Monday, December 29, 2014

Masonic History

Historic Masonic Anniversary- 150 Years in Chelsea Early in January, 1865, a group of men gathered for the first Installation of Officers in the newly chartered Olive Lodge #156 of Free and Accepted Masons in Chelsea. Many of their names now adorn the names of the streets on which we live and many have still have family in our community. It was a small group but hey had taken the initiative to petition the Grand Lodge of Michigan for their own charter and were granted the right to lawfully meet and begin their charitable work. They were the pillars of our community- the business men, the farmers, the shop owners, everyday working men, and all were united by a single purpose- to play an active, yet discreet, role in making Chelsea a better place to live. Since that time, Olive Lodge has persisted through many wars, economic ups and downs, and has seen the birth of the most technologically sophisticated age known on the planet. It has witnessed the progress of our country, the spread of Democracy, and it has seen 28 Presidents- many of whom themselves were Freemasons, elected to office. Your local lodge has stood alongside the growth of Chelsea and we continue to do so today. On December 9th, 2015, Olive Lodge #156 held its 150th Annual Installation of Officers much in the same manner it has done for the past century and a half. Peacefully climbing the stairs to the lodge, the men and their families saw their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and fellow Brothers happily accept the responsibilities of the office to which they were elected. They snapped pictures of smiling faces and enjoyed a meal that was shared by all who attended. Upon departing, some of the men remained to take stock in the accomplishments of what their brothers, past and present, had done for the community. There were stories of pancake breakfasts, Euchre tournaments, spaghetti dinners, and endless rolls of raffle tickets. Donations to charitable organizations, scholarships, and of quiet deeds that have gone unsung. They spoke of times when lodges were packed so full they had every seat in the lodge full. It was a moment for grandfathers to remember initiating their sons and grandsons into Masonry and how that tradition in the world’s oldest fraternity had given to them so much more than they ever asked of Freemasonry. For the 150th Year of Freemasonry in Chelsea, the men of your lodge elected to serve are pictured below. Listed from left to right (circled): Richard Clark, Loren Winn, (upper) James Scheffer, (lower) Lynn Heldt, Jason Misfud, Dustin Suntheimer, and Greg Uihlein. Picture courtesy of Karen Heldt. As we move through this year, Olive Lodge #156 will be hosting several events in celebration of our sesquicentennial anniversary. There will be a re-dedication of our charter, public open houses to allow a glimpse of your lodge and its members, and special times when you can see who was a member long since passed. We will also be publishing additional articles through this year for Chelsea to become more familiar with its own lodge and piece of Masonic history. Our regular meetings are on the 2nd Monday of the month at 7:00pm.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Big Boy Pants

A few weeks prior I had thought it a good idea to have my secretary book the earliest flight on Saturday morning thinking anyone who is going to Florida wouldn't want to get up that early and travel. Not quite! I was greeted at the gate, an hour early, mind you, by what looked to be about 200 hundred families dressed in varying degrees of disheveled Disney attire- pajama pants, Mickey Mouse ears, character roller bags, and the ever so popular footwear- the Crocs. With a quick flash of a pending nightmare flight zooming across my mind, I suddenly remembered the trip my family and I took several years ago and decided that this is probably the single most exciting time in these little kids' lives. I took a deep breath and put on a smile to the little folks, gave an understanding nod to the parents, and jeered, but only a little, at the teenagers whose excitement to go to Disney must be carefully masked so they do not appear overly anxious to go to what is only a 'kids park'. I did hear, though, one rather lustful comment about Pocahontas and Jasmine from a teenage boy to his dad. These kids were so excited. They were running about with their crocs falling off, fantasizing about the days to come; except one boy, whom I will call Dude, that was rather sedate in his manner and traveling alone with his mother. Dude caught my eye because he was all of about 3 or 4 years old and smartly dressed in a Polo shirt with the collar turned up, khaki pants, and what appeared to be- and later confirmed to be, little K-Swiss tennis shoes. Not that this demographic should have called my attention, but his attitude toward the trip, it seemed, to be that of someone 30 years his senior. He almost looked regal in his attitude toward the other kids running about and, I think, I overheard him comment on one overly excited chap as being retarded. While this made me chuckle, I found it quite odd that he did not show some sort of enthusiasm for the trip. Thinking he might not be going to Disney, I looked at his junior sized Swiss Army pack and saw the Disney Luggage tag that they send you when you book your trip and purchase some sort of pre-paid package. Within 30 minutes we were being called to board the plane. Those traveling with small kids, elderly, First Class all boarded with some degree of difficulty having to pass through the crush of anxious flyers crowding around the gate. When they next called for Delta Priority passengers I quickly pulled out my iPhone with my boarding pass displayed and swiftly walked through the crowd, swiped my phone, and proceeded down the jetway. While I do not travel enough anymore to get frequent First Class upgrades, I do enjoy a level of comfort above economy class but still not the nice wide comfy seats of leather and free pre-flight drinks. I almost always try to get an exit row seat and on the window as I try not to walk about on the plane. This time, however, I had been put in the row in front of the exit row- oh well. This, in itself, was not that big of a deal; it had happened before. What made the big deal were the people who were to sit next to me. Sitting down and getting my usual things ready for the flight- iPad, headphones, pen and paper, you'll never guess who came and sat right down next to me in the center seat- Dude! His mom, who was quite attractive and very nicely dressed, sat down on the aisle seat and asked if it was okay that Dude be allowed to sit in the center seat. Of course I said it was fine and even asked if they wanted to trade so he could look out the window. Being quick with a response, Dude explained to me that he did not 'prefer' the window because he was too short to actually see out- fine, you little fucker. As we crossed 32,000 feet I was WiFi capable and ready to stroll through Facebook, LinkedIn, and a few other sites whilst cruising to Orlando for the 2013 CAP Annual Meeting. It was about 20 minutes into our cruising altitude when Dude's mom asked if it was okay if she left him while she visited the restroom. I assured her it was no problem and told her I had three kids of my own. Now remember, this flight is full of little kids and their tiny bladders just itching to use the bathroom. So, she takes off towards the rear of the plane and queues up for the toilet. Not thinking too much about the situation, I return to my LinkedIn page to post some updates about work and the lab. After about 5 minutes, or so, Dude's mom has not returned. I took a look back and she is still in line and quite away from the actual door. No biggie, I thought, until it occurred to me that there was an ungodly stink in the air. Remembering their are kids and babies on the flight, I try not react too much and go back to my business. Another couple of minutes and his mother is still in line. So I look down at Dude, and he is red faced and clenching his small Gameboy with white knuckles. By this time, the stench has risen to a level of gagging and a strength of rotting garbage. When Dude notices I am looking at him he relaxes a bit and lets out a very calm and very measured, "I had an accident in my big boy pants." Panic. Looking back, his mom is still one person out from the restroom, and the stink is escalating. By this time others in surrounding seats had noticed the smell and, I think, so did the younger kids as a chain reaction of pant shitting began. I heard, "Oh my god", "Why didn't you say something", and all assortments of admonishments. My only concern, however, was sitting and shitting right next to me. Not wanting to reveal his secret- gotta help a little brother out, I asked him to lean forward. Sure enough, Dude took a dump right in his khakis. Shit. Now I was not going to touch this kid for fear of being the guy who tries to 'help' a little boy change his pants, but I did slide the in-flight magazine between him and the seat as the crap had gone up his back and was coming through his new little Polo shirt. This, I thought, would at least help contain the soilage that the seat would surely incur. Dude's mom finally came back and instantly knew that something had happened- it took all of about 1 second to figure it out. Sitting down she apologized profusely and thanked me for trying to help. Probably having just taken a shit herself, I am sure that she was experience a level of embarrassment that only a parent can know. Now the fun really begins as she looks back at a line halfway up the aisle of the plane to the restroom. Realizing that it would be too long to wait in line, she asks if it would be okay if she changed him right here. WTF? But, being the guy I am, I said it would be okay and to give me the wipes. As she got into her back, out came a gallon Ziplock bag with a fresh outfit- pants, shirt, "big boy pants", socks, everything. Then she got out the wipes and a small baggie that I think she was going to use as a wipe disposal vessel- not a chance. With the speed of a pit crew at Nascar, Dude was undressed and buck naked with what looked to be a squirrel's tail of shit running up his back. I began throwing wipes at her as fast as she could use them. The little bag she was using for wipes quickly filled, so I handed her a airsickness bag for backup. People were watching with both a sense of awe and disgust all the while this is happening. Dude, being the little stoic shit that he was, did not seemed to be even slightly amused by his mother's actions. Within a couple of minutes he was dressed, the smell had abated, and we were back to normal. But that did not stop the rest of the little kids on the plane from crapping their drawers. As the chain reaction pre-adolescent feces continued up and down the aisles, I went back to work trying to put that scene as far out of my head as possible. The smell, though, was a tough one to shake and continued uninterrupted for the next 30 minutes of the flight. It must have been the absence of that odor that caused me to take notice, but looking down at Dude, again, I see his white knuckles and red face staring blankly at his Gameboy. And perhaps because of a bad breakfast, or maybe even to spite his mother, he looks over and says to me, "I had another accident in my big boy pants." SHit, here we go again!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Best Wishes

My Best Wishes: Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and all the best wishes I can muster to you and your family. It is the time of year when we once again feel the giddiness of the holiday season enter our bones and we are often conveying our best intended wishes to our fellow souls. We replace, and sometimes add, a wish of holiday happiness in place of a thank you and, quite often, send friends and family on their way with season’s tidings instead of a goodbye. The feeling of doing this elicits a feeling of kinship and brings a sense of warmth to my heart. It is also an exceptional feeling when they are received. But this also seems to be the time of year when others take a sense of superiority in their well-wishing plans to make sure you understand their point of view. How many times have you been admonished for not being politically correct and offering a “Merry Christmas” instead of a “Happy Holidays’? Or, how many times has the reversed happened? It has happened to me personally and I have seen it done to others. This is NOT cool. Just by taking the time to wish a fellow human your best wishes should be seen as a real gift, an act of unselfish kindness which, when I last checked, the world could use a whole lot more. We have gone past a point where the simple act of receiving a wish of holiday cheer is seen as an attack on your personal beliefs. Relax. Enjoy the season, the well wishes and count yourself lucky to have those around you who are thoughtful enough to say something nice, at all. Tolerance. Or maybe we should pin it to our jackets so no one makes a trespass onto your person?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gratitude and Minimalism

Ahhh, Sunday morning, coffee, keyboard, silence. These are the things for which gratitude was intended. These small moments are the glue which hold an otherwise chaotic life together. I have been doing a lot of thinking of late of the material world in which we live. The rush and the rash of society to which many cling is a world hard to leave behind, but an outstanding goal all the same. Trying to live within the parameters of a minimalist lifestyle is not an easy change to make- or even begin. I am not saying that I am going to try and throw all the trappings of material comfort to the curb, I am only going to try a very subtle start to this exercise- perhaps you could, as well. As with many truly worthwhile endeavors, it is best to start with a question. The idea to which we can return when doubt clouds the original vigor with which we started our journey. But for me, it will be the questions to ask- every time. Do I really need it? Will this 'thing' make a real difference in my life? Can I live without it? I think most of the time I will be able to answer these questions outright when it comes to me personally. No, I probably do NOT need it. No, it probably will not make a real differencein my life. Yes, I can probably survive without it. Why then, for me, the topic and consideration of making such a change? Hard question. I am wrestling with that one right now and trying to steer my decision to be driven by the proper motivation. Is it economic? Yes, of course. Is it spiritual? Yes, I think so. Or is it like some of the other things I have done- just to see if I can do it? Probably. But the motivation, I believe, is a very important aspect of even considering taking a step like this. I believe it would mean the difference between utter failure and complete success- without much middle ground to be considered. While I can see this is an extremely vague topic without much direction or clear cut plan to start, it is a topic about which I have thought with some frequency and depth. How would I feel at the end of, say, three months without having purchased a single item of convenience for myself? To properly answer that question, I feel that framing the answer would require going back to the motivations above. Economically, I would have not spent the cash which could be used for another, more noble puropose. Spiritually, I think by having contemplated the transaction on that level would expand my thought process. And, like the other events in my life- I did it! While considering each of these motivations individually would be a step in the right direction, I believe that by having met them all with the intention of moving myself forward on a different level of existence would be the ultimate goal. So why, do you ask, did I begin the topic with a note of gratitude? Because I think that by stepping back and taking an inventory of the truly important things in my life- my children, my wife, my family, my career; gratitude is the root from which I will grow along personal and spiritual lines. Without a deep sense of gratitude, how am I, how are we to begin a life with a deeper meaning that your next purchase? Namaste; D

Monday, May 21, 2012

Connecting the Dots, and We're ALL Dots

I had originally wanted to title this post, "How many Cars Will be in Your Funeral Procession", but I thought that a tad too long and it will come up again in my writing in another place at another time. But, if you take a step back and ponder the relation of these two titles in the context of having friends, they will both end up in the same place. This is how I was struck this past weekend when these two ideas converged in my brain and nestled in for a swim in the cosmic ooze that is my mind. The first idea, the one about how many cars in your funeral, came to me while I was watching a television program a couple of weeks ago. Two guys were at a crossroads when a black sedan pulled up and blocked them from proceeding. Although the point of the funeral procession represented only a delay in their travels, too me it said something quite different. Although I was not counting the cars in the procession, it seemed to me to drag on for quite sometime and I began to wonder. Did the corpse in the hearse really touch the lives of that many people? Did it really know that many people? Are some of those people just using a funeral to play hookie and get drunk at the after party? But then it kind of hit me, how many people will be in my funeral procession? Who will be in the cars that hold up traffic? Will there be anyone at all? Don't get me wrong, it wasn't like a macabre like feeling or a moment of self pity, it was just an observation that made me think to myself more deeply that- one, I will be dead and won't give a rat's ass, and two, I would only want a handful of people in the procession to begin with. Not only to my credit, but also to my detriment, I have shared with some my views on death and how I view the passing of people. Some of you reading this may know my views, most probably do not- I am not going to write them down here, it is a spoken story best shared over drinks. But the point of the matter is that I believe I have come across a very valid question that I need to think about. Who do I want in my funeral procession? Although this post is going to be short, you may be asking,"Dustin, why did you name this post something about connecting dots?" Good questions, gentle reader. I titled as such because of the people in my funeral procession. See, we all go through life bumping into people, making friends, making enemies and sometimes meeting someone in an airport bar while waiting for your departure. Either way, these are all of the dots we connect during our life that make up the portrait of who we are. Think of it as a web, a geometric design, think of it as a Mona Lisa, it is quite inconsequential what the picture in your mind looks like, it's just who you are. While I write this, the picture in my mind is like a connect-the-dot rabbit that my youngest daughter might have done. Some of the lines are really heavy and and wavy while others are hardly visible and straight to the point. When I take a step back and look at the picture in the context of the friends in my life, there are only a couple of the really heavy, wavy lines. The rest are just short, squiggly things that muck up the bigger picture. But is in those heavy, dark lines that I see my bestest of friends and the intricacies of the relationships in the waves and imperfect design that is my picture- my life. It is a true comfort to know that I have those heavy lines in my life and, although I may only have a car or two in my procession, at least I will have known that the dots in my life were well connected. Peace to my dots!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Bedeviled Compromise

I am not quite sure when this became a dirty word or, better yet, a line in the sand over which political battles are waged, but one only need to take a quick glimpse into the world of Washington, D.C. to realize it is a word not recognized. The entire premise of political maneuvering and agility is based on the idea of give and take, to acquiesce a portion of your larger goal in order to achieve a better position than that in which you find yourself is the art that our forefathers used to forge this great nation. With the exception of an enemy state, the idea of not compromising the smallest bit is akin to authoritarianism and extremism. Although I can draw no better example as that of John Boehner who is the staunchest of the ‘no compromising’ right winged tool shed, I am sure that there must be a liberal who, also, has taken to a similar stance. From whom do these people draw their power to act in this manner? Do their constituents agree with this? It would be difficult to believe that they would. In one instance we can all stand back and watch this mayhem rock our country and we can all take an observer’s chair to the backslide of our credit rating as we approach yet another vote on raising the debt ceiling. We can sit in that chair and point the finger at the other side and proclaim they will not budge. Blame the politicians- they deserve it! But in another instance we can stand up and take responsibility for what we have allowed these people to do to our country. Taking responsibility for what we have done, though, means taking a huge hit to our collective ego. That would mean that the country would have to take a step back, put down their pointer finger and admit that we made a mistake in letting our country’s image be tarnished by these people. It would mean that we did not take action when action was needed and let them continue to tell us that they have the power to make these decisions without consulting the people they serve. I will say that compromising is not comfortable. Compromise is outside of our comfort zones, but it is a place in which these elected people need to get acquainted. Do you remember having to work something out when you were in kindergarten? It does not appear they do… Remember folks, we put them there and we can take them out of office.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Morning Repose

By the time this post reaches the web, I will already have been awake for a few hours, had a regular dose of caffeine and will have begun contemplating the rest of the outdoor chores that I would like to accomplish before the end of the day. These are the times that I really do cherish and find it well worth my time to forego an hour or two of sleep in trade for this magical time of the day enjoyed in silence. With the exception of the occasional clicking of the keyboard, even the pups are still enjoying an extended snooze in their cozy beds. I usually spend this time and read all sorts of news items and try to see what will effect my personal life and the lives of my family. But more often than not, I end up trying to think of something witty to say on this blog in order to get a comment or, at the minimum, recognition for the words left behind. But as I continue to write and try to keep a running list of entries, I am finding that this blog is more about just putting down random thoughts and ideas as opposed to being a source of entertainment for anyone except me. I think that everyone has too much to do, as it is, and that by expecting anyone to to take their time to read this would be utterly unfeasible. Besides, who would actually want to read the ravings of a caffeinated, 40-something when they themselves have a to-do list bigger than the day is long? Even the irony of writing this brings a smile to my face when I think of all the projects to be continued when the rest of the house begins its ascent into Sunday. Sitting here and writing about people not having time to read this when I, myself, have a list f tasks to be accomplished today seems quite absurd. But that, I guess, is a tale for another day. Be well. Peace. D

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mr. Miyagi and My Theory of Life

It is a life lesson that is often the hidden to one's own eyes until either a moment of epiphany or brought to your attention. In this case it was a little bit of both and from a couple of different sources.

My favorite book, one that I usually read once a year, The Way of The Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman, is a continuing source of knowledge for me and inspires me to be a better person, father and husband. It is the story of a young man and his journey of discovery. Although not a favorite movie, but inspirational, all the same, The Karate Kid, and it's wise old teacher, Mr. Miyagi, have always offered something when taken into the context of my favorite book.

The best scene in the movie, from my point of view, is that when Mr. Miyagi begins training the ever-so-naive Daniel Larusso. It is in this scene that Mr. Miyagi sets Daniel out to wash the cars using a certain method that will be used in the future of his fighting technique. When asked if he is ready to begin, Daniel responds, "I guess so", or something similar. At this point Mr. Miyagi sets him down and begins the lesson- that which will tie into my passion for the novel mentioned earlier.

Mr. Miyagi uses a metaphor of walking down a road safely and juxtaposes that with training for karate. To paraphrase, and take quite a bit of liberty with the script, he says that walking the left side of the road- safe. Walking the right side of the road- safe. Walk the middle of the road- squish like grape.

Now, when it comes to training for karate, that is a very useful piece of advice. You are either committed, not committed, but not somewhere in the middle. It is EXACTLY the same with life, and this is the tie to The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. But it is not as clear in how to train for life. Life, after all, is not a spectator sport.

There will be more on this and will be a theme in many posts to come. Do you get it?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shopping Cart Madness

I think that starting with a pet peeve is an excellent way to begin this rant-o-rama. I am going to start with light topics and probably hit politics and religion at a later time.

As many of you know, I live in a small town outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am not going to name said town due to the threat of being stalked by the paparazzi and harassed by fame seekers and purse snatchers. It is a quaint place where people have migrated and, although I do not know this to be fact, I would guess the transplant citizens outnumber the townies by a significant margin. People are generally nice to one another, we know our neighbors and we rarely make the news for anything outside of a personal tragedy or a festival of some sort. Good ole wholesome middle America at its finest. Many go to one type of a church, or another, and profess to love thy neighbor with heart felt sincerity and a Sunday smile that I liken to the look on a coyote's face just before he hits the hen house for his supper.

So, you might well imagine, then, that this little piece of midwestern Eden would be exempt from the pettiness and laziness one may attribute to places other than what we call home. But no, my friends, no. We are smack dab in the belly of the beast and it rears its ugly head in the parking lot of our local grocery store, and it has attacked me personally on more than one occasion.

For the most part, I do not do my grocery getting at this place- again, no names to protect this little corner of heaven. I prefer to travel down the road a piece and go to 'town' and make my nutritional purchases at a market better suited to my liking. I do, however, have to make an occasional trip to this market for an immediate need of some sort like hamburger buns, beer or an ingredient crucial to the flavor of some particular recipe and every once in awhile I will go get the kids donuts on a Saturday or Sunday morning. But it makes no difference the time or the day, I still fall prey to one of the most irksome practices known to befoul the mood of us more cultured and courteous shoppers.

Without fail and without exception, I always have to dodge the misplaced shopping cart. You know the one I am talking about. It is the one that some lazy twit left between the cars after they were done loading their bags into the car and decided that the cart corral, all of 20 feet away, was too damn far of a trek to make in order to keep the parking lot free of obstacles and for me to keep my sanity.

I have never seen a parking lot before where so many of the patrons just do not take the tie to put the carts in the little corrals. There have been times when I have run up to this hole in the wall to grab a sixer or a dozen eggs and have seen more carts in the parking lot than cars! I have exited the store and walked back to my car only to find a cart sandwiched between my driver's side door, now scratched, thank you very much, and the neighboring car and neither car has moved. How the hell does that happen? You don't know, kind townsperson? BULLSHIT!

I have staked out the parking lot a time or two just to get a glimpse at this pandemic of laziness. I have seen, with mine own two eyes, the sheer guiltless abandon of these people. They walk out, load the car, take a quick look around and make haste for the driver's seat. Not even an inkling of putting the cart where it belongs. The utter slothfulness exhibited by these creatures is revolting.

Now you may say that some of those carts are left by little old biddies and little old geezers and I should forgive them for not returning their carts. Well, I do and most of the time, when I see them, I ask to assist them and volunteer to take the cart back for them. But they are usually parked toward the front of the lot in designated areas marked by blue and white signs with a guy in a wheelchair. Those are fine and there are other exceptions for you mamsy types who are going to nit pick me to death with examples of what if this and what if that. Those are not the folks I am speaking to- it is the sloth who cannot take 10-20 seconds out of their day to walk a few feet to make everyone's, especially mine, shopping experience so much more enjoyable.

My favorite stake out was when I actually approached someone. I had been outside waiting for whomever to return when I spied a portly type unloading their cart and placing their newly gotten goods into their back seat. After packing in the last bag, this person, whom we shall call the offender, took lazy to an entirely new level. What made this scene so deeply etch upon my mind was that the offender was driving a brand spanking, just out of the package new Ford F150 4x4 truck. I mean it still had the sticker and no license plate new. The offender, after loading the last sack of groceries into the truck did not even try to push the cart out of the way. They just left it where it stand and got into their vehicle. When the offender began to back up and crank the wheel to the left, I saw the cart start to roll straight toward the shiny new paint job of one brand new Ford truck.

It was at this point, after watching all of this play out, I was about to piss myself with laughter at what I new was going to happen. My glance was flashing between the quickly approaching cart and the look on this offenders face. The cart picked up momentum, the offenders' eyes widened. Faster it approached and the eyes got wild! And just like that, the cart breezed past the brand new Ford Truck as the offenders eyes relaxed and rear bumper of this behemoth truck SLAMMED into the car that was parked directly behind and whose rear end protruded just a little due to a shopping cart that was in front of it. Oh, how I love irony.

But you say, Dustin, that you approached them. What gives? Sounds like you sat on your arse and watched an accident happen.

Well, gentle readers, I had walked over and quickly snatched the runaway cart and was merrily taking back to the cart corral past the accident when I glanced over and politely said,"I'll get this for you."