point, it is safe to say that we are both Teacoholics.
 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Where Has The Time Gone?

Every year my parents have a holiday party at their house. There are a few relatives that the only time that I see them during the year is at this party so it is a nice opportunity to try and catch up. In previous years there have been dozens of family and friends present filling all the rooms on the first floor and making it a challenge to walk across the house. While a smaller gathering this year due to illness and other life events, it was a great time to sit, talk, catch up, and eat.

Like every year, the kids took over the basement and provided some entertainment throughout the evening as we all participated in the usual game of dodge door. Every twenty minutes or so we could hear the low rumble of little feet stomping up the carpeted stairs. A few seconds later the knob would jiggle and turn and the door would come flying open. For the most part, everyone knows that you either don’t stand there or you keep your ears open to the stampede.

I was once one of those kids running up the stairs but as is clear when thinking about years past, things have changed and we have all gotten older. Many family members are no longer with us but this party proves to be the perfect time to think back to the happy, and sometimes funny, moments that we were able to enjoy with them. Even just seeing a large group of people in a room and recalling the lineup on the couch holding court in the family room. Sometimes it is as simple as recalling an image.

By the end of the evening, the cooler was much lighter, the tables were a little thinner, and the desert table looked like a bomb went off leaving cake bits and cookie crumbs strewn about. While some were still standing and a few of us sitting wherever we felt like no longer standing, all of us were quite full and not really wanting to move too much (although there were a few people making some determined trips to the dessert table). This is the time of evening when everyone realizes that it might be best if they start heading out the door and make their way home.

It is also a constant surprise as to how quickly time goes by at these parties. You sit down and start talking and before you know it half the people have left and it’s time to go home. This is always an interesting shuffle at the end of the evening as no matter how good you think your plan is when you arrive, it is inevitable that you are going to have to wait for someone to move their car before you will be able to leave. A good time was had by all and I am already looking forward to next year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Long Day Off


Today was the first full day off I have taken from work using my personal time. It was not a day to sit around and do nothing, it was a very busy day spent in Philadelphia at the Annual Communication. While I was able to sleep in an extra hour and didn’t leave the apartment until nine, I was out all day and didn’t get back until about 10:30 this evening. It was a long, but enjoyable, day off.

The morning began with my wife dropping me off at the Philadelphia Marriott. Within a few minutes of arriving I was talking with brothers whom I had never met before but seemed like we had known our entire lives. While I chatted and waited for other brothers from my lodge to arrive, I was approached by a man interested in Masonry. It was interesting that he chose to stop and talk to me out of the dozens of Masons in the lobby but I happily answered all the questions he had for me and offered as much guidance as I could.  

With everyone having arrived (and on time), we took the elevator up to the fifth floor and took our seats toward the back of the room to witness the departing of the Right Worshipful Grand Master Jay W. Smith and the beginning of the tenure of Brother Robert J. Bateman as the new Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania. While the meeting was long, approximately 3 ½ hours, I am glad that I took the time off and attended as it demonstrated the greatness that men can achieve through Masonry as well as the hope we all have for the future of our fraternity and the desire to see it continue to make not just good men better but families stronger as well.

After a late lunch, it was time for a little break from the action. I took advantage of this time by heading over a few blocks to the grand lodge and checking for a few masonic records that I have been unable to find. Having completed a few successful searches, it was time to walk back over to the hotel and continue meeting brothers from all over the commonwealth. Many conversations later and we all eventually made our way up to the reception where I was able to finally circle up with many of the brothers I have gotten to know already but only see at larger events and at meetings of Masonic bodies.

From the social reception we made our way to the dining room which contained row after row of tables containing nearly 2000 people (Masons, friends, and family). While the entertainment for the evening, which delayed dinner, was not a group that I particularly enjoyed, it was still nice to be able to sit at meal that felt more like a family atmosphere and enjoy the company and fellowship. What started as a day talking to new people and seeing new faces was now coming to an end with a table full of brothers from my lodge… the family within the brotherhood. Not a bad way to spend the day off.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Excess Office Space

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

No one.

No one who?


No one who?



That was pretty much my day today. I got in the car this morning and with the exception of a few idiots not caring that they were going ten miles under the speed limit, it was a smooth and unusually fast commute to the office… what usually takes me 45-50 minutes took me 30-35 minutes. Once I got to the office I checked the front door, which was locked, and immediately went to the back door, unlocked it, and walked into the dark and quiet room.

Soon after entering I staggered into my morning routine and started to slowly get the day going. A few hours and several long overdue projects passed and I found myself still the only one in the office. It was pretty safe to say at that point that everyone had decided to work from home today which was find with me, I had the entire office to myself. No noise, no distractions, and no waiting for the coffee maker. But there was also no conversation.

Thankfully they have these things called phones now. While today was a day to catch up with work it was also a day to catch up on conversation. All the calls that have been pushed back time and again and all the messages I forgot to answer finally were resolved today in-between tasks. While I am far from up to date with my communications, it is a heck of a lot better than it was 24 hours ago.

Around lunch time there was also a brief few moments when I did have a couple of visitors which was a nice break in the day. I didn’t expect to see my boss show up and I really wasn’t expecting to meet her mother who was stopping by to finally see the office. We had an excellent conversation for about 30 minutes during which time we talked a lot about my Masonic affiliation and who in their family was a Mason. It’s interesting what conversation can be sparked by the simple display of a pin on my shirt pocket.

 
After the visit the afternoon went quickly. Before I knew it, it was time for my wife to start texting me and for the final push to get a few last things done for the day. So my quiet day ended in a similarly exciting manner as it began and my short holiday work week concluded with a few less things on my to do list and a lot of items added to the list of things that should be done to start the year.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Think Before Sending Ralphie A Bunny Suit



Everyone, at some point in their life, has found themselves in a position when they open up a gift, fain a smile as best as they can, and tuck it off into the corner in the hopes of forgetting about that brief but unpleasant memory. While those gifts may not be as extreme in their unpleasantness as Ralphie revealing a pink bunny suit, they are still a hiccup to the festivities of the day. We do our best to forget the figurative magenta and look high and low for that Red Rider BB Gun tucked behind the piano if anything to erase the memory of a horrid gift.

To varying degrees this happens to each of us every single year. Some gifts are exactly what we asked for… usually an item off of a previously requested list. While not a unique or creative gift, it is what we asked for and what we got. Can’t complain about that.

Other gifts we may not have put on any list, we may not have even thought of them as an option, but there is a clear thought process behind the item and, while unexpected, you are happy to have received it. These little surprises are appreciated both for the gift received but, more importantly, for the thought and consideration that was put into it.

However, there is a third category of gifts. I call them WTF with a bow on top. These are the boxes that when you crack open you wonder if they either mislabeled the box or, even worse, if they even bothered to think about who they were shopping for. Other gifts in this category range from the completely useless to the “I like it which means that everyone should like it”. Some even encompass both and are therefore deemed pink bunny gifts.

Those are the reasons why I put so much time into buying gifts (in addition to investing in trying to find the best deal). I don’t like being on the receiving end of a pink bunny gift and I really don’t want to be on the giving end. In fact, I hate the latter more than the former. There is nothing like seeing the reaction in someone’s face when you surprise the heck out of them which is immediately followed by the how did you know stare (sometimes a simple fondling of the gift gives the same message). If I don’t know how to achieve that I will either revert to their list of ask someone else for ideas.

Give and you shall receive. Your efforts will eventually pay off even if you have to go through a lot of bunny suits in the process. Even Ralphie gets the gift he has been anticipating and wishing for at the end of the movie. Keep giving great and thoughtful gifts, watch out for icicles, and don’t let the hounds get into the kitchen.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bye Bye Uncle Buck

Having finally finished all the wrapping and with a cup of tasty tea steeping beside me, my wife and I were watching the tail end of “Uncle Buck” on HBO before my wife headed to bed and I was to finish up a few things on the computer. The day was ending just how we would like it to when the night over took the apartment. Around 10:30 all the lights dimmed for a second or two, flashed, and then completely shut down. So long Uncle Buck.

 
At that point we didn’t have many options so we decided to head over to the front desk and try to offer whatever assistance we could. As soon as we manually slid open the front door we could hear the complaints filling the shadow filled entryway. Unfortunately, the weather had just turned colder in the past 24 hours and residents were returning to their apartments from unusually late dinners.

Not helping the situation was the fact that we could all see that the lights were on in every building around us. Simply put, this was not a power grid problem, this was a major building malfunction which seems to have only gotten worse over the past year. The piercing alarm resonating from the basement seemed to confirm the severity of the issue and did not lend an air of confidence that this particular problem would be fixed in a timely manner.

I know what it is like to be behind the desk during those moments and I knew that the situation was beyond his control so my wife and I began helping in any way that we could to make the situation at least a little easier to deal with for everyone. While my wife assisted residents up the stair well and to their apartments (not an easy task given the ages of many of the people) I was doing my best to relay messages, keep track of both entrances, and keep the other dark dwellers occupied by talking about anything but the electric.

After about an hour of walking all around the ground floor, entertaining residents, coordinating with the local police department, and getting updates from PECO and our in house maintenance people the power finally came back on. While there has been the occasional humming traveling through the walls and into our apartment, the power remains on. So, with the rooms again full of light, it was time to turn them off and try to rest before travelling all day tomorrow. Essentially, everything is back to normal at least until the next time the building falters or the grid fails.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Black, White, And Gray


Most people in this world, especially the vocal ones, see the world as black and white and, at times, I can be the same way. There are some topics/subjects, as you may have read, that I can be very opinionated about and can even seem very narrow in my view but every opinion I have offered on this blog has had at least a hint of gray in it. This is why I like putting my thoughts in these posts… it has been a great way not only to open up discussion with others but also think topics, subjects, or viewpoints through. If anything, this blog has added quite a bit of gray into my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still openly debate people and stand firmly behind my views which many people may not agree with but I have had to put in the time and the energy to think things through and come to those decisions/conclusions. Putting that energy into those opinions has also allowed me to enjoy what I have and stand behind my decisions. It seems all too common these days that people are willing to be part of a collective that leads them around based on the beliefs of few. While I may be a part of many groups we are all individual thinkers and have very divergent opinions on a variety of subjects. We all live in the independent gray rather than a life dictated by black and white allowing us to be blindly herded between the extremes.

Embracing the gray hasn’t always been a part of my everyday life. There have been a number of times, periods really, in my life when things were all or nothing. The holidays are a perfect example of this change in my views. A couple of years ago my wife and I tried to distance ourselves from the Christmas holiday as much as possible. It really was a season when we did all we could to avoid the festivities. However, as I have previously written, now I am much more open to the experience simply as a time to enjoy the spirit of the holiday. I think of it as going to a foreign country… you can enjoy were you are and the spirit of the place but it doesn’t make you a citizen. Thanks, just visiting.

This is just one example. While apt for the time of year the gray is not limited by the calendar. It is a means to be open to experience and to see the best in both people and places. I hope you all have a gray holiday.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Date Night


About halfway through the day I had enough and needed to take a break from the work, the cleaning, and sitting around the apartment in general. While I was being productive and getting plenty of things done, some long overdue, I was feeling a little bit of Jack Nicholson rattling around in there. Once I found a good place to stop I knew it was time for us to get up and out. There were a few things we had to get done, a few last minute gifts to pick up, and a few items to return so there was a productive motive to our trip but that was by no means the major motivator.

First stop… Wal-Mart. I know, such an exciting and exotic place to visit. After returning a few purchases from our Black Friday trip (we picked up/out too many DVD’s) we walked around store and picked up a few essentials (windshield wiper blades) and a gift. We were going to pick up a second gift at the ammo counter but there are two major problems in trying to do that. First, ammo is still in limited supply and, second, no one is ever at the ammo counter to help and employees seem to get lost on their way there when you request assistance (a third common problem is the fact that no one at Wal-Mart knows what you’re talking about beyond pointing at specific boxes).

Second Stop… Staples. I know, calm down, don’t be jealous of our exciting life. While we found an extra gift in the clearance section, along with a few other items, the main objective was to pick up ink for our photo printer (we’re only about two months behind in picking this up). The nice thing with Staples which I have mentioned before, I can utilize coupons and other discounts. After handing in all the coupons and taking off a little bit with some rewards dollars, the total cost was the equivalent of us simply coming in and buying the ink cartridge as full price. Not a bad trip.

With the handful of errands now completed, it was time to just be together and have a little bit of a date night so we headed off to do something that we haven’t done in a long time (probably about a year and a half), we went to watch a movie at the AMC in Plymouth Meeting. It was an optimal time to head to the movies as many factors were working in our favor: we had a Fandango gift card to cover the tickets, we both needed to take a break, there was a movie out we could agree on, and we have been long overdue for a date night. Sodas and popcorn in hand, we climbed the stairs and got settled in for the next two plus hours.
 

While “The Book Thief” is an excellent movie and I highly recommend watching, be prepared to be a little depressed. There is a deep sadness throughout the film (no surprise for a story that takes place in Nazi Germany) which can catch you off guard at times. Wonderful performances all around and a pace that is perfect for the subject matter and the mood of the film. It is a movie that you should allow yourself to get lost in and a story that should be wrapped around you like a new and slightly uncomfortable and unfamiliar blanket. It is for these reasons that I will not go into the details of the film and let you explore it for yourself.

 
After the afternoon movie, we stopped by the mall for a quick sit down dinner (a lighter meal after all the popcorn and soda) and soon after headed back to the apartment and back to work. Now that I have gotten a few more things taken care of I am now sitting down, talking to you, and drinking some fresh tea in an infuser cup I gave to my wife at the beginning of the day. Nothing like fresh, loose tea to end the day and calm you down from a work filled weekend. Time to head off to bed to rest up for a short work week but hectic week overall.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hope You Are All Enjoying The Winter/Spring Holidays


When I woke up this morning the bedroom seemed a little is warmer than usual. Being that it is the first day of winter, the window was open, and the heat not yet turned on this should not have been the case. In a day more indicative of spring the temperature today reached the 60’s for the first time in a while. I can’t remember the last time that it has been this warm so late in the year. As you have probably already figured out by now, the snow that that blanketed the greater Philadelphia area about 2 weeks ago is now is tatters with only a few miniscule piles remaining in the corners of the parking lot.

So, as the temperature continues to warm, it is supposed to hit near 70 tomorrow, the natural thing to do is to wrap gifts in preparation for the family day in the middle of the week. For those of you dreaming of a white Christmas this year, you are pretty much SOL. You will just have to settle for the time with family, the time off from work (thank you to those whose jobs require you to work on the holiday), and the hours upon hours of “Small World” syndrome inducing music, and, I have to admit, some darn funny movies.

It’s an interesting time of year for me. Growing up, this was the only holiday that I knew and I have many great memories of spending time with family, opening gifts, and making the wine disappear from my glass before dinner. Maybe that last one wasn’t really great at the time but it is funny in hind sight. Those memories, and the spirit of the holiday that is still on full display every year still instills a fondness for this time of year for me. Even though it is no longer my holiday, it is still a great time to spend time with family and to see the happiness not only in my nieces and nephews but also my parents. Seeing that look in the faces of my family is what makes this a happy holiday.

I consider myself very lucky because I am able to experience the holiday happiness much more frequently than most people. I can see the joy in my family members during the Christian holidays and I can feel the joy during the Jewish holidays. Okay, maybe not all of them as some are not really known as “happy” holidays. So many of the holidays throughout the year have meaning to me for different reasons. It has taken me a long time to come to the realization but just because it may not be your holiday, it doesn’t mean you can appreciate the spirit of the holiday. And, of course, you should enjoy all of the amusing pictures and jokes that seem to be a natural byproduct of any celebratory time of year.


Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Party Time!


Thursday was the first holiday party with my new company and I was late to the office gathering. Fortunately, I had a darn good reason for my tardiness as I was staffing an interview which led me to arrive about 45 minutes after everyone had gotten to the bowling alley. That’s right, we had a bowling party. With the exception of walking around and exploring the old two lanes in the basement of my lodge a few months ago, this was the first time that I had set foot in a bowling alley in about ten years (maybe longer).

It was an interesting experience walking in the doors as the memories of grade school birthday parties flooded my mind as the familiar scent wafted across my nose. This is one of those places that while the technology and the décor may change over time, the atmosphere remains the same. Those pleasant reminiscences only added to the festive night and the great time that we all had, awkward techniques and all.  

However, when you get a group of coworkers together with any type of game or sport as the activity and there is inevitably going to be come competition. While I thought that my competitive nature had long since faded into the past, that night it had a bit of a resurgence as we split into teams of two and started watching the scores add up. What started as simply a fun time for me quickly transitioned to not wanting to finish last and then to wanting to win.

As the night progressed the fire built up as I was not hitting my spots and doing as well as I wanted to. The frustration was a little intense as most of the time I knew whether or not I made the shot as soon as the ball was about five feet down the lane. While it was by no means a great score I still managed to break a hundred in both games and ended the night of rolling having finished second overall. More importantly, my team won by 50 pins.

After a couple of games with dinner interspersed between turns and frames we all headed over to the pool tables where I played a couple of poor games. Still finished 1-1 on the night but completely unacceptable knowing how I used to run the table in a game of nine ball. However, billiards was secondary as we all continued to relax and began exchanging holiday gifts. “Secret Santa” is something that I can’t remember the last time I had the opportunity to participate and even though many of us are still getting to know one another around the office everyone gave considerable thought to the gifts they gave and appreciated the gifts they received.

I gave a gift that I took the time to think about and make sure that it would be enjoyed. Actually, because I am a firm proponent of coupons, I gave a whole bag of gifts while remaining within the predetermined $25 budget. On the flip side of things, I was given a gift that fit me perfectly and something that I have already put to good use (you’ve got to love it when someone gets you the right gift card).

At that point, the conversations continued and we all enjoyed the company of friends, not just coworkers. With hugs and holiday wishes shared by all, we set out on the road knowing that we would see one another early the next morning. Our office is a family, one where we hold one another accountable and make sure we working to our potential (clichéd but true), and that is a rare privilege that I will continue to appreciate each and every day I walk through the door. It’s amazing how a great job can make the holiday season so much better.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

First Night At Eastern Star

Last night my wife and I attended our first Eastern Star meeting in Norristown. It was quite the interesting night for the two of us and one that was very different to was we are used to. Even for me, who is used to the rituals and structure of a Masonic meeting, what I witnessed last night was completely different in many ways.

 The most glaring difference is that of the clear religious overtones (not undertones). From different songs sung to other obvious symbols, it is a little contrary to the non-religious, agnostic may be a more appropriate term here, stance that is held regarding the consideration of members, although a belief in G-d is required to join. It leaves someone like myself, who is not Christian but who is very familiar with Christianity, a little confused as to the true direction.

However, like many things in this country that have significant Christian overtones, one needs to consider the spirit of the message rather than the references made. Additionally, when looking at many of the other aspects of the ritual and the general set up and structure of the meeting there are numerous Jewish references, symbols, and undercurrents in the order. Most glaringly is the fact that we face the East toward the temple mount and Jerusalem (this is a commonality found throughout Freemasonry).

Overall, what is more important in the fraternity is the fact that you are surrounded by, in this instance, many brothers and sisters who show genuine interest in who we are and take the time to talk with us, learn more about us, and, when needed, assist us in whatever way they can. What is all too often overlooked is the fact that family is the foundation to our fraternal organizations… a family with G-d as the head. This is the bond that we all have experienced and what strengthens our connection with one another and our belief in our own G-d (based on our individual faith).  

It was this connection with those around us that we experienced both before and after the meeting and all the rituals, routines, and references therein. It is the conversation and the light that you can see in their eyes, regardless of age, that slight glow that lets you know just how happy they are to meet you and to share this common connection with you. That is what is at the heart of chapter which makes all the references and overtones, for me, window dressing.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Applications And Dues

Tis the season to reassess my memberships, consider others, and remit dues to the ones I can’t do without. Various annual club, association, and society applications are currently stretching the binding of my day planner. Slowly but surely I am determined to get through them all and make final decisions and cuts by the end of the year. Thankfully there are a few days which I have off next week when I can really sit down and give the attention and consideration that these forms require. Of course, this pile does not include some of the more in depth applications that have to be pulled together (admittedly these are long overdue) but I hope to get those done in the same time frame as well.

Many of the applications that lay before me in a paper clipped stack will be sent off shortly but others have to be carefully weighed. Not because of the dues and fees that they require but because of a simple matter of time. As I previously mentioned, Rotary was a timing decision. Even though I have gotten a lot out of Rotary in the past and still was learning on a daily basis, it is something that I am not able to commit the time to at this point. The schedule just doesn’t work out. Fortunately, since that post a generous offer has been made, and I have accepted, for me to stay on as an Honorary Rotarian. This is not something that is done lightly and I am honored to have been on the receiving end of such a distinguished title.

Other considerations in the growing mountain of forms is the fact that I would like to have some kind of connection to my ethnic heritage, in addition to existing application work. We know the countries from which our ancestors came but that is pretty much about it. It would be interesting to learn a little more and connect with other people with the same flags draped over the branches of their family trees. It will also be an interesting group to discuss future genealogical discoveries related to those branches.

Honestly, some of the other applications are a just because kind of submission. It would be nice to be a member and I would enjoy the occasional meeting/gathering so, if the dues make sense, why the heck not. It might also provide for some interesting events for my wife and I to attend in the future as well. I guess we will just have to see with all of those. One thing I can guarantee… it is an interesting mix and should offer a tremendous variety both for the basic experience but also for blog content. I will definitely keep you all posted.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Working Toward Relaxation


Today was one of those days. The kind of day that no matter how much you get done and how much progress you feel you are making it never seems to feel like enough to get ahead. Not the first time I have experienced this and certainly not the last but it is frustrating regardless of when it happens especially when you know that the days that are going to follow will, more than likely, hold the same fate.

Making things worse is the weather both in regard to temperature and just feeling under the weather lately. For me, it just makes me push harder to get more done and keep working no matter how I am feeling. Sometimes you just have to grind it out… there is no room for the luxury of a day off no matter how horrible you feel or how piercing the headache.

Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do if I were to take the day off. So far the one half day that I have taken off and the one day that I have requested are because of events that I want to attend. Even when taking a day off I seem to be busy. Being busy may be taxing at times and some people may think I am a little nuts (I won’t argue with them on that point) but it keeps me moving forward and looking forward to new experiences and opportunities in life. This is how I am able and why I chose to work 200+ hours a month and keep a full schedule of activities going outside of the office.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to have good hand eye coordination to be able to juggle. Sometimes the actions of keeping things going, keeping everything up in the air, is what ensures that we keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how tired we get or run down we may feel. This is also why this blog just keeps going (sometimes, I’m sure, it even seems never ending), this is another task which I can focus my mind on and use the opportunity to fill in the gaps of my day.

This is one aspect of my means of relaxation. I work on this blog to recover from work. I utilize this space to just let myself think sometimes about one specific subject while other times I let myself jump around a bit. While I am sure it is getting a bit repetitive at this point it is still a fulfilling way for me to relax and write about what I want to discuss rather than about a topic that is dictated to me from someone else. I know that if I do nothing I begin feeling stressed and begin wearing down quickly which is why I have to keep myself going. These post along with everything else I do and every place I go outside of the office is how I relax.

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Words


Tonight it was time to work on the monthly lodge notice. Not a new occurrence but for me it was a first. The notice that will be sent out to the brethren in the coming week will have a message from the new officers meaning that this is my first communication to the lodge as Secretary.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it but once I set down and thought for a few minutes about what I was doing it was quite easy. What I found myself writing was a simple message of gratitude and of anticipation for the upcoming Masonic year. While I am still uncertain as to the ins and outs of my new position one thing I already know how to do is to be forthright in my words and honest in my message. After all, that is really all we can ask of one another and that is exactly how I will treat each and every brother regardless of office, age, or involvement.

While not the entire message, here are my first thoughts as expressed in the current notice to the Brethren:

As we welcome a new year I am humbled by the trust you have placed in me to serve you and the lodge in the coming Masonic year. Thank you for granting me the privilege to serve. I look forward to working with and for all of you in the coming year and supporting the Worshipful Master, the officers, the trustees, and all of my fellow brethren to make this coming year both memorable and one for which we can all be proud… I wish you a happy and health holiday season and a new year full of Masonic light!

This pretty much sums up my plans for the upcoming year. While there are many things that need to be worked on and many ideas floating around in my head, the basic sentiment remains the same across the board. My job is to be a resource to the lodge and to my brothers and that is exactly what I hope to be. While I may never be the most knowledgeable and I am certainly not always going to have the best ideas, I am going to do everything in my power to improve the lodge and provide an experience for my fellow brothers that will leave them wanting to do more, contribute more, and participate fully in this fraternity for which I have a growing passion.

My first words will not be my last and the hope that I have for my fellow Masons and for the loge will forever grow brighter. I am heading into this part of my journey knowing that this path is not a temporary sojourn but one that I will traverse with all the fortitude that I can muster. While some may view my pending task(s) with trepidation, I am looking forward to the challenge and the opportunities for growth that have been laid before me. This is indeed a long trek and one that I begin with great anticipation.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rotary Letter

The last few months have been hectic but that is nothing new to those who have been following this blog. What I haven’t really written about at length is my ongoing dilemma with regard to Rotary. While I have touched upon the scheduling difficulties from time to time I haven’t spoken of the back and forth in my own mind regarding my continued participation with my club. Although sometimes there is a lot on information to be found in the unsaid as Rotary posts have been lacking for some time now.

Not long ago I received a message on my cell phone from a fellow Rotarian from my club and the immediate past President. It caught me a little off guard as I had not let my thoughts go that far… his message was asking whether or not I was going to resign from the club and if I was going to do so I would have to submit a letter of notification by the middle of the month. It was a wrenching thought to consider but it was a reality that I knew I had to face. After many days, this is the letter I have written with my final, albeit temporary, decision:

Dear BCN Club President,

It is with great sadness that I write this letter. At this time, I must resign both as an officer and as a member of the Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd – Narberth.

Due to my increasing number of commitments on my schedule combined with my extended work day, I am unable to attend the prerequisite number of meetings in order to sustain my membership in the club or in Rotary. This is the sole reason for my resignation. It is simply a matter of timing.

Moving forward, if the club would be willing to accept, I would like to continue my affiliation with the club as a “Friend of Rotary”. If there are other options available, please let me now but, to the best of my knowledge, this is the only option available with regard to retaining a connection with the club.

As you know, Rotary is an amazing organization to be a part of and I cherish every moment and memory that I have of the club, the district, and Rotary International as a whole. I look forward to continuing my Rotary service in the future when I will be able to set aside the time and effort that I feel is necessary.

Moving forward, I hope to continue our friendship and I hope to make the occasional appearance at Aldar Bistro as well as other Rotary events.

Please call or email me with any questions or concerns.

Thank you and please thank everyone at the BCN Club for all the help, support, and encouragement during my time in Rotary.

Yours In Rotary Service,

Sean

Time is something that will always be a limited quantity and I will never have enough to do all the things that I want to do. That being the reality, sometimes things just don’t make sense when you have to keep a schedule. I try to fit as many activities, groups, and events in my calendar and Rotary just doesn’t seem to fit at this specific point in my life. Will I return to Rotary? That is the plan and I hope that it will be sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that I will continue to participate whenever and where ever I am able but the weekly meetings are an unrealistic option. For now I say good bye quickly followed with see you soon.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembering The Children Lost On This Day

One year ago today our throats would not allow a word to escape from our lips. We were all rendered speechless by the news from Connecticut and the innocent faces that will forever be etched in our minds. It is hard to comprehend the hate that was manifested in the actions of a disturbed individual. Even now, as we remember those young lives lost, I can’t get over the evil that was visited upon that community that day.

Today should be a day to reflect, remember, and honor those who were lost to the world, those lights that were extinguished before they had the chance to truly shine with magnificent radiance. We should keep the families of the victims in our hearts and the ask G-d to ease their pain in our prayers. Those live lost, those innocent souls, those young faces should be the focus of our thoughts today.

However, as was made evident by the President today, many thoughts are not on the victims and the heinous actions of a murderous individual. They are on the objects that are so misunderstood by so many and appreciated and respected by too few. Objects, whatever they may be, will always require a force to be acted upon it to create an action. People are the root of good as well as the root of evil.

While all this was happening and the accusations were being made against those who have honored the laws of this country and respected the responsibilities of ownership, there was a sense that the people, the small children, have been lost in the politics of the day. A single event has been leveraged so fully to push an agenda that it has now defined these young lives. The actions of others should never define our own lives.

We should be the source of memory, our actions are the ones that should serve as a means of remembrance. Many lives are cut short and brave children are taken from the loving embrace of their mothers and fathers. While not all are as violent as those premature passings in Connecticut a year ago, they are all tragic and heartbreaking. One such moment of heartbreak occurred just after midnight. Superman Sam passed away at 12:33 am in the warm embrace of his mother and father.

It had been 18 months since he was first diagnosed with refractory acute myeloid leukemia. His mother kept a blog throughout the entire struggle. The good days, the bad days, the days of hope, and the days of sadness. She even wrote abouthis passing tonight, less than 24 hours after Sam’s last breath.

There are countless children taken from this world and they should all be remembered for the hope and innocence that lived in each and every one of them. If there was something that could be done to guarantee that these things wouldn’t happen, that no child would ever die, I would be the first one to throw my full and fervent support behind it. However, that is, unfortunately, not the reality in which we all live. This is why I choose to put my full support and faith in G-d because man cannot make such a promise but G-d offers the possibility and the hope that things can change, that people can change, and that those children who have been taken from us are in a better place than this limited world.

Remember not the actions of others but the lives of those lost. Pray for the end of such evil acts. And hold fast to your faith and your family and do all that is in your power to protect them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Was the Lead Story On The News Tonight?

It’s the end of another week and I have no idea where the days have gone. There is work yet to be done, a haircut that never happened, and some excellent developments that I am not at liberty to divulge at this point. The weather was cold and the ground covered a couple of times with snow but for all that happened it is still all a blur.

The week was coming to an exhausting end when I turned the radio on before heading home for the night. Another shooting by another deranged individual. While the only life lost was that of the shooter it is still a tragedy and still impacts the lives of all involved. Unfortunately, it will serve as the catalyst for tomorrow’s solemn anniversary.

While nowhere near the magnitude of that day it is astounding how little I have seen on the television this evening about this stunning event. Even now, ten minutes into the evening news, nothing has been said. While no one wants to admit it, I’m going to say it… The main reason for the lack of coverage is that fact that the only person who died was the shooter. The other reason is because he used the wrong kind of firearm… Democrats support shotguns. IF you want to know why the story wasn’t leveraged by the President, by the Senate, by the media to beat people over the head… those are the reasons.
 

However, once again the root cause of this nauseating action was overlooked. The kid was freaking nuts! This is a people problem… he was going after a librarian. Who the heck goes after a librarian? People are the problem. That is where we need to focus our efforts. We need to get people help and curb the psychosis that seems to be finding its way out at an increasing rate as of late. Crazy will always try to find a way we have to do what we can to control it and offer those in need the support that is required to keep those homicidal intentions in check.

Breaking news… first mention on tonight’s news just happened… before heading to commercial the shooting was mentioned after the weather foreshadowing and before video of a woman putting together a bike for the holidays. Wow, that story just jumps out and grabs you when it’s buried in the broadcast. You can’t script crazy so sometimes the story is not going to have the appeal needed to lead the broadcast.

Before I sign off for the night, I want to bring your attention to Israel where the Holy Land is currently being battered by the worst winter storm in the country’s history. Tonight I pray for your safety while, at the same time, admit that I am a little jealous that I am not there to experience a Winter Wonder Holy Land. Shabbat Shalom and Peace (not piece) to all this night and every night.
 
 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Little After Work Entertainment



Office parties are always an interesting balance between business and reality. On one hand you head in there knowing that there are people you have been trying to track down for days and need to get a few quick answers or schedule a few meetings for the following week while, at the same time, you just want to relax a little bit and enjoy the informal get together. The trick is learning the give and take of the two.

Tonight was one of those nights for me as I attended a client’s holiday party. There were a couple quick things that I need to talk to a few people about but I made sure I worked them in and moved on as fast as possible. They had to get handled but I didn’t want to ruin the night with work. Plus you want to avoid getting the evil eye from their wife who is standing a couple feet away listening to every word.

The rest of the time is an excellent opportunity to let your guard down just a little bit and talk to as many people as you can. While you undoubtedly know many of them, there are bound to be a few people whom you’ve never met and a handful of people who have, until tonight, been a name on an email. Just like any event, meeting, or other type of gathering I’ve been to I go into it with the simple reality that you never know who you are going to meet or what you will wind up talking about.

Tonight the topics ranged from Rotary, Masonry, and other clubs and organizations to politics, firearms, and genealogy. It was quote the interesting night of ever changing dialogue and jumping from one completely different topic to another based on the person with whom I was speaking. But it was fun having a little variety in the night and I was able to learn a lot about many of the people in attendance.

Inevitably, at just about every office party I have ever been to, there always seems to be someone who becomes very loud toward the end of the night. Usually someone who has had a little too much to drink, whose face is about three shades beyond pink, and they still have a drink in their hand. Often their volume is accompanied with an overestimation of their abilities and a lack of appreciation for others around them (as well as people not around to defend themselves).

I like to remember these parties, the good and the bad, which is why I don’t drink at such events. Of course, the other major factor is that often I have to drive home but mainly it is because I don’t want to risk forgetting the details of what took place, again the good and the not so good. It is also ensures that I don’t turn into that guy. And if you’ve never seen that guy at an office party you better get some help. Don’t be that person. Be the one who remembers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Have You Been Enjoying My Box Of Chocolates?


200 days ago this blog didn’t exist. It was a time when I would rarely set aside the time to write. Sometimes I would be doing other worthwhile projects but many times I would simply be passing the time. There were many lost thoughts and forgotten recordings of my life that I would like to have back but know that is never going to be the case.

There have been days/nights when I have had a lot to say and there have been times, like tonight, when I just start writing and hope that I eventually stumble into something worth recording. That is how it goes when you post daily blogs… at least that is what happens to me. This is a medium that is reflective of life and sometimes it is interesting and exciting and sometimes not much is going on. This is accentuated by the fact that I am generally not a very interesting person and live a pretty simple life.

Of course, there have been times of opinion sharing and other posts have been about life and what experiences I have been fortunate enough to have during the whirlwind of days. In one post I could rant about presidential selfies and BS sign language translators while the next post could be about a nice little day trip into the mountains. I prefer keeping a blog using the Forrest Gump box of chocolates school of writing. Basically, if you don’t like what I have to say today just come back tomorrow and there will be something completely Monty Python.

All too often, and I have been guilt of this in the past, writers like to play the equivalent of the creative or literary knock out game. Some people have a perfect punch in their words and some of us get luck every once in a while but, most of the time, we are all taking big swings hoping that one piece connects with the audience. When it happens it’s a great feeling but it is also tiring. And I mean a George Forman kind of tired.

By writing daily, freely and openly, I have been happy to keep jabbing. Some hit hard, some clearly miss the mark but I keep throwing my first out there in a deliberate and constant way. Most of them make contact and keep me in shape. This is a matter of endurance and just like running a race at some point you are going to have to push through a wall, sometimes many walls. It the nature of the creative marathon and one that is both rewarding and addictive. 200 posts later and I am still running.