“Regret”

Should’ve.

Could’ve.

Would’ve.

Didn’t.

I’ve been tirelessly busy with graduate schoolwork, PhD applications, work and project planning, but I wanted to drop a few quick lines to say “Hello out there” and put to rest a few things that have been swimming in my mind lately. More to come!

Introduction to My Latest

Welcome to my professional page. I’m Stephen McDonald. I am, in no order of consequence: a writer, a photographer, an explorer, an Americanist cultural and historical scholar, a Progressive Christian and a devoted father a much beloved daughter. (Maybe the best for last!)

This page will include my thoughts, queries, musings and links to my writing. I also hope to include links to historical sites and places of significance that I visit to share them with you. Additional plans not limited to this page include educational videos and podcasts.

Please like my Facebook Page and follow my Instagram.

I studied at the University of Vermont but finished my undergraduate degree with a BA in American Studies from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Presently, I am a graduate student pursuing an MA in American Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Presently, I am writing my thesis exploring tribal identity and sovereignty of northeastern Native American tribes, focusing on the Ramapough Lunaape Nation.

My research interests include: Hudson Valley and New England history, American literature, American art, American music, social history, immigration and the peopling of America, slave narratives, immigrant narratives, social inequality, environmentalism, education, American social thought, progressive theology, and religion in American life.

Additional interests include psychology, economics, health care, science and technology, homesteading, country living, farming and sustainable agriculture. I like to sail. I make candles and dabble in woodworking. And I’m pretty good cook. I learned and continue to play three instruments: the guitar, the violin, and the saxophone. And I am fascinated by genealogical research and family history.

Pennsylvania is where I was raised. New York is where I live. Connecticut is where I study. Maine is where my heart lies.

After life transforming experience and finding renewed solace in my Christian faith, I am open to motivational speaking.

Please follow my blog if you like what you read.  Please contact me with any thoughts, words, queries you may have.

Thank you.  And Enjoy!

Stephen

Social Media Overload

I remember watching this powerful TED Talk by Sherry Turkle while I was taking a religion class one summer and, lately, I have been thinking of this talk again. I am wondering if I am “done” with social media.

Recently, this started with a follow I made on my Instagram account–I know! I followed a former coworker that I got along with most of the time but she could be wildly dramatic and over the top. When she sent me a follow request, because my account is private, I remembered why I blocked her on Facebook and did the same on Instagram. What changed in those few short moments was the realization that what I initiated was a superficial connection to someone who had put me off in real life, and that I had an internet presence that was disjointed from unplugged life.

Just as Turkle describes, I remember the optimism and excitement of the 1990s surrounding the nascent internet. I taught myself HTML and coded my own websites with a program called Hippie. I remember the chat rooms, which for a socially awkward teenager like myself were a lifesaver. The internet was a place to plug in, connect to share experience and wisdom, and build better lives in our unplugged worlds.

And beyond this one request, and beyond feeling connected but alone, I have felt disconnected and lonely. I felt more connected to the world on the day my daughter was born and I took one shitty picture with my shitty camera phone which I sent MMS to my real-life friends in my phonebook then I ever felt sharing a picture on Facebook. And I never lost friends because of politics. And the people I communicated with were real people with whom that I had real connections.

So my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 is to return to that 1999 way of interacting. Shunning a digital life for digital tools to enhance my real life and smaller but more connected social circles.

“The New Colossus” in the Age of “Shithole Countries”

Jimmy Carter was President when I was born. He was the Sunday School teacher who wore sweaters when it was chilly, carried his own bags and had no real discernible ideology other than a commitment to peace. As a child, I don’t ever remember hearing, “That might be how President [George H.W.] Bush talks but that’s not how we talk in the house!” But here we are, six Presidents and forty years later, talking about “shithole countries.” This exact story might be new but this is by no means “new” news. This is the “grab ’em by the pussy” Donald Trump who “schlonged” his way to the White House. After the 2016 election, the principal of my daughter’s school held an all-school assembly after students taunted others with chants of “Build the Wall!” Yes, my daughter heard what I never had, “That might be how the President talks but that’s not how you will.” I don’t want to focus on Trump. I want to focus on the “rapists” who come from “shithole countries.”

My maternal grandmother’s parents arrived from Avellino, Italy just before World War I. They were also undocumented. My great-grandfather who conscientiously objected to compulsory service in the Italian army, promptly registered for the American draft because America was a “home worth fighting for.” All three of his sons served during World War II, and one of them with the 82nd Airborne that liberated his hometown. Yes, “dreamers” who were born in America, grew up American and proudly served their country, their home, the United States of America.

My paternal grandfather’s mother, left her “shithole” country of origin twice. She was the daughter of Irish tenant farmers who were so desperate, they gave her to her “rich” uncle (a coal miner) and spent her childhood in Pennsylvania. When her uncle died, she returned to Ireland. She was the first in her family to learn how to read and write. She was also a gifted painter. She brought her family to America herself, convinced that her children were too promising to stay in Ireland. Her daughters married well. Her elder son became a successful business executive, as did her younger son (my grandfather) who was also a wounded war hero.

My 2nd-great-grandmother arrived in New York from Scotland as a young single woman at the age of 16.

My earliest American ancestors were Puritans and Huguenots — like those seeking freedom from persecution.

Those fleeing “shithole countries” are fleeing shitty circumstances in search of the promise the American Dream offers, a peaceful and prosperous existence for our families, and a home worth fighting for.

So, this is how I leave you with the “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus:

It’s Really Happening.

Good day, all!

I’m celebrating another small victory, or perhaps large victory.

A little more than one year ago, I set out to return to school and complete my degree with the ambition of continuing onwards to law school.

Last weekend, I took my Law School Admission Test, or LSATs.  Three hours of problem solving and logic puzzles.  I did it!  I’m that much closer to the goal line!

I started writing this post on September 30, 2016 after that mind numbing exercise known as the Law School Admissions Test.  I was ecstatic that I finished this test and was that much closer to achieving the goal I set out to accomplish … until I changed paths.  There have been many updates:

I am no longer interested in law school.  Being back in the classroom and thinking about the circumstances which brought me to this point, I have strongly considered graduate school for social work and American cultural studies, in that order.  I feel that I am of better services to others, and it is more rewarding to myself, to work in interdisciplinary ways which heal and create.

My blogs.  I have had an awkward relationship with blogging which I am truly attempting to shed.  I have compartmentalized my writing experiences in such a way that fragmented sounds like a much better word.  A blog for being a non-traditional student, a blog for sales and marketing strategies, a page for artwork, book reviews, being Christian, fiction writing, and being the scapegoated adult child from a dysfunctional family.  There’s a lot I want to say and just committing myself to any one voice in any singular moment just leaves me speechless, with nothing to say at all.  So, I’m consolidating and moving my blogs into a new home, which I hope you will continue to follow: stmcdonald.com.

Las Vegas and “The Mindless Menace of Violence”

When I saw this on the news, I was as stunned and speechless as many of you.  And before the smoke even clears, the political debate begins with wild accusations and even crazier conspiracies.

I was a freshman in college when the Columbine shooting happened.  When the Sandy Hook shooting happened, and, yes, it really did happen, all I could think about was those poor children were my daughter’s age.

Assault weapons have no place in civil society.  High capacity magazines and after-market modifications have no place in civil society.  More guns do not make us safer.  I understand the fantasy, “the hero”, the “good guy”,that will save the day.  He was at Las Vegas, and he ran away.

So, I’ll leave with you with the words of the late Robert F. Kennedy speaking after the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Welcome!

i-want-to-inspire-people-i-want-someone-to-look-at-me-and-say-because-of-you-i-didnt-give-up-quote-2

Hello. Welcome to my personal and professional website.  I am a progressive Christian, father, writer, hobby farmer, photographer and nature enthusiast located in New York.  I look for inspiration and motivation wherever I may find it.  I write fiction and non-fiction, essays, opinion pieces, motivational and business pieces.  After life transforming experience and finding renewed solace in my Christian faith, I am open to motivational speaking.

Please follow my blog if you like what you read.  Please contact me with any thoughts, words, queries you may have.

Thank you.  And Enjoy!

S.T. “Bear”

Back to School!

Another school year begins!

I’m excited and glad to be back this term. Work-life balance has kept me pretty busy over the summer; that and studying for my LSATs, which are now only a few weeks away.

Im sitting here in a campus dining hall, in my mid-thirties, and remembering just how depressed, sad and exhausted I was when I sat in a campus dining hall almost twenty years ago.

It was almost a reality that I would not be sitting here this evening due to my financial state.  Unfortunately, I could not secure a private student loan this year which would allowed me to continue full-time and graduate in May.  However, I am at three-quarter time and optimistic that I can finish over the summer or next December at the latest.  The reality of the matter is that my returning to school was a long-ball move where I am succeeded academically and professionally albeit with a lot of short-term “bumps in the road”, as they say.

I hope to explore those “bumps” with you this year in my blog.  How does a 35 year old single father work raise his child and go to school?  Why?  And what went “wrong” the first time around?  I look forward to exploring those questions with you.  Right now, I wish I could share this burrito because it is absolutely delicious.