Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Some Meetings Sneak Up On You


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Daddy Kisses!


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mortgage Monday: HVAC Overhaul


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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Search: A Local Family Reunion


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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Welcomed Weekend


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

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Firearms Friday: Returning To The Work Bench


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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Between Blog Posts: Part 2


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

5AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

T-Shirts, Horseshoes, and Hamburgers


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Timing


It seems like a constant dilemma that we are facing week after week, project after project. The simple, yet complicated, question that continues to arise is whether we push some of the renovations back into the spring or just get them done now? As I have disclosed previously, it is a really long list of things that we are planning on having done at the house and the constant routine that we find ourselves in is less than ideal. I guess a better question is how much more of this can we handle?

While a postponement would bring us some quiet time heading into the fall and some greater flexibility in our schedule, it would also leave us with a few things that while not essential, are either an eye sore or simply aren’t conducive to us fully enjoying our home. It would also leave a few things ‘half done’ at this point which is less than an ideal situation we would find ourselves living in. But it would be quiet and that is something that can’t easily be overlooked.

However, there are a few larger projects that simply make sense to get done now. We already started the transformation so why would we stop in the middle right now and keep us from seeing our plans for our home from coming to fruition. Yes, it will be noisy, inconvenient (most likely less so than the first round), and put a decent dent in our bank account but we would have nearly everything done. And with these things off the list we wouldn’t spend the cold months cooped up in the house staring at the things that we wish we had changed.

It is a matter of deciding whether we want to relax a little now or relax and breathe easier later? Do we want the inconvenience now or later? And, most importantly, how soon do we want to complete the transformation from our house to our home? This doesn’t mean that we have to check everything off of our list but knocking out a good portion of it would go a long way and allow us to push back a few of the other, “less important”, projects.

Either way, it is safe to say that we are all looking forward to the day when we can consider everything done. And while I can’t wait for that time to come, I am also a realist and know that there will probably be an entirely new list that has been drafted in the interim and I am not completely sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing at this point. What I am enjoying is the fact that no matter when we do all of these things, we will be improving our home and we will be able to enjoy them for many years. So, here is to the future!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Search: Piercing Through The Foliage

Caleb Pierce, Margaret Hughes, Isabella Pierce, and Noah Pierce -
Census - 1870 
If you are researching your family tree to try and find a connection to a celebrity or a historical figure, you are most likely going to be very disappointed. This is not the reality for many of us and while I have been lucky enough to uncover some fascinating lives and those who participated in different events throughout the history of the United States, this is far from discovering a celebrity (historic or otherwise) as is commonly defined these days. However, this is my family and they are historical figures for me as they are my direct connection to history.

John Hallman - Death Certificate - 1957
However, not only family lines have led me to historic events. In fact, I have recently been researching a line on my father’s side that is simply a common story of much of the families in this county. Starting with my great grandfather, John Lewis Hallman (1894-1957), I have traced back an additional four generations. While I have written about my great grandfather before, I hadn’t researched much beyond that generation especially on his mother’s side.

Margaret Hughes - Death Certificate - 1919
My second great grandmother, Isabella Pierce (1869-1901), was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania to Caleb Pierce (1840-1912) and his Irish bride Margaret Hughes (1842-1919). While the family didn’t have much money they seemed to have enough as Caleb left a modest estate to his widow upon his death. What was particularly interesting about this generation is that I was completely unaware of the Irish roots on my father’s side until this discovery.

Caleb Pierce - Death Certificate - 1912
Caleb Pierce, my third great grandfather, on the other hand, was not as fortunate as his daughter. Growing up the son of a laborer, he aspired to step up a rung (a common thread throughout much of my family, and apprenticed to become a Blacksmith which provided for his family but almost certainly contributed to his early demise as well. However, it was his father, Noah Pierce, my fourth great grandfather, who seemed to not be able to catch a break.

Noah Pierce - Census - 1880
Noah Pierce (1805-1880) was raised with next to nothing to the point that he is listed with his siblings in the “Poor School Children Records” of Chester County as needing assistance to pay for basic school supplies (his father, my fifth great grandfather, Caleb Pierce is also listed). He spent his life as a laborer doing what he could to support his family. By the 1870 census he is listed as living with his son. By the 1880 census (where he is classified as “Defective, Dependent, or Delinquent”) he is listed among those residing at the Chester County Almshouse.

So, as you can see, this is not a lineage filled with heroes and people of note. This is my family, these are the people that worked hard and did what they could to support their family. Every generation trying to move forward a little bit at a time. And this is what genealogy is all about… it is our jobs as family historians, to remember our past no matter how fascinating or mundane it may seem to others. All of these ancestors make up who we are and each play a role in making us who we are. Sometimes we find stories of heroic actions while other times we find the facts about a family struggling to find a way to get by. The common thread is that each succeeded in bringing about the next generation and keeping the family tree alive. Without them, all of them, there wouldn’t be a family to research.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Old Hobbies Die Hard


Throughout my life I have had a multitude of hobbies and collections from baseball cards and comics to music and movies to books and coins to firearms and watches. Of course, these are in addition to the accumulation and collection of random information and facts which is a lifelong endeavor. While I don’t know exactly why I have enjoyed so many different hobbies I think it is due in large part because I need to keep myself occupied. More specifically, I need to keep learning about different things… I need to think. This helps to explain why there is such a variety and also why I keep returning to some of those previous interests.

The mechanics, ingenuity, and artistry found in firearms and watches have maintained my interest for years. While many, especially these days, would see these two as completely different from one another my appreciation is quite similar and my interest in them is rooted in some very basic concepts. This is what keeps my mind active as I study how they operate and simply appreciate the functionality and aesthetics of these items.

However, what I have found lately is that coins and currency have a stronger hold on my attention than all the other interests that I have had. The unexpected consequence of taking my son to a coin shop this past weekend is that it has once again piqued my interest in numismatics. As he was going from case to case studying each of the coins nearly organized on the shelves I couldn’t help but think about the time I used to spend searching for that one interesting coin.

Bear in mind that I was never one to collect the high end pieces that are purchased more for investment rather than appreciation. I gravitated to what interested me both in the actual coin itself, both design and origin, as well as the history that comes along with it. I would much rather study a well worn penny that has been used and witnessed a hundred years of history over an encased silver dollar in perfect condition minted this year.

It is also the different countries and periods in history which some pieces represent that fascinate me. This is the perspective that led to my interest in German States, Italian States, French States, Swiss Cantons, and British Palestine coinage. They all speak to a completely different time in history and aren’t immensely popular among collectors so they are usually affordable… and the stories and designs that can be found are compelling. It is that potential for a story that keeps me coming back to this hobby.

However, some things stay the same. We usually begin with the simple wheat penny which is where I started many years ago and where I am starting my son. Who knows, maybe this is something that we will enjoy doing together. Only time will tell but, at the very least, there are a lot of pennies for a lot of thoughts… and stories.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Firearms Friday: Local Shops


I have been meaning to get out and explore a bit to see what the local shops have to offer but haven’t really been able to find much time for these little excursions. However, there were a few small windows that allowed me to get out of the house and drive finally allowing me to make it to a few local shops over the past several weeks. So far, there really isn’t much that I have been missing.

Maybe it is because of the simple fact that I have found the really good gun shops in a few other counties that, when I am able, I try to visit on occasion. Sometimes I may pick up a little something, sometimes I am there to sell, and other times it ends up simply being a great conversation that allows me to keep my wallet in my pocket. Of course, then there are the instance when I am able to bring others to those stores… a time when I can let them spend their money.

So far, while pretty on the outside, there isn’t much to be found in the way of deals or customer service at many of the local shops around me. Bear in mind that there is still quite the long list of places that I have yet to see. Many of these stores look really nice on the outside and have the prices on the inside to match their high end appearance. Needless to say, I didn’t make much in the way of purchased beyond finding a few used magazines in the discount bin (buy one, get one).

Hopefully, the places that I have come across aren’t part of a new trend in the industry although, based on the grand opening announcements that I have seen lately, this is probably the case. The small family stores are becoming harder and harder to find but they are still out there. It just takes a little more time and effort to find them. Commodities that I am in short supply of at the moment.

At this point, with none of the places around me worth a second trip, I am going to take a little break from trying to find the right store. I have great places where I enjoy spending time and the limited times that I am able to get out I would rather go there. Instead, I am going to focus on finding a good range where I can relax and enjoy time with friends and family. That seems like it will be a better use of my time for a multitude of reasons.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Between Blog Posts: Part 1


Recently, while going from one topic to the next whether that be at work or while writing about different topics for the blog I find my mind wandering a little bit into the other side of my brain. It’s almost as if it fell off that fine line that I am constantly walking between the two hemispheres and all of the sudden the ideas for stories begin flowing through my fingers. They are only glimpses but, like the rough ideas that I shared before which I uncovered in my computer, I wanted to share them here. After all, you never know what I might do with them…

4AM

Ben had been up all night with the only light shining on the dark country road being the one piercing through his kitchen window. The highway asphalt in the distance had been quite for hours and the autumnal wind carried with it the scent of the approaching season. His work was done, for now, but his labor was just beginning.

The hinges screamed as he pulled the front door toward him. A sound that had become all too familiar in recent weeks. But in that moment, in the darkness of morning, he was the only one who could hear the house shrieking.

His legs were heavy from the rigor of the night and while a fog filled his eyes his mind continued to meander through memories. It took an unexpected effort to traverse the walkway but he endured the haunting thoughts and failing limbs finally slumping over on the rusted trunk of his car. 

He swung open his creaking door and collapsed into the tattered driver’s seat. Turning the key he hoped that the engine would start just one more time. He had a lot of things to do that day but his only desire was to stay home. As the exhaust plumed in the rear view mirror he swallowed the last remanence of cold coffee, rubbed his eyes with his red hands, and slowly skidded down the leaf strewn driveway.

The winding road coddled his eyes while the pings of loose pavement kept his lids from closing. It wasn’t long before he could see the lights from the gas station emerge from the crest of the hill, people walking back to their cars with steaming cups, and the traffic light blinking yellow and red like a beacon on a desolate shore.

As he turned the corner he could hear a rumble cascading across the road. By the time he turned his head the truck had already breached the passenger door. His body was thrown across the intersection until finally resting face down in front of the weathered array of lingering campaign signs.

When the police arrived, they found nothing to identify him, a car which had disintegrated into an unrecognizable heap of scrap, and a heart that had long since stopped pumping. The only thing that they knew about him is what witnesses heard him gargle from between the blades of grass…    

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Light Night And Heavy Emails


It was quite clear last night that we are indeed in the darkness of the sweltering summer months as there were only two of us who made it out to the lodge for fellowship. Given the travel that I have been hearing about from various brothers, it was not a complete surprise. Also, and I take responsibility for this one, there isn’t much in the way of communication during this season which leads some to simply forget. In reality, it was nice to have a relaxing evening to catch up with one of my brothers, reflect on our recent efforts, and look forward to the coming months of meetings, events, projects, and objectives.

There are a number of us who remain active throughout the year only taking breaks here and there. Lodge is something that we enjoy and that we want to see thrive during our lives in the lodge so we put forth the effort and do what we can, not just to make good men better but to make good lodges better. However, in my position, I have seen multiple instances (through email, social media, casual conversation, etc.) where brothers think that they are doing what is best for the fraternity but, in fact, they are doing everything to undermine freemasonry in general and our Grand Lodge in particular.

I am not one to name names in this instance, and I am not privy to those names in other instances, so let us simply say that there are many brothers out there that are not holding themselves to the same high moral standards of a mason that they should. They speak about brothers behind their backs and they hide behind fake names and Facebook pages that are, to put it nicely, and despicable disgrace. They seem to forget the traditions, rituals, rules, and standards by which we should hold ourselves and others in this fraternity.

While what is being said bothers me a great deal, it is the fact that they do not stand by their own words by attaching their name to their statements. This is hugely important to me as I hold myself to that basic standard when posting these blogs. If I can’t put my name to it, I don’t write it. Although I haven’t really had anything fall into the latter category. There is a time and place for everything and we all certainly have the right to our own opinion but we should also stand strong in our convictions and opinions. We must also remember the rules by which we live our lives and the moral standards by which we hold ourselves and others. We are here to make good men better, our lodge better, and the fraternity better. It is impossible to do so if we undermine all three as some brothers have chosen to do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TMI Tuesday: 18 Months


A year and a half (and a day) later and we are still trying to get used to this new life. With all the changes that keep happening and all of the things swirling around in our life right now it is hard to keep track of time. Yesterday, I looked at the calendar and saw that eighteen months has already passed and it is hard to believe how different things are now compared to the life we were living before we became a family.

The day is still etched in my mind, sitting on the surface of memory like it just happened a few days ago. I can still feel my son’s rapid heartbeat as I held him for the first time in the operating room and his tiny pink hand as he gripped my finger for the first time. I can hear the beeping of the monitors faintly filling the background. I can see the words streaming through my phone bringing to the fore both the happy and despicable aspects of humanity. I can see the tears as they silently streamed down my wife’s face both in the joy of the morning and the pain of the evening. However, most importantly, I can see that moment, that first instant, when mother and son embraced one another and began this journey together.

I remember the anxiety and excitement as I pulled the car around to the front entrance, loaded the items that had been accumulating for the past several days into the trunk, and buckled my family into the car. It was a slow ride back to our townhouse and one during which I couldn’t help but think about all the people who would be at the house to greet him and the one that wouldn’t be there. It was a ride that moved us forward as a family but also one during which I wished I could hit eighty eight and drive to the past.

Time has moved so quickly since our son came into our life at 9:14 am and when I look at him it is hard to believe that he was once so small. He has already learned so much and he keeps surprising us every day with how much he knows and understands. Most importantly, even with some of the chaos that has swirled around us, we have protected our son and he remains as happy as ever. While I still enjoy the quiet moments, there is nothing better than coming home to the excited sounds from my son saying “Daddy!”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mortgage Monday: Not Recommended

There used to be plants there...
One of the many projects that we have checked off our list so far this summer has been to get some basic landscaping done. Nothing complicated or expensive. Basically, all we needed to do was to remove the plants around the house, side and back, and replace with grass or some means of drainage. Again, simple is better and what we really wanted to accomplish was to minimize maintenance while avoiding future potential problems.

After going through the usual process and receiving a few quotes, some in writing and some over the phone, I decided to hire a local landscaper who came well recommended. Everything was falling into place and we agreed upon the work that needed to be done. The whole process was going smoothly… at least until they showed up and actually started working.

Well, it was bound to happen. Our luck has been too good with contractors, service companies, sales people, and other transactions lately. Someone was bound to foul up at some point and last week we had a “winner”.

I took the time in the early morning to give a final review of the tasks that needed to be accomplished for the day… this was a one day project. When I left for work that morning I felt pretty good about what I would find when I came home that evening. After multiple phone calls throughout the day and seeing what still needed to be done when I pulled into the driveway that night, that level of comfort had completely disappeared... the work was going to take an extra day and the work that had been completed was not of the quality that we were expecting (I'm not sure that they are familiar with the concept of parallel lines). 

In reviewing the footage from our security system, speaking with my wife, and watching a little as they got started the next morning it was clear that this was nothing more than a paycheck for them. Now I completely understand that they need to make a living but that doesn’t mean that short cuts should be taken or they should provide substandard work simply so they could get to the next job that much faster. It was actually to the point that I had them remove some work and change things up on the second morning as I had little confidence in what they would end up producing.

Thankfully, we have a contractor that we trust and that will fix the errors left behind. But it is safe to say that we will not be hiring this company again for some of the future projects that we will be having done in the yard. At this point I’m just glad that I hired someone else to take down the trees around the property because these guys, based on the work that I did have them do, might have taken out the house, or at least the shed or gazebo, in the process. At the very least, I know they wouldn’t have done the excellent job that Monster Tree Service did a couple of weeks ago (I highly recommend this company). I think I will stick with the people I trust for now.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Search: Getting Involved


I have always been a firm proponent of getting involved. I don’t simply join something to be a member. At the same time, I also believe that if you want to learn you have to be active and pursue that knowledge to the best of your ability. This is the mentality that I had when I joined Rotary, when I submitted my petition to my Masonic lodge, and when I first submitted my application to join the Sons of the American Revolution. This past week I continued to live up to those personal expectations when I left the office a little early so that I could make it to my chapter’s executive committee meeting.

I simply don’t understand how many people can join an organization and not have any understanding of how it works. This was the best opportunity for me to get involved right away and try to educate myself regarding the process that are in place, how the chapter works, and what the plans are for the future. By the end of the evening, the meeting had well exceeded my expectations and I now feel confident that I will have a fairly broad base of knowledge regarding the organization in the very near future… more than what I learned from the fire hose on Monday night.  

Additionally, my fellow compatriots were eager to educate me and help me to get involved right away. With so many positions open in the coming year, and now with a better understanding of the requirements for each, I volunteered to step in where needed (and so long as they are comfortable with me in that particular office). After all, we all have an understanding of the importance of our heritage and family history and by putting ourselves out there and being a part of something greater than ourselves, we add our own intricacies to that history.

Of course, given the nature of this organization in particular, it is even more important for me to be involved. We served to honor the memories of our ancestors and we must continue to be involved in uncovering as much as we can about their lives and do our best to discover other patriots in our family tree so that we can honor them in the same way. I guess you could say that I am already involved and this is only the most recent means by which I can continue to unravel some of the mysteries in our genealogical story.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Driving Down To Media


This morning I decided to give my wife a small respite. Following breakfast and a short stint in the playroom to get some early morning energy out, I packed everything up in the diaper bag and strapped my son in his car seat. It was time for a little road trip to someplace new. I had been thinking about driving my son to the main line for some time now to show him a new place but also somewhere where he could walk. I also wanted to test something out.

As we passed the sights that our son has seen dozen of times before he was rather talkative and wanting to play peekaboo with daddy from the back seat. While on the highway he also wanted to hold my hand as we coasted past the slower cars. Eventually we made it to some unfamiliar roads and his demeanor changed. Like his daddy, he wanted to see as much as he could and was glued to the window of the car taking in each new sight, street, and intersection.

It was actually rather interesting for me as well since it had been a long time since I had driven down these roads and some of the things that I remember passing were no longer part of the suburban landscape (like the Granite Run Mall). Surprisingly on schedule, we made it to Media shortly after ten and, shockingly, found a legal parking spot along the street about a half block from the surprise I had planned for that morning. Similar to during our drive, he was wide eyed as we walked passed all the new buildings, turned the corner, and slowly climbed the steps.

Inside he was mesmerized by the small shiny disks lining the cases and gladly kept browsing as he finished his morning snack. Given my sons previous interest in pocket change and, more so, in paper money, I knew that this would be something to hold his interest and it wasn’t surprising when he decided to meticulously analyze each of the coins in the display case through the glass. This also allowed me to catch up with the proprietor of the store whom I had not seen in years. When I had finished catching up and my son had finished his snack, I finally asked for what I had hoped to pick up while we were there… wheat pennies.

I guess you could say that this is something that I am passing along from my youth as I remember sorting through bags of them and filling in the empty spots in the folders. It is also a way to connect our families as we have a few that have been passed down from my wife’s grandfather that I want to make sure that our son has in the future. They’re inexpensive and every coin shop has them making it easy to pick them up from time to time. What did surprise me this time around was that the store owner handed over a full bag and refused payment saying that my son was “the most well behaved that that has ever been in the store.”

We gratefully accepted and parted ways that morning with my son eyeing his bag of treasure all the way to the car where we locked them up for the remainder of the morning. After strolling up and down the street a few times we returned to the car (with time left on the meter) and made our way back home pretty close to schedule. Tracing back through the same streets and excited from our time out, the baby babble was much more intense on this leg of our excursion and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Firearms Friday: An Olympic Record


History was made today as Kim Rhode received a bronze medal for her extraordinary efforts which was her sixth consecutive summer Olympics in which she has stood on the podium dating back to the Atlanta games in 1996. She is the first athlete, man or woman, in any sport, to do so at the summer games. She is one of the athletes that you can count on to add to the United States’ total every four years. Unfortunately, there is little fanfare for her accomplishment as there is a tremendous stigma associated with her chosen specialty which she has mastered… skeet.

Rhode, who lives in California, has always been a firm proponent of second amendment rights and, following her recent victory, let her thoughts be known regarding the recently proposed legislation in her home state:

“I shoot 500 to 1,000 rounds a day, so having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo, or every time I want to bring ammo in or out of a competition or a match, those are very challenging for me,” said Rhode. “Also, I’ve had guns in my family for generations that have been passed down, and now I’m going to register them as assault weapons. And they will not be passed on to my son, or to me from my father. It definitely does effect me and give me a reason to speak out more.”

This is why the media doesn’t mention her dominance at the Olympic games and even downplays her significant accomplishment as was the case on the NBC Olympics homepage where the ‘reporter’ states: “Many would argue that a shooter doing this is far less impressive than, say, a gymnast or a swimmer. The act of shooting requires fewer physical attributes, extending Olympic lifespans...” Other outlets chose to focus on mass shootings and, as noted by Bloomberg News, “Olympics Sponsors Want Nothing to Do With Team USA Shooters”. Of course, this is why you won’t see this particular group of Olympians in any of the advertising spots flooding the television stations every night.

It truly is a sad state of affairs when our country refuses to support our Olympians especially those as distinguished and decorated at Rhode. It is sad but it is not surprising given the segregationist stance that the media has taken in recent years… after all we now have Olympians and “those other Olympians”. But, for me, I would like to convey my congratulations to Kim Rhode and to all of the other members of USA Shooting Team both for their performances and for representing themselves, our country, and our sport the way and Olympian should represent the best of us.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Let The Games Begin


Every couple of years there is something a little different that we usually watch on the television at the end of the day… the Olympics. While I usually prefer the winter games, the summer event has also had plenty to offer in recent years with some dominant performances by many United States athletes. Of course, there are also many other countries well represented, especially this year, that are providing some great competitions and surprising finishes.

However, before the games get underway, the opening ceremonies usually set the tone for the two week marathon. The last summer games provided us with an evening of entertainment from London that, when all was said and done, it let many with the feeling of how is Rio going to top this in 2016? Well, simply put, they didn’t. The opening ceremonies left most of us wanting and, for me, cause the channel to be changed in search of something that would at least provide some entertainment. Thankfully it was only one night.

Per the usual order of things, gymnastics and swimming were the highlighted categories for the prime time lineup to start the games. These are also the two concentrations that pique my wife’s interest so there really wasn’t a question as to whether or not we would be watching them. As the qualifiers and medal rounds continued, the dominance by the United States was unexpected even by their own lofty standards and watching Michael Phelps continue to add to his medal count is something that many of us, whether you like him or not, have to stand back and admire.

In both disciplines, there were both close competitions and moments of sheer domination. This is what I consider to be the perfect mix that you want to see at the Olympics. Congratulations to the teams and the individuals from all countries that put everything into their performances. Because of them, I am actually looking forward to the rest of the competitions.

Of course, there have also been a few moments of unpleasantness behind the scenes as well. Prior to the opening ceremonies, countries boarded on their assigned buses to the stadium in preparation for the celebration. All of the teams were able to follow these instructions with the exception of Israel who was prevented from boarding their assigned bus by the Lebanese delegation. Of course, with Yarden Gerbi winning the bronze medal in the women’s 63kg weight class in Judo, Israel can say that they have an Olympic Champion at the Rio games while Lebanon is still trying to find their way to the podium... maybe their bus got lost.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Preparations


Every once in a while there is an event that comes up during an unexpected time. While there are the unfortunately common times when a masonic funeral service must be arranged within a few days, there are also other, much more pleasant, events for which we must prepare. There have been way too many of the former but, thankfully, I have been able to focus on the latter this week as I did my best to assist with a district picnic scheduled for this weekend.

The casual family gathering was announced in June and we started the many conversations about some of the details that needed to be addressed by the announced date in August but it had been at least a month since any formative conversations had been started regarding the planning. That was until this week when I received a reminder about one of the things with which I was hoping to assist. Actually, the more accurate term would be coordinate.

While it was a bit of a rush to get everything ordered and confirmed, the t-shirts are currently in process and will be ready by the end of the week. Usually I am a little hesitant to make such a claim on a rush order but I know that my cousin will get it done, will get it done right, and will give us a tremendous price at the same time. After all, he has never faltered in the past and I have many brothers and clients that can attest to that fact as well.

Of course, trying to coordinate my own schedule is a completely different matter altogether. I continue to look forward to these kinds of events when I can bring my family and enjoy the time we all spend together. At the same time, there is little flexibility in our calendar and there have been numerous changes as of late that have put many commitments into question. I guess it may be time to pull out the gauge and, once again, measure my days.

It will certainly be interesting as the fall descends upon us and the calendar, once again, begins to fill with various commitments whether they be personal, family, work, lodge, or a myriad of other things. But, for now, it is time to continue preparing for what is my busy season but also my time to enjoy the constant rhythm of work flowing from the office to the lodge to home and beyond. It may be a little odd but keeping busy as the weather slowly cools is what relaxes me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TMI Tuesday: Baby Babble And Toddler Talk


Over the last month our son has been stringing together words faster than we can really keep track. In between those clear and unclear words is usually a string of babble that is definitely supposed to mean something but that we are unable to understand. It is at this point when our son can get frustrated when we don’t hand him the right thing or react the way that he expects. This is usually when he becomes more insistent with both his babble and his gestures as if to ask “Why don’t you understand what I’m saying?”

However, there are the moments when we are able to put together the “words” and gestures offering our son the responses that he expects. Not only is it a nearly indescribable feeling knowing that we are able to communicate but we can tell by his reaction that he is both relieved and excited that we are understanding what he is saying. It is really cute how proud and happy that he gets when we have our brief conversations.

It is amazing to think about how much has changed in this regard as it was only a few weeks ago when his limited vocabulary prevented us from putting the pieces together. Now, with a constantly expanding collection of words, it is becoming easier and easier to understand what he is trying to say. It is actually quite interesting as we have to be careful with what we say because you never know what word will take hold in his ears and play back when we least expect it. This has almost gotten us into trouble a few times.

While he is slowly picking up words and figuring out how to pronounce them, the amazing part of this whole thing is that he comprehends much more than he can currently convey. This has been the case for months as he always seems to understand what we are saying and what is being said around him in general. Now he is picking things up and repeating them with more and more confidence and clarity… this week is a world away from last week and last week was a completely different dimension from the week prior.  

I am curious to hear how things progress but one thing is for sure, he enjoys talking, he enjoys babbling, but, most importantly, he likes being heard and understood. Slowly but surely we are communicating more concisely and we are both doing so with huge smiles on our faces. A smile that seems to say “thank you for understanding me daddy. I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time.” Me too my baby boy, me too.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mortgage Monday: We Have Gas!


When my wife and I purchased our home we were well aware of the shortcomings of the heating and air conditioning. We also knew that the house ran on a combination of electricity and oil. We were reminded of this throughout the winter each time to boiler switched on and shoot the floor beneath our feet. Being that the house has an always on boiler providing not just the heat coursing through the baseboard elements but also supplying all of our hot water, we were well aware of the fact that it would be a massive undertaking to overhaul these essentials.

After conferring with family and confirming with a few other professionals, the decision was made to switch to propane gas. It was a bit of a shock to hear the total estimate for these projects but, knowing how much we spent on oil the previous year alone, it was clear that this would be a worthwhile investment and something that would solve a multitude of current and future problems. Besides, there was always an outside chance that the antiquated systems would fail sooner rather than later given their condition.

So, with these plans in our minds, I made the calls around to a variety of gas companies in the area, received quotes from them all, and decided on one that simply made the most sense. After a slight delay, they were finally able to make it to the house to install the tank. I actually forgot to mention the logistics of the project which entailed digging a giant hole and installing a sixteen foot, one thousand pound, propane tank… and running the underground gas line to the house. Seems pretty straightforward until you factor in the kind of soil that they had to deal with today.

I warned the sales person who did the estimate a couple of weeks ago that there wasn’t much top soil but it seems as though the message may not have been passed along. About twelve to eighteen inches down and the crew got a nasty surprise… bedrock. Needless to say it was an all-day project but they got it done and they seemed to take a few extra steps to make sure that everything was done right. Even the owner of Great Valley Propane took the time to review everything and discuss what had been done and what he was seeing with my wife. And now I can say with a completely straight face… we have gas!