Thursday, March 31, 2016

Some Other “Political” Views

My views on firearms ownership is well known at this point, especially after my last post, but I still get questions regarding my other political views. These queries have become more frequent lately given the political climate in which we currently find ourselves. Many of my views come down to the simple facts of limited government and personal responsibility. We don’t need to legislate everything and I am not promoting the legalization or banning of anything that I discuss below. In the end we all have different view and the power should remain with the people which brings me to my first topic… same sex marriage.

Frankly, I don’t care who you want to marry but this should not be a federal issue. The local courts and states are the ones who issue marriage licenses and that is where it should stay. That being said, regardless of local guidelines, benefits should be extended to partners as it pertains to federally run agencies such as the IRS. And, as it pertains to benefits available to family members, that decision should be left in the hands of the employer or benefits provider. However, one point I want to be very clear about is that those who vilify people for disagreeing with them should take a really close look at themselves in the mirror. This can be said about another insulting accusation being bandied about… racist.

I am someone who doesn’t care what race you are, I care about the person you are. A disagree with many people not because of their race but because of their views. At the same time, I respect their opinion so long as they respect mine. And just because I don’t believe in your world view or support everything President Obama has to say doesn’t make me a racist. Is there racism in this country? Yes, without a doubt but understand that racism is not limited to a one sided equation. In the same vein, sexism, ageism, antisemitism, and many other kinds of isms are all prevalent in the world.

Modern day racism is multicultural in that demeaning practices are applied against those of every race. The two things that immediately come to mind are profiling, which does negatively impact those who are not white, and affirmative action, which negatively impacts those who are white. Like it or not, racism is a two way street. Speaking of two way streets, many of the government programs that have been preached about over the last few years are nothing more than ways to get us all to pay a little bit more every month.

Universal healthcare is a failure, forcing many to pay exorbitant rates, limiting full time positions, and putting undue financial pressure on businesses and citizens alike. I personally know people who had their hours cut to just below the 30 hour limit, people told they make too much money to qualify despite being unemployed, and those forced to pay outrageous deductibles. And, of course, it has done nothing to slow the rise of premiums. In fact, each month it seems as though there is more and more taken out of my paycheck.

One of the things that I try not to think about when I look at my paycheck is how much I would be making if I converted my salary to an hourly rate. I make a decent salary but also work a lot of hours. In the end, there are some months when it breaks down to about $15 per hour. I work hard for that money and I have the motivation, drive, and work ethic to improve my life. Someone should not be starting at the local McDonald's, without motivation, without aspirations, and expect to earn the same amount of money. Stop expecting to be paid a wage that is not commensurate with the position! If you want to make more money put forth the effort, improve your life, and stop expecting others to do everything for you.

There has been a lot of news this year about another waste of money, Planned Parenthood. While many of the practices are barbaric and even heinous, there are valuable services that they do provide to many communities but it should not be funded by tax payer dollars. I previously held the belief that life begins at conception and now being a father and going to all the appointments prior to my son’s birth I am certain of that view. I believe that abortion is wrong and I would not support it but, at the same time, I do not believe that I should tell others what to do. All I am saying is that I don’t want to pay for something I am so adamantly against.

As for government programs in general and specifically as it pertains to welfare and unemployment, I believe that there is a place for those programs and many people should receive that support. I know that unemployment helped me a few years ago. However, I believe that drug testing should be required in order to receive funds and unemployment should be limited to those actively searching for a job. I agree with offering support to those trying to do the right thing and I would even support doing more to help those individuals but we should not blindly hand out money to everyone regardless of their efforts.

And when it comes to benefits they should be limited to citizens of this country. We are a country laden with tremendous debt and can ill afford supporting those who won’t even take the time to come into this country legally. The immigration system it undoubtedly flawed but it is the law and those who do not follow disregard these guidelines should be treated as any other criminal who breaks the law. There needs to be a better semblance of control of those coming into this country and we should know who is crossing our borders.

While by no means comprehensive, these paragraphs do offer opinions on a broad range of topics. I don’t expect everyone to agree but I don’t expect everyone to disagree either. And if you really want to make sure that something changes or stays the same it is a rather simple process… make sure you vote! The options aren’t great but it is what we have to work with right now. Vote for whom you agree with most but, more importantly, know where you stand on the issues without relying on the opinions of others. Of course, bring your ID because this uncertain, unrestrained, and illegal free for all has got to stop… I wonder who Reagan voted for in the last election.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Delayed Notice

With all the preparations that I have had to work on the last couple of weeks for my business trip, the lodge notice kept getting pushed back further and further toward the time of departure. Of course, all of the car and insurance calls the past few weeks haven’t helped with my productivity either. However, while I was definitely cutting it close, the lodge notice will get done and sent out some time this week…. It may be really close to the time of my departure this weekend but they will be sent out.

So far, the main issue that I am having is the sheer volume of information that needs to be included on the two pages inside. Please note that adding pages is not something that can simply be done on a whim. There are new petitions, a transfer, two degrees, grand lodge communications, a busy calendar, and two deaths that need to me included on what is the equivalent of a single sheet of paper (one side). Add on top of this the attendance and membership tables as well as two messages from the Worshipful Master and myself, respectively, and there is an issue finding the space on the limited canvass.

As has been the case in previous months, it is a matter of finding the time to write, formatting, and making sure I have all the pieces of information necessary to complete the project. It has been a piecemeal effort thus far with a few minutes squirreled away here and there. Not the most efficient way to get it done but it is getting done nevertheless. Even with pouring so many hours into my annual business trip, I can see how this notice needs to be put together and sometimes that is the most difficult part of the process.

I know it is going to be long and there will be numerous complaints about the small font size but, in the end, I will gladly accept those small critiques knowing that the brethren are fully informed of all that is going on at the lodge. In the end, that is what really matters. There is always going to be something going on in life as you try to get projects done and the notice is no different. The important thing is that all of the information is in there, it is sent out in enough time, and it looks at least halfway decent. The situation in getting the notice done is rarely ideal but it will be done before my plane leaves this weekend!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Bracing For My Annual Departure

Every year I go on an annual business trip which was never a real issue in the past. Last year it took some more coordinating as my son was just over a month old when he helped to drop me off at the airport. It was also helpful at the time to still have the doula helping us out until I returned. Now things are completely different as daddy’s little boy doesn’t want daddy to leave this weekend.

This time around my wife and I have decided to not tell out son about my quickly approaching trip. We learned our lesson from my unusual travel last month that it probably isn’t the best thing to ‘prepare’ him throughout the week prior. However, he still seems to know that something is going on and has wanted to be with daddy a little more than usual. Of course, for me that isn’t a completely bad thing.

And this is just the stuff that we have to keep to ourselves before I leave. Now that our son is a little older I have to schedule a few other stops during each of my trips since I want him to have a little something from each of the places that daddy goes for work. Part of what I try to pick up is a magnet for his growing collection which we started last year when we went to Hershey and continued during our jaunt through Virginia.

The second item that I try to find for him (and I went out of the way by finding the time last trip) is a small stuffed animal that he can snuggle when I am either away on a trip or simply out late that night. The third and final item that I am now on the lookout for, since it was so successful last trip, is some kind of inexpensive hat and shirt combination. It is also nice to remember those travels (and at the same time not pleasant) when he wears them to school or around the house.

However, what might be the most important part of this whole operation is whether Bear-Frog is ready for duty. So far he has done the trick at night in our son’s crib and he better pull through for us on this one as well because, in the end, we want this to go by as quickly as possible for all of us. I just hope that the flight sniffles that have been coming and going over the last few months are nowhere to be found next week… that would make for a long trip.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Where’s The Warranty?

Over the course of the past several months since we purchased our home, there have been a few things here and there that we have found that need replacing. Nothing major at this point but all items that we are trying to address in as timely a manner as we can manage at this point. Of course, there is also a process that we must follow when assessing each of these minor issues the first step is to assess our home warranty to see if any of these items are covered. This, as should be a surprise to no one, involves scanning a lot of fine print and numerous phone calls to clarify the coverage of some items.

The first issue that we encountered shortly after moving in was the self-destruction of our garage door… no one told us it was made by Mission Impossible Brands. It was a simple matter of a single bolt coming loose but it was enough to grenade the door. And, of course, it is something not covered under the warranty. So it remains one of the small but annoying items on our list of things that we need to address in the coming months.

It is the little things such as this that just seem to add up and it is never a small item that is included in the fine print of the home warranty. The wording is almost clairvoyant in the way is side steps many of the minor issues that we have encountered. While nothing is of great significance and would be considered an annoyance more than anything, they all add up as more and more small items turns into a rather large list.

And, right now, we are only in the very beginning of this process. As many of you know, all of the little quirks and minor repairs usually pop up within the first year… we are only half way there. I can see a few things that may be problematic in the coming months and have already started checking for warranty coverage. Our luck could turn in this regard but we won’t really know until we try to use it. However, we can’t lose sight of the simple fact that this remains a solid house.

There are many issues that I have heard about from others that are nowhere to be found in our home. Again, the ‘issues’ that we have encountered are very minor and it shouldn’t be an issue making these small adjustments, changes, and repairs. As was written about before, the optional list is something completely different. But, so far, things are good and we will make the necessary modifications… one project at a time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Search: Holiday Opportunities

The holidays are always a great opportunity to get together and simply enjoy the company of friends and family. While we may not be completely conscious of it at the time, it is a means to strengthen the bonds that we have with one another and take stock of the changes that have happened in our lives since the last time that we all gathered together. The most important thing about these times is to be in the moment and to spend time with those you love but there are opportunities that come about naturally from time to time that we, as family historians, must remain cognizant of and remember not just for ourselves but for the family as a whole the for the future when things have a tendency to be forgotten.

It is inconsequential how one gets to a subject but there are moments when we must be opportunistic and learn a little more about those around us. Furthermore, if we are able to ask questions we must do so to fill in some of the details that may have been glossed over. At the same time, when possible, we must be ready to recall what we know in order to offer that information in the hopes of jogging someone else’s memory or adding dimension or perspective to the story being told.

For some, including myself, this is sometimes the hardest part of trying to find out everything I can about the family. There is a fine line between conversation and investigation which we must respect during the holidays because, again, this is a time for family not about family. After all, we are all guilty from time to time for focusing more on the past than the present. Sometimes it is during occasions such as this while other times it is about not taking the opportunity, setting aside the time, and talking to family members about their own history and about what they know about others in the family.

Today I learned a few more details and was given a few more documents. Thankfully, I learned a lot with little effort. It was more about being in the right place and keeping my ears open to the conversations taking place. I knew some additional details and I asked a few questions but it was part of the natural flow of the dialog. Maybe I have finally found some kind of balance to this holiday conundrum. Of course, it helps that everyone knows about my passion for the family history and the respect that I have for our history. That can sometimes be the difference between being given, entrusted, with personal information and histories and not ever being told what happened.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purim Hangover

Given all that has happened over the past month and the reminders that I feel every morning, the joy of Purim was a welcomed respite from the daily worries and work. Having taken the holiday off, I was able to finally take some time away from the office without anything that needed to be done during the day. While we have plans for future years marking the celebration of the day with our son and the community this year there were no such plans made. Right now, sometimes the greatest joy can be found in not having to do something or be somewhere.

However, we were able to take advantage of the day as my wife was also off from work and, for the first time in too long, we had a quite lunch. Just the two of us as we brought our son to the daycare that morning. Thankfully, the new sushi place that we had found was actually pretty good and we were able to relax for the afternoon just spending an uneventful meal together. We made sure to take separate cars to the restaurant so that I could run some errands (rarely do I have time to do these during the week) and my wife could pick up our son on time. Nice to have a few things done early so we aren’t running around throughout the weekend.

When I returned home our son eagerly scurried across the floor not expecting to see me for another few hours. That smile and that laugh still get to me. After washing up and holding our son for a few moments and giving him plenty of hugs, it was time to simply get on the floor and spend some time as a family. This is the pure joy that this day has brought to us. Obviously not in the usual way but it is the joy of family and the unconditional love for a child, an open willingness to give or give up anything for them, that drives the meaning of this day home.

Since then there has been a bit of a Purim hangover. While neither of us had to return to work the following day and our son was home with us, there is something different about the extra bonus time that we have together. Maybe it is because of the simple fact that I was personally reflecting on the holiday during the waking hours but it was a different day. This Purim, the freedom and joy of this day, is something that we can build upon and truly make the meaning and joy of this holiday a part of our son’s life and faith. Hopefully without the hangover.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Firearms Friday: Membership Considerations

Anyone in the firearms community is familiar with the breadth of options when it comes to various firearms and second amendment groups and associations. For many of us, we hold multiple memberships in various groups at any given time and we receive regular correspondences from the others asking for donations and dues. This is one area where we have to be mindful of the total costs of these memberships and we must weigh the options both of becoming members and what kind of membership do we want to have in these various groups.

The first group with which everyone is familiar is the National Rifle Association (NRA). This is essentially your foundation on which I believe all your other memberships and donations should be structured around. The dues that we pay go toward supporting the rights that we all enjoy and the financial commitment, regardless of level, should be considered a necessary expense. However, from the basic annual membership there are other levels including life, endowment, benefactor, patron, golden eagles, etc. This determination is something that each member has to figure out for their self but, for me, I have found that becoming an endowment member has allowed me to focus on some of the other organizations while not having to worry about the annual commitment.

Once the foundation is in place other organizations can be explored such as Gun Owners of America (GOA), Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Citizens Committee for the Right To Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JFPO), and many other national and local organizations. Keep in mind that many of these and other groups are far more aggressive than the NRA and you should take a look at each before determining whether or not you wish to support them and their message. And, once again, when you have made your decision you must also determine what level of support to which you wish to commit.

My level of support varies from organization to organization depending on both the messaging and the financial commitment that each requires for membership. In some instances, I have chosen life memberships over the annual option as it made financial sense. In other cases, there were some overly aggressive messages that I couldn’t fully back with the extra finances so I either kept my membership at the lowest level or ceased supporting them altogether. In the end, it is a balance that is up to the individual but definitely a process that needs to be considered by every supporter of the second amendment. After all, without the work being done to protect the second amendment, your rights will slowly become nothing more than a memory.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Guest Post: Why Traveling is an Essential Element of Storytelling

I have two books published and one in my laptop waiting. I have traveled throughout the Caribbean to more than 20 islands and more than 15 states including Hawaii’s five main islands with more to come as I’m making plans to travel to Oregon, Washington state and Alaska by next summer. When I am traveling I always have my mind’s eye open to the possibility of a future story or book to write. I have found that, while traveling, it is important to pay attention to your surroundings and even to your dreams at night. When you wake up write your dreams down. That dream may be about some place that you had seen during the day. It could lead to a book one day as two of my books came from dreams. Dreams are short most of the time but you can expand them. Keep your mind working in overtime all the time even around your hometown… it could be more interesting than you realize.

When I was in Puerto Rico my wife and I visited the El Morro Fortress in San Juan. It was built in 1584 to protect the city from pirates and even during World War Two it was used to watch for German ships and U-boats. I went in all the hallways and rooms where men slept and lived. I saw where they cared for the wounded. I looked out over the Caribbean and could see in my mind the men going around the fort preparing for battle. The cannons being readied and the bugle being blown to alert the men that battle was close and the proud flag flying overhead. Then there was the rain forest in Puerto Rico. I could see rebels or pirates cutting their way through the lush thick forest and hair raising times crossing the rivers with hundred foot waterfalls that could be the end of them.

In Cozumel, Mexico we went to the Milan ruins and I could see in my mind the tribes sacrificing people to their Gods and where they married each other. One idea is to take your camera and have it ready to take pictures. This is a great way to bring back details to your memory; I always have mine ready. Anywhere you go you might get a picture of an animal, birds, or even an Iguana that you can insert in a story. The Hawaiian Islands were great fodder for story ideas. The volcanos and sacrificing virgins to the Gods. The beaches with the pipe-line and the North Shore have so many stories within them. Then there is Pearl Harbor and the many stories about World War Two and the sacrifice men and women made.

Then traveling through New Mexico and Arizona the desert and mountains bring to mind all the old west stories of gold and silver mines and the men and women that help develop those states before moving on to Colorado and California. These are my kinds of books but you might have a different interest. It can all be awaken in your mind by traveling and opening your mind’s eye. Good luck where ever you go and in finding your story or book. Remember, keep your mind active and don’t forget the dreams. 

Lynn Luick is from Texas but was born in Oregon. He has a wife, two daughters and three grandchildren. He loves nature and traveling. He has been working for 50 years - first in a grocery store and then his own distributing business - to raise his family. He has always wanted to write but was too busy to do so. Now that he has retired, he has plenty of time to do what he loves. He will be traveling and writing more "Silver Buck" adventures and also other Western titles. He loves to write fiction stories about places he has been.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A More Complicated Petition

Well, it should be no surprise to anyone who read my post yesterday that I didn’t make it to the lode last night as I was recovering from my second serious car accident in the past ten days. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working on a few things for the lodge. In fact, I have been working on a rather interesting petition as of late that has been an ongoing project since the last stated meeting. While most petitions are pretty straightforward, this one in particular has had a number of details that have made it a great learning process both for the petitioner and also for me.

The situation is rather simple in that the candidate already petitioned another lodge which presented said petition at their last stated meeting. Following dinner last month at my lodge, he expressed a desire to join our lodge which is more convenient for a multitude of reasons. Following that meeting and after confirming his intentions, I circled back with the original lodge in possession of his petition. This is when things really got interesting as having not found myself in this position previously, I made sure to copy both District Deputy Grand Masters. After all, I always want to make sure that decisions such as this are by the book and as transparent as possible.  

Fast forward and I now find myself in a friendly back and forth trying to confirm many of the details of the process and double checking the conclusions with both my District Deputy Grand Master and the petitioner. It has been a process to say the least but it has also been a great learning experience and we will have a solution to the situation in short order now that the broad strokes have been taken care of. However, the most important thing that I have made sure not to lose sight of is the simple fact that a good man has shown a desire to become a mason.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter where he receives his degrees (although I have my preferences), the important things is that the fraternity is gaining a solid member. Too often lodges lose sight of this fact and focus on what is best for their lodge. While the betterment of your home lodge is hugely important, we can all agree on that fact, the growth of our fraternity, of Freemasonry as a whole, needs to take precedence. We have to keep in mind what is best for the brotherhood and for the man who desires to become a brother. If we do right by these two, things have a way of coming back to us both as a lodge and as a mason. We must do what is right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Baby Doesn’t Need To Know Everything!

Over the past year, especially over the last couple of weeks, I have found that sometimes the best way to protect my son is to not share everything with him. Just over a week ago we didn’t have much choice when I was rear ended on my way home. He knew that I was supposed to be home to tuck him in and when I called that night to tell my wife what had happened and that I would be home in time, he knew something was wrong and he worried about me for most of the weekend. When the same thing happened to me this morning on my way to work I was able to let my wife know and we didn’t mention anything to our son… in fact, he was happy to see me home when my wife walked through the door after picking him up from daycare.

That’s right, the same thing happened. Well, almost the same thing. Either way, our son didn’t need to know what happened…

The incident occurred while on my way to work this morning. I was traveling in the left lane heading eastbound on the PA Turnpike in inconsistent traffic. Traffic was going about 40-50 mph but, soon after passing the Downingtown exit, traffic ceased to move. I came to a halt about 1.5-2 car lengths between myself and the car in front of me. When the car came to a complete stop I noticed in the rear view mirror, first in my peripheral vision and then with nearly instant focus, that the Gray Ford F250 behind me was not stopping. I did not hear any brakes.

When he impacted the rear of the rental card I was in at the time (a White 2016 Dodge Dart for those who need the reminder) I was forced approximately 2-2.5 car lengths forward. Thankfully, I avoiding the car in front of me by guiding the now super-compact car toward the median. After taking about 5 minutes to collect myself and after Turnpike personnel blocked all lanes of traffic I drove the car to the right shoulder of the road about 50-100 yards from impact.

Turnpike personnel, PA Troopers, EMT, and the towing company were on scene soon after the accident. The other driver admitted to me and to others on the scene that he had taken his eyes off the road. The Trooper collected our information and took statements for the incident report. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance soon after since this was the second such accident in about ten days. Thankfully, they didn’t find anything in the slew of x-ray that I received and I was discharged shortly after noon.

Just when I was beginning to feel better from the previous accident and starting to catch up on everything, I was out of the office for another day and everything else was put on hold as the stiffness and soreness set in. By the time our son came home, I was able to hide the pain and discomfort so that our son would not worry again. I hate keeping things from him but I also hate seeing the worry on his face and the tossing and turning that it causes him at night. Hopefully, this is the last time I have to hide something like this from him… hopefully this meets my accident quota for a while… I don’t know how much more my body can take of this. At least now I am in a slightly bigger car as compared to the Dart… a fully loaded 2016 Chevy Suburban.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Scanning The Market

Every once in a while I go on some of the real estate websites to see if there is anything new on the market in our area and how much people are asking for those properties. In one regard this is simply a habit that started a few years ago when we were still in the process of finding our first house. Now it is more of just trying to see what the market is doing around us now that we have found that place to call home. In some ways what I am seeing is kind of surprising but at the same time it is an expected trend that I started to see develop during those initial months of searching years ago.

When we first saw our home come on the market we knew that we had a tremendous opportunity right in front of us and we moved fast. It was meant to be as earlier in the week a deal that we had on another property fell through. Since the day we signed the last of the mountain of papers and accrued a new mountain of debt, I have watched the market slowly rise and the inventory evaporate. While much of this can be attributed to the season, it isn’t the whole story as this particular market did not react the same way in previous years.

Now there is nothing on the market and prices continue to climb even faster than I had expected based on the market evaluation just prior to settlement. Heck, in a matter of months it may get to the point where we would have been priced out of the market had we not found our home when we did. It has been a great feeling seeing the hard numbers both for the obvious financial security but also because it shows that we were right in selecting the growing community in which we now live.   

And that second half of the equation is the most important part for me as we are not in this for the financial gain… we purchased our home for the permanence and potential of never having to move again. This is now our home and our community and we were lucky to have found this property when we did because I don’t know where we would have ended up had we waited for another year. As I watch the market continue to develop and rise, I doubt that we would have been able to find the space, the land, or the price that we did when we found this house.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Search: Local Resources

One of the first resources, beyond that of family members, pictures, and documents, which we all use when we begin our genealogical journey consists of numerous memberships to various websites. Websites like are great resources and powerful tools to build the basic framework of your family tree but they are by no means the only resource out there and, in fact, there will be numerous holes still remaining once those databases are exhausted. Where the real work begins is when there are still questions to be answered. This is when the local and offline digging begins.

Too often, local resources are overlooked in recreating the lives of ancestors. It may seem obvious to many of us that have been researching for years but these museums, schools, societies, groups, associations, libraries, and local records offices are frequently forgotten by many. It is a sad reality of the current state of genealogical research as most people starting out and many that have been working on their families for some time often fall into the trap of marketing and instant gratification. This is particularly astounding when you consider the fact that these local resources were once the foundation of countless family histories.

And I must admit that there are many times when I too have overlooked these tremendous resources. Sometimes the most obvious places are overlooked, sometimes they are places that we frequent every week or every month. A great example of this is my local masonic lodge where I have access to all of the records. Knowing that my family has at least a little history with this building and fraternity has made it possible to find some supplementary information that added to the lives of many in my tree. Taking the search to grand lodge widened that group of ancestors even further.

When my family and I traveled to Virginia last summer some of the stops we made we to these local places unavailable online. And, of course, sometime just being in the places, the communities, where my family lived proved valuable to offer perspective to the stories that have been passed down and in adding dimension to the lives of ancestors. Sometimes local depositories are also the only place where the information will be found as has been the case for me with some of the cemetery records near me.

The other important factor is that sometimes when I business closes or moves out of the area, much of the company history is left with the local government, library, or historical society. If you know that an ancestor spent their life working for that company it is certainly worth the time to talk to those local resources. However, the most important aspects to all of this are the simple truths that local resources have local experts who are usually willing to assist you with your research without the exorbitant costs that can sometimes be charged by general sites and/or firms and this research can serve to strengthen your ties with that community whether or not it is the place you call home. After all, those communities are also part of your family history.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Book Update: Finally, Some Progress!

One of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year was to pull together many of the collections of poems and essays that I have compiled over the years and publish them. I have considered this endeavor in the past but was never able to see it to the end. Well, over the past couple of months, I was finally able to see many of those projects come to fruition. It took some time, a considerable amount of energy, and a few dollars but I was finally able to get four books published through Author House.

The first book that I worked on was a collection of poems that I wrote as an undergraduate student at Endicott College. All of the poems in the collection were written at that time, many of them published both in literary journals and in a limited run I pulled together with a local print shop at the time titled Teaching A Stone To Talk: Nature Poems. I am still grateful for the help that I received from Carol Raiche for the formatting the modest book and putting me in touch with the printer.

Now, accompanied with photos taken over the past decade, these poems are once again available in the collection Paintings In Under A Thousand Words: Nature Poems.

Many of the poems found in these pages are all but memories of experiences that have colored my early life. Some see these moments as glimpses of a time past but I see them as paintings formed in slow deliberate strokes that highlight the details of life that instill the feeling of accomplishment when looking at your past. These images don't need the long drawn out descriptions laden with unnecessary letters, they are flashes quick to flood the mind and equally fast in fading back deep into the gray matter. This is why I see these poems, these memories of my encounters with nature, as paintings in under a thousand words.

The next book to be edited was a project that I started while at Endicott and which later served as my Master’s thesis at Rosemont College. The first sequence of poems was published previously both as individual poems in various literary journals and in my first official chapbook, Kaddish Diary, which was published in 2005 by Pudding House Publications. This small collection has long since been out of print and even one of the anthologies that included a couple of the poems has since gone out of print as well. In the years following the publication of the chapbook, I created two additional sequences based on two other works of holocaust literature. However, this collection also remained nearly forgotten on a flash drive for nearly a decade. Now, I have finally brought this project of passion to light in What Was Not Said: Echoes From The Holocaust.

The Holocaust is a subject all of us are aware of but there are countless accounts that are seldom heard. Based on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of Hertha Feiner, Janusz Korczak, and Filip Müller, these poems describe the life surrounding these writings. Every memoir has something missing. This is not a conscious decision by the author; it is the perspective of the writer filtered through the impermanence of memory. Sometimes it is a forgotten foreshadowing phrase said in passing or what is happening outside when their focus is on the room in which they are sitting. These are the aspects painted in this collection.

The next two collections will be quite familiar to many of you as they are collections of posts from this blog. The first of these books consolidated all of the genealogy posts and is really only the first of many that I expect on this topic. It highlights both the process and the discoveries that I have made over the years and includes many family photos and documents that many in the family may have not seen before. I am glad to finally be able to share many of these colorful leaves with the rest of the family in Out On The Limbs: Searching For Answers In The Family Tree.

This is collection which illustrates how one family tree can give shade to the entirety of American history. Each leaf has a little more to add to my family history just as each piece of fall foliage adds to an autumnal landscape. All different trees offering a different variety of colors but working in unison to tell the same story. These essays offer a cross section of topics which includes recent additions to my family tree, interesting resources or programs, and discoveries that have given greater depth to the lives of my ancestors.

The final project in this initial push is the one that means the most to me. Again, these are posts from the blog which spans the past year and a half. This time around, I collected all the posts about the pregnancy and my first year of fatherhood into a single volume. You could even say that this is a baby book taken to the next level. For me this book is a gift to my son and hopefully something that first time parents, especially fathers, will enjoy. After all, it does tell the reader about The Good, The Bad, And The Adorable: My First Year As A Father.

After my son was born I found myself having conversations with other parents about some of the interesting things that I should anticipate happening during the first year. I had not heard about any of these antidotes before and so I wanted to start writing more regularly about these usually humorous occurrences. Arranged chronologically, this book is a collection of both those early posts of doctor appointments and preparations for arrival as well as the more interesting moments that I experienced during my first year as a father.

Well, that is what has been keeping me busy over the last couple of months and partly why there have been times when I have fallen behind on these daily posts. There are other books that I am currently working on but that is a completely different post for another day. In the meantime, if you happen to read any of these books I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and, hopefully, they proved to be worth the purchase price. Four down and countless volumes to go!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Firearms Friday: A Rambling Summary

Those of you who have been following this blog for any significant length of time pretty much know where I fall on a variety of political issues especially with regard to the second amendment. However, I still get questions from time to time regarding where I stand on a variety of topics so I have decided to dedicate a couple of posts to summarizing those views. Of course, given the day that I am posting this, it is only right that I start with the topic that seems to garner the most support and criticism… Firearms ownership.

Simply put, I believe that law abiding citizens, in accordance with the second amendment, have the right to own firearms. In fact, I believe that many of the laws in force overstep the boundaries of government and should be revoked particularly as it pertains to those that fall under the purview of the ATF. Generally speaking, restrictions and registrations are infringements upon our rights and should deemed as such.  

‘Gun free zones’ are an insane propaganda piece to promote a false sense of safety when, in fact, they merely ensure limited if any resistance ensuring targets of opportunity for those who wish to commit evil acts. This is why you are seeing so many shootings in these shocking areas. Not because we have a ‘gun problem’ in this country but because we instill a false sense of security and ignore the evil that exists in this world.

However, there are many laws in place that I support as it relates to firearms ownership as I believe a basic background check has the potential to be an effective tool should the necessary implementation of existing laws and technology be applied. I have seen too many posts noting that NICS is down and we already know that the system has not been optimized. In the end, NO other legislation should be passed until the existing measures are fully operational.

As it pertains to those who break the law I firmly believe that those who commit a crime with a firearm should be given sentences longer than those who commit the same crime without the use of a firearm. Those who unlawfully purchase or sell a firearm should also be given harsh sentences. In the end, the individual should be punished for what they did not the entire community.

Basically, people should not rely on the authorities to keep them safe when we are capable of doing so ourselves. For the great work that they do, they can’t anticipate what is going to happen, they are limited to responding to situations. We need to protect ourselves. The government can’t solve our problems… we must be self-reliant and self-sufficient and acknowledge the limitations that should be placed on government.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Good Enough For Today

This is always an interesting time of year. It doesn’t really matter where you are or what you do for a living, you quickly find out who around you has even a trace of Irish ancestry. And, of course, you also find out who are the ones that see this as an opportunistic excuse to show up to work the following morning with soft voices, light shuffling feet, and sunglasses nearly implanted on their face. It really is an interesting day on the calendar to both experience and to observe (in more ways than one).

Until recently, it was never really a day that caught my attention. There were year when it even passed by without me knowing. Now having a better grasp and understanding of my own family history, I enjoy seeing the festivities and hearing the multitudes of stories of the places from which families originated. Given the long history and pride that is found in Irish families, it is no surprise to find my family’s original surname, McKenna, listed on Wikipedia:

McKenna, also MacKenna, Mckenna or Mackenna, is the anglicized form of the Gaelic Irish surname "Mac Cionaoith", also spelt Mac Cionaodha or Mac Cionnaith, meaning "son of Cionnaith.

The historical lineage of the McKennas lies in Trough, County Monaghan, Ulster, Ireland, where they were "The Lords Of Truagh" and the McKenna coat of arms can be seen on many of the graves from members of the family.

In North Kerry Mckenna is considered to come from Mac Ginea. The Cionnath, Cionaoith, Cionaddha forms are considered there to be sources of names like Kenny, Kenney and Kennedy.

It is fascinating to see the original family surname so closely tied to a specific geographic location in Ireland. This is particularly important given the limited details that we have about my family’s original Irish ancestor whom we believe was named William and who arrived in the United States sometime between 1840 and 1860. We don’t know exactly when or where he came into this country or precisely from where he came but we at least have some idea from which part of the country the family originated.

While this is the most recent immigrant on either side of my family, it is proving to be one of the more difficult to pin down both due to the discrimination of the Irish at that point in history and also the sheer fact that the name is so incredibly common. But, on this day it really doesn’t matter all that much. We know that we have Irish blood and from where our family hails. Today, and most days, that is enough. But it would be nice to know a little bit more.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Darting To The Lodge

That is not my car... but it is for now.
Given the conditions of the roads and still feeling stiff and sore from the accident, I hesitated heading over to the lodge last night. However, there were a multitude of meetings that I needed to take care of this week and driving to Ardmore was the most efficient means of getting everything done. So, while not the most comfortable option, I slowly navigated the bright white Dodge Dart rental around the suburban pothole minefield and made it to the lodge in plenty of time to check the mail and settle in before the next brother walked through the door.

As it turned out, I was not the only one having a bit of an off week as there were a couple of meetings that had to be postponed due to personal reasons. However, even with a few brothers having to miss the fellowship night, the lodge was still busy with nearly a dozen scattered throughout the building. Some of us were discussing various topics in the hall while others were practicing for the upcoming degree work. And, of course, we also had our new candidates in attendance nearing what they need to know before taking the next step.

Much of my night, without the aforementioned meetings, was regarding matters unrelated to the lodge. The first conversation I had was with a brother who will be helping me with some of the home renovation projects that I mentioned in a previous post. We also discussed my recent accident and reviewed some of the lessons that we each have learned over the years through personal experience as well as the accounts told by others. With books in hand it was also an opportunity to share with my brothers the work that has finally come to fruition in recent months (more about those later).

Finally, toward the end of the night, my cousin arrived to both take care of some replacement SAR paperwork and also to catch up a bit. It is great to have this common bond with him and have a space where we can meet and talk about our lodges, work, family, and anything else that may come to mind. It is also a great opportunity to introduce him to some of the brothers from the lodge in case he ever wanted to join us for a meeting. While not all of the meeting I had planned for took place, it was still a productive night and while I didn’t get home until much later than expected, at least I could relax knowing that a few things were crossed off my list for the week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Worrying About Daddy!

Every morning before my wife takes him to school, I tell my son weather I will be home that night to tuck him in or if I will be out late. On Friday, as we packed everything up and put him in the car, I told my son that I would be home at my normal time that night so that I could play with him and tuck him into bed. Well, I had every intention of keeping my word to my son. In fact, I was even on the road a little earlier than usual when the accident happened.

Shortly after leaving the office, about five miles down the road, brake lights filled the highway causing me to come to a nearly complete halt in the left lane. However, the 1986 pickup truck behind me didn’t stop in time and rear ended me at about 40-50 miles per hour. The accident was limited to our two vehicles as I had come to rest with plenty of room between me and the car in front of me. I knew in that moment that I wasn’t going to be home before bedtime.

We pulled off the highway onto the right shoulder, called the State Troopers, our insurance companies, and waited. The 18 year old kid who hit me knew that it was his fault the instant that it happened. Surprisingly, I was just happy to still be in one piece and thankful that I wasn’t driving my old Malibu. While the Jeep held up and kept me safe, the entire back end is a mess and it is doing to require significant work to both the body and the frame.

By the time everything was settled and I was back on the road (the car didn’t drive the same but it still moved) my son was in bed and worrying about daddy. As I would find out later, he kept tossing and turning until I got home and before heading to bed he kept frantically reaching for the phone wanting to check in on me. Baby was worried about me. The next morning, he wanted to spend a little extra time with daddy frequently crawling over to me to give me hugs and kisses. It took nearly the entire day before he fully calmed down knowing that daddy was okay.

While I did keep telling my son that I was okay, I remained stiff and sore throughout the weekend. On Monday, after dropping off the car to be assessed, I did go to the local Urgent Care to get checked out just in case. Two hours and two dozen x-rays later and they could find nothing wrong… at least nothing related to the accident. I still have to keep an eye on things but, for now, I am fine. However, while I am okay, given the extent of the damage, this car is done.

Regardless of whether it is repaired or totaled, the car is never going to be the same and I no longer have the confidence in its ability to hold up over time. After all, it is not just my safety that we are talking about, it has to keep my family safe. So, expect a post or two in the future about the car search and whether or not I decide to simply replace or changing things up a bit again. Of course, it could take a while before I actually get a new car as the current repair timeline is about 30 days. A lot of recovering, waiting, and looking to come.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mortgage Monday: People You Can Trust

Now that my wife and I have pulled together our list of things that we need to get done, want to get done, and what might need a second look in the future, it is time to start lining things up and getting many of the ‘projects’ evaluated. While we have both been around and lived through renovations, large and small, in the past, this is the first time that we are looking to get the work done ourselves. With such limited experience, it is best to review these growing lists with some professionals. Thankfully, I have a few resources that will be able to let us know what is worth doing, how much it will cost, and how long it will take.

When it comes to having work done on our home I want to make sure to hire people whom I trust. There are many people to which this applies and I will be reaching out to many of them in the near future to have them look at what needs to be done as well as consider what we want to do in the future. Of course, family comes first and I am fortunate to know a family member who will be able to help with some of the renovations needed… this also might be the biggest project that we are considering as well which makes the whole process that much easier.

For many of the other things on our long, and growing, list I have turned to a few of the brothers from my lodge. The members of the lodge represent a hugely diverse mix of occupations, professions, and specialties and while I don’t know what everyone does for a living (not at this point anyway) I know enough brothers whose knowledge and skills will be a tremendous help to me. So far, I have already been in touch with a few contractors, a couple of electricians, and an architect. All people whom I trust and know that they will do great work at a reasonable price.

This is the basic reason why it is so important to get to know the people in your life. Knowing what they do for a living can be a tremendous asset when you find yourself in need of their services. And you never know when they might need your assistance with a project. The most important thing is that we make sure to help, aid, or assist those in our life. Whenever given the opportunity, take the time to help someone. When you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. This isn’t just something that applies to home ownership, it is a way to live your life. It just happens to help during times like these.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Search: A Basic List Of Questions

There are many aspects and important factors to remember when researching your family but the most important thing to remember is probably the simplest one… always ask questions. Some are to be directed to certain people while others are After all, this process is about finding answers so it is only natural that we start this process with a list of questions. Surprisingly, many lose sight of this essential aspect to the process and overlook both some of the questions that need to be answered as well as to whom those questions should be addressed.

What I have found in my numerous conversations with genealogists across all experience levels is that there are many basic questions that we assume and never directly ask either ourselves or others. With that in mind, I decided to take a few minutes and create an essential form to reference throughout the research process. These questions are designed so that we can ask ourselves in reference to distant family members as well as something that we can sit down and ask ourselves or others in our family.

  • What is your full name?
  • Nickname? Why?
  • Where and when were you born?
  • What is your father’s name? Where and when was he born? Where and when did he pass away?
  • What was your father’s personality? What were his interests? What was his occupation?
  • What is your mother’s maiden name? Where and when was she born? Where and when did she pass away?
  • What was your mother’s personality? What were her interests? What was her occupation?
  • Earliest memory of your parents?
  • Most prominent memory/memories about your parents?
  • What did you talk to your parents about the most when growing up? Older?
  • What was your grandmother’s maiden name? Where and when was she born? Where and when did she pass away?
  • What is your grandmother’s personality? What were her interests? What was her occupation?
  • What is your grandfather’s name? Where and when was he born? Where and when did he pass away?
  • What was your grandfather’s personality? What were his interests? What was his occupation?
  • Most prominent memory/memories about your grandparents?
  • What did you talk to your grandparents about the most when growing up? Older?
  • Can you provide details of any additional generations of your family?
  • Who are the other family members that played a prominent role in your life?
  • Who were you named after?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What do you remember most about the town where you grew up?
  • What is your religion? What do you remember about your faith during your youth?
  • Did you have pets growing up?
  • Name/location of high school? College?
  • Interests, major, sports, activities while in school?
  • What books/movies do you remember?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • Who were your heroes? Inspirations? Motivators?
  • Did you travel anywhere growing up? Where? When? Memories?
  • What family stories/legends do you remember being told? From whom did you hear these stories?
  • First job? Second Job?
  • Did you serve in the military? Branch? Occupation? Years?
  • Where/when did you meeting your husband/wife?
  • When/where did you get married?
  • Name of your spouse?
  • Children?
  • What are your interests/hobbies/affiliations as an adult?
  • What questions, if any, do you have about your family history?
  • Have you ever researched your family history?
  • Have you ever discussed your family history with other family members?
  • Do you have any photos of the people/events/places previously mentioned?
  • Do you have any other family photos that you would like to share?
  • Do you have any family documents (birth, marriage, death, naturalization, citations, certificates, etc.)?
  • Do you have any items that have been passed down in the family?
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it should be a good start when really putting together complete profiles of the current and past generations of your family. Obviously, the ideal situation would be that someone would answer these questions for themselves but one can also apply these questions (obviously not all of them) to ancestors across the centuries. You may be surprised at how much information you have, how the pieces fit together, and how motivating some of these basic questions can be to try and find these answers. However, as I have said before, don’t put forth all of this effort without going through the process yourself. Make sure you have your answers and you are represented in your own family history.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Honoring Our Family Histories

While my application is still in process with the Sons of the American Revolution I received an open invitation to attend the next quarterly meeting of the chapter I will soon be joining at the Inn at Reading this past Thursday. After discussing with my wife and double checking my schedule I made plans to attend heading there straight from work. While I had hoped to arrive a little early other projects during the day delayed my departure quite a bit and I walked through the doors shortly after they began serving dinner.

Despite interrupting dinner, I was welcomed warmly as soon as I walked in the room and immediately brought to a table where a chair and place setting were brought out in short order. Throughout the meal I enjoyed the conversation with all those around the table especially with the man who had been helping me with my application from the beginning. While I had never met the men and women in that room prior, I was immediately made to feel as though we had known each other for years. While not yet official, I was seen as having a common bond with all those around me.

With dinner nearly concluded, the guest speaker for the evening was introduced and what followed was one of the more fascinating and thoroughly researched presentations that I have heard in some time. Michael C. Harris adeptly condensed a portion of his book, Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America,September 11, 1777, into a precise narrative of the battle which was both engaging and easily digestible for all in attendance. It even gave me an idea for a story or two in the future. The impetus for the book was quite simple as at the time he was employed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at the Brandywine Battlefield and he wanted to produce an accurate and comprehensive history of the engagement in the absence of current literature about the battle. Needless to say, I was one of many who purchase a book once the meeting was concluded.

Following the presentation was the business portion of the meeting which included the many new members, pending applications and supplemental applications, and reports from various committees. In the end, while formal in attire (coat and tie), the meeting itself was warm, welcoming, and relaxed. These are people that truly enjoy the company of one another, embrace the community, and honor the familial and national history that we each represent. It is an organization that I am more excited than ever to join and one that I am certainly going to enjoy sharing with my family as we discover more and more about the plethora of patriots in our family history.