Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where Did February Go?

I knew heading into the month that this was going to be a bit of a challenge both at work and at home. The shortened calendar provides a bit of a crunch with regard to billing and just making sure everything is accomplished within the confines of the calendar. Two days may not seem like a lot but that is about 2 hours of billable time per person that are lost. Thankfully, that all seemed to work out and I was still able to put in my usual 200 hours. Of course this also shortened my lodge timeline a bit and I am still trying to make up for time lost.

However, work and lodge are far down the list of things that colored the calendar. My wife and I began the month as a family of two and now we find ourselves bringing the last day to a close with a son nearly two weeks old. It was a month that also saw a tremendous loss to our familythankfully it is a short month and the page on the calendar can be quickly turned. Two days makes a hug difference in this regard.

The month began interestingly enough with all the football fanatics going into warm weather hibernation, Phil declaring that we were screwed for at least six more weeks, and Brian Williams announcing that he was not a highlander and has not shaped the course of history since the big bang. That same week I witnessed quite the interesting lodge meeting followed by the raising of another brother the following week. It was a unique experience going from seeing boys transformed into men through scouting and a man transformed into a mason a few days after.

Things were also busy at the office as we waited for Rip Torn to tell us what was going to happen next. This compounded the whole billing situation mentioned above. Things were just beginning to calm a little when my wife and I reached the fateful weekend that brought us to Bryn Mawr Hospital two days in a row. Of course, since the arrival of our son my perspective has changed just a wee bit. All the chaos from the first half of February just seemed to go away, the subsequent scramble to catch up doesn’t seem to bother me like it used to, and the rest of the days in the month just evaporated leaving only the memories behind. I know it happened but at this point I really don’t know what happened to February.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Firearms Friday: The Devil Of Ramadi

This past Tuesday former Marine Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of the death of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the author of “American Sniper”, and Kyle’s friend Chad Littlefield. It took the Erath County, Texas jury less than two hours to convict Routh of capital murder with the judge sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Kyle, who had taken Routh to a local shooting range to help him cope with PTSD, was shot in the back along with Littlefield on February 2, 2013. Kyle had done the same work with returning veterans to help them cope with life after war.

While Routh had admitted to the killing immediately afterward plead not guilty at the onset of the trial with his attorney asserting that he suffers from psychotic episodes caused by PTSD and other factors. In the end however, the right verdict was reached as he was the coward behind the trigger that ended the lives of two American heroes who both fought the same battles in the field and in the mind. Sometimes, the insanity plea should not be a factor in such a heinous act.

In the short time since the verdict was read, two Texas Congressmen have filed legislation intended to award the Medal of Honor to the late Chris Kyle. It should be noted that the military credits Kyle, "The Devil of Ramadi", with 160 confirmed kills, out of 255 claimed (probable kills). Ignore the political timing for a moment and consider what is being proposed…

As the most lethal sniper in military history, there is little doubt that Kyle “distinguish himself through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” both “while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States” and “while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force.” When reading this definition from the US Department of Defense website, it is clear that there is merit to this case. However, there is a process, a chain of command, that must be followed so don’t expect a decision in the near future.

To this end, Representative Roger Williams, a co-sponsor of the bill, made the following statement, “There is no doubt that this true American hero is worthy of our nation's highest military honor… While the Medal of Honor will not bring back a husband, father, son and a model Texan, we owe Chris Kyle and his family a great deal of gratitude for his relentless devotion to his country."

Kyle is a man who lived up to the cliché of living life to the fullest. While he was not perfect, he went above and beyond the call of duty both in and out of uniform and should be honored for his heroism. This is an honor long overdue especially since the White House refused to lower flags at half-staff at the time of his death but had no problem doing so not long prior to his passing when they were informed of the death of Whitney Houston. It is about time that we honor his life and his service by considering him for the highest honor this country has to offer. The "The Chris Kyle Medal of Honor Act," which is co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, was sent to the House Armed Services Committee for consideration.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Unexpected Work Email

Soon after my son entered this world my wife and I were both on Facebook sending the first photos of his arrival and chatting with some family and friends about his early arrival. While on the social media site I also came across an interesting message from a company that I had not worked with for over three years. At my previous public relations firm I had led the account for this company and every now and again I would read the updates posted by the CEO and send a quick message here and there about where I was and what I was doing. However, this message was completely out of the blue.

The note was very simple requesting my email address so that he could have his head of PR get in touch with me. I didn’t give it a second thought and gladly sent him my work email. As day turned into night and other events clearly taking precedence in my mind, I had forgotten about the brief chat by the next morning. A couple of days later, having just woken up from a less than refreshing sleep in a hospital bed, I opened my work email and found a message which filled in a few of the missing pieces.

As it turns out, the company was once again looking to invest in public relation in the US and I was one whom the CEO thought of to get the process moving. Keep in mind that this was my favorite company and CEO to work with in the past but since that time I had little contact with him. It was flattering to say the least that he thought enough of me to circle back after such a long time.

When I first started working with this company they really were in the early stages of development and exposure. Over time we worked together to hit a number of milestones both in the size of the company and the funding that it had behind its continued development. Since I last worked with them they have increased in size by over 400% and all the things that we talked about in the past of wanting to do were now coming to fruition.

Since those email correspondences, I have spoken with the company over the phone and provided a little more background on what I am going now and the vast capabilities of my current company. We are moving forward in this exploratory process and I am hopeful that we will be able to work together as this is still a company that I am very excited about and I want to be a part of the growth and immense potential that it continues to possess. However, at the very least, I am happy that the CEO felt the same about me and that all the things that we discussed over three years ago are now a reality.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Still Staying Home But Getting Some Lodge Work Done

One of the things that I have yet to catch up on has been all the emails and other things that I need to get done for the lodge. I have been able to take care of a few things here and there but, overall, there is a mountain of ongoing and monthly projects that haven’t been checked off the list. Even my attendance at the usual weekly fellowship has been put on hold for the remainder of the month (at least there is a darn good reason for it).

Even some of the simple things like keeping current on the email have been on hold as any ‘work time’ that I have had has been dedicated to catching up on other work. Sometimes the lodge activities have to be moved down the list so that other things can get done. No that the backlog from the office has been completed and I am running through only current projects, I was finally able to get back to the lodge work that has been piling up.

Email was the first thing that I had to tackle and when I pulled up my account I was surprised to see that the unread messages still numbered less than a couple of dozen. After deleting the spam, I slowly went through each one by one, reading and answering when appropriate, from oldest to newest, until they were all taken care of. Thankfully, there was nothing too urgent and nothing that made me scramble to get something else done right away.

Next I started going back through my calendar trying to figure out all the events that were coming up and if I was going to be able to attend and/or participate. While the weekly fellowship has been put on the back burner, that doesn’t mean that everything was going to be put aside. With the Secretary Seminar a no go for this weekend (thankfully my new assistant was able to attend) it was time to look at March to see what was going to be manageable.

The stated meeting is the one thing that I don’t want to miss (still some work to do there) and the extra meeting should be fairly short this month so I want to keep that on the calendar as well. Everything else seems to be up in the air. There are many things that I don’t want to miss but I really have to get this new balance right. Now is the time to make sure my priorities are right so it is going to be a very careful process… one that I have a week to figure out. After all, I don’t want to end up like a Harry Chapin song.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Poo Rainbow

Not long after our son arrived and they brought him back to our room in the maternity ward we were warned of all the things that we would be encountering when we changed his diaper. “Oh, the things you’ll see” as Dr. Seuss would say. However, words can’t really express the interesting moments of discovery when we peeled back the tabs and saw the carnage laid upon Pooville.

It all started with the tar pit. This is the kind of nasty stuff that they find dinosaurs in and what they use to patch highways. It’s like trying to clean up a pile of black superglue. I was half tempted to call the EPA when his diaper seemed as though it was attached with Velcro and the wipes seemed to whimper in the corner of the bassinet.

Slowly but surely these emanations transformed into a consistency that we are all familiar with. “Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poopon?” Why yes, yes I do. That’s right, I was never a big fan of mustard to begin with but I am certainly avoiding it now that I have seen the “seedy Dejon” that our son had been producing. And that is exactly how the doctors and nurses describe the consistency… it is even found in the little take home poo packet.

Seeing all this is one thing but seeing it in action is another. Last weekend we found ourselves playing the part of Lepookans doing our best to avoid being caught at the end of the poo rainbow. Ever since we found out and told people that we were having a boy they all warned us to block the winkie but no one bothered to inform us of the other fountain that poses a threat to new parents.

We were nearly done changing his diaper and about to pull up his new Pampers when all of the sudden someone decided to squeeze the mustard bottle and my wife and I ducked for cover. Thankfully there weren’t any fans in the room that it could hit and really cause a mess. Safe to say we had a little extra laundry that had to be done that night and made be seriously consider putting up a splash guard at the end of the changing table.

However, even with the flurry of fierce feces, things have been going pretty smoothly and, most importantly, baby seems to be happy. He’s a bit of a gassy little baby but none of that matters when I pick him up and he smiles as he looks at me. Of course, there are those interesting times when he holds his hand out seemingly saying “Daddy, pull my finger!”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Highlights And Shutouts From The Oscars

Last night we turned on the television for only the second time in the past week. All of the sudden the Oscars coverage began running across the screen. We had both completely forgotten about the awards show but it’s not like we have been dedicated viewers in the past either. It is basically a collection of movies that we haven’t seen with a few that we would like to watch at some point in the future. Sometimes it is not even a matter of what role someone played, it can simply be a ‘I liked him/her in some other completely different movie/show so it would be nice to see them win.”

While we only saw a maybe a total of about ten minutes of the show scattered throughout the night, there were a few interesting things that caught my attention. Keep in mind that these are not unique observations as it seems that everyone took note of them immediately but sometimes there is nothing new to say when recording your life. And where there are great moments there are times when the selections are a bit disappointing… such is the case every year at every awards show.

First let’s start with the surprising moments getting the most talked about moment out of the way… who knew Lady Gaga could really pull off the Sound of Music? Come on, don’t lie, no one saw that coming. While I am not a fan of her music she obviously has an amazing voice and I hope that this side of her comes out more and more because it is worth hearing. Thankfully she didn’t perform in a meat dress… that might have killed it.

The other moment was early in the evening (also called Cuba Gooding Jr. time) when JK Simmons, stunned by the sound of his own name, took the stage to accept the award for best supporting actor. While many of you may remember him from the State Farm commercials, Spiderman movies, or Law & Order which adds a little twist to the award in and of itself I remember him in a different role which really makes you do a double take… I best remember him as neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger on Oz. A great actor and I am happy to see him win it just seems odd when I think of him as that character accepting the award. However, his speech cut through all that and we should all heed his advice… “Call your mom. Call your dad, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet. Don't text. Don't e-mail. Call 'em on the phone. Tell them you love them, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you."

Of course, with the good moments are also those that disappoint a little as both the actors I was rooting for to get best actor, Michael Keeton and Bradley Cooper, failed to take home the prize. I have always been a big fan of Keeton from Mr. Mom, Batman, Beetlejuice, Live From Baghdad, My Life, etc. and would like to see him pull it off one of these days. Cooper, in all the parts I have seen, reviews I have read, and interviews I have watched about American Sniper was Chris Kyle. I am quickly becoming a fan of his work. Lastly, why wasn’t Clint Eastwood nominated for best director? That was a bit of an oversight but, when compared to leaving Joan Rivers of the “In Memoriam” video, it doesn’t seem all that bad.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fulfilling The Mitzvah

Last night the snow and ice descended upon us covering everything in a frigid tapestry devoid of color. This was the landscape to which we woke today, the perfect clean slate by which our son to start his life as a member of the tribe. However, just like the faith that he has been born into, sometimes there are unseen trials that are cause for caution. Just outside our front door was a pristine shell of crystal clear ice. We took our time and made it out the door later than we had expected but we were safe and that is what really mattered.

After a quick stop at my parent’s house to pick up some backup, we made our way into center city Philadelphia and arrived at my father-in-law’s apartment about 20 minutes behind schedule. Family and friends were already packed into the place and overflowing into the hallway when we arrive and before we could make our way to the middle of the crowd the mohel (who was the mohel for my conversion) whisked us away to the back bedroom to make sure that we (including our son) were prepared for the experience that was about to follow.

For those of you who are not familiar, the mohel is the person in the Jewish faith who performs the mitzvah of brit milah, the covenant of circumcision, which was commanded by G-d to Abraham over 3,700 years ago. While rushed to begin, the mohel took his time during the ritual and made sure that our son was brought into the covenant the way that it should be done. After all, you don’t want a mohel to cut any corners.

While the act itself is something that is difficult to see, especially when it is your own son, it is also an incredibly moving moment for both the parents and the grandfathers. This is the moment that our son became a child of Israel. It was a moment that I will never forget and one that I am glad I was able to share with my family. Following the performance of this sacred mitzvah, our son was given his Hebrew name, Yonatan Yitzhak. This is a name that was easy for us to decide but one that also carries great meaning which I will write about in a future post.

The morning continued with our son a little sleepy and tipsy from the Manischewitz he was given before, during, and after the brit. The rest of us reveled in the glory and holiness of the mitzvah that had just taken place. Of all the moments and experiences that I have had within my chosen faith this, by far, is the one that carried with it the most meaning and made me feel closer to G-d. Our son was now a Jew just like his mommy and daddy.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

When The Surreal Becomes Reality

Chapel of Peace at West Laurel Hill Cemetery
My wife and I (my wife more than I) have spent the last week trying to prepare ourselves for today. Throughout the week, my wife was fielding daily texts and phone calls from family asking for her opinion on how things should be arranged. I was asked on one occasion but, being that I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to decide anything, I respectfully declined to offer my opinion. With everything going on and all preparations being made there was still nothing that we could have prepared us for this moment this morning.

We arrived at the cemetery a few minutes after 10 finding one of the last remaining spots near the entrance to the chapel. The baby was quiet the entire ride over and we were expecting him to get a little fussy when we finally made it inside and found a few seats. The room was already beginning to fill up with family, friends, and former coworkers so we found a place off to the side and prepared for the noise to erupt from below the car seat cover.

While I was sitting watching the baby my wife was greeting those who walked over to offer their condolences and congratulations while I just kept thinking about this whole surreal experience. The people and memories kept coming... I can’t imagine what it was like for my wife. By the time the service started there were well over 100 people there listening to my wife’s uncle conduct the service… a role his is very familiar with even if this was not the kind of conducting with which he was familiar.

Throughout the service, I couldn’t help but think about all the times that we would meet somewhere for dinner or stop by the house and she would be ranting about something or someone. There were times when the two of us would argue about things but with each of us always ending up coming to the conclusion that we simply had slightly different views. She was someone that I always respected for both her opinionated nature and intelligence. This was something that was reciprocated time and again.

It is hard to think that those times are but memories at this point and that our son will only know her through pictures and stories. But he will know who she was and the family from which she came. And while she may not be able to hold him like his other grandparents, there is no doubt that she is looking over him… maybe that is why he was so quiet and calm throughout the morning. Quiet and calm despite some of the things I am sure she was saying about the service and some of the people there. I am sure she had a few things to say about the snow which began to fall shortly before the service ended as well. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Firearms Friday: Safe

Having brought my son home just a couple of days ago from the hospital for the first time I am glad that I already have a means to protect my family locked away in the house. What many people (parents in particular) fail to realize is that you are the first line of defense when it comes to keeping your family safe. With that said, that safety comes in two parts: safe from those threats that want to harm you and your family and protecting your young (especially new) children from that which they do not yet understand.

The first is quite evident as there is no question that if someone breaks into our home, I will be sure to greet them in manner fitting of their illegal entry. Yes, the police will be called but they cannot instantly appear to fit the situation. Until they arrive, I am the only one between the threat and my family. It really is that simple.

The second is a matter of common sense. If you own a firearm you should keep it locked up whether or not you have kids. Why take the risk when you can have them secured and out of the reach of anyone and everyone that should have access to them. This is especially true when you consider the fact that there are a variety of secure quick access options that you can keep near your bed.

These are just the top two things that came to mind that first day and night at home with the baby. Of course, when he gets older I will make sure that he is familiar with and respects firearms but I will still keep everything locked away. Safety is something that should never be assumed… that is when accidents happen. Rather, safety should be practiced even if you believe that you and everyone in your home (regardless of age) are familiar with and respect firearms.

Just the simple subject of firearms is something that my wife and I have never agreed on 100%. However, she knows that I would never be unsafe and practice the above level of safety in our home. For the most part, from the beginning she has understood that this is my hobby and it is what I enjoy doing. With that said, ever since we found out that we were having a child my wife has come to better understand that safety that this ‘hobby’ provides to both her and our child. She may not be as adamant but she understands my perspective.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Coming Home

When we were given the option of leaving on Wednesday or Thursday we did take a few moments to think about it. However, being confined to our hospital room since we arrived, it really wasn’t a hard decision to make even with the linger fears of heading out on our own. So once the doctor came in for our morning visit, we let her know that we were ready to go and that we would be out and on the road by midafternoon.

The first part of the prep was making sure that the car seat was secured in the back of the car. I vaguely recall having done this in the past when my niece still used one (she’s 20 now) but that little piece of knowledge has long since shaken out of my head. It’s not a difficult process by any means but when you are trying to make sure that your child is safe every parent, no matter how laid back, gets incredibly OCD about these kinds of things.

We got the room backed up, secured our surprisingly quiet son in his car seat, and called for an escort to help us get down to the lobby and out front to our car which I had pulled up earlier. It was a surreal feeling knowing that we came to the hospital just a few days ago still as a married couple and now we were leaving as a family of three. We were about to enter the real world covered in a fresh coating of snow and a bitterly cold wind barreling down the street.

With all three of us secured in our seats and the pile of stuff crammed in the trunk, I slowly pulled around to the stop sign and started our drive home. I can’t recall any other point in my life being so careful and deliberate behind the wheel… not even during my driving test. Needless to say, with a new baby and my wife still recovering from major surgery, it took a little longer than expected to get to the house but we made it there safe and sound.

Walk in the door we knew things were completely different and that coming home meant so much more now than it did in the past. We were home and ready to start living our life as a family. However, starting off, just like with the car, I am sure that we are going to have plenty of OCD and overprotective moments. Such is the beginning of parenthood.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quality Time Away From The Lodge

Already working on his degrees!
It should be no surprise that I wasn’t at the lodge last night. Instead we were still in the maternity ward with our son maintaining the annoying face mask boundary. While in the past I may have been annoyed that I wasn’t there to support my brothers in their education, I was much happier supporting my wife and son as they both recovered. And while I may not have been able to spend time with my lodge brothers last night, I was able to introduce my brother to his new nephew which proved to be one of the highlights of the day.

As soon as my wife woke me up early Sunday morning I knew that my schedule (in addition to our lives) would be just a little different this week so it didn’t take long before a sent a mass text to some of the usual attendees letting them know of my joyous absence. I wrote the following and sent it to about a dozen members of the lodge: “Due to the arrival of my future mason, I will be unable to attend lodge this week. Feel free to call if you need me for anything.”

Since sending that message I have received a flood of support from my fellow brothers. It was one congratulatory text after another to the point that my phone seems to be getting a little tired of having to chime and vibrate so often. Family comes first is not just something that we say because it sounds good, every brother in the lodge lives by that simple saying and supports those masons who also embrace that way of thinking and living.

These immediate gestures are what I hope to share with my son when he comes of age. It is a bond, a fellowship, and a true brotherly love that cannot be matched in any other civilian organization. It is something that I hope to share with my son as he gets older and now is the time that I am building the groundwork so that he can join the fraternity with a long standing connection with the brotherhood. After all, the next generation is reliant on the current generation especially when it comes to continuing a family legacy.

I may not have much to offer my son at this point but I am going to work hard each and every day so that he will look at me the same way that I see my own father. He will know from where he comes (both my family tree as well as my wife’s) and he will be able to build upon what has been achieved before him in every generation. This includes my duty as a mason and instilling in him the faith, character, and virtues that we all hold as brothers of the craft.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Tinkle Tinkle Little Star

Well that's no fun!
That’s right, when a new baby enters your life you are sometimes guilty of too much information when talking about some of the daily (and not so daily) occurrences of living with a newborn. Well, even though I am risking the ire of my son when he gets a little older, this is the time when I will share some of those interesting moments. It may not be every week but it will certainly be on a regular basis and I am sure that there will be plenty of information, too much in fact, to share. Welcome to TMI Tuesday…

My wife and I have spent the last couple of days trying to get our heads around what has happened and all the changes in our lives. There have been times when our room seemed to have a revolving door and others when we were able to take a few breaths between the family and medical professionals walking in and out of the room. Of course there have also been a few entertaining moments in between as well.

One of the things that I am having to learn is how to change a diaper. My wife, with her previous work experience, is much more familiar with the process and a heck of a lot more efficient too. However, my skills at this point are virtually nonexistent. With that said, there have already been times when we both had to stand back and laugh at what had transpired.

A perfect example of this was earlier today when baby released a rather robust colonic announcement leaving us no alternative than to take him to his crib and see if I was improving at all in my changing abilities. While things seemed to be going much faster and I was upsetting him just a little less, it didn’t take long before baby let us know that we can’t expect each changing to go smoothly.

Shortly after we finished wiping everything off, with his rear high in the air, a steady rain began falling around our son. Yeah, we missed that part of the changing process. With a fresh sprinkle of tinkle across his chest and on his face, we grabbed a handful of wipes and cleaned him off again while trying our best to control the nearly crippling laughter that had resulted from the stream. Thankfully baby didn’t really think twice about it and we were soon getting some new clean clothes on him. We are sure that this is only the first of any and that it will probably stop being funny in the future but this time we really needed the laugh.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Making Our Last Words Count

Last Friday, for reasons that we cannot explain, my wife and I decided to tell one person, just one, the name that we had chosen for our son. My mother-in-law, having been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer just before my wife's birthday in October, had not been well for some time was the only one that we wanted to tell. And while she didn’t give an acknowledgement of the news that we had shared, there is little doubt that she heard us.

Our son was the light of the day which was able to pierce the darkest of moments. Having joined the world at 9:14am we were quick to send a photo to family and friends to let us know of the joy that had just been bestowed upon us. Even my mother-in-law who had not been communicative for several days opened her eyes when she was told that a picture of her first grandchild was sent to her. For the first time in days she spoke a single word… wow!

Still in shock from the early arrival of our baby boy, my wife and I were slowly recovering from the day that had just transpired. With all visitors having left the maternity ward for the day we settled into our hospital beds and waited for our son to come back into the room for his next meal. It was at this point about 12 hours since our son entered the world that my wife made a request to the nurse… one that I am sure that they are not used to hearing.

It was a simple act but it was a moment that would immediately become part of family lore. My wife turned to the nurse and asked her to make our son cry while she had her mother’s caretaker on speakerphone next to her mom’s bed. The nurse didn’t question my wife and seconds later his cry was echoing in my mother-in-law’s great room. My wife followed by saying “I love you” and told the caretaker that she would call back in the morning. It was a call that she wouldn't have the opportunity to make. 

What we didn’t find out until later was that mere seconds after hearing the healthy cry of her grandson, my mother-in-law took her last breath. She held on just long enough, and our son arrived just early enough, that she was able to leave this world as a grandmother. The circle of life, in all its joy and pain, mystery and misery, beginning and ending was in full display. In a matter of half a day we were both overjoyed and heartbroken.

Since that moment, we have been experiencing the full range of emotions remembering both the good time and bad, the disagreements and the celebrations, the moments of happiness and sadness. I have been doing all that I can to try and comfort my wife knowing that there is no real comfort that can be given during this time. Only our son can bring solace and help to heal my wife’s heart and the knowledge that the last words that we both spoke to her were the most powerful and comforting things that we could ever say to her in her last moments in the physical world… our son’s name and “I love you”.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Little Early

About 30 minutes after birth and a quick cleaning... he quietly squeezed my finger the entire time.  
When my wife woke me up in the middle of the night saying that she still wasn’t feeling well I did my best to comfort her even though I was still half asleep. Having just been to the hospital, her flu was something that needed to be watched but sometimes my wife can be a little more overzealous in her monitoring. However, even having been woken up a few times before and still suffering from a week long lack of sleep, there were a few words that my wife uttered that immediately got me up and out of bed… “I think my water just broke.” That will wake you up faster than the strongest cup of coffee the world has ever known.

After another call to the doctor to let them know that we were coming in, we packed everything up, jumped in the car, and made our way back to the hospital. We were still in shock by the quick turn of events but there was an odd calm in the car despite the bitterly cold winds blowing the snow all over the roads. By 5am we pulled up to the labor and delivery entrance to Bryn Mawr Hospital. Not surprisingly, the doctor confirmed what we had suspected, what my wife had surmised an hour prior and we knew that the by the time the day ended we would have a small addition to our family.

With family already beginning to arrive, we were escorted into the operating room where I was able to peek over the curtain and see my son being born. As many of you know, when your child is first born they look like a cross between an alien and a miniature member of the blue man group but that doesn’t make you think twice about wanting to reach over and hold him. At 9:14am our son, John Louis, was born and our priorities forever changed. If only the post office delivered packages this early we would never have a problem with the postal system again.

Unfortunately, since my wife was diagnosed with the flu less than 24 hours prior, we are confined to gowns and masks for the duration of our stay in the hospital. With that said, that hasn’t deterred us from holding him every chance that we have had today and just looking in awe at the beautiful boy that we have brought to this world. Now the real work and the real worry begins as I hope to be a good father in addition to being a good husband. However, the second that I saw him I knew in that instant that I would do anything for him.

Happy Birthday My Beautiful Baby Boy!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine’s Day Flu

After a long week for both me and my wife when sleep seemed more like an option rather than a requirement, we headed out to dinner at the local Cheesecake Factory on Friday night. Seemed appropriate since we were coming from her mom’s house and this was the place where the three of us would commonly meet. After the experience we had (it takes talent to mess up a plain well done cheeseburger three times in a single night) it is safe to say that we will not be returning.

The rest of the night was about as uneventful as we could expect. Not easy as we are heading into the last couple of weeks of the pregnancy which has a certain effect on her demeanor which is compounded by the other emotional events that are swirling around our daily life. But it was the weekend and while we didn’t have any particular plans, trips, or even gifts, we were till going to do our best to enjoy a final Valentine’s Day before the baby arrives.

We had our weekend planned out to both take a few moments for ourselves but also to spend some much needed time with family. When we got up on Saturday morning those plans quickly changed as my wife could feel the very beginnings of a fever beginning to surface. All the plans that we had were immediately thrown away and we focused on doing our best to relax and spending a day at home.

By the early afternoon my wife wasn’t feeling any better so we gave the doctor a call to determine what our next course of action should be. Given the fact that she is 38 weeks pregnant it really wasn’t a surprise when they told us to head to the emergency room and get checked out. Hours, numerous tests, and a few naps later and we were finally told that the flu shot that sent her to the same emergency room in October didn’t work.

Once we were able to jump through all the hoops we were finally able to head out the door just as the snow was beginning to pick up. Of course, since it was now nearly eight at night there was only one pharmacy near our house which was open and able to fill the scripts. Four pharmacies and a quick Chinese food take out later and we finally made it home around nine. Everything seemed to settle down and we were both looking forward to sleeping in. That was the thought until my wife began waking me up in the middle of the night saying that her temperature wasn’t going down. It was going to be a long night but at least I didn't get stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for eight hours like I did last year. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Firearms Friday: The Virtues Of The 1911

No matter what range you go to, forum you visit, or magazine you read there is always the debate going back and forth between those who see the 1911 as the be all end all of firearms and those who are of the striker fired persuasion. This has been especially true with the new Army sidearm trials to replace the Beretta M9 (which replaced the 1911 in 1985 at the Army’s service pistol). There are those caught in the middle but there are always people that you can find on either side of the spectrum. It makes you wonder what John Browning would think of these exchanges.

Personally, I like to enjoy a variety of firearms so I was never one to participate in the back and forth. However, it was more due to my lack of experience with the platform. It was basically for the same reasons that you may have heard over and over… limited magazine capacity and a caliber that didn’t have a tremendous appeal to me. I have always been a proponent of accuracy over power.

Over the last couple of months I have come to appreciate the 1911 platform. I have become more familiar with the caliber (largely due to the recent drop in ammunition prices that have been seeing) and I have seen the prices of the firearms come down as well. While there is certainly a big difference between the entry level 1911’s (under $1000), mid-range ($1000-1500), and high end (well over $1500) there have been great deals from quality manufacturers. This was particularly true when Para Ordinance was offering a $100 rebate at the same time that my local shop, Tanner’s Sports Center, was running a special on all stainless steel expert models for just under $450. This is a firearm that is easily on the upper end of the entry level category with an MSRP north of $700.

Once I had gotten a handle on the manual of arms and really started enjoying the firearm itself I started looking at the other options out there. While I did have some familiarity with the market and I was aware that the 1911 is currently manufactured in a variety of calibers, I didn’t realize how much the capacity had increased on some models. I knew that the round count was higher but I wasn’t aware of the fact that it was 14+1 of .45ACP, 16+1 of .40S&W, or 18+1 of 9mm.

Weight and size have also been noted as downsides to the Browning design but even that is changing with barrel lengths ranging from 3-5 inches and frames being made from various materials other than steel including polymer, titanium, and aluminum. While still not light it is perfectly manageable for many who prefer carrying the classic. Weight and size shouldn’t be more of a factor beyond any consideration they are given with regard to any other type of firearm.

In the end, with my experience, many of the arguments against the 1911 have been made moot in recent years. There is a choice in caliber, capacity, and weight as well as a variety of manufacturers across the entire pricing spectrum offering a wide array of options to the shooter. It really has become a truly customizable firearm beyond the confines of the serious competitive shooting market. If you just want something for the range I highly recommend picking one up and if you are comfortable with carry cocked and locked there really isn’t a better concealed carry option available.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Don’t Be Albert Brooks!

All the extra hours at the office and at home this week came to a head today as many of my colleagues were out of the office at a client meeting in Judgement City. Actually, it was more than a meeting. We have spent the last couple of weeks preparing for our defense as our client (at the direction of someone else in the company) opened up the business to a variety of public relations firms. Thankfully, we not only have the knowledge and relationship to back us up but we have the results to demonstrate the work that we have put into this account over the past year.

Having previously met with this particular client and with everything that is swirling around in my life right now, we all agreed that I should stay at the office and make sure that someone was actively working on the account while we were also defending the business. It really was an odd feeling sitting at my desk and pitching another great story while my colleagues were making our case. However, no matter how unique the situation, I still had a job to do and so I put my head down and pushed like I have every other day of the year.

So during the middle of the meeting, I am sending emails to our client of the opportunities that have been secured and the interviews that have been requested. Nearly every person in the room was receiving the same email demonstrating another successful product launch as the challenges were fielded in a small conference room. We all had a job to do today and frankly I am glad that I was back in the office doing what I know how to do best… getting media coverage.  

While this is going on I could help but think of Albert Brooks in Defending Your Life. Actually, it is more along the lines of the Meryl Streep character in that movie when everyone knows that she lived a full life without fear but she still has to go through the process and stand trial anyway. While I certainly would have liked to have achieved more over the past year (this is the common disease that every successful person and firm in this industry shares), the work that we did get done could not have been matched by another firm.

The meeting is over and soon the week will be coming to an end. Now we wait for the decision while we continue pitching, scheduling, and producing the results that we have been since the relationship began. After all, this process is nothing new and we still have a job to do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Late To Lodge

As I wrote yesterday, time has not been kind to me and last night was the perfect example of that. For an extra meeting I usually try to get out of the office between 5:30 and 6 but with a major presentation scheduled for Thursday, I was in the midst of a meeting throughout the afternoon and into the early evening. 6 o’clock came and went soon followed by 6:30. When I walked out of the door at 6:40, with a pile of work that needed to get done later that night, I knew that I was going to be cutting it close for the 7:30 meeting so I texted the Worshipful Master and let him know of my delayed arrival time.  

Pulling into the parking lot there was only a minute left before things where scheduled to get started and I still had to get in the door, head downstairs to my office, change, and grab a Bible. I have missed a couple of meetings in the past, only one since becoming Secretary, but this was going to be the first time that I would be arriving late. So I prepared as fast as I could and made my way up the stairs and continued resisting the urge to reply with “land shark” from behind the closed door.

Thankfully, when I knocked into the meeting the candidate had yet to enter and I was granted a few minutes by the Worshipful Master to collect myself and get situated at my desk. As soon as I sat down, we officially started the degree portion of the night. I am glad that my brothers waited a little as the candidate last night is someone that I was looking forward to seeing take the next step. Many of us have been impressed with both his eagerness to learn and his ample participation thus far (even before he officially became a mason). I look forward to seeing him thrive in the lodge and in Freemasonry in general.

The evening came to a close with the brethren converging on the newly raised Mason to congratulate him and sign his Bible. Soon after many sought me out to remind me of a variety of things that needed to be taken care of and ask for my assistance with others. At this point I have pretty much gotten used to this routine after meetings. However, as we walked down the stairs one of my brothers, knowing all that I am juggling at this time, made good on his countless offers and removed one of the small but still time consuming tasks from my list. Yes, I actually took him up on his insistence this time.

We all went our separate ways once we ventured back out in to the bitter cold. A few headed off to the brewery across the street, several went home to enjoy some down time with family, and I made my way back home to tuck my wife and son into bed and get a few hours of work done before passing out. By the time I went to bed it was 2 in the morning which was only made worse by the fact that the week wasn’t even half over. Just one of those weeks but at least I was able to forget all of that for just a little bit last night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Busy Seems To Be An Understatement

Yep. The clock pretty much looks like that right now.
Every day I try to take a few minutes either at the office or at home to just breathe. This is especially true during the weekend when I really don’t want to think about all that needs to be done both around the house and at the office. Of course, the housework can’t be pushed back especially with so little time left. However, lately the same has been true with work as more and more projects and tasks have piled on top of the regular schedule.

Those few moments during my week have been absent as of late with every moment accounted for during the waking hours (and some while I am trying to sleep). Just as one thing begins to fade into the background two or three more come raging to the forefront leaving both my wife and I trying to scramble to just get through the day. This is one of the big reasons why I hate it when people change their schedules or let us know of commitments at the last minute. With all that we are dealing with right now, we need all the support that we can get and sometimes it is lacking.

While we see many of our friends and family taking time to travel, eat out, and sometimes simply relax our days, especially weekends, have been filled with places that we have to be and last minute dinner decisions. On Saturday we finally found the time to sit down and have a dinner out… while Five Guys is not the fanciest place, it was quick and allowed us to get back home and take care of a few more things. There is no time left in the day for anything nicer or travelling much further.

It seems like each night we discover something else that we need to add to our list. Sometimes it is a simple phone call while other times we have to get in the car and either run a few errands, drop things off, or quickly pick up something that we had previously overlooked. Other trips are more regular lately and cannot be put off as we need to visit with family and keep our regular doctor appointments both of which are becoming much more frequent.   

Time being the commodity that it is, this is the poorest that we have ever been. But we have gotten through these things before. While not nearly as difficult as the current situation, we have the strength both in ourselves and our marriage to make it through the days, weeks, and months. While there is no question that we will not be the same after these trials, we will be stronger, healthier, and have a greater appreciation for the life we have and all the memories that can never be taken away.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In Case You Missed It…

Wait, which one is supposed to be the real news guy? 
I don’t know what all the commotion has been about this week regarding Brian Williams. He took the time to publicly apologize giving the perfectly viable excuse of the “fog of war” as to why his accounts, his memories, didn’t quite match up with reality. We should accept his humble gesture and move on. After all, there are so many things that he has accomplished in his life that we should give him a pass because he made a mistake or two in his recollections. Don’t believe me? Fine, here are just a few examples from the incredible life of Brian “Walter Mitty” Williams (well, this is at least how it will be written in Common Core textbooks):

On a moonless night in the middle of the North Atlantic, it was Brian Williams who caste his eyes to the horizon, saw the approaching danger, and yelled down to the desk that they were heading right at an iceberg. Of course, the Captain didn’t heel his advice and didn’t take action until the object was spotted by another lookout. They should have listened to him.

In the final days of the war, Brian Williams had a chance to speak with the president and told him that he should take some time for himself, enjoy a quiet evening with his wife, and reflect on all that he had accomplished. Instead, the president decided that it was best if they went out for the night and see a nice show. Lincoln should have listened to him.

D-Day was actually a one man operation with Brian Williams landing on Omaha beach and single handedly defeating the Third Reich. On a side note, Hitler’s real reason for living in a bunker was to hide from Brian Williams.

The Declaration of Independence was actually only signed by one man. It was Brian Williams listing all of his different aliases.  

Brian Williams was holding the camera when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon. He also told him what to say.

Brian Williams told Adam not to bite the apple.

Contrary to the beliefs held by the children of South Park, Brian Williams could defeat Brian Boitano.

Charlie Daniels didn’t defeat the devil, Brian Williams did.

There has been a lot of news over the last week or so about the stories that Brian Williams has been telling. He spoke of moments and events that certainly happened but he was not there to witness himself. The embellishments and downright lies that he told are things that should not be coming from the mouth of the thinly veiled unbiased journalist/host. This is not the first time that this has happened in the world of journalism and like many of those previous instances, Williams should not continue in his duties. In the end, this week even Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair were sitting at the bar and watching the television in disbelief.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Not Much Longer Now…

Enjoying the quiet while it lasts!
I really don’t know where the time has gone. It feels as though we had just surprised the family only a short time ago with the announcement but it has now been eight and a half months and our son’s arrival is fast approaching. On the one hand I wish that we had more time to prepare the house and ourselves but on the other hand I can’t wait for the day when we can meet our baby.

The emotions have been running high lately with the stress even higher. The one constant during this time has been the comfort that our child brings when I feel him moving beneath my hand. Having him already starting to bond with me in that small way has made many days and countless moments bearable and the world just a little bit better. It is interesting to think that his arrival will make things so much more complex but at the same time simplify things like we have never experienced before.

Both of us have our moments of eagerness, times of stress, and instances of panic and nervousness. There are times when we want the birth to happen right then and there and other moments when we wish we had just a couple more weeks. With so many things that have been going on I wish we had more time to enjoy the anticipation and excitement. Those moments have been too few and far between.

Looking back there are moments that I will forever cherish... remembering the moments when decisions were made, furniture was slowly constructed, and the times when I was able to stand back for a few minutes and watch my wife fold baby clothes and put them away. I will never forget those moments that the two of us shared. They will remain prominent right there with the moments when we told our parents, the first time we saw our son and heard his heartbeat, and the even going back to the instant when we both agreed that we were ready to start a family many years ago sitting along King George Street in Jerusalem.

It has been a long time coming and while it may not have seemed like it was moving along so quickly in the moment, time has moved so fast and I wish we could just slow things down so we could enjoy the moments, minutes, and seconds. So many things have changed since that instant when we found the strength to become parents and all the trials since that discussion have continued to prepare us for what is just over two weeks away. While I still question whether I will be a good father I know that we will be a great family. Or, at the very least, an interesting one.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Scout Night

Growing up I was not a Boy Scout and I can’t recall ever having the desire to be one. I remember a few of my friends coming to school in their uniforms but never gave it a second thought. However, while I may not have participated in my youth that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the dedication and commitment that is displayed by those who don the uniform… including those who have been involved for 60+ years.

On Thursday we had an open program to recognize a few of the scout troops in the area as well as those brothers that continue to be involved in scouting. It was a program a little different from others that we have had in the past, at least those that I have been present for, and it was nice to see the bonds that these boys had with one another through an organization. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?

For those of us who only have the faint memories of childhood to color our perspective on the Boy Scouts, it was a welcomed introduction to what motivates those boys who choose to be members. For those who have and maintain those ties to their respective troop, it was a means to share a little bit about themselves with the brethren. Additionally, it was great to see the two dozen or so scouts be recognized for the values that they hold in front of their families.

For the lodge, it was a means to share the similarities of Freemasonry with the youth so familiar with the character and commitment that we have in common. While we don’t expect them to become masons when they come of age it was a means to show them that there are other organizations out there that hold their members to the same high standards. They all recognized the shared morals and attributes that Masons and Scouts have and it was a way to demonstrate that there are other places where they can turn to find people with the same make up beyond scouting.

The night was a great introduction for all of us… Masons to scouting and Scouts to Freemasonry. And it was a perfect night to recognize those brothers who continue to embrace both with the same zeal that they possessed upon their first introduction to each. Hopefully this turns out to be only the first of many evenings when we can share our common bonds, goals, and those things that make each and every one of us a little bit better. The scouts turn boys into good men and freemasonry takes good men and makes them better.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Firearms Friday: Banning All Means Of Self-Defense

There have been countless bills in recent history that have been specifically designed to limit firearms ownership and essentially strip the rights away from people to defend themselves. That simple and devious objective has recently been broadened to include those items that are truly, by any political definition, defensive. By this I am of course referring to the bill proposed last month by Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) deceptively titled the “Responsible Body Armor Possession Act”. As summarized on the Congressional website:

Amends the federal criminal code to prohibit the purchase, ownership, or possession of enhanced body armor, except: (1) by or under the authority of the United States or any state or political subdivision, or (2) enhanced body armor that was lawfully possessed before the effective date of this Act.

Defines "enhanced body armor" to mean body armor, including a helmet or shield, the ballistic resistance of which meets or exceeds the ballistic performance of Type III armor, determined using National Institute of Justice Standard-0101.06.

That’s right, the same people that want to strip you of right to bear arms also want to eliminate any possibility to defend yourself once those firearms have been taken away. Once again, we are all caste in the same pool as those who perform illegal, insidious, and barbaric acts with firearms. For a group that likes to focus so intensely on the lives of the one percent it is interesting that they have no problem ignoring the fact that only a fraction of a percent of the hundreds of millions of firearms in this country are actually used to commit a crime. However, I think that Robert Farago at was much more succinct in his reaction to the bill:

That “argument” presumes that A) active shooters wear Type III bullet resistant vests, B) a ban on Type III bullet resistant vests would prevent active shooters from obtaining and wearing such attire and C) active shooters (wearing Type III bullet resistant vests) are enough of a problem to warrant federal legislation. D’oh! Forgot D) banning Type III bullet resistant vests doesn’t limit law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves

It’s that last one that reveals Honda’s true agenda.

Like all gun control advocates, Honda believes that people are safer under the protection of the bullet resistant vest-wearing police than they are when they take responsibility for their own defense – which could include wearing a rifle-round capable bullet resistant vest. Self-defense is too risky! People who own guns – and wear bullet resistant vests – could turn into active shooters! Hard-to-kill active shooters!

All of this debate has spurred sales of personal body armor and those companies offering that protection at a reasonable price have been inundated by orders resulting in lead times of up to 10-12 weeks. AR500 is probably the best example of this influx of activity and while some customers have been content to wait others have criticized the small Arizona based manufacturer for the delay. However, just like the ammunition shortage we all experienced a few years ago, production can only go so fast if quality is to be maintained.

We all heard the stories of overpowered and underpowered rounds that resulted from the high input to keep up with demand. However, I can confidently say that the AR500 armor is well worth the wait. Despite the political pressure and subsequent order inundation, maintains a high standard. I have seen the quality first hand and despite the lag times that are currently in place and the volume that they are now producing, the quality remains unquestioned and the prices remain the same. Those who are thinking about purchasing should probably hedge their bet now and at least order some plates. After all, grandfathering is a beautiful thing in the face of strict regulation when you know that you are already covered.

With that said, all of this would be so much easier if everyone could simply agree to allow people to defend themselves. All of these bills and fear mongering is getting out of hand and the encouragement of people to rely so heavily on the government is a bit ridiculous. The police do all that they can to protect us but they can’t be everywhere and when something does happen it is going to take them time to arrive on the scene. We can’t fault them for doing all that they can do but, at the same time, you can’t fault us for wanting to protect ourselves.

We don’t need overregulation and bans on everything that anyone has ever used in a crime. We need some real gun sense to finally take hold and for people to embrace the broader concepts of personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and self-defense sense. Those characteristics should be recognized and encouraged for the solid foundation that they provide to a nation of law abiding citizens. We must defend not attack “we the people.”