Friday, January 24, 2014

Moving Into a New Year

The winter weather in Northern Virginia has been significantly colder this year than any of the previous years I have lived in the area. When I got in the car this morning it was 4 degrees, indicative of temperatures that have hovered between 0-20 with windchills in the negative teens for the past several days. My blood is not used to that kind of cold! But it isn't always like that. On Monday it got up into the upper 50s, enabling Alison and I to go on a 15 mile bike ride in the afternoon since I had the day off work as a federal holiday. That night the temperatures plummeted, however, and it snowed all day Tuesday, accumulating at least 6 inches where we live. In the midst of the snow Alison and I took advantage of the slope of our driveway to engage in some Sledding. It was actually surprisingly fun and we got some Pretty Good Runs in.

This weather stands in sharp contrast to a beautiful fall. As you may have gathered by the fact that I have not posted since the end of October, the final months of 2013 were filled with activity. As I detailed in my post about The Changing Tides of Life last August, in order to finish my masters degree this coming May I took three classes last semester. I knew this was going to be a challenge when I did it, and it proved to be every bit as hard as I had imagined. In addition to going to class three nights a week, over the course of the semester I wrote 10 papers and read 47 books. Somehow I managed to get it all finished, completing my last paper at 4 am the day it was due. This coming Monday I will attend the first meeting of my research seminar, the final hurdle that remains before I am awarded the degree.

In the midst of all the school work Alison and I enjoyed visits with both of our families. Her parents came out to see us in October and, in addition to an trip through the Pennsylvania countryside in pursuit of family history, joined us in our annual trip to the National Apple Festival in Adams County, PA and helped us conquer the Corn Maze for the fourth year in a row.

A few weeks later we joined my Mom, sisters, and their significants in San Diego in a celebratory weekend in honor of my Mom's 60th birthday. It also provided an opportunity for Alison to see my alma mater and a chance to visit my youngest sister Callie in her element at Point Loma Nazarene University before she graduates in May. We arrived just in time to join her and her friends at a Harry Potter party on Halloween.

Despite our lack of proper attire, with a quick flick of some eyeliner and a loan of her glasses, Callie christened us as Harry and Ginny for the evening.

The weather was warm enough during our visit to allow us to enjoy some quality time on the beach, complete with the construction of an epic sandcastle complex, smashball, kite flying, and even boogie boarding.

The highlight of the visit was a sunset cruise out of Mission Bay, which lived up to expectations and provided for a beautiful trip out into the ocean.

My Last Post in October described my ten day trip to Chickamauga, a trip that will likely prove to be my last major Civil War sesquicentennial event. This did not turn out to be my final chance to contribute to the commemoration of the Civil War, however. During the month of November I ended up having the opportunity to return to two of the parks that had hosted week-long events earlier in the year for two smaller, but important, pieces of the story.

The first was to Pennsylvania for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address where I had the chance to photograph, video, and even converse with renowned Civil War historian James McPherson, NPS Director Jon Jarvis, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, among others. It was a moving tribute to the impact of the words that Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in 1863.

As  part of the coverage of the event I put filmed, edited, and produced two videos:

~The first was released before the event as a promotion of the significance of Lincoln's "Few Appropriate Remarks".

~The second is a record of the actual Commemorative Ceremony.

The very next weekend I drove back to the South to help with the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Chattanooga in Tennessee. 

The last signs of fall still remained on Lookout Mountain and I captured some memorable images of Confederates walking the same paths that were used during the successful Union assault on Lookout Mountain during the "Battle Above the Clouds" 150 years previously.
It was quite chilly in Chattanooga as well, but I was kept busy moving from one place to another to get pictures and footage for a video of the event.

The trip was a fitting way to close the year and, perhaps, my tenure as an NPS photographer and videographer.

This Video of the weekend at Chattanooga is the result of my efforts.

Just days after returning from Tennessee we were off again, this time to squeeze in a visit to Livermore for a late Thanksgiving celebration and the wedding of one of Alison's childhood friends.

Over Christmas we enjoyed time with Both of Our Families, including the celebration of Baby Noah's first birthday and Christmas day with a good portion of Alison's extended family in Colorado.

We made it to Arizona as well, where we took advantage of the warmer weather to barbeque, work on leveling the yard at my Mom's house, and go hiking in the Phoenix Mountain Preserves with my Dad.

Just before leaving for the holidays, in the midst of my final papers, Alison and I were blessed with a unique opportunity to visit the White House at Christmas.

It was fun to see all the Christmas decorations, especially since the White House has been closed to the public since the sequester took hold a year ago.

The visit was made even more memorable by the fact that we could actually bring a camera and take pictures, something you are normally strictly prohibited from doing.

As we look toward the end of my masters program, we are also facing the prospect of me losing my current position and being unemployed once again.

After five years with the Park Service I have been continually frustrated by my lack of ability to get more than a temporary position and now that I have a family to think about as well, I am having to take seriously the prospect that I might have to look elsewhere for employment. 

I have been applying for all sorts of positions, ranging from a wide variety within the Park Service, to working for the concessionaire in Yosemite, to being an outdoor school instructor at REI, to helping to protect and interpret American history in our nation's capital.

We don't know what 2014 will hold or where we will be come May, but it is entirely possible that we will be staying in DC a bit longer after all.