Friday, October 31, 2014

Avoiding Modern Art On The Asphalt

I remember the Salem days!
As the years have passes I have become less and less a fan of the morbid sugar filled celebration that fills this frigid evening. And, as I have said before, while I have a number of memories about this evening when growing up, I can’t recall ever anticipating this day with much fervor as many of the people around me. It was always more of an excuse to be out late at night and get a big bag of candy… given my size when growing up that carried much more weight than it should have. However, one thing I do remember is not being an idiot like many of the kids around me by running into the street despite the headlights.

Over the years, both in my maturation and my growing devotion to my faith (albeit in a variety of different ways), the minimal enthusiasm that I had for the day has dwindled to the point of complete indifference to the day. Honestly, the most that I have celebrated this day is in the words that I have written on this blog and looking up the history of the day on Wikipedia. For those of you who are also curious, here is a little bit of that listing:

Halloween or Hallowe'en, a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening", also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. Within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows' Eve revolves around the theme of using "humor and ridicule to confront the power of death."

According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other scholars maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.

Typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating (or the related "guising"), attending costume parties, decorating, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbing, visiting haunted house attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories and watching horror films. In many parts of the world, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows' Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, although in other locations, these solemn customs are less pronounced in favor of a more commercialized and secularized celebration. Because many Western Christian denominations encourage, although most no longer require, abstinence from meat on All Hallows' Eve, the tradition of eating certain vegetarian foods for this vigil day developed, including the consumption of apples, colcannon, cider, potato pancakes, and soul cakes.

So, for those of you that enjoy this day (especially the night) have a blast. Just don’t dart out into the street without looking as I have already come too close to making modern art on the asphalt in recent years. As for me, I think I will wait for Purim to dress up and ask strangers for candy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Great Way To End The Work Day

Here is our son beating up mommy!
Yesterday was a busy day at the office with various events and new projects that we have to prepare for. It is a long and sometimes stressful experience but also something that we can be proud of once everything comes to pass. As the long day wound down I slowly packed my bags, closed my computer, headed out the door, and off to my next appointment. These days, these appointment, are ones that I continue looking forward to as the weeks slowly drift by. It is time to check in on the baby.

My wife and I both arrived at the doctor’s office early and after catching up a bit on everything that is going on and discussing the questions that we wanted to ask the doctor we made our way through the doors, checked in, and sat in the waiting room. Every visit there seems to be a certain amount of excitement coupled with a slight hint of nervousness. It is safe to say that the worrying starts before the baby arrives.

It wasn’t long before we were escorted back into an examining room (amid glares from all the pregnant women who were sitting there when we first walked in). After a quick weight and blood pressure check it was time to hear one of the most calming, if not the most calming, sound that we have in our lives at this moment… our son’s heartbeat. It is a sound that fills the room (especially now that it is so much easier to find) and one that makes me look forward to the day when I will finally be able to hold him.

The tranquil moment passed as the nurse headed out the door and we waited for the doctor to appear. Again, a perfect time to make sure we had all our questions ready. The doctor came in, took some measurements, and let us know that our baby boy was perfectly healthy… all tests have come back negative, heart rate is normal, and the measurements are right where they need to be. Essentially, our kid is probably never going to be this ‘normal’ again.

Once we silently reveled in the god news of a quick moment, we began posing all of the questions that we have been reviewing for days. All of the ‘let’s just double check with the doctor’ type of questions. The doctor took her time, answered all of the questions that we had, and let us know about what we should expect during the next appointment in 4 weeks. I’m sure we will have more questions for the doctor upon our return but, for now, everything is progressing as it should and we are looking forward to meeting our happy and healthy (and VERY active) little boy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Not A Good Sound To Hear At Lodge

I arrived at the lodge last night a little earlier than usual as there were a number of things that needed to be done and everyone has places that they needed to go later in the evening. It was a relatively quick meeting with everything taken care of, or so we thought, and we soon found ourselves discussing some of the event that we have going on over the next few months and those that we need to work on for next year. In the end, there was more progress made with regard to scheduling than any of us had anticipated. Great, fewer details that we have to take care of later.

With other brothers arriving the conversations quickly became varied and we found ourselves jumping from topic to topic just enjoying the fellowship of the night. With only a couple minor tasks that still had to be addressed I adjourned to my office in the basement, pulled out the books, and finished up my weekly tasks. That is when I heard the sound that I have become all too familiar with over the last couple of years.

The dripping was constant and could be heard prominently in the small space once the rustle of papers calmed. I first looked at the ceiling to see if I could see any stains but didn’t find any discoloration. My attention then shifted to the windows where I again found nothing. But, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the buckling wainscoting right next to the window. It didn’t take much more than a gentle breath to cause the particleboard to fail and crumble onto my desk. And right above it was the steady drip that was echoing throughout the small basement space.

As I have said before, there are some things that I am able to fix, either temporarily or permanently, but plumbing is not one of them. Thankfully I could hear a couple of the brothers talking in the entryway who have professional experience with such issues and so I ran across the basement and up the stairs before they could walk out the door. After an extensive minor investigation, we couldn’t find much let alone the primary cause of the slow flow but we managed to move everything out of the way, unplug the electronics immediately in front of the water feature, and made the calls to get it taken care of in the morning.

While I could have been out the door moments after those few tasks were finished in the office, the leak took up a little more time than I was expecting and I found myself shutting off the lights and locking the door with enough time to get home by 10:15pm. While usually not for situations like the one last night, this is why my wife and I don’t expect me home early on Tuesday evenings. So far, that is the only plan that seems to be working on lodge nights as everything else remains fluid.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Non-Baby Errands

Trip to the DMV behind the old boarders. 
What a difference a weekend can make when it comes to getting some errands done. We went from the fun and overall enjoyment of working on our baby registry to the doldrums of having to get the car inspected and license renewed. I know, I would much rather be walking around Babies R Us than hanging out at the DMV.

However, with these essentials now out of the way it seems as though we are finally recovering from the upper cut and no longer stumbling around the ring. Our feet, while it may not seem like it at times, are finally under us and we are able to take care of the things that have been hanging over us for months. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can relax in the coming weeks. We still have a long list of tasks to accomplish and projects to complete but at least now there seems to be some good progress being made.

Sometimes that is really all that you need to experience to start getting caught up… knowing that there is progress being made can push you to get things done, move to the next item, and the next, until you are actually ahead of things rather than fluttering your feet trying to keep from going under. Unfortunately, this is part of a cycle that we have found ourselves in over the past few years. We never really get ahead on anything it is more about catching up and falling back… bobbing up and down in the swells.

The difference now is that there are events on the horizon that are adding to both the urgency and the difficult of pushing through things. There is a storm of dichotomy just on the horizon and while there are moments when the sun peers through the clouds and turns the choppy waters into diamonds, it never lasts long and shortly after those respites of reflection we find ourselves in the pitch black looking for any glimmer of light we can find across the black blanket.

Such is the spectrum of life and the ebb and flow that we all must embrace. There are moments when you can fight to break free and there are other times when you just need to relax and let the current take you to solace. Right now there is a mix as we are insistent on trying to find a positive place and are constantly struggling to do so but also moments when we need to conserve all the energy we have so that when those times of joy do occur we can embrace them with all the love that we have.

In both instances, there is hope and we know that life has a way of working out and that G-d has a reason for everything happening around us. We may not know why, understand, or like what is going on but it all works out in one way or another. If we accept it, this can be a time when peace overcomes stress and joy dominates the darkness. We will always fight for hope but understand that we have our limits and there are boundaries to everything that we do. I for one chose to be hopeful and happy focusing on the joy that is just on the horizon.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time To Play The Ebola Blame Game!

It might be more than just a cough!
Whenever a national, or international as is the case now, disaster/epidemic/conflict occurs there is a certain segment of the population that can’t help but find a completely unrelated scapegoat. These people, for the most part, are bat crap crazy. As for the rest of them, I don’t want to insult bats by comparing them to guano. So, on a scale of 1 to 7, how responsible are you for this Ebola epidemic according to the various whackadoos out there who have committed their kookiness to print?

  1. The United States Government is to blame and by extension, all Americans: “The outbreak began in September, when The Daily Observer, a Liberian newspaper, published an article alleging that the virus was not what it seemed — a medical disaster — but rather a bioweapon designed by the United States military to depopulate the planet. Not long after, accusations appeared online contending that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had patented the virus and was poised to make a fortune from a new vaccine it had created with the pharmaceutical industry… [humanitarian champion and women’s rights activist] Chris Brown took to Twitter, announcing to his 13 million followers: “I don’t know ... but I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control.” 1 point if you work for the government and 1 point if you are a citizen of the United States.
  2. Like everything else that goes wrong in this world, some people are always going to blame the Jews: There are countless examples of this phenomenon that can be found on various social media sites. One of the philosophical gems from these people stated the following: “Zionists keep inventing moral, elitist & racist viruses such as Ebola or AIDS whose main target are poor people, Africans, promiscuous &gays”. I know, MENSA must be knocking on their door right now. Note that many who claim not to be anti-Semitic, and actually get quite agitated of calling them out on it, simply swap out the word “Jew” with the word “Zionist”. 1 point if you are Jewish and a bonus point if you consider yourself a Zionist.
  3. Conservatives and the NRA are the ones that have slowed our response and are therefore the ones to blame for Ebola becoming a worldwide epidemic/threat: “If only there was someone around who could educate the American public about the actual level of risk. Someone who was trusted as a public health expert and whose job it was to help us understand what we really need to worry about and what precautions we should take. / Actually, that is one of the primary responsibilities of the United States surgeon general. There’s just one problem: Thanks to Senate dysfunction and NRA opposition, we don’t have a surgeon general right now. In fact, we haven’t had a surgeon general for more than a year now — even though the president nominated the eminently qualified Dr. Vivek Murthy back in November 2013. / The lack of a surgeon general is now becoming more than just one more abstract example of government gridlock.” 1 point if you are a conservative and/or 1 point if you are an NRA member (2 points if you are a life member).
So, how did you score? As a pro-Israel conservative Jewish American who is a life member of the NRA there is a good chance, according to the aforementioned experts, that I am one of the causes for the Ebola crisis. Actually, according to their reasoning and the fact that I scored 6 out of 7, this whole thing might be completely my fault.

However, when you take a look through sane eyes at the criteria above, it is all BS. We know that this is simply one of those nasty viruses that has evolved over time… man didn’t engineer this one so don’t blame the United States or Jews in general for something that is naturally occurring. But you could already see that. After all those are extreme examples and no one with a fully functional brain would blame such a tragic situation on an unrelated group of people.

Oh wait, there is the media and the lefties out there so the last sentence no longer applies (although I did specific “fully functional brain” so the argument still holds water). They like to ignore the fact that we have both an Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, and an Ebola czar, Ron Klain, working on this matter so there is not a void in Washington as MSNBC would have you believe. But, what else can you expect when “the broadcast news networks entirely“forgot” to mention that there was already a highly qualified acting surgeon general. Not once did ABC, CBS or NBC news mention… that anyone was currently doing the work of the surgeon general.” So don’t blame conservatives or the NRA for the situation that we find ourselves in today. We have two qualified individuals taking on this issue. They just aren’t the appointee that this administration wanted; a Surgeon General in place to further the liberal agenda from Washington not someone to simply focus on the health of the nation.

In the end, why don’t we simply focus on the issue at hand and take the measures necessary to ensure the safety of the people? This is not a time to go around assigning blame for the reemergence of Ebola and the transcontinental spread of the virus. Now is the time to take action and prevent this situation from getting out of hand. Once all of the facts are in, after this mess has subsided, then we can take a look at what exactly happened, what could have been done better, and laugh in disbelief as parents start naming their kids Ebola (you know it is going to happen).  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Learning How To Get Back Up

I was never a particularly tough child. I remember complaining and crying when I got hurt and not wanting to push through minor injuries when participating in sports or playing with friends. While not as bad as some that I can remember, I was by no means a tough child. I learned how and enjoyed pushing through injuries later in my youth but it took some time and a bit of determination to overcome the weaknesses I had when I was smaller (I can’t say that I was ever actually ‘small’).

Over the years however, I have built up a tolerance for pain that is a bit baffling to some and considered stupid by others. From broken bones and dislocated joints to kidney stones and fighting Fibromyalgia, I have experienced all kinds of pain and only stopped when it was preventing me from living. I’ve set bones, popped joints back into place, put duct tape over large cuts, and simply walked things off when they really started to hurt. Up to that point I would keep pushing and pushing until finally I had no other choice than to give in and let myself heal. Of course, for the truly minor things like bad ankle sprains, dislocations, cold/flu, and migraines it was better to keep going and work my way through them.

This is the kind of thing that I want to instill in my son. Not to the extent that I have taken it but I don’t want him to let the small things stop him. Bumps and bruises are a part of living life especially when you are young and I want our son to enjoy every moment of growing up while he can. With that said, we have to do our part to let him fall and let him scrape his knees so that he can learn that it really isn’t that bad. Of course, we will always be there when he needs us but some things he is going to have to learn just by doing and experiencing.

All that we can really do is guide him and try to set him up for the long life ahead of him. Bumps (and bruises) are just minor things that happen along the way but you can just stop everything that you are doing when they happen. Life is still going on around you and if you take a break, there are potential memories that you will be missing. I guess you could say that I want to make sure that we instill in our son adversity as it has served us both incredibly well in our own lives. Hopefully we can get that message through to him early on… the same lesson that my parents tried teaching me which didn’t take hold until much later in my life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Considering The Inevitable Future

With the baby on the way and everything else that has been going on my wife and I have been thinking about preparing for the future. While there have been many happy moments and times of celebration, there are a few realities that we must address in order for us to not have to think about certain things and unpleasant possibilities. It is with this in mind that we have started discussing putting a will together.

This is a conversation that we had when we first got married and we simply put it aside for a number of years. It wasn’t something that we would think about on a regular basis so it was simply forgotten about. Lately, it has been a thought permeating our minds and we have had to give serious consideration to many of the details.

There is nothing that has officially be done at this point… it has merely been discussion and the floating of ideas and scenarios. And while we don’t have much it would be nice to get some of the broad strokes out of the way before this important project is put off again. While I don’t see us forgetting about it like we previously did, we would both rather have it done now while we are motivated to do so and while we have a small measure of time to commit to this undertaking.

We have both seen and read a few wills in our lives but we never sat down to write one ourselves. But it is not just about us anymore, we want to make sure that our son (and any future children) are not left with a cluster when we are no longer around whether that is five or fifty years from now. It is also an opportunity to decide what will happen if we were to become ill toward the end and what needs to be done while we are still ‘alive’.

How will the minimalistic ‘estate’ be handled? Who would care for our kid(s) if it, G-d forbid, happens sooner rather than later? What happens to all of our crap? What are our last wishes? What life saving measures, if any, should be taken? Where will we be planted?

Those are just some of the basic questions that we have been asking ourselves and while we don’t have any definitive answers we are working things through and doing our best to write them down. While this attempt will be a broad one at best (we are doing this ourselves) it will be the basis for when we sit down with a lawyer in the future and pull everything together as it should be. We are going to take care of the basics now and work out many of the details over time. But, it is nice to know that something is getting recorded and that things will, for the most part, be taken care of and we generally know what will happen when that day comes.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bringing Equality To The Courtroom

Pennsylvania House of Representatives
I have been keeping an eye on the state legislature for the past couple of weeks in the hope that actions would be taken to uphold previously passed legislation designed to curb the plethora of firearms regulations that are constantly being debated across the state under the public and media radar. While firearms preemption has long since been enacted, these state measures have largely been ignored by those who refuse to understand firearms and insist on restricting our rights. This week the Pennsylvania legislature took a step forward by providing additional means for citizens of the commonwealth to protect their second amendment rights. You can imagine my relief when I received the following email from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action:

After four years of effort, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives finally passed critical firearms preemption legislation. Yesterday, the state House voted to concur on the Senate amendments to House Bill 80 by an overwhelming 138 to 56 vote. HB 80, when signed into law, will strengthen the state firearms preemption statute to further ensure that firearm and ammunition laws are consistent throughout Pennsylvania.

State firearms preemption was originally enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature to avoid the possibility of 2,639 separate firearm laws across the Commonwealth. However, over recent years, more than fifty localities have enacted gun control ordinances in violation of the current state firearms preemption law, creating a myriad of local gun laws that make compliance difficult for responsible gun owners. HB 80 will provide a way for responsible gun owners to hold these municipalities responsible for infringing on our Second Amendment rights.

Contrary to reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer and statement made by other politicians, this is NOT a means of weakening the laws that we all agree must be enforced against straw purchasers. That is NOT what this legislation is designed to do and this is not how it should be applied. We all agree that those who break the law should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Additionally, the vast majority of firearms owners support stiffer penalties for those who are found guilty of breaking those laws especially those found guilty of illegally purchasing firearms.

The problem lies in that those who support “common sense firearms legislation” don’t have any common sense when it comes to firearms or the second amendment. Law abiding gun owners are constantly going out of their way to accommodate state, local, and federal laws no matter how absurd they really are but this is not enough for the Bloomberg devotees. There are already enough laws on the books that we abide by, many of which we disagree with but follow, and we should not face further regulation and restrictions of our rights.

So, ignoring the liberal hype and media mongers, what is the real purpose of this legislation? Essentially, the law allows citizens of the commonwealth to bring suit against local and state agencies with the assistance of national organizations such as the NRA, 2nd Amendment Foundation, National Association for Gun Rights, etc. Laws and regulations are ever changing in the commonwealth thanks to the actions of irrational hoplophobes and this strengthening legislation is a means to even the legal playing field as many of us do not have the means to defend our rights in the courtroom. After all, we are only looking for equality, the ability to exercise our rights without fear of the repercussions and a means of support if we are refused those rights and we are forced to fight for them. Of course, there is also this little piece of legislation in Pennsylvania law which can be found in Article I, Section 21 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which states the following:

“The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How ‘Bout Them Apples!

That's right, this has nothing to do with "Good Will Hunting"!
In addition to making significant progress on our baby registry this past weekend we also did a little exploring. With a beautiful fall day taking hold of our sense and the crisp air relaxing our lungs and our minds, we heading on the road with few plans as to where we would end up. Once the traffic cleared and we broke the bounds of the urban sprawl, we made our way down the highway watching the burning colors of the trees float past our windows.

It was about an hour before we broke the spell of the mesmerizing autumn landscape and took the next exit off the highway. Weaving back and forth across the scenery and over the ebb and flow of the country roads, it didn’t take long before we found ourselves a little lost and turning to our phone for advice. With the windows down the scents of the season eased what could have been a frustrating detour and before we knew it we were back on a road that we recognized (albeit still unfamiliar).

A few quick turns later and we found ourselves slowing to a gentle coast as we watched families cross the road and into an orchard. We figured it was as good a time as any to stop for a while, stretch our legs, and see if there were any fresh delectable items that we wouldn’t mind taking home with us. After finding one of the few parking spaces still available, it didn’t take long before we were surrounded by apples, pumpkins, and other produce sourced from just a few yards from where we were standing.

The autumn harvest surrounded us offering solace as the people flowed across the aisles of fruits and vegetables like a raging tide which would sweep you away if you didn’t keep your feet firmly planted. Seeing all the bright colors and their trees of origin in the distance, we couldn’t help but pick up a pint of apples for the road. It had been too long for both of us since we had been to an orchard and it didn’t take more than one bite to ensure that this would be a frequent occurrence especially once the baby is able to enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of the season.

The stop is just what we needed… a time to take a break not just from the road but from the realities that were waiting for us upon our return. And we found out that many of these trips are no longer just for us but a means of finding places and experiences that we want to share with our son in the future. I guess you can add one more stop to that growing list.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting The Blood Going

I rushed out of the office having received a call thirty minutes prior that the RedCross arrived at the lodge early for our six o’clock meeting. While I was hoping that the traffic would agree with me I was not surprised when it took me an hour to get to Ardmore. Thankfully, she had already gotten out the lawn signs and I could see them from the entrance of the parking lot leaning up against her car. It made it very easy to greet her as soon as I got out of the car.

Tonight’s meeting was merely a formality to show her the space that we had to offer, review the goals of the program, and arrange for all the ancillary marketing items to be printed and shipped to me. While we reviewed all of the details we also took a few moments to chat and learn a little more about each other and our respective organizations. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves discussing the importance that freemasonry has played in both of our families and the excitement that we each held for the beginning of this partnership between my lodge and the Red Cross.

With all the details arranged for our Saturday, December 6th (please leave a comment or email me for additional details), blood drive and each of us having other business that needed to be taken care of, we parted ways as I walked across the street to pick up the mail. Within moments of unlocking the lodge again, the few brethren that I usually see on Tuesday nights began arriving. There is still a lot of work to be done for the next meeting, remaining events, and the rest of the year so it is good that we ended our meeting when we did.

The next couple of hours evaporated and soon after I found myself back in the apartment waiting for dinner to finish cooking in the oven. After catching my breath for a few moments and hearing about my wife’s day, it was finally time for her to head off to bed and for me to get some additional work done before the morning. That was the plan… the plan that briefly got put on hold as we first had to find out what happened to the hot water.

After a long day for both of us, we are now left without hot water until at least the morning (around here that translates to a couple of days). For those keeping track at home, this is the second time that the building has lost hot water in the last five or six months (the last time being not long after the hot water heater was replaced). Nothing like a cold shower to get the blood going but I’d rather get my blood pumping in December rather than last night before bed. Glad that we have such a relaxing place to rest our dirty heads.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Baby Errands

On Sunday my wife and I had to get out of the apartment. With everything that has been going on lately we haven’t had much time to run a few errands… they just kept getting pushed back week after week. Finally we made it to the mall and started hopping from store to store picking up the items we need. Nothing fancy just a few items of clothing, a very important pillow, and some additional footwear.

The largest part of our outing was our trip to Babies “R” Us which ate up about two hours of our afternoon. While we did find a few items that we could purchase (clearance combined with coupon was a deal we couldn’t pass up) the primary purpose of our store visit was to fill out our baby registry (which is not fun if you try and do it online). That’s right, for the first time since our wedding, we walked up and down the aisles, scanner in hand, doing our best to spend other people’s money (no, we didn’t run into Danny DeVito).

With memories of our wedding excursions resurfacing in our minds, we were not looking forward to the process. However, once we started scanning, we couldn’t help but enjoy the idea that we were picking things out not for ourselves but for our son. That was the turning point in the whole process as we kept on finding item after item that we wanted to buy for our baby.

Of course, there were a few things that weren’t as simple as point and scan and there were a couple of items that we will have to research further before adding to the list. Strollers and car seats took some time while monitors were put off for another day. And while we chose some outfits, there is still a lot of clothes that need to be added before that could even come close to being a complete list. Toys were another item (except for a couple stuffed animals) that we are holding off on.

By the end of the registry marathon, we had made a pretty big dent. All the furniture has been selected, travel items were put on the list, and every other category in the store supplied checklist had at least a few items selected (including a crap load of diapers - pun intended). Also added were the handful of items that we purchased that day… always remember to do this as you enjoy the registry benefits on things that you are purchasing namely cash back.

So my son should have a pretty good start and this should prevent us from having to bring back piles of merchandise to return and/or exchange. That is the theory. And now my wife and I no longer have the aversion to registries that we previously had as things are different now that we are no longer picking out items for ourselves (okay some of them we kind of are). While we aren’t quite ready for our son to be born we are at least making progress and feel like we have made one more preparation for his arrival.

Monday, October 20, 2014

No More Energy At the End of the Day

Lately our weekends have been full of check lists, errands, and generally trying to get caught up on all the things that have been pushed back during the week. This translates to Monday morning not being the easiest day to roll out of bed. Today that was particularly true as I was laying there a little longer than usual not looking forward to the day that was spread out before me.

This weekend was so full of activity from lodge and office work to gift registries and simply getting caught up on my email that the list of things that had to get done first thing this week kept growing from the time I walked out of the office on Friday evening. I know that the weekends aren’t always like this and lately they have been a bit crazier than usual but, right now, the beginning of the work week is something that brings a sense of dread to my tired mind as I close my eyes on Sunday night. Right now we push and soon things we even out. That has always been the case it just might take a little longer this time around.

So, right now I am sitting at my desk stealing a mere ten minutes from my chaotic day to write this brief blog. Following a morning commute that took twice as long as it should, I got to the office a little later than expected so I had no other choice than to put my head down and work until my eyes became too heavy to continue. After a quick break, usually to take a call or replenish my coffee, I continued the push to try and pull together all of the final points on projects that have been slowly developing. Now I am taking a few moments to write and relax before returning to the deluge of communications.

Of course, following my unusually full day at the office, there is a networking event which, fortunately, is located half way between the office and the apartment. These are the beginnings of the week that seem to run on for hours long past the time when I usually close up the computer and head home for the day. This week, this is the first of three such nights. That is the current schedule but, as has been the case lately, things could easily change between now and the end of the week because, right now, my energy is low, the nights are falling to fast, and the day is nothing but a brief glimmer during the waking hours.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Surrounded By Devices

Could be worse!
I have never been a big proponent of all the devices and new technology that tends to dominate the lives of many. I have never gone out of my way to buy the biggest and best phone, computer, etc. Overall, there are a few things that I use on a daily basis (namely my work computer and my cell phone) and everything else doesn’t really matter. This is why I was so surprised when I looked around this weekend at all the devices that fill our apartment.

While I really only use my phone and computer, I also have a small stockpile of old laptops teetering on  shelf in the office closet and a few outdated mobile phones that my wife and I haven’t used in years. And that is just the beginning as between the two of us we also have several tablets, cameras, and other ancillary items that we used briefly at one point or another for work. For not buying a whole lot of technology we sure have a crap load of it floating around.

It just seems like these things have accumulated around us without us knowing about it. We each have 3 or 4 generations of computers, 2-3 cameras, 1 or 2 old phones, and three tablet between the two of us. Many of these items just kind of hung around and fell into disuse like the island of forgotten toys and most of them were remnants of previous employers and previous incarnations of our hobbies (i.e. game systems and cameras). I guess that is the down side of employers allowing me to keep my computer (and being a bit of a packrat).

Other items that are orbiting the clutter have been either free (Kindle, Nook) of really, really inexpensive (several laptops, Wii, no name tablet). Of course, all of this doesn’t include the random little pieces of antiquated hardware like portable CD players, old iPods, and portable dictionaries. Kind of makes you think about doing a little extra cleaning and getting all of this crap out of our living space. While none of the items are particularly large of taking up any significant room individually, when you add them all together it does take a toll on the limited space that we have in our apartment.

Never took notice of the latest devices but, over time, they just seem to accumulate. They all work, sometimes the old ones are preferred over the new ones, but are they worth the hassle of storage and the random times that we pick them up and use them? I guess I will just have to keep closer track of whether or not I pick them up and put them to work. If not, I will have to salvage what I can off of them (this is mostly regarding computers) and find the best way to get rid of them (possibly at long range). This could get interesting.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It’s A…

Samantha and I pulled into the parking lot of Paoli Hospital a little later than we were expecting. It wasn’t a matter of choice as traffic was particularly bad this past week. We were both particularly eager to get into the building and excited to start see our baby again. After all, this was the ultrasound appointment that everyone has been asking about in one way or another and we had been waiting for this appointment for some time. Of course, the day finally came and we both got held up before leaving for the hospital and slowed down on our way there. That seems to be the case for many of our appointments.

Thankfully, the office was very understanding when we called to let us know of our delay and they greeted us warmly upon seeing us walk up to the front desk. It wasn’t long before we were sitting in front of the ultrasound monitor seeing our child kicking and punching the crap out of Mommy. While it was a little odd for me to watch it was even stranger for my wife as she could both see and feel the baby hit her stomach.

We sat there in awe of our child as measurement after measurement was taken and they checked the development. We watched the screen as image after image was captured and they confirmed the health and development time and again. Everything was progressing as it should when we heard a little chuckle from behind the screen. This was quickly followed with the question of whether we wanted to know the sex.

As it turns out, our baby passed the winkie test.

Our little baby boy, my son, is happy and healthy. He is an active little baby a day ahead of schedule. While I would have been happy no matter the sex of our child, knowing that we are having a boy did bring me a sense of relief. I would have loved our child no matter what but I know what it is like to be a little boy and I am looking forward to every moment that I can share that experience with my son. I have a feeling that my wife would have felt the same way if we had found out it was a girl.

Everything suddenly became a little more real in that moment. We will soon have a son. I will soon have a little boy who will carry on the family name. I am more nervous than I ever thought I would be but I think I am now ready to be a father. As an added bonus, my sister now owes me five dollars!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Exploring Other People’s Homes

With costumes filling the racks, bags of candy piled on the shelves, and dark shows and movies dominating the television stations it is impossible to look around and not realize that Halloween is quickly approaching. I remember when the treats and decorations would just now be getting put out for sale but these days we have been walking by them for weeks. The preparations and time from may have changed but some things have not.

I think back to those nights after school walking up and down the streets of developments thinking about what treats may be hiding behind the door. However, what I remember more are those moments when the doors opened and I could see the recently cleaned entry to the home. It was an interesting evening to peek into the homes of others and see where they lived. What was even better was when we were invited in to the foyer so that we were able to see just a little bit more of the house. It’s interesting to think about those times years later.

As I scroll through the pages on the real estate websites I get that same feeling of peering into the homes of others. Sometimes you see a beautiful home from the outside but one you open the doors, or click on the additional pictures, you can see that someone took great pains to polish a turd. Other times, the outside looks a little run down but the interior is spotless and looks nearly brand new. It is the same experience that I remember having when I was going house to house with my friends on Halloween night.

Things are a little different now both in the digital wall that now exists but also in my perspective. Things are no longer good and bad. Okay, maybe there are a few exceptions to that rule. Most of the time it is either discovering the aspects that we would want in a home or trying to see the potential in the property. It really is a balancing act between what you want to have in a home and what the realistic expectations that we have for our first home.

Of course, sometimes it is fun going through neighborhoods and peering into the homes we will most likely never be able to afford. That is the commonality that has transcended the decades… opening the door and stealing a glance at the homes of others. Some things don’t change.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This Is Not A Fleetwood Mac Song

If you ask someone if they have ever lied and they say no you know that they are lying. It is one of those things in life that we all do it as one point or another. Some tell little lies (try to get that Fleetwood Mac song out of your head now, I dare you) usually to protect someone else’s feelings while other people tell lies that are so large that they are simply unforgivable. Of course, most of the instances of uncalled BS are in the middle and I can deal with them.

Things seem to have shifted lately as there seems to be piles of bovine feces beginning to pile up all around me. But what smells more is the stench coming from the rotten cores of the people spewing these self-centered and vile piles of steer stew. It is so bad that I have found myself choking and trying to find some fresh air whenever I have been around them. These people lie not only to make themselves look better but make you look worse at the same time… we all know people like that.

But, there is some light in the situation. Some of these people are just having moments when situations are getting to them. These times will pass, things will return to normal, and I should be able to trust them again in the near future. However, there are some people that seem to never change or that have reverted to some old and nasty ways. Even if there is something going on in their life, there is no excuse for those actions. But there is a bright spot to this too because now I know and I can avoid them and, more importantly, protect my child from them in the future.

The most amusing part of this post right now is that I know a handful of people who have already become so offended that they are not even reading these words that I am writing right now. It doesn’t matter if it was meant for them or not, they think it does so they have long since closed out this page and are now steeping in their own little world waiting for the boiling point to come and the hatred to spew from their fingers. Come to think of it, this could be fun seeing how far out of context things have been taken and what drastic assumptions have been make. Things might have just gotten very interesting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Feeding The Animal House

The only day that is dreaded more than April 15th is October 15th. This is the last chance day for those of us that, for one reason or another, were unable to file our taxes in the spring. This is the day that we have been hoping that would, somehow, never come or that the calendar would just simply skip a day. And for some of us it is not just a day of inconvenience, it is a day when we take on an additional financial burden (some greater than others).  

Every day that passes and every hour I sit at my desk, I know that I will never receive my full salary for that day. It is the price we are forced to pay, and pay, and pay again in the seemingly infinite deductions that are pried from our pockets to fund things that we would never support on our own. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that we must contribute something to, but there are many, many things that we should not be forced to pay.

This happens each and every day as we watch about a quarter of our salary evaporate (for some it is a much higher percentage). However, it doesn't end there as when we finally get that money in our pocket it continues to be chipped away throughout the day as we are forced to pay more taxes… service, sales, gas, real estate, etc. Given all of these tax attacks, it is safe to say that the average person loses about 40-50% of their pay just to taxes. The remainder, of course, has to cover all the costs of living including the bloated Obamacare costs that have recently latched on to our wallets.

If we see a few extra dollars in our bank account at the end of the year we feel as though we might have won that round. However, the government has one final punch to throw to see if it can take us down. While many take it on the chin and get it over with as soon as possible but there are a few of us that duck and weave until we can no longer put it off. For most, more than anyone would care to admit, this final poaching is what takes us down and determines our losses for the year. This is where we find ourselves now… trying to get up before the referee counts to 10. Next year, another round, and more money being sent to the animal house to never be heard from again!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finding Your Roots vs. Who Do You Think You Are?

When talking about genealogy with people it is common for the conversation to touch upon the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” Over the years, all different kinds of people have watched the show regardless of their interest level in genealogy as a whole or their own family tree… they usually watch because they are a fan of some actor, actress, or athlete and want to learn a little more about them. More often than not, this leads them to jump to the conclusion of “I wish I had stories like that in my family tree.”

The people I have spoken with make that determination that those types of stories do not exist in their tree mostly because the show focuses on a single line in that celebrity’s genealogy. I guess you could say that is the one thing that many of us familiar with genealogy have a problem with when it comes to the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” It is for this reason that I tend to pay closer attention to and enjoy “Finding Your Roots” a little more than the main stream counterpart.

Like any PBS show, “Finding Your Roots” isn’t as well-known but it takes a much more interesting and broader look at the ancestry of celebrities (of all kinds not just main stream). During the course of an episode, three family trees are analyzed with a common thread running between the three stars. Sometimes it can be as broad as overcoming adversity while other times it is tied to a specific event such as the roles their ancestors played in the Civil War.

While that is one difference (one vs. three) the other, more important and more interesting differentiator is the fact that the latter of the two shows looks at the family tree as a whole not just a singular line (or two). From my own experience, I know that this is the most interesting part of genealogy as you never know what names, places, and events may be adding color to the individual leaves. After all, we are the culmination of all these people who played, for the most part, equal roles in determining the family story and making us who we are.

“Who Do You Think You Are” may have the bigger audience, interesting locations, and larger budget, “Finding Your Roots” brings us closer to the interesting realities of doing genealogical research. Furthermore, the latter show also explores the use of DNA in discovering the mix of places, races, and heritage that exists within all of us. This is why my preference is quite clear but, in the end, taking a look at the sponsorship, wins no matter which show you prefer.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Changing the Schedule

I try to keep a pretty accurate schedule as there are a lot of things that I have going on at any given time. Events, calls, and appointments are all planned out but I also have to track my hours and keep to my check list throughout each day or things are missed. It is by no means a 100% reliable system but it has worked thus far and it keeps me, more often than not, from having to push things off or reschedule certain tasks. Of course, as I have written about before, sometime I get behind and there is no other alternative than to shift things from one day to the next.

Those moments when I realize that things need to be moved is not a very pleasant one as I know at the very least it is going to ripple across my week if not the entire month. Some things, like taxes, have even been pushed back several months. Even with all of these things that have been transitioned to other dates and times, there have been a few things that have been cancelled altogether. This mostly applies to lodge activities and events but it still opens up my calendar just a little bit so that there is some hope that I can get caught up sooner rather than later.

Lately in particular there has been a lot of shuffling going on in my calendar. Some things are unavoidable as schedules and situations change but, in the end, it all works out. My work, lodge, and personal calendars have all been in flux with events being cancelled, appointments rescheduled, and calls rearranged. Oh well, such is the nature of work, life, and the lodge.

So, as I write this post, I am finally up to date on most things but by the time you read these words I am, most likely, way behind and trying to do whatever I can to catch up. There will have been things moved, rescheduled, and cancelled. I guess this is why I can never give a definitive answer as soon as someone asks if I am free as even when I think I know the answer and that slot may have been open yesterday, it doesn't mean that I am still available to attend or get on the phone.

Thankfully, the adoption of a new phone has been a huge help in keeping things organized as I have been able to sync all of my calendars to a central location/device. I never gave too much thought in the past to the importance of this simplicity but it has made a huge difference in my ability to get things done and accurately plan for future days and weeks. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a bit of a cluster but at least it is a bit more manageable.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

“Happy” Birthday!

Thought my wife would enjoy this one. 
When it comes to my birthday I look at it as simply turning another year older… actually you’re only turning a day older. However, I enjoy celebrating birthdays of family and friends. Today I was able to do just that as my wife’s birthday snuck up on the two of us.

While she has always had mixed emotions during her day, this year was particularly bipolar as there is a lot of things swirling around our life right now and a huge amount of uncertainty, nervousness, and trepidation concerning the future. However, there were moments today that transcended all the things around us and floating above our heads. Those are the moments that will forever make this birthday one to remember.

It all started with the simple transition from yesterday to today as I was able to turn to her and think about the fact that, unlike in our previous years together, she is not just a wife, she is a mother to be. While not being toted around in her arms, she is able to celebrate this birthday with our child. Having just marked 20 weeks, we know that while baby is still freeloading, it can hear the happiness and the celebration.

Of course, recent news has curbed the joy of the day but there were moments, however short they might have been, when we were all able to enjoy the present. There was a few times when that little wrinkle of worry would fade, eyes would brighten just a little, and we were all temporarily focusing on our present actions. Yesterday and tomorrow were fleetingly pushed out of our minds.

Reality is kind of funny that way. While there is that which is immediately around us, there is also that which transcends that place and time. In the moment, we were shopping for maternity clothes, trying on shoes, and enjoying a tasty (and very large) meal at Cheesecake Factory talking about all the changes that have happened over the past year, memories of previous birthdays, and looking forward to life with the new baby. But that was only part of the reality.

We were all thinking about the unpleasant things in life and the pending hardships to be faced. Throughout the day, my wife was stronger than I think I have ever seen her. And while it is not how anyone expects to spend a birthday, there were those moments that you can’t help but remember and smile. It was a good day and sometimes that is the best gift that can be given. So, with all that said, I want to devote the last words to my wife…

While I wish I could give you the gift of an alternate universe where your sadness doesn't exist, I hope that this day with its moments of happiness will suffice. I love you and I look forward to many more birthdays in the future (especially when I can help baby pick out a gift for you)! Stay strong and know that I am always here for you.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Not Earned Or Expected

Since the crux of this post revolved around a single word, let’s first take a look at the definition (as it is used in the post below) of the word compliment:

a :  an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; especially :  an admiring remark
b :  formal and respectful recognition :  honor

While a wonderful word, I don’t feel I have ever earned a compliment as it is defined. Best case scenario, it is questionable as to whether I should have gotten any. I know many people who have but, in my view, I don’t believe the definition applies to me.

Lately, there have been a number of people saying similarly kind comments to me and each time I kept asking myself why it was said. After all, I was going my job the way I think it needs to be done… the way it needs to be done in order to be impactful. In other instances, I was just doing what should be done when a friend or family member is in need. I have no problem giving compliments but when it comes to receiving them I am really not a fan. This is particularly true when I feel that I am being praised for what I see as doing my job. With that said, I know it is the right thing to do and I appreciate it when people take the time to said such flattering things or thank me but I don’t expect it.

Unfortunately, I have seen too many times over the last few years of people expecting this type of praise as if they are entitled to it. Mostly this has been found in the young newly graduated just entering the work force thinking that they are right and that their company and colleagues are wrong. These are the kinds of people that expect to be applauded for farting in a tuba and staying on key.

Thankfully, I take pride in the fact that I have been able to surround myself at work, at lodge, and in my family with countless people who feel the same way that I do about compliments. After all, when we help someone it is more gratifying for us to see that person succeed. We know the small role that we have played in their life and that is more than enough for us. Of course, with all of that said, a simple thank you (privately, not publically) goes a long way. This is also something that seems to be lost on many young people (whether it is actual age or just mentally) as they expect to be thanked for introducing us to the world of tuba tooting.