Thanksgiving at Home

As I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner with the family today, I thought back to the one time when I was alone on this holiday.  It was back in 2006 (November 23rd) when I was living in Washington DC for my internship.  I was there from September though December.  I had my own apartment with a full kitchen which was different from the majority of the other interns who lived in dormitories with nothing more than a microwave.

Many were going to fly home for the Thanksgiving holiday and were given time off.  My co-intern-worker was going home to get married.  I didn’t make plans to go home for a few reasons.  1. I don’t fly and it takes the train 24 hours to get there and then 24 hours back so I’d actually be spending most of my Thanksgiving weekend on the train if I did that.  Sure I wouldn’t have minded because I love the train, but kind of pointless to do considering my internship would conclude three weeks later.   2.  The Money $.  My internship was unpaid so to purchase a round trip, first class ticket for 4 days would be beyond my budget.  My family understood and we had discussed it long before.

My sister knows how much I love Milwaukee pickles.  She was thoughtful enough to ship me a jar of pickles as a treat.  It was such a luxury from home.  

I hadn’t made many friends in the first 2 months I had been in DC so it was a really lonely time.  The other interns I was friends with weren’t very tight and was more contained to work time.  The entire internship away from home was the longest time I had ever been away and I thought that would be really difficult, but in reality I had managed pretty well, up to Thanksgiving.  I felt really really low.  

I was doing a good job in eating well, even though my pantry was limited.  On the side of a stuffing box I found a recipe for a turkey casserole so I decided I would go with that for my holiday meal.  It consisted of cubed turkey (similar to a pot pie), mixed with soup, vegetables and topped with the stuffing.  It was a delicious entree that took a long time to make and only 10 minutes to eat.  I don’t recall having any dessert, but I was enjoying dipping pretzels in chocolate frosting every other day.  

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I tried to stave off my loneliness by spending the morning visiting the Smithsonian museums, which had limited morning and afternoon hours.  At least then I was around people.  Albeit they were people of families and friends celebrating together and I was all by my self.  When you think about it, Friday was another day I was going to be alone.  Why did have to be so different because I was alone on Thursday??  I don’t know why it happens but it does.

So this Thanksgiving, I look back on that year and remind myself how much I appreciate having my family surrounding me at the dinner table tonight.  I’m thankful for having so much food that I couldn’t eat it all, I’m thankful for the spider having been killed in the basement before it turned into a national incident and thankful for all the laughter and jokes at the table.  It doesn’t have to be big things all the time.   Sure the list can go on and one for all the things that I am thankful for, but here and now, these small things make all the difference.  

Happy Thanksgiving All.  

 

You’re Hired! White House Intern

I make a living keeping track of records…other people’s records.  I’m not so good when it comes to my own.  People would be appalled to know that I have boxes full of unorganized papers and photographs.  Thus I’m angry at myself for not keeping a better journal of the time when I served as a White House Intern.  Hopefully, using my blog,  I can resurrect what events occurred and piece together thoughts and feeling from past emails and notes and pictures.  (I have lots of pictures !)

It’s hard to get started when I can’t even recall why it is I was pushed in the direction of our nation’s capital.  At the time, and the time was late spring 2006, I was employed in City Government for a year, so I had a decent primary job and working part time in retail plus taking some extra college courses here and there.  At the beginning of 2006 I started in a new work location for the City, in the Document Services Section which housed the City Records Center, Mail Room and Print Shop.  Prior to this I had taken 2 government classes at Milwaukee Area Technical College with the same instructor.  He was a former City Department Head and State Senator.  In my opinion a very honest politician and somewhat of a hero to me… even if at the time he was a member of the opposing political party.  I looked up to him so much and was grateful that he gave me a superb letter of recommendation for my Intern application.  His classes got me energized to become a more active participant in politics. 

I found the application for a White House Intern when I was on my Congressman’s website and he had a link to studentjobs.gov.  That’s where my memory gets fuzzy because I don’t remember why I was searching for a job. Perhaps I had a bad day at work or something.  I didn’t tell a lot of people what I was doing.  I was actually embarrassed because I felt like they would think I was out of my mind for attempting this.  I only had a week left before the deadline to submit everything I needed to be chosen for the Summer semester.  I was down to the wire and faxed all my materials on the last day.  

 

Rejected.

 

Something pushed me to try one more time. Just one more time, anything more and I’d appear obsessive about getting the job.  I used the summer to tweek my application before trying for the fall semester. Parts of this story still bring tears to my eyes when I think about it.

I remember it was a very hot summer day.  Even working in the basement we had unnecessary lights and equipment shut off to help cool the temps.  I was working on the Xerox Docutech High Speed Copier.  I was alone in the print shop at the time, when the phone ring.  I looked down at the caller I.D. and it read “Call from 202”.  Puzzeled, I looked at it for a few rings.  I couldn’t figure out why the 2nd floor would be calling me.  That would have been the City Clerk and I didn’t have any current business with them.  I picked up the phone to ease my worried mind.

“Print Shop.  This is Maggie,” I greeted.

I was asked my full name and I confirmed.

The woman introduced herself and asked, “Do you know why I’m calling?”

I told her I thought I did.  

It was this phone call that I was offered an internship in the photo office at the White House.  I couldn’t believe I had actually been selected.  She told me if I wanted to put my hand over the receiver and tell my co-workers the good news I could.  I looked around but no one was there.  During the conversation, Marvin had come in and was talking to an employee from another department near the mail room and I tried flagging him down. 

When I fished the phone call I was so excited and couldn’t wait to spread the news.  I ran all the way up to my old department to tell everyone.  Then I went to my 2nd job that night to tell those co-workers.  I was frantically trying to tell everyone.   It reminded me of a silly little clip from The Monkees’ episode called I’ve Got a Little Song Here when Mike sells his song to a Hollywood producer.  Here’s the clip.

My official start date was in September after Labor day.  I had a lot of work ahead of me the next few months putting together a suitable wardrobe, finding housing, getting my college credit squared away and tying up what needed to be done to be temporarily released from my job with the City.  The summer flew by.

 

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11/11/11

11-11-11 and then add “On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in Great War”, makes this year’s Veterans’ Day is one of those rare numerical calendar dates where all kinds of people expect cosmic changes both good and bad. I just wanted to reflect on the time when I lived in Washington DC in 2006, I took advantage of my surroundings to celebrate Veterans Day, provide some pictures as a remembrance and to give a few details on the specifications of the memorials. (And in a place like the nation’s capital…. How could you not!) It was a weekend so I was off of work. I headed out with my camera, back pack and a good pair of walking shoes.

   

I started out first at what I knew would be the emotionally hardest memorial and that was the Vietnam Wall. They had a stage set up for an array of oratories by veterans and family members. If you have ever been there before you know that the wall is sort of sunken into the ground so it appears in some of the pictures below that people are actually standing on the top of the wall, but it is actually flat ground. “Inscribed in the wall are the names of more than 58,000 men and women who were killed in the Vietnam War or who are still missing in action. A diamond next to the name indicates the person was killed, a cross indicates the person is missing. If a body is identified, the cross is circled.”

Not too far away is the memorial for Korea. This has 19 lifelike American soldiers making their way through the rough terrain of Korea. The statues stand about 7 feet tall & represent various branches of the armed forces including 14 Army personnel, 3 Marines, 1 Navy, and 1 Air Force; & represent an ethnic cross section of 14 Caucasians, 3 African-Americas, 2 Hispanics, 1 Oriental, and 1 Native American. Their wall is different from the Vietnam wall because instead of names there are faces etched in the marble. Designed from 15,000 photographs of various aspects of the war, surgeons, nurses, chaplains, and stretcher bearers looking forward into the eyes of the statues, crews building bridges, airfield construction, supply centers, radio communications officers, reporters and even canine corps.

From what I see, the WWII memorial is the most popular. It is by far the largest and has a variety of eye catching features such as the fountains, stone wreaths, stone etched quotes, and of course the 4,043 gold stars, with one star for each 100 soldiers who died.

I would have liked to have been at Arlington Cemetery for the President’s wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I did visit the site later on in the day. They were changing the wreaths on nearly an hourly basis.