12 January 2018

Reflections on the Road: Maryland, My Maryland

I drove over 375 miles over the course of my Christmas celebrations, from Philadelphia to Longwood Gardens then to Columbia, Frederick, and Hagerstown, MD, and back again to Philadelphia. I-95, I-476, US-1, I-70, Rt. 40, I-695, and local streets in between. I sat in traffic; almost missed one stop sign; cleared my car of snow and ice; struggled to stay awake in the face of the afternoon sun. I saw headlights and taillights and the Susquehanna River, but my favorite sight of all? My Maryland mountains.

Every time I drive between Frederick and Hagerstown on I-70 or I-40, I feel a swell of pride and joy as I look at the ridges and valleys dotted with homes and silos. I am from the most beautiful place in the world, I think to myself, but I did not always feel this way. Oh no, I clearly recall childhood conversations with friends about how lame our hometown was, how we couldn't wait to live anywhere but Western Maryland. Sometimes, one has to travel very far to realize the value of what is near, and sometimes, one just has to look very closely. I did both.

04 January 2018

Numbered: 2017

Ah, the New Year, when so many lists are being made. Lists of resolutions, lists of intentions, lists of foods not to be touched, lists of what was great about the previous year. If your Instagram feed was anything like mine, the last few weeks featured many "Best Nine" photo collages. If your Instagram feed was really anything like mine, most of those revolved around engagements and weddings. 2017 was a big year for all of my mid-twenties friends, and I have been blessed to share in some of their joy.

2017 was my favorite of recent years. It was the first year since college I truly felt like myself, felt valuable and valued, had work I loved, and made serious steps towards some personal goals. Yet, despite having such positive feelings, until this moment I couldn't compel myself to make a Best Nine collage. No, it didn't have anything to do with a lack of a diamond. It maybe had something to do with a lack of time; if I'm being hopeful, with too much of a focus on Advent (hm, maybe a stretch). Regardless, today I found myself four days into 2018, and I, a lover of lists, had yet to participate in putting my year into nine tight bullet points. So I did it; I made my Instagram account public for one hot minute to produce the collage you see here. These were wonderful memories of my past year, but 2017 was so much more than nine filtered and cropped images that received the most likes. It was a year of concepts and feelings and moments and more. Why should I limit myself to summarizing my year into the box Instagram designed for me? No, I choose words over pictures and popularity. So, in addition to these pictured moments, here we go, some Best Nines of 2017:

18 December 2017

For Acculturated: What 'Persuasion' Can Teach Millennials...

I remember the first time I read Persuasion. I was a Junior in high school, home for two back-to-back snow days. I spent both days curled up in various cozy spots throughout the house, reading feverishly. I read it faster than any other Jane Austen novel, devouring its insights on heartache and longing and forgiveness. In the throes of the last few chapters, my AP Gov teacher called inquiring about an assignment, telling me I should be doing schoolwork even though there was no school. "But, I'm reading Persuasion!" I said. And she sighed, longingly sighed, and we shared a moment talking about the greatness of Jane Austen's final piece of fiction. She knew her homework had no chance, the only thing winning my attention and heart that snowy night was Frederick Wentworth himself. And he still has it. Happy 200th anniversary, Persuasion! Read my latest Acculturated article that celebrates it here.

17 December 2017

Learning to Be Merry about Mary

How many Marys under the age of fifty do you know? I'll wager, not many. For many of you, only one, and she is writing this post. Once the most popular girl name -- hello 1500-1960 -- Mary is now a blast from the past. Just recently I had someone say to me, "Mary is a great name. It's my grandmother's name." Yep, that's me - a remnant of your grandmother's era.

I have often wondered if my name suits me. Do I look like a Mary, talk like a Mary? If you saw me on the street, would Mary be the name you'd guess for me? I've never come up with a better option, never felt connected to another name. I never had the courage to request something else, like Anne Shirley requests Cordelia, or Christine McPherson requests Lady Bird (which if you have not seen, you absolutely need to). Yet, sometimes I resent my name and all the assumptions* and cultural baggage that come with it.

"Mary McGinley? You must be Irish, then." Or, "Mary McGinley. Let me guess - Catholic." Or, "Which song do you prefer?" Or, "Well aren't you contrary."

In my old age of twenty-five, I have learned to handle these interactions with relative grace, to not pull a Darcy but just accept my fate of having a name loaded with meaning. Yet, while I can laugh off the nursery rhymes, I cannot laugh off my namesake and the example she sets for me. Mary, Mother of God. How can anyone have such a name but her?

15 December 2017

For Acculturated: Can Santa Claus Survive...

This holiday season, I am working at Macy's Dickens Village in Philadelphia as a Santa Photographer. Visiting Santa was never part of my family's Christmas tradition, so I've been fascinated to see how many people of all ages come to see Santa as an annual event. The wish lists I've heard range from teddy bears to computers, but definitely are heavy on the technology end, which led me to wonder, where does Santa fit in our hi-tech society today? Read my latest for Acculturated.

06 December 2017

I'm Dreaming of an Untraditional Christmas

I am a keeper of tradition. Maybe it's because I'm Catholic - tradition is sort of our claim to fame; or maybe it's because of my family. My brother cried - cried - when my Dad changed his glasses frames. I am a creature of routine generally, but there is a special spark to tradition, to the notion of annual, shared routines that we anticipate all year long. There are food traditions: shrimp harpin for Christmas Eve; peaches and cream pie or coconut cake for my birthday; lamb stew for my grandmother's birthday. There are activity traditions: finding Easter baskets; opening presents youngest to oldest; dressing in costumes for 4th of July.  Oh, and my favorite tradition - fighting about what is tradition: do we eat turkey, ham, and/or beef on Christmas; what holiday deserves bing cherry salad; do we celebrate Wigilia or not?

Yet, despite my love of routine, tradition is starting to lose its luster for me. Perhaps it is because with siblings married and cousins moved away, tradition hasn't really been the same the last few years. Or perhaps the foodie in me is just sick and tired of having a menu with few surprises and high tension. Or perhaps the single woman in me is dreading the conversations about my love life (pssh, who am I kidding, I love those conversations.) Whatever the reason, I am thrilled to report this year I am breaking the mold and celebrating Christmas free from tradition! Or am I?

27 November 2017

Time to be a Sheep

Image result for separation of sheep and goatsIt's that time of year again; the time I get particularly reflective. Yep, the end of one liturgical year and the beginning of another. This past Sunday, Catholics celebrated the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe, sending out another Church year with resounding praise. Although many people stuck to their usual Thanksgiving weekend traditions, already decking their homes with Christmas trees and garland, we actually haven't even hit Advent yet. I wonder whether those poor trees will last through the *real* Christmas season, but more than that, I wonder if those people gave themselves the mental time and space to reflect on this past year and prepare for the oncoming one. Abiding by the flow of liturgical seasons can bear many fruits, if we give ourselves the time to pause and listen. For example, realizing I might be a goat and not a sheep on Judgment Day.