Thursday, December 31, 2015

Seeing Faces To Forget

Throughout this season there have been too many gifts to specifically remember any individual surprise. Actually, this year has been full of generosity from friends, family, and coworkers alike. It has been at times overwhelming but appreciated each end every time that an unexpected box or envelope has been put in our hands. However, since I have written about the many gifts that we received earlier in the year, I will stick with those that we have gotten over the last month or two… basically during the holiday season.

Hanukkah was early this year and it was fun surprising both our son and my wife with gifts for each night… and then some. What I got in return was better than anything that I handed out as the faces that they made were something that I am already looking forward to seeing again next year. However, my wife and I agreed, long before the holiday and prior to settlement on the house, that my gift was a new set of office furniture. Of course, my wife also got me a cordless drill during the holiday which I didn’t expect. All of these things I am going to use for years so I pretty much made out like a bandit.

Toward the end of the month I received my preferred gift, a few times over in fact, of a gift card to a few places that I can make that money stretch as far as possible. In all, between friends, family, and coworkers, we probably received close to $200 in plastic. This was on top of the small gifts and has nothing to do with the horde that our son received. Although he probably would have been just as happy with the boxes and tissue paper. More about that later.

However, like the reactions I received from my wife and son, the best part of the holiday season has been the looks on people’s faces when I hand them an unexpected box or envelope. Many of the brothers at the lodge seemed to refuse reality, my coworkers were shocked, and family members were surprised. For me this is what the holiday season is about regardless of your faith. It has been a great season and a difficult one at the same time but seeing those glimpses of joy allow me to focus only on what is good and happy about this time of year.   

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Third Term

It was rather uneventful when the new Masonic year started on Sunday. The long weekend was coming to an end when I received a rather exuberant text message from the outgoing Worshipful Master. It was at that moment when it really became clear to me the nature of my office. When I took the oath and stepped in as Secretary in 2013 I did so not to simply serve a year and move on. I made the commitment to myself as well as other brothers in the lodge that I was going to serve the lodge for the foreseeable future with six years being my goal.

When I made that commitment I knew that I would see officers move through the chairs and Worshipful Masters come and go. I wanted to be the constant that the brothers could count on being at my desk in the east year after year. And while I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into when I agreed to take the office, I have come to appreciate both the rewarding and challenging aspects of the job.

And that is what this office really is… a job. I work month after month not just to keep things running as smoothly as possible but, at time, I am also serving as mediator among the brothers, adviser to the officers, and, on occasion, ambassador of our lodge. This is both a behind the scenes position and one that calls for me to be in the spotlight. I guess you could say that there is a certain amount of politics that one has to accept when they decide to sit at this desk.

It is with this at the forefront of my mind that I make the conscious decision each and every month to do the best job I possibly can to try and make a positive impact, no matter how small, on the lodge. Obviously, this has not gone unnoticed and I have been honored to have been reelected for a third term. And the confidence that the brethren have shone in me is certainly something that I appreciate and carry with me each and every day and why I am determined to really make an impact this coming year.

This year, as I mark my third year in office I will also be celebrating my third masonic birthday. It is certainly an oddity to have assumed this level of responsibility so quickly and it is something that I am proud of having accomplished. Three years ago I was still waiting to hear back from the lodge about when I would be receiving my degrees (I ended up participating in a one day class in April) and now I am on the other end of the conversation inviting potential candidates to join us for dinner before our meeting.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Unusually Warm Weather

Haven't needed this yet!
When we originally went to settlement on the house we accepted the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy the outdoor space until the spring. Well, we were definitely wrong in making that assumption as the weather has been oddly warm. Because of this, our son has been able to go outside in little more than a sweatshirt or light coat (at most) and take in the clean air. He has also been able to enjoy looking up at the countless trees which he has done since we first started carrying him outside last spring.

One of his favorite spots in the yard, probably on the entire property including inside, is the gazebo. While he hasn’t spent a lot of time in the yard (it still gets dark quickly this time of year) he always has a smile on his face when he is sitting in the middle with one of his toys. And the toy is pretty much secondary as he spends more time looking around and making cute sounds rather than playing. I’m just glad that he likes being outside rather than staying cooped up in the house.

With the warm weather, he also likes having a slight breeze in the car whenever we have to go here or there. It’s actually pretty funny, and cute, hearing him take in deep breaths as soon as we crack the back window. Hopefully this doesn’t continue once the weather finally realizes that it is supposed to be freaking cold out and the slightest air leak into the car leads to hours of shivering.

At the same time, I am curious to see if our son likes the snow. While he has seen it, he wasn’t able to fully process what it was at the time or enjoy watching it flutter through the trees. It should at least be an experience watching his reaction to both the flurries falling from the sky and the resulting blanket across the yard. He would probably enjoy watching everything from the dryness of the gazebo.

It is nice knowing that our son enjoys the outdoors and I am already looking forward to not only his reaction to the snow but the warmth that is supposed to come about with the spring and summer. He should be quite mobile by then and I am looking forward to exploring the property with him. After all, I haven’t had a chance to see everything yet either.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mortgage Monday: Directions

We have yet to find the roads like the ones we found exploring in Virginia. 
Every time that my wife and I have moved it has taken us a while to get our bearings. Generally speaking, when we have moved to a new place we have known one or two ways to get to certain places while there were other destinations that remained a complete mystery as to what roads we needed to take. This inevitably led to studying various maps of the area just to figure out a few roads that took us to places where we could figure things out from there. Having been looking in our current area for the past two years and driving around on the roads from time to time since our first visit, this map studying was less of a factor than it had been in the past.

However, there are still plenty of places where we drive that it is nearly essential to pull up the directions on the cell phone and, as we proved this past week, we are still not confident in our navigation to simply just get in the car and drive. When driving to my sister’s house last week, I knew how to get there but having never taken this particular way in the past, the landmarks were unfamiliar and some of the route numbers weren’t as clearly marked as I would have liked. Driving back was an entirely different story altogether as the way with which I was familiar was nearly unmarked and we found ourselves pulling over and pulling out the cell phone.

While we can manage to get to most places without much forethought, they are still the rudimentary ways of getting from point A to point B. The next step for us (and my wife is well ahead of me on this one) is to find the back roads that cut out the truck traffic and long lights. For me, that has always been the best sign regarding my comfort level with a particular place and how well we know the area. That being said, I still stink with giving directions as I am more of just knowing where to turn rather than recalling the specific street names.

There are a lot of pleasant roads around where we live and there are countless little shortcuts that we have yet to discover. For me, this is one of the fun parts about moving is being able to explore without ever being too far from home. The difference this time around is that the vast majority of these routes are nearly empty with the exception of the occasional car or buggy compared to the previous places we have lived when we would spend more time waiting at lights, pausing at stop signs, and following the slowly moving out of state cars. Now I can keep a steady pace and relax as the landscape rolls by the windows.

Sometimes fog hinders our ability to explore.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Gift For Dad

My dad is one of those people that doesn’t really talk about his Army service or his time in Vietnam. Every once in a while I would catch a little bit in conversation but it has taken time to get a relatively complete picture. Because of this, he hasn’t every really been recognized for the sacrifices he made right out of high school. With that said, I have never heard him say that he regretted going into the military. On the contrary, it proved to be a means to obtain an education and it definitely squared him away going from a C student athlete in high school to an accelerated progression through his undergraduate and graduate work.

My dad has achieved a lot in his life but is never one to talk about his accomplishments. While there isn’t much that we can do about this (especially in regard to his professional career), there are some small steps that we have taken as a family in recent years to try and at least acknowledge his military service. This included having my dad at the lodge last year for Veteran’s Night. Not only was it nice to have him sitting in the lodge with me but it was great seeing him recognized alongside his brother and other veterans in attendance for their service in the armed forces. It was also nice seeing him recognized at the Family Reunion over the summer as well. 

However, my sister took it to the next level this year during her Thanksgiving trip down to Washington DC. While at The National Air and Space Museum she inquired as to the steps that needed to be taken to have our dad included in the Wall of Honor memorial which “recognizes those with a passion for flight.” It didn’t take long before I started receiving texts about our dad’s service. Not having my files in front of me, I answered them the best I could remember (I should have more information in the future once my dad gives me a copy of his DD-214 for the family archives). By the time December came around, my sister had pulled together a pretty comprehensive profile to be included in the database. We all worked together to give my dad this recognition, our gift to him this holiday season.

After all, with the Army not recognizing him to the level that I would have liked to see, it is our responsibility to see that my dad is honored for his service. There are still small steps that we can take to do this and hopefully he will, once again, join me at the lodge in the coming year. However, the best thing that I can do at the moment is to keep doing what I am right now, writing and sharing the present and past family history with all those interested. Of course, I am also still trying to rack my brain as to how we can top this year’s gift for dad because, at the moment, I have no idea.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Binding The Blog(s)

A couple of weeks ago I received an interesting email through my blog account (see the “Contact Me” tab on the right for my email address). As I read through the contents I did so with some trepidation as to the validity of what was being offered. I have gotten countless emails before making similar claims but there was always a catch when I would ask for a few more details. This time was different.

As it turns out, there is a small publishing company in Germany that specializes in publishing books by Israeli and Diaspora writers about Jewish life. They had come across my old blog, From Goy To Oleh, and had also read a few posts on this current blog as well. I guess they liked what they read because I was being offered a publishing deal. It is great to have this feeling again since it has been over a decade since my last book was published (the poetry publisher has since ceased operation) and I have been wanting to pursue this endeavor once again in the coming year (this seems to be a goal made annually).

Now I once again have the opportunity to pursue another one of my passions which has been dormant for so many years. And while there are other volumes that I hope to put into print through other publishers over the next few years, this is definitely a great start and the perfect way to get back into the world that I have been absent from lately. This book will comprise of my various posts about our Israel journey, our return, and other aspects of Jewish life that I have written about on occasion. It will be interesting going through all of these posts again and compiling them into a single volume.

This is the first book in my return to publishing. As I pull these posts together I will also be revisiting my master’s thesis, my full length collection of Holocaust poetry, and seeing who might be interested in turning this work into a bound collection. After that I will see if I have produced enough content to publish some family history… I am not sure that there is enough written at the moment but, maybe, by the time this first project reaches completion there may be sufficient content. Beyond these projects, it would be nice to finally flesh out some of the outlines for novels that I have stored on my computer as well as the children’s book that is still in need of illustrations.

But, for now, it is one step at a time. While I have no idea where I am going to find the hours to get this done while working and continuing my other writing projects, I am certain that I can get this done. In the meantime, I would be happy to start a list of those of you that may be interested in purchasing the book when it does come out. Obviously, I am not taking any money at this point but this would allow me to update you as to when it will be published as well as the final price. On all accounts, I will definitely keep you all posted.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Reindeer Down!

The Christmas decorations around town are quite festive and are pretty understated compared to those that I am used to encountering around the Main Line. And while there are houses here and there that have light displays a few bulbs shy of Clark Griswold, there actually isn’t much in the way of individual decorations up and down the streets. It seems as though we all agree that being out here, away from the densely populated areas, the night provides more of a light show than anyone could ever string along their eaves.

We are also in an area where people are incredibly kind and welcoming in the course of our weekly encounters. We have rarely come across someone who wasn’t pleasant and, more often than not, there have been kind words and wishes shared and reciprocated. However, given the occasional sounds in the distance and across the street, Rudolph might want to consider investing in some Kevlar. Who knows, someone around here might hold him personally responsible for Grandma’s death.

I can see it now. After their usual tales from NORAD telling watchers and listeners that Santa was crossing the Atlantic on his way to the East Coast, millions of children lay their heads town struggling to fall asleep. Then, all of the sudden…

from down in the den there arose such a clatter
that they sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
When what to their wondering eyes should appear
but a special report saying there’s nothing to fear.

As the reports pour in the news conveyed by the third string anchormen seemed grim…

they showed little emotion and went straight to their work,
the search teams were deployed and the kids when berserk.
And laying the report just off the screen,
they echoed the outcome which lead to a scream.

They cut to the authorities at the scene of the crash,
who didn’t hold back not fearing the backlash.
And they heard them proclaim at they signed off from the sight,
Rudolph was dead and Santa was grounded for the night.

As it turns out, as was reported the following day,
Rudolph isn’t bullet proof and pulled down the sleigh.
A 12 gauge took him out and with dead weight dragging them down,
the other reindeer couldn’t support Santa and they crashed in a small town.

The fire took Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen
but only singed Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.
The presents were gone and Santa was pissed
because all that was left was a double checked list.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Time To Party: Part II

In an interesting twist this year, I once again attended two holiday parties but, unlike previous years, neither one was a family gathering. Last Saturday, after a draining day at the lodge blood drive, I stopped over at the neighbor’s house for a wonderful gathering. It was a great opportunity to meet most of the people who live around us especially since I haven’t had the time to walk up and down the street to properly introduce myself. It was a great night.

This past Monday was the second party of the season. This time it was the annual work party but, once again, it was a little different than previous years. Our first holiday together, in 2013, we all went bowling at a place around the corner on Street Road. Last year, having previously held a large one year anniversary party a couple of months prior, we toned things down a bit and simply went out to dinner across the street. This year, the bar was clearly raised as we got a balcony box for a Flyers game at the Wells Fargo Center.

I really didn't know what to expect heading into the building as, despite growing up in the area, I had never been to a hockey game. Baseball yes, hockey no. The gathering itself was very nice as the noise in the arena wasn’t too loud so that we could still have conversations without having to yell at one another. We spent a good part of the evening talking about work (of course) but also some of our other interests. It is really nice to get out of the office and continue to get to know one another a little better even though we have the same banter during the work day. Meeting outside of the office is just a different time.

The game on the other hand is not the game I remember watching when I was younger. In addition to the plentiful penalties, the sport is severely slowed by constant ice maintenance every five minutes which, in itself, took five minutes to clear the shavings. This drew out 20 minute periods into 45 minute marathons. This on top of the fact that the hard-nosed sport that I recall from years past is dead. Hockey without fights is like NASCAR without crashes. I am actually surprised that no one tripped on their skirt going up and down the rink.

By the time nine o’clock came around the third period was just beginning and the Flyers scored to tie the game within a minute of the puck being dropped (they ended up defeating the Blues 4-3). For a couple of us with longer drives home, it was the perfect opportunity to call it a night. And with our signed pucks in hand (everyone in the box got one), we made our way through the maze and finally out to the parking lot where there was no traffic to be found. 60 minutes later and I was home for the night, ready for bed, and not looking forward to the early morning alarm.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Project For A New Year

One of the ancillary benefits of being a mason and knowing most of the brothers at the lodge is that, over the years, I have gotten to know most of the professions, occupations, skills, and connections that can be found among the brethren. This past year, especially over the last six months, I have leveraged that knowledge and called upon my fellow brothers for their assistance and I have been tremendously happy with the experiences that I have had thus far. Heck, I don’t think that our real estate search or estate planning would have gone as smoothly had we used anyone else.

The hard work that my fellow masons have put forth on those personal projects is why I made a point to stand at our last stated meeting of the year and make their assistance and talent known. We are here to help one another. Sometimes it is in a direct manner serving as a realtor or attorney, sometimes it is about giving advice which I have done from time to time, and other times it is simply making the expertise known to the lodge or introducing brothers to one another who may not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

It was with this last concept in mind that I decided to start a new project for the coming year. Of course, I got the idea approved and made sure my assistant was on board as he will be doing the bulk of the work. It is a rather simple endeavor which is to pull together a lodge business directory which we will make available, physical and digital copies, to all the brothers of the lodge. This way when any of us are in need of a service or advice we know who to call. Unlike the general listings in the Yellow Pages, we know for certain that we can trust the person on the other end of the conversation and that they truly have our best interests at heart.

And I’m not even done trying to find brothers with which I can entrust some personal projects (mainly house work). I am in touch with a few other brothers to take care of some finishing work that needs to be done and I am looking forward to endorsing them as I have done for other brothers in the past. So, my advice to other brothers reading this post (or anyone involved in any kind of organization for that matter) is to take the time and get to know everyone and pull a similar directory together to share among the members of the lodge. After all, you never know when you might be in need of a brother’s help, aid, or assistance.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

TMI Tuesday: I Want To Talk To Daddy NOW!

Part of my daily routine is calling my wife while on my way home after work. I have done this for a while and in the past it wasn’t as regular as it has become over the past year. Of course, now my wife and I have little say as to whether my phone is going to ring while I am getting on the highway.

Every day, so I have been told, when my wife picks our son up from work he babbles in the back seat saying “da da” over and over again as if it has become his infant mantra. This usually continues for much of the afternoon (and sometimes into the night) until he finally gets to the point when he reaches for my wife’s phone, says “da da”, and waves. He may only be ten months old but he has no issues getting his message across… I want to talk to dada now!

This is pretty much the same routine regardless of whether he is having a good day or a bad day and sometimes, for some reason, hearing my voice on the phone is one of the few things that will calm him down. However, consider yourself warned, if he is expecting to talk to daddy and you decide to call, he will not readily accept this and will be rather vocal about his displeasure. I am told that it is an interesting site to behold when the voice on the other end of the line is not that of his daddy… basically, imagine being cursed out in baby babble.

Of course, I am of two minds when I think about this routine that we have and the close relationship that I have been able to build with our son. While he knows my voice and he looks forward to seeing me every night, I am usually only able to spend anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes with him per day. And that is if I don’t have anything going on that night. This is why I am happy to have the relationship that we do but, at the same time, I don’t like the fact that I see him for such a small amount of time.

It’s almost as if I can hear Harry Chapin warming up back stage letting me know that I am walking a fine line. He is ready to go and can start singing at any time if I screw up. That is the last thing that I want to happen and why when I am home I give my son as much attention as I am able, play with him, and tell him I love him whenever I am given the chance. It may not be ideal but, so far, it is seems to maintain the strength of our connection.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mortgage Monday: Finding Our New Stores

All of the other places that my wife and I have lived had immediate access to a variety of both small shops and national chain stores. Now, where we have decided to make our home, there are a number of stores nearby but not as many as we have grown accustom. For many of the places that we once frequented, we have to drive a little further than before which, we are finding, is actually a welcomed change from the places where we once rested.

Just down the road we have many of the essentials just by different names than those that we are used to seeing. There are local eateries, small gas stations, and other stores that line the main thoroughfare just down the street. And, while it seems further than it really is, there are a few of the national retailers just a little further down the road including the local Wal-Mart. On a side note, this is the first Wal-Mart, or any large store for that matter, that I have ever seen which has separate buggy parking.

All of the other stores are either the same distance that we are used to driving or are a little closer than they once were. Ollie’s is a perfect example of this as it is now about 20 minutes away when there were a couple of others that we used to go to that were a 25-30 minute drive from our previous rentals. But there are replacements that are much closer to us including BB’s and some other local stores that offer the same if not better prices.

The only stores that could be seen as inconvenient are the ones that we don’t use regularly. If we need to go to Staples, Bed, Bath, & Beyond, or Babies R Us they are no longer 10 minutes down the road. However, at least a couple of them, Staples for certain, are near my office and usually those trips can be done quickly in the middle of the day. But, again, many of the things that we once purchased there can be found elsewhere and, at the moment, we are still in the process of exploring the local area including the towns immediately around us as well as the Reading area.

We have everything that we need at a convenient distance from our home. There are plenty of options out there some of which we have already fond while others are, as of yet, undiscovered. However, when compared to our previous houses and apartments, we are the most comfortable and relaxed being ever so slightly removed from the retail commotion. We have space, we have room to breathe, and we still have access to everything we need.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday Search: A Second Marriage

On June 21, 1892, my great great grandfather, Roy Teaford, married for the second time to Sally Bette Clapsaddle. Roy, who can also be found under many other names, had lost his first wife, Mildred McNulty, earlier in the year and had employed Sally to care for his three young children. It is unclear exactly how the relationship developed over the months but, by summer, the two married and soon after began having children of their own. This included my great grandfather, Harry Gilmore Teaford, who was born just over three years after they first married on September 28, 1895.

Both Roy and Sally had deep roots in Virginia with both families predating the Revolutionary War. Roy had spent his life to that point laying track for the railroads through the Appalachian Mountains while Sally, 13 years his junior, was only just beginning her life beyond the walls of her childhood home. Roy came from a long line of farmers, from his great great grandfather Jacob Teaford who arrived in the colonies on October 27, 1764 to his grandfather, Jacob Teaford, who served in the War of 1812 and his father, John Wesley Teaford, who was the first to move the family out of Augusta County.

Sally’s family was long a mystery to me but the lines that have been explored in recent years are rather fascinating. Sally’s parents, George William Clapsaddle and Margaret Ann Bowyer, married shortly after George returned from serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and settled in Botetourt County. Ironically, both of her parent’s families trace their roots back to Pennsylvania having migrated down to Virginia around the same time that Roy’s family was arriving on the continent with both the Clapsaddle and Bowyer families intermarrying throughout the 19th century and during parts of both the 18th and 20th centuries. Many of these records can be found in “The Related Families of Botetourt County, Virginia”.

When all the other lines from both Roy and Sally’s families are taken into consideration it is astounding how far the family tree stretches throughout Virginia as well as many of the other colonies. Some of those surnames include Cook, Bailey, Riggins, Pemberton, Stinson, Belcher, Snider, Wilfong, Veitheim, Stever, Brown, Schmucker, Steel, Hester, Rinehart, Mankey, Niday and Caldwell. Of course, there are alternate spellings for just about each one as well. Basically, if you scan the pages of the history books you are bound to find at least one of these surnames somewhere in the pages. All of these names tracing back to two people, my great great grandparents, Roy Teaford and Sally Clapsaddle.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Time To Party: Part I

Last weekend, after a long day at the lodge blood drive and only spending a couple of hours at home, I took a short walk through the woods between the houses and met our neighbors for the first time. I wasn’t sure about attending given our schedule that weekend but I am certainly glad that I made the time. I liked our house and the area before I had a chance to meet anyone and now I am even more appreciative of having found our home in this neighborhood. As a bonus, there is only one neighbor that owns a cat which may not seem like a big deal to many but for us it allows us to be more welcoming to our fellow neighbors in our home.

That wasn’t the first time we had met some of the neighbors. A few weeks ago, shortly after we moved into our new home, our next door neighbor rang the doorbell and gave us a wonderful pot of soup and an invitation to their holiday party. I was out at the time but my wife had a very nice conversation with her and the soup was definitely appreciated as it provided us with an additional meal that we didn’t have to prepare that weekend. The invitation was a bit unexpected but a pleasant surprise. Almost immediately, with that single encounter, we felt welcomed in our new neighborhood.

It was interesting learning about all of our neighbors who seemed more eager to meet me than I was them. We are an interesting little collection of people with a variety of backgrounds and a diverse collection of occupations. However, the common thread among all that I spoke to at the party was that each of them wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. And this is coming from a group that included someone who has lived on the same street his entire life (50+ years) to those that used to be the new people on the block having moved in about a year or two ago.

With our son down for the night and my wife doing her best to relax and stay awake at home, I had to cut the evening short and was heading back home about an hour after arriving. It is safe to say that, so long as we get another invitation, we will both be attending the party next year. In the meantime, I am looking forward to getting to know all of our neighbors and making the time to visit each of them. This is something that we have been search for and an aspect of finding our home that we are grateful for and will certainly enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Firearms Friday: ‘Tis The Season For Deals

This time of year it seems that everything is on sale. While some deals are better than others, you are pretty much guaranteed to receive some kind of discount on whatever you order. And these sales are not just limited to the national retail chains or products with general consumer appeal, there are even deals to be had for those of us that enjoy the shooting sports. Having written about this before, in one form or another, you can basically consider this as the annual lock and load post.

As many of you have experienced, especially over the last few years, some retailers have better deals than others. While I won’t call out any websites or stores, we all know which ones to avoid. However, there are always great prices on a variety of items with some being sent to email subscribers, Facebook followers, and others exclusive to club members or existing customers. There are also great sites such as Slickguns that make it easy to find the prices that are just too low to pass up. Keep in mind that these sites usually don’t include local gun shop deals.

Over the past couple of months there have been a number of deals that caught my attention with the majority of them being discovered first in my email. Here are a few examples of the tempting products with retailer, item, and sale price included for reference:

  • Palmetto State Armory (Daily Deal) - 7.62 x 39 Complete 7.5” Upper (with BCG and Charging Handle); $269.99
  • Sportsman’s Guide (with Double Discount coupon) - S.W.T 30 Round AR15 Magazines: $5.59 - 30 Round Beretta 92 Magazines: $11.99
  • Delta Team Tactical (Black Friday / Cyber Monday) - Crosshill Tech / Davidson Defense Right Side Charging AR15 Upper Receiver (with BCG): $239.99
  • Damage Industries (50% off sale) - AR15 Short Barrel Muzzle Break and Sleeve: $34.95
  • Amazon (Flash Sale) - Stack-On PDS 500 Drawer Safe: $31.99
Basically, anyone who is looking to build an AR has had a heck of a time and saved a lot of money recently. Some of these are more recent than others but not all of them were Black Friday / Cyber Monday prices and that is the most important point that I can make in this post. Sometimes the best prices are not during the holidays, they can really happen at any time. The key to finding a good deal is waiting (and getting to know your local shop owner) but sometimes, especially recently, the deals seem to just happen and if you’re paying attention, and didn’t spent too much somewhere else, you can take advantage of them.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

It’s Official, We’re Exotic Now!

Maybe this is what we will put on the doors next year...
One of the interesting things that we are finding in the new area where we have chosen to live is the fact that there are very few Jews around us. It actually made finding the house during Hanukkah really easy because all someone had to do was look for the only house on the street with a Menorah (Hanukiah technically) in the window. Although, you might be a little confused if you walk up to our door as there is a wreath decorated with mini Magen David on it (thanks mom). Of course, we knew what we were getting into when we decided to move out here so the fact that we are clearly in the minority really doesn’t bother us.

It is actually kind of interesting when I think about the different places we have lived. In Jerusalem it was assumed that we were Jewish and, most of the time, the same can be said about our time in Brooklyn. In Bala Cynwyd we were members of a clear majority in the area and in Metuchen and Chesterbrook we were part of a pretty even mix. Even in Chester Springs there were a number of Hanukkah houses around us but, at that point, the percentage was pretty low. Now, we are one of very few families in the area with a Mezuzah on the doorpost.

We are so far removed from the Jewish communities that our son’s daycare asked us to come in and talk about Hanukkah. Being such a small minority it is pretty safe to say that we are no longer seen as simply Jewish but as some exotic family… and we are fine, and entertained, by that fact. So far, those with whom I have spoken to in the area, especially this time of year, have sincere questions about our faith and hang on to every word in our responses. And this is without us talking about the fact that we are Israeli too.

Obviously, there are other Jews in the area but it has been entertaining thus far being the token Jews in the neighborhood. And as we try to find a local synagogue in the area (local meaning 20+ minutes away) I am curious to see if others have had the same experience. But, what has been important to us here is that our beliefs are ancillary to people getting to know us… the only reason the subject came up was because of the time of year. While being a Jew is an important part of us it is not the only thing that defines us and here we are finding that to be how people look at us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Email Surprise

I got a bit of a surprise when I checked my lodge email yesterday afternoon. What I thought was going to be a simple message making an appeal to the brethren to attend the fellowship night was something that caught me off guard. The first half of the email stated almost exactly what I expected to read but the second half changed things up a bit notifying those in receipt of the email that all furniture and files were being moved out of the Secretary’s office that night. This was clearly the first time that I was hearing about this clean out.

While this is something that we have discussed many times over the past couple of years, I was not aware of this tasking being scheduled so soon. In my position I hear about a lot of the things happening at the lodge but every once in a while I hear something either right before it happens or immediately after the fact. The problem isn’t necessarily in what is taking place but in being prepared when someone comes to me with questions. At the office and at the lodge, my job requires me to know what is going on and when there is a break in communication, issues like we have had over the past year begin popping up and, as a result, my phone begins to ring regularly.

It seems as though we have gone from one extreme to the other. While there were many plans and little action in the past, now there is plenty of action but few plans to be found now. This is obviously not the entire picture but there is no reason why this should have happened so abruptly and why the first time many of us are hearing about these plans is a mere few hours before we were all to converge on the lodge.

When I read the email the second time I was both happy that something was being done but also annoyed that this could cause more issues and work for me in the near future. And while I don’t like to miss moments like this and evenings at the lodge in general I am actually glad that I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and that I opened the email with the intent of informing the brother who sent it that I would not be in attendance. After an uncomfortable night it is now time to wait and try to put the pieces together through a variety of phone calls and conversations. Hopefully, this goes smoother than similar situations in the past.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Baby Hits Double Digits

Our son has officially reached double digits! I have no idea where the last ten months have gone but it is fascinating to think about all the changes that have happened over that time. Our baby is quickly turning into a little boy and all I can think about each day is trying to figure out how to stop time for just a day or two so that I might have an outside chance of catching up and having a moment to breath. But, at the same time, there is little I would change about how the last few months have gone… only one thing really. There have been great moments and difficult nights but, overall, it has been an experience which I wouldn’t change for the world.

These monthly milestones always have me thinking about those first few weeks when I was more concerned about breaking him rather than simply enjoying the quite moments holding my sleeping son. It was a time of light pats trying to get the burps out compared to the firm jostles that actually get the job done. Our son was pretty quiet from the very beginning. It may not have seemed like it at times but we have seen the way that other babies scream in restaurants and other public places. And, yes, our son still gives those kids the stink eye for interrupting his day.

It is amazing to think that only ten months ago he was holding my index finger as the nurse was cleaning him off for the first time. Now, it is hard to get him to stay still and when he does grab my hand it is more out of fascination rather than for comfort. Although it is nice to hear him babble rather than crying being his only means of communication.

So much has changed in our baby boy over the last ten months and so much has changed around him as well. However, the most important things are not the changes that have happened but the simple facts that he continues to be the same happy baby today that he was in the beginning, he still smiles at us in the same innocent, and sometimes not so innocent way, and he still finds comfort in our arms. Our son, and the love that we have for him, is growing so fast. No matter how much we love him at any given moment I know that it will increase exponentially over time (at least until he is a teenager). It may not always be easy but life doesn’t get much better than in those simple moments shared between a father and a son.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mortgage Monday: New Noises

Each place you live has its own set of noises that you have to get used to over time. When my wife and I were in Metuchen it was the sound of our neighbor’s alarm clock that he never turned off in the morning before heading out. In Bala Cynwyd, it was the sound of cars driving through the parking lot on the other side of our ground floor window. In Chester Springs, it was the constant flow of traffic, the heavy feet of the neighbors to the right of us, and the DIY obsessions of the neighbor on the other side.

Now, in our new home, the sounds are much simpler. We are not on a busy street and even when the occasional car or buggy drives by we can’t hear it through the windows are we sit back from and above the road. The neighbors are on the other side of the trees and while we can see the houses between the barren branches, we rarely see our neighbors and have yet to hear any noises. The sounds that we hear late at night are the small things like the boiler turning on or the heat makings its way through the pipes.

When we step outside there is a bit of white noise in the distance from the highways but that was something that only took a couple of days before we didn’t notice it. Now all we hear is the wind rustling the last of the stubborn leaves on the trees, the occasional deer walking through the woods, and recently, the misting rain as it collects on the roof and drips into the gutters. These are the most common sounds that we hear which are relaxing rather than annoying.

However, there are occasions when we hear other noises. While we can’t hear it from inside, there is a rooster a few doors down that really enjoys upholding the cliché associated with mornings. And, being where we are in relation to more densely populated areas, there have been a couple of weekends when we knew that someone had just bought a fresh batch of ammunition the day before. But, again, while bothersome to some, these sounds, especially given their rarity, don’t bother me.

The noises that we dealt with in the past were annoying then and they still bother me now. These new sounds are sometimes relaxing and other times we don’t even notice them. They are a part of our life in our new home and I guess that simple fact, that we either like or are indifferent to them, reinforces the fact that we made the right decision and truly found our home among the houses.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Search: Pulling Together My Own Story

Whenever the topic of family history enters the discussion we are always talking about the past… when we came over, who fought in what war, interesting occupations, etc. Anyone interested in genealogy is familiar with the cadence of these conversations and knows that it doesn’t take long before a common thread is discovered between two families… although sometimes it is also interesting to discuss the differences. We, as family historians, are always digging into the past to try and find those additional details that have previously eluded us or find new information seemingly lost to the family for generations.

That seems to be the pattern and the routine with which we are intimately familiar. However, while this may be the bulk of our research, there are other areas of family history that are too often overlooked. The first is something that I have written about before which is to talk to those relatives who are still with us and learn what you can about what they know about the family as well as learning about their own life. We spend all this time trying to fill in gaps and too often the generations that are still with us are overlooked and, when they are gone, we will be back at the beginning trying to put the pieces together.

This covers the vast majority of the family history but there are still pieces that are usually left in the box. Our own lives, while not as interesting to us as the lives we have spent so many hours dissecting, are also an important part of the family tree. Since we are cognizant of the process and the details that are so important to the complete pictures of generations, we are in a position to ensure that our generation is represented. For me, part of my story is in the pages of this blog but that is only a recent snapshot with occasional glimpses into my own past.

We have a duty to our own family and to future generations to ensure that all the stories are told, across the generations, including our own. It may seem self-centered or even egotistical and pretentious to some but this is not something that we do to brag about this or that, it is a means to keep a complete history of the family. So, the next time you sit down to explore a few more data bases, take a few minutes and write down a couple of facts about your own life and, when you get a chance, write down questions that you can send to your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, etc. Before you know it, you will have a pretty long list to include in the annals of your own research.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Not The Numbers We Were Expecting

When I pulled into the parking lot next to the lodge this morning it was difficult to find a spot. The unusually warm December day had everyone out early trying to take advantage of the weather while they finished up their holiday shopping. While there were plenty of people walking up and down the streets and the roads were packed with cars, I knew it would be difficult drawing foot traffic into the lodge of our year end blood drive. Of course, this is also why we had originally planned on holding the drive in October.

When I walked through the doors it was a bit odd as the temperature outside was warmer than the main hall where the tables were being set up. That was a separate issue which we resolved as the day went on. Even though we got a slightly later start in setting up than we expected, by the time the first donor walked through the door everything was in place and there was no delay in getting things going.

The first hour or so was busy. We had a good flow of people coming through the door and I was excited to see so many people taking the time during this busy season to give something of themselves to help others. Before I knew it, I was the next person laying on the table with a long tube dangling from my arm. While I have given blood many times before, this was the first time that I was doing the double red donation. Turns out that they really like my blood type and everything seemed to check out beforehand so why not. In the end, it really didn’t feel any different from a regular donation just a slightly longer time relaxing on the table.

By the time lunch rolled around the steady flow was down to a sputtering trickle and the total numbers for the day were not looking very good especially when factoring in the three or four people that were deemed ineligible to donate. When all was said and done and the tables were being broken down and hauled back out to the truck I was disappointed to say the least. It turns out that we had every possible scenario work against us from weather and holidays to ineligibility and other unavoidable occurrences preventing people from donating. However, while the numbers were not what we wanted, I know that we made a small difference and help those in need and that is really what matters at the end of the day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Firearms Friday: Adding Security

It is no secret to anyone that has read this blog that I am a strong supporter of the rights to own and carry a firearm as well as an advocate for those choosing to own a firearm for self-defense. It is something that I choose to do as a means to protect my family. However, let me be clear, it is a last line of defense in maintaining the safety of my family. Contrary to some misguided opinions that I have read, your firearm should not be your only means of defending your home and your family.

While I have no qualms about doing everything in my power to defend my wife and son, it is with that aforementioned point in mind that I called ADT shortly after settling on the house, had the consultation on moving day, and had the system installed this past weekend. In addition to the security and peace of mind that it provides (and the hard evidence as we have video surveillance) whether we are home or away, it also serves as a warning system should someone continue with their devious motivations and enters our home while we are asleep. Even if it is only a few seconds, that is enough time for me to prepare and make ready to eliminate the threat to my family’s well-being.

As I have written about before, there are other steps that need to be taken as well including making sure that the firearms that you do have in the house are secure. The last thing you want to happen is for a child to gain access to your firearm(s). The second to last thing you want to happen is for someone to break in and have access to your weapon. In addition to a decent safe in a more secure area of the house, you should also have some kind of quick access vault in your bedroom should something or, more accurately, someone go bump in the night.

I also recommend having a second quick access vault in areas of the house where you spend the most time. Remember, not all break-ins will occur in the dead of the night. They should be in places that are easily accessible and would be considered obvious to those who know where they are because you are not trying to hide, you are trying to conceal and defend. It is the last thing that you want to have to reach for but you never know when you might need it. Again, this is not something anyone wants to have to do and it should be a final not a first act but at least this was you can ensure that your family is safe at all times.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Didn’t Like Working From Home…

Every year, I am given ten work from home days to use as I see fit. However, even though I have been given the option to do so I have rarely used more than a couple out of necessity. I have never been a fan of working from home. This has not been a secret and there are a multitude of reasons for my dislike of this arrangement. What it really comes down to is the simple fact that I am not as productive at home as I am at the office. And that is all about the focus that I lack when there are so many distractions around the house.

However, in the few weeks that we have been in our new home, that stance is beginning to waver and, with the office arrangement that I have, I seem to be maintaining my focus better than I have been in the past. On some days it is even better than at the office. While I don’t believe it is one specific thing that has helped me I do know that it is a much more comfortable arrangement.

In the past, my office has either been upstairs or in the basement far removed from anything else in the house. Theoretically, this seems like a good arrangement but in reality it created, over time, an atmosphere that wasn’t conducive to getting work done. Over time I would use these spaces less and less until they eventually remained relatively unused and my laptop and work documents overtook the kitchen table. It proved to be quite the vicious cycle.

The only time that I had an office on the main floor was in our apartment in Bala Cynwyd. It actually worked well for a little while but because of the odd hours I kept, the close proximity to the bedroom which prevented me from typing too loud, and the maintenance issues that proceeded to drip all over the carpet, this too was a short lived arrangement. Of course, it also didn’t help that my wife and I shared the office space and we have completely different ways of working.

Now we have separate spaces on the main floor of the house. While there is still some work that needs to be done so that I can use the space on a more regular basis (i.e. doors put in so the sound doesn’t travel up the stairs at night and wake up our son), it is already proving to be an excellent place to get things done. I think I have completed more projects in this office over the past month than I did sitting in the basement in our last rental. So, now working from home might not be so bad which is a good thing because the roads might not be as friendly in our current location.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Closing Out The Year

The checks are on the way. 
There are always conversations after the stated meeting that get cut short when someone happens to look at their watch. Those discussions are usually followed up on the following week when we all converge on the lodge for fellowship. This week that was definitely the case as there were numerous tasks that needed to be completed and ideas followed up on after the meeting. But, unlike those meeting nights, these weeks in-between are much more relaxed and, because we’re not trying to do 15 things at once, we are usually able to knock out a number of things on our respective lists.

There is still a back and forth among many of the brothers about moving spaces around the lodge, cleaning up and cleaning out certain areas, and other things related to the building usually come up over the course of conversation. This has been a relatively reliable pattern for the first half of the off nights. And while those mini meetings did take place this week, that was not the primary reason for setting aside the time and driving to the lodge last night.

With schedules already hectic and time running short this month, it was time to sit down with both the outgoing Treasurer and Worshipful Master to take care of the final checks for the year. Some were new, some were rewritten for one reason or another, but all of them had to be completed last night. This included the checks that I was looking forward to signing… those to the residents of the Masonic Villages. I tend to take a little extra time in inscribing my name on those checks as they serve, in part, as a means to let our somewhat distant brothers (and widows) know that we are thinking about them and that we are always here to help.

For as much as we have been focusing on the present and the future throughout the past year, we need to remember the past and those who put in the time and sweat to make our lodge what it is today. After all, without their efforts, there is no guarantee that we would still have a lodge to meet in every month. And that is what we need to take away from these meetings and informal fellowship nights… while things may not be perfect, they may not be exactly how we want them to be, they are still here because of the work of all the brothers before us. We are only the most recent in a long line of men who strived to make themselves and others better. And that is what we should strive to do every day as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Thank You Daddy!

A few months back while spending the day with our friends for their son’s birthday party, our son found one the toys in their house to be greatly entertaining. It was a stationary car that allowed him to sit on the floor and play with all the buttons, steering wheel, and the other odds and ends that are included on it. He must have spent close to an hour that afternoon entertaining himself while the rest of us ate lunch and caught up in our conversations. It didn’t take long before my wife and I realized that was going to be one of his Hanukkah gifts this year.

A couple of weeks ago, before we moved, I got really lucky and found the same car, the only difference was that it was in blue not red, on sale on Amazon. I think it only took me about 10 or 15 seconds from the time I saw it until I had the order placed. A few days later it arrived in an abnormally large box at my office. There it stayed until we got settled in to our new home which, at that point, I moved it into the office closet one night while our son was asleep.

Yesterday, having taken the day off from work, the box finally emerged and while our son was excited enough about the big box he was going to be able to play with, once we were able to put the car together his face lit up as he seemingly recognized the toy that he had enjoyed previously. Just like the first time he saw it, once my wife and I put him in the car he spend at least an hour playing with all the buttons and features occasionally glancing up at the two of us and smiling.

After a while he decided he was done and wanted to squirm around on the floor and play with mommy and daddy. This is not a surprise as any parent will tell you that it doesn’t matter how much they like a toy they are going to get bored with it after a while. What we didn’t expect was for our son to come after me kissing me, smiling, laughing, and seemingly thanking me for a toy that he really wanted. It was one of the most adorable 10 minutes that I have ever spent with our son and something that I was both not expecting and will never forget. I just feel bad that he didn’t do the same for his mommy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mortgage Monday: No More Rent

Since we’ve been together, my wife and I have always written a rent check every month. The amounts may have varied over the years but the one thing that remained constant was the fact that we didn’t own the place in which we lived. It is a rather disconcerting notion when, at the end of the year, you look back and see all of the money that you gave to someone else without having anything really to show for it. It is primarily because of this that we have been wanting to buy a place of our own for years.

While it has taken longer than expected and it had happened under circumstances that we both wish could have been different, we are no longer writing rent checks. Now we find ourselves flipping through the payment book sent to us from our bank knowing that with each page that we turn we own a little bit more of our home. And with each month we add just a little extra, as much as we can, in order to shorten that three decade commitment a little bit at a time.

It really is a different experience when writing these checks (actually, setting up the automatic payment and watching the funds evaporate from our account). There is a goal in mind with a clearly defined payment period. There is certainty and stability in the payments we are now making and, to a certain extent, we look forward to making these payments as each check or transfer is one less that we have to make in order to own our home in its entirety.

Owning our own house also allows for the freedom to change or keep things the same as we see fit. There are few limitations especially without the presence of a homeowner’s dictatorship/association. It is true that we have to maintain everything ourselves but we can also fix things ourselves without the potential repercussions from a landlord and we can chose who we want to do the work if we find it is beyond our limited knowledge and experience. We are able to make things right in our own way in our own time.

We also have the peace of mind knowing that we are staying in the same place. There is no lease and we don’t have to worry about our rent going up next year or the owner deciding that they no longer want to have tenants. We have a place that offers us permanence and stability for the two of us and, more importantly, for our son. This is the home where our son is going to grow up and that is an amazing feeling.