Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Waiting For Daddy

One of the things that I didn’t think about when I decided on my new car was the sound that it makes when I lock it after getting home at night. It is a rather inconsequential attribute and I frankly didn’t car but I wasn’t thinking about how that sound was associated with my return home. With the Malibu, my son had gotten used to the sound it made when I locked the car. He knew that I was home when he heard the noise. Thankfully, the Cherokee makes a very similar sound.

While there are many nights when my car gives away my arrival, there are a several evenings when he is oblivious to my walking through the front door. This is usually the case when he is fussing or sleeping. If he is awake, as soon as he hears my voice he begins looking around trying to find me. It is quite the cute sight. Once he sees me, his eyes brighten and he gives me a big smile (unless he is particularly grumpy that day). I don’t care what kind of day I have had up until then, it is a good day from that point forward.

Because she sees this every work day, this kind of annoys my wife. However, this past weekend I was able to be on the other end of the situation as I watched our son during the day while my wife ran some errands that she had been meaning to get to. Our son was not happy to see his mommy leave but I was able to keep him active and occupied while she was gone. As soon as I heard her pull up and lock the car, I let our baby know, and the search began. As soon as she walked through the door and he turned his head, the same bright eyed smile surfaced.

So I guess we are doing okay so far. Our son looks forward to seeing each of us and misses his mommy and daddy when they have to go out for a while. It makes me think about how hard it is going to be when we put him in daycare and, down the road, when we send him off to school. At the same time, I can still look forward to that smile and the ensuing cooing when we are reunited at the end of the day. That is, of course, if I don’t screw up between now and then.

Monday, June 29, 2015

More Stuff

When our son was born we experienced a massive influx of stuff. Actually, it started well before his arrival basically as soon as we moved into our current rental. Since the time we began unpacking, it seems as though there is something new that comes through the door just about every week. Sometimes even multiple times a week. While it does add to the massive amount of stuff contained within the walls of our home, we remain grateful for each and every one of the gift that we have received.

Of course, this is all in addition to the things that we find ourselves buying for our son as well. You could even say that we are on the verge of having a serious problem with the number of things that we buy for our baby. The things we buy aren’t expensive, they are just the little toys, outfits, and other things that we happen to see in the store or online. Some of them have proven to be necessities while others are far from that definition. Sometimes we just can’t help it and find ourselves coming home from a weekend breakfast with one or two small items from the shop next to the restaurant.

Obviously, we are not the only ones as we have found that there are people on both sides of our families that have the same ‘problem’. Every time we go to a family event, party, or get together, we leave with more bags than that which we arrived. Again, nothing over the top, just the small toys and outfits that others see in the store and can’t resist spoiling our son.

The funny thing is that with each small item I purchase for him he usually ends up with a little money in the bank as well. Especially lately I have found myself paying for things in cash. While I keep a good stockpile of quarters in the car all of the other change goes into his little bank on his bookshelf multiple times per week. I have always had the habit of doing this but now at least it is contributing to something more than just a ‘fun fund’.

The house remains the same size while the amount of stuff within the walls continues to grow. We knew that we would be getting a lot of gifts around the time he was born but we didn’t expect this much or for it to go on for this long. After all, he is only just over 4 months old at this point. I just hope that we doesn’t expect this same generosity to continue when he gets older and given his current indifference to gifts there is a good chance that will be the case.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Graduation Party

Today was one that made me think about my own experiences and left me in a state of slight disbelief. We spent a good part of the afternoon at a family get together to celebrate the graduation of a cousin. Oddly enough, the timing worked out almost perfectly and we were all ready to go and out the door with more than enough time to make it down the highway to the party. Given that we left the same time our son usually eats, this was a surprise to both of us.

The party itself was great. Not only was it nice to celebrate this milestone in life but it was also an opportunity to see a lot of family members that we had not had a chance to speak with since the bris. Things have changed quite a bit since then and the change of pace was welcomed. And, I must say, these people sure know how to throw a party.

One of the things that I couldn’t help but think about was the fact that this year marks 15 years since I had the same kind of celebration. I just can’t believe that it has been that long even though there are many days when it seems like an entire lifetime has passed since I celebrated my graduation along with my siblings (each of them graduated from college the same year). When reflecting on this, there are so many family members that I am friendly with now that I wish I had known better then.

Of course, there are a lot of things that I wish was different about that time in my life. The changes in attitude, perspective, motivation, and experience are staggering when considering my life now compared to my personality immediately after high school. There is a reason why I ended up on the 5 year college program. Thankfully, the one whom we were celebrating today seem to have their head on right and has the motivation to succeed.

When asked to write something to the graduate today there was no way that I was going to say something similar to that above. There really isn’t a need for that. All I could say was to enjoy each day (individually and as a whole), work hard, and take advantage of all the opportunities and experiences that come your way during this time in your life. After all, you may not know exactly where they are going to take you but so long as you keep your head on straight, they will all provide you with a life that is full, vibrant, and makes you excited every day to get out of bed in the morning.

Kind of wish that I had heeded my own advice as a teenager but, in the end, it may have not been a perfect ride so far but I wouldn’t change any of it. Okay, maybe one or two or twelve things but all those experiences made me who I am now and I am pretty darn happy with that. Some of you may not be but I am feeling really good about the way things have turned out.

So, I leave you with this clichéd question to think about (and possibly respond below): Knowing what you do know, the experiences that you have had, and the mistakes that you made, what advice would you give to yourself when you graduated high school?  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What Was That First Line Again?

So is this okay now?
It has been an interesting week to say the least. Actually, it has been an interesting couple of weeks. I glossed over this topic a little in my post yesterday but let's take the time now to dive a little deeper. 

Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling to legalized same sex marriage throughout the United States.  While I don’t have a particularly strong feeling one way or the other, I was intrigued by the first sentence of the ruling which reads, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” It was interesting because it summed up another debate that has been happening across the United States.

This same line could be applied to those who see the stars and bars as a means of self-expression. While the recent history, and interpretation of history prior to the modern era, of that flag have tainted the original perspective, there are some that still hold onto that symbol not for the suppression that it has come to represent but because of the ideal of state’s rights that it stood for. In that vein, there is no denying that slavery played a role in dividing the nation but rights are what lead the country to war.

We have to remember that at that time most were indifferent to the institution of slavery both in the north and the south. However, when the federal government stripped away the rights of the states, that is what the people in the south rallied around. Hence the terms still used to this day “The War of Northern Aggression” and “The Battle for Southern Independence”. State’s rights is why the stars and bars have remained in South Carolina as the state flag flying above the capital.

But, like many things these days, the flag offends people so it must be hidden away and never spoken of again. Many of those same people proudly displayed a bright flag of their own today to support the rights of people. Again, while I don’t care one way or another, I am sure there are many people that are offended by that display of pride. Where is the outcry to remove those flags? Shouldn’t the same rules apply to all people and to all flags?

What it all comes down to is that you can’t have it both ways. You either support the rights of individuals to express themselves and live the lives they want to lead or you want to strip away the rights from people. Frankly, I would like to be left alone. Let me live my life, express myself openly, and enjoy my rights. The government shouldn’t be telling people or states what to do, who to marry, what we can own, what we can display, what we can and can’t say, and overall how we should live our lives. Enjoy your rights and remember this… just say no to big government!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Firearms Friday: Offended By The Offended

Over the past couple of months we have all heard certain people speaking out of both sides of their butt. A month ago ‘unbiased journalists’ across the country went on the offensive convicting all law enforcement because of the actions of a few. Basically, they viewed all cops as violent racists hell bent on shooting black men whenever they got the opportunity.

Before this recent flurry of reporting (actually it has been pretty consistent since the unwarranted presumptions of guilt in Ferguson) and since then with the most recent tragedy in Charleston, those same people are expanding their world view and now they are seeing all cops and southern white men as racist. This, of course, is in addition to anyone associated with the Republican Party (you know, because they are the old white man’s party). I wonder how long it will take before this thinking trickles down to everyone else. How long before those ‘reporters’ shame themselves for being racists? How long before people declare that because it is called the “White House” that it is a racist?   

Of course, that is not the end of the dichotomy… after all this is Firearms Friday. The other side of this is the fact that those same people who see law enforcement as ‘violent racists’ are the ones that cry “you don’t need guns, that’s why we have the police” whenever some psycho goes on a shooting spree. Can you really have it both ways? Oh wait, that’s right, you can. After all, these are the same people that want free health insurance but get upset when more tax money is taken out of their paycheck to pay for it. They are the same people that want to raise the minimum wage but expect the cost of goods to stay the same.

Since they are the ones crying that they are offended by, well, everything I have this to say... I am offended that you are offended.

I find it offensive that you think you have the right to take my money that I earned and use to support my family in order to fund a healthcare program that has increased both my premium and deductible.

I am offended that you believe someone flipping burgers at McDonald's should make more money per hour than I do working in a salaried job that I had to bust my butt to obtain (you know, the one that technically makes me "middle class").

I am offended that you declare someone a racist or bigot if they do not publicly support your views regardless of what they believe.

I am offended that you refuse to respect the opinions of others while expecting others to respect your opinion.

I am offended that you can’t stand the sight of the stars and bars but support those who burn the stars and stripes in the streets.

I am offended that you refuse to assign responsibility to an individual for their actions but rather place blame on inanimate objects (while twisting the facts).  

I am offended that you grant rights to others but insist on trying to strip away my Second Amendment rights.

I find it offensive that things have gone so far that I am having to write this. But this is where we are. This is what the ‘media’ reports and the line that we are all supposed to fall behind. Just don’t make it a straight line because that is offensive now too.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

From Home To House

Today I couldn’t help but think about my grandmom’s old house in Ocean City, New Jersey. I remember visiting her multiple times every summer and, on occasion, staying in the extra bedroom. When time came to sell the house, I remember not wanting to even drive by there anymore. It wasn’t the same without her there. It was nothing more than a simple structure. The memories are what made a special place.

While today was a completely different situation altogether, I couldn’t keep that memory from coming to the surface. I also couldn’t help but think about the many times my wife and I would drive up the hill to her mother’s house and begin walking down the path waiting for the dogs to start barking. It is interesting the memories that are the most vivid. Of course there are others but some memories need to be kept inside for a while before sharing them as stories.  

This was just my thought process. Throughout my work day I kept thinking about my wife and all that she has had to deal with over these last several months. I can’t imagine what was going through my wife’s mind today. It is one of those times when saying “I know how it feels” or “I know what you are going through” would be wildly inappropriate. I have no idea what this has been like and I have no inkling of what memories have been brought to the surface today.

The only think that I know is that a place that was once part of our normal weekly routine has become a memory. What made that place special lives on in our minds but, for me, the place itself is now just a house. Maybe this seems cold to some but it is how I deal with it. It is a process that works for me regardless of how imperfect it may be. It is also one that I can’t expect will work for others. This is why I will not drive by the house just for the heck of it.

With that said, I look at that house in my mind and wish that our son was able to experience the same happiness that once filled the vast space within those walls. However, those memories will certainly live on in the stories that we will be telling our son throughout his life. But, for now, those memories will remain in my mind as we continue through this whole process. Besides, I’m not the right person to be telling him those stories anyway.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

While In Pittsburgh…

Photo taken after riding up the Duquesne Incline
As the black clouds overtook the blue and gray in the sky yesterday, I knew there was a good chance that fellowship was going to be cancelled for this week. The power outages and tornado warnings were already circulating as I got in the car after work. After a few minutes on the road, the texts and calls began vibrating my phone out of the holster. Just as I had thought, the weather was not going to permit us to meet for the night.

With that said, there was still a lot that happened this past week. As I previously mentioned, my wife and I made the trip across the Commonwealth this past weekend so that I would be able to attend the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. It was a perfect excuse for a short family trip and it was a great way to spend Father’s Day weekend.

While I have attended many quarterly communications in the past (I believe I have been to all of them since being raised in April of 2013), this one had the most brothers from my lodge in attendance and for good reason. Erie was an interesting (and long) adventure last summer but this meeting was a little different and one that I wanted to be sure to attend. This meeting was an opportunity for me to watch a couple of my fellow brothers and my lodge to be honored by the Right Worshipful Grand Master.

We may be a small lodge but we have certainly accomplished a lot over the past year and the meeting in Pittsburgh was a perfect way to acknowledge the work that we all had done the previous year. Not just the leadership and officers of the lodge but each and every member regardless of how long they have been in the fraternity. After all, the success of the lodge is dependent upon not just those in leadership roles but also those who have decades of knowledge and experience as well as new brothers determined to get involved (as those who received their Master Builder Award this weekend have). While the Worshipful Master may have been the one accepting the Grand Master’s Award, it was an honor bestowed upon the lodge not any brother in particular.

Grand Master presenting the Master Builder Award to new brothers...
not a great photo but this was the best I could do from my seat. 
While I am proud to be a mason always and especially at these meetings, I sat a little taller on Saturday as I heard the name of my lodge repeated several times throughout the morning. We have several brothers who have been presented with the Master Builder Award, the lodge has received the Grand Master’s Award, and we all came together to take back the shoe earlier this month. We have been busy so far and we still have a long way to go. Thankfully, we are all pulling in the same direction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Guilty Grin

The highlight for me almost every morning is walking into our son’s bedroom, turning off the music, and welcoming him to a new day. Most of the time, no matter how much he is fussing, when he hears my voice and turns his head he gives me a wide smile and a light in his eyes that make the grogginess of the hour immediately disappear. It is a moment that I look forward to every single day and what allows me to begin the day anew no matter what the previous day had been like.

Of course, there are also the times when I am slightly taken aback when that smile turns quickly into a guilty grim piercing the emanation rising from his crib. Sometimes it is nothing more than air while other times it is a much more pungent and persistent odor that requires immediate attention. Sadly I must admit that he gets that smirk from his daddy as I know all too well what it means no matter if a toxic cloud is present or not.

This reaction has only become more entertaining as time has gone by and our son had continued to grow. Now the questions of “did you fart?” or “did you poop?” elicit that same complicit expression. It seems as though he already comprehends the humor that those bodily functions can bring to a situation (along with the stink). But those are not the only times that this this expression appears.

One thing that annoys my wife from time to time is the fact that our son seemingly saves some of his energy toward the end of the day so that he can play when daddy gets home. There have been several occasions when my wife would have a particularly rough day with our son not wanting to cooperate but when I open the door and he hears my voice, our son’s demeanor completely changes. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like the fact that he reacts to me in that way but, at the same time, I can see how it can be a little annoying (to say the least) for my wife.

When I sit him on my lap and talk to him about it usually asking if he had been a good boy today, that same guilty grin appears. Except this time he usually drives it home with some cooing and baby gibberish. The force is definitely strong with this one as neither of us can really remain completely annoyed at that point with such effervescent cuteness… this is not the guilty baby you are looking for. At least when this guilt grin appears we don’t have to deal with the same fallout that fills the morning.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lessons Learned

We have now traveled with our son a few times with this past weekend being both the greatest distance that we have traveled from home and also for the longest duration. I can’t say that everything was perfect during these weekend adventures but we were able to get there and back in one piece each time so I would call them successful. However, there have been a few takeaways from our travels thus far and here are just a few of them:

  • Rest Stops Are Your Friends – Always be cognizant of the rest stops during your drive. Know when you pass one and how long it is until the next one. You may not need to stop at that exact moment but things can change in a matter of minutes.
  • Stick As Closely To His Schedule As Possible – The last thing you want is your son being in a different and unfamiliar place and have his schedule messed up. Keeping to a feeding schedule as much as possible and repeating the nighttime routine can make things a lot easier.
  • Don’t Underestimate The Number Of Wipes You Need – this is both for the obvious reasons but also because you’ll have other uses for them as well. If you are like our family you will be out and about all day… use the wipes to clean your hands regularly. They are also convenient for the occasional road trip spill in the car.
  • You Are Going To Forget Things – Begin with packing the things that you can’t readily replace. Everything else comes after. It is pretty much guaranteed that you are going to forget things so make sure that they are items that you can pick up on the road.
Of course, there are countless other lessons learned during our explorations but those seem to be the four that most readily come to mind. While those might be the things that didn’t go as smoothly as expected, there were also things that we were very thankful for as we drove down the highway. Most notably is the fact that we upgraded our cars over the past few months. While absolutely possible to travel in our former vehicles, having the Outback and the Cherokee have made things a heck of a lot easier.

So this is just the beginning. I am sure that we will make more mistakes and overlook things in the future but we are at least keeping things moving in the right direction. The true test will be next month as we significantly extend our vacation…. I even took time off from work for this one. While there is always going to be some trepidation, I am looking forward to rediscovering a place (and reconnecting with distant relatives) from my childhood and sharing that experience with my wife and my son. Of course, you can read all about that trip next month so stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Enjoying The Day And Driving Home

I woke up this morning looking forward to getting up and seeing my son smiling back at me in his bed. After all, he is the reason for why this day is so special and why I have been waiting for this day for such a long time. What I wasn’t expecting was the gift that my wife and my son made for me. It may not seem like much to those without kids but having a picture and hand impression to put on my desk is something that I will always cherish. I really wish I had done the same thing for my wife last month… I guess the distraction was enough of a gift then as it is now.  

It wasn’t long before we were up, packed, and heading down to the front desk to check out. It was going to be a long day of touring and driving but one that I have been eagerly anticipating. After another quick breakfast in the lobby, we started the day by returning to Station Square. Yesterday, we had planned out the day and knew that we could pick up the tour bus at this location. With a long drive ahead of us we didn’t have a lot of time so the best way to see as much of the city as possible was to take the two hour tour on the double decker bus.

Our timing was pretty good and we were able to depart about twenty minutes after buying our tickets. This gave us enough time for a quick diaper change and allowed me to call my dad and wish him a happy father’s day. The bus was wide open with only about a dozen people on the top deck and the entire lower level to ourselves. The views might not have been as good but we spread everything out and kept our son out of the sun for the duration. It also helped when it came time to feed him during one of the extended stops.

The tour covered the entire city and while we didn’t have a chance to get out and explore we were able to see the stadiums, museums, schools, neighborhoods, and bridges. All the while, we were entertained by the nervousness of the first time tour guide. He did a decent job especially given the script that he had to work with. One thing that we did notice was that the city is in a heavy state of construction/repair. In addition to the horrendous roads throughout the area, there were countless buildings being raised in the downtown area.

By the time we arrived back to our departure point it was time for lunch… the last thing that we would do before heading home. We had already previously eliminated a number of options so we decided to do something a little different and make our own meal… so off we went to the Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant that we walked on our way to the book store yesterday. It really was something different and the Father’s Day special that they had was something that was just right… I even got a gift certificate during our meal from the manager just for the heck of it. It was an excellent meal and experience (even with our son making is presence known) and it definitely filled us up for the trek back across the Commonwealth.

The long ride home was uneventful as I was able to set the cruise control and turn on some music as my wife and son slept in the back seat. We made pretty good time and the scenery seemed to fly by faster than the confines of time would allow. 

Back home, we unpacked the car and carried our son into the house. I will never forget the look on his face when we told him that we were home… obviously he wasn’t done yet. I guess he enjoys exploring just as much as his daddy… that really was another great gift that I received on this my first Father’s Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Welcome To Pittsburgh!

Check another place off the list. While I had traveled through Pittsburgh in the past (a fun layover in high school with my dad on our way to Grand Rapids, Michigan to tour a college) I had never taken the time to drive across the state and explore the steel city. With a meeting of the Grand Lodge taking place this morning (more about the meeting in a later post), it was the perfect opportunity for us to have a little family vacation. After all, we have to get our son used to traveling long distances by car.

I took Friday off from work so that we could get a head start on our drive. Shortly before noon we were packed and on our way. This was also an opportunity to put some miles on my new car and see how it handled an extended trip. After a quick stop along the way to feed and change our son, we were able to make it to the congested heart of the city just in time for rush hour. Frankly, Pittsburgh makes Philadelphia traffic seem like NASCAR.

After a detour and relatively quick dinner with friends, we headed off to the hotel, unpacked, and passed out for the night. Thankfully, our son seems to be a fan of exploring and didn’t have much trouble at all going to sleep. In the morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the lobby and headed out the door. The detour this time was rather extensive giving us a tour of some interesting areas around the city. Once the meeting was done we were off again to expose our son to his first Denny’s experience.

Now we were exploring without a schedule so we headed over to the one thing that everyone seems to recommend doing when in the city… the Duquesne Incline. It took some time to make our way through the line but it did move pretty quickly and before we knew it we were making our way up the hill. While there were a few people whose fear of heights were getting to them baby and I were just sitting there enjoying the view.

We walked around the observation deck for a little while taking pictures and enjoying the sun. On our way back in we picked up a magnet for our son (we are trying to pick one up at each place that we visit), and made our way back down. It was a nice quiet trip and a great way to start our exploration of the area.

At this point the day seemed to have gotten away from us so rather than taking a tour or heading off to a museum, we decided to explore Station Square just down the road, relax, and plan for the following day. In his stroller for the first time without the car seat, our son was soon fast asleep as we walked up and down the rows of shops and crisscrossed the aisles of a discount book store, Bradley’s Book outlet. I know, you’re shocked that we ended up in a book store. With sun being slowly cloaked by the clouds, we walked one last time by the water and decided on a place to dine for the evening.

There were a variety of options within a block of where we stood so we first made our way to the Hard Rock Café… 30 minutes was not going to work. We turned around and entered Bar Louie (I am familiar with their location near my office)… only high tables remained. Finally, we opened the door to a Brazilian steakhouse on the corner, Texas de Brazil, just at the raindrops were beginning to fall. It has been years since we had eaten at such a restaurant and, even though it was a little fancier than we like, it was a delicious change from our usual dining routine.

It is safe to say that we were quite full as we ran across the wet street and made our way back to the car. Without detours, before long we were back at the hotel and relaxing in our room. One big day down and another huge day ahead.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Firearms Friday: Here We Go Again

Another tragedy, another barbarous act, another opportunity for politicians to further their agenda. As has been the case many times over in recent years, in the wake of a murderous rampage by a deranged individual, the President took advantage of the situation and promoted his gun control agenda. And it was not a side note buried in a mountain of words, it was front and center, prominently on display… opinion inserted into the limited facts known by officials at the time.

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it.”

While heinous events such as the one in Charleston are leveraged for the sake of naïve political ideology, the facts at the end of the day are quite simple. This was a mass killing by a disturbed individual who, given his previous indictment, was illegally in the possession of a firearm. While there are various theories as to how he obtained it, if he was aided in acquiring that weapon in any way, those individuals should be held responsible for their actions in assisting in the perpetration of the crime.

Criminals will always find a way to carry out their evil acts. No amount of regulation or control will ever stop this from happening. As President Reagan wrote in 1983 (after the attempted assassination by Hinkley two years prior), “It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience.If you believe otherwise you are delusional in your utopian thoughts.

Of course, this is coming from a former President who was also an NRA member. Furthermore, he was known to have carried a revolver on at least several instances while in office as was recently noted by Brad Meltzer and previously reported by Ron Kessler in his book “In the President`s Secret Service”, However, lets look more closely at the beliefs held by those who appose the Second Amendment. While this article is nearly 40 years old now, it still holds true today. Here is an excerpt from an article published by then Governor Reagan in the September 1975 issue of Guns & Ammo:

There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism--government.

The issues in this country are not in the rights that have been granted to the citizenry, the problems are in the individuals. This includes those who refuse to accept others as equals, those who don’t respect that sanctity of human life, and those who fail to fear the overindulgence of power. These issue are not the burden of law abiding citizens who believe in self-sufficiency and personal responsibility. This is not a time to strip people of their rights (especially while there are attempts to expand the rights of others). One person committed this act (potentially with the assistance of others) and that person / those people are the ones who should burn for this!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Common Questions

I guess it is just a baby centric week for me. When the week started I had a few topics that I was thinking about writing something but sometimes you just have to go with what you are motivated to write about. All it takes is seeing my son, watching him smile at me, and his infectious laugh and I really have no other option than to write another post about him.

Every other day it seems I am asked the questions of “how are you adjusting to being a dad” or “what it is like to be a father” or some other similar query. Well, there have been times when I have wanted to pull my hair out when I am either inundated with texts at the office or I am unable to comfort him. While there is nothing better than seeing him smile, there is nothing worse than watching that bottom lip slowly protrude. What can I say, I’m a sucker.

Things have certainly changed over the past year. Our schedules have changed, our lifestyle has been greatly altered, and are priorities have shifted. I am spending more time at home and making sure to spend as much time as I possibly can with our son. Sometimes, I admit, it has been to the detriment of spending quality time with my wife. This is something I am still working on.

It has been a great motivator knowing that we are the ones to care for and raise a child. I begin the day (still not a morning person) with greater purpose but also do my best to minimize the amount of work that I bring home with me. It is a complete shift in how I used to go about each day. I still work a lot but I try to segregate that time and get those other things done after he has gone to bed for the night.

It really is an amazing feeling seeing my son in the morning and being the first one he sees some days as he turns his head and rubs his eyes. Again, that smile is the best way to start the day. It is hard to leave in the morning and say goodbye but I also have a family to look forward to seeing as the sun slowly sinks behind the trees in the evening.

Each and every day, there is something else that I look forward to sharing with my son. It varies each day. Sometimes I see something interesting, find a family document, visit or remember a picturesque place, or even something as simple as going to lodge or attending some other event. We have the plans in place already to share these things with him but the list keeps getting longer and longer as our memories are collected on paper. And this weekend (and this summer), we will continue sharing those experiences with him.

So, to go back to the question, I think I am adjusting pretty well to being a father. Sometimes I just have to hold on and enjoy the ride but there are moments when I am able to collect myself and make necessary changes. There are a number of things that I still have to work at but I hope to do a better job as both a father and a husband as time goes by. After all, there are a lot of things that we have to cover in a short period of time (which is already going by way too fast).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Shoe Is Back

You can have your travel shoes... we'll take the traveling shoe. 
As I mentioned last week, it is that time of year again when many of us from Ardmore descended upon another lodge in the district. For me, I have attended this particular visitation in Conshohocken every year since becoming a mason. It has been an interesting trifecta of meetings with something different at each and every one.

The first year that I attended I was one of only a handful from my lodge sitting in the room. In fact, all of us in attendance from my lodge had only been masons for a couple of months at the time. We all wanted to be there and we were all striving to meet the requirements early on for the Master Builder Award. Someone had to stand up and represent the lodge so I found myself standing and speaking for the first time at a lodge meeting.

Last year was completely different. By then I was serving as secretary and had spent the previous few weeks making calls and trying to get as many brothers to attend as possible. For the second year in a row there was a reward at stake but this time it was far more important… this time we were all coming together to support and represent our lodge. By the time we left we had the traveling shoe in hand and the points in the books for the Grand Master’s Award.

This year we are doing all that we can to repeat our previous performance. Unfortunately, I don’t have the same amount of time that I did previously to be on the phone for a couple hours each day but we were all still able to come together. And it was a truly representative mix of brothers from the lodge as there were masons who had only been raised a few months ago and another who was celebrating 66 years of masonic service this month. Officers and non-officers alike were in attendance, working together, and walking out with the shoe as a lodge and with the much need points to possibly repeat in receiving the Grand Master’s Award this year.

It was also interesting this year compared to others in that there was more of a celebratory atmosphere in the lodge room last night. These official visitations can sometimes be a little rigid but this time around all the officers were very familiar with one another and have come to exemplify brotherhood. This allowed for a more relaxed but also more personal experience that brought in all the brothers in attendance as an inclusive peek into the close comradery that exists among worshipful masters in the district.

It was a perfect example of the fact that no two meetings are exactly the same and while lodges may be close in geography it can be a completely different experience in both. This is what really keeps me coming back and looking forward to attending meetings at different lodges. We all have our differences as individuals and as lodges but we are all part of one fraternity, a unified brotherhood. Some of us now just have an extra shoe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Baby Dents

A little moon topography... now this is a moonscape!
There have been a number of occasions, especially over the past year, when we would get a package in the mail only to find that it had been battered and dented while in transit to our doorstep. I have had to make countless calls because of this but it has usually been remedied by the time all is said and done. However, we did receive one gift this year that came to us a little dented but we didn’t care. Actually, it was completely normal.

Anyone who had seen a newborn knows what I am talking about. They come into this world a little oddly shaped and with a few dents in their head that make you wonder. Over time, things smooth out but some of the indents are slower to go away than others. So much so that a topographer might go insane trying to update the changing cranial landscape so frequently.

Every once in a while I still look at our son’s head and can’t help but thinking “that looks like it hurts.” I know if my head looked like that I would probably be drooling on myself and crapping my pants too. But it is all part of the developmental process and the thought quickly goes away. It is just odd to see little dents where his head is still forming. I like to think that his head has to work a little bit harder to make room for his huge brain… he is a smart little baby after all.

There are also other things that are still developing but slowly his muscles are displacing the insulation. Heck, daddy might not have a six pack but baby certainly does. It is actually surprising how strong that our son has become and how quickly his coordination is developing. It is a daily occurrence to find him doing different things and being able to better understand what is happening around him. It is sometimes hard to keep track but it is fun trying to keep up with him.  

But even with all of these things changing around him and the development progressing faster than anyone anticipated, those odd little dents in his head remain. He also remains in my eyes to be the perfect baby (I will enjoy this while it lasts). And while I have returned packages in the past with similar dents, our baby is perfect in his imperfections and there is no way I could even consider life without him.

Monday, June 15, 2015

How Is Time Moving So Fast?

It has been an amazing month watching our son learn new things, grow, and begin to understand more of the world around him. There have been a few instances that have tested our patience especially with regard to the reflux but, overall, we couldn’t have asked for a happier or loving baby. And seeing him in the morning and when I get home at night are what really completes my day. Seeing that smile on his face when I walk in the door, seemingly saying “hi daddy”, never gets old and lets me forget about anything that may have been bothering me during the day.

While he is not yet found any interest in rolling over (or being on his belly for that matter), he is still doing things that are still amazing when I think about the fact that he is only 4 months old today. In addition to his enjoyment of being on his feet with little support from mommy or daddy, he also just started sitting up by himself. They may only be for a few seconds at a time but it is much more than many babies his age.  

He has found a new interest in the various toys that have been sent to us or that we have picked up over the past few months. While he still prefers his ball which we have tethered to his car seat, he is also enjoying the car keys and some of the other things that we have bought. Unfortunately, he has also figured out how to throw things. He also enjoys pushing the buttons on mommy’s cell phone when she is talking to daddy. The big toys are proving to be very useful as well as we can now put him in the exersaucer where he is perfectly content playing with everything around him and making the train go around the track.

While I have had to tell him for months whether or not I would be home late in the evening, he is now responding to more and more of what we are saying. He knows his name (he will learn the importance of his name later) and is able to respond to some of the simple requests that we make like to hold on when we pick him. He is now a fully interactive child (not like the creepy one in AI) with each day more interesting than the next.

I am sure that I have forgotten a variety of things that have happened and developments that have occurred over the past month but that should give you a basic idea. It is quite the ride that we are on and one that keeps getting better with every dip and turn. And even though there is a lot of puking and crapping of pants, it is still a ride that we are so glad and thankful that we got on. Happy 4 months baby!

PS – Sorry in advance for the shots at the doctor’s office tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Largely Overlooked Holiday

When was the last time you said the Pledge of Allegiance? While I no longer recite the declaration of loyalty on a weekly basis at Rotary meetings, I still stand at attention and give the flag the respect it deserves every month when we open the lodge. There are even occasions when a couple of the brothers, also members of the Sojourners, recite “A Toast to the Flag”. It is a presentation that holds deep meaning for those brothers preforming the poem as well as those witnessing the recitation.

On this day, Flag Day, we commemorate the adoption of our flag which happened on this day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. This flag, while different than what we know it to be today, then served as a unified representation by which our two year old Continental Army would rally around. And while the early years saw many different designs (especially regarding the arrangement of stars), it has constantly flown as a representation of this country for well over two centuries.

However, it wasn’t until 1916 that Flag Day came into being when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14th as Flag Day. Congress officially established the federal holiday in August 1949. During this period of time, the National Flag Code was constructed by representatives of over 68 organizations, under the auspices of the National Americanism Commission of the American Legion who created the code on Flag Day 1923. The code drafted by that conference was printed by the national organization of the American Legion and given nationwide distribution.

With few changes made to the original code drafted in 1923 (most notably was the removal of the Bellamy salute dues to its similarities to the Hitler salute), on June 22, 1942, the Code became Public Law 77-623; chapter 435. Since that time, there have been few changes made with some notable exceptions being the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (prohibits real estate management organizations from restricting homeowners from displaying the Flag of the United States on their own property), the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007 (added a provision to fly the flag at half-staff upon the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who died while serving on active duty), and the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (Sec. 595) (allows the military salute for the flag during the national anthem by members of the Armed Forces not in uniform and by veterans).

If it were a simple document I would include the code within this post but as many of you know the Flag Code is anything but simple and it is in fact quite extensive in the proper protocol for displaying, honoring, and even retiring a flag (among other things). In fact, many of use probably break the law at some point during our lives. While some may see the code as antiquated, it is a simple gesture to demonstrate our appreciation not just of our flag but of what it stands for and those who have defended and died for it. The holiday may be a single block on the calendar but the flag waves throughout the year as a constant reminder of the freedom that we have in this country and the liberty that it symbolizes. While some seem to forget this on a daily basis there are many of us who will never forget and continue to fight for the rights of all which are integral to this country just as every thread is essential to the creation of our flag.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Behind Door Number Four...

A week ago I wrote about the decision my wife and I had to make regarding a new car to replace my 2012 Chevrolet Malibu. It had been a great car since I bought it new three years ago but it had become impractical as of late with the arrival of our son. So, once again, we began looking for a new car with the criteria being an all-wheel drive SUV priced under $25,000 with reasonable insurance rates, leg/head room (front and back), with a few other basics found in most cars these days. Additionally, we were hoping to find something with Bluetooth, remote start, cruise control, a full sized spare tire, roof rack, regular outlet, and side molding. This initial wish list led us to the Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot.

I was able to drive all the cars a couple of times and spent some time at a couple of dealerships with my wife last weekend. Having driven them all I was leaning slightly more toward the Jeep models but didn’t have a really strong feeling either way. Thankfully, my wife was able to help me narrow down the options and almost immediately eliminated the Equinox upon inspection. She had her reasons and I wasn’t going to argue with them. So that left us with the two Jeep models.

The only real difference between the two is the body style. All the other features match up nearly identically with the only difference that I could see being that the Compass had a rear view camera. Being that this was not one of the features I was focusing on it didn’t really help with my decision. By the end of the long day we were able to sit down and make an initial decision on what was available (ordering was not possible as manufacturers have already switched over to 2016 production). We left the dealer on Saturday having put down a $500 deposit on a Jeep Patriot High Altitude Edition.

Throughout the week I spent some time going back and forth with the dealership, securing financing through USAA, and looking around to make sure I got the best price with the options that I wanted on the car. It never hurts to double check. As the end of the week neared I had finalized everything and was eager to pick up the car and dig through the mountain of paperwork. By Friday morning I was able to drive to work in my new 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.

That’s right, over the course of the week I had looked around and compared the pricing of a few models. I also had the dealer check the stock on hand to see what was available. I had previously ruled out the Cherokee (especially the Trailhawk) because of the higher base price but looking at what needed and didn’t need to be added, the difference was much smaller than initially thought. It was actually a very similar situation to when I got the Malibu.

In the end, when we originally put the deposit down, I had to make a few compromises with the Patriot so when I came across the Trailhawk with nearly everything on it that we were looking for (everything else can be purchased/added later at a nominal cost) I had to talk to my wife about the slight increase in price (still staying close to our budget). Once she saw how much more we could get for our money we agreed to make the switch. Driving around today, I know that we made the right decision.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Firearms Friday: Competition

There are a few types of competition that can be found on nearly every range. Some are obvious while others are completely foreign to those who have never been on a firing line. And, for many of us, despite our lack of success we continue coming back hoping to improve with each round down range.

The first competition is with yourself. You look to quite the rest of the world, focus on your mechanics, and perform well on the range. Sometimes the target shows you are able to focus while other times it is clear that you are thinking too much or you are unable to focus intensely on the objective at hand. For many of us who see ourselves as novices, it is a constant routine that we go through each time we walk up to the firing line.

The second type of competition I see every time I walk into a gun shop or step foot on a range. There are always firearms on display that you would like to have for yourself. I don’t care who you are, that thought always runs through your mind at least once. Sometimes it sprints, sometimes it is a brisk walk, but it is always moving through your mind. Thankfully, the majority of gun owners will let you fire a couple of rounds just to satisfy the mental itch. But it usually doesn’t last long and there are some people I see walk onto the line the next time with the same firearm that they were eyeing the previous week.

The third type of competition is the most obvious and the one that I am looking to pursue in the future. There are numerous clubs and competitions of all kinds in the area and even though I don’t expect to place well, I am eager to get out on the range and see what I am able to do. While I was never a precision shooter, my combat accuracy is pretty good so I would like to see if the range skills I have developed will translate to the steel plates.

However, the issue that many of us face with this third kind of competition is that is actually involves all three kinds at the same time. We compete with ourselves and with others as we look around and covet the high end competition guns and optics all around us. But, that is all part of the sport and part of the hobby as well as the common threat that ties us together as a community.