Monday, January 23, 2017

The Inauguration of President Donald Trump

On January 20, 2017 the United States of America inaugurated its 45th president. This ceremony was the 58th formal public inauguration, marking the 44th time in which we have successfully transferred the power of our nation’s highest office. This seemingly simple action, first undertaken by George Washington and John Adams in 1797, speaks to the strength and longevity of the American political system. Despite several highly contested elections (if you think the 2016 election was contested, take a look at the elections of 1800, 1824, 1876, and 1888), we have always successfully handed power off from one president to the next. January 20, 2017 was no exception. Despite the many attempts to delegitimize the victory of Donald Trump, he took the same oath of office that George Washington took in 1789 and now resides in the same house that was first occupied by John Adams in 1800.

I had a front row seat to the 2016 presidential campaign, and saw firsthand the events of Inauguration Day, including the inaugural ceremony and the inaugural parade. Since I had had similar access in 2013, I had a direct point of comparison. In most respects the two days were remarkably similar. The ceremony followed a standard pattern and the parade looked very much like any other inaugural parade. Most of the people attending the events were the usual mix of those who had come to D.C. specifically for the inauguration and locals who decided to attend. But there was one major difference: the protests and civil disturbance.

Protests have been a hallmark of this country from its inception. Indeed, the revolution that led to the formation of the United States began with protests in the streets and shipyards of Boston. I have no issue with protests. We have a long history of targeted protests changing policy at the highest levels of this country. It can be a very effective tool for the voice of “the people” to be heard. But what we have seen in response to the election and inauguration of Donald Trump is something distinctly different.

At this point I want to make it clear that I did not want Donald Trump to be president. I did not vote for him and I had sincerely hoped that he would not be elected. However, he was chosen as the next leader of the American Republic by that same republic in an open election, just as each of his 43 predecessors was. Whether we, as individuals, or as a collective people, like him or not, he is our fairly elected president, and we owe him our support, at least until, as president, he gives us actual, articulable, and demonstrable reasons to withdraw it. I would say the same for any person elected to the office of president, and it is the dramatic lack of consensus on this point that most concerns me about the current state of our country.

The rise of protests in response to Trump’s election is being painted as a populist democratic uprising, which I find fascinating and troubling for several reasons. I’ll get to some of those reasons, in a moment, but first I think it would be helpful to describe some of what I saw the past few days.

1)    The people that came to respectfully observe and participate in the inaugural festivities were often inhibited from doing so by protesters. This was the express purpose of these protests, which is confusing to me. Their actions did nothing to upset the actual inauguration of the president. All that they did was make life harder for their fellow Americans (who were attending the inauguration), for the law enforcement in D.C. (who had to control them), and for the National Park Service and City of Washington (who had to clean up the mess).

Throughout the day on January 20 a wide variety of groups intentionally disrupted the ability of ticketed guests to reach their seats near the Capitol or along the inaugural parade route. On at least 15 occasions groups blocked access to security checkpoints, dispersing only when compelled by D.C. police, often only through means that included pepper spray, flash bangs, and tear gas. A wide variety of different groups were involved including feminists, Not My President, Black Lives Matter, Disrupt J20, Festival of Resistance, Polar Bear, and Dakota Pipeline. These groups were joined by anarchists who had no discernable purpose other than causing senseless destruction. D.C. police had to arrest more than 200 such “protesters” and three police officers were hospitalized due to physical assaults. While it is generally unfair to group a variety of protests together, in this case the various groups intentionally melded together and intentionally engaged in the same obstructing action. This was not a series of peaceful protests. It was a conglomeration of groups that came together for no discernable purpose other than trying to disrupt and damage the experience of their fellow Americans. It also made the job of law enforcement significantly harder, and, while it was really only the anarchists that were willfully destroying private property, because the groups joined together, that behavior became associated with protests as a whole. Regardless of their stated intentions, these were the result of their actions.

2)    The day after the inauguration the “Women’s March” took over, not only D.C., but cities across the country (and the world). This “march” is being lauded as one of (if not the) largest in our nation’s history and generally applauded by the media. I know from talking with marchers that many, indeed, I would say the majority, of those that chose to participate, did so with noble intentions. However, it is very difficult to determine and define exactly what the purpose of the march actually was. I have yet to find an explanation that identifies actual stated and definable goals. There is lots of talk about “women’s rights” and “solidarity,” but little clarity as to what that actually means and considerable muddling from the presence of groups representing nearly every social cause in the liberal playbook. This conglomeration, while lending itself to some impressive pictures, makes it very difficult to actually identify a purpose and nearly impossible to bring about any practical results. So I am left with the conclusion that the march was intended to be little more than a symbolic gesture displaying a general sense of dislike of Donald Trump.

While it is true that many participants were respectful and peaceful, here are a few things that are not being reported in the common narrative:

a)      The participants in D.C. specifically (and I believe elsewhere) far exceeded the stipulations of their permit. While this looks nice for organizers who want to claim a resounding success, the practical implications are that many streets around the city (in addition to those that were closed off for the group per their permit) were rendered completely unusable and little regard was paid to the impact of this on other people. Quite a few of my coworkers were kept from getting to work for more than two hours and those that were attempting to leave were likewise blocked for hours because the protesters refused to pay any regard to traffic signals or anything other than themselves. I know of at least one vehicle that was scratched and damaged by marchers as a coworker attempted to drive in to work.

b)      Marchers paid little or no regard to police barriers denoting closures. At the White House marchers surged past police barriers to unlawfully access the Ellipse and south fenceline. They likewise pushed past barriers on the north side of the White House to forcibly take control of the east side of Pennsylvania Avenue. These actions were not only unlawful, but displayed a flagrant disregard for authority and for those whose job it was to maintain the security of the area. The marchers did not respond and retreat until forced to do so by more than 150 police officers, consisting of Secret Service, D.C. Police, and Park Police, including officers on horseback and in riot gear. This willful lack of respect does little to engender sympathy.    

c)      More than 80 Secret Service officers were forced to remain at the White House at least 2.5 hours after their shift ended to aid in controlling the perimeter as a result of the actions described above. These are men and women who had worked 16-18 hours the day before, had barely slept, and had plans and families to get to. They were kept from doing so because the marchers chose not to adhere to the conditions of their permit and the disregarded the security barriers around the White House.

d) The marchers left signs and other trash scattered across the entire National Mall, the Capitol Grounds, and the White House. Thousands of signs were placed on fences, trees, and statues, or simply abandoned on the ground. All of these signs had to be cleaned up by the National Park Service. While the purpose of leaving the signs was ostensibly to send a message to the president, the actual result was simply creating a huge mess for someone else to clean up. 

I am sure that individual people felt a sense of comradery, connection, hope from participating in the march, but, from the perspective of someone who had to deal with the larger implications of the protests and marches, it seems to me that little was achieved other than to negatively impact the lives of others.

That brings me to a few other thoughts about the populist uprising against President Trump.

1)   Donald Trump is, quite possibly, the most populist president that we have ever inaugurated, certainly in recent memory. Take these passages in his inaugural address for example:

“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.”

“At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”

You can disagree with his ideology and methods, but that doesn’t make Donald Trump any less of a populist president, making it more than a little ironic to make him the target of a “populist” uprising. His entire candidacy was rooted in his claim to represent the people rather than the Washington elite. You can certainly argue that he does not represent you, but the claim of those that protest seems to be that he does not, in fact, represent the American people. This is more problematic.

2)   There appears to be a widespread lack of understanding about how the American political system works, or even what it is. The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy. We have never been a democracy, and for very good reason. Democracies invariably end poorly. Throughout world history every democracy has ultimately imploded under its own force. That is precisely why our founders created the republican system that they did. The electoral college was deliberately designed to guard against the dangers of democracy, and while you can criticize it, the fact remains that it has done just that for 228 years. The so called “popular vote” has never been relevant to a presidential election, which is why it is not even officially tallied. It is fine to note that more people overall voted for a particular candidate, but that has no bearing on the legitimacy of an election.            

One of the few discernable chants during the “Women’s March” was: “This is what democracy looks like.” The marchers were correct. What they were doing - generally disregarding authority and the law by unlawfully blocking roads and passing police barriers, trashing a public area, and lacking a clear or definable message or purpose – is precisely what democracy looks like. And that is precisely why the United States has never been a democracy.

3)    Despite many examples in his past and on the campaign trail, since his election Trump has consistently called for solidarity. I am not defending the many examples that could be (rightly) pointed to as statements that encouraged division. I am well aware of them. But it is interesting to me, that, at this point, his message, as articulated in his inaugural address is that: “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.” In contrast, the message of the protests, consisting primarily of people that would identify themselves as liberal, who consistently wave a banner of “tolerance,” “acceptance,” and “inclusivity,” is nearly exclusively a message of division and exclusion. People that voted for Trump are consistently insulted, demeaned, and attacked. This does not seem tolerant, accepting, and inclusive to me.  

4)    Effective populist uprisings (we have had many in our history) are focused on clearly definable issues. Think women marching for the vote when Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1913 or the March on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963. Both of these (and many other) examples illustrate the power of an organized, clear, and determined message. The recent protests (particularly the so called “women’s march”) have been compared to these examples, but the difference is stark. In direct contrast to the 1913 and 1963 marches, the current protests lack any sense of cohesion, focus, or purpose.

Donald Trump is the president. You can not like him as a person (there are plenty of reasons not to and I certainly don’t), but he is still the president. You can protest the president, but please do so in a lawful and respectful manner, and you will be far more effective if you have a clear and definable message and purpose. If you really want to effect change, make sure you know what you are talking about and have in mind clear and tangible ways to achieve it.

I’ll close with the example of our 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, who holds the interesting distinction of being sandwiched by Grover Cleveland. In the 1888 presidential election, Harrison received 100,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, but carried the Electoral College 233 to 168, and became our 23rd president. Four years later he ran for reelection against the same Grover Cleveland, who emerged as the victor the second time around. To the credit of both men, each willingly gave up power to the other.

In his inaugural address Harrison spoke to the issue of an Electoral victory without a general majority of votes. He said that it was clearly “in the contemplation of the framers of the Constitution that such an exigency might arise, and provision was wisely made for it.” He called the American people to “exalt patriotism and moderate our party contentions,” and noted that “a party success that is achieved by unfair methods or by practices that partake of revolution is hurtful and evanescent even from a party standpoint. We should hold our differing opinions in mutual respect, and, having submitted them to the arbitrament of the ballot, should accept an adverse judgment with the same respect that we would have demanded of our opponents if the decision had been in our favor.” Harrison did just that when he relinquished office back to Cleveland in 1893. I think we would do well to adhere to the wisdom of these words 128 years later.

In the same inaugural address Harrison also noted that “No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love or a land so magnificent in extent.” I would say the same.

Finally, Harrison observed that: “we must not forget that we take these gifts upon the condition that justice and mercy shall hold the reins of power and that the upward avenues of hope shall be free to all the people.” It is to this standard that we should hold every president including President Donald Trump.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The First Two Weeks on the Job

A general recommendation for life: try to avoid working a mix of 8 and 12 hour shifts 16 days in a row without a break. It is not an ideal recipe for sanity or health. That said, my initial working marathon has come to an end and I actually got my days off  (Wednesday and Thursday) this week. That worked out rather nicely since yesterday was Alison's birthday and I got to have the day off to spend with her.

This job is definitely different than anything I have done before, and is certainly calling for some significant adjustments, but it is also quite unique a huge blessing. Granted, there are times when I am sitting in a booth pushing buttons wondering why I wanted to do this, but there are also times when I get to be a part of some pretty interesting things. Here are a few highlights of my first two weeks on the job:

~Watching from the south lawn as the first family boarded and took off in Marine One

~Being approached by and petting "Bo," the first dog

~Being given a cup of presidential coffee by one of the White House Stewards

~Standing on Pennsylvania Avenue as the first real snow of the season fell on the White House, turning it into a winter wonderland

~Being approached by a man reporting as the 45th President of the United States

~Working with the president and other high-level dignitaries from Mexico, including standing at the front door of the house they were staying in as they came out to get in the vehicles to depart

There is also a lot of yelling at people to walk on the sidewalk (rather than in the middle of the road--I am amazed at how many people struggle to grasp why it is not a good idea to walk down the middle of the road), and trying to keep warm while standing outside in increasingly cold temperatures, but overall, its a rather interesting job.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Chapter Begins

Today is the last day of 2014. It was supposed to be my one day off of work this week, a break I had been looking forward to since I officially went operational on Christmas Eve. We had hoped to actually get out of the house and do something fun this afternoon/evening, but, while at work yesterday I received a phone call informing me that my day off was being canceled and I was being forced to come in for the afternoon/evening shift today. Alas someone has to work, and at the moment that someone is me. --When not enough people volunteer to work extra hours someone has to be forced, and who it is is determined by who has the least amount of overtime hours for the quarter. Since I came into the job in the final weeks of the quarter that means that, at the moment, I find myself at the bottom of that totem pole.-- So now I will soon head in to work day 10 of what now appears will be an initial 16 day run with no days off. In fact, when I hit my next scheduled day off on January 7, I will have had only one real day with no work or training since December 7.

While this intensive work schedule is certainly a challenging way to start the new job, it is not unexpected. My class is only the second to graduate after a long dry spell and, as one of the newest arrivals, it falls to me to work so that others don't have to. As we enter a new quarter beginning tomorrow, and with another class coming in at the end of January, the pressure will ease, but for now it is off to work once again.

Due to moving directly from training into being operational, the work schedule, and Alison's family visiting for the Christmas holiday, I have had little time to reflect on the fact that I have actually started the job. It has seemed like such a long process to get to this point, that it is taking a while to set in that the process is actually complete. A story that began More Than a Year Ago, that took me to Georgia for 3 Months, and that culminated in 17 Weeks of Training in Maryland, has now come to an end.

A new story began on December 12 when I reported to the White House for two weeks of "on the job" training. This training is normally three weeks long, but in an effort to get us out more quickly they compressed it to two weeks of 12 hour days. Our schedule was additionally compressed by canceling our days off in order to have us operational on Christmas Eve. It is these adjustments, and the need to accommodate others who were on Christmas leave, that has resulted in the schedule I described above.

One distinct advantage to working so much at Christmas time are the beautiful decorations. Both the interior and exterior of the house were adorned for the holiday and the National Christmas Tree (and accompanying state trees) on the Ellipse has been lit every night that I have been working.

I don't know anything more at this point with regard to be getting onto the team that conducts tours and special events. I have made my desire to be a part of it clearly known, and now I just have to wait and see. It remains my goal to become part of this team at the earliest available opportunity.

There are times when I have found the job less than stimulating, and it is certainly a challenge so work so often right now with so little control over my schedule. But I am also consistently amazed that I am where I am and honored to be doing what I am doing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Entering the Final Phase of Training

This week marks the halfway point of the second and final phase of my training. Exactly five months ago today I reported for my first day of training. It seemed then (and often since) like I would never finish the training process and actually start the job, but now that outcome is finally starting to look more likely. Eight weeks from tomorrow I will walk across a stage and be officially commissioned. That is still a rather strange thought to me, but it is one that is significantly less foreign than it once was.

The second phase of training has been very different than the first. Many of the categories (law, tactics, shooting, etc.) have been the same, but there are also a lot of new topics and a much more specific focus on the job I will actually be doing. This has been very helpful for me as the application of what I am learning has been much easier to visualize. Especially in light of recent events in the news, this specific training is of crucial importance to me being able to successfully do the job.

I had my seventh of ten written exams today, which leaves only three more until I can finally feel the relief of not having homework and things to study for. Last week I got dropped in a pool strapped in a "helicopter seat" upside down and had to successfully evacuate the simulated helicopter crash underwater.  I have done a lot of shooting with my sidearm as part of the training thus far, and on Friday I get to shoot the MP-5 for the first time, which I am looking forward to. I have only fired an airsoft version of a weapon like that before now.

It is starting to feel like the end is within sight, still a long way off, but at least within the range of my vision. But perhaps the most exciting part of what I have learned thus far is not something we have covered in the classroom or any of the practical training exercises. Ever since I first applied for this job my hope has been to end up giving tours of the White House. I had thought that I might have to wait a set period of months or even years before trying to achieve that goal, but it now appears that it just might be more attainable than I had anticipated. It turns out there is no particular time in service requirement for that particular position (as there is for many of the specialized positions), and the training is only a few weeks long. I don't know anything for sure yet, but it sounds like the most challenging obstacles will be convincing the supervisors of that section that they would want me, and then finding time to go through the additional training. If I can achieve those two things you might soon encounter me if you go on a tour of the President's Mansion.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Different Perspective: Seeing September 11 Through the Eyes of a Federal Law Enforcement Officer

This year, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 carries a new and greater significance for me. This new meaning is derived from two developments that occurred in my life in the first half of 2014. The first was that Alison and I visited the 9/11 memorial in New York. I had heard much about the new memorial, but had not yet had the chance to see it in person. By chance we ended up there on February 26, the anniversary of the first World Trade Center Bombing in 1993.

It was an especially poignant time to visit, since the monument memorializes, not only those who were killed at that site in 2001, but also those who perished in Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, as well as the victims of
of the 1993 bombing. Every day flowers are placed in the etched names of any victim who would have celebrated a birthday on that day. On February 26, a special group or roses adorned the section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 attack.

The memorial is beautifully designed, with water pouring down on all four sides of the footprints of both the north and south towers. The water then pools together in the bottom, before plummeting down anew, into the unknown, beyond the scope of our vision. It is a simple design, but a highly evocative one that allows for personal interaction and poignant reflection.

Each of the names are etched into the sides of the memorial such that light can shine through at night and flowers can be placed inside each name in the manner described above. Several of those names are not names at all, but rather a denotation of unborn children who perished in their mother's womb before ever being given the chance to see the world at all.

In a nation where so many people fight to deny the unborn any recognition of life, it was particularly impactful for me to see those innocents memorialized in this manner.

The memorial also includes a special section devoted to the first responders who perished in their attempts to secure the scene and save the lives of anyone they could.

It is this section of the memorial that grips me the most as I sit down to write today. My perspective of the role of first responders has changed significantly as a result of the other new development I experienced this spring: being offered and accepting a permanent position helping to Protect and Interpret American History in our nation's capital.

I have spent the last four months in training learning what it means to be devoted to protecting the core of the United States of America. At its heart, the job is about safeguarding an idea, the idea that this nation is something special in the scope of world history. For all its faults (and I believe there are many), this nation and the manner in which it was created is truly unique. And I, for one, believe that it represents something that is worth fighting to sustain.

This final picture is one of my favorites that I took when we were in New York. In it you see a tree, just west of the south tower and south of the north tower, which still lives today, despite both towers coming down directly around it. Behind this tree can be seen the new World Trade Center building, rising above the city of New York as a symbol that that idea cannot be so easily overcome. Life that hung on through the devastation foregrounds reconstruction of a nation that accommodates remembrance and honor for the fallen.

So today, the 13th anniversary of the the 9/11 attacks, remember all of those who lost their lives that day, but give particular attention to the firefighters and law enforcement officers who rushed into danger to save others without hesitation. For many of them it was the last action they ever took, and that is something that is worth remembering.    

Previous Reflections

Monday, September 1, 2014

Embracing a New Identity

This Labor Day marks the first time since I began working at Wind Cave National Park in 2009 that I have actually been able to enjoy the holiday as a day off from labor. For the past five years I have either been working at a national park or having to spend the entire day writing my first paper of the semester for a graduate school class. Today I don't have to do either. It is a welcome break amid the stress of training, and a much needed day to catch up with numerous things requiring my attention, including finally getting a post  up on the blog for the first time since I wrote about a New Job Opportunity in April.

Much has happened since last I wrote, and future blog posts will include the details of my final NPS Civil War event at the Wilderness in May, attending my sister's college graduation in San Diego, my exploration of historical sites in the southeast, creating a new home in Washington D.C., and our visit to Acadia National Park. Today I would like to take a broader focus concerning the ways in which recent changes in our life and my experience in training has affected my perspective.

On May 14 I officially worked my last day as an employee of the National Park Service. It was a very strange feeling to drive away from my office at Manassas National Battlefield that day, not knowing if I would ever don the green and gray again. For the last five years I have consistently sought to secure a permanent position with the NPS, and in many ways it felt like a betrayal to be walking away from the agency to take a job somewhere else. But it was not for lack of trying. I feel confident that I have done everything within my power to try and get a permanent NPS position, and despite all of my efforts nothing has come through. It had been a difficult process for me to let go of the Park Service for this next chapter, but, at this stage it simply wasn't going to happen. I continue to believe that I will be a park ranger again one day, but until such a day arrives I am trusting that there is something new and significant in store for me where I am.

That same evening I officially graduated from George Mason University. I met Alison at the school after bidding farewell to Manassas and was awarded my Masters Degree at the Patriot Center. The juxtaposition of the grief of saying goodbye to the Park Service and the celebration of the ceremony to receive the reward for all the work I have done for school for the last 2.5 years was a compelling one. That proximity of loss, achievement, and excitement was made even more evident the next morning, when I reported for my first two days of orientation and training for the new job. Within the space of 15 hours I had left Manassas for the last time, been awarded my Masters Degree, and started a new job and whole new chapter of life.

Following that orientation, having spent less than a week in our new house in DC,  I packed up my car and drove to southern Georgia for three months of training.  I completed that training on August 11 and after a week off which we spent in Acadia National Park in Maine, I returned home to begin the second phase of training here in the DC area.

Going through the training in Georgia was, without question, one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was very difficult to be away from Alison for that long, especially so close on the heels of moving to a new house and finishing graduate school. It was also exceedingly challenging for me to face so many aspects of training that were so far outside my previous knowledge and experience. There were many times during the course of training (especially early on) when I didn't think I could finish it, and when I seriously questioned what I was doing there. It didn't seem to be the right fit and I struggled to accept that it was, in fact, what God had for us for this next chapter. It was so different than what I had thought and hoped we would be doing; moving closer to family with me working at one of the western national parks. But I persevered in faith that there was more at work than what I could see, believing that God had opened this door for a reason.

Even as I struggled to find my place within my class and to embrace this new identity, I sought to do my best in all of the aspects of training. In some areas (physical techniques, tactics, and many of the practical scenarios we were presented with) I was consistently behind the curve and fighting to achieve parity with others in my class to whom that type of thinking came much more naturally. But in other areas I found that I could, not only hold my own, but consistently excel. While I enjoyed the driving training and grew much more competent and confident in dealing with the practical scenarios, the two areas in which I consistently found myself at the head of my class were on the firearms range and in an academic setting.

I emerged as one of the top shots in my class and consistently performed well on the qualification courses, and found myself leading study groups before each of our major academic tests after I set myself apart by achieving the highest grade in the class on the first exam. When it came time to graduate I had the highest academic average in the class and was recognized for that achievement during the graduation ceremony.

So despite my initial doubts and my failure to see the way through early on, in persevering, I found my place after all, and consequently feel a much deeper sense of pride at identifying myself in this new role.

This past Friday evening I was driving back to our home on Capitol Hill from Virginia along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and as I came around a curve on the road, a perfectly clear night revealed our nation's capital in all of its glory across the Potomac River. In looking at the lights highlighting the Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, and the US Capitol Building, I was poignantly reminded of the significance of what this city represents. I have had to suspend my dream of working as a ranger in one of the western parks, but the alternative of helping to protect and safeguard the heart of what makes this nation so unique is a pretty good one. And it turns out, I am a lot more suited for many aspects of the job than I had ever suspected. Apparently the big guy upstairs knew what he was doing after all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Scent of Something New in the Air

These last few months have been pretty busy as I have attempted to finish my final semester of graduate school while also working full time and attempting to find new employment once I lose my current position when I graduate.

As of this morning I finally have an answer to the question of what I will be doing a month from now when school and my NPS position have come to an end. I will be helping to protect and interpret American history in our nation's capital.

Well, I won't actually be working just yet, but I will officially begin training on May 15. I will spend the first three months in Georgia followed by another four months back in Maryland.

This will be a very different position from anything I have done before, and certainly radically different from working for the National Park Service (NPS), but I am excited for the opportunity. Despite my best efforts I have been unable to secure any employment with the NPS when my current appointment expires (upon graduation), and of all the jobs I have applied for (over 300-I have lost track of the exact count), this is by far the best option that has come through. We had hoped to move back west once I graduated, but that is not to be. I did not receive a single job offer for any of the many positions I applied for west of the Mississippi, which is pretty clear guidance that staying here in the DC area is what the next chapter holds for us.

And that brings me to the other significant development, which is that we are moving back into the city, to live on Capitol Hill. We lucked into a great opportunity to live in close proximity to  several other families from church in a location that offers easy access to the metro and central DC as well as to Maryland and Virginia. It is a fairly ideal location for this new job and will greatly aid us in being able to be more involved at church and invested in the lives of friends.We will be living in a row house with three bedrooms, which gives us much more space than our current basement apartment and opens up the possibility of hosting guests and having children.

We are actually starting the move this weekend and will transfer completely to our new house by the end of April. That means that the first few weeks of May will mark the end of graduate school, a move into DC, and training for a new job.

There is certainly the scent of something new in the air in these early weeks of spring!

These past few weeks, as we have slowly transitioned form winter to spring, have provided me with a variety of unique photographic and video opportunities as well.

This winter I started doing some video work for the Civil War Trust, which has included a behind the scenes visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History and a tour of privately owned land over which the Battle of North Anna was fought in May, 1864. On March 14-16 I attended the Civil War Trust's  Color Bearer Weekend in Winchester, VA in order to produce This Video highlighting the tours and activities, much as I have done for NPS events.

I ended March with a journey north to Valley Forge National Historical Park to film and photograph a special living history program on the "Incomparable Patience and Fidelity" of the colonial troops. It was my first official coverage of a Revolutionary War event and a fun opportunity in the waning days of my position.

This last week marked the arrival of the Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. I only made it out one morning, but, in addition to the pictures in the link above, I also filmed timelapse of the sunrise and early morning light on the blossoms and crowds gathering along the basin, which you can see in this video: The Cherry Blossoms Come to Life


Only a few days after the cherry blossoms emerged, the Virginia Bluebells joined them. I went out and took a few pictures and also filmed timelapse and video using a slider in order to create this video of the Bluebells Along Bull Run.