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February 1, 2013

Catching Up: Samantha's Job at the AAS

This is the second in a series of posts catching up from where I left off.

In April of 2010 Samantha started her job cataloging at the American Antiquarian Society. When she was offered the position, there was no small amount of agonizing over whether to accept. Pros: An excellent line to have on your resume if you're a rare book cataloger, excellent experience, and it was a job, and those can be hard to come by. Cons: crappy pay and benefits and a 90 minute commute one way. With only two years of cataloging on her resume, eventually the pros won out.

In the early days it was manageable. She worked a four-day-a-week schedule, which gave her Thursdays off in exchange for working until 8 pm on Wednesdays. Eventually I had choir rehearsal on Wednesday evenings so we didn't really miss each other. She befriended several of her colleagues. She learned a lot about rare book cataloging and became a valued member of her department. And she learned to really enjoy listening to NPR for hours everyday.

When our daughter arrived in December, she got two weeks paid leave. (Remember: crappy benefits?) She took ten weeks more unpaid and went back to work on a regular five-day-a-week schedule so she didn't get home quite so late. But this still required her to leave the house at 6:30 am and didn't get her back until 5:30 pm. And once I went back to work, things got even crazier.

This was manageable too, but only barely. Very quickly the meager amount of paid leave she received (both vacation and sick time) was exhausted and it was a headache trying to keep track of it and schedule our lives around it. We eventually realized that having Samantha on the road for 3 hours a day and the effects this had on everyone else was corroding our souls. We snapped at each other more. We didn't eat as well. We started dreading the beginning of every workday and living the the weekend, even if we'd just need to spend all weekend making preparations for the next week to start. She began seeing all the downsides to the position: a weird, insular workplace where she couldn't see herself making a lifelong career. Pretty soon the conclusion was clear.

She left the AAS in May of 2012 and has been out of work ever since. The money we saved on daycare, gas and car maintenance didn't quite make up the difference, so it's been tight. But we've been a lot less stressed.

February 7, 2013

God's Work in the Westboro Baptist Church

You've probably heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, the small and stridently hateful anti-gay congregation from Kansas that tends to picket anything that will get them attention. In recent years, Megan Phelps-Roper, the granddaughter of church pastor Fred Phelps, gave interviews and was active on social media supporting the church's mission. But yesterday, news broke that she and her sister Grace have left the church. These two pieces, one an interview with Phelps-Roper since her departure and one a joint statement she and her sister have made, are worth your time.

I am completely fascinated by this. First of all, for obvious reasons; as a person of faith myself, I believe that the WBC is going about their Christian faith the wrong way, and hearing that someone who was raised in that church now agrees with me is satisfying. But beyond that, I found myself immediately sympathetic towards Megan after reading those pieces, and also immediately convinced that this was an important turn of events that was worth commenting on in a broader forum.

On the surface, this isn't really worth my time. The WBC doesn't deserve any more attention than they already get for a group of less than 100 people who spew hatred in wildly inappropriate venues. And having one of their fold renounce their hateful message and leave should be the expected course of events, right? Fringe hate groups are fringe for a reason; their beliefs are antithetical to normal human behavior for living in a peaceful society. We should just be nodding to ourselves that humanity is making forward progress, that a hate group is one step closer to going away, and moving on with our lives.

But this keeps drawing me in. One of the reasons why is the detail that Phelps-Roper shares about the church and their beliefs. She says that she regrets hurting people, that "[t]hat was never our intention. We thought we were doing good. We thought it was the only way to do good." This statement is difficult to believe given the obvious vitriolic quality of the WBC's rhetoric. But more comments about how church members are taught to distrust their feelings and that human nature is inherently completely sinful make the statement comprehensible. Disassociating one's self from one's own feelings in deference to a certain understanding of Biblical scripture would certainly make it possible to do the sort of things the WBC does without feeling morally bankrupt yourself, though that still strains belief.

So now I understand a little better why the WBC does what it does, and so my previous feelings towards the church -- anger, resentment and doubt that their actions are truly statements of faith rather than petty attention mongering -- are instead turned into pity and a desire for them to see the error of their ways. That's interesting.

But also I see Megan Phelps-Roper herself as someone who is in a position to do something remarkable now. She states that she wants to be "an influence for good" going forward. The reporter comments that "you may believe it or you may not." I do believe it. Here is a young woman who is well-spoken and media savvy. There is a spark of intelligence and wit in her statement that made me smile and made me think. She was raised in an environment with a single focus: to do what her community believed was God's work in the world. To do good. Now she has no longer subscribes to that community's beliefs. However, her innate gifts and seasoned skill in studying, communicating, speaking and writing, and most importantly, her desire to do good, all remain. I think that's a unique place to be in, and a place from which something may spring that truly is God's work. How wonderful -- and ironic -- would it be if the WBC had forged this young woman in a crucible of hate, but she instead goes forward to preach love and kindness and mercy instead?

I guess I just felt the Spirit moving when I read these pieces today. And I don't usually feel that when I'm reading random stuff on the Internet.

February 15, 2013

Mostly It Snows More Often

Earlier in the month as we gazed out the window at another snowfall, I remarked to Samantha that I had forgotten how winter in Minnesota differed from winters in other places we have lived (Indiana, Connecticut) but that now I remember. It's not that I mind, really, but it has been an experience in relearning what life is like here. And in introducing the two year old to playing in the snow.

Overall I can't complain. Things have been good so far. Our little house is cozy, and the cramped feeling we had when we first arrived isn't too much of an issue anymore. I do wish we could find a place for some bookshelves and my desk, but we're managing. Work has been very good. Samantha's job searching continues, but she has had interviews. The two-year-old has adapted to the new routines well and loves seeing her grandparents more often. We are starting to find the places we need to find as time goes on: doctors, hair salons, pizza joints.

I've decided on which choir I want to sing with. I've rejoined Kantorei for the spring. Mostly it was the path of least resistance as it didn't involve a formal audition. I will be attending as many concerts as I can during the spring to listen to all the other groups I have my eye on.

In other news:

  • I've been playing this little video game called FTL lately. I'm not much for video games these days, but my friends were talking it up and I've been enjoying it. I try not to stay up late playing it but I haven't always succeeded.
  • I put a little effort into Storyhill.info, my poor neglected fan site, the other day. I hadn't updated it for Shade of the Trees yet even though it's been two years! Bad fanboy. I still don't have all the lyrics up, but I will one of these days.
  • I rooted my phone! You can see the series of tweets with details here. It's awesome now. And I am a nerd.
  • I went to the Beer Dabbler with my friends Mike and Rachel a couple weeks ago. It was cold and I had a lot of tasty beer! Um. This is the scintillating commentary that keeps bringing you back to this blog, right?

Enjoy your weekend, folks. We're headed to Rochester tomorrow to visit some friends. What do you have planned?

About February 2013

This page contains all entries posted to This Side of Lost in February 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2013 is the previous archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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