— Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (via observando)
Upon graduating from college, I never expected to work frequent 10 or 12-hour days, attend school committee meetings or discover the inner workings of Mashpee Town Hall and Cape Cod regional government. But in my wildest dreams, it would have been impossible for me to imagine the people I have met and the experiences they bring that continue to reshape my ever-changing worldview. From students and teachers to legislators, town employees and any resident with a voice, Mashpee, you are truly a wonderful surprise.
East Sandwich Beach 8x10 framed photo available on my Etsy shop, lobrienphotos :)
The sun was beginning to set today as I left work, and driving down Route 28 I was struck with the urge to watch it from the quiet shores of Scusset Beach.
When I arrived I was alone with my camera, and my fingers became numb from the wind chill after only a few minutes of snapping photos—but I didn’t feel lonely or cold.
Scusset Beach was my first home, and though I don’t remember living there, I have imagined my life there through stories told by my grandparents over the years.
If my grandmother loved two things most in the world beside family, I would guess they were the beach and her Irish heritage (and perhaps Dewar’s scotch, but that’s beside the point). Walking the beach today, I watched the sun disappear behind a dune and thought about how her sun set eight years ago today when she lost her battle with Pancreatic Cancer.
The Boston Irish are a proud people, but Boston Irish women are arguably the proudest and the most stubborn; and if my grandmother, Patricia Anne White Shine or “Mimi” as we grandchildren called her, wanted to die on St. Patrick’s Day, then there was no question she would. As devastated as her family was, we couldn’t help but laugh when she won even in death, determined to go the “White” way.
Together, my family laughed and cried over the memories Mimi left, and like them, I felt a hole in my heart in the months that passed. Occasionally, my mother reported signs she received of her own mother’s presence, but I didn’t feel Mimi beside me until years later, when I traveled to Ireland for a semester in college.
I remember my first night out in Galway City like it was yesterday, stumbling into the Quay’s pub with a group of girls from my study abroad group. Immediately, we were struck by the materialization of Irish stereotypes when we encountered a group of boys fighting over a pint of Guinness.
“You owe me a pint, mate!” one yelled.
“No, you owe me a pint!” his mate shouted back.
It ended with an arm wrestling match and a round of Guinness, although I can’t recall who purchased it. The girls and I were included in the round and invited to sit at their table.
The boy who started the fight commented on the tattoo on my back of the Celtic tree of life. I explained that the butterfly beneath the tree is for my friend Maggie, who died of Cystic Fibrosis, and the numbers 1-4-3 inside the tree are for my grandmother, representing the number of letters in each word in “I love you.” It derives from my grandparents’ engagement at Minot’s Ledge Light, or the “I love you” lighthouse that blinks once, four times, and three times, in Cohasset.
“You must have pride in yer grief,” the boy said, and I asked him what he meant.
“You must have made an impact on the people you love to get them tattooed on yer body,” he said. “I think that’s a respectable thing, but I’ve never had enough pride in my grief.”
Months later, I was on a trip to the town of Doolin with my girlfriends bicycling to the shore. We reached a rocky pier and as I stopped to walk toward it, the waves seemed to crash into my soul. Suddenly, I sensed a beautiful warmth from my toes to the tips of my fingers. A presence guided me to sit down and watch the waves, and I haven’t stopped since.
It wasn’t until I rose that I noticed the lighthouse in the distance.
Imagine you have a Rolex watch. Nice fancy Rolex, you bought it because you like the way it looks and you wanted to treat yourself. And then you get beaten and mugged and your Rolex is stolen. So you go to the police. Only, instead of investigating the crime, the police want to know why you were wearing a Rolex instead of a regular watch. Have you ever given a Rolex to anyone else? Is it possible you wanted to be mugged? Why didn’t you wear long sleeves to cover up the Rolex if you didn’t want to be mugged?
And then after that, everywhere you go, there are constant jokes about stealing your Rolex. People you don’t even know whistle at your Rolex and make jokes about cutting your hand off to get it. The media doesn’t help either; it portrays people who wear Rolexes as flamboyant assholes who secretly just want someone to come along and take that Rolex off their hands. When damn, all you wanted was to wear a nice watch without getting harassed for it. When you complain that you are starting to feel unsafe, people laugh you off and say that you are too uptight. Never mind you got violently attacked for the crime of wearing a friggin time piece.
Imagining all that? It sucks, doesn’t it.Now imagine you could never take the Rolex off."
great post. only thing i would add is that sexual assault is far more traumatizing than regular assault. love the analogy though.(via justequality)
Need Christmas cards? Check out the new one on my Etsy account!
More to come :)
Photo books and “sand art” greeting cards are available for purchase on my Etsy shop! More photo cards to come :)
Are we really supposed to believe that 99% of the news that happens in our country is negative? If the majority of our televised news consists of disasters, death, crime, and overall dysfunction, how can we be expected to believe in our country - or, more accurately, the media that is supposed to objectively portray it?
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from working at the Enterprise the past two weeks is that small-scale news can change our perspectives in big ways. It’s the glimpses of local faces, the snapshots that matter: a school committee that truly cares about their students, a high school psychologist who pours his heart into his work, an elderly couple that devotes their lives to seniors who need help.
Tonight, I covered an event at an elementary school in Mashpee. As I was leaving, I noticed a janitor who had directed me to the gym stop to see the little kids play in their Halloween costumes. “Aren’t they something else?” he said.
And they were. It might not be sensational, but it’s real. And that, to me, is damn good news.
I’ve been an O’Brien my entire life, which, in a little less than two weeks, will be 23 years. From preschool through college, this was the name that was called during attendance and crossed off during summer camp check-in. It is the same name that was written on medical history forms at the doctor’s office, scribbled in varying handwritings (preferably bubble letters) on notepads in middle school, typed in headings on research papers, and called during my Emmanuel College commencement ceremony. As a budding journalist, this name has become my byline, and will appear more frequently in print as I begin my new job as a general assignment reporter for a local newspaper.
I have grown to love this name not only because it is attached to me, but because holds meaning that is significant to my life, linking my family to one of the original clans of Ireland. To lose this name would be to deny my heritage, my family, my entire identity - which is why I’ve decided to keep it when (and if) I get married.
I have to say that I’m surprised that despite the progress of women’s rights (though we still have much work to do in the US) and the changing of many old-fashioned marriage practices, the tradition of a bride taking her husband’s name still appears to be widely accepted. In 2011, a survey of 11,000 brides by theKnot.com found that just 8% kept their names and 6% more hyphenated.
Prior to taking college courses on feminism and critiquing women’s roles in the media, I was part of that vast majority, idly doodling in high school notebooks, pairing my first name with the last name of my crush or current boyfriend. It’s a scary thought that I only began to question this tradition when I learned about sexism later in life - that my natural instinct was to not only accept it, but to embrace it, because society and the media had such an influence on my developing brain.
Naming is an exercise of power. In terms of marriage traditions, this power is exercised by males upon females, and even if it’s unintentional today, the popularity of this tradition supports a vicious cycle of gender inequality. Throughout history, naming has been practiced in colonial rule, such as when Japanese imperialists forced Koreans to change their first and second names to Japanese names. The nation as a whole was humiliated, suffering a loss of cultural identity as a result.
Through the past century, American women have endured a tumultuous struggle with their identities and their roles in society. So why, in an age when we can choose to attend college, obtain high-paying careers and choose whether and who to marry, are the overhwelming majority of us conforming to the ancient practice of taking our husbands’ names?
Many articles claim the concept of name changing as a symbol of unity, which is something I can understand. But if this is the main reason, then why are mostly women making the switch? Shouldn’t unity be equal across genders? Or is the real reason that we’re still, to an extent, somewhat infatuated with the idea of “belonging” to a man?
Daily, I’m bombarded by pop songs, Tweets, and Facebook statuses, as well as conversations with other women, expressing in various ways how they allow themselves to be defined by men. Perhaps they don’t freely admit this as much as they offer implications in messages like, “I’m not hot enough for him/I want to look hot for him,” “I don’t know who I am without him,” “I belong to him,” etc.
Hollywood, too, continuously perpetuates the idea of romance as one in which a woman is swept off her feet by a man, or finds true happiness when the man of her dreams “chooses” her - but rarely the reverse.
I’d like to see a world in which men and women are equally “chivalrous”; a world in which we have conversations about marriage customs and name changing, instead of assuming that women will conform to age-old traditions. The solution does not have to be a refusal by women to change their names, but instead an expectation of gender equality in marriage practices.
Our names stand for something. Shouldn’t we, too?
I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island many years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless suffer in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amid the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides.
But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now, even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn’t he go to one of the shelters? Why didn’t he check himself into the hospital for detox?
And he stared out at the ocean and said, “Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view.”
And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. That’s all. Words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. When I do what he said, I am never disappointed."
— Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life