Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Groundhogs, the Maryland Campaign, and Running in the Rain

Alison and I have now been married for more than four months. During that time I have succeeded in producing very little in the way of updates as is my wont. For those of you who have been wondering, this has not been the result of a decision to drop off the face of the earth, but rather an undesired consequence of adjusting to three dramatic changes in my life: being married, working full time at a site requiring a 45 minute drive each way, and taking two classes in pursuit of an MA in American history.  As I mentioned in my message last week, I have officially finished my first semester of grad school, which means I finally have a chance to devote some time to other pursuits once again!

It has been quite an adjustment shifting from a job that allowed me to hike in the woods to one that most often requires me to sit in front of a computer. It does sometime cause me to go a bit stir crazy, as was the case yesterday when I decided to go for a run after work. This seemingly innocuous activity increases in significance when set in its proper context. It had been raining for most of the day and was threatening rain again, but I set off on the first manassas loop trail all the same. About 3/4 of the way through, just as I left the cover of trees and came out in an open field, the skies opened once more and by the time I got back to the car I was soaked. It was great fun though, and before the rain started I saw two does, two young bucks (later on), a myriad of squirrels, and two different pileated woodpeckers.  It wasn't bears, but it was still fun. :)

Even when working in the office my time is not devoid of wildlife. Just a few moments ago we discovered that we have not one groundhog (as previously thought), but a family of four living underneath the house. We watched mom, two little kids, and then a rather stocky dad emerge from underneath the porch and enjoy the sun which has recently broken through the clouds.

Though much of time is spent inside on a computer, I am getting to do some pretty neat things. My most recent project has been to write content for and help to design the new web page on the Maryland Campaign for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. What is the Maryland Campaign you ask? Well I'm glad you inquired! Go to, www.nps.gov/marylandcampaign and find out! On the opening page you will see a picture of the three generals who commanded armies during the campaign. We were trying to come up with a single image that captured the entire campaign and couldn't come up with anything, so I made my own. Make sure to either click "History of Maryland Campaign" or just click the picture and it will take you to the historical page where you can learn a lot more about the campaign and who was involved. This is where most of my time has been spent. I did a lot in terms of inputting information and helping to get it in the right places throughout the site, but in the history section I actually wrote a decent portion of what you are reading. There are two places where my writing is especially prominent. First, in many the headings you see including the intro text on the home page for the site, the primary history page, as well as the opening paragraphs for the "people," places," and "stories" sections on the history page, and for many of the stories themselves. And secondly, in the "people" section; I actually wrote each of the 22 (and growing) bios that are found there. So I can officially claim that content on the main National Park Service Website for the Civil War was written by me, which is kind of fun. :)

I also get to be intimately involved in the planning for special events and commemoration activities. In this capacity I have met quite a few people in significant positions of power and influence with the park service. The top position in the park service in the director. Under him are the regional directors. I work directly for the National Capitol Region (one of only eight). In each park the top position is the superintendent followed by the chiefs of each division (interpretation, law enforcement, natural resources, etc). I tell you all of that to give you some understanding when I say that in the past two months, among the people who I have met, conversed with, and in most cases am on a first name basis with, are the regional director the the National Capitol Region: the Superintendents of Manassas, Antietam, Monocacy, C & O Canal, Harpers Ferry, and Richmond: the Chiefs of Interpretation of most of those same parks (except Richmond and Harpers Ferry): the chief historian at Harpers Ferry, several of the primary web developers for the Park Service, the regional communications director, and the person in charge of the entire sesquicentennial for the whole country. So this job is definitely exposing me and my work to all sorts of people who I would otherwise not know, many of whom are in top positions with the Park Service. By way of comparison I never spoke to the superintendent of Wind Cave and the superintendents of the National Mall and Shenandoah had no idea who I was.

But most excitingly, I actually get to be at many of the commemorative events.  The first one that I attended in an official capacity was this past Saturday for the dedication and opening of a new exhibit and visitor center on the C & O Canal just west of Antietam. I was one of the primary photographers to record the event and then posted pictures on their facebook page. If you are interested, this link takes you directly to the album I posted yesterday on the C & O facebook page. Nearly all the pictures in this album were taken by me.

Ferry Hill Dedication Ceremony

Next month I will be going down to Richmond twice for major events surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Seven Days battle. In August I will be at the 150th of 2nd Manassas. In September I will be at Harpers Ferry and Antietam. We still don't know about the Fredericksburg battles (Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and then the Wilderness and Spotsylvania in 2014). However, just yesterday the superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park called and officially requested that we (my supervisor and I) come and spend eight days in Mississippi to document their 150th anniversary exactly a year from now over Memorial Day weekend. I also know for sure that I will be at Gettysburg in July of next year.

So all that is to say that I am getting to do some pretty neat stuff and connect with some pretty important people. Another added bonus is that I just found out that because the work I am doing is of a higher pay grade, I am actually going to be eligible to be promoted to that higher grade at the beginning of the next fiscal year (Oct. 1). So after three years of being unable to get a position higher than a GS-04, I am now working as a GS-05, and will (hopefully) be a GS-07 come October.

Not everything has been about work and school (though much of it has!) Alison and I have been able to get away and have a few adventures. :) The link below takes you to pictures I just (finally) posted on facebook that include the ones of the cherry blossoms I sent at the end of march, as well as our visit to Culpepper, VA, hiking in Shenandoah, Easter Sunrise, and the Nationals-Orioles game this past Saturday. In the past few weeks we also had the chance to ride bikes along the Potomac River on the Mount Vernon Trail, and  reconnect with an old friend from Arizona and her husband and finally play the board game "Puerto Rico" which we have never been able to play because it requires three people.

Spring 2012 (Including cherry blossoms, Easter sunrise, flowers in Shenandoah, and Nats Game)

It has been a good first four months of being married, first semester of graduate school, and first two months of work and we are looking forward to much more to come of all three!

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