Wednesday, December 14, 2016


All the leaves that are going to fall have fallen. With a forecast low of 14 degrees tomorrow and snow in the cards for next week, fall is over and winter is here.

The Christmas lights are going up around the neighborhood, and at the request of our landlady, I shut off the outside water spigots to avoid freezing pipes, an exercise I am wholly unfamiliar with. Two Saturdays ago, Elise and I (with only passing help from the kids) stood beneath a cloudy, winter sky, wrestling with tangles of knotted Christmas lights we had dredged from boxes in the basement unopened since India. I wanted to climb a ladder and mount them on the eaves, but Elise would have none of it, so we ended up wrapping one bush in front of our house in holiday cheer. The bush on the other side of the front door remains bare, so we have asymmetrical Christmas lights adorning the front of our house. Clark Griswold would be so disappointed in us.

Later the same day, we drove half a block and bought a live Christmas tree--the first live tree we have had in at least three years--out of a Staples parking lot. Elise had grand visions of driving the family out into the woods or to a tree farm in the snow, hacking down our own tree out of the forest with a hatchet, tying it to the top of our car, and driving back to civilization. Meanwhile, I was eyeing the two perfectly good artificial trees we had stored in the basement. I quickly caved, however, realizing this may be the last opportunity we have to buy a live Christmas tree for some time.

The boys are getting excited for their joint birthday party this weekend at Earth Treks, a rock-climbing gym, Peter's choice. Both complained that they had always had a "family party" and this year wanted a "friend party". Elise and I were happy to oblige, but first have to make it through another week of closing shifts, though every day closer to the holidays makes the office incrementally quieter in the evenings.

I spoke to my mom just for a few minutes this evening, following her most recent surgery. She was watching basketball, so that--in and of itself--is a sign of recovery. Sometimes, it is difficult to focus at work with so much going on at home, with my mom being sick, and with bidding on our next assignment (the gift that keeps on giving...though I have had two interviews this week and am cautiously optimistic an end may be in sight). Now, Sam, too, is at home with a fever.

But the Transition Team has raised its head with full fury and--if nothing else--the frenzy of urgent taskings forces me to focus on work and makes the days and evenings go by faster. Winter, too, like fall, will be gone before we know it. Winter in Northern Virginia, though cold, is shy with its merits, needlessly diffident. It has more to give than is often readily apparent. And it takes an especially positive perspective to peer through the cold, dreary grey at the wonders that may lie beneath.

Clementine turned her back to me this morning just as we were getting ready to walk out to the car so I could drive her to school. "Look," she says, "My backpack is half-zipped up and half-zipped open."

"Like, 'Is the glass half-full or half empty'," I said.

"Yeah!"I'm looking forward to greeting this winter with my backpack half-zipped up.


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