Let’s Eat!

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, as well as all of the other wonderful celebratory meals that tend to come with this time of year, I thought it best to go over some basic dining etiquette.  Like many things, this does not seem to be related to Masonry on the surface, but the more you think about it, the more you realize you need these skills to survive in Freemasonry. From Lodge dinners to Grand Lodge Banquets, everyone needs to have a general idea of the basics. No one is asking you to be Emily Post, but it is important that you do try.

Let’s be honest. Masonry, in many ways, tends to be stuck in the early to mid 1900’s. As I’ve said before, this does not need to be a bad thing. It does mean, however, that often we find ourselves doing things that most everyday people do not do- wearing tuxes and attending formal dinners, for instance. This can be confusing, and overwhelming at first, especially for those of us who have never experienced something like this before. If you need help with your tux, check this out. If you are not so sure which fork is for your salad, keep reading.

Reading the Table

 Most meals at most Masonic functions will be informal. Don’t let the name fool you though, this doesn’t mean jeans an a t-shirt. Informal is the style of dining, usually for a 3-4 course meal. A meal of this style usually includes soup or hors d’oeuvres, salad, entrée, and dessert. The tablewear setup usually looks something like this:

It isn’t really too different from home except for the extra silverware. You want to go outside in with your silverware, so the most outside fork is used for the first course, the inner for the next, etc. Usually at most Masonic meals, they do not serve alcohol with the meal, but instead at the cocktail hour before. You may bring your drink in with you if you are not quite done. The wine glass is typically used instead for iced tea.

A little bit more complex, this is the formal table setting:

Again, you want to work outside in, and after your entree, you move to the utensils above your plate. You may see a table setting similar to this at say, the formal meal at your Grand Lodge.

You may also see some combination of the two settings. As someone involved with Masonry, there will come a time where you find yourself at a formal meal. It is important to take the time now to familiarize yourself with the settings now, so that panic does not set in when you get there. I’m not saying memorize the entire thing, but it would be a good idea to have a general idea of what is where.

Basic Table Manners

Remember what mom used to tell you at the dinner table as far as manners are concerned? The same applies here. Hate to get a little old school on you, but really, proper manners at dinner can get you far- who knows when you will be sitting with the Grand Master of your state, or the national secretary for Scottish Rite? You want to be able to impress, or at least, not disgust the person across the table from you. Much like the Kindergarten Creed, you already know most of this stuff.

  • Chew with your mouth closed. From Emily Post to Pintrest, this is absolutely top of everyone’s list. Please follow through. No one wants to see that.
  • Bring your food to your face, and not the other way around. Even if you did grow up with seven brothers, a nice dinner is not the time to be leaning over your plate, shoveling food into your face.
  • Silence and put away your cell phone. I’m guilty of it too. Not browsing the internet while eating can be boring, but the idea of a formal dinner is for you to meet and converse with those around you, so remove all distractions.
  • Say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ often. Even if you don’t think you need to. Mom wasn’t kidding when she said these words were magic.
  • Remember your napkin. Seriously, I am always suprised at the number of grown men that forget this magical bit of fabric exists. It keeps your clothes from getting dirty, as well as your face.

If you are a young or new Mason, these are very simple ideals to follow. You would be amazed at how easily proper table manners can help garner respect and foundation, one of the often untalked about pillars of a sucessful Mason.

Want to learn more?

There’s a ton of dining guidelines, from how to signal that you’re finished, to when to take a drink of water. Even George Washington had a list of general etiquette. Youtube is a wonderful resource for much of this. However, nothing is as good as the queen of etiquette herself:

I’m Masonic Youth, and You Can Too!

Life is hectic. Between work, Lodge, Masonic dinners, and other activities, T and I are forced to schedule time together- and we don’t even have kids yet! A major component of our activities revolves around supporting the Masonic youth organization DeMolay; as I have said before, T and I are both adult advisors. We had our first advisory panel meeting since I joined recently, and even though I was exhausted from work, I came to realize just how much goes into running these groups, and more than that, how often they can be overlooked by the rest of the Masonic family.

What is Masonic Youth?

I go into greater detail on each organization here, but this is the quick recap. There are three Masonic youth organizations, DeMolay for boys, Job’s Daughters for girls with Masonic relations, and Rainbow for Girls, who accepts members with and without a Masonic relationship. The ages for each group varies, but they all age out at 21; old enough to be a member of a Lodge or Chapter for 3 years, which allows them to theoretically transition from one group to the next.

The groups do a lot of different things together, but most activities fall into one of a few categories: regular business meetings, initiation/ritual practice, fun nights, service activities, and fundraising. Each group is set up so that the youth are the ones in charge; they run the meetings, vote on activities, give the obligation to new members, etc. In addition to this, each group has one or two state wide conferences each year, which usually includes ritual competition as well as group activities between Chapters. Some states may have mixed conferences every so often, such as MYLC.

In short, Masonic Youth groups provide excellent opportunities for kids that might not receive them otherwise. The minimal cost (I pay $20 a year for my dues), intermingling of groups (i.e. DeMolay sweetheart, dances), lack of religious affiliation, and Masonic connection and values makes them more appealing for many families over other youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

What are some issues these groups are facing?

Like all of the Masonic organizations, the biggest issue the youth groups are facing is membership numbers. Following in the footsteps of Blue Lodge, none of the organizations openly advertise, and instead rely solely on word of mouth. As many members of Masonic organizations know, membership numbers have been dwindling in the last decade. It can be very hard to interest people, especially teenagers, to come out and do extra “work” (you would be amazed at the difference of guys that come to fun nights vs nights we volunteer to wash dishes), in addition to school, and for some, jobs. The membership issue, in turn, leads to a lack of public interest and knowledge, and the cycle is fueled again.

While I cannot speak for all chapters of these organizations, I can tell you a bit about what is going on in my own. One cannot say that there is a lack of leadership within our Chapter, in fact, we have a few guys that make excellent and natural leaders, that help the Chapter flow the way that it should. These guys volunteer first, are always there on service days, and encourage others to do the same. The issue is it tends to be the same handful of guys that are in this position. Ideally, everyone should be taking turns filling the leadership roles. This I feel, however, is more due to the nature of the beast that is teenagers. Often, youth feel insecure in themselves, are wary about what their peers think of them, and therefore would rather follow than lead.

Another issue that most, if not all, of the Masonic youth organizations face, is that of money. Each Chapter, Bethel or Assembly must be sponsored by an adult Masonic body. Our DeMolay Chapter is sponsored by our local Shrine, for instance. Usually this simply means that the Lodge, Shrine, or Chapter allows the youth to use their facilities for their meetings. We are lucky enough at our Chapter that our sponsor also allows us to be active in supporting events that they put on, mostly through service. Sponsorship does not, however, usually entail much funding, if any. The majority of the funds required by a Masonic youth organization, come from the public, either fund-raising done by the youth, or from the adult advisors.

What are they doing to remedy these issues?

As I said above, Masonic youth organizations are not really advertised the way that other youth groups are. Often, the only way someone even knows they exist is if their child is a member. At one time, DeMolay used to be a household name (I suppose the same could be said for Masonry), but all you will get is funny looks if you ask around. To my knowledge, no real changes have been made on this front (at least for DeMolay). Unlike Freemasonry, Masonic Youth organizations do have an International Council. Statewide, the youth are encouraged to bring in new members, but that is more or less where that ends. Although all of the groups have moved onto social media, this tends to serve more for communication between members more than anything else. Personally, I am not so sure what I would do to bring in more members, but I do know that something needs to be done if these organizations want to continue in the States. Oddly enough, Brazil and Australia have a booming Masonic youth population. Let’s hope that the US takes a page from our Masonic families overseas.

How a group handles the issue of youth leadership really depends on the needs of the specific Chapter, Bethel, or Assembly. Masonic youth groups encourage youth leadership because they are all lead by the youth, instead of by an adult leader, like Boy/Girl Scouts of America. Just like Blue Lodge and other branches of Masonry, these offices exist on a state level, and unlike Masonry, exist on an international level as well. As far as encouraging the youth to take up these positions is concerned, our Chapter is trying a few different methods. We’ve gotten a bit lax over the years with dress, and we want to encourage our members to dress in business casual, instead of shorts and a t-shirt. Many of them will be joining Blue Lodge soon, and this helps ease that transition, and also helps create feeling of specialness when the Chapter is open.

As far as the issue of money is concerned, there always seems to be only one answer: fund-raising. Our Chapter sells baked goods, and I am sure that Job’s and Rainbow does something similar. Of course, all of the members do pay dues, however the dues cost is low enough that it does not put a lot into our coffers. We rely a good deal on donations from the public, both Masons and not. Many of our activities are paid by the guys themselves, for instance if we go out for ice cream, our comes out of the advisors pockets, like gas money when we go to state events.

What can I do to help?

As always, the number one answer is get involved. I cannot tell you what an awesome time I have had in just the few months that I have been an advisor. If you have the time, and meet the requirements I highly recommend it. You can find your local group through Google, or click the name of the organization, which will take you to the main page. By the way, here are the requirements to become a Masonic youth advisor:

DeMolay
*Any adult 21 and older
*No Masonic affiliation is required

Job’s Daughters
*At least 20 years of age and:
Master Mason
Majority Job’s Daughter
Person of Masonic heritage
Parent, grandparent, stepparent, or guardian of an active or majority member of the bethel

Rainbow for Girls
*At least 24 years old and :
Master Mason
Majority Rainbow Girl
Member of Eastern Star, White Shrine, or Amaranth
Parent, grandparent, or guardian of an active or majority Rainbow Girl

If circumstances do not allow you to become an advisor, there are many other ways to get involved. Encourage your children to become members. If you do not have kids of your own, recommend the organization to friends who are looking for activities for theirs. Suggest to your WM that your Lodge support a Masonic youth group that may be looking for a new home. Contact the head of the group in your area, and see if you can sit in on a meeting, to see what it is all about. Attend public events put on by the groups, and encourage others to do the same. Welcome and greet a Masonic youth just as you would any other Mason or affiliated member, encourage them to also attend your events. This will also help your Lodge or Chapter’s membership when the time comes. If nothing else, donate. Time, money, your backyard pool; it may not seem like much to you, but it can make a world of difference to them.

The Master’s Ball

I hope that everyone’s weekend was as awesome as my own! On Saturday, T and I hosted a Master Mason’s Ball downtown at our Scottish Rite Center. From what I can gather, many balls and other formal dances have fallen out of favor, not only within the Masonic community, but also general society. I would encourage you to talk to your Worshipful Master about your Lodge having one, or encourage your Mason to host one during his time in the East.

From what I can find, there is no history of the Master’s Ball; I am not even sure that they happen in other jurisdictions. That being said, I can tell you a bit about it. The concept is very simple: everyone in the Lodge gets dressed up, and gets together to have a good time, and to honor the current and past Worshipful Masters of the Lodge, as well as any other dignitaries that may show up. It is a public event, so non-Masons are welcome as well. It’s more or less an excuse to get really dressed up, and have a great time. So, while I cannot tell you the universal way that Masons do the Master’s Ball (if Masons did anything universally I would be surprised), but I can tell you what we did for ours, and hope to inspire you to have your own.

Some brothers dancing the night away.

Some brothers dancing the night away.

Attire and Venue

Masons love to get dressed up, and I can see why. How many opportunities do you really get to do it in a year? I mean floor length dress or tuxedo, getting your hair done, etc. Maybe one or two for most people, and those are usually weddings. T decided early on that he wanted the attire to be semi-formal to formal. He wanted his attending officers to be in tuxes, and at least a jacket and tie for everyone else. I believe jacket and tie was the attire put on the flyer, and his officers were told privately to wear their tuxes. What we got was people wearing everything from jeans (a DeMolay who came last minute) to floor length ball gowns (myself) and everything in between. It would have made for a very awkward looking group photo. If you’re going to an event, and not sure if your attire is appropriate, ask someone who is putting on the event, or err on the side of overdressing.

The DeMolay who wore jeans...and then made me promise to post this picture.

The DeMolay who wore jeans…and then made me promise to post this picture.

Luckily for us, we live in a large metropolitan area, and have a beautiful Scottish Rite center down town. The entire venue is gorgeous- marble staircases, hardwood floors, they were even repainting a ceiling in a small sitting room with gold leaf! The ballroom we held the event in was no exception. The small amount of information gathering I was able to do lead me to the conclusion that Master’s Balls simply are not done anymore; which in my mind, is more reason to have one. This really gives you a lot of leeway as far as things like venue are concerned, because no one has any preconceived notion of what the ball has to be. While I would not recommend using your lodge, as it might not feel quite “special” enough, and may also not be big enough; your local Shrine center may have the perfect spot for your dance.

The Setup

Although our Master’s Ball was only two days ago, we had begun preparing for it as soon as T became Worshipful Master. He knew it was something that he wanted to do, especially because his Lodge had not hosted one for six or seven years. Our Grand Lodge is very early; most are in the summer, while ours is in early February. We knew that we wanted to have tickets printed to sell by that time, and they were just barely done. As we all know, a good deal of drinking tends to go on at Grand Lodge after the business is all taken care of, and we used this to our advantage to sell more tickets. In addition to this, our large Masonic family in Omaha has a universal calendar sent out every month, and we were sure to add the ball as soon as we had a date set.

Action shot of our beautiful venue.

Action shot of our beautiful venue.

Although we booked the venue well in advance, and let them in on the plan, there was not much to do up until about two months before the event. Around June, T started reminding brothers that the Ball was coming up, how much tickets were, who to talk to, that kind of stuff. I created a poster that hung at the Shrine and other Masonic centers in the area. Some of the other lodge members and their wives took care of contacting the caterer (who was also a brother), those that would be setting up the tables and bar (a brother), taking care of appetizers, and other related items; while T got ahold of the DJ (you guessed it, a brother). When we got there the day of, all we really had to do was place the centerpieces, help the DJ get situated, set up the appetizers, and get ready ourselves.

Itinerary

The evening started, as many Masonic evenings do, at the bar. We opened the doors for cocktail hour (and a half) at 6pm.  T and I had decided to invite many of our non-Masonic friends, and my family had come in from out of town as well. It was wonderful to see everyone socializing and getting along so well. As I said previously, we had a large range of attire, but really, the point of the evening was to be with our friends and family, and have a good time, so we were not about to turn anyone away (save for the confused man who showed up without his pants).

Folk enjoying the food!

Folks enjoying the food!

We had a nice dinner, catered by a brother, as I said previously. T had decided early on that it was simply better to just not give anyone a choice as far as the protein was concerned, and so, everyone had chicken and salmon. This did lead to some confusion, since it’s not normally done that way, so many people who called to buy their tickets still told us which one they wanted. Oh well.

After dinner, T took the time to thank everyone for coming, thank the families from the lodge who had put work into setting up the ball, and  recognizing those who were Past Masters, not only of his Lodge, but also those who had come in from other area Lodges. We were lucky enough to have a few Grand Lodge officers there, including the Deputy Grand Master for our state (aka, the guy who is going to be Grand Master next year).

When that was all said and done, T did something I was not really expecting. He proposed. It was perfect really; I was in a floor length ball gown with his grandmother’s pearls, I had spent the money to get my hair and makeup done, every detail had been meticulously planned;  all of our friends and both of our families were there. Not only did I look like  a princess, but he made me feel like one too (and you always have!). So, guys, take note. 🙂

Our special visitor, to help us celebrate.

The rest of the evening, the whole evening, was very relaxed. Although all of us were in our formal attire, most everyone there knew each other, and so really it was just a fancy party with all of our friends. The ball continued late into the night, with about as much drinking and dancing as you might expect; a lot and, not quite as much.

If anyone’s Lodge hosts a Master’s Ball or something similar, I would love to hear about it. If yours does not, encourage your Mason or Worshipful Master to bring it up at a business meeting. While it is not profitable, and indeed, we operated ours at a loss, sometimes you just need to put on your fanciest outfit and have a nice dinner with your friends; it’s all about having fun!

Green-Eyed Lady

I don’t know about you guys, but last week was kind of a crazy one. It went something like this:

Tuesday:DeMolay

Wednesday: Lodge

Thursday: OES

Friday-Sunday: DeMolay Conclave

Monday: T meets with a candidate.

Then the whole cycle repeats again with DeMolay on Tuesday! Since I had to work Wednesday, as well as the weekend, I did not get to see T much, not to mention that relaxing time alone with him was non-existent.  While I do appreciate knowing that he is men of high moral values, sometimes it can feel like Masonry can eat at your social, as well as personal life. This can tend to lead to feelings of jealousy, resentment, and all kinds of other icky stuff.

Why do I feel this way?

Let me start off by saying that any feelings you may have toward Masonry, either overall or just your Mason’s involvement, are perfectly valid. However, you’ve got to own those feelings, and if you don’t like the way that you feel, then you need to figure out what you can do to change the situation. A common reaction for women to have when they first learn about Masonry, is not true jealousy, but envy. Envy simply says, “I want what you have. Gimmie.” This is usually from the feeling of exclusion that many women experience when they realize that they cannot join regular Masonry, I know that I certainly did. Envy does not have to lead to jealousy however, and can in fact lead to very motivating thinking, such as being involved with auxiliary groups as much as possible.

Jealousy, on the other hand, says “I want what you have, and until I get it, you shouldn’t have it either.” This step beyond envy not only attempts to push you forward, but also aims to hold the other person back. Most often, when it comes to jealousy and Masonry, the feeling stems from two sources- fear and insecurity.  Many types of fear can cause us to feel jealous when our Mason is away at Lodge. Usually, however, this jealousy comes from fear of loss, and fear of the unknown. Staring with the latter, fear of the unknown si obvious when it comes to Masonry and it’s auxiliary groups. If you and your Mason just started dating, or if he is a new member, this is incredibly common. Often, new members are not sure what it is that they can tell their spouses, and therefore tend to not say anything at all. If you do not do your research (please do!), your imagination can dream up all sorts of awful things going on at the meetings. It is always important to educate yourself. Ask your Mason what you would like to know about what goes on. If he is unsure, I recommend you talk to senior members of his lodge, or pick up this book.

Fear of loss is also an extremely common root of jealousy for those involved with Masons. You see it all the time on the anti-Masonic wives “forums” (none of which seem to have been updated since 2003). Usually it sounds something like this:

I’ve two boys 21 and 17. Everyone who has responded has hit it right on the money. I thought I was the only one who was feeling this way. My husband sits on the couch and reads this little blue book after work til its time to go to bed. Not to mention he is gone every Saturday all day long for ceremonies out in the woods. Yes he calls all of them brothers now and yes I agree this is a CULT!! All he does now is spends several hours a week with them. Hours that he could be spending with his own family, working on the lawn, keeping up the pool. Nope that is on the back burner as well as me and our youngest son. Everything is so private that I don’t know where he goes or what he is doing. They have secret handshakes and secret codes. I am found home alone most of the time now. I can see that they are more important than me. Divorce is on my mind more than ever. Its a CULT and they have brainwashed him. (Gizzy) 

Ignoring for a moment all of the cult and brainwashed business, it is very clear that this woman is not only jealous of the time her husband spends involved in Masonry, but also feels that she is losing him, and therefore her marriage and everything that goes along with it, to Masonry. Very closely related to the fear of loss, another cause of jealousy is simple insecurity. The insecurity may come from anything, although most often when talking about Masonry and jealousy, the insecurity is insecurity of the relationship, or yourself. This is where the feelings of “Well, what if he meets a younger, more involved woman at Grand Lodge?” “How can I compete with a bunch of guys he is so involved with and have so much in common with?” come from.

Taming that beast

So, how can you get rid of all these nasty feelings? There are lots of suggestions out there, but I will just go over the main ones.

Recognize your jealousy, and keep it in check. Often, just recognizing that the jealousy is there can help alleviate some of the hold it has on you. In addition to this, it is important to be mindful of your own emotions, and a big part of this is knowing yourself. Try taking several deep breaths, and attempt to detach yourself from the intensity of the emotion you are feeling. This can help give you a better idea as to where its coming from, and why. Be sure and spend time alone, dancing, listening to music, going for a walk, or even just meditating, to help process your emotions.

Educate yourself. As I said above, jealousy can often come from fear of the unknown. There can be a lot of unknowns when it comes to Masonry, so it can help a great deal to turn as many of those unknowns into knowns as possible. As I linked above, I strongly recommend FreeMasonry for Dummies, as a very nice introduction, that provides resources for more in-depth information if you feel you are still lacking. Ask your Mason questions. If he doesn’t know, ask the senior members of his Lodge. If his Lodge has a library, ask if you can borrow books (they won’t be hiding any secrets there though!) You may be surprised as to how much of Masonry isn’t a secret.

Communicate with your Mason. Perhaps one of the most important, and simplest answers. If you do not tell your Mason that you are jealous that he is spending three nights a week at Lodge, he may think that everything is fine and dandy. You’re not a mind reader, and neither is he. If you feel that he is spending too much time at Lodge, and not enough at home, let him know, and try to work out a compromise. You two may decide that two nights a week is a maximum, or, perhaps that Masonry is just not good for your relationship at this time in your lives. If you don’t speak up, nothing will change, and you will find yourself just getting more and more frustrated.

Get involved. While I know that this is not the answer for everyone, many women find attending Lodge dinners and other Masonic functions quite enjoyable. You may find solace with the Sisters in the Order of the Eastern Star, or just with the ladies who play cards during the business meetings. Attending Masonic events will not only help you expand your social circle, but you may find that once you realize just how boring waiting for a three-hour Master Mason degree to be done can be, that you are more okay with your Mason attending more Masonic functions. Getting involved goes hand in hand with educating yourself, and helps eradicate the fear of the unknown.

Perhaps the most important thing to say about it all is simply: Own your feelings. Don’t let them own you.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful week, and as always, feel free to contact me with any questions!

Caring for Dress Clothes

When my roommate, Tom, first joined the Lodge, I’m pretty sure he did not own any dress clothes, I think perhaps simply because he had never needed them before. Unfortunetly, jeans and a t-shirt will not get you far in Masonry. In fact, many levels of dress are needed with the Lodge- some may require you to wear a suit or tuxedo every meeting, where as others are much more lax. Regardless of your Lodge’s dress code, you will eventually attend some Masonic or other function where you will need to know how to care for dress clothes. And so, Tom, this one is for you.

Not the way you want to be showing up to your first Grand Lodge formal dinner.

Where to get dress clothes

At the store, obviously, right? Well, the issue here is that nice clothes often come with a not so nice price tag. If you are one of the lucky ones out there for whom money is no object, you can probably skip this section. For the rest of us, read on.

  • Thrift stores- Buying clothes at thrift stores takes the most patience, but also gives the highest reward. I have bought $150 dresses for $2 before, but that does not mean that I was lucky enough to just walk in and pull it off the shelf. You best bet is to find out where the thrift stores are near you, and go often, about every 2 weeks or so. Since they get so many donations, what will be on the shelves will change often. Usually you will find khakis and polos here, although many thrift stores will often carry suit jackets. Full suits are harder to come by, while tuxedos are almost unheard of. Don’t forget to look at their ties, belts, and shoes! Watch out for stains, and don’t forget, that if it doesn’t fit you perfectly, if you feel that it’s worth it, you can get it tailored.
  • Garage sales– Similar to thrift stores, you will want to shop early and often. Unfortunately, these usually only go on during the summer. You will of course, have less of a selection at a garage sale, but they can be good locations to pick up shoes, hats, and other accessories such as cufflinks.
  • eBay/Amazon– As you know, these places sell everything. Be sure to have a measuring tape around, or know your measurements, as you will want to be sure to order the correct size.
  • TJMaxx/Kohl’s- These stores carry tend to carry last year’s items that didn’t sell, but lucky for you, nice dress clothes never go out of style. They have large sales often, so be sure and check them out.
  • Suit stores/Tuxedo rental shops- Don’t buy “off the rack”. What you are looking for here are the tailored suits that no one picked up, the rentals that they are retiring, last season’s suits that are on sale, or even an item with a small flaw, that you or a tailor could fix. Sometimes you may have to ask if they have anything like this, so call ahead before heading out.
  • Other people’s closets– No, I don’t mean wandering into people’s houses looking for dress clothes. Ask your family and friends if they have any unwanted dress clothes in the back of their closets. Chances are, they may have similar tastes to you, and you will have a better idea of who may wear a similar size to yourself.

Make your forefathers proud. You know, by dressing nice.

What you will need:

For a fairly active Mason, attending Lodge or other events 3 or 4 times a month, I would recommend (at least):

  • 4 polos
  • 3 pairs of khakis
  • 3 or 4  dress shirts
  • 1 suit, or suit jacket
  • 1 tuxedo
  • 1 pair of dress shoes (black is your best bet)
  • A large variety of ties, belts, bow ties, vests, etc.

You will also need:

  • Hangers- preferably wood, with plastic being the nicer, cheaper alternative. Try to stay away from wire. There are a million types out there, but you will be fine with the basic hanger for a while.
  • An iron – The more you spend, the better it will work, the nicer your clothes will look
  • An ironing board- these come in a variety of shapes and sizes

You may also want:

  • A lint brush
  • Shoe polish/brushes
  • Shoe trees
  • A small sewing kit
  • A Tide pen

Using the iron

Irons come with instruction manuals. I’m sure that everyone throws it away as soon as the box is opened. However, you should get to know your particular iron. The one thing you will need, is water. There should be a small flap near the top of the iron for the water to go into. Many people recommend using distilled water only, however, I have used tap water for years without issue. The better irons will have the temperature settings for specific fibers. If you are unsure what the garment you are ironing is made up of is made out of, check the tag. The tag will also tell you whether or not you should iron the article of clothing. For more on what all those funny symbols mean, head here.

Caring for polos and khakis

Often, if you are not an officer, or your lodge does not have a strict dress code, you can wear khakis and a polo to most Masonic events, perhaps even your Lodge meetings. Taking care of polos is extremely simple. Think of them simply as fancy t-shirts. You can wash them in the washing machine, and hang them when they come out of the dryer. Usually no ironing is needed, but if it is, simply lay the shirt flat, and press, using the heat indicated on the tag.

Khakis are a little bit trickier. While you can wash and dry them according to their care tag, they will still need to be ironed. While I could go step by step on how to iron the pants, I think a video will work a bit better:

Be sure and hang the pants up after ironing if you are not wearing them right away. You will want to fold them in half length wise, and have this fold be what is hanging on the hanger, like so:

Caring for a suit

For the most part, dress shirts, that is, long-sleeved button up shirt that you wear with khakis or a suit, can be washed in the washing machine. As always, check the label on the shirt, as many specialty fabrics such as silk must be hand washed or dry cleaned only. Much like khakis, they will need to be ironed once you take them out of the dryer. Shirts are a bit trickier than pants, so be sure to watch the ironing video below:

The suit itself, on the other hand, that is, the jacket and the matching pants, CANNOT be washed in the washing machine. Please, do not even try. You will ruin it. It will need to be dry cleaned. You don’t need to take it to the cleaners every time that you wear it, in fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, you can care for it in between cleans by going over with it with a lint brush. You can also usually use a tide pen if necessary. If it gets some wrinkles, you can lightly press it, but as always, be sure to check the tag.

Caring for a tuxedo

You lodge may require that all officers or members wear a tuxedo, or you may only wear one for Grand Lodge. However, if you find yourself wearing one more than twice a year, it is probably worth it to buy a tuxedo instead of renting one. If you are unsure where to purchase one, ask the company that you usually rent from. They may sell there, and if not, they can point you in the right direction.

Usually you are able to wash and dry the tuxedo shirt in the washing machine. It is simply just a dress shirt with more fabric. While ironing, you will want to press the front folds away from the button holes, so that they lay flat.

The tuxedo itself will need to be dry cleaned, however, like a suit, there are ways that you can care for it in between cleanings. If you do not wear it more than a few times a year, I recommend that you store it within a garment bag, to help keep the dust and other nasty things off of it.

What to do in case of emergency

Unfortunately, things do not always go the way that we want them do, even with clothing. I recommend that you get a tide pen that you keep on you at all Masonic events, especially those that serve dinner. The other thing I can recommend to you is to get a small sewing kit, so that you can sew back on buttons and repair small holes.

Of course, you may not have the time, or be comfortable with doing this. If this is the case, I recommend that you find a good tailor in your area. Small wear and tears are usually inexpensive to fix. Having a good tailor is also recommended for altering clothing, which is nice to have in case of weight gain or loss. It is also great to buy a suit “off the rack”, and have it tailored to you, which is much cheaper than buying a tailored suit.

Unfortunately, sometimes we get distracted while ironing, or may not get to a stain as quickly as we would like to. More often than not, the best case is to donate the clothes. Usually things like this cannot be repaired, or if they can, the clothing may not look “right” again. Lucky for you, you know where to get new ones inexpensively!

This last video is for Tom:

What would you do if your child went missing?

I was lucky enough to attend my first CHiP event last week, conveniently at my hospital, on a day that I happened to work. I think that the CHiP program is important enough, and prevalent enough within Masonry, that I wanted to help spread the word.

What’s this about chips?

CHiP (sometimes called Masonichip) is the Masonic child identification program, designed to help the authorities find missing children. Here’s how it works: you take your child to a CHiP event, and they will make you a packet for your child, including digital still photo, fingerprints, a DNA sample (from a mouth swab), a short video, a scent pad (for scent dogs), and dental imprints. You get to keep all of the information, there is no giant database that all of this information is kept in, in fact, they delete all of the information after they create your kit, so if you lose any part of it, you will need to go to a new event and remake the part that you lost (or make a new kit). Currently more than 1.5 million kits have been completed in the United States (I believe the program is also in Canada). The program is free of charge.

What does this have to do with Masonry?

The CHiP program is 100% Mason owned and operated, in fact, it was created at the 2004 conference of Grand Masters. It is a charitable initiative, and is primarily funded by the jurisdiction’s Grand Lodge. All CHiP events are staffed by volunteers from local lodges (depending on your jurisdiction, one lodge may always volunteer, or there may be a rotation system). It serves as a wonderful opportunity for you to donate your time to give back to the community, and the idea of helping create something tangible (the kit), may give more of a sense of satisfaction than simply donating money.

Of course, no Masonic charity is without it’s bling. CHiP offers scarves and ties. They are covered in rainbow hand prints, to remind us of the impressions that child leave on our lives. They are kind of loud- but that is the idea here, it gets people to ask, “What’s up with that tie?” Apparently, all brothers that are lawyers will wear them to court when the case involves children in any manner (how cool!). You can order them here.

I was lucky enough to attend my first CHiP event last week, conveniently at my hospital, on a day that I happened to work. I think that the CHiP program is important enough, and prevalent enough within Masonry, that I wanted to help spread the word.

I thought the police department did this?

In some states, the local police or fire department runs a different kind of program. Interestingly, the program that the authorities used is actually based on CHiP, not the other way around. The main difference between the public (police, fire, etc) and the private (Masonic) programs is the way in which the information is handled. In the public programs, all of the information is stored in a searchable database, that the authorities have access to at a moment’s notice. In the CHiP program, however, there is no database, all of the information is deleted after it is confirmed correct and placed in your kit, and you are the only one that has access to the information. This is why if you lose any part of the kit, you have to go and make a new one.

I read about Take 25, what’s that about?

The CHiP program started working in collaboration with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2007 to create a program called Take 25. The idea is simple. Take 25 minutes of your time, to have a conversation with your children (or kids you babysit, friends your kids have over, younger siblings, etc), about safety and abduction prevention. It’s 25 minutes, and not 30, to correspond with National Missing Children’s Day, May 25. Their website has a number of resources available, including conversation starters, safety tips, and general information for you, as well as for your child. It’s a little bit like talking with kids about drugs. You don’t want to think that it will happen, you don’t want to even think about it, but it is more important to talk about it with your kiddos than to ignore the fact that it happens every day. The CHiP program mixes in with the idea of Take25, any child old enough to speak will ask what’s going on, making it a perfect time to talk with them in the event that an abduction or similar would happen. In fact, all CHiP events are also Take25 events, and information for both will be readily available.

Do these programs actually have an impact?

While we can’t be for certain, it’s clear that having programs like CHiP and Take25 are far better than children having no education about the topic, and you having no similar records of them at all. 

Here are some statistics:

  • Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing, since 1999.
    • More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
    • More than 58,000 children were abducted by non-family members.
    • An estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. 
    • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 193,705 missing children since it was founded in 1984. Their  recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.
  • The MasoniChip program has generated over 1.5 Million “Completed ID Packs” of children for parents since 2004
    • It has conducted over 15,000 events in America alone
      • My home state has held over 311 events, making packets for 37,577 children
    • They have identified over 4,200 children

How can I get involved?

Number one, best answer, hands down- volunteer your time. The events do not run themselves, and in fact take a good deal of man power to put on, especially the larger events. Volunteer with your lodge buddies, or your SO, volunteering for children is a wonderful opportunity. If you are not able to volunteer your time, funds are most often needed when starting up a CHiP program, as the computers are all dedicated for the program, and therefore can become fairly costly. Ask your Worshipful Master if the program is run by Masons in your state, I believe about 18 jurisdictions run the program at this time. If it is not offered in your state, get together with the right people, and get it started. There are also a number of resources available for starting up a program, found here. Each jurisdiction’s program has their own website, which can usually be found on the corresponding Grand Lodge’s website. There is a place to find local events on the main site, but I am not sure that it is working at this time. 

The MasoniChip program’s website is here.

I sincerely hope no one ever needs the information obtained through CHiP, but I would much rather that you have that information!

Have a great week!

The Mason’s Lady

I figured I should backtrack a bit, and cover some basic ground, so that everyone reading this has a general idea of what is going on. When you google mason’s lady, or women and masons, one of the first things to appear is some version of this: http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/Essays/ml.pdf unfortunately, it looks like it was last made some time in the 80′s, doesn’t answer a lot of questions, and does not give a lot of resources, unless your mason happens to be a member of Blue Hill Lodge in Massachusetts. I would like for this to serve as an update to that handout, answering more questions, and giving more general resources.

What’s a mason, anyway?

Masons, or freemasons (to distingush from bricklayers), are really kind of everywhere. Those guys in the little cars in parades are masons. Shriner’s hospital is completely owned, operated, and (mostly) funded by masons. The Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes, Fred Flinstone’s fraternity, was based on masonry. A mason refers to a member of Freemasonry, a fraternal organization. They base  their work in philanthropy, specifically to better their members, which also involves bettering their community. This is masonry at its core. Their motto is “to make good men better”.

Who can be a mason?

Only men can be masons (yes, I know, I will save this for another post). FtMs that are legally male, can be masons, but their acceptance varies from lodge to lodge. They have to be of appropriate age for the state or country 18 for most, 21 for some. The man must come with recommendations, this is usually done via interview, even if he already has friends within the lodge. One requirement of receiving the degrees is that he must belive in a “higher power”. This does not mean that he must be religious, or even that he must believe in G-d, only that he believes in something greater than himself.

But, what do they do?

On average, most lodges meet once to twice a month. Lodges with more degree work to perform (more on this in a bit), will meet more often (T’s meets every week), whereas smaller lodges, or lodges with less new members will meet less- at least once a month for business. Usually the meetings are not that exciting, to give you an idea, they usually go on in the general business format of: open lodge, old business (reading of the minutes from last meeting), new business (communications from other lodges and organizations, pay bills, announcements), special events (voting, special announcements), close lodge. It’s not really as exciting as most people think it may be. However, masons are more known for their special events. Depending on your lodge, there may be picnics, dances, formal dinners, fundraisers, pancake breakfasts, group visits to the zoo, etc, throughout the year. The men are always encouraged to bring their family to such events. There are often city-wide, and state-wide events as well.

What’s this about degrees?

The way that it works is as follows: a man chooses a lodge that he wants to join, either because of location, friends in that specific lodge, or whatever. He asks them for a petition, fills it out, and gives it back to a member. At the next business meeting, the petition is read, and shortly thereafter, a few members of the lodge set up an interview with the candidate. The interview is usually fairly relaxed, and serves as a way to get to know the candidate better, both in their personality and their intentions. The interviewers return to the lodge, and give the rest of the members a feel for the candidate. The candidate is then voted on, the decision must be unanimous in the lodge. He is then able to receive the degrees of masonry.

There are three degrees that a mason must receive before he is a full member of the lodge. Every lodge has different schedules, some may do it over three or more months, some in one month, and some in one day. It all depends on the canidate.The first degree is called the Entered Apprentice degree, or the EA degree. The second is the Fellowcraft degree, or FC degree. The third degree is the Master Mason, or MM degree. Upon receiving the MM degree, the man is now a full-fledged mason, and full member of the lodge.

I heard something about an Inspector Inquisitor Commander?

There are many branches of masonry. The lodge, or blue lodge, is the base, the core of masonry. This is where a mason will receive the first three degrees. There are thirty (yes 30!) more degrees available to receive beyond that, as well as other organizations to join. After the first three degrees, there are two branches to choose from, Scottish Rite, or York Rite. The progression for Scottish Rite is as follows: Scottish Rite->Chapter of the Rose Croix->Council of Kadosh->Consistory of Sublime Princes->Supreme Council. York Rite is: York Rite->Cryptic Rite->Knights Templar. In addition to this, masons can also join the Shriners, the Grotto, and a large number appendant bodies.

I keep hearing about masonic secrets…

Masons do have their secrets, its true;  allow me to assure you that none of it is to take over the world, or control the government (you should watch them organize a dinner…) Most of the “secrets” you can find online, if you are really interested, but I would recommend that you do not. Some thing are better left with a shroud of mystery, and whether you are a mason’s SO or a potential candidate, masonry is one of them. If you have questions about masonry, ask your mason (if you have one), you may be surprised about what he is allowed and willing to share with you.

What can I do?

The first, and most important thing you can do, is support your mason. Encourage him to be active in his lodge. Our grandparents were onto something when they got into masonry. Time apart is good for any relationship, and so is time with the same gender. Communication is important as well. If you feel like masonry is becoming more important than family or work, talk with him about it. It is strongly encouraged in the teachings that family and work should always come before masonic work. Be active in the lodge yourself. While you cannot attend the business meetings, you can ask to see the inside of the lodge room, and ladies are often  welcome before and after meetings. If your mason’s lodge has dinner before lodge, help out in the kitchen, offer to make a dish. Make a point to put masonic family activities on your calendar. Masonry is a family, and it can very easily involve the whole family.

I want to learn more! (Or, I want to join!)

During my research, I found that this http://ephcanada.info/MLC2012/Ladies/02-Welcome%20to%20a%20Mason%27s%20Lady.pdf was a fairly well put together resource, that does go more in-depth into topics that I did not cover.

A very valuable resource that I use on a daily basis is the freemasonry subreddit, found athttp://www.reddit.com/r/freemasonry You can use this to ask questions, read articles, and connect with people online.

There is no overall governing body for masonry. Each state or providence is run by a Grand Lodge. If you are interested in learning more about masonry in your area, I suggest that you go to the website of the Grand Lodge of your state, which will have a listing of all lodges in that state. You can then find one close to you, and contact them for more information. A comprehensive list can be found athttp://gwmemorial.org/links.php

You can, of course, feel free to contact me, either here, on reddit at /u/jynxbunni, or at my email: msjp820@gmail.com

Have a great day! Women and masonry is next week!