Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Working On My Masonic Calendar

It is that time of year when the calendar seems to scream at me begging for mercy as I strap its legs to a wooden block. It is a process that repeats every fall as we emerge from the ease of summer. And while there are already enough events, projects, and other commitments on my personal and work calendars, it is the lodge calendar that seems to put things over the edge every year. This year has proven to be a particularly difficult one to balance.

Even something as basic as the stated meeting schedule is already met with at least one conflict in December. That was discovered even before I took a closer look at some of other blocks on the calendar. At this point, and this is by no means the end of events coming to the fore, there are certainly going to be some difficult decisions that have to be made moving forward.

Extra meetings shouldn’t be an issue as the schedule someone worked out preventing too many commitments from stacking up in a single week. However, the weekly fellowship will continue to take a hit as I need to limit the nights that I am out of the house while also juggling other events on the calendar… usually I don’t like to be out twice in one week more than once a month (if I can help it). But there are some other events to which I will bring my family such as Autumn Day, the Open House (if it comes together), and the Blood Drive (although there is a conflict that day in December as well).

While I would like to attend meetings at other lodges, be present for appendant body gatherings, and enjoy the fellowship at other communications, it doesn’t seem like that is going to be a possibility this year. I can’t remember a time when my calendar was so overloaded and I am hoping that proves to be an outlier rather than the new normal. Hopefully, the schedule next year will be a little lighter or, at the very least, I am better prepared for the onslaught of commitments.

For now, with so many other obligations I am also having to scale back on my time at the lodge even further this fall as I need to spend time with my family. In the end, family is what has and always will take precedence. Everything else is secondary. And this is something that every brother understands and all of them have supported me in making this decision. After all, our fraternity should make our family stronger.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Potty Training Postponement

Last week was an experience. Following our trip to New York, and nearly a month of our son showing signs that he was ready, we decide to take the plunge (or plop if you will) and start introducing our son to the potty. Actually, it was a matter of reintroducing him to the toddler thrown that he picked out for himself at Walmart a few months ago. Well, it was an interesting first day.

It was a completely new routine for all of us as every couple of hours we would gather around the plastic bowl and read an appropriate book to our son as he sat there patiently. While there were a few hiccups early in the morning, things were moving along about as smoothly as one could expect by the time the sun went down. He seemed to be getting the hang of it and enjoyed both the stories being read and receiving the stickers which we pulled out as an incentive for sitting there calmly. He also decided to read to us while his bare bum was perched in his seat of distinction a few times.

The following morning, while I was groggily getting ready for work, I could hear the usual back and forth above my head as my wife and son made their way from the bedroom to the bathroom. However, a few minutes later, I could hear the excitement and the clapping of little hands as our son peed in the potty for the first time. Actually, technically speaking, he peed from the potty not in the potty. Details, details. This success made for a great morning and start to the week.

By the end of the day, everything had changed. You could say that the crap hit the fan. While he was comfortable making progress at the house the day before, everything came undone at daycare. All the hard work and all of the huge steps that our son had taken were gone. We don’t know what exactly happened but it clearly wasn’t done the right way… and we were definitely not happy about the fallout! Now, potty training is on hold at daycare and we are trying to retrace those previous steps and milestones at home.

Slowly we are making progress once again. While he still isn’t as comfortable as he once was, there are small steps being made and the interest is slowly creeping back in. It is all about confidence right now as he continues to show other signs of readiness but an unwillingness to “fail” on the potty. That will return in time and, until then, we will continue to encourage him to take a load off whenever he has the urge.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Time To Keep It Simple

With all of the work being done on the house lately things have been rather complicated. So far, nothing has been as simple as it should be. Everything on our project list has had a few subsections added to it with the floors and the exterior doors being prime examples of this ongoing process. However, in the end, many of these things, all of these complications, are going to give us what we have been picturing in our minds as our ideal home. Further, many of the things that have been uncovered and a couple of the future projects have and will remove some of the complicated aspects of our home.

The best examples of this are the HVAC overhaul currently underway and the electrical overhaul that we have on the schedule. The old oil and electric system required a heck of a lot of copper pipe running across the basement and up the walls to supply the baseboard heating. The air conditioning, being an afterthought of the original homeowners, was something that was put in as inexpensively as possible leaving us with duct work running through bedroom closets and really not being very efficient. The boiler, oil tank, and all of the copper pipes are now gone, the duct work has been overhauled, and we have now simplified the two zone (the heating was originally on four zones) system running forced air for both heating and cooling.

This project is nearing completion but the electrical work has yet to be started. While a few steps have been taken to simplify this (i.e. old whole house fan has been removed) there is still a lot of work to be done with new matching fixtures being installed and a lot, and I mean a lot, of outlets and switches that are going to be removed (with a few simply being moved). This will eliminate the need for a lot of the wiring that is running throughout the house and will put things (or leave things) in place that actually make sense (i.e. I don’t need three separate switches for the kitchen lights).

It is definitely a process but, as I said before, it will simplify some of the basic aspects of our house. After all, I don’t like having excess pipes and wires running through the walls when they don’t need to be there. After that it should be much easier to maintain. So, we will have to deal with a little more complication before we can reach a point of simplicity. Well, at least until the next round of renovations and projects.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Search: The Events Of Each Generation

When researching the lives of my ancestors I am always cognizant of the larger events happening in the world around them. Additionally, I constantly think about the way of life and what would have been part of their daily consciousness during that period of time. Sometimes I am able to find direct connections to those events or ways of life like military service, prohibition, or the expansion and prevalence of the railroad industry.

However, it is important to remember (and sometimes I have to remind myself), that the stories are there we just have to allow our ancestors to tell them. We can't expect to find anything or wish to find a connection to a person or event. We must look at their lives as we do our own and cherish facts (good and bad) like memories. In my opinion, this is a critical in understanding your ancestors and the lives that they lived.

It is this same thought process that is important for us to remember in our own lives as well. While there are many people who have a direct connection to 9/11, there are even more of us that have been impacted by this tragedy in one way or another. Our lives are different because of it and, in many instances, the courses of our lives have been altered by it. Some more so than others.  

This, unfortunately, is an event that has shaped our time similar to how the various events in history have shaped the lives of our ancestors. Not only does this remain a vivid memory but the time in which we live has allowed us to experience it as it happened, in real time, and also relive the horrors of that September morning. This is both good and bad for obvious reasons.

We had instant access to information and readily available (to a certain extent) communication with loved ones. This wasn’t always the case and it actually makes me wonder if previous generations were better off simply not knowing until long after the fact. But, we can’t change the time in which we live, and, similarly, we can ascribe modern technology and thought process to previous generations… a common mistake that I see much too often.

This is life and the world in which we live. While we may not always like it, we have to accept it. And the same can be said for our ancestors. We may not always agree with the common practices or mentalities of the time but those are the realities of the world for that generation. It is difficult at times, but we have to remove ourselves, and our modern perspective, from the lives of our ancestors and let them tell us the stories about their lives.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Night Before

The small memorial at Orange County Choppers
I have little recollection regarding the night before 9/11/01. I remember that the semester was just getting started and that I had class early the next morning. I know that I was preparing for a trip into the city for the ASVAB and that I was working on scheduling a meeting with the President of the college to discuss starting an ROTC partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (a partnership was later formed with MIT). I can also faintly recall hearing the sounds of the Giants’ Monday Night Football game coming from a dorm room a few feet away but there is little else that my memory possesses.

Overall, it was just another cool New England night with the biggest concern of those around me was starting off the year right and making sure that they got to class on time the following morning. When I woke up on Tuesday morning I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary and I went about the early morning preparing for class and taking a slow walk to the Academic Building. It really was a beautiful beginning to the day with only a few thin clouds in the sky, a light breeze coming off of the bay, and the temperature remaining crisp and comfortable.

When I walked through the doors and glanced up at the television perched in the corner I could see that something was going on but didn’t really take the time to watch and process what was transpiring. I was running a little behind getting to class but managed to get there by 8:50am, there was little else on everyone’s mind and the conversation quickly lead to an early dismissal about 5 minutes later. As I retraced my steps back through the building, I once again looked up at that same television just as the second plane struck the South Tower.

This is when we all knew that this wasn’t simply an accident and as the news and speculation streamed across the screen I quickly pulled out my cell phone and called my dad to make sure that his meeting at the World Trade Center the day before didn’t carry over into the morning. Thankfully, it seems as though I was one of the last to place a successful call as cell phone service was nearly nonexistent by the time I got back to my dorm room and turned on the news. As Peter Jennings shuffled through the information we all turned up the volume of our televisions and walked outside to try and catch our breath. And as the fighter jets screamed above our heads low enough to read the warnings on the underbelly of the planes, we could hear the reports come in that the first tower had collapsed.

The rest of the week remains absent from memory as days seemingly condensed into seconds while minutes felt like weeks. Fifteen years later and I still have those memories etched in my mind. And I am sure that fifteen years from now they will remain as vivid as they are today.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Firearms Friday: A Simple Question

As I mentioned previously, this past weekend we took a family vacation up to New York to attend a family reunion. Rather than stay anywhere near the city, we decided to stay a little further out and we found the perfect place in The Thayer Hotel. Now, because the hotel is on the West Point grounds, there is a security checkpoint that you need to pass through in order to get back to your hotel room. While this may put off some people I found it rather reassuring and enjoyed the quick conversations with the guards as we presented them with our identification.

One such conversation was rather amusing when we returned to the hotel a little later than we were expecting on Friday evening. While I had my identification in hand, my wife had left hers in the back of the car. When we stopped at the gate she got out and proceeded to the back of the vehicle. While she was opening the door and reaching into her bag, the guard turned and asked me “do you have any weapons or firearms in the vehicle?”

Okay, so that is not the amusing part. The look of surprise that he gave me when I responded is what gave me a little chuckle afterward. It went something like this, “Sir, while I have a concealed carry permit in my home sate I am a long way from Pennsylvania. While I don’t agree with many of the laws and policies in place in this country in general and this state in particular, I would be an idiot to try and carry any sort of firearm in this state and an absolute fricking moron to try and carry any weapon onto a military base.”

Right or wrong, that is how I responded… and honest and straightforward response. The look he gave me was the amusing part both for his appreciation for my position and slight shock that I actually said it but what he said reminded me of the sad cluelessness that has become pervasive in this country… “You would be surprised.” A response to so many different situations.

By the time our banter concluded my wife had retrieved her identification and we were being waved to proceed to the hotel. With a quick “thank you” we were on our way but clearly that moment has stuck in my mind. In the end, know where you are going and what the laws, regulations, and restrictions are in that place and at that establishment. It keeps you legal and it may even provide you with an amusing moment of honesty.   

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Between Blog Posts: Part 3

Over the past month I have been able to find a few second and even a few minutes here and there that have allowed me to let my mind meander about and pull together different images and glimpses into the lives of fictional characters. Even while trying to catch up on the blog, there were still a few much needed moments when I needed to take a momentarily creative leave from reality. It is still unclear as to what will be done with all of these little pieces and whether they tie together somehow or if they are completely separate stories. So, following my notes from New Jersey Transit uncovered in the beginning of August, part 1 recorded in the middle of the month, and part 2 published a couple of weeks ago, I bring you another installment in this sporadic series.


The neighborhood kids called him Mr. Brown but he had many different monikers throughout his life. Whenever they would call his name in the morning he would turn his head and give him them a slight smile. No one said anything else to him. They let him be and simply watched in silence as he went about his morning routine.

He peered out the window each morning at 6am looking up at the sky. When the sun shone on the horizon he would put on his slippers, a coat when the weather turned bitter, and opened the front door with a slow and deliberate precision that baffled those watching.

His purposeful steps didn’t take him far. They carried him to the corner of his walkway and into a gravel bed surrounding his flag pole. Her he would take the flag tucked under his arm, unfold it, and raise the stars and stripes in a way that is familiar to few but respected by all who witness the ceremony.

Every morning he would pause at half-mast with a kind sadness in his eyes that revealed much more about his routine. In a moment of stillness he seemed to mutter almost apologetically before hoisting the flag to the top of the pole. Securing the rope with a figure eight and solitary knot, he would then turn and return to the front door stiffly closing it behind him as if trying to keep out the memories.

When the sky prepares to succumb to the night everyone watches as he emerges from behind his seclusion almost with a sense of relief that the evening will soon descend and another day will end in silence. He returns the flag to the earth folding into a precise triangle, tucked it under his arm, and carried it with reverence back into his home.

As the amber deepens into red and before the purple hue of dusk, a small glimmer of yellow can be seen waiving lightly from the trunk of his oak tree seemingly giving farewell. The same bitter parting he was offered when his son was deployed.

And now the tattered ribbon tethers the memories of a neighborhood as they all remember the jovial laugh that would fill the small street every time Mr. Brown came home from work. A laugh that only lives in distance echoes. But now there is only night. Now there is only silence. For one more day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Back Behind The Desk

After the rush to get things done last week, it was nice to return to the lodge for the first, post summer, stated meeting. As always, there were a few hiccups leading up to it but the night went by smoothly so I am not really in the position to gripe. And while it was a much more relaxed gathering (as this particular month usually is) we were able to get a number of things done and make progress on a host of other projects.

Of course, with the heat still lingering from the previous month, it wasn’t the most comfortable meeting of the year (especially for those of us in tuxedos) but it was also fairly mild in comparison to previous meetings and past years. What I did notice was the mix of brethren that were in attendance representing a large span of years among the small gathering. Each sharing stories about their summer over dinner and enjoying the fact that their monthly routine is now back offering a respite from the week.

The meeting went by faster than I was expecting and before I knew it the brethren were offering their final thoughts and thanks. At this point I couldn’t help but take a little jab at one of the brethren by recognizing him for completing the requirements for the Master Craftsman Award. This is especially impressive given the fact that he has been a mason for less than two years, received his Master Builder Award in the fall, and began his journey through the chairs in December. Of course, there are also other accomplishments in this short period of time but I have already done enough to embarrass him.

This is one of the more enjoyable moments as there are a few of us that will go back and forth trying to embarrass the other but in a good way. We don’t make mention of faults or errors but rather accentuate and inflate the accomplishments and accolades. It may seem like an odd contest to some but it is an enjoyable monthly banter and, clearly, an ongoing inside joke.

By the time we shut off the lights and began walking to our cars, I was already running through the list of things that needed to get done over the next week and the other items that needed to be checked off the list by next meeting. At the same time, I was really enjoying the simple fact that we were back and that I will have the pleasure of sharing another Thursday night with the brethren next month. And it is that feeling of comfort and anticipation that brings all of us back and keeps us active in the lodge. It is also what brings many of us back to the lodge between meetings for fellowship. It is a feeling that all brothers should have every month.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Leaving Something Behind

Random photo found online of the old school method.
This past weekend with all the stories that we were told about my wife’s family it made me appreciate a couple of things. The first is that my wife and I have done a lot of research about our families and now know more than we ever did growing up. In fact, it is safe to say, that we have more information, stories, and documents now than at any other point in recent generations. Second, I am so glad that I have so much that I have written down about the lives of my family and my own life as well. All of this will be passed down and, hopefully, our son will carry that knowledge with him and pass it down as well.

While there have been time when I have fallen behind on this blog (like now), today marks the 1200th consecutive daily post that I have written and posted. This is by far my longest writing project and, honestly, there is no end in sight at this point. There are certain to be slow times again in the future and periods when it is difficult to record my thoughts but they will get out and they will be recorded in these posts.

Life has changed drastically since I made the decision to blog again and while there have certainly been challenges along the way, life keeps getting better (and busier) with each passing post. Looking back there are a lot of things that I would probably change but, at the same time, there are many stories, essays, and rants that I am glad that I took the time to record. After all, those are the posts and opinions, when taken together, that will reveal who I am to my son.

However, there are definitely some things that I still have to work on as many of the things written have been rather pointed, some are poorly written, and others just don’t make any darn sense in one way or another. Of course, this is in addition to the fact that there is a slight (and sometimes not so slight) egocentricity that can be found in a few pieces here and there. Hey, I never said I was perfect and, to a certain extent, I am glad that these flaws are present in my writing.

In the end, this is who I am, what I do, and what I leave behind. Like it or not, take it or leave it, clich├ęd and creative. If this is the only thing that I am able to leave behind I am okay with that. And, just think, this is only the beginning.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Labor Day Labor

While I don’t have work today the ironic thing about this Labor Day is that there is work being done at the house. It seems as though every minute of free time that my brother in law has had lately has been committed to this HVAC overhaul. For the past month (or more, I can’t recall when he started) he has joined us for the weekend forgoing time with his family and taking a break from his already long work week. There is no questioning that we are incredibly lucky to have him devote so much of his free time to not just getting this project done but getting it done right.

This is the part of Labor Day that tends to be overlooked. Many of the people whom we honor with this day are the same ones who would do anything to help their family. The same people that deserve to take a break tend to be the ones that can never stop working.

Thankfully, we are almost done with this phase of the work. A couple more weekends and everything should be complete and the way that we want it and the way that he wants it. There is already a huge difference in the house both with regard to the regulation of the temperature and the cleanliness of the system (the old one was, to put it nicely, nasty). Just a short time longer and we will all be able to enjoy the new system.

In future years we hope to have him at our house again during this particular holiday but this is, hopefully, the last time that we will ask him to do any work on the house. Actually, we hope to have the family join us in the future to relax not to work on the house and enjoy the work that was put into making our home as comfortable as possible. It shouldn’t take long before we start having family over again to enjoy the house.  

In the meantime, we are continuously cognizant of the sacrifices that our brother in law is making to help us out (and my sister and their kids) and we are doing our best to make him as comfortable as possible while he is here. We try to keep the beer fridge stocked, have good food on the table, and a bed made. We also have an open door so that the kid and my sister can come over and spend some time. But, the most important thing right now is that we try and do everything we can to give him back his weekends as soon as possible.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sunday Search: Another Reunion!

The family will understand the significance of this photo. 
While we have been planning this weekend for months we have been thinking about it for even longer. Ever since our son was born (especially given the circumstances around his birth) my wife and I have made a conscious effort to preserve our respective family histories that we can one day pass down all of this information to him. Part of this process is making sure that we attend the family reunions whenever we are given the opportunity to do so. Today, and this entire weekend for that matter, we were finally able to introduce our son to my mother-in-law’s side of the family up in New York.

While we have been sharing meals with various family members for the entire weekend, it was nice to have a larger group together for a short time so that we could learn a little more about the family, the different branches, and also the place where many of the roots still thrive. Much like the family reunion last summer, there were people we knew, some we recognized, and others to whom I was introduced for the first time. It was also a great way to introduce our son to an entirely new culture as these family members represented our son’s Italian and New York heritage.

After all, the stories are there, you just have to be there to listen. And when many of the family members weren’t playing with our son they would share their memories with us bringing to the fore both the rawness of recent memory but also appreciation of the time we did have with them. There really isn’t a way to describe that particular experience and that mix of emotions but, in the end, I am glad that we were there and that we are able to provide a connection to this part of the family not just for my wife and I but for our son.

Most importantly, while this was simply another reunion or gathering for some present, it was a means to connect with family for us. Family that shared stories with us that can’t be found in any book but that speak to the character of the family into which I was, once again, warmly welcomed. It was an afternoon and weekend that we will not soon forget and an experience we look forward to sharing with our son many more times in the future. However, next time I just have to remember to not eat for about three weeks prior.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Weekend Upstate

Since we were already going to be attending my wife’s family reunion in New York on Sunday, it only made sense to tack on a few days and make a long weekend out of the trip. With this rough plan in mind we headed out yesterday morning and slowly meandered through Pennsylvania and into ‘Upstate’ New York (yes, completely avoiding New Jersey). We had already made plans for dinner on Friday shortly after arriving and lunch today, but there has been plenty of room in the schedule to add a few more things to the list.

It was a rather interesting experience when we first pulled up to our hotel as we had to show our ID’s in order to proceed past the first gate at West Point. Yes, you read that correctly, we stayed at The Thayer Hotel which is located at West Point (just beyond the first gate of course). The really interesting thing is that shortly before our scheduled travel north, my wife discovered that her mother had stayed at that exact hotel many times in the past when she was a student at NYU. I guess some things are just meant to be.

In addition to being very secure, the hotel was actually very nice both inside and out as the rooms were spacious and comfortable and the view of the Hudson River flowing behind the hotel was a beautiful sight. In fact, it was a pleasant backdrop to our buffet breakfast in the morning. Of course, being so close to the West Point campus, we had to take a tour while we were there and it was well worth it as we were not only able to enjoy some spectacular views but also explore some of the memorials erected on the property while being reminded of important role that the Military Academy has played in the history of this country.  

Shortly after we arrived on Friday afternoon we dropped out bags off in the room and headed down to Yorktown Heights to meet up with some extended family. Following a hearty meal and sharing stories, we drove around the neighborhood so that my wife could see all of the houses that she grew up visiting when her grandparents and other family members filled the neighborhood. It was great seeing her face light up when we passed those familiar structures.

The following morning we had a little extra time which allowed us to make a slight detour on our way to Connecticut. The detour in the opposite direction brought us to Orange County Choppers where there were surprisingly few cars in the parking lot. It was interesting seeing all the bikes that were built on American Chopper over the course of the show’s run and our son seemed to really enjoy seeing the bikes and exploring all the other new things around the showroom. If you watched the show you may remember some of these projects being built…

Today we were also able to spend time with some family members who will not be attending the reunion tomorrow which is what brought us over to Connecticut. It really was a great time and more great memories and stories were shared with us. And after another long day there is just enough time to rest and recuperated before the big gathering tomorrow and the drive home afterward. So, that is all for now, more about the reunion tomorrow!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Firearms Friday: For Whom Are You Really Voting?

This is how we started the year... how will it look in four years? 
Well, the campaigns are now in full swing and it seems like every other commercial is sponsored by the Clinton campaign (or some associated group). There are also the various campaign spots from local politicians filling the screen as well but that is another topic for another day. Back to the national campaigns… so far I haven’t seen much regarding the qualifications of Hillary Clinton being ‘promoted’ in these advertisements rather they have been going out of their way to attack Donald Trump and some of his statements which have been clearly taken out of context.

Heck, even my wife has been disturbed by this trend. But this shouldn’t really be a surprised for those of us who have put some thought into the presidential race as there are no ‘qualifications’ or ‘accomplishments’ to be found in her record that would, in any way, support her candidacy. After all, an ad buy promoting Obamacare, Benghazi, and private servers wouldn’t really be part of a winning strategy. It is actually rather pathetic the lack of concise information present to support her rather than simply opposing Trump.

However, I digress. What I really want to bring to the fore is what is of utmost importance in this election cycle. It isn’t Obamacare or the economy. It isn’t race relations or military operations. It isn’t international relations or the national debt. While these are all important in their own right they are not of primary concern this time around. In fact, it really isn’t about who is occupying the White House. It’s about the Supreme Court not the Presidency!

In addition to the seat left vacant upon Antonin Scalia’s death this past February, there are likely to be three other appointments which need to be made by the next president. After all, there are currently three associate justices who are 78, 80, and 83 years old respectively. For those of you interested, below is a list of the current court with ages and by which president they were appointed:

John Roberts (Chief Justice), 61, George W. Bush
Anthony Kennedy, 80, Ronald Reagan
Clarence Thomas, 68, George H. W. Bush
Ruth Bader Ginzburg, 83, Bill Clinton
Stephen Breyer, 78, Bill Clinton
Samuel Alito Jr, 66, George W. Bush
Sonia Sotomayor, 62, Barak Obama
Elena Kagan, 56, Barak Obama

The Supreme Court is the body that will determine the direction of this nation not the individual in the oval office. Whomever wins this election and takes office in January will determine the course of this country for the next generation not the next four or eight years. Personally, and I know I am not alone in this thinking, I would prefer a conservative court that upholds our rights (especially the second amendment), limits the power held by those in Washington, and, most importantly, support and defends the Constitution. It is scary to think about the possibility of a court where five of the justices where appointed by a Clinton and two more where appointed by Obama. That is a future that none of us can afford.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Planning The Fall Schedule

Somehow the summer has already disappeared and we find ourselves on the brink of autumn. Now that September has started it is time to take a look at the fall schedule and, hopefully, make sense of the chaos that is my calendar. It is a process that has become increasingly important over the past few years but most especially the last couple of years. After all, I need to make sure that the balance remains in the small blocks that rigidly grid the paper.

While there are always a few things that I know fill some week nights, there is a surprising amount of other plans and activities that we already have in place. Actually, our plans begin right away with the schedule full until early next week. When I finally took a look this morning (and again this evening) at all of the items that needed to be included and scheduled, I was surprised to find such a long list. It is almost as if these events had been horded for the first eight months and now I am finally able to sort through them.

In addition to the usual lodge commitments and holidays, there are a few new things that have been added this year. First and foremost are the various Sons of the American Revolution meetings and events. This is followed by the various house projects that will be taking place over the next couple or few months. Finally, there are numerous family events that we are planning to attend which have to be included in our seasonal plans. These will certainly be welcomed respites from the chaos that is our calendar.

This is the plan that we have in place heading into the new season but we also begin this new month knowing that things will most definitely change. Some plans will stick, some will move. Some of the changes will be our choice while other alterations to the schedule will be completely out of our control. All we can really do is plan and hope for the best.

There have already been so many plans made and so many changes take place in our schedule this year that it would be nice to return to some regularity but it really isn’t expected at this point. However, there are a few events, a few brief windows in the schedule, that should hold and, thankfully, those are the things of which we are most looking forward. As for everything else, we will just have to wait and see and hope that the only thing that changes is the season.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Some Meetings Sneak Up On You

As last week came to an end I finally got around to looking at the calendar for the following month. After filling in a few other plans I surveyed my schedule which is when I realized how quickly the next stated meeting was approaching… I really don’t like it when the stated meeting is on the first of the month. So, after a long summer respite, I found myself behind on preparations for the lodge. To say that I kicked things into overdrive would be an understatement as the notice was yet to be completed, the minutes were in shambles, and the bill summaries had yet to be completed.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation many times before and getting some of these things done quickly has become a somewhat regular occurrence. So, first thing on the list was to get the notice done. I know where to look for all of the information and the messages are pretty cut and dry so this was completed quickly.

Since there was little time to spare I had to forego my usual submission to Staples so the printer at the office was working overtime. Address labels were next which just take time even when working at a fast pace. Stuffing everything made for a long night but it was finally done. Of course, the completion of the notice also coincided with updating both online databases. Yes, we are still dealing with this issue.

The minutes and bill summaries are simply a matter of recording all of the notifications and occurrences which are then put into a specific format. While it takes a little time making sure that everything is done correctly, it is a rather painless process that can be accomplished quickly. By the time the weekend had descended upon us, all of the necessary items were either completed or updated. Last night, a few more updates were made and a call-em-all was scheduled. All caught up… for now.

Now it is simply a matter of pulling together the other materials that I need for the meeting and making sure that everything is ready and in order for when I have to speak to the brethren. All the petitions, communications, and various other pieces of paper are ready to go. All that remains is to reconnect with many of the brethren tomorrow night and beginning planning for the October stated meeting. After all, I don’t want to find myself in the same position next month!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Daddy Kisses!

A few months ago, while trying to get our son to sound out a few new words, I would pick him up and ask, “Can you say, ‘Daddy, I love you’?” While the first couple of times that I did this there wasn’t much of a reaction and maybe only a few mumbles of a baby babble but, over time, this changed. One morning before sitting him at the table for breakfast, I posed the same question and got a response I wasn’t expecting. He didn’t say anything, rather he leaned over and gave daddy a big, and very wet, kiss on the lips.

This is not something that he had done but only a couple of times previously, before this he simply did not give daddy kisses. This became almost a daily routine for us as I would ask him the same question and our son giving me the same response. Frankly, I kept hoping for the words but was completely happy with the alternative. There were even some instances when, without me saying a word, he would walk over to me in the playroom just to give me a kiss.  

What came as a surprise shortly after this all started was that I didn’t even have to be present for our son to react this way. When driving home from the office one night I asked the question hoping that he may try to sound out the words but, instead, he took hold of the phone and gave it a big kiss and giggled. Again, this has also become part of our weekday routine.

However, a couple of weeks ago the kisses stopped. Our son no longer wants to give hugs and kisses as frequently as he once did. I guess the phase has passed. As we have been told many times over, enjoy the moments when they happen. While the in person affection has slowed, our son has maintained his phone response and continues to kiss and hug the phone when asked the simple question.

In place of the physical responses, now the words are becoming a much more prevalent part of our days with some clearer than others. We still working on the same question we were before, he is now making a more concerted effort to sound it out. While this was the original impetus for my query a few months back I now find myself missing those moments when my son would give me a big kiss as if to say “of course I love you daddy.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mortgage Monday: HVAC Overhaul

Well, we are halfway there. While the work weeks were once filled with ongoing renovations, now the weekends are taking the brunt of the workload. Thankfully, as of this past weekend, half of the HVAC overhaul has been completed with the first floor now able to better maintain the temperature that we set on the thermostat. The old unit is still running (surprisingly) but is now only trying to cool the second floor. Now we only have to hope that it lasts until the rest of the work is done.

In total, the boiler and oil tank have been removed, half of the baseboard units have been pulled out, and the propane tank, hot water heater, and complete AC system on the first floor have been installed. It is already a lot of work and we are only at the midpoint of this renovation phase. While it is difficult to go from the work week to the house work on the weekends, we are already enjoying the benefits of what has been completed.

It really is surprising how much of a different some of these things can make regarding the simple enjoyment of our home. And, lately, with how up and down the weather has been it is nice to have some regularity regarding the internal temperature of the house. We knew that the old system was undersized and ineffective but we didn’t really full grasp how bad it was until we got the new system up and running.

The next steps will involve attacking the second floor and completely taking the old unit offline. The weather actually looks like it is going to cooperate this coming weekend but, of course, our schedule is not so forgiving and we will be out of town for much of the long weekend. Thankfully, we have someone whom we can trust doing this work and we also know the quality of work that is being done which will allow us to not have to think about the house while we are away… more on the trip over the weekend.

For now, we are going to enjoy all the upgrades and improvements that we have decided to have done to the house and we are going to brace for the next part of the process which will descend upon us next month. While there should be little overlap between this current project and the next, there is likely to be a short period of time when there will be work going on seven days a week. Thankfully, it two completely different parts of the house. Should be fun!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Search: A Local Family Reunion

In recent years I have gained a greater appreciation for our annual family gatherings. While it was a little different this year with regard to both place and time of year, it was still a great time catching up and simply seeing everyone in one place. Yesterday we gathered together and took the opportunity to talk and, more importantly, to listen about all that was going on in the family and all the unique experiences that each of us has had over the past year (and a half). It is interesting because we are actually quite the diverse group.

This year I was able to bring more than food to the ‘reunion’ as I had recently completed pulling together all of the information needed for my supplemental Sons of the American Revolution application. Thankfully, I was able to print out an extra copy before leaving the office on Friday which allowed me to go page by page, generation by generation, when explaining our patriotic lineage. This is another part of the process that I really enjoy as I could see their faces when I was able to uncover each piece of information and name of which they were previously unaware. It was the same look that I had when I originally discovered the information.

However, that was only secondary as it was family time to both talk about our lives and also remember some of the past times when we all got together for a day or two. This is the most important part and I have become more aware and appreciative of this particular aspect. After all, we can talk about the past and ancestors whose lives have long since been completed but it is the current, ever changing, lives that we lead which are what makes our family dynamic. Events such as this allow us to enjoy both sides of the equation.

While we all lead very different lives with different experiences, professions, and opinions, we are all part of one family with a common ancestry. Different branches, different leaves; same trunk, same tree. We live in the present but are always cognizant and respectful of the past. I enjoy sharing what I know, what I have been able to uncover, but I truly enjoy hearing about the family history and simply listening to the stories from the current generations. After all, documents will (usually) always exist but the stories will not always be told and are often lost amongst the generations. And a reunion is a perfect opportunity to listen.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Welcomed Weekend

While we have a busy schedule this weekend we still have an opportunity to catch up on a few things. When we originally moved into our house we were able to get a pretty good handle on a few things but there have been a few places around our house that have been in need of our attention. The largest and most time consuming of which has been the organization and reorganization of our offices… they always seem to be the first things that are pushed down the list when something comes up.

Things have been so busy this summer that there hasn’t been much time on the weekends to spend as a family let alone get the things we want to get done around the house. While we don’t have the large blocks of time, I can see a few opportunities to tackle some of the disorganization that can be found around us. Now that things have been moved out of my wife’s office from the chaos of renovations last month and there is an extra bookcase in my office, there is an outside chance that we will be able to make some progress.

But even if that time evaporates and we find ourselves in the same situation come Monday morning, I am okay with that so long as we are able to spend the little free time that we have with our son. It is a new give and take that we continue to embrace, and sometimes fight, every weekend. There are moments when we wish we could have some space, have a break, just a little time to ourselves but there are also the moments when we could spend all day just watching our son in amazement occasionally looking at one another in disbelief that he is our little boy.

Just that simple fact makes me forget about all the things that need to be done. But we still need to make the time to take care of the house because when we aren’t overcome by the adorableness, we keep thinking about that list that does seem to want to go away. This weekend we hope to make those down moments a little easier and our list a little shorter. After all, like many things you just can’t put them off forever. Eventually that list needs to be taken care of so when we do have those moments to ourselves, we can enjoy the quiet and relaxation that those moments provide.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Firearms Friday: Returning To The Work Bench

Try as I might, it has been extremely difficult to find the time to spend at my workbench. Whenever I thought that there would be a little bit of time to spend in the basement there would be something that would come up requiring my time and attention leaving the dust to collect for another week or two below the kitchen floor. That is just how things go sometimes when trying to juggle a variety of commitments at the same time while also dedicating time to family. However, every once in a while I am able to create the time to wipe away the dust and resume putting the pieces together.

Over the past couple of weekends, while the air conditioning was being overhauled by my brother-in-law in the basement, I was able to carve out some of that time. As the pieces were being put together and secured to the studs, I was busy at my work bench trying to find some semblance of organization and attempting to get a few of the smaller planned projects completed. While I was little help with the air conditioning and duct work, I am in my element when I have my bench, my tools, and the parts and pieces with which I am familiar.

There were many moments when we were both intensely occupied by our own tasks pulling tools, hammering pieces together, and watching each of our respective projects come together. Piece by piece, minute by minute, we each took a simple collection of parts and pieces and created something functional. It has been rather relaxing to just focus on the process and each step necessary to complete a fully functional firearm. It is somethings that I can do rather quickly but I am intentionally slowing things down and focusing on each screw, pin, and detail.  

Eventually I will resume the more involved projects but, for now, I was just enjoying the few days of working with my hands on some of the most basic tasks that I have been putting off. But, the important thing now is that I have been able to take the organization to the next level and I am now fairly comfortable with how everything is set up, what has been checked off the list, and what I have yet to start but that is stored away in boxes like adult Lego sets. I don’t know when I will be back down there, there are a lot of other things that need to be accomplished, but I can now, more than ever before, get to work right away should I find that little bit of time.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Between Blog Posts: Part 2

Earlier in the month I shared some story notes that I uncovered during a bout of digital archaeology and last week I posted another piece that I jotted down between a couple of blog posts and projects. Well, it happened again. While doing some work and personal research this past week, a small light began flickering in my mind like a projector and played a small scene for me. All that was shone is what is recorded below. This, like the other ideas recorded on this blog, might be interesting to pursue when I have a little more time to commit to this type of writing. But, for now, here is what was played for me…


Jim was never a morning person and never pretended to be one unless he was applying for a job. This was the conflict that stirred in his mind as the alarm echoed off the empty apartment walls.

He kicked the soiled sheets to the other side of the bed and placed his hand in the cold empty hollow in the mattress next to him. It almost didn’t feel like it was worth it to try and get up but he could stand the thought of lying there alone.

As he staggered to his feet the faux floor whined between his toes. In the bathroom he plunged his worn face in the stagnant sink filled with the same water that had been lingering for days.

The spotted mirror told him all he needed to know reflecting his shadow riddled eyes buried behind his beard.

He rustled through his clothes looking for something that could pass as presentable, something that may have appeared on a store shelf in the last twenty years.

Cleaned and dressed to the standard that had haunted him for the past three years, he opened his bedroom door and walked down the short moonlit hallway to the stack of disposable bowls awaiting him in the kitchen. Like the hundreds of days before, he opened the only stocked cabinet, pulled out a box, and watched the sweet processed puffs as they piled into the paper vessel.

Some people take great care with their diet, Jim was not one of those people.

By the time the sun had begun to inch over the horizon, he was already walking deliberately down the stairs, step by step, counting each one as if the total would be different than all the other days.

The orange and red of the sky surprised him and a smile nearly curled the corners of his mouth when it was quickly slapped from his face by the noise of the city. His simple routine had taken him nearly two hours and now the remaining minutes of the early morning were few and precious.

While little had changed that morning maybe the day would be different. Maybe this would be the day when the burdens of the past would be lifted. Maybe the events of the day would allow him to forget. Maybe this job would be different than the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

T-Shirts, Horseshoes, and Hamburgers

It was really a matter of happenstance that we even had the time to drive down to King of Prussia a couple of weekends ago. And, somehow, our son’s nap schedule had some flexibility for the day so, after lunch, we all piled in the car with the hope that he would sleep on the way over. While we are having work done on the house in between the work weeks, the scheduled day off corresponded nicely with an event that was a couple of months in the making… the 6th Masonic District Family Picnic.

To say that it was a hot afternoon would be an understatement. While I have broiled at higher temperatures, the combination of heat and humidity was, to say the least, uncomfortable. So much so that I was wondering what the turnout was going to be like as we weaved our way through the King of Prussia neighborhoods. After a few missed turns and slow coasting down the small streets, we finally made it to the park where I was met with a pleasant sight.

We arrived about an hour after the picnic was scheduled to start and we were greeted by nearly everyone in attendance as we walked through the crowd to the t-shirt table in the back. It was great to see everyone outside of the lodge and especially during the summer when we usually don’t have the opportunity to get together as a district. It was also nice to once again meet the masonic families in attendance and introduce them to my family in the process.

While we looked to sit down and have a bite to eat (our District Deputy makes a fantastic hamburgers), our son couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the horseshoes flipping and spinning through the air landing, mostly, with a loud pink or clang. It actually brought back some great memories from when I was not much older than my son as I watched my uncles trade points in the back yard. Of course, it didn’t take long before his attention was broken by everyone around us trying to catch his attention especially a little girl (of one of our new candidates) who just wanted to play with our shy little boy.

Again, it was hot and we all seemed a little sluggish that afternoon but time didn’t seem to be fazed by the temperature. Before we knew it, we were heading back to the car and turning the air conditioning as high as it could go. It was a great time and I look forward to this new annual gathering. I just hope that it is a little cooler next year and every year after that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TMI Tuesday: I Don’t Like Working Being Done!

Might have to make one of these given how fascinated he is with the work being done.

Over the last couple of months we have had something going on at the house. From the big projects like the doors, floors, and garage to basic maintenance and inspections to our current air conditioning marathon, there has been a regular flow of people in and out the door. While our son does enjoy watching the work being done and seeing new people every now and again, there are definitely moments when he has simply had enough. And he has no qualms about letting us know when he is done with all the work.

Thankfully, now that the floors are done on the first floor, we are past what we consider the most inconvenient and intrusive part of the renovation process. However, we currently find ourselves in a position where we are having the air conditioning being overhauled on the weekends and while it doesn’t really impact the living area upstairs, it does take me away from my son for a little bit during those precious days away from the office. It really is a give and take at this point but these are things that will pay huge dividends in a myriad of ways in the future.

He does enjoy the opportunity to spend time with family and playing with his cousins. They have been able to keep his mind off of the banging and drilling for the most part and have, in general, kept him occupied during what could be a difficult time of the week. That doesn’t change the fact that he really doesn’t like work being done at the house and there are moments when he stops and clearly babbles his displeasure at the situation.

It makes us wonder how he is going to react to the additional projects that we have planned for the future and whether or not there is enough of a break scheduled in between the phases. Of course, that window could be much smaller should a few things get delayed further but I am trying not to think about that… our luck has to change in that regard, right? I am certain that there will be some sort of voiced frustration but I am not sure to what degree. We will, like many other things, have to wait and see how things play out.

However, with all that being said, our son does seem to like the changes and gives us this look every now and again like “now I see what you were doing, this was definitely worth it”. And it does help that he is able to sleep through a lot of noise and overall commotion. So it may prove to be beneficial when we finally return to what could be considered a “normal” routine. Whenever that is.