Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Feed Me!

Every once in a while our son can be rather fussy. During those moments he can cry for a myriad of reasons but usually it revolves around food. Sometimes he is hungry while other times he is just tired. He is an odd little monkey.

Watching my wife feed our child is something beautiful to see. Those of you who have children know what I am talking about. However, there are some moments of humor during those moments that don’t take away from the experience they just add some color to the process. This is even more pronounced when someone other than his mom tries to feed him.

Regardless of who is feeding him the expressions on his face are an interesting study. I’m sure he would fit right in at the Actor’s Studio. Sometimes it can be a subtle smirk while other times it is a slight crinkle as he shifts and stretches. And, of course, there are the red faced moments when you know that an eruption is about to happen.

That is the other part… the sound effects. There is a certain amount of squeaking, grunting, and occasional burping that takes place (usually while his arms and/or legs are going) which is to be expected. There are also the time when he decides to try and communicate by stringing together those grunts and squeaks while gesturing. And, let’s not forget the aforementioned explosions that add a certain punctuation to the process. Let’s just say that our child is rather advanced in this area.

When someone else besides his mom tries to feed him there are a few other things that happen. First, he will give you the look of “what the heck are you doing?” This is followed by a quick look around for his mommy and sometimes a squint and split second cry just before the bottle is put in his mouth. Sometimes he fights the feeding while other times his hunger just takes over. But once he starts, it is pretty much the same regardless of who is feeding him at this point. However, he does seem to enjoy seeing the reaction on faces when he blasts one… mommy has gotten pretty used to it after all.

So the feeding time with baby can be interesting but mostly it is entertaining. This is especially true when he give you a surprised look of “that came out of me?” after he lets go of a good burp or fart. That is probably a look that I will always remember. Funny how the more “interesting” moments and expressions stick with you.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Family Of Three

Sometimes the easiest and hardest thing you can do is to ask someone for help. This is especially true when you have your first child. While there was a part of us that just wanted to do it ourselves, we knew that with everything that was going on around us it would, at the very least, be a difficult undertaking. It is with this in mind that we decided to have a doula (also known as baby nurse or postpartum nurse) assist us during the first month.

We first met one of the doulas when we were still in the hospital trying to center ourselves again after all that had transpired over the first 24 hours as a family. With our son arriving a little earlier than expected, there were a number of projects around the house that we had yet to complete. This is when we experienced one of the big perks of having this extra help as I was able to take her to the house and show her a few of the things that we would like taken care of before we got home (mostly laundry, dishes, and a few organization projects).

When we opened the door, there were a number of things checked off our list. Maybe the most important one was that we were able to go to bed that night and sleep on clean sheets. This support continued for the next several weeks as we became more comfortable with having a newborn in our life and while we had to deal with a variety of other events beyond our control.

As time passed, the help continued to be appreciated (most recently while I was on my annual business trip) but the need to be alone with our son continued to grow. Our routine was taking shape and we looked forward more and more to the times when it was just the three of us. It was time to do things on our own and look to family and friends for the advice we needed from time to time (we still sought the advice before but now it is what we solely rely upon when needed).

We still question whether we held on to the doula safety net too long but, in hindsight, we know that there were moments early on when it would have been a struggle without their presence. But now we have our routine and our son expects to see us rather than someone else when he gets fussy or wakes up in the middle of the night. While the constant support may be good for some for a long period of time, it is not something that we wanted to last and now we can enjoy life as a family of three.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

You Can’t Help But Watch

Maybe it stems from watching too much Three Stooges when I was younger. Maybe it is because I am a rather simple individual. Maybe it is all comes down to intellectual laziness. For whatever reason, there are some movies that when you see them on television, listed on Amazon Prime or NetFlicks, or sitting on top of the 99 cent bin at the store you can’t help but watch them. Not because they are some cinematic masterpiece but because you don’t have to think when the movie is playing… it is all about being able to laugh for the sake of laughing. Some call it comedy in its purest for but I like to take a more honest view and see them as so stupid they’re funny.

Everyone is guilty of having that little list of movies in their mind that when they are playing you almost instinctively stop flipping through the channels or scrolling down the page. Three Stooges still gets me to this day although I have only caught myself watching a few minutes at a time. However, if I hear a familiar Clark Griswold line, a Mel Brooks melody, or Tackleberry’s overly intense and naïve take on a situation I immediately stop searching and enjoy the mental break. I even recall the rare moments when UHF was in constant rotation. However, there is one recent movie that I find watching more than any other which falls into this category… Super Troopers.  

I guess this one can meow be seen almost like the modern day Police Academy but I think it is much better. While there are few lines that I can recall from the 80’s franchise, Super Troopers has provided a variety of one liners that are burned into our brains (along with some unfortunate visuals). Meow that is a classic movie. However, while they made 7 Police Academy movies of varying quality, there has only been one Super Troopers movie. That is, until meow.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed I came across a post by Broken Lizard (the group behind the movie) about an announcement that they were preparing to make. When I checked back in a couple of days later I read about the interesting approach that they were taking to finally deliver on a sequel. As it turns out, they have decided to crowd fund the new project and they are offering some rather unique incentives to those who donate. 24 hours after launching their campaign to raise $2 million for production they far surpassed their goal. It looks like the sequel will soon be a reality and Bimpus sized at that. Of course, you can still grab a perk and make the movie even better. I guess I am not the only one who can’t help watching the movie.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Long Awaited Weekend

I have been looking forward to this weekend for several months now. I knew that this past week was going to be a long one and that is was also going to eat into last weekend as well. In addition to counting down the days until my return from the Midwest, I have also been counting down to the end of the week and being able to shut down the computer for a couple of days (at least as it pertains to work). Of course, that was the plan and as has become commonplace lately, the plans don’t really mean anything.

Everything, as it usually does, seemed to converge today with lodge work coming back to the forefront of my mind (with deadlines attached), work projects not moving along quite as fast as I had hoped, and baby becoming rather fussy yesterday which continued through today. However, even with everything going on it has still been nice just to be home and with my family. While there are many things going through my mind that have to get done, being present is what really matters and what brings me back into the moment (even if that moment involves incessant screaming.

While many people I know would look at what needs to be accomplished at work or at the lodge and deem it important it really doesn’t matter all that much when I am looking at my son trying to figure out what to do to calm him down or when I am able to look at him as he smirks in his sleep. Everything else can wait. Right now I just want to be with my son and enjoy every moment that I can so I don’t regret overlooking these simple moments later as he continues to grow.

With that said, these moments late at night while my wife and son are sleeping have also provided a great respite to both get work done that I have pushed back from the daylight hours but also as a time to reflect and appreciate the day that has just passed. Things seem to be changing so fast lately and every moment that I can slow down and look around (Bueller? Bueller?) I have insisted on taking. After all, work will always be there with the same kinds of projects popping up time and again but these moments in life are a onetime deal and I don’t want to miss them.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Firearms Friday: FUBAR Laws (Chicago Edition)

This past week, everywhere I turned while walking the streets of Chicago I saw signs in the windows and on the doors stating that there were no firearms allowed. It was a rather disturbing sight as I felt a little uncomfortable knowing that the only people that would be carrying in those buildings are law enforcement and those who consciously decided to break the law. While I certainly have no problem with the former, it is the latter group that bothered me. After all, law abiding gun owners are not the problem facing this country, illegal firearms ownership is the issue and I seriously doubt that a sign would prevent them from walking through the door especially when they know that no one inside is armed.

Further, those residents in the state of Illinois have to deal with a myriad of other restrictions. Wikipedia actually does a pretty good job summarizing the hoops that law abiding gun owners must jump through both to purchase and to carry a firearm in the state (keep in mind that the city of Chicago is a whole different beast altogether):

To legally possess firearms or ammunition, Illinois residents must have a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, which is issued by the Illinois State Police to any qualified applicant. Non-residents who may legally possess firearms in their home state are exempt from this requirement.

The state police issue permits for the concealed carry of handguns to qualified applicants age 21 or older who pass a 16-hour training course. However, any law enforcement agency can object to an individual being granted a permit "based upon a reasonable suspicion that the applicant is a danger to himself or herself or others, or a threat to public safety". Objections are considered by a Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board, which decides whether or not the permit will be issued, based on "a preponderance of the evidence". Permits issued by other states are not recognized. Open carry is prohibited in most areas. Without a concealed carry permit, a firearm must be unloaded and enclosed in a case when it is being transported.

There is a waiting period to take possession after purchasing a firearm — 72 hours for a handgun, or 24 hours for a rifle or shotgun. For private sales, the seller must verify the buyer's FOID card, and keep a record of the sale for at least 10 years. Lost or stolen guns must be reported to the police. Possession of automatic firearms, short-barreled shotguns, or suppressors is prohibited. Possession of short-barreled rifles is permitted only for those who have an ATF Curios and Relics license or are a member of a military reenactment group.

Illinois has state preemption only for certain areas of gun law, and some local governments have enacted ordinances that are more restrictive than those of the state.

It is no wonder why Chicago has such a low crime rate! Oh wait, that doesn’t quite add up now does it. Thankfully I am back in Pennsylvania where the laws remain reasonable (for the most part) and I don’t have to worry walking into many of the buildings that are around me. It is amazing what happens to the crime rate once you travel beyond the iron curtain of urban sprawl and the oppressive states that make up a shrinking portion of this country.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back To The Office (Eventually)

While the worst part about traveling for business is being away from my family, running in a close second is the pile of work that needs to be done once I get back to the office. It really doesn’t matter if it is a day or a week, there is going to be a mountain of things that need to be taken care of once you walk into work. This is also true when taking time off (see the posts from last month about the birth of my son) but to a much lesser extent… I have been working all week but there are still things that I have yet to get done.

Of course, it didn’t help this morning that was working from home. We had rescheduled our son’s doctor appointment for later in the morning and I wanted to make sure that I was present for the checkup. We had originally scheduled the visit for 10:50. A few days ago it was bumped up to 10:40 which I wasn’t complaining about. So we arrived right on time (it helps that the office is only a couple blocks away) and we waited. This was followed by more waiting. And additional wait ensued after that until we were finally brought back to the examining room about 45 or 50 minutes after our scheduled appointment time.

Everything went well and our baby boy is growing as health but not happy after another shot and being stuck at the doctor’s office for over an hour. I should mention that throughout this whole morning, including the time in the waiting room, I was fielding calls from work and lodge trying to keep everyone calm and projects moving along as scheduled. As soon as we got home I had to immediately grab my work bag, turn around, and head to the office.

It was nice getting back on the road and at my desk for the rest of the day. That feeling lasted about as long as it took to get my computer back up and running and seeing all the emails updating to my account. I had seen the number of correspondences from my phone but now I took a closer look and saw that they all required my attention and were not just CC’s or updates that I can put off for a little while. A long afternoon followed a long morning but, thankfully, many of the things that I had been dreading seeing on my desk never showed up. I am still trying to catch up and probably will throughout the weekend but there was good progress made despite the chaos and delays of the day.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Returning Home

This morning I woke up to the reassuring thought that tonight I would be home sleeping next to my wife and son. However, there was a long day ahead of me and a conference call that was about to start moments after I stumbled out of bed. During this postponed weekly call I couldn’t simply let the productive few morning moments pass me by so I used the time confined to my room to take care of a last blast of emails and packed my bag. With a few minutes to go I had everything ready and as soon as I hung up the phone I was out the door.

After returning the key cards to the front desk, I made my way across the street and walked through the Hilton on my way to the show shuttle. Before inspecting the line I swung through the gift shop in search of an item required for my return to the office tomorrow… a Chicago refrigerator magnet. It may seem odd but it had become tradition that each time we travel to a new place for work we pick up a magnet for the office fridge. We have put together quite the collection from across the country.

With the line for the shuttle painfully long which would have prevented me from making to the booth on time, I made the detour to the front of the building, hailed a cab, and was at the convention center with a little breathing room. Enough time to check my coat and bags and make my way to the booth before the first scheduled meeting of the day. I guess it is a good thing that I was busy this morning because it left me little time to think about getting back home to my family.

The morning flew by with a number of excellent conversations and introductions including an interesting discussion with a fellow brother that happened to be passing the booth. Immediately after lunch it was time to leave the floor and so I made my way, along with the CEO and his wife, back to the coat check and out to the sidewalk to catch the final cab of the trip. Thankfully the show was a success and the hard work that everyone put in paid off so the conversations during the 40 minute drive was of a great experience and looking forward to the show next year in Atlanta.

Everything went as smoothly as possible at the airport (unlike my departure on Sunday) and I found myself with a little extra time before the flight. With nothing else that needed to be done I found a little restaurant where I could sit down for a late lunch and called the office to give a little update and my wife to tell her how much I looked forward to getting back home. Before I knew it I was on the plane, propped up against the window, and fast asleep with my legs crumpled against my briefcase.

The flight landed on time with me waking up just before the wheels touched the ground. After a bit of a wait outside the baggage claim (for some reason we pulled into the international terminal) I was soon nested next to my son as my wife drove us away from the cluster of a pickup area. It was a great feeling to be home and finally reunited with my family. While I may have woken up in Chicago, I will be going to bed with my wife and son tonight. A perfect end to a business trip.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Long Day Away From Baby

Given how things played out last year, I expected things to be busy today at the trade show. What I didn’t expect was sheer volume of people that would be attending the show. What had taken me 20 minutes to go from getting on the bus to the booth, was now an hour voyage through the sea of attendees and exhibitors. Thankfully, I had left early enough that I still made it to the booth with plenty of time to spare before the first appointment that I had booked for the day.

As the day flew by you could tell who had been at the show for both days walking up and down the aisles. Sore feet and slow moving legs were apparent. And, of course, there was the larger than life crowd… the ones that made me look like the after picture from a weight loss commercial. It was a constant fluffy wave that made you think twice when you took a lunch break or went over to the cart to get a cup of coffee.

While our booth was busy throughout the day with only a handful of moments when we were left to ourselves, there were other companies when the exact opposite was true. It was rather odd to see the lack of interest that they were inciting especially in a room where there were more than a few niche companies and products that were constantly talking to customers all day. Makes me glad that some of our previous discussions never panned out but also make me wonder how we could have made the show different for them.

Even during the numerous humorous and busy moments, I couldn’t help but think about what I might be missing back home. I kept thinking about my wife and son and hoping that he wasn’t missing me too much. While he may not be aware of everything he does know when I am out late and I am certain that he knew I was gone.

Those times were tough but it was also nice getting those pictures and videos from my wife and sharing them with those around me. While I may not have been able to talk to him, I could at least talk about him. That was my way of getting through the times when I missed him most and the best way that I was able to relate to those around me who all had kids. That is how I got through today!

Monday, March 23, 2015

This Is Spring?

I took this picture as I left the office on Friday. 
As I drove to work on Friday I had to keep telling myself that spring was finally beginning and all of this will come to an end soon. The spring snow kept falling throughout the day seemingly more intense every time I picked my head up from my computer and looked out the window. Honestly, I was just thankful that it was happening on Friday rather than over the weekend causing some kind of delay in my travel plans.

When I arrived in Chicago yesterday I looked at the forecast to see what the temperature was going to be like over the next few days not thinking about the possibility of precipitation. Of course, they were predicting some more spring snow. It was going to be an interesting start to the week and to the trade show.

I woke up this morning wondering if the weather had blown through during the night. When I opened the blinds it certainly hadn’t blown through, it was still blowing. While there was only about 6 inches expected, the blizzard conditions coming off of Lake Michigan made for an interesting adventure just walking outside between buildings. The bus ride was interesting as well.

My boss took this picture from the bus as we made out way to ProMat this morning.
In addition to the disagreeable weather, the news was also reporting travel times of nearly 2 ½ hours from the airport to downtown. With the sideways snow still whipping through the air, we all anticipated at least a slow start to the show. While the expected inundation at the gate may not have come to fruition it was a surprisingly steady crowd and the morning saw a nice pace of interest at the booth. Of course, it makes me wonder what could have been had we been fortunate enough to have good weather.

With the snow having stopped sometime during the day, we all headed back to the hotel to put our feet up and relax for a few moments. After a few quick calls and several emails, it was time to head back down to the lobby to meet up for dinner. It is always a great feeling to get together at these moments with a client after a successful day and before I knew it we departed the delectable Park Grill and went our separate ways to reconvene in the morning.

Of course, as many of my days have lately, there was an interesting moment that concluded the night. As I was enjoying the surprisingly warmer evening (the temperature had actually gone up since the morning) I was approached by a rather gregarious man who was obsessed with my salt covered shoes. While apprehensive upon our initial encounter we were able to converse a bit and I eventually found out that I was talking with the Shoe Shine King of Michigan Avenue.

While I didn’t have much cash on me, only a couple dollars left from the day, he insisted that my shoes needed to be shined. So out on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, I put my foot on his knee and I ended up with shoes that haven’t looked this good in years. An interesting end to a day that had a rather interesting beginning. Hopefully, the shine lasts as long as the show.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Hardest Part

There have been many difficult moments during these early days of parenthood with the hardest of which happening today. Last night I couldn’t sleep as I didn’t want today to come. I knew that when I woke up the morning would go too fast and my departure would arrive too soon. This morning I woke up knowing that I would have to leave my family for a few days while I traveled to Chicago for work.

The plane was scheduled to depart just after lunch so we all piled in the car around 9:30 so that there wouldn’t be any timing issues. With my wife behind the wheel I sat beside my son staring at him as the mile markers streamed by the window. It was a ride that seemed to go on forever and one that ended way too soon.

While he usually sleeps whenever he is in the car, this time was different. He kept opening his eyes and looking at me as if to catch one last glimpse before daddy had to leave. Each time this happened was just as hard as the last.

When we arrived I moved slowly to prolong the moment. I kissed my son and kissed my wife. Then I watched them drive away as I made my way to the terminal doors.  

Even with the cluster at the counter when I found out US Airways and American Airlines aren’t talking anymore, the confusion at security where there were no signs directing which line to get in, and the debacle at the gate when seat assignments were handed out to all passengers, I still kept thinking about the looks from my son each time he woke up in the car. It is a look that persisted in my mind throughout the day. Even later in the night during the client meeting and after that sending time with a friend that I haven’t seen in over 3 years, I was still thinking about my wife and my son.

It is interesting to think about the changes that have occurred since the last time that I was on a business trip like this. Last year this whole thing was still new having only been at the company for 6 months, it was just my wife and me, and the whole business travel was something with which I was still unfamiliar. While by no means old hat, it is just a different experience this year. Same company, similar trip, a new son, and reconnecting with an old friend.

Things are different this year. It is going to be a great trip and an excellent event but I know my thoughts will remain with my family. Three nights until I can see my wife and son again. Until then, I have to work and enjoy the pictures that my wife will certainly be sending me. Those are the moments to look forward to each day.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What’s In A Name?

One of the hardest if not the hardest decision that my wife and I have had to make was when we had to come up with a name for our son. We went back and forth countless times and consulted more books and websites than I can recall each time writing down anything that appealed to us. We couldn't decide between choosing a traditional Jewish name and those names that can be found in our extensive family trees. After we each wrote a few options down we would share with one another. This eliminated many of the options. More still were eliminated when we considered the names of some of our young relatives.

After several months going back and forth we had a few options both of first names and middle names, Jewish names and family names, some that we both really liked and others that had a certain amount of indifference with one or both of us. About a week before our son arrived we sat down and looked at the options that we both liked. We played around with the names switching between first and middle as well as family and non-family names. We also considered some of the surnames on my wife’s side for the middle name… after all it has worked for me.  

I guess there were about 5 first and 5 middle names that it came down to. Not being able to figure out what exactly fit our son we both took turns just saying them out load to see what sounded right. This is when we notice something very special. Each time we read the names our son decided to cast his vote. It didn’t matter whose voice, he consistently kicked, punched, or head butted when we would say each name… one first and one middle. Not many parents can say that their son chose his own name but we can.

His first name is one that runs throughout both sides of my family. When looking throughout the tree I see it across many branches with various surnames in tow: Teaford, Hallman, Uttley, Redcross, Cooke, Clapsaddle, Ardis, Noblit, and a few others. It runs throughout the generations and it has always been a family name. In addition to the recent significance and honor that the name carries it was also the name of my great great grandfather Uttley, a member of the Philadelphia Police Department for over 50 years, who raised my grandmother after her parents divorced. My 5th great grandfather Redcross, member of the Monacan Nation and Revolutionary War soldier. My great grandfather Hallman who served in WWI. My 5th great grandfather Noblit, one of the early residents of Middletown Township in Delaware County who saw much of his property seized during the Revolution.

With our son selecting his first name from my side his middle name had to be one of significance in my wife’s family. Thankfully our son agreed and chose a name which, according to what I have been told is the name of the last in a long line of Rabbis on my wife’s side. My wife’s great grandfather Greenburg may have passed nearly a decade before she was born but his legacy still lives to this day. Born in Romania and having come to the United States around the turn of the 20th century as a child, he supported his family the best he could and raised my wife’s grandmother whom she still misses. In the end, our son chose names from the men who raised both of our grandmothers to which we were very close. He also made picking a Hebrew name really easy. 

So some many see it and wonder how we came up with the name and we have been asked that many times over. We did consider the origins of the names (which did seem to fit our son) but the family meaning behind them is far more significant. While we have both given the short answer during the course of conversations, now you have the full story behind the name. Our son has a part of each of us, myself and my wife, but more importantly he carries with him a long family history on both sides of which he can be proud and all he has to do to remember that is look at his own name.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Firearms Friday: The Calm Of Cleaning

As I have written before in the past, I am not a fan of cleaning. It is definitely not a secret. I like having a clean and organized space but I could do without the process by which that is achieved. I know for certain that I am not the only one that feels this way but, like many things, there are always exceptions.

I have found that there are many people like myself that dislike cleaning in general but actually enjoy the act of cleaning when it comes to firearms. You would be amazed, well at least those of you unfamiliar with this set of tools, at how many cleaning products the average gun owner has at their workbench or in their cleaning kit. There seems to be a solution for ever kind of grime, a brush for every surface, and a new product coming out every few months that is supposed to make the process easier.

While I have limited the supplies that I have and use on a regular basis every once in a while I will try something new. While those solvents and cleaning tools are fine for a little while I find myself reverting back to the old way of doing things. It is a time consuming process no matter how you approach it but it is one of those things that lets you just tune things out for a few minutes. No other form of cleaning has the same effect.

Maybe it is the detailed work that is involved in making sure every corner is cleaned. Maybe it is the importance of making sure that everything functions properly. Maybe it is the appreciation for the engineering, design, and overall beauty of the workmanship as the carbon is removed. I actually think it is a little bit of each of those things.

And I know that I am not the only one. I have had this discussion many times over with people I know are not the tidiest human beings but their firearms are impeccable. It is one of the oddities that is within many of us. I guess it is similar to the person that frequently washes and polishes their car but that could care less if the dishes are piled up in the sink. I am sure that there are other examples but that is the one that comes to mind and that seems to most closely parallel.

Of course, I have also seen those people who just don’t clean anything or actually have the opposite situation… they keep everything in their world neat and organized but they never clean their firearm. I have seen many accidents and witnessed beautiful pieces of engineering ruined by this neglect. In the end, there are some cleaning projects that can be put off and there are others that can’t be postponed.

Maybe the enjoyment that many of us have in the process of cleaning will slowly grow and include many other aspects of our daily lives. You never know, it could happen. Until then, I will just focus on the small things and continue looking forward to the end results of others to motivate myself in getting it all done even if it is sporadic at times.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Good Place To Sleep

When we first moved into our last place we didn’t have much to fill the space and it took some time before we were able to make the small apartment comfortable. Over time we accumulated a fair amount of stuff and by the time we finally got out of that building we were able to fill much of our current house. In fact, it was nice spreading things out across multiple rooms.

Since we first hauled everything through the door it has, once again been a slow accumulation of stuff. The vast majority of these new items were not optional as we had a long list of things that our son was going to need both when he arrived and soon after. It is safe to say that this has filled the rest of the rooms and overall space that we gained when we moved here.

However, of all the things that we have accumulated lately (more about that in a separate post) there are a couple of items that are particularly meaningful to us. As has been evident in many of the posts on this blog (another one is on the way), family is very important to me and my wife. This is why we were excited when my mom thoroughly cleaned the family bassinet so that we could use it in our home (it has been around many cats over the years). My grandparents bought the bassinet 75 years ago and it has been passed around the family ever since providing a bed to countless relatives.

It wasn’t until after our son arrived that we were given something from my wife’s side of the family with the same kind of history behind it. My wife’s cousin approached us and said that she had something very special for our son. As it turns out my wife’s great grandmother had knitted a blanket over 40 years ago for her cousin but, for one reason or another, it was never used. It was put away in a closet for over four decades before they decided to give it to our son.

The two are now together… two families now one. We don’t hold on to many items that carry so much history but it is nice to have just a few that we can use and, more importantly, that our son can use. Now, every day, our son takes his naps surrounded by both sides of his family and over 100 years of combined history.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Donate Space, Donate Blood

On an almost daily basis lately, there seems to be one thing or another that I need to address when it comes to keeping things running as smoothly as possible at the lodge. Sometimes I can help while other times I am not sure that there is anyone that can offer assistance. A midst all of the phone calls and emails this week revolving around a variety of lodge matters, there was one particular call that I didn’t expect. A call that allowed me to take action on behalf of the lodge and make something happen to help someone else.

As you may recall, the lodge conducted a blood drive in December and for the event we had a pretty good turnout especially given the fact that this was the first time that many of us were in charge of coordinating and the fact that we were late in scheduling the day and time with the Red Cross. Well, afterward everyone left happy with a respectable turnout and a lot of donations made. It wasn’t the easiest thing to pull off but the results motivate us to ensure that we make this an annual occurrence.

We had come up with a preferred date toward the beginning of the year and while I had been meaning to call the coordinator I simply haven’t gotten around to tracking her down. Yesterday I didn’t have to call her, all I had to do was pick up the phone. As it turns out, the Red Cross needed our help. The venue that they were scheduled to use on April 18th was now unavailable and so the scheduled blood drive had everything but a location.

After making a few calls and making sure many of the brothers were on board I was able to call her back and offer her, on behalf of all the brothers, the use of the lodge for that particular day. While it was by no means an expected task during a busy week, it was gratifying to know that we were able to help in some small way. Of course, while I had her on the phone I also booked our blood drive for the fall on Saturday, October 3rd, from 10am to 3pm.

I guess it is a simple lesson that while it is good to seek out ways to help the community sometimes you just have to keep yourself open and pick up the phone when it rings. You never know, you could make a difference just by answering. So, whether you are free in April or October (or both), take some time out of your day, give something to those in need, and donate blood.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding The Kelly Green Leaves

There are certain days during the year when everyone seems to assume the same nationality for one reason or another. Some people do it because they like the color green, some because they use it as an excuse to drink, and others because they just enjoy the atmosphere of the day. However, for many of us it is an excuse to look deeper into our roots. St. Patrick’s Day is probably the best example of this community participation.

Being Irish was not really something that was a focus for me growing up. In fact, nationality was never really something that was a focus for anyone in my family. We were all born in the United States, our parents were, our grandparents, and our great grandparents so the tether to the boat was quite long. It wasn’t until we really started taking a closer look in recent years (at least for me) that I became more interested and connected to the various heritages that I carry with me.

It started on my dad’s side as I still remember driving down to Virginia in the summer of 1987 and spending the long weekend at the family reunion. This was a little different than the typical reunion that comes to mind as each person in attendance could trace back to the original German/French ancestor that arrived in Philadelphia on 27 October 1764. Good luck trying to figure out how you’re related to each person.

We never knew much about all the other branches on my dad’s side but that has developed substantially over the past decade or so. There is far more than just German blood in that tree as there are lines across various parts of Europe as well as deep native roots her in the United States. However, while there is an assortment of nationalities, there is only a faint touch of Irish blood on that side.

Much of my Irish heritage comes from my mom’s side of the family and, growing up, we were never certain that some of our leaves were a vibrant Kelly green. Once we put a few pieces together and determined that the original surname was McKenna there was little doubt that the family’s arrival in the middle of the 19th century was from Northern Ireland. Tracing your Irish roots back to the potato famine isn’t very unique but at least now we know.  

Like my dad’s side, my mom’s side of the family is also an interesting mix coming from various parts of Europe. And just like the German blood is thick on one side, the Irish blood is thick on the other. Actually, given the tendencies of each, it might be pretty watered down. So have a drink… you may find out one day that you’re Irish. Sláinte!

Monday, March 16, 2015

One Fast Month

It is hard to believe that a month has already passed since our son decided to surprise us. We had been planning for his anticipated arrival for many months but when he showed up we were taken off guard. Even if everything had gone according to plan I think we still would not have felt as if we were prepared. I guess that just comes with the territory.

Since that early February morning, things have been a little hectic to say the least. It has been both a challenge and a time of wonder watching him adapt to life outside of the womb. Each day there is something a little different. Sometimes it is a rather unpleasant surprise (hence the TMI Tuesday posts) while other times there are moments of awe when my son hears me come home from work and smiles.

The nights can sometimes be long (more so for my wife) and the days go by way too fast. I don’t know where the last month has gone. All the while we have done our best to adapt and get acquainted with the fact that our life is completely different and our priorities have changed significantly.

There have been moments when people have been tremendously helpful and there have been times when those people, contrary to their good intentions, have been quite the hindrance. All the while our son has be surprisingly understanding of all that is going on around him and, for the most part, has not unleashed a plethora of protesting cries. It is a steep learning curve which we sometimes struggle with but have, thus far, been able to keep up.

Now I find myself a lot left that I still have to learn, a stories that I look forward to sharing with my baby, and a schedule that still needs some tweaking. All of this tends to go out the window on a daily basis as our little boy wants nothing to do with schedules and plans. We are all trying to just take things as they come, coordinate the best we can, and see how each day and night plays out.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I can’t look forward to the future so I am slowly forming my baby bucket list that began germinating not long after we found out that we were having a child. Some of the things are common events during development like hearing his first words, watching him crawl and walk for the first time, and enjoying the silence as he sleeps through the night. Other things are very specific like sharing our hobbies, our family history, and taking him to the places that we enjoy visiting.

This is just a quick overview of what I am jotting down here and there. Don’t be surprised if you read a post in the future about many of the things that I am looking forward to doing and sharing with him. But, for now, I am going to keep it simple and enjoy the wonders of the first month and these first memories that my wife and I have of our new life as a growing family.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday Search: Tree Changes

Today begins another regular series of posts that I hope to write each week, Sunday Search. For the most part, I will be writing about genealogy related subjects including recent additions to my family tree, interesting resources or programs, and discoveries that give greater depth to the lives of my ancestors. There is also the plan to write small biographies similar to those that I have done in the past most notably of my grandpop, great grandfather, and great, great, great grandfather.

While there are grand plans for this series, I start today very simply. Recently I had to make a couple of updates to my tree. One that I had been dreading for months and the other that I have been looking forward to since last summer. Two changes that clearly demonstrate the dichotomy of the basic information that we all compile as we trace our roots… birth and death.

Both of these additions of information are almost surreal after having spent so much time digging through centuries of family history and piles of ancestral records. It is a change in perception I would previously dig through pages and pages just trying to find out when someone died but now, having experienced that last moment, it was not something that brought me any enjoyment whatsoever and by doing so, I think back to all the other times that I had to record that information for other loved ones in my tree.

From one unique experience to another. There are names that I see over and over again on both sides of my family and by adding my son’s leaf, one of those names repeats itself for another generation. But the name we chose, especially the spelling, was a means to connect my tree and my wife’s tree. Our son’s name adds to that bond between our deeply rooted family histories.

While he certainly doesn’t comprehend any of this now, I look forward to the day when we can introduce our son to his entire family and the history that his name carries with it. Between the two trees, there is a complex history spanning much of the world. My family touches on many areas and different cultures and my wife’s family covers a completely different geography and part of world history.

Each leaf has a little more to add to the family history just as each piece of fall foliage adds to the autumnal landscape. All different trees offering a different variety of colors but working in unison to tell the same story. That is what our son has to look forward to and what I am looking forward to sharing with our son.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reconnecting In A New Way

It has been a bit crazy lately with everything that has been going on. If you look back at the most recent crop of posts you can easily figure out why. Adding to all of this is the fact that I am hearing from people on Facebook that I haven’t had conversations with in quite some time. If it happened at any other point it would seem odd but the simple fact of the matter is that as soon as you post the first picture of your new baby (which we keep to a minimum) people come out of the woodwork.

This influx of communications has been great. It has been the perfect excuse to restart conversations and see how people are doing. As many people, family and friends, can attest I am not the greatest when it comes to staying in touch. I am rather sporadic in reaching out to people as there is usually one thing or another that comes up and steals my attention. I am not nearly as bad as I used to be but I am by no means where I would like to be. This is proving to be a tremendous opportunity to fix that at least a little bit.

Social media has always been an issue for me as it is part of my daily work routine so by the time I get out of the office I am kind of done with it. As has been evident, much of my usage of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter has been largely one way rather than the dialogue that it is meant to be. This is why I included the screen shot at the top of this post. This is what social media is supposed to do… it is an alternative means of communication.

With that said, it is still difficult to combine the work and personal and social media is one of those places where I still see it as work. Maybe it is for this reason, or the fact that I am still a traditionalist, that I prefer talking to someone on the phone or writing a letter (an actual letter not email). Those are the places where I can disconnect from work even though I still use each of them during the course of the day.

Social media is where I still have the issue of being able to disconnect but the recent discussions I have had have gone a long way to alleviate that issue. In the end, don’t be surprised if I am not as responsive as most people on social media… I spend too much time on it getting work done for clients and by the end of the day I tend to ignore those sites. Plus, I have seen the good and bad sides of these social sites and I tend to limit much of what I put on there (believe it or not). This is now particularly true as it pertains to my son. However, if you want to catch up and/or talk about the baby feel free to give me a call, write a letter, or send an email.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Firearms Friday: Come And Taken It!

Late last year I was introduced to Para Ordinance. As I previously wrote, I was not a big proponent of the 1911 platform before that time. While I didn’t have anything really against the design it was still a higher price point and, for the most part, one that had limited capacity. Para Ordinance changed that perception for me and early this year my perception of Para Ordinance was altered as well and in a very good way.

Like many firearms manufacturers, Para provides firearms for the movie industry. It is for this reason that you sometimes see different firearms in movies when you know that the police force that is being portrayed does not issue that manufacturer. This has always been the financial game that Hollywood has played… it is all about product placement.

However, Hollywood in general has always had a tenuous relationship with the firearms industry with many of the stars of the movies having very loud and opinionated views on firearms ownership. Case in point, Liam Neeson’s interview in late January with Dubai-based Gulf News during a promotional tour to tout his recent film Taken 3 which he said the following:

“First off, my thoughts and prayers and my heart are with the deceased, and certainly with all of France, yesterday. I’ve got a lot of dear friends in Paris.”

“There’s too many guns out there. Especially in America. I think the population is like, 320 million? There’s over 300m guns. Privately owned, in America. I think it’s a disgrace. Every week now we’re picking up a newspaper and seeing, ‘Yet another few kids have been killed in schools.’”

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion even if they don’t have all the facts. Most of the time, this would be the end of the story but Para Ordinance decided to take a stand. Shortly after the interview went to print, the firearms manufacturer posted a response on their Facebook page:

“PARA USA regrets its decision to provide firearms for use in the film Taken 3. While the film itself is entertaining, comments made by its Irish-born star during press junkets reflect a cultural and factual ignorance that undermines support of the Second Amendment and American liberties. We will no longer provide firearms for use in films starring Liam Neeson and ask that our friends and partners in Hollywood refrain from associating our brand and products with his projects. Further, we encourage our partners and friends in the firearms industry to do the same.”   

The firearms industry and all those who support the right of firearms ownership shouldn’t let such brash comments go without a response and the stance that Para Ordinance has taken is one that we should all support. Hopefully other manufacturers will join suit and instead support those who support the firearms industry and our rights as a whole. After all, this country does not and never has had a gun problem, we have a problem with those people that have deep seeded issues that perpetuate the violence. I was a new fan of Para Ordinance before and now, so long as they hold their ground, I will be a lifelong fan.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When The Mayor Takes Action

Now this is definitely something that I couldn’t see Mayor Nutter doing in the streets of Philadelphia. In fact, I don’t know if I could see any mayor in a major city in the United States doing this in their respective streets. I guess this is one of those situations that demonstrates the clear difference between Israel and the United States and Israelis and Americans in particular.

Last month I was skimming through my news feed and came across an article in Haaretz that immediately got my attention. As it turns out, the Mayor of Jerusalem (a city and a place close to my heart), Nir Barkat, was driving down the road when he suddenly asked his bodyguard to stop the car. He had seen a Palestinian terrorist (and that is what he is) stabbing a Jewish man at Tzahal Square. In the end, the bodyguard pulled his gun causing the teenager to drop the knife and the Mayor wrestled the madman to the ground, subdued him, and offered aid to the victim until police arrived on the scene.

As I stated above, the thing that struck me the most when I came across this article is just how different this kind of story is to someone reading it in the United States. I couldn’t see a mayor from a major city in the states taking action in the same way. Additionally, even if they would simply make a call having seen a similar attack, the need to promote their actions would be quite evident. There would be a much more grandiose gesture following the incident not a simple reflection such as the one Barkat gave in the Haaretz article:

"My bodyguard and I jumped straight out of the car, he drew his weapon and together we caught the terrorist until police arrived, and we took care of the wounded, who, happily, was only lightly wounded."  

Barkat said that when he and his bodyguards faced the assailant, he threw down his knife.

"This too is part of our life in Jerusalem. It's clear that if he would have looked to continue stabbing he wouldn't have been alive now. But he threw the knife away," Barkat said. 

The second half of that quote is particularly striking… “This too is part of life in Jerusalem.” Unfortunately, that is a reality in the holy city and one that continues to be a pervasive certainty in the streets throughout Israel. Terrorism is still a reality and the cause of such incidents continues to be muddled in the pages and reports that are disseminated around the world. It is a crisis that needs to be addressed with more than just talks and 10 year plans.

The means by which the State of Israel is portrayed continues to be inaccurate which has perpetuated protests and attacks throughout the world. Israel as a whole and Jerusalem in particular are a place of peace in a region obsessed with war and Jihad. Until the world accepts the reality that Israel is a peaceful state, terrorism will continue to taint that reality in the streets of Jerusalem.

Thankfully, the Israeli people are some of the most resilient that the world has ever known. They are the reason that Israel remains strong in the face of international accusations and terrorism in the streets. To those leaders, IDF soldiers, and all those who live in the holy land I end this post with two simple words… Thank you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

One Meeting Or Two?

The more you know the harder you laugh!
Since our usual stated meeting was postponed and a degree already scheduled for the evening, last night was an interesting and condensed meeting. As if the scheduling wasn’t enough of a concern, I also had to make a point to have discussions with the Worshipful Master and the Trustees. Some extra fun that I really wasn’t looking forward to but, in the end, everything seemed to smooth out… hopefully my phone will stop ringing now.

Of course, as is the nature of my office, this was not the end of the discussions for the night. There were a number of behind the scenes things that needed to be addressed in order to keep things running smoothly. They were actually great conversations with a lot of progress made to hopefully take care a number of things that have been quite the headache as of late. It simply came down to making sure that everything was communicated and everyone knew what was expected of them. It happens.

Something that I hope to change one of these months is bin able to sit down and enjoy dinner with my brothers. At this point I can’t remember the last time that I was able to grab a plate and sit at a table before a stated meeting. It has been so long that the Steward was ready to make a plate for me to take home after the night was over. He is just one of the many brothers that has taken the time and gone out of there was to make things just a little bit easier for me month after month.

Before and after the meeting, in-between conversations and other duties, I was also turning to many of the brothers in attendance asking for their dues which were now long overdue. And, not surprisingly, the requests continued from various brothers for a variety of reasons which added a number of things to my Masonic to do list. This is something I both dread and look forward to as it allows me to look into some of the things in freemasonry that I may have previously neglected.

Because of all the aforementioned reasons, and the fact that he attended the Secretary’s Seminar last month, my assistant is still astounded that I am able to juggle all of these things. However, I do agree with him that the pay could be better. But no one takes on the responsibilities of this office for financial gain… we enjoy the work and take pride in the role we play in the history of our lodge and the Masonic lives of our fellow brothers.

The meeting itself was the quickest that I have ever experienced and while we may have postponed a lot of the usual business, it was still amazing how fast we were able to move through the night and how much we were able to accomplish. By the time the lodge was closed, I was heading back home as if we had only had one meeting rather than two. My wife still wasn’t happy (mostly because my son insists on waiting up for me) but it could have been a lot worse.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Return To Letter Writing

Negotiations with Iran have long been a polarizing subject from all colors on the political spectrum. This has always seemed a little odd to me given the United States’ tenuous relationship with the country, the vile policies of their leadership, and their attempts to vilify and desire to destroy Israel. To this end, I would support the current nuclear negotiations with Iran if they would simply reverse every position that they have doggedly held on to for so long.

This was the driving force behind Netanyahu’s speech to Congress as Israel can’t afford, nor can the United States, to see Iran develop a nuclear arsenal. To think that this radical country would stick to any agreement let alone one so ill-conceived is naive at best. Believing that they will only use the development and technology for peaceful purposes is like saying Hillary only deleted private emails. It just doesn’t add up.

It was for this reason that Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) penned a letter to the Islamic Republic and why 46 other Senators joined him by signing the letter (the full text of the letter can be found on The Wall Street Journal blog). Contrary to many of the reports from “unbiased” news outlets, this was not an attack on the president nor was it a threat. The letter was a means to demonstrate the significant public opposition to the current negotiations. The current 10 year plan is one that won’t work, one that should not be supported, and if signed, one that should be overturned as quickly as possible to limit the fallout.

With that said, the means by with this message was presented may not have been the best decision. But, again, this is not a means to offend or undermine, it is a way to ensure that the opposition is heard loud and clear. Frankly, it is one of the more transparent actions that I can remember seeing come out of Washington. There was no doubt as to who signed the letter.

The subsequent twisting of the words and assumption of motive is what the public should be up in arms about. That and the idea that there are too many who are placing their trust in the untrustworthy, crossing their fingers, and hoping that there is some semblance honest in the empty promises of a murderous republic. That is simply a stance that I cannot support, Israel does not support, many in the military and intelligence communities do not support, and at least 47 politicians in Washington do not support.