Christmas in DC

This week I and several of my military team were invited to the White House to tour the Christmas decorations. (Picture to the left is from 2004, no cameras allowed.) Yes, we were there when the fire broke out next door in the Executive Office building. We thought something might be going on from the scramble we saw with some of the Secret Service. The fire did not disrupt events in the White House though. Outside though, it was evident that big doings were going on as firetrucks screamed through the area.

I was very surprised by a few things. Everything we saw is old, nothing much modern. The rooms were tall but much smaller than I would have thought. But there was not a plain or uninteresting surface, nor is the artistic aspect overdone. It was truly an enjoyable experience. Then it was back to work.

Thursday was a surprising day. The Air Force is doing a major re-engineering of some of my old dental work and I looked forward to a day of having the whole left side of my head numb. (Wasn't dissapointed there.) We had a last minute training evolution dropped on us too. I was lucky though, I got out of my appointment in time to make the session and find a parking place (a huge challenge at Bolling AFB). My teammate drove over and could not find parking near the location so he wound up not taking the training. You don't dare park creatively (illegally) as the DC police dept will kindly serve as your conscience. I've gotten used to parking at the BX and just walking the mile or mile and a half to get to where I am going. But sometimes you don't have the time.

Speaking of time, I wish I had a few more days before Christmas. This will be my third year away from home for the holidays. I hope to take some leave right after Christmas but it will depend on whether I get a few things done. I had some things fall onto my desk this week that I didn't anticipate. I've been tapped for a short term special duty escorting flag officers which has moved up some suspenses of projects I am working on. Looks like during the long weekend that most civilian federal employees are enjoying I'll be working on finishing up two major projects and starting a third. (The gym I use has been closing at 2:30pm already for the holidays and starting tomorrow is completely closed - yes it's a military gym, but not Air Force.) One is very labor intensive as it involves finalizing a design for a database for our Air Force team at Arlington to help us better track and manage our funeral services. The other is not as intensive, but requires precision or as it is called "attention to detail". That one is due the 26th. I hope to knock out most of that tomorrow if I can get into my office which can be a challenge. The military does not control the building my office is in. I've found that my access to my office tends to be restricted to normal business hours, when the civilians are in. Last time I tried to get in on a Saturday, the computer access would not recognize me. Well that is not exactly the case. It knew who I was, it just wouldn't allow me in. I've been told that has been corrected so tomorrow I plan to test it. (Me & computers haven't been getting along lately. Blew the mother board out on my main system at home and my keyboard at the office likes to type on its own sometimes.) If I can't get in to my office over the weekend then I'll go in during the day on Christmas Eve when the computer locks will allow me access during normal business hours. I just wish life came at you in normal business hours. At least the building will be quiet. (Hope the heat is on. Hmmm.... didn't think about that.)

I'm reminded every day practically that our service members don't really have regular office hours when I see the security forces personnel manning our gates at one of the local bases. A local radio station is asking for people to pray for those overseas and away from family. But I wonder if folks realize that even military people right here at home are pulling duty away from family. This is a job that takes the vast majority of our folks away from home. Not many can take leave, because we always have the job to do and we must always be prepared for contingencies. Our cops are standing security in the cold. Our communications and command and control folks are in their work centers. Our hospitals are staffed. There will be a lot of our young men and women working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Our family will spend part of Christmas Eve in worship at a local Lutheran congregation that is holding a candelight service. I bit early for my taste (5:30 and 7:30pm) but it looks to be very nice. Christmas Day we will likely visit a different church for worship. There are a bunch of great Lutheran congregations in the area. Wednesday I have a full day with funerals as I am the only chaplain doing funerals that day. I hope to be able to leave for the mountains of Tennessee on the 27th to spend some time with my Mom. The holidays weigh on her now that my father has passed to be with the Lord. I also hope to get my girls down to Dollywood for the festival of lights. Then it will be back for training, escort duty, and finalizing preparations for a marriage workshop that I am supporting at Bolling.