Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trade Deadline

Based on a few previous posts and the other daily blog that I have, it should be no surprise that I am a baseball fan. I always have been and always will be even when things aren’t looking so good for the Phillies. This season has been a perfect example of the latter. It has been a means for me to bond with my dad, mom, and grandmother throughout the years and was one of the primary means of forming friendships during my childhood.

It is a game that I understand the ins and outs where, at least until recently, there have been few rules changes and alterations to the game. For the most part it has remained a game unchanged and while there have been alterations recently, the general strategy and gam play involved remains intact. Every pitch is thrown purposefully with every player, at least the great ones, knowing how to consider the numerous factors at play with every ball thrown from the mount, thwack of the bat, and kicking up of dirt from the base runner. Of course, that might just be from my time on the mount and behind the plate.

One of the more interesting days during the season is going on right now… the major league trade deadline. It is a time when measurable and intangibles are at play in deciding what players will be changing uniforms. It is a time to push for a ring, cut losses, or plan for the future. With the Phillies completely out of the race, I have been anticipating a flurry of moves today but, like much of this season, I am heading into this evening disappointed.

Like most seasons, there have been plenty of moves made throughout the sport but none of the trades had anything to do with the Phillies beyond eliminating trade partners. While it is one thing to watch a team falter on the field for over half a season, during those years of less than spectacular play, the young talent brought up and the new faces brought in have, in many instances, offered some hope for the spring. The Phillies front office remained stagnant leaving the quality of play to fester on the field and the horizon that is spring to become covered with the storm clouds of another tumultuous season ahead.

So, disappointedly I wait for the next game to begin hoping that the waiver wire is soon filled with players that I had such high hopes for at the beginning of the year. Maybe, just maybe, the spring clouds will clear and next season will be filled with anticipation of the performances of prospects and newly acquired talent. Of course, we are talking about Ruben Amaro so I’m still going to bring an umbrella with me to Spring Training.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finding Life In Death

Death Certificate of Sarah Hansel (?) Myers.
Every so often I log on to to check and see if any leaves shaking on the tree. For those of you unfamiliar with the site, this means that there is new information or documents available for review. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the information is correct or adds color to that particular ancestor but there are times when interesting discoveries are made. However, I learned early on that you can’t simply rely on the quivering foliage so, when I have a few minutes here and there, I do a general search of the site to try and find other information (especially when the spelling of the surname is a little different or flat out incorrect).

This week I have noticed that a lot of the Pennsylvania Death Certificates are now listed. I don’t know when they were digitized but I am just noticing them now. While the time frame is a bit of a hindrance (currently only 1906-1940 certificates are listed) there are still plenty of documents that I have been finding. Everything from the tragic deaths of children to the inevitable passing of aged ancestors, the causes run the gamut. These are a great source of information not just about the departure of a relative but they can, most of the time, also be a great way to confirm or correct other generations on your tree… sometimes, like a document I sent to my wife, they can provide the names of the parents which was previously unknown information.

As for my tree, it has been a means of correction and confirmation. The death certificate above lists both parents including the mother’s maiden name which is different from that which I previously had listed on my family tree. And it is not a simple adjustment in the spelling… Davenport is nowhere close to Hansel. This doesn’t mean that I will be correcting it right away but it gives pause to continuing work on that particular branch. Obviously, some more work and verification needs to be done before I change or continue with the tree as is.

These documents are also a means to confirm residence, family health problems (that may have made it across the generations), longevity, and occupation. Sometimes it is a matter of confirming many of those things at the same time. One such document added to the long list of railroad workers in my family while another verified the service of my great great grandfather in the Philadelphia Police Department… I just didn’t realize that he spent 54 years on the force.

In the end, while the primary purpose of these documents was to record the death of the family member, there is more life in them than some people realize… definitely more than what can be found in most census records. All of the information is there and it could lead to some interesting discoveries and answer questions or doubts that you may have had about your family. Just goes to show that we need to read the documents rather than just attaching them to an ancestor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Return To Letter Writing

I used to write letters all the time, at least a letter a day, but over the years I have gotten away from that practice. However, I have been writing a lot of letters lately for both good and not so pleasant reasons. As you have read, there are a number of correspondences that I have sent to management but there have also been a few that I have written for other reasons. It seems as though email and phone calls have become more of an annoyance for some so reverting back to a more traditional form of communication may provide more substantial results.

While I send a fair amount of snail mail as Secretary of my masonic lodge, which there seems to be a lot of this summer, the other pieces of mail have a much different purpose. I have taken a considerable amount of time off from doing the in depth genealogical research and now, as I previously mentioned, we are at a point when on line resources are not going to provide the additional information that we are looking for. There are a few things that come up here and there as archives are digitized but that still leaves us wanting more.

So, the first letter I wrote was to the Monacan Nation as it is now time to pursue membership in the tribe. Basically, there is a question as to how far back we need to provide documentation. Do we need to prove connection to those on the original rolls or do we need documentation of those individuals? It may seem like a small question but it has tremendous ramifications… one generation makes all the difference as the documents needed for that final step have gone missing from the archive in which they are stored. We will have to wait and see if this is going to be easy (as we have all the documents needed) or hard (and we need to find out where that one document is being stored).

Another piece of mail dropped off at the post office was to a woman living in Spring City, Pennsylvania. She is a descendant of my great grandfather and his second wife. While my grandmother wanted nothing to do with her father or her half-sister, it is time for the family to know more about that forgotten branch. I outlined the research and explained why I am reaching out in the letter but there is still no guarantee as to whether or not I will get a response. Frankly, I am not 100% certain that I am writing to the right person but all of the supporting information seems to make sense. After all, if I am correct, she is still living in the same house that my great grandfather lived in.

Next up will be pulling together all the information needed for the Sons of the American Revolution application. While I have all the documents needed, and then some, this is still going to be a project and a half. The work has already been done it is simply a matter of sending it in such a way as to speed up the approval process. It will be nice to finally have this off my plate after a year languishing on my to-do list.

So that is the plan at the moment. This, combined with whatever my aunt and uncle can find out during their upcoming trip to Virginia, will hopefully fill in a few gaps in the tree. Until then, I think I will find a few more people I can write, email, and call. And, of course, get a lot of editing done on the tree as it is looking a little ragged and is in dire need of pruning.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Filling In The Foliage In The Family Tree

The most recent addition to the family research...
the final resting place of Laura Belle Redcross and Marcellus Nickolas Love.
Over the weekend I spent some time talking with the other genealogist in the family, my aunt, about the impasse that we are now facing. We have both spent the last several years working on the family tree trying to fill in the leaves, trim the branches, and follow the roots as far as they will go. We are now at a point where all of the information that can be found online has been found, catalogued, and added to our tree. We are at a point when it is going to take a considerable increase in effort in order to achieve even the smallest of results…. traveling and physically searching for documents.

While that is a huge part of the ongoing work that we need to get done there is also a completely different task which we need to accomplish. For much of the family we have the documents, the lineage, the connections from A to B, and we know of events that occurred in their lives. However, there really is no narrative that has been written on each of the generations to give us some color and fill in what was happening not only in their lives but also what was happening in the world around them. Facts can only tell you so much. The story is what makes the person, for lack of an original term, come to life.

While you have all read about Jacob Wirth and his death aboard the USS Tecumseh which I wrote about back in November, I haven’t really done the work to tell some of the other interesting stories from the tree. Sure there have been plenty of lists like the ones I have compiled for the Sons of the American Revolution and outlining connections to the Monacan Indian Nation, I haven’t done my job as a story teller in recreating the lives, connections, and service in the family. And there are so many beyond those few that have previously been listed.

Sometimes it’s not about the events in their lives, sometimes it’s about the lives that they lived. While those lives may seem unremarkable to many, they are part of what made this family and guided us along the way. What if my grandfather never moved the family up to Pennsylvania from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia? What if Samuel Ardis lived past 28 years old? What if my great grandparents never divorced? What if each of the immigrants just decided to stay put?

Obviously, we will ever know the real answers to the hypothetical questions. We will also never know if the stories we tell are completely accurate. But we can at least attempt to breathe life back into our ancestors and try to better understand the lives that they lived, the hardships they faced, and the decisions that they were forced to make. This should be interesting.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Great Conversations And Unwanted “Advice”

Ever since we announced that we were having a baby there have been dozens and dozens of family and friends offering us advice based on their experience. I am a firm proponent of gathering as much information as possible from as many people as possible especially from those who are parents. We have already had a variety of great conversations and have received a tremendous amount of excellent advice since the announcement and we are constantly receiving little bits of wisdom every now and again. It is amazing how much love and support that we have received and we are grateful for those people in our life. Yesterday was one of those days when we felt that warmth as family continuously approached us, offered their congratulations, and chatted briefly about how my wife is holding up. But it was not our day and we all wanted to enjoy the party, the real reason why we were all together.

Of course, over the past couple of weeks, there have also been a few people that keep popping up and offering lectures of what we should be doing and what we are currently doing wrong. They have also offered their pessimistic views on what they “hope doesn’t happen” while mixing in monologues about how we can avoid unrelated problems that they know absolutely nothing about. This is usually followed by “offers” to gain some additional practice in the coming months because we have obviously never been around infants and know nothing about some of the unpleasant aspects which they proceed to outline in great detail.

These people have a commonality, they are the center of the world. It is not a dialogue, it is a matter of they know what is best and we need to do it that way or we are wrong. This characteristic also encompasses a few people that are not excited about the good news because that means that we are not able to give them as much of our attention anymore. Did I mention that these people are over five years old? Keep in mind that we prefer to have the quick conversations and move on to another topic. There are too many great things happening to many fantastic people in our life to focus on ourselves or any other single person.

This is a very special time in our life and we want to embrace all the positive energy, unique experiences, and great people in our life. While, for various reasons, we can’t get rid of all the negative people and energy, we will do our best to minimize them and focus on the love and support. At the same time, we are going to continue living life and celebrating the amazing events and milestones of our friends and family. Of course, we won’t turn down great advice now and again!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Lied For A Good Reason…

The past couple of weeks have been difficult for me. Not because of anything bad or some of the other things that I have previously written about, it has been difficult because nearly every time I spoke with my sister I had to lie to her. I usually call my sister once a week, sometimes more if there is something going on or being planned, and so I didn’t want to change that routine. However, it was not easy to find things to talk about when I was avoiding talking about any plans for this weekend… I think I even lied to her on her birthday.

From the beginning we knew it would be a challenge but when my brother-in-law said that he wanted to do this we all, without hesitation, agreed that we would do our best to pull it off. Given her long history of finding out any and all plans (or gossip) this was no small talk, especially considering how much my nephew likes to talk. But it was all worth it when we saw her get out of the car today completely surprised, and that is not easy, that we had pulled off a surprise birthday party. Like we would simply let her 40th birthday come and go without throwing a party.

While for much of my life I didn’t really spend a lot of time talking and really getting to know her, as I have gotten older I have learned how great of a person my sister really is. I admire how much she has accomplished and, in certain instances, overcome. While there were times that I am certain weren’t easy she never gave up and always kept moving forward. At the same time, she was always there if we really needed her for anything. Again, I may have not been aware of it at the time but it is pretty darn clear in hind sight.

And it is great to see her turning 40 at this point in her life as the party itself says a lot not just about my sister but about my brother-in-law as well. The two of them, while it took a while, were made for one another and even though my sister is a pain in his butt back, you can tell that he wouldn’t have it any other way. For how much they both do for everyone else, pulling off this celebration is the least that we could do and I am happy that we could play some, albeit very small, role in pulling it off.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Measured Communication

Most work days I am on the phone, writing emails, and scanning the recent trade and general news sources constantly from the time I arrive to the time I depart the office. Occasionally, I will switch things up and work on something different but that seems to be a rare occurrence recently. However, there are moments when I am able to take a break, relax, and just have a casual moment.

In fact, those times just before a phone interview or when I am reaching out to a reporter/editor that I know particularly well are some of the best times of the day for me because we are able to talk, see how things are going, and today talk about any plans that they might have for the weekend. It is a glimpse into life rather than a constant focus on work. Heck, I am downright pleasant during those brief interludes.

Of course, there are certain days, like earlier this week, when I have to just keep to the business at hand. Not because of the long list of things to do that is hanging over my head, although that does have an impact, it is simply because there are certain days when I am not in a good mood. I might even be downright pissed on some days. Those days, while sometimes difficult, I have to work to remain positive. Obviously something had previously gone awry but I can’t let that come across to those with which I am corresponding.

The other part of those task oriented days and communications is the fact that I takes a considerable amount of effort to remain even keeled. Those are the days when I find myself exhausted when I shut down the computer and struggling to get just about anything done at night when I get home. It’s a simply fact that being negative and/or angry just takes too much effort. I know some people that are always negative regardless of the situation and I honestly don't know how they get out of bed every day.

While I am certain that weeks like this one will come and go and there will be times when my stress levels will gain force me to that angry and loud place, they are just moments in life and none of those inconveniences will last forever. After all, things could always be worse (the leak could have been above or bed) and there are much better things to focus our energy on and be positive about (our little, probably will become a big and hairy, baby). So I may have a few bad days here and there and different stresses may pop up now and again, I really can’t complain about much (but you have to give me some leeway on that).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Time Flies When I’m Thinking

Last night I had planned on going to bed early. Around ten, I sat at my desk to clean out some receipts from my wallet and throw them in the shred box. This is a simple task that should have taken no more than ten minutes. However, I found myself sitting there, staring at the wall, and thinking. A very dangerous habit but one that I can’t seem to break. Before I knew it, midnight had come and gone and I was just getting ready for bed.

Since the moment we found out that we are having a baby there have been moments here and there when I would catch a glimpse of how drastically our life would change. Last night was the first time when I really sat and thought about all that needs to be done and everything that we will have to shift around in our life. While time is one consideration, space is another and as I looked around our office, there are a lot of things that need to be changed by the end of the year.

It is nothing that we can’t handle but it is going to take some thought to plan out the moves necessary to maximize the limited square footage of our apartment. What can I say, we have a lot of stuff. But that is part of the process; that is part of the change that occurs during this stage in life; out with our stuff, in with the baby stuff. It makes me wonder what George Carlin would have to say about this change in stuff status.

Contrary to what you might originally think, it is kind of a relief. While there are a lot of things that we will be holding on to, it brings to my attention all the things that we never should have held on to in the first place. We’re not hoarders but we are not living a minimalistic life either. It reminds me of when we decided to move to Israel; we had to look around and figure out what we really wanted to keep and what we could get rid of. While this is not as extreme, we now need to focus on what things we want to take with us on this new adventure.

So now, in addition to the cleaning that is already long overdue, it is time to sort and organize so that we can begin preparing for the life that we have always dreamed of which is now, slowly, becoming a reality. I am sure that there will be times when the stress will outweigh the optimism but, overall, these moments when I am just able to sit and think quietly are the ones that will continue to fuel my anticipation. In between, I am going to continue working, cleaning, organizing, and trying my best to prepare myself for the changes on the horizon.

Not looking forward to that 'stuff'!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yesterday Was A Bit Of A Mixed Bag

Doesn't look like much but this was after only 15 minutes
under a leak that had been 'fixed'.
Yesterday, I had to share the good news because the rest of the day was nothing short of a huge mess. Having taken a work from home day, I expected some progress to be made with regard to the leak in our apartment. Following a ‘discussion’ with management (yes, I actually was able to speak with the woman who was, until that point, merely theoretical), a plumber was called in lieu of maintenance who had called out for the day (no sure if it was because of a legitimate reason or just BS). Nothing was found but by the time that the night had overtaken the light, the problem remained.

Of course, we can’t just have one issue at a time as lodge duties beckoned in the evening and parking problems persisted (no progress on the electrical or parking lot issues at all as a poorly conceived plan has halted progress for at least two days). With the lodge items prioritized and the parking/electrical completely out of control, it was time to sit down during the relatively quiet evening and write another letter to management. So, once again, I share with you my correspondence which pretty much summarizes the entirety of the dripping experience.

Dear Building Manager,

I am writing to make you aware of the ongoing situation. While the plumber today did not find anything and the drip seemed to be slowing this afternoon, it has returned during the nighttime hours. This seems to be the ongoing pattern; slow in the middle of the day and constant at night. This is the pattern that has been in place since we reported the leak nearly a week ago (Wednesday, July 16th).

To better visualize the problem I placed a piece of construction paper on the Tupperware container positioned under the drip at 9:00 pm and now, at 9:15 pm, you can see clearly in the picture (included with this letter) that this is not just an occasional small drip. The construction paper will be left in place so that the next time the issue is addressed it can be seen in person.

I would appreciate an update as soon as one can be ascertained. Preferably something different than ‘we have to let it dry’ which we have been told time and again since this issue was first reported. Obviously, we are well past the ‘couple of day’ drying time at this point.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to call or email using the information above.



So now, in the middle of the following day, I have approximately no update to share. With nearly a dozen visits to our apartment there is still work to be done and, no surprise, my patience is wearing out. While I will keep pushing these people to get things done this will be the last post of this kind as I have many other things that I want and need to put my energy into and record for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I may still approach the subject in a future post but not like I have been this past week. Time to step back and think about the good things, the future, and the many ways that life has changed. I will be returning to the positive I just can’t guarantee when or for how long but it will happen as there are too many thing going on that just deserve a good gripe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not Just Another Day Out Of The Office

This time last week I left the office in the middle of the day to go to a doctor’s appointment. While the timing was not ideal, it was the only appointment that worked in both our schedules. Fortunately, everyone at my office knows that I only schedule things in the middle of the day if there is no other option available so they were fine with me leaving at two. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have gotten over it if I was not there to see the first pictures of our baby. Yes, you read that correctly, I am going to be a father. Happy wood anniversary to us!

While we had the tests done to confirm the previous week, this first ultrasound was a completely different experience when you see the fast flicker of the heart on the screen. It is an instantaneous bond that most have experienced but no one has been able to accurately express. It is a life changing moment that makes you reconsider your perspective of the world around you. For some, their views change but as for me, to my surprise, that moment solidified every perspective that I have expressed in this blog and in person to many of you. In fact, I am glad that I have continued to write as I want my child to look back and really know who I am (like Michael Keaton in “My Life” except I am not dying anytime soon).

Above all, it is an immense feeling of excitement and fear. I am excited to see our child, teach them about life, share with them the thing that I have learned in my limited years, and make sure that they don’t make the mistakes, of which there are too many to list, that I have in my life. I am also fearful of falling short as a father and for the simple fact that I am now responsible for another human being on this earth and that I must do everything in my power to protect my child and keep them safe. Simply put, I worry that my child will not look at me the same way that I look at my dad.

So, this is the last means of communication in announcing this exciting news. We have seen and heard a wide variety of reactions to this news and we have tried to soak it all up as the experience washed over us like a tsunami. But even though it is sometimes difficult to process moment to moment, it is a time that I will never forget especially when I was able to see my mom’s face when she realized why it would take eight months before her birthday present arrived. And just think, this is only the first of many moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rocking The Boat In Crap Creek

I'm pretty sure that is not dirt that he is shoveling.
Well, another day and another cluster at our apartment building. Saturday was a wasted day as maintenance was in our apartment three times attempting to fix the leak leaving us behind on our errands and too tired to do much more on Sunday. After those unsuccessful attempts they agreed that a plumber needed to be brought in to address the problem… that was the plan until today when we were informed that they had entered our apartment without our permission to attempt to ‘fix’ the problem again. I am not sure as to whether they lied or management wouldn't approve the request; either way it is a huge load of crap. By the way, still no word from management about the situation nor an apology for previously ignoring my communications regarding our refrigerator.

On top of that mountain of crap we found out on Friday (luckily I read the notices posted in the mail room) that work will be done to repair the connection to the power grid beginning on Monday morning at 7:00 am. While the repair is necessary it should have never been required as the line was severed in the fall when they dug up the parking lot and lowered the new boiler into place. It wasn’t until a recent two day power outage that this became a priority. So what does this mean? Per the posted notice, residents that normally park in the garage under the building now have to park in the lot which is already at capacity. Translation: no parking spots available.

While we have rarely requested any maintenance work in the two and a half years since we moved in and we have not caused a stir in the building regarding little things that have come up here and there, this situation has put us over the edge. We are done with this building and we are done with playing nice and letting the little things go. So much so that I sent a letter to the management office and copied the president of the board. One of those correspondences when you summarize many of the issues that you have been letting go, the bag of crap if you will, all stemming from the most recent turd left at your door. Now, I post it here for all of you to enjoy (I removed the building name and all proper names).   

Dear Building Management,

On Friday evening I took note of the notice posted in the mail room regarding the repair work that will begin on Monday morning. While not required under House Rule 18, my wife and I would have appreciated a note placed in our door or in our box which was previously done as a courtesy prior to all major projects. This has previously been an effective means to keep us informed as we do not regularly enter and exit the building through the main lobby.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon all of the parking spaces in the lot are occupied. As I expect this to be the situation when I return home from the office tomorrow I am writing to inform you that if I, or my wife, are required to park in the shopping center across the street we will be holding the building personally liable for any damage, theft, or towing that may occur. Additionally, it is my hope that the building has received written permission from the shopping center to allow residents overnight (it remains unclear as to whether this has been received). Simply put, the parking arrangements outlined in the notice are unacceptable. Parking across the street will not work.

With regard to parking, there has been numerous issues that we have taken note of over the years and we have gone without bringing this to the attention of management or the board, until now. While most “contractors, workmen, and service persons” abide by House Rule 9.B.9 there have been numerous occasions when resident parking spaces have been occupied by service vehicles most notably in front of apartments A and B. I have yet to witness and rectification of these instances when they occur. This is in addition to the fact that, when my wife and I first signed our lease, we were given the verbal assurance that the parking spaces along the side of the building were reserved for the aforementioned apartments. While not outlined in the House Rules or our lease, it is disappointing when a verbal agreement is not honored.

There are a few residents that frequently use these spaces, the agreement of which they are certainly unaware, however that is not my concern with these individuals. What concerns me is that there are at least two apartments that park along the side of the building so that they can specifically use the emergency exit from the fire tower to enter and exit the building. In addition to this being detrimental to our own sleep as they discourteously slam the door behind them both late at night and early in the morning, they seem to be in violation of Lower Merion Fire Code (78-12.1, Section 5-2.1.5: “Locks, Latches, Alarms and Release Devices” and 78-26: Sections C.7 and D both pertaining to high-rise buildings).

Furthermore, additional consideration needs to be made regarding parking during large gatherings as we find ourselves in a similar situation that we are in now. This parking situation needs to be resolved (even three extra spaces like the ones occupied by the immobile vehicles near the dumpsters might offer some additional logistical leeway). There are more and more cars parking in the lot that are without a proper permit. For all visitors, parking tags or passes should be issued as well. As residents, it is our responsibility to have our permits displayed on our vehicle. All residents and employees should be issued permits, all others found in the parking lot that do not have a resident or employee permit, visitor pass, or are service personnel in the building should be towed!

Lastly, I would like to express my displeasure regarding the limited communication from the Management Office. When I recently attempted to contact management directly regarding an issue with our refrigerator I never received any communication back. I attempted to reach out through numerous means of communication (phone message, verbally through the front desk, and a note left at the front desk) as a courtesy before calling to have the service done but did not receive a single correspondence in return. While I don’t expect an immediate response, no response is simply unacceptable.

If you have any questions regarding the content above please feel free to contact me via phone or email. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I am generally an easy going person. True I can let my passionate opinions shine now and again but, overall, I maintain a pretty even disposition. This stockpile of issues has recently ruined that for me and that fact alone has pissed me off. I guess we are just going to have to see how this thing plays out. All I know is that I am not going to just sit in my paddle less boat as the crap level in the creek continues to rise.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

On The Ground

This past week Israel finally sent ground troops into the Gaza strip. Not surprisingly, this cause cities in the United States to be invaded by misinformed masses of liberals who believe that the Israelis should simply follow the orders of the commandant and keep giving and giving until they get what they want... heck with 1967, they want Israel to return to the pre 1947 boarders (because the boundaries outlined by the United Nations were a Zionist plot). These protesters, on a certain level believe that Israel somehow deserves these rocket attacks… they would much rather see Israelis ignore the violence and propaganda, put their heads down and work. After all, work will set you free.

However, there were numerous opportunities given to Hamas by Israel to avoid this escalation. More opportunities than should have been given. Each time Hamas has refused. Finally, Prime Minister Netanyahu offered this final hand, this opportunity for de-escalation, and opportunity for a resolution and end to the violence. Given the circumstances, I don’t know if he could have phrased this any better:

To Ismail Haniya, and the leaders and operatives of Hamas:

We, the people of Israel, owe you a huge debt of gratitude. You have succeeded where we have failed. Because never before, in the history of the modern State of Israel, has the Jewish people been so united, like one person with one heart. You stole three of our most precious children, and slaughtered them in cold blood. But before we could discover the horrible truth, we had 18 days of pain and anxiety while we searched for them, during which our nation united as never before, in prayer, in hopes, in mutual support.

And now, as you continue to launch deadly missiles indiscriminately, intended to maim and murder as many civilians as possible, while you take cowardly refuge behind your own civilians - you continue to inspire us to hold strongly onto our newly discovered unity. Whatever disputes we Jews may have with each other, we now know that we have one common goal: we will defeat you.

But we are offering you now one last chance. Within 24 hours, all rocket fire - and I mean all rocket fire - will cease. Completely. Forever.
I give you formal notice that our tanks are massed at the Gaza border, with artillery and air support at the ready. We have already dropped leaflets over the northern parts of the Gaza strip, warning civilians of our impending arrival, and that they should evacuate southward, forthwith. If you fail to meet our ultimatum, we are coming in, and, with God's help, this time we will not leave. Every centimetre of land that we conquer will be annexed to Israel, so that there will never be another attack launched at our civilians from there.

Even so, we will continue to keep the door open to allow you to surrender gracefully. The moment you announce that you are laying down arms, we will halt our advance, and there we will draw our new borders. If you continue to attack our citizens, we will continue to roll southwards, driving you out of territory that you will never again contaminate with your evil presence.

It pains me deeply that your civilians will be made homeless. But we did not choose this war; you did. And if our choice is between allowing our citizens to be targeted mercilessly by your genocidal savagery, versus turning your civilians into refugees, I regret that we must choose the latter. If only you loved your people as much as you hate ours, this war would never have happened.

To the rest of the world: Israel has tired of your ceaseless chidings that we should "show restraint". When you have your entire population under constant missile fire from an implacable enemy whose stated goal is the murder every man, woman and child in your land, then you may come and talk to us about "restraint". Until then, we respectfully suggest that you keep your double standards to yourselves. This time, Hamas has gone too far, and we will do whatever we have to in order to protect our population.

Hamas, once again, I thank you for bringing our people together with such clarity of mind and unity of purpose. The people of Israel do not fear the long road ahead.

This conflict is not just about the rockets that are being fired or the troops on the ground. This is a conflict that has come to a head because of the drastically different values that are placed on human life. This is not a new observation by any means but it always seems to get lost on those that flood the city streets in the western world to protest the rightful defensive actions taken by Israel. Whereas the IDF stands between the threat and civilians, Hamas has put the civilians all around them to shield them from the consequences of their aggression… it is because of this dichotomy that you will continue to read about the chasm between the casualty totals.

With the conflict still raging and more and more reservists being called to serve, peace may be the objective but, right now, sanity is our goal. While I don’t anticipate a quick resolution, I pray for a quick and permanent end to the violence. All of which rests on the shoulders of the men and women of the IDF to whom we are all grateful and will continue to pray for. But, let us end this post in a way that you might not be expecting… with a little humor from Benji Lovitt whom I had the pleasure of briefly meeting during our Jerusalem days. He has single handedly given us many moments, one liners, pictures, and turns of phrase that have made us smile, if not laugh loudly and annoyingly, and in some of the more serious instances laugh so hard that hummus came out of our noses. So here it is, what I think is the best picture and caption from Benji Lovitt so far:

Aaaaand there went the ceasefire.
You just couldn't control yourself, could you, Hamas?
I mean, Jim.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Draining My Patience

I know, your already jealous with anticipation.
With a busy day planned (as has been previously mentioned), I was up and out of the apartment early so that I could get to the office in time to pull some plans together an prep for a couple of calls. Nothing like a full day ahead of you to ensure that your entire morning routine is completed in about 15 or 20 minutes… showered, dressed, packed, and coffee poured. As is a known rarity lately, I was actually running on time and was on track to get everything accomplished on my list by the time I went back to sleep that night.

Just like the day before, Wednesday, my phone betrayed my progress at the office. As I read the text from my wife I knew that it wasn’t going to be an early evening. In my rush to get out of the apartment in the morning I didn’t notice the fact that the shower drain was completely blocked and so when my wife got home, looking forward to a relaxing shower, she found herself in anything but a relaxing situation as the water level was still a quarter of the way up the side of the tub. This wasn’t the first time so toward the end of the work day we agreed to meet out for dinner and I would pick up a couple of bottles of Drano on my way home.

When we got home, ceiling still in shambles by the way, I headed to the bathroom, made a quick and unsuccessful attempt to snake the drain, and poured about half a bottle of the clog dissolvent in the tub. Per the instructions I waited about thirty minutes and checked the progress. With the water level unchanged it as time to escalate the attack so I pulled off the plate below the spout and attempted to run the snake down the trap. Once again, unsuccessful. Finally, I poured the other half of the bottle directly down the trap and walked out of the bathroom to calm my exhausted wife while we waited the thirty additional minutes. These apartment issues have really been a drain on my patience (embrace the pun).  

Thankfully this final attempt was indeed successful and we were able to resume with our usual, but slightly adjusted, evening routine. An hour until midnight and I was finally sitting down at the computer to get some work done. Not a great end to the day especially given the number of things on my to do list and the fact that I have to crawl out of bed and be awake enough to participate in a conference call at 7am. I guess it is a good thing that I am able to function on four hours of sleep for an entire day. I am sure that skill acquired during college and, more recently, working the overnight shift will continue to pay dividends.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Extensive Meetings, Marathon Calls, And Early Mornings

It may be a bit crude but it fits and its funny.
In hind sight, the past few weeks have been a bit of a blur merging together into one continuous memory of a meeting. In addition to the usual daily duties and account work, a few of us would lock ourselves in the conference room and hash out, sometimes vigorously, a public relations plan for a new prospect. This was all stemming from my business day trip back in May.

For hours we would go back and forth starting with the high level view and basic outline. We would take a couple of days off to research and make our own suggestions (margin time as I like to call it) and finally we would come together for the detailed dive into what needs to be said, what needs to be reworded, and pull together what strategies would work best to achieve what the prospect thinks they want and what we know they should want. Fortunately, in this instance, there was a synchronicity to these objectives.

All told, we each spend approximately fifty hours in meeting over the past couple of months pulling all of these things together. This culminated in a conference call yesterday when we were finally able to present the results of our hard work. This is always a time of uncertainty but we present the plan with confidence and emphasize the process and experience that has brought us to our conclusions. However, you have to keep in mind, while this was a time consuming step it was only the first of many (second if you count the initial input).

While the prospect agreed with what we had presented, there were still a number of things discussed that we will have to incorporate and a few things that we will have to change. And, of course, every presentation has a speed bump here or there and this one certainly had a big one as the recent investors in the company have just now informed us of an open competition and that many other proposals have been received. With the only honest and realistic plan on the table I am confident in our future with this company but it still means that there is even more work that we are going to have to complete and more meetings that will keep us in the conference room for the next couple of weeks.

It looks like a few more long days at the office presenting me from arriving home before the summer dusk and probably at least one or two early morning conference calls like the one that was scheduled this morning for 7am. While I am undoubtedly biased, I know that we are the best firm for the business and I know that the long discussions and even longer hours will pay off in the end. But, for now, it is time to relax when I can, work when I am able, and sleep during those rare instances when the luxury of time is in my favor.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just Above Our Heads

I knew that yesterday was going to be a long day and a late night at the office. I could tell by the times reserved on my calendar and the work that needed to be done that I wouldn’t be getting home at the usual time. With this fact in the back of my mind, the day was already beginning to drag as midafternoon came around to smack me in the face. In a series of texts from my wife, it was made very clear that the refrigerator was not the biggest maintenance problem in the apartment. When my wife got home she noticed the same subtle noise that we heard last summer in the office… dripping.

Off in the corner of the living room, the saturated ceiling tile was now bathing our bookcases in a stale staccato of water coming from one of the many possible sources in the maze of pipes hidden by the flimsy barrier above. After notifying the front desk, maintenance was in the apartment to assess the mess created by one of their many predecessors. Essentially, what happened was that the many cans of spray foam encapsulating the pipe had given way and the bucket semi permanently secured below this quality piece of craftsmanship was overflowing into our living room.

A couple hours later nearly all the foam had been chipped away and the totality of the failed fix was revealed. While I am not certain as to the exact nature of the issue, it was very clear that cutting corners was made a priority in the past and we should, hopefully, have a proper remedy to the problem. But that is going to have to wait as the area needs to dry, parts need to be purchased, and our patience needs to be tested further. Fortunately, while they were in the apartment, they called a service company to come out and fix the fridge… a problem that was consciously being ignored by the new management company, Camco, for nearly two weeks. After phone, verbal, and written messages there is no doubt in my mind that we were ignored. At the opposite end of the service spectrum, as soon as maintenance found out that the issue wasn't resolved, they took care of it right away.

So now, as we wait for the leak to be fixed (not just a finger in the dike), we are left assessing what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be thrown away, and whether or not we want to keep the furniture in the same places knowing what problems keep surfacing just above our heads. More work that I really don’t have the time or energy to deal with at the end of the day. Needless to say, we will definitely be resuming our apartment search in the new year as the problems and inconveniences are beginning to outweigh the rent at this point.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Searching For An Assistant

While the summer is pretty quiet at the lodge I consider it a great time to get things done, having meetings with other officers, and make plans for next year. Since no one was expected to be at the lodge last night, I thought it would be a great opportunity to have an informal meeting with the assistant Secretary about 2015. Essentially, all I wanted to do was to see if he was able to stay on in the same role next year and, if so, if he would be able to step in to my chair during a meeting if needed. With the way that my schedule has been this year and with an anticipated increase in the craziness next year, I just need to know that someone can sit in the chair, without question, when I am not there. This is all that I ask the assistant Secretary to do… he is my emergency backup.

Understand that my assistant for my first year has been a huge resource as he previously served as secretary and also advised my predecessor… let’s just say that he knows his stuff (probably still a lot more than me). Of course, this is in addition to being a great man and mason as well. So I headed into the meeting with the hope that I would be hearing the news of this brother securing permanent employment in the area that allows for a great amount of flexibility during the evenings so that he would have no issues attending lodge. What can I say, hope isn’t always a reality.

Well, things didn’t really work out that way. As it turns out, there is a bit more uncertainty headed his way at the end of this year as he is expecting his first child in December. Add the job uncertainty to the equation and we both agreed that it might be a good idea for me to look for another brother who would like to step into the assistant position. I will certainly continue looking to him as an advisor as well as a hugely valuable resource and I am still hoping that he will be able to stay on as assistant but I will now begin the task of looking for another Mason willing to step into the role of emergency meeting stand in.

There are a few brothers I have in mind but, as many of you know, it is one thing to know of someone who would be a good fit for the job and a completely different matter to know someone who is willing to take on the responsibility. I guess you could say that the fun part of all of this is finding someone who is willing to learn… fun because of the simple fact that I miss teaching and I enjoy seeing people learn something new in freemasonry. With this in mind, I think I will begin my search with the newer masons and work my way through the membership according to fit, availability, willingness, and, to a certain extent, eagerness to learn. As always, I will let you know how the search turns out.   

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Inevitable Appointments

For the first time since I can’t remember when, I think it has been about a year, I made time to see the doctor. Actually, I have been to two doctor’s appointments in the past week. I think that is enough at least for a little while. Don’t worry, it is nothing that is to be concerned about, they were just a couple of checkups. The first was with the regular doctor and the second was basically a double check.

Fortunately, I have the flexibility at work to set appointments that are otherwise not possible… this was an issue when I was working hourly and either didn’t have the time or I was just too darn tired during the normal waking hours to get myself to the office. But now, I have the time, and I am able to make sure I get to the checkups. Maybe I should make this a regular thing just to make sure that nothing does come up.

While I am not a fan of how the health insurance industry if forced to operate these days, it still works, and I really don’t know if such appointments would be possible without it. There have certainly been issues lately with coverage, specifically with getting my wife covered, but that has all been taken care of now. Things seem to be back to usual at the moment.

One thing that I have really come to appreciate in the last couple or few years is the importance of having a doctor that works for me. The office I go to is a very small husband and wife team that harkens back to the neighborhood doctor. Actually, my father grew up with him and he, after medical school, took over his father’s practice and bought the house in which he grew up. He can have a bit of an abrupt demeanor at times but it is always with a sense of looking out for what is best for me. On top of that, these days, with referrals a requirement, this office makes the process easy. It truly is the epitome of a family practice.

While these kinds of offices are slowly disappearing, the recent healthcare legislation seems to be speeding up their disappearance at a staggering rate. The family practice and the attention one receives from such offices, will soon be nothing more than a memory. But until that day comes, even with his shortcomings, I will continue to see my family doctor and do my best to listen to what he says. I’ll at least try.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Common, Rotting, Core

As you may recall, back in April and May there was a heinous disservice done to many eighth grade students in a Los Angeles area public school. After reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” the following assignment was given to approximately 2,000 English students at Rialto Unified (which meets the ‘critical thinking’ requirement outlined in the Common Core manifesto):

“When tragic events occur in history, there is often debate about their actual existence. For example, some people claim the Holocaust is not an actual historical event, but instead is a propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain. Based upon your research on this issue, write an argumentative essay, utilizing cited textual evidence, in which you explain whether or not you believe the Holocaust was an actual event in history, or merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain. Remember to address counterclaims (rebuttals) to your stated claim. You are also required to use parenthetical (internal) citations and to provide a Works Cited page.”

Now, I am a firm believer of developing critical thinking skills in students as it can be a powerful tool that can be nurtured throughout their academic life however long that may be. Additionally, it encourages them to form strong and persuasive arguments that can serve them well throughout their life. However, there is a time and place for such educational endeavors and encouraging such ignorance as exemplified above is sickening. Without proper literature and reference material and anti-Semitic sources given the same credence as fact, it is a crime by these ‘educators’ to perpetrate such propaganda among such an easily influenced student body.

While largely criticized as anti-Semitic, there were still some hold outs that defended the assignment as part of this new educational doctrine that is drilled into the minds of students with the utopian end result being a better, all be it much more expensive and liberal leaning, educational system. Well, now we are seeing the fruits of such toil and trouble as many of those students, months later, still question whether the greatest genocide in history ever occurred. After months of sifting through what has now become public record, the Los Angeles Daily News recently reported the following:

“An examination of the essays by newsroom staff found that at least 50 essays denied or doubted the Holocaust occurred. Even many students who agreed the Holocaust occurred said there were good reasons to believe it had not or that elements of the historical record were actually hoaxes.”

So now we are seeing the fallout and we will continue to fight the difficult battle of changing minds that have already been made up. This is the common core of the problem and one that, if such a system is left unchecked, will continue to eat away at the educational system. In addition to the financial burdens that such a mandate places on school districts, the ideals that this doctrine instills in students is counterproductive to the uniqueness of communities throughout the nation and is detrimental to creating a peaceful society… after all, if the curriculum doesn’t meet the liberal standards, it can’t be taught in the schools because any other view is just plain wrong.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

In Need Of A Deep Cleaning

One of the things that always seems to be put off for another day is cleaning. It is safe to say that it is our least favorite thing to do so naturally we keep saying tomorrow or next weekend. It is that pattern that has gotten us to where we are now… living in a bit of a mess.

It really isn’t the dust or dirt that is the issue as that can be remedied with a Swiffer and a vacuum. What really gets me is when I can’t find the things that I am looking for because everything is laying in disorganized piles cluttering up my desk or crammed in the draw so tight that I am unable to flip through the files. When I can’t find things I tend to leave them in the land of lost and forgotten papers… only when something is truly important do I continue searching until I find it. However, that brings an important question to the forefront… is it worth keeping if it isn’t important enough to keep searching?

More often than not, this simple question leads to an overdue sifting when I toss those former trees into the shred box. Ah, the shred box, there is hours of work that I really don’t have the time of patience to deal with which is why, every so often, I wind up throwing everything into a trash bag and heading off to Staples with a coupon in hand. I think it might be time to look for another one of those coupons.

If you couldn’t tell, when my work space becomes disorganized my thoughts and my free writing tends to become very loose and sometimes completely disorganized in and of itself. Even now, if you couldn’t tell, my mind seems a bit jumbled and I am finding it hard to stay focused on the task at hand. With every passing word of this post I am thinking about the fifty other things that I have to get done, the things that I need to organize, and the question as to when I am going to have the time to do them.

Maybe it is a little OCD of me to be having these thoughts and these issues with my focus. I don’t know. But, needless to say, there are a lot of things that are going through my mind at this moment some of which I have already written about and others that have yet to make it into the blog. Maybe if I can get organized and put everything in an order that makes some semblance of sense, I will get everything in my mind written in posts and up on this blog. I guess time will only tell.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer Travel Pit Stop

Giving the camera and travel journal a little rest before resuming our day trips.
The past couple of weekends my wife and I have just been tired. By the time the work week has come to a close neither one of us is in the mood to do anything and we are lacking the energy to convince ourselves otherwise. With all that we have been doing lately it really isn’t a surprise but it would be nice to get back to the routine of our weekend day trips. Now just isn’t the time, we need to take a break and just be for a little bit.

After all, we have 7 more weekends left in the summer and a list of places we have yet to visit. So far, we have a few commitments already made and trips roughly planned to Knobles, Indian Echo Caverns, Winterthur, Milford, and a few other places. A bit different this time around is that we will not be alone on a few of these little adventures with a number of family members and friends joining us in our travels. And, no surprise, there are a few Masonic commitments that I will be attending as well. It should be a pretty busy summer from here on out.

At the same time we are already beginning to plan the adventures for next summer including an extended trip to Virginia to both enjoy the family history and to explore a place where I haven’t been since the family reunion in 1987. Can’t say I remember much but I do recall having a great time and with all that I have learned in recent years, I am looking forward to seeing everything through a completely different lens. Plus, it is another place that my wife has never been and I always enjoy bringing her places where she can experience something new. This trip will be in addition to our little Masonic excursion to Pittsburgh.  

Anyway, that is next summer. Beyond those two trips we really don’t have anything planned beyond the fact that we will try to visit the places that we don’t get to this summer. So, I guess we better get moving again or we are going to have too many things to do and places to see next summer and not enough time to get to all of them. Just look at our work situations, if the difference between last summer and this one has taught us anything it’s the fact that you never know how much your life can change from one year to another. Life is meant to be lived now not put off for the future or else you will just be stuck in a cycle of perpetual planning.

*As a side note, if you want to read some posts from someone living for the moment go visit my friend Nadine's blog about her walking the Camino in Spain! She has some amazing photos too!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Conference Room Full Of Random Thoughts

For much of this past week I have been in and out of meetings at all different times of day and every imaginable length. Given the time of year it really isn’t a surprise to have these kinds of days. The summer months are a time for planning and strategy in addition to our usual ongoing efforts. However, it is during these long sessions in the conference room when the conversations tend to veer off course.

One of the common culprits is a when a simple reference is made and only half of those in the room know the origin of the term or word. It’s like when someone knocks on the door and says “Land shark” or “Candy gram” there are going to be people with grins and others with blank stares. This inevitably turns the discussion into a back and forth about what we remember growing up and what may have been missed by some.

It is fascinating how much you can relate to your colleagues just by recalling random memories from childhood and during the early parts of your life. Not the major events just the small moments, songs, television shows, movies, and the other things that passed by without us giving them a second thought. Even the way that certain streets used to look or department stores that we used to visit. These are the conversations that make me wonder if I have really gotten to that point in life when we look back and wonder how things have changed so much.

Of course, what doesn’t help in this self-evaluation is the fact that I rarely get references to current pop culture and I frequently find myself giving directions according to old stores and landmarks. Heck, I still prefer writing notes by hand, reading paper copies of books and documents, and paying by check. And, what really throws off my oldest niece, I still text in complete sentences with all the words spelled out… I don’t know if that is more my age, a little OCD, or both.

In the end, time moves forward, life happens, and changes occur. All we can do is keep our perspective and appreciate all that we have seen and done… everything it a memory. While we can see, feel, and sense our memories that is all that they are. It is interesting how those present events can awaken the thoughts of the past merging the two into a new experience that makes you wonder how old you really are. It makes you think about how long it will take before you look back at today in the same way that you look back to memories from childhood. Is that even possible? I guess we will have to wait and find out.