Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Search: SAR Update

As many of you may recall reading, I have been trying to find the time over the past few years to finally sit down, pull together all the documents, and submit my application to the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Of course, up until last week I hadn’t even reached out to the SAR to get additional information so that was the first step that I had to take. So, out of the blue, I looked up the local contact information and gave the chapter a call. After a very nice, informative, and welcoming conversation I received some sound advice as to how I should proceed the most important of which was to start with the ancestor that I can most easily prove.

My goal when I made the call was to get everything pulled together over the next several weeks, two weeks if I was lucky. This seemed to be an agreeable and manageable arrangement for both of us and I was encouraged to attend meetings in the meantime while I was finishing up my application. By the time we ended our conversation I already knew which ancestor made the most sense. While the documents that I have in my possession are not enough for the Monacan Indian Nation, they are more than enough prove to the SAR that I am a descendant of John Redcross.

Well, somehow I finally found the time to get it done and I was able to submit all 200+ pages to the local chapter for review. This past week has been a time to review the application that I submitted and, surprisingly, a time for the chapter genealogist to condense the documentation down to only the items needed. We really do have more than enough to prove our lineage and, at the same time, not enough. Now we can focus on finding that final piece so that we can submit the same material to the Monacan Nation.

It is a great feeling knowing that this is done and that after this it will be a matter of adding confirmed patriots to the family history. Heeding the advice of the SAR, now I am going to move to the next easiest to prove which happens to be on the other side of my family. While we once thought it impossible, I have been able to trace back my mom’s side to the Revolution as well and have the documentation to support the findings as well. It is nice to know that basically no matter which family member I am talking to I can help them join the SAR (or DAR).

However, the most important aspect to this whole process for me is that it is a means to verify the research that I have spent the last few years conducting. The more lines I can confirm and revolutionary ancestors I can trace back to, the more information in our tree I will be able to verify. Having had so many questions about the family history growing up, I am looking forward to sharing with the family a history that has been not only researched by certified as being accurate. And, one day, I look forward to sharing this history with my son.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Committees And Headlines

At the beginning of the year the lodge basically conducted an overhaul of the building committee with some help from the District Deputy Grand Master. More than anything else, it was done as a means to both streamline the process and add some additional transparency to the decisions being made and options explored. It is an undertaking to say the least and I am grateful to the brothers that are making this happen and getting things in line for the improvements that need to be made to the building.

This past week was the first meeting of this relaunched committee and given the fact that I haven’t heard anything over the past few days, I am glad that this process is under way. But, this new endeavor brings to light an important lesson for the lodge as a whole. Each and every one of us needs to be involved on some level. Some will be officers, committee members, and mentors while others need to be involved by just showing up. It all begins with the stated and extra meetings of course but we also need brothers to be present at committee meetings such as the one that was just held.

And we also need to take things a step further and simply communicate with one another. The lodge needs to communicate with members and members should talk with one another. Not just about the business at hand but also enjoy the company and fellowship offered to you by your brothers. We are a fraternal family and we should take a vested interest in our fellow brothers, help them, work with them (inside the lodge and professionally), support them always, and, when needed, protect one another.

The recently thwarted attack in Milwaukee is something of which we should all be aware. A radical Muslim man was planning on attacking the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center believing that he would be doing G-d’s work. And the sad thing is that there are many in this world that believe that they would be doing G-d’s work should they cause harm to freemasonry. While not as extreme as this recent threat, there are many groups, predominantly “Christian”, that wish to see the demise of freemasonry. It is odd to me not just because of the venomous nature of their words and planned actions but because we, as brothers, welcome all faiths with the common bond of a belief in a Supreme Being, a belief in G-d.

But, rest assured, there is more light in a single lodge than darkness in this world spewing hate in our direction. And, for me, I can promise that I will defend my faith, my family, my fraternity, and myself against such evil not with violence but by continuing to make good men better including myself. By supporting one another, the lodge, our fraternity, and the community as a whole we can ensure our success and that the light of freemasonry remains bright in this word. This is how we win. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Firearms Friday: NRA Decals

And we all have the pin to match our car!
One of the interesting things for me when my wife and I lived in Bala Cynwyd was the looks on faces when people would see the NRA sticker prominently displayed in my window. While they may have been appalled and had their liberal sensibilities offended, I remained entertained by their hoplophobia and had to keep myself from chuckling at their wide eyed stares. Having moved out to the country, that is no longer an issue but there is another entertaining aspect to the proud displays around me.

These days, rarely will I come across a car without an NRA decal or some other means of supporting the second amendment. This lack of decoration is usually accompanied by a New York or New Jersey license plate. Actually, looking around the difference is much more drastic than those previous experiences. Now, there is a variety of NRA stickers on display and there is clearly a pecking order to the cars in the parking lot of the local Turkey Hill.

Seldom will I come across a car with a single, basic, sticker. It seems as though the basic rule of thumb is that one should put a sticker in their window for each year that they are a member of the NRA. I guess you could say that this is the hillbilly equivalent of a beach tag collection. Some have about half a dozen while others clearly don’t care about seeing out through the side windows of their car. That is your basic membership level.

From there you have a number of other options. I probably see more Life Member stickers than any other kind on a daily basis. This is usually the people that put a lot of miles on their car and need the visibility. At some point, we all look at the annual cost of membership and realize that it make more sense to wait for one of the discounts offered on life memberships.

The next level up is the Endowment Member. It is pretty much guaranteed that if you see a car with an endowment member sticker, the person getting out will be wearing some piece of NRA clothing. This is also where you find the Golden Eagle members. Basically, this is the double down category of NRA members where multiple levels of membership apply. The same basic trend applies to members at the Benefactor and Patron levels the primary difference being the base price of the car to which it is affixed. And, yes, I am one of these Endowment Members.  

In the end, what is important is that we all have our membership and support for the second amendment in common. We also all have the same look on our faces when that New York plate pulls into the lot for a cup of coffee. And, of course, we all have the same smile when that person gets out of the car with their wide eyes and their panties in a bunch. You’re not in New York anymore and I’m not on the Main Line anymore!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Back to School?

No, this post has nothing to do with gold!
When I got the email on Sunday night informing me that the office was closed and that we would be working from home the following day, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to the remainder of my schedule. About halfway through the morning about half of the items on my schedule had either been cancelled or moved with a few more being altered during the first few hours of the day. Thankfully, there was one appointment that held and just as my son was waking from his afternoon nap, I was heading out the door on my way up the highway to Reading.

This was not work related. This was something extra on my calendar that I wanted to take a closer look at. After all, I have already been out of school for nearly 8 years and the academic itch is becoming unbearable once again. Not being one to rest on previous accomplishments or, in this case, degrees, I reached out to Alvernia University a few weeks ago to inquire about their PhD program focusing on Leadership. On Monday afternoon with resume in hand I met with the Chair of the department and had a great conversation about the program and why I had taken an interest in pursuing my doctorate.

Me, a doctor. Kind of a scary thought isn’t it?

Understand that this is just one of the things that I am looking at to satisfy that academic hunger that I feel. But it was a nice feeling returning to a campus and being in that atmosphere again. I actually really like the program as it was outlined, the school seems to be on the upswing, the cost is very reasonable, and the proximity to home is ideal. There are a lot of things going for it but I also hesitate knowing what the program entails.

In the end, I think it is all going to come down to the time element. This would be a five year commitment of at least 10 hours per week. That is time away from my family, my job, and the other things that I enjoying doing. You know me, I already have so much free time in my schedule to take on another long term project and I enjoy the things that I am doing now and would not want to have to sacrifice any of them. But this might be as good a time as any to start this. Time is a tricky part of the decision but also the main part of the decision that my wife and I will have to consider. Until then, I have plenty of other things that I can work on!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

No, Really, This Is Something Completely Different…

Last year the notices that I put together for the lodge were pretty light. There wasn’t much information that needed to be relayed each month and there were even times when I had to find content to fill some of the empty space left after all updates were included. This month that was definitely not the case and given what is on the horizon, I don’t expect to have any ‘light’ notices this year.

In addition to two petitioners being listed (the first in quite some time), the passing of a brother, and the full calendar of events to begin the year there was also a portion of the notice dedicated to the raising of our dues. This is a democracy and everyone has a vote so everyone needs to be informed before the meeting. This was all before I put in the Worshipful Master’s brief message and I wrote my rather long letter to the brethren.

It took some work to make everything fit together but, in the end, the notice was completed and put in the mail last night along with a few dues cards for some brothers who sent in late checks. But while I write this and thing about all that has to be done and the event that have happened and that will be happening at the lodge, I am also reflecting on the day itself. Today is one of reflection for a couple of reasons for me.

Today is actually International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Honestly, it had slipped my mind until I looked at the calendar this morning. However, I think I knew that this was the day as I am finally returning to the work that I created years ago. It is something that I dread reading but also take pride in its completion. Similar feelings that simmer in me on this day. Today is one when we not only remember in sorrow the lives lost but we also should rejoice in the simple fact that we survived. And while the world is far from perfect, we are a part of it and we are thriving in today’s society as a people.

And that joy is only matched by the fact that I am able to look back in my own life and celebrate that singular moment of surprise when I proposed to my wife on this day in 2007. While the store may no longer be there, the images and memories that we have will always remain vivid and the evening, having picked up my grandmother from the house and taken her to dinner to celebrate, is a great moment that makes me smile every time… especially when I recall telling my grandmother that she wasn’t allowed to kick until after the wedding (which was two and a half years from that day). Her smile in response is just one of many smiles that I will always remember.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Hi Snow!

One of the fun things about the recent blizzard was that my wife and I were looking forward to introducing our son to some real snow not just the light dusting that we got a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, as the frozen season descended upon us, our aunt sent our son a snow suit that will keep him warm and my wife picked up some tiny boots last week. We were all ready to go.

As we brought our son down from his bedroom on Saturday morning we made sure to walk over to the window and show him the white blanket across the lawn. He didn’t seem too impressed but was rather intrigued as to how different the yard looked. Of course, he did just wake up and we had yet to feed him so nothing is really exciting at that point. However, as he ate his breakfast he kept looking out the window as the sheets of powdered ice as they blew by the window.

It was a bit too cold to bring him out in the middle of the storm but the following day was different. The snow had stopped the night before and the sun was already starting to melt the tops of the piles. As we brought him down the morning after the storm he once again looked out the window, gave a little smile, and waved hi to the snow. It was the perfect weather and opportunity to introduce him to this winter tradition so we bundled him up and headed out onto the cleared asphalt.

He had a big smile on his face as we carried him around and seemed quite curious when we sat him down atop the two feet lining the driveway. He was happy and even giggling for a few seconds before beginning to squirm onto his belly and his back. While he was entertained a little when daddy helped him make a snow angel, he was over it. Turns out that he likes the way snow looks but would prefer to look at it from the warm side of the glass. Can’t say I blame him.

Of course, I am certain this will change over time as sledding enters the picture and, overall, he becomes more active. A time that my wife and I are definitely looking forward to… my wife can take care of the skiing, I’ll take care of the sliding on the rear. But, for now, even though the snow is fun and some would say magical for most kids, our son would much rather wave at the white stuff from the other side of the window. Bye Snow!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Snow!

The weather forecast late last week was a bit of a reality check as we braced for our first major snow storm in the new house. Thankfully the oil company made a delivery (still hoping that they will call us beforehand next time) earlier in the week so that was one item off of our list. Thankfully we had previously discussed this scenario with our neighbors who assured us that they had never had any issues in the winter either with clearing or with regard to losing power. However, this feedback tends to be subjective and we were at that point without a snow blower or a generator.  

While I was able to find a snow blower for sale just before the storm hit us and we picked up a few supplies we were still wondering how things were going to progress especially since we still don’t have any means of emergency power. The big thing was what the snow and wind will do to not only the house but the hundreds of trees that surround us? Additionally, what will our road look like during the storm and immediately afterward? All of these things were running through our minds as the flakes began to fall late on Friday night.

By the time we got out of bed in the morning we noticed that there was already some progress made on our road despite not having hit the midpoint of the storm. Check one item off the list. With over a foot on the ground already it was also a good time to clear the driveway so that, the following day, the final cleanup would be manageable. A few hours later and we could easily make our way to the street… really glad we invested in a decent snow blower!

The following day was clear and sunny allowing us to survey the 25-30 inches covering our property. Thankfully, the light snow combined with the constant wind kept the whining trees and roof clear. After a full morning and early afternoon of snow removal (with a few breaks here and there to spend time with our son) we were completely dug out and I was ready to head into work the following morning.

Our first snow storm is now behind us and now we definitely know a few things that we didn’t a couple of weeks ago. Our power and cable remained connected for the duration and the plows went up and down our street about every 30 minutes. While it took some time to clear our massive driveway, it was completely manageable. However, I think we are going to look at a generator in the near future just in case. Add one more thing to the list of things we would like to do… a small addition considering all of the previous unknowns.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Search: More Dead Ends

While I have been able to make some progress recently on tracing back along the branches of the family tree (more on that next week), I have also encountered a number of roadblocks. It hasn’t been a matter of being able to find the right person to call, it is largely a matter of records no longer existing. Of course, there are also a few instances where I simply don’t have the access to the records. Really it is the combination of these two situations that has forced me to find other avenues to find the information for which I am searching.

I previously wrote about my numerous interactions with the Philadelphia Police Department and the discovery that most personnel files have long since been destroyed. While I was able to piece together a few aspects of John Uttley’s service, there are still many holes and questions that remain. However, sometimes we have to be satisfied with what we have and take some measure of contentment knowing that we have been able to confirm that he did serve, how long, badge number, and rank. Some people don’t even have that much information.

I ran into a similar situation as this when I called the Narberth Fire Department the last couple of weeks to try and get more information about my grandfather who was a Captain with the volunteer company. As it turns out, after years of renovations, moving buildings, leaks, and other instances, all the records prior to 1970 have been lost. However, I was still able to find out that, late in life, he was on over two dozen calls. Thankfully, there are some photos in the family from this time.

As I waited for Narberth to return my call, I also reached out to the current incarnation of Autocar now located in Indiana to see if they had any of the personnel files from the early days on the Philadelphia Main Line… this is where my great grandfather spend nearly his entire working life. I can’t say I was surprised when the woman on the phone informed me that only the name has been transferred over the years and the whereabouts of the files are unknown. There still is a chance that these records exist but now it is a completely different task trying to figure out where they ended up… I guess it is time to reach out to a variety of historical societies.

Lastly, while conducting the aforementioned outreach, I also looked into trying to secure my grandfather and great grandfather’s service records from WWII and WWI respectively. While these records exist, at least most of them, only next of kin are allowed to order the files. The simple translation is that I have to have my father submit the request in order to get these copies. Sometimes these extra steps seem to add up but at least there is a simply solution.

What I have found throughout the process and the point that has been driven home again and again is the simple fact that we, as a family, must keep our own records. If you want to know the story of your family and you want future generations to know about the family we can’t rely solely on the depositories found in other places. At the same time, make it known that you have certain records and share them with anyone who is interested in learning about the generations that preceded them. In other words, don’t let someone else control your family story… don’t be afraid to be the family historian.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Hodgepodge of Resolutions

For many this is the time of year when resolutions are made. Some of these are to finish project that have long been dormant. Sometimes it is a matter of getting things started. Other things on most lists usually revolve around improving yourself in one way or another. Overall, resolutions generally have one thing in common to make the coming year better than the last. For me, in this seemingly mandatory post for bloggers, my list is a hodgepodge containing a little from every category.

On the personal improvement side of things I would really like to lose some weight, quit smoking, find more time to relax, and generally improve my health. I think I will focus on that last part and let everything else fall into place so I am going to simplify things a bit. My goal this year is to go to the doctor (once I find one) and follow their instructions. This includes a general family physician, optometrist, and dentist. Others might be added down the line but those are the ones that I will focus on first.

This is also time to finish at least some of the things on my long list of projects that has been teasing my on my computer screen every week. This includes completing builds, submitting manuscripts, pulling applications together, scanning the photos and family documents that I have stored throughout my office, organizing all aspects of the house, and a variety of other things. Just like the last category, we need to simplify this so I am going to focus on completing one project a month (more if time permits) while working on others if they happen to overlap. Expect to see some post in the future on this little smorgasbord of items.

The last of the three mentioned above is to get things started, to get project off the ground. I have already started a few which I cannot mention at this time but there are still plenty of others that need to be done. There are a variety of outlines that I recently discovered forgotten on some flash drives dug up during our move. It is time to write. It is also time to start the other application that have been put on the back burner for the last 2+ years. And it is time to start the small projects around the house that I have been meaning to work on since we moved in. It is a long list which will certainly grow so expect to see this rehashed in future years. The simple approach to this is that as one project mentioned in the previous paragraph comes to an end another begins… one per month.

However, the most important aspect of the New Year that I need to focus on is to keep things going. I can’t stop, I have to keep moving forward. There are a lot of commitments that are already built into my schedule and I make sure to spend as much time as possible with my family (this could be improved upon so add it to the list). The most important things I can do is to keep myself busy, keep things moving in the right direction at work, continue writing honest daily posts, maintain the growth that we are seeing at the lodge, continue to explore during various day and overnight family excursions, further my genealogical research (hopefully more discoveries/documents are on the way), and, most importantly, enjoy and love my family, what we have, and the good aspects of the life that we enjoy every day. That is the real resolution and promise that I am making to myself for 2016!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Firearms Friday: (Temporarily) Out Of Stock

I have seen the frustration both online on various forums and Facebook pages and also in person when the firearm that they have been looking for is currently nowhere to be found. And this is a regular occurrence for one reason or another and I guess you could say that ammunition falls into the category too. Thankfully, there have only been a handful of times over the year when I was looking forward to seeing something in the store only to find it long gone from the shelves… usually my situation is that I just want to be able to see it in person not necessarily to buy it.

These disappointing moments usually come down to two very simple reasons… legislation/politics/current events and new products. Those are the two basic categories that cause the shortages on the shelves. While there are other reasons that we encounter from time to time (i.e. low production numbers, recalls, poor ordering by the shop, etc.), those moments are few and far between. Especially lately when there have been lines of people either in person or on wait lists trying to purchase certain products.

Over the past couple of year, even so recently as a week ago, there have been constant attacks on our right to own certain firearms, magazines, and even ammunition. These usually cause what I like to call the camper lines when people are showing up hours before opening or even the day before and waiting for the doors to open so they can be one of the few to walk out with what they want. For everyone else, it is out of stock. We definitely saw this cyclical pattern when there was talk about banning AR15 rifles. While I was never one of them, I remember seeing the pictures and Facebook posts of people lining up the night before the local shop opened its doors on Saturday morning.

The other times when I have been unable to inspect a firearm was basically because it was a new release. From the successful Springfield Armory Mod 2, the single stack Glocks, and striker fire products from Sig Sauer and H&K to the failed Remington R51, each was hard as heck to find on the shelves as the wait lists didn’t just consist of a few names, those lists were pages upon pages of interested buyers. And some are yet to be determined as Remington still has to do a full rollout after the recall and Ruger just released the American line of pistols. I am curious to see both in person if I can find them in the stores and some of the other items that come out of SHOT show this month.

I guess what this all comes down to is that we have to be patient. Once the legislation failed, the supply went right back up and AR15 rifles and pistols are once again readily available. And all the new pistols are no longer new and I have even seen a number of them in the used cases. Out of stock rarely lasts and if you can wait there will be plenty of opportunities to buy what you want in the future (and most likely save you a lot of money).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Golden Globes And The Art Of The Quip!

While flipping through the channels the weekend before last, I stumbled upon the Golden Globes. Actually, it was the cheekiness of Ricky Gervais that really caught my attention. With my wife and son sick and having long since gone to bed, especially since our usual programs were reruns, I was looking for something to put on in the background while I did some work on my computer. Now that a program was selected, I pulled out my laptop and proceeded to open up the numerous pages and tabs that had been dormant for the past day. It didn’t take long before some of the quips pulled my attention away from my work.

In particular, his banter with Mel Gibson was something to behold as you could tell there were a number of lines that Gervais was waiting to say hoping that someday the two of them would meet face to face. However, it wasn’t all about the ongoing dialogues. Many times it was a single line that had the audience gasping and my chucking from the kitchen. For instance, who else would introduce one of the nominees in the following way while taking a jab at another celebrity: “He’s also the only person who Ben Affleck hasn’t been unfaithful to. Please welcome, Matt Damon!

Beyond the quick wit on display, one of the more memorable moments was when Sylvester Stallone won for best supporting actor for his role as, you guessed it, Rocky Balboa in the film Creed. Thankfully, he didn’t forget to thank his imaginary friend, the aforementioned Rocky, because that would have been an interesting apology later. Good think Adrianne is dead because that might have been even more awkward.

But there were also lines that were topical as well as humorous including an interesting reference to El Chapo: “I want to do this monologue and go into hiding, OK? Not even Sean Penn will find me.

However, there were moments of seriousness during the broadcast beyond tremendous speech by Tom Hanks and the tearful acceptances of stunned stars. Leonardo DiCaprio, regardless of what you may think of him he is one heck of an actor, while accepting the Golden Globe for Best Lead Actor for The Revenant proclaimed that he shares the honor with “all the indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them. It is time that we heard your voice and protected this planet for future generations.”

It will be interesting to see if his actions reflect the words that he spoke during the ceremony and if he makes similar statements should he win the Academy Award next month. That is what it really comes down to… follow through. He can say, preach even, all that he wants but you earn the respect of the people you supposedly represent by taking action. So, similar to the way Gervais ended the night while invoking the sentiments of Mel Gibson, I will end this post with a single word… Shalom!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chasing Down Dues

Since the last time I was at the lodge, stemming from a conversation I had with one of the brothers, I pulled together a list of those brothers who have yet to pay their dues for the current year. I divided the disappointing list between myself and a few other brothers, all of whom are past Masters, with the hope that we could all reach out to those brothers specified for each of us and make sure that our fellow masons can avoid being suspended. Well, I can’t speak for anyone else but I started reaching out to the members of the lodge that I selected for myself beginning with those whom I am most familiar.

And it didn’t take long before I spoke with a brother who has had a bit of a rough time as of late. Unfortunately, I had lost touch with him over the past year but took it upon myself to reconnect with him via Facebook. While doing so I had the odd feeling that something must have happened since it had been a while since I had seen him at lodge. While he was clearly being too hard on himself, I continued to insist that he is welcomed at the lodge at any time and that we are here, I am here, should he need any assistance. After all, we are brothers.

Thankfully, after a lengthy conversation we agreed to see one another again at the lodge soon. And, despite my justified offer to remit his dues, he insisted on paying is own way. I give him credit, he had a few very trying moments in his life lately but he managed to push through them and hopefully we can bring him full circle and continue to make this good man even better.

Other discussions never even got off the ground as there have already been a few unsuccessful attempts to reach various brothers. For some their lack of dues seems to be a simple oversight while, for others, there may be a little bit of abuse of the system at play. I can’t say for certain unless I speak with them directly but their track records in the database don’t quite match up with someone facing a recent hardship. But, again, part of being a good mason is giving your brother the benefit of the doubt so I will have to wait and see.

In the end, we are a small lodge with unreasonably moderate dues so when brothers don’t pay it does hurt. It won’t make or break us but it would give us some additional breathing room in the coming year should everyone pay their own way. Heck, they should take note of my interaction above… I was ready to remit his dues on the spot but he wanted to put forth the effort and the finances to pay for himself. I tip my hat to you sir and look forward to meeting again at the lodge in the near future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Screams In The Night

One of the scariest sounds that I have ever heard is when we have been startled from a deep sleep by the screams from our son echoing across the room through the monitor. While my wife’s hearing is more in tune with the displeasures of our son, when I am able to remain unconscious to the troubles around us, there are times when it doesn’t matter how sound a slumber, the scream that our son makes could wake anyone up… even me!

Just over a week ago this seemed to be the pattern for a few nights as our son spiked a fever well into triple digits. It was a time of little sleep, especially for my wife, as all we could do for a couple of nights was monitor, give him medicine, hold him, and dunk him in the tub if he got too hot. Unfortunately, I am little help during these times as our son insists on having his mommy but will occasionally want his daddy within his sight line. This episode, this sequence of nights, was far beyond those that we have dealt with previously.

Even without a temperature and feeling perfectly fine, there are moments when our son will wake up and make some noise before falling back to sleep. What can I say, he is loud when he shifts just like his daddy. There are also moments when he will fuss or even whimper for a minute or two before he either screams because of some uncomfortable padding under his bottom or he will unleash a different kind of sound that fills the night, lay down, and sleep better than he did before he woke up.

There was also a period of adjustment when we moved into the house when we couldn’t quite get the thermostat right… our son has become rather particular with regard to ideal sleeping temperature in his room. Over the first couple of weeks we were able to figure it out. Who am I kidding, my wife is the one that fine-tuned the temperature. And now, if there are nights that are a little warmer or cooler, our son adjusts his position in the crib sleeping either in a slightly cooler spot near the wall or a little warmer away from it.

And while we have done everything that we can to make him as comfortable as possible, sometimes there are nights when he doesn’t feel well. Sometimes there are evenings when he is startled by a nightmare (also a scream that is hard to forget). Sometimes he simply loses track of his stuffed animal and/or binkie. And other times there are nights when he gets a little lonely being on the second floor by himself or when we didn’t spend enough time playing with him during the day and needs a little more snuggle time with mommy and/or daddy. But these nights are nothing in comparison to that heart wrenching siren.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Just In Case

When my wife and I originally made an offer on our house one of the things that we made sure to include was a home warranty policy. While we didn’t expect to find anything during the inspections and we don’t anticipate any major issues in the near future you just never know what might happen. The last thing we wanted was to invest such a large amount of money into a home and soon thereafter have to increase our investment because the AC unit finally gave up or the well pump decided to take some time off.

Actually, the reasons are quite a bit more mundane than the major issues that one could face in that first year. Usually it is something as simple as an appliance acting up or a garage door opener that was older than you expected. These are the things that fall beyond the purview of the regular homeowner’s insurance policy and, just like insurance, you never know what might happen. The last thing that I want to happen is that we don’t have something covered, particularly during this first year, and then all of the sudden we have to spend thousands of dollars that we were hoping to keep in the bank.

I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it… sounds like I’m referring to something else doesn’t it. But the same line of thought applies. I don’t want to be caught without it especially when it can impact the well-being and comfort of my family.

This is the just in case for those things that we can’t anticipate happening but, as we have heard and read about, they happen all of the time. So, I guess this could go back to my weekly checks that I referenced previously. Not only checking for the major things that everyone does like the roof and boiler but also the minor things like making sure the appliances sound the way that they should and that the garage door isn’t straining to open.

It really is a nominal cost or, as in our case, no cost option that brings a tremendous piece of mind to this first year in our new house. If something breaks we can take care of it right away and not worry about the financial impact that the repair or replacement might have. Rather than thinking and incessantly worrying, we can focus on enjoying our home and, more importantly, see the enjoyment on our son’s face when he is exploring the play room, looking outside, or watching the buggies as they sway down the road.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Search: Restarting Our Tradition

Our newsletter will look nothing like this!
Years ago my wife and I would pull together a holiday newsletter recapping the previous year which was always well received by family and friends especially those that we hadn’t seen in a while. This was in lieu of a card and was usually mailed sometime between Hanukkah and Christmas each year. The last time that we pulled one of these together was in December of 2012… it has been some time since we took part in this tradition and we are determined this year to once again send out a family newsletter albeit a little later than in the past.

When we decided that we were going to restart this tradition the question that we had to answer was whether we would return to the format that we used before or would we take the opportunity to pack in three years of updates into a single, long, mailer. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of content from the previous twelve months and most people to whom we would be sending the newsletter read this blog on a regular basis. However, even given those two things we decided to go ahead and offer quick updates in a variety of categories encompassing the past three years but focusing primarily on this past year.

We had actually planned on getting this out last month but time has not been kind to us over the past several weeks which has left this project on the back burner. To be honest, this is primarily my fault as much of the content I will be pulling from and condensing from this blog. My wife has already created the template and written the sections that would simply be inappropriate for me to write so now the onus is completely on me. Thankfully, we have both been able to update our address books so that part is taken care of as well.

I know that many of you are looking at this as yet another project on the inexhaustible list of items but this is an important part of our own tradition and what we want to have marking each year as a family. Plus, for me it is the summary that everyone seems to ask for understandably not wanting to sift through the hundreds of posts from the previous year. This is our opportunity to look back on, reflect, and report to those we care about what life has been like for us the previous year. And, down the road, in addition to being a simple addition to the family history files, it will be a great reminder for us all of the things that we both enjoyed and survived in 2015.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Another Month Gone, One Month To Go

It is rather astounding to think about how much has changed over the past month. Even with the few challenges that we have encountered with an ear infection, fever, and multiple teeth making their way to the surface, it was a great month that provided us with a number of amazing transformations. Probably the most interesting have been the awareness and cognition that our son seems to have now in comparison to previous months.

When we walk into another room for a minute he understandably gets upset unless we tell him that we will be back in a minute or we keep talking to him while we grab out phone, clothes, computer, etc. When my wife says that Daddy is home, our son looks toward the door and waits to hear it open. Sometimes he will even crawl into the hallway so he can watch daddy walk in. Either way, it is usually accompanied with him waving hi as I walk through the side entrance.

He is also much more mobile now having gone from sliding backward on his belly to crawling circles around his mommy in the playroom and chasing the train as it sings while traversing the playroom. It is a big difference from just a month ago when he took great pride in showing us that he could sit up all by himself. And an even bigger difference from the days when we were waiting to see the first time he would roll over on his own. Things are changing so fast.

Now we are less than a month away from his first birthday. Eleven months and our lives are completely different. I can’t believe it has already almost been a year. Given all that happened that day it will undoubtedly be a day of mixed emotions but, above all else, one of disbelief as neither my wife nor I can get around the fact that a year has already passed since our lives took such a drastic change. And that was just the beginning of a year that was probably the most hectic that any of us has ever experienced.

So many changes and differences but, when we look at our son, when we see the smile on his face and hear the joy in his laugh, it is all put in perspective. He is our miracle and he has been the one to get us through the tough moments. Watching him change and grow keeps us on our toes but also pushed us out of bed in the morning with a wonder of what is he going to do next that can’t really be put into words. It is an amazing feeling and I can’t believe that we have been waking up to that feeling for over eleven months now.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Firearms Friday: Talk To And With The People

The politics we percolating this week as the President delivered the State of the Union on Tuesday and the first Republican Presidential Debate of the year was held last night. There were a lot of words bandied about and a heck of a lot of rhetoric disguised as unity earlier in the week. However, there were some moments and some lines that caught my attention last night when common sense prevailed as the topic of the second amendment was brought to the forefront of the debate (note that the full transcript can be found at The Washington Post).  

Bush: “…I have an A plus rating in the NRA and we also have a reduction in gun violence because in Florida, if you commit a crime with a gun, you're going away. You're going away for a long, long while…And that's what we should focus on is the violence in our communities. Target the efforts for people that are committing crimes with guns, and if you do that, and get it right, you're going to be much better off...”

Trump: “If we had guns in California on the other side where the bullets went in the different direction, you wouldn't have 14 or 15 people dead right now. If even in Paris, if they had guns on the other side, going in the opposite direction, you wouldn't have 130 people plus dead. So the answer is no and what Jeb said is absolutely correct. We have a huge mental health problem in this country… The guns don't pull the trigger. It's the people that pull the trigger and we have to find out what is going on.

Rubio: “Look, the Second Amendment is not an option. It is not a suggestion. It is a constitutional right of every American to be able to protect themselves and their families… criminals don't buy their guns from a gun show. They don't buy their guns from a collector. And they don't buy their guns from a gun store. They get -- they steal them. They get them on the black market. And let me tell you, ISIS and terrorists do not get their guns from a gun show.”

Christie: “I don't think the founders put the Second Amendment as number two by accident. I don't think they dropped all the amendments into a hat and picked them out of a hat. I think they made the Second Amendment the second amendment because they thought it was just that important.

Cruz (When asked “So what is the answer, Senator Cruz, to stop mass shootings and violent crime, up in 30 cities across the country?”): “The answer is simple. Your prosecute criminals. You target the bad guys… Listen, in any Republican primary, everyone is going to say they support the Second Amendment. Unless you are clinically insane that's what you say in a primary... I've got a proven record fighting to defend the Second Amendment. There's a reason Gun Owners of America has endorsed me in this race. There's a reason the NRA gave me their Carter Knight Freedom Fund award and there's a reason, when Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer came after our right to keep and bear arms that I led the opposition, along with millions of Americans -- we defeated that gun control legislation.”

The other candidates on stage did not contribute to this part of the debate. And while I was satisfied with many of the answers I think I was most impressed with those coming from Senators Cruz and Rubio. When taking into account their track records on the subject, Cruz would be the one that I cast my vote for in the primary. When taking all other issues into account, the divide becomes more pronounced and I, once again, vote for Cruz. With that said, that statement pertains to those on the main broadcast.

Of course I still believe that Rand Paul is the best candidate still in the race (and not just because of his ardent support of the Second Amendment) but there is clearly a lack of support for his campaign which was evident in his absence from the stage. However, his presence was still felt last night as the crowd chanted “We want Rand!” during the broadcast and, throughout the evening, Paul was answering questions coming directly from the voters via Twitter with the hashtag “#RandRally”. So, while the punches were being thrown (and dodged) on stage, a unique dialogue was taking place between a Presidential candidate and the people. What a novel concept.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

What Would You Do With $1.5 Billion?

For much of the week the entire country was obsessed with the Powerball jackpot which, by the time of the drawing on Wednesday night, had climbed to $1.5 Billion. Yes, there is a ‘B’. It didn’t matter what your line of work or where in the country you called home, the lines at the local gas stations, 7 Elevens, and any place that sells lottery tickets were long and the stacks of tickets that people were buying were high. Even those who seldom gamble, and that is what this is, disregarded the long odds and bought tickets. And I was one of them because ‘eh, what the heck.’ Actually, I got two for myself and contributed two dollars to the office pool as well.

One of the interesting things that happens to anyone when they get a lottery ticket in their hand, especially with such a high potential payout, is that you can’t help but think about how you would spend the money should your numbers match. Most of the people I have talked to over the years and what seems to be common in the stories that you read about or watch on television is that a new house, car, and some outrageous vacation are where at least some of the money goes. Well, while tempting and at the same time not eliminating the possibility, it is not what I have on my list. When looking at the $1.5 Billion payday, here are some of the things that came to mind. Here is how some of my initial expenditures broke down in my mind:

·         $10 Million as emergency funds for my employer.
·         $2 Million to each of my 10 coworkers (under the condition that they continued working).
·         $10 Million each to various family members (siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.).
·         $20 Million to my parents.
·         $20 Million to my lodge.
·         $10 Million to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
·         $5 Million to my masonic district / district school.
·         $1 Million to each of the other lodges in the district.
·         $5 Million to Help for Heroes Fund.
·         $1 Million to various friends (we have a list).
·         $1 Million into college funds for our son and each niece and nephew.
·         $10 Million to each of our undergrad and graduate colleges.
·         $2 Million to the NRA.
·         $10 Million to the Rotary Club of Bala Cynwyd – Narberth.
·         $3 Million to pay off all debt and for some intense splurging throughout the rest of our lives (houses, cars, vacations, etc. would have to fall into this).
·         $20 Million Trust Fund for our son.
·         $10 Million each to Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
·         $10 Million to each of the Synagogues that have welcomed us and supported us over the years.
·         $5 Million to cancer research.
·         $1 Million for hiring genealogists to research all family lines.
·         $5 Million to the Monacan Indian Nation.

Adding all of these up it comes out to approximately $350 million. So, if you do a little calculating, it breaks down in the following way. When you look at the $1.5 Billion Powerball Annuity Jackpot, the lump sum option was approximately $900 million. Out of that $900 million you have to assume that you are going to lose about half to various taxes leaving you with $450 million. Once you subtract the $350 million in distributions above these leaves a total of approximately $100 million in the bank. It would be nice to sit back and relax never having to worry about finances again (especially without debt and with splurging already included into the budget).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It All Begins With A Discussion

Since I had to leave the lodge earlier than expected last Thursday I was unable to sit down and get to know a petitioner that I had arranged to meet with during dinner. Thankfully things have since calmed down and the evening worked in everyone’s schedule so I was able to set aside the time last night and finally have a great conversation with our new petitioner. This is the first step, the most important step in my opinion, which is too often overlooked which is a shame because for me it is the most enjoyable part of the process. There is nothing like seeing that fascination and anticipation in the eyes of a candidate.

That was only the first of many productive conversation that I was able to have last night with various brothers as attendance at this particular fellowship was the highest that it has been in some time and a welcome sight for sure. Once the candidate was on his way, I soon transitioned to coordinating a few items with the Worshipful Master. There are a number of additional items that need to be included in the notice and some paperwork that needs to be prepared for the next meeting that I really don’t want to fall behind on. Ten minutes of productive dialogue is sometimes all it take to ensure that projects will be done on time.

And while it was great to meet with a candidate and have a petition in hand to read at the next stated meeting, I was greeted with an additional surprise when a seconded completed petition was discovered in my folder. However, this one came with a few questions and so my next conversation was with the first line signer of the petition. There are a few questions that still remain but there is a plan in place to address any and all concerns that I have moving forward so while there may be an additional step in the process it is a rather simple solution.

My final interjections for the evening was with a few of the other brothers who had convened to discuss the upcoming building committee meeting. There are a lot of projects that need to be undertaken both immediately as well as a few years from now and the list that was reviewed reflected exactly that dilemma. It will actually be interesting to see how this upcoming meeting is run as the roles overlap significantly with some of the other responsibilities of other brothers in the lodge namely the Trustees. I am hoping that this can be resolved quickly so that each can move in the right direction… the same positive direction that the membership is moving in.

So, while I may have missed the stated meeting last week and there are undoubtedly a number of things that I am still missing, I managed to get up to speed on just about everything that needed to be taken care of this week. It won’t be long now before the next meeting is upon us and then it will be back to the monthly routine. In the meantime, I am sure that there will be plenty of discussions, debates, and projects started. It is going to be a busy year but the good kind of bust this time around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Crawling

It wasn’t long ago when our son figured out how to sit up by himself from his stomach. It was one of those things that my wife and I caught him doing on the camera and soon thereafter he would sit up when he felt like it or, on occasion, when daddy asked him to do it. Heck, that is how I was able to see him do it and the smile that he gave me afterward is something I won’t forget. Since then I have been able to ask our son to sit up before picking him up. He’s actually pretty good about following directions when he wants to be cooperative.

It seems like just a short time ago when we were enjoying those moments which were soon followed by scooching across the floor and sitting up and lunging in a different direction to get what he wanted. That turned into a quasi-Army crawl which then became a half crawl with primarily propelled him backward. He has moved well past all of those stages and now the forward momentum is taking over. We are in trouble.

It started with a couple steps forward followed thereafter by three or four shuffles back. As the counterproductive kinks got worked out he began moving a little further each time. The toys on the other side of the room weren’t so far away after all. Once he could clear the room without stopping he started picking up the pace. This was particularly noticeable when he started catching the battery operated train and cars that he once just looked at as they rolled by.

Now there is a little more purpose with his crawling as he knows to move toward the hallway so he can see daddy walk through the side door when he gets home. He can also crawl to a toy, almost like he is stalking it at times, and reach up with one hand and grab it while still supporting himself. From there he reverts back to an old trick and sits up so he can play with his prey.

I guess this means it is time to really start thinking about the different safety locks and baby gates because he seems determined to move around the house by himself. It is that time already. I don’t know how we got this this point so fast but it is time to evaluate and see what needs to be done so we don’t hear cabinets slamming on fingers and our son sliding back down the stairs like dirty laundry on a wash board. Time for some DIY.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mortgage Monday: The Other Monthly Checks

In addition to writing a check to the bank each month to slowly pay down our mortgage, there are also a variety of other checks that have to be taken care of on a monthly basis. Again, this is not something that I am used to doing but a monthly project that brings a sense of satisfaction as this is a home we now own. And while there are checks of the monetary kind that I regularly write, these are not the ones to which I am referring…

We want to make sure that we keep up on the maintenance of our home while also heading off any issues that may exist. This is why I tend to go around the house every once in a while, usually a few times per month, looking for little things (and big things too). Are the windows drafty? Are there any water stains? Is the heat working in all four zones? Are the gutters clear? Are any of the fixtures leaking? These are the kinds of questions that I try to ask myself as I walk about the house looking in corners and keeping an ear open to any sounds of water, pinging, clanking, etc.

While I don’t expect to find anything it is well worth the time to invest in these basic checks as we are still under warranty (part of our original deal during purchase) and any issues that come up would most likely be covered under that policy. Basically, it is all about making sure everything is running the way it should be. After all, this is no longer simply a place in which we are living as in the past, this is our home and we want to make sure that everything continues to be kept in great shape.

And, as the seasons and weather changes, I will be sure to check the same things as well as different systems around the house. The various filters are something that will be checked regularly but, as the weather warms, the air conditioning will also have to be looked at. We didn’t have any issues with inspections, only minor things here and there that were taken care of before we moved in, but we want to make sure that things are operational and that they are the right systems to have in place.

Maybe we will upgrade or change the air conditioning, heat, windows, flooring, etc. We will have to wait and see and continue to go through our check list every month. Then we will know what needs to be replaced (if anything), what we want to replace, and what we might consider doing in the future. So far everything is great but you never know… this is why I have to take care of so many checks each month.