Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Change And Experience

Once again it was unfortunately a bit of a rush to get things done this month prior to the stated meeting but, just like every other month, everything was taken care of with a little bit of time to spare. However, one thing that I did notice when pulling everything together was how little time that I have available to attend some of the masonic events that are on the calendar for the remainder of the year. With all that is going on at work and at home, there just aren’t enough days for me to do everything.

Another thing that keeps coming up and will continue to do so for the remainder of the months of the year is the transition process that is fast approaching. While the last twelve months have been a bit trying to say the least, I will be continuing in my office at the lodge. As I have stated before, there have been moments of doubt but the requests from my brothers to stay far outweigh those moments of frustration. While I am sure that whomever succeeds me will put forth the same amount of effort that I have and do the job just as well if not better, those honest and thoughtful requests leave me no other option than to stay… I can’t let my brothers down.

This approaching change in leadership has also lead to some interesting conversations. There are many brothers that have the desire to give of their time and energy in service of the lodge. It has been great to see the letters of intent come across my desk and the conversations of what many of the brothers would like to see accomplished in the near future have been interesting to say the least. The next few months should be interesting and the subsequent years look to be a time of tremendous transition and growth.

However, while changes can be a good thing there have been some questionable statements and there is a strong desire by many, including myself, to ensure that traditions and more experienced brethren both continue and resume certain offices in the lodge. The knowledge that these men possess and the respect that they command in the lodge is something that I think we need moving forward. I guess this is a situation that many lodges are currently facing trying to find the right combination of the experience of long standing members and the desire and ideology of some of the newer brethren. I encourage both but, as freemasonry teaches us all, there must be balance both in the lodge and in our own lives.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Rolling

For the past couple of months our son has been rolling over when he feels like it. These moments were usually reserved for the times when we would try to get him to do tummy time… something that he is definitely not fond of. Basically, he wants to be doing just about anything else rather than spend time looking at the ground… although a game of mirror peek-a-boo will usually stave off his escape attempts.  

Up until recently he was limited by front to back (also known as the escape plan)… that was before he started teetering on the edge by sleeping on his side. He is usually pretty good about keeping a leg or arm out as a means to stop himself from rolling too far but there have been moments when he forgot to deploy one of these kickstands. A couple of weeks ago he got a little surprise when he accidentally turned a too much in the crib and ended up on his belly.

We thought that this would cause some level of hysteria but it was actually a pretty calm “oh crap” kind of reaction when it happened. You could kind of see him thinking about how he did it, what he could have done to prevent it, and the fact that maybe it isn’t too bad being on his belly when it is his choice. You would think that he would want to practice this but he is back to only doing it when the mood strikes him. Even when we put him on his tummy he still tends to want mommy or daddy to pick him up rather than attempting to roll over.

With that said, it is pretty fun playing with him on the floor and helping him roll from back to front and front to back with very little effort on my part. It should be pretty interesting when the time comes when he rolls a little too fast and ends up in the same position in which he started. I wonder what kind of look will be on his face after that happens for the first time. While there is a chance that he could start crying I am thinking he will just smile and give me a look seemingly asking me “Daddy, how the heck did I do that?” And, of course, no matter which one is his initial reaction, he will probably want to do it again… but only when he feels like it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Paint Chips And Poor Customer Service

I readily admit that I am frequently not the easiest person to deal with. This is especially true when it comes to customer service calls. I do my best and have even made a more concerted effort as of late to be as nice and understanding as possible when I have to participate in these calls but sometimes it is really hard to keep my cool. I have been dealing with such a situation for the past two weeks as our insurance company which has had a tremendous track record personally has completely mucked up just about everything that I have called about and/or requested over the past month.

Thankfully, I have been able to keep my temper under control throughout this whole process but my patience is running thinner than [insert your cliche or original thought here]. And it hasn’t really been a matter of incompetence… as time goes on it seems to be more and more about laziness. I have made numerous efforts to communicate through email as well as by phone and I have even coordinated a time to speak with someone. When it came time for them to call at the time they promised, my phone failed to ring and no attempt at following up or explaining what had happened was ever made.

It has been a rather frustrating time especially knowing what exceptional experiences I have had with this insurance company in the past. Up until a few weeks ago I have had nothing but good things to say about this company but lately I have had to measure my words a bit given the last few people with whom I have had the displeasure of communicating (or lack thereof). And just think, this is without me getting angry, abrasive, or even difficult. I have done everything I can, within reason, to accommodate the company but have, as of today, nothing to show for it.

I would consider changing my insurance company but I have yet to see any rates anywhere near what we are paying. And I have given just about every agent and company a chance whenever they have popped up. It used to be great service and great rates and now it seems as though I am left with just the latter of the two. What’s even worse is that the most recent conversations with the insurance company they have tried to hard sell me all of their other offering before allowing me to resume my day. They may want to get better at their current job, complete their existing task, before even thinking about trying to sell me anything. And yes, I remained calm.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Search: Telling Time

Having spent the last couple of months sorting through family photos it was time to change things up a bit. Sometimes it can get a little repetitive looking at the two dimensional as it can be difficult at times to peer over to the other side of the lens. It is times like these when I like to pull open my dresser drawer and hold the items that have been passed down to me through the family. While there are a variety of items from rings and cuff links to spoons and other knickknacks, there is a small collection of watches that I seem to go back to more often than the other items.

The Timex at the top of the photo is by no means a valuable wrist watch. It is a very simple, heavily worn watch that my grandpop used to wear. That is where the value is for me. I don’t have many memories of my grandpop but there is something about holding an item that he wore every day that brings a sense of connection and makes me wonder what that watch had been through and where it may have been as well.

The pocket watch at the bottom of the picture is something that represents both sides of my family. My great grandmother gave this Howard watch from the 1920’s to my dad years ago. He added the chain where you can see his initials. A few years ago he passed this watch down to me and I have taken it all over the world while it has also served as inspiration for numerous creative endeavors in the past. It is something that represents my mom’s family and, while I don’t recall him ever using it, something that reminds me of my dad.

The three watches in the middle came to me at different times in my life. The Citizen on the right is the first watch that I bought and it served me well for a couple of years. The Invicta in the middle was given to me by my brother at the rehearsal dinner the day before his wedding when I served as one of his groomsmen. And the watch on the left is the one that I have worn nearly every day for the past eight years. My parents gave the Hamilton Khaki Automatic to me and it has not only served me well over the years in a practical sense but it also reminds me of my parents and their generosity whenever I slow down and take a moment to appreciate it.

All of these watches have stories behind them. Some old, some new. Some tell a little bit of the story of many family while others are simply a part of my story. However, I hope to pass these down to my son, along with the stories that I know, many years from now once I have had a little more time to enjoy them. Again, that is the true value in these timepieces.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Welcome To The Philly DMZ!

The Nutter out front should have told ya.
The Pope is in Philadelphia this weekend and we are staying as far away from the city as possible. While we did venture out today driving down to the main line, that is as close as we were going to get to the urban militarized zone. However, even though we remained a good distance from the commotion, the impact of the Papal visit reached far beyond the boundaries of the city. While this could have seriously impacted and frustrated our travels, thankfully we took notice of the warning that has been flashing across the television and social media all week and made sure to avoid the major arteries.

It is rather astounding when you really stop to think about the whole situation. While I understand the importance that this man hold in his faith and in the world in general, the fact still remains that his presence put a complete halt to everyday life within and outside of the city. Not only were those who live within the concrete boundaries forced to change their weekend routine, accommodate the masses, or get the heck out but those of us that live on the other side of the horizon from the skyscrapers had to adjust to the new rules that were in place throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

It has been interesting watching the constant coverage streaming across all major networks since he first set foot in the United States. It has been even more intriguing hearing his statements on various issues and his opinions on some aspects of our society. Of course, that is nothing new for this Pope who has been quite outspoken since the day he dawned the vestments and took his place as an idol of the Catholic faithful. Personally, while I appreciate his honesty on various matters, there are times when I get tired of his lectures.

As the news coverage continued throughout the day and I watched as throngs of people were herded from place to place across the city packing the streets usually filled with cars, I kept on thinking about the businesses that were forced to close for the event and the people who left their homes for the weekend ceding the city to those now filling every inch of grass, asphalt, and concrete. While the boost in tourism will certainly be promoted, it seems as though the people of the city are the ones who will be forgotten when all is said and done. The people who made this the place the Pope wanted to visit are the ones that have been marginalized during his time in the city and forced to accept the quarantine like atmosphere.

It is great that the faithful had the chance to see their idol but it is a shame that the people and businesses of Philadelphia were forced to put up with the limitations, inconveniences, and limitations on their personal freedom and way of life. I agree that this Papal visit is, in many ways, something that needed to happen but it could have been handled in a completely different, less restrictive and militarized way. Faith and freedom should go hand in hand rather than presented in an either/or fashion.

So you say you live over there... sorry, still can't let you in. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Firearms Friday: Really Joe?

With the Pope coming to the United States this week, his visit was the topic of discussion in pretty much every corner of the media and public life. The visit also prompted questions regarding an individual’s faith as well as their political views and how the two influence one another. It should be no surprise, given both the Pope’s visit and the recent videos from Planned Parenthood, that the subject of abortion was one of the primary topics of discussion, debate, and, as in the case of the Vice President, confusion.

Biden, a practicing Catholic, was recently interviewed by America Magazine when he openly talked about the Papal visit, his faith, and his political views. Most notably, he is quoted as saying the following:

“Abortion is always wrong… All the principles of my faith, [which] I make no excuse for attempting to live up to — I don’t all the time. But I’m not prepared to impose doctrine that I’m prepared to accept on the rest of [the country].”

While the “pro-choice” crowd has been up in arms about his statements, I find it a little disturbing for a completely different reason which is why this is being posted on Friday.

As he states above, he is “not prepared to impose doctrine”. While this may be true regarding his faith it by no means applies to the rest of his views as he has made it very clear during his time in public office that he will do everything in his power to impose the doctrine of the Democratic Party on the people. This has been evident during his time as Vice President when he, along with President Obama and the party in general, has tried to strip us of our second amendment rights.

Time and again, gun owners have been attacked for exercising their right of ownership and to defend themselves and their family. However, this does not fit into the doctrine of the Democratic Party so Joe “Double Barrel” Biden and the rest of the party members have made every effort to vilify those who don’t subscribe to their world view. Of course, most of the world and the media in general don’t pay attention to this but what if he acted the same way with regard to his view on abortion?

So, in the end, the Vice President has admitted in this interview that he refuses to impose his religious beliefs on the country but his actions have clearly demonstrated that he is willing, if not eager, to impose his political beliefs on every single man, woman, and child in this country. I guess, according to Biden, people are only allowed to have certain rights so long as he agrees with them. And just think, some people want him to run for President.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A New Season

While the weather has been slowly cooler over the past several weeks, there is something about the official first day of fall that enhances the subtle breezes, sharpens the colors, and enhances the smells that come with the season. Many of the trees may still be green and the sky remains un-fowled but there are subtle hints of the changes that will soon be upon us including the scattered leaves rustling between the leaves of un-mowed grass. And, of course, there is the smell of the burning foliage that sporadically wafts across the highway while on my way home from work each night.

However, the season is a little different this year. While I enjoy the coolness of the evenings sometimes venturing out to breathe the crisp air, we also have to make sure our son is dressed appropriately for the changing weather. As if we didn’t have enough stuff before, now we carry extra layers wherever we go and make sure that the colds he inevitably cycles through aren’t exacerbated by the chill in the air. After all, I want our son to enjoy this time of year as much as I do and, so far, he seems to be doing just that.

From time to time, shortly after getting home from work, I will pick up our son and take him outside. The dusk is still bright on the horizon and the air retains a hint of warmth which allows us to enjoy the time together without worrying about the dropping temperature. I love watching his eyes move from tree to tree studying the colors, shapes, and size of them. He watches the cars speed by slowly coming back to focus on the horizon as the orange and red takes over the sky. And when something is particularly interesting he usually starts slapping my arm and turns his head to look at me seemingly asking “Daddy, do you see that?”

Fall was already my favorite time of year and moment like that are making the season even better. While he is still young and may not fully appreciate all the changes that are taking place, the sense of wonder that he has accentuates the feeling of autumn for me. I hope that is one thing that he never loses when he looks at the world around him. Sometimes I lose sight of it but it really is an amazing creation in which we live.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Changes Still Pending

Another month has already passed and I am finding myself in a slightly better situation than before the last stated meeting. The notice is just about done and should be out in a day or two, the minutes will be completed by the end of the week, and various communications have already been taken care of. Of course, there are always the lingering items, emails, and letters that will surely persist up until the moment we all converge upon the lodge but that is just part of the routine.

However, there is a pattern that has carried over from the summer. One that I am not too happy about and will have to be addressed again. The bills remain unpaid and checks still need to be drafted. We didn’t have a full roster of officers at the last stated which prevented us from taking care of these essential items in a timely manner and now, later in the month, our schedules are completely out of sync and the communication which we rely so heavily upon has dwindled.

There are moments when I really don’t know what else to do. Time is something that I have very little of and the lack of consistency from month to month is wreaking havoc on my calendar. After a long day at the office I just want to get home and spend time with my wife and son. This is why I have all of my meetings at the lodge and other gatherings scheduled well in advance. It would be one thing to have our meetings on some other consistent night during the month but the jumping from block to block on the calendar is not something that works for me.

We have addressed this exact issue in the past, several times actually, and have put forth a plan to get things done on time but, as of today, there is no change. It won’t be long before I once again have to field numerous calls from the brethren regarding this issue. It may seem like a minor glitch to some and it was at first but not it is a major problem and one that has at time had me seriously considering stepping down at the end of the year. The only things that have stopped me have been the encouragement of other brothers and the simple fact that there are many more aspects of this office that I enjoy compared to those that bother me.

Hopefully the next few days / weeks / months will bring about a change for the better and those fleeting thoughts will fly away (at least for an extended period of time). I guess we will just have to continue waiting and see what happens… hopefully my phone doesn’t start ringing again. In the meantime, there is just over a week to go before the next stated meeting and I have a job to do.   

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Questions And Prayers

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar, is also the most difficult for many of us. It is a time when we ask for forgiveness both from G-d and from man. This year, I continue to plea for G-d’s forgiveness and I do my best to come to terms with any wrongs that I have committed against others. However, I am left going in circles at time when it comes to asking for forgiveness from others. It has been a difficult year and one that has proven rather treacherous when it comes to following my heart and what I believe to be right.

There are many instances in my life, not just during the past year, when I have held fast to my beliefs, opinions, and decisions. I believe them in my heart to be the right thing to do. I have remained true to myself, my family, and, in many instances, it has been the best option for others as well. Some would see these situations, sometimes even those who find themselves on the other end, to be something I should apologize for or, more appropriately given the time of year, ask them for forgiveness.

The issue I have is for what should I ask for their forgiveness? I really have no idea. Could things have been handled differently or written in a more delicate manner? Yes, but then I wouldn’t be truthful to myself or honest in my dealings with others. Could I have chosen to not say anything? Yes and no. It would have avoided, at least momentarily, certain situations but, again, that would have been dishonest. And I wouldn’t have been doing everything in my power to protect my family.  

Should I apologize for my opinions? No. I may not like the opinions that many others have but I don’t expect them to apologize to me for sharing their views. This “offended by anything and everything that doesn’t fit into my small world view” syndrome is tiresome and I will not abide by nor cater to those afflicted by this mentality.

Can I forgive everyone? Heck no. This is the most difficult question and the one, this year, with the most emphatic response. I can forgive most people and I can come to terms with many situations in my life. However, there are moments and situations that will forever be seared in my mind. To say I can forgive every person who ever wronged me would require me to lie. I can’t do it. I am many things, some good and some bad, but I will not try to deceive G-d by saying that I am able to forgive everyone this year.

So, in the end, I guess the one I should really be asking for forgiveness from is G-d. I ask to be forgiven for the fact that there are times when I question your motives, the moment when I have been flat out angry at what you have allowed happen, and more instances than I would like to admit when I have strayed from your words. I ask to be forgiven for the harm that I may have caused others by being honest and doing my best to protect myself and my family. And I plea for forgiveness because I am unable to forgive all those who have wronged me and my family.

However, I ask for peace for both those whom I am unable to forgive and those who feel entitled to something other than the above. And I pray that we, as a family, grow closer to G-d, continue to see His hand in the beauty of the world that surrounds us, and trust His plan for us even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense in the moment. And I pray for the time, for another year of life, to grow and love and find the peace to one day forgive.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

It Is (Past) That Time Again

When I first started working at my current company it was outlined that I would have an annual review to go over my performance during the previous year. Of course, the only exception to that policy was the first six months as I agreed upon being hired that I needed some time to get re-acclimated following an extended absence from the industry. This placed my first review in the middle of April 2014. Obviously, this would mean that my second review would occur around the same time the following year. Well, that obviously didn’t happen or you would have read this post months ago.

However, while it would have been nice to have everything move along as planned, we have been busy this year with both new and existing business. A great problem to have and something that I attribute to us all doing our jobs and doing them well. So, months later, we were finally able to find a window in the day to get my review done last week. Thankfully, my company believes in retro pay!

It is still an odd process for me as each of my colleagues completes and evaluation form rating me on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the best) and providing comments on various categories related to the my performance. I have filled this same form out for a few of my colleagues and it can be a bit of a challenge at times especially given the fact that we have to recommend three areas of improvement. While it was difficult to determine these things in others, it was rather easy when completing my own form. Yes, I was also required to take a step back and review my own performance.

By being honest with my own review, the others sounded fantastic as I sat across the desk from the owner of the company. Heck, I would much rather be too harsh on myself and use it as motivation than think I am doing a great job only to struggle with my responsibilities. Seems that my boss feels the same way which made for a great experience going over the previous year and the flattering comments that my colleagues wrote as well as the points where I need improvement. Both were very much appreciated. The salary increase at the end of the meeting was appreciated as well!

It continues to be an interesting process but one that is hugely beneficial in monitoring my performance. I know what to keep doing and where I need to improve my routines. Hopefully I can show the marked improvement that I expect by the time my next review comes around which is still scheduled for April! Of course, you will find out shortly afterward in a few months. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Search: Another Generation Of Baby Photos

Each month that passes, we do our best to take a picture of our son so that we can record his growth over time. Sometimes we manage to get the picture taken on the exact day of the month while other times we might be off by a day or two. Each time we think about the pictures that we have seen of ourselves and it is hard to believe that we are now on the other side of the lens. This time, however, I didn’t look back at some of my baby pictures, I looked back much further and sorted through some of the much older family photos that I discovered over the summer. They were actually included in the same group that I wrote about last month.

My great grandmother, Helen Fulton, was only 30 when she passed away from a stroke but there are numerous pictures from her life both from before she married my great grandfather, William Jacob McKannan, and throughout their 10 year marriage. The first picture, which prompted this post, is from about 1893 or 1894 when she was just a baby...

A few years later, we have a photo of her as a little girl taken in about 1900 (I can actually see my niece in this photo)…

By 1910 (according to the census), my great grandparents were living next door to one another. My great grandfather was living with his uncle (along with his mother and sister) while my great great grandfather was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad while my great grandmother’s family moved in with her grandmother. Some things can be written off as coincidence while other situations, like this one, seem to be fate. My great grandparents married two years later which is around the time when we can surmise that this picture was taken…

A few years later, both McKannan children were married and my great great grandmother, Susan Laura Corner, was still holding her own at home while the railroad continued keeping my great great grandfather away from his family. It was during this time, in the mid-teens (I surmise early 1914 since my grandfather was born in October 1914), when this family photo was taken with my great great grandmother in the middle surrounded by her growing family…  

As I have written before, by the end of 1922 my great grandfather was left a Widower caring for his two sons having lived through the loss of his wife and two daughters over the past two years. But the photos and memories remained allowing the family to remember her, what she looked like, and the happiness that filled her brief life. You never know how life progresses or when life will come to an end but the images continue to maintain the vibrant details, from birth to death, of the family history. It is a great feeling to be adding another generation of details to our tree with every passing month.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Autumn Day Returns

Last year was the first time that I was able to make it down to Elizabethtown for Autumn Day. As you may recall, it was a very special occasion as many of us converged on the retirement community to attend the dedication ceremony for the Eternal Flame. It was one heck of a day and I enjoyed spending time with many of the brethren from my lodge especially those whom I don’t see often. This year, I was equally excited to be attending Autumn Day but for a completely different reason.

Every once in a while I like to bring my wife and family to various masonic events. We have all been pretty busy this past year but we have been planning for a little while to come together and enjoy the day at Elizabethtown. Not only were my wife and son with me this time but my parents and sister’s family also joined us for the walk around the campus, crafts, food, and other laid back events lining the streets and halls of the Masonic Village. This is what made the day special this year.

The timing of the event worked out well for us as the weather is beginning to cool and our son is enjoying being outdoors and looking at the trees. It was fun walking him around, some pushing in the stroller and some carrying in my arms, and seeing his eyes dart from new sights to new sounds, up and down, and back to mommy and daddy. I enjoying bringing him to these new places and giving him experiences that will hopefully instill in him a desire to see more.

It was also a great time for us all to get out as a family (the first time since the reunion over the summer). This time without the long distance travel and having to stay in an unfamiliar hotel room. We were able to come together for a day trip and have a relaxing (for the most part) day walking around, exploring the buildings and grounds, enjoy some free food, and browsing the arts and crafts the residents have for sale. It was also an opportunity for me to share just a little bit about freemasonry with my family… there are always a lot of brothers in attendance at the event to tell you about freemasonry, their lodge, and their appendant body. This was also a great opportunity for me to find some appendant bodies outside of the city that can save me some commute time.  

For me this was the second year in a row that I have gone down to Elizabethtown. However, I hope to make Autumn Days an annual family trip where we can just enjoy being outside, have great conversations, and watch the kids play in the bountiful open spaces. Something else to look forward to next year (and every year after that)!

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Look You Never Forget…

Firearms Friday posts will resume next week!
Over the years I have met quite a few men who were prisoners of war. Obviously, these weren’t long discussions but there were moments when the topic somehow came up and there were a few brief glimpses into what they experienced. It is during these 30 second clips that seems to last for days when you can see all they want to tell you in the way they squint and stair right through you one second and seem like they are in another world far from the reality of the present the next instant. The exact details each time may vary but those looks remain constant.

These are the moment in life when you can’t say anything, you can’t relate, you can’t really help. All you can do is listen. That is all that is needed at that point. As I have been told many times over, ‘sometimes there just needs to be someone there to listen. Not to offer their opinion or sympathy. Just someone who takes the time, pays attention, doesn’t judge, and just listens.’ Thankfully I have never once forgotten that and I have applied this to many other situations when the trauma is evident in the face and eyes of the person with whom I am speaking.

I have seen this look in the eyes of family, friends, and one of the few people with whom I have a shared (albeit brief) military experience. It is a look that has become all too common and I sometimes wonder what ever happened to the men and women from my platoon. It has been over 13 years and I keep thinking about whether this day is honoring some of those with whom I spent a summer in Missouri. Actually, it really isn’t a question of ‘if’, it is a question of how many does this apply to.

There are countless people who fought to stay alive as prisoners and more that are still missing. These are good men and women who fought for what they believed to be right and they fought for the soldiers beside them. We honor them on this day, National POW / KIA Recognition Day, especially the ones who fought to rescue a soldier who many believe to be a traitor. It is rather ironic that the Bergdahl trail is going on as this day presents itself on the calendar. Many men were KIA trying to rescue a deserter who, while seen as many as a traitor, was also seen by others as a POW. However, for now, this day is NOT meant to honor you Bowe!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Will This Debate Start Clearing The Field?

Well, it is safe to say that high school is back in session. Of course, we didn’t need to look at the calendar to figure it out, all you had to do was watch the first 45 minutes of the Republican Presidential Debate last night on CNN. Thanks largely to comments carelessly caste by the bombastic Donald Trump, the first part of the over saturated debate consisted primarily of name calling, quips, and generalized statements rather than substantive discussions which should have been the primary focus throughout the evening. Thankfully, once the back and forth between the candidates took on a serious tone, Trump faded into the background having little input on the points being made.

I continue to be dumbfounded by the polling numbers which have shown significant support for the former Apprentice host and after last night those figures are even more confusing. Fortunately, there were a number of people on the stage that treated the event the way it should be, as an exchange of ideas and challenging the ideas of others. And while there were many that neither helped nor hurt themselves last night, there were a couple of candidates that showed some real promise. Of course, we will have to wait and see if it has any impact on their respective polling numbers.

Honestly, I haven’t paid too much attention to Carly Fiorina during these early stages of the campaign season. However, her performance in the secondary debate last month and on the main stage last night demonstrate that she is a viable choice. I have actually been quite surprised by how quickly she has developed her political persona and impressed by her ability to educate herself on the various topics that will surely shape the political landscape over the next year. The only thing that she really lacks is political experience but that can also be a good thing. We will just have to wait and see how she handles the additional pressure as she gains more of the spotlight.

While not my preferred candidate and having previously been hesitant to back him, I have always been a supporter of Marco Rubio. He delivered succinct well informed responses to the questions put on the table displaying a broad but deep knowledge both of foreign and domestic policy. In addition to the intelligence he has shown, I agree with many of his positions and respect his combination of tact and straightforwardness. He has also been willing to forge his own political path at times but never too far from the main road. These are the things that make this Senator, at least in my mind, the front runner for the presidency regardless of what might be reflected in the polling numbers.

Sadly, Rand Paul’s performance last night didn’t help his campaign. While he got a couple of good lines in he didn’t clearly convey the knowledge, passion, or eloquence that many of us know that he possesses. Barring a tremendous comeback (see Reagan in 1984) there seems to be a marginal chance that he will make it to the stretch run. I still support his campaign but I am also a realist. Besides, maybe he can be more effective as a cabinet member and run again in the future.

The other candidates didn’t really stand out, at least for any good reason, to me with many of their words falling into the category of generality throughout the debate. However, at least there were the performances of note, Fiorina and Rubio, and hard hits, Trump, which will hopefully realign the field in the coming weeks and months. It would also be nice to have a smaller field moving forward as having a crowded field is not helping anyone.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

From Across The Street

In between meetings yesterday I pulled up my lodge email only to find that the fellowship for the evening was cancelled due to a variety of commitments of the usual participants. This actually worked in my favor as there were other errands that I had to run last night and the only thing that I really needed to get done at the lodge was to retrieve the mail. So, in reality, I guess you could say that I didn’t even need to be at lodge just in the general vicinity as the post office is across the street.

I left work basically in the middle of the pack. A number of my colleagues had gone home for the day while there were a few still in the conference room working on a presentation. The drive down to the main line was uneventful but slow as no one knows how to merge, change lanes, drive with a sun setting in the distance, and that green means go! Basically, the same annoyances on the road that I encounter every day when I get out of work.

Thankfully, even at the sluggish pace I was still able to make it to my appointment with our realtor on time. We sat at his desk and reviewed the criteria of what we are looking for. We have done this a few times before but it never hurts to do it again, especially in person, as we are trying to find the perfect home that will serve us for many years to come. It really was a productive meeting where we were able to clarify a few things, outline specifically what we are looking for, and part ways with a solid list in hand. Also, he is a brother from the lodge so I guess you could say that this counted as a fellowship night.

After a quick stop at the convenience store for a small snack and, more importantly, large coffee, I headed over to the lodge. Instead of pulling into the parking lot, I stopped the car in front of the post office and walked in the building. There was an unusually large amount of mail for only a week. As I walked out the door and stood a half story above the car, I looked across the street at the lodge. While the building was absent of physical light, knowing the good work being done, the dedication, fellowship, and all that happens within those walls, there was a glow about the building. It made me wish that the evening was not cancelled but, at the same time, it made me appreciate the nights when the doors are open and look forward to the following week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

TMI Tuesday: A Lot Of Changes

Another month has passed and once again it feels as though we have been cheated… time is moving so quickly that it is hard to believe that the seasons will soon be changing and our son will be reaching new milestones. With September now upon us, the temperature is getting a little cooler and the Stars Hollow like festivals are popping up all around. It is my favorite time of year made even better by the fact that I can now share the autumn with our baby boy.

The past month has brought a plethora of changes to our little family… actually it has been more of a change in routine than anything. While he has yet to talk, his expressions are becoming even more animated especially when we take him out exploring, drop him off at daycare, and pick him up at the end of the day. He is still a happy baby who likes to be out but also looks forward to spending time with his mommy and daddy at the end of the day.

While the croup from a couple of weeks ago proved to be a slight hiccup (cough actually), he has handled it about as well as we could have ever hoped for. There were some long nights but you could tell that he wasn’t happy about being awake either. All the while, the change in the weather (and trying to adjust the temperature, has also been a bit of an inconvenience but one that he has handled well. Unfortunately, while he is doing his best to sleep and rest for the next day, lately he has also become quite the light sleeper like his mommy. This is a whole different batch of issues especially since I am usually the last one up and working downstairs.

It is actually pretty interesting watching him try to get to sleep sometimes as he now likes falling asleep on his side. He has yet to roll over but that too is not far away. One thing he has mastered is sitting up. Whether on the couch, in bed, or on the floor he has been able to sit on his own for more than 30 minutes at a time. This includes catching himself when he begins to tip over and balancing himself when he reaches for some of the thing around him. With the exception of when he is tired, he now prefers sitting and standing. It shouldn’t be long before the chasing begins.

And hopefully we will have a new place where we will be chasing him. Maybe not right away but we are trying hard to find the right place for all of us. Some have looked good at the beginning while other require some imagination. In the end, we will be in a place that works for the three of us, a place that we can call home for many years to come. This is a process that has occupied much of the last month and one that our son has tolerated… after all, they have been new places for him to explore.

A lot of changes have happened over the last month but there are even more that we are expecting by the end of the year. He is growing so fast and we are just trying to keep up at this point. Hopefully, the whirlwind will subside soon so that we can enjoy the changes as they float by on the light breeze.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Knowing Your Neighbors

Don't be this guy!
Growing up I knew all the neighbors especially the few other kids on our small street. It was nice being able to go from house to house, yard to yard, and know that I could always be reached if I was needed at home (this was before cell phones). It really was like having a giant front yard where we could play, go sledding, or ride our bikes. Everyone knew everyone.

While I still make a point to introduce myself to our neighbors, I am not as diligent on making sure I meet each one. I guess there is something about the impermanence of renting that just makes it seem like there are better ways I could spend my time. This is rather selfish, I admit, but, oddly enough, it has also allowed me to spend the time getting to know more people. Rather than going out of my way, I let things happen and eventually, I am able to meet everyone and find out a little bit about those who live and work around me.

I just let things happen and when we have a chance to meet I do my best to engage in an interesting conversation. Of course, those of you who know me also know that when you get me talking it is almost always going to be a lengthy discussion regardless of the topic. So, in the end, I guess you could call this passive aggressive networking. So far it has worked for me (at home, work, and lodge) and I have gotten to know some great people this way.

I enjoy working with people on a daily basis and find that this approach allows me to treat others as friends more than just someone who lives or works near me and I have treated these relationships accordingly. And the mutually beneficial aspects have been fantastic. We all have different networks of people and sometimes we can connect others either because of business or common interest. While I have given business to others, a number of people have introduced me to contacts that have, in turn, saved me a heck of a lot of time and money.

What I am trying to say is don’t just learn someone’s name. Get to know those around you. Know what your neighbors do for a living (I will try to do a better job of this when we are in a place that we own). Know what your colleagues’ interests are and those in neighboring businesses. Know the occupations and interests of your fellow brethren (or those members in an applicable club, religious institution, etc). You will almost certainly be surprised to find that you have more in common with the people around you than you realize and there is a tremendous opportunity to help those around you and they will usually return the favor in kind. Plus, it is just nice (and comforting) to know the people around you.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A New Year, A New Perspective, A New Prayer

I am both happy and sad to see this year come to a close and the next one begin. There have been some great times of celebration and also moments that I wish we could forget. It has been a year of polar opposites that has left many of us tired and longing to begin anew… to have a fresh start… to enjoy another chance at seeing the calendar change with only joy filling the previous months. Next year, I hope.

Interestingly, the Rosh Hashanah holiday contains the same paradox as that which I feel when looking back over the year. As is posted on the Aish website:

The holiday of Rosh Hashanah contains a paradox. On the one hand, we are taught that Rosh Hashanah is the judgment day of mankind. The righteous are granted another year of life, the wicked are slated for destruction, and the average are given until Yom Kippur to mend their ways and merit another year (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 16b).

“We should be begging G-d for another year of life in the hope we can influence our judgment for the better. G-d’s court is convened. Our books are open. This is our big chance to pray for life.”

In addition to restarting the relationships we have for others through the admission of our faults, sins, and wrongdoings, we also make the same plea to G-d for forgiveness. While I can’t honestly say that I am one to give a clean slate to some people, I do my best to admit my mistakes and try my hardest to move past the wrongdoings of others. This is definitely easier said than done.

However, one of the things that has become more apparent to me over this past year in general and over the past couple of weeks in particular is the need that we have, my wife and I, to reconnect with G-d and the Jewish community in general. We need to do this not just for ourselves but, more importantly, for our son. We want him to know the world and his creator, we want him to understand and embrace all the aspects of faith, family, love, and life that make him who he is and make him such a precious gift in this world. After all…

“The purpose of the world is that mankind recognizes G-d and makes the world a reflection of His glory. G-d judges each of us on Rosh Hashanah not just based on our deeds, but based on how much we were a part of that grand mission. By identifying with and praying for G-d’s kingship to be revealed, we demonstrate that we want to be a part of the world’s purpose. We restart our relationship with G-d and redevote ourselves to Him. True, we might not have been perfect this past year, but we know what the world is about and we want to be a part of it. We want another year of life. We want to make the world a better place.”

Basically, I want him to not have the long list of things at the end of the year for which to ask for forgiveness like his father. I want him to not only have every opportunity in life but the confidence, conviction, faith, love, and support to take advantage of those opportunities. I want him to forever be a gift unto the world regardless of the path he chooses to take in life. I just want him to be a better man than I have thus far proven to be in this life and not look back with the same regrets. This is what I hope this and every new year brings.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Johnny Appleseed Drives A Volvo!

How bout them apples?
Last weekend my wife and I decided to take a drive, run some errands, and enjoy the weather. In addition to picking up some much needed supplies for the office and for home, we also found our way back to an orchard that we visited late last year. It is one of those places that we seem to forget about from time to time but, when we are in the area and have the time, we like to stop in, look around, and pick up some fresh produce and other products (the prices are about the same as if we went to the supermarket around the corner from our house).

While we were in the checkout line we noticed a few flyers for upcoming events one of which was Johnny Appleseed Day scheduled for the following weekend (today). We both agreed that it would be a great opportunity to get out of the house again and, hopefully, bring the grandparents along. Thankfully we were able to coordinate the trip the following day over dinner and so today we all met, after waiting in traffic and driving around, at the orchard under an ominous sky.

We arrived about an hour after everything was supposed to start and found that there was nearly nothing set up in the wet grass. While the hayrides we in progress, all the other aspects that we were looking forward to enjoying with our son were nowhere to be found. Heck, even Johnny Appleseed was late to his own party as I saw him pull up in his Volvo shortly after noon. But, it was still worth the trip as this was my parents’ first time to this orchard and we were able to pick up a few things, sit out on the dry porch, and talk as we watched the rain ebb and flow.

Afterward we took my parents to a local, no thrills but good food, place down the street where we continued our conversations over lunch. Driving around the area before and after the lackluster event, we were also able to see all the different fall events/festivals happening in the area. Some small and some much bigger. Definitely all things to keep in mind for next year as they are just a short drive away.

In the end, it may not have been what we expected but it all worked out. And now we already have next September planned out so that we can bring our son to as many events as possible. I am already looking forward to it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Firearms Friday: Let Us Defend Ourselves!


The moment when 9/11 happened I was a completely different person than I am today. It is safe to say that in those never ending minutes, we were all changed at least a little bit. As events have progressed over the years, I have changed more and more. While I can’t say that day had a direct impact on all the changes in my life, it did change the world as we know it and how we see it. Those are the things that have really had an impact on my life.

For many naïve years, I held the belief that the government has the objective of helping people and also has our best interests in mind. As we all know (or should know), that is definitely not the case as the primary drivers of the government, in its current incarnation, are the pursuit of more power and control with the objective of helping itself above all others. Essentially, when I was younger I was not willing be self-reliant and accept responsibility for my circumstances. Those who knew me back then can attest that fact.

To rely on yourself is to truly be free and this is what flies in the face of those who committed those heinous acts on that day. They allowed themselves to be sheep and carry out the murderous plot of a radical terrorist group. Those cowards deemed all those who did not ascribe to their beliefs to be unworthy of life. They didn’t value life nor the freedom which we all enjoy… the freedom to be ourselves rather than ascribing to the viewpoints of a particular terrorist organization. They relied on that organization to tell them what to do, how to think, and how to live their lives. They were sheep.

Over time, this particular point has resonated throughout my life. While I have my views (personal, religious, political, etc.) I am not reliant upon the determinations of a particular party or person. Sometimes I agree with people while other times I have a completely different stance on a subject. At the same time, others have the same right to have their own views. For the most part, this is a mutually agreeable position. However, there are some who would like nothing more than to strip me of my right to defend myself, of being self-reliant, and of being responsible for my own actions and not guilty because of the actions of others.

Stripping us of our right to defend ourselves, of our freedom to arm ourselves, is exactly what those hell bent on our destruction have wanted to see for years. The media war is constant citing emotional responses and false facts to support their claims. After all, if we could save a single life… However, our focus, especially on this day, should be to embrace the freedoms so feared by others dead set against us and focus our energy on saving lives without infringing upon our rights. Maybe we should devote the time, energy, and money to education and convincing others to drive more carefully. After all, there is no deadlier inanimate object than the car.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pulling Papers Together


When my wife and I decided to resume our house hunt this summer I knew that, at some point, I was going to have to spend a fairly significant amount of time in my office pulling all the documents together needed to apply for a mortgage. While the prequalification process was relatively painless and pretty straightforward the subsequent list of items needed seemed a little daunting when I first read through them in my email. There was nothing out of the ordinary and it could have been really quick had I been up to date with all my filing and organization but that certainly was not the case.

Following my conversation with the bank to get prequalified, I received the following list of items needed for underwriting:

1.)    Copies of drivers licenses and copy of a credit card (for ID purposes)
2.)    Copies of W2s from 2013 and 2014
3.)    Copies of full federal tax returns (form 1040) from 2013 and 2014
4.)    Copies of pay stubs from the most recent 30 days – (last 2 pay stubs if you are paid bi-weekly)
5.)    Copies of bank/investment account statement covering the most recent 2 months (most recent quarter for quarterly statement) – please include every page of the statement even if it is blank
6.)    Copy of fully executed agreement of sale (when available)
7.)    Copy of will and death decree to document inheritance

Again, not a problem if everything were neatly filed away and labeled. It took some time and a lot of patience but I was finally able to get everything ready to go. It was a time consuming process and one that could have probably been put off for a while but I wanted to be able to get things moving rather quickly as soon as we found our home.  

Of course, while pulling all of these items together I could help but think to myself that I should probably just put aside all the items I need to finally file our taxes this fall. There is a heck of a lot of overlap in the two lists and this mortgage process would be the perfect impetus for starting that tax file. And I do mean start as our taxes are an annual pain in the rear consisting of hundreds of pages of supporting documentation for the purpose of itemizing all our deductions. The mortgage underwriting documents are done but the tax documents still have a long way to go. Thankfully, I have a really comfortable office chair and my files are now in better change then they have been in months. I just hope I don’t have to break out the check book again!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Follow Up After The Meeting

There are always items added to my list of things that need to be done after a stated meeting. This is especially true after the first meeting following the summer. This is the reason why my schedule becomes a bit more chaotic for the first few weeks of September and why I am usually absent from the lodge the Tuesday night immediately after the meeting (since we haven’t had an extra meeting in some time). And that was exactly my schedule this time around as the list created last Thursday was soon expanded via email and quick conversations over the subsequent days.

However, what might be my biggest obstacle is actually a rather simple adjustment… getting back to my masonic routine. When the meetings flow from one month to the next I have a pretty standard schedule of when I need to get things done and what needs to be taken care of and when for the following month. The summer puts a halt to that and it can sometimes be an abrupt beginning when the heat begins to waver and we once again converge upon our second home. This, of course, is in addition to the aforementioned list of events and activities that usually ramp up in the fall which makes scheduling a bit of a challenge.

So far, this year is proving to be less of a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, there are still issues that need to be resolved and schedules that stubbornly refuse to align, but this is far from the work load that greeted me at this same point last year. This is also my second year as Secretary of the lodge which isn’t a lot of time but that one year makes a huge difference when trying to make sure things are done right and everything runs smoothly. Thankfully, knock on wood, there haven’t been the same issues arise that rudely greeted us last September.

So it is back to the routine with the year going by faster than anyone had expected and new projects and expectations being brought to the fore week after week. It can seem daunting from the outside but, at this point, I have been here before under much more trying circumstances and this time around the hurdles are much smaller and definitely further apart. Nothing is ever easy but hopefully the remaining days on the calendar are less trying and provide us with ample opportunity to celebrate all that we have accomplished over the last twelve months and a look forward to (and plan for) all the great things on the calendar for the following year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TMI Tuesday: Welcome to 3AM

While the song has no relation to the situation except for the coincidence of time, I couldn’t help by despise Matchbox Twenty this weekend as our son insisted on waking up each night at 3AM. It was a collusion of events last week that caused the constant sleeplessness with his new daycare routine, needing more mommy and daddy time, and the lingering congestion from croup. It was not a fun experience but one that we have been expecting to happen (we actually thought this would be a more regular occurrence during this first year).

Of course, this wasn’t the usual stirring in the middle of the night that can be remedied by putting his binkie back in and rubbing his head, this was the “you better not leave me until I am dead to the world asleep” kind of wakeup. Each time he was aroused from slumber, the screaming was almost immediate… it seemed to be a combination of tiredness, frustration, fear, and loneliness. It is a heartbreaking sound to hear echoing through the monitor. However, while I clearly heard each instance, to be honest, it was my wife that was the one that got out of bed to comfort our son while I did my best to keep my eyes open (many times I was unsuccessful).

And this was only the beginning of the fun each day as when the alarm rang out in the morning, it came all too soon and left us all with headaches that persisted throughout the day. Each of us trudged through our days with a set of matching family luggage strapped to our eyes. At this point, I was really hating Cat Stevens as well (or whatever his name is now).

It has been a bit of a testing time for all of us but, as of last night, things seem to be getting a little better as there was no heart wrenching screams to be heard and the remedy for waking up a little earlier than our liking was back to binkie and a quick head rub. The morning was also a bit more pleasant as we were all able to sleep better than we had in weeks. But the best part about our son feeling better (besides not being woken up at 3AM) was the fact that when I got home from work today his smile and laugh had returned which made me forget, at least briefly, about the recent nights.