About lmcginnis

I'm a senior here at UPS . I'm working towards an English major and a Spanish minor. I love any kind of creative writing; I'm president of the Writers Guild. I'm working on completing my thesis, a novella titled "Like Butterflies." It's about a witch-figure who can take away people's memories. In my free time, I like to practice karate and read Agatha Christie.

0.003 Leagues under the Sea

“Yes, yes, yes!” I screamed. I had finally managed to get my weight belt off and on in the water. In case you were wondering, sliding a heavy weight belt on under an even heavier tank is harder than it sounds. There isn’t a lot of room down there. Getting it back on successfully was the last thing I had to do to get my scuba certification. This semester, I have been taking a scuba class and this weekend was our first weekend practicing in the open water.

The first day was challenging for me. My mask was way too tight. When I exhaled the bubbles actually went out the bottom instead of the top. Things were pretty blurry for a while. At one point I was practicing taking my regulator out of my mouth and putting it back in when my mask flooded. For a few seconds down there, I was fumbling around accidentally sucking in water instead of air. Luckily my instructor found my regulator and got it back in my mouth. Fun fact: If you lose your air supply twenty feet underwater, your only thought is getting it back. It really puts things in perspective. That anxiety you had about being the third wheel on a buddy team—suddenly not important.

I had to go back to shore after that. You can’t dive if you can’t see. So I was a little nervous going into today’s lesson. Barring an unfortunate incident with my vest strap everything went smoothly. Diving is relaxing. You have to breathe slowly and deeply in order to use your oxygen supply efficiently, which automatically reduces tension. Normally I chose to relax by either drinking a cup of tea or hitting a punching bag (seems paradoxical I know). But it turns out that floating weightlessly under thirty feet of water works too. You just drift there and keep your eyes open for cool aquatic life. I saw a sea cucumber, some coral, and lots of translucent little fish that looked like crawdads.

I recommend you try diving sometime. Through diving, I learned that if there’s a hole or crevice with a lot of crab parts scattered around it an octopus probably lives there (octopi eat crabs). That bubbles under water look silvery and metallic. And that if you can’t see, for God sakes, don’t take your regulator out of your mouth.

The Housing Crunch

It took me and my future housemates, four months, two hundred and thirty Facebook messages, and one encounter with a crotchety landlord to find a place to live for next semester. We settled on Trimble Hall and I signed my contract on Monday, Feb. 23rd. Somehow we bypassed the housing lottery. I think it’s because we’re juniors. It was a sunny day and the tulips were starting to wink up out of the ground. I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked out of the student development building. The entire process had felt like Sisyphus and the boulder. I’d send out half a dozen messages trying to get one option lined up and then things would change and I’d have to start all over again from the bottom of the hill. That day I finally got to put down the boulder.

It had started innocently enough with a “Hey, would you like to live together next semester” and quickly developed into “I contacted the guy with the house with laundry and he said the rent was 1095 for three people. This would be 365 per month for each of us for 12 months which comes to 4380.” The guy with the laundry turned out to be a no go. Hint: when you ask the tenant if the landlord is easy to work with and he says “you’re very funny” this is not a good sign. This landlord eventually berated me for talking too long to the tenant and would not accept an apology. He wouldn’t even look at me when I left and frankly I wasn’t too sorry to be leaving him either.

It turns out that the process for finding off campus housing starts insanely early. Begin at least a month earlier than you think you need to. When my friends and I started looking for housing it was October/November. It turns out you should start at the beginning of the semester. The first idea I had of this was when one of my co-workers said that she was getting ready to sign a lease.

My friends and I ended up in an on-campus five person suite. Once we got everything together this arrangement took about five minutes to finalize. There will be a fridge, single rooms, and a couch to collapse on while we do our homework. I’m relatively low maintenance. My cooking skills extend to chicken, pasta, and pushing buttons on the microwave. So this will work just fine. All I will ask is that my roommates keep the place clean and the noise level down after ten pm. If they can’t manage this…well, that’ll be another boulder. I’ll be sure to start early.

The Imperfect Intern

The man was dressed casually for the office in a white shirt and jeans. He had a bushy ginger beard and a paunch. “Hey New Face,” he said.

I stuck out my hand. “Hi, I’m Lorna. It’s nice to meet you.”

This was the third week of my internship at Harbor History Museum. So far, everything was moving along nicely—transportation reimbursement (check), grant edits (check), sunny day (check). My stammer was under control and I hadn’t told any bad jokes yet. It turned out that the man was a volunteer working to help restore the Shenandoah, a 1925 fishing vessel donated to the museum in 2000. When another intern asked how he could help, he said: “Grab a hammer.”

Not all my days at the office were like this. At the beginning I was nervous. I was, after all, a “new face.” There were times when my voice would go up an octave and I’d have to force the words out my throat like the last squeeze of toothpaste. I am slowly working to conquer this with a smile and my favorite pair of gray heeled boots. It works better some days than others.

This morning, I started my day at the office twenty-five minutes late. It turns out that I hadn’t turned the ignition far forward enough. At first, I thought it was the transmission stuck in reverse. I only found out it was the ignition after my second call to Zipcar customer service. In the meantime, I was stuck halfway out in the parking lot with my emergency flashers on. I got to practice my hand gesture for: “Yeah, you should go the other way.” If any of you are wondering, it’s a really awkward mix between a wave and a point. As long as you hold your hand out limply and look panicked enough, you’ll be fine. The best part was, when I finally got the office, I discovered my boss was late too.

My mistake didn’t matter because we both got there at the same time. In my English 497 class we read an article called “How to Be a Perfect Intern.” There’s no such thing. The new guy is never perfect. And as an intern, you’re not only new to the job; you’re new to the industry. You don’t know where the office pens are and you make way too much noise trying to close the filing cabinets. That’s the way it is.

I would, however, remember to check the ignition.

Stuffed Hearts

February can be a long, dull, gray month. The holidays are over but the sun hasn’t decided to come out yet. There’s mud everywhere and way too many smashed worms on the sidewalk. There’s an explosion of pink hearts around the fourteenth, but if you’re single that doesn’t really help much. All it does is remind us that, yeah, we’re still single. To all you happy couples out there I have only one word of advice: chocolate. But as for the rest of us, we may need a little something more to get us through our February malaise.

I recommend community service. Last night I participated in a Phi Eta Sigma event where we sewed little hearts and made valentines for children in need. They’re intended as comfort objects for children who are ill or who have recently lost a loved one.

When I was first born I was very sick. I had accidentally inhaled my meconium  (feces) in the womb and I had the umbilical cord knotted around my neck. I came out gray. One of the nurses was kind enough to make a little picture of me for my mom. I still have that picture today. It hangs on my wall, surrounded by my karate trophies. Mom has told me many times how happy that image makes her, how it reminds her of the healthy strong woman I’ve become. Before we move this summer, she’s going to get a picture of it to take with her to our new home. Being able to do something similar for a child in need is very rewarding for me.

I’m not the world’s best sewer. The last time I sewed was in elementary school, under the supervision of a crabby old woman named Winky Cherry. I was more interested in getting each project done fast than doing it well (I was in elementary school). I switched to knitting in fourth grade and haven’t looked back since. As a result I had to get well…creative with some of my stitches. But everything held together and in the end I had two little puffball hearts to give to children as comfort objects. Personally, my favorite comfort object is my cat. But stuffed hearts are good to—for one thing there’s a lot less kneading involved.

It felt really good to be able to do something for someone else so I definitely recommend it to all you fellow singles out there. And you know what, I recommend it to all you starry-eyed couples too.

Where do I Know you?

This past Wednesday I saw someone I knew while I was going to the library to print out my response paper and we started a conversation. During that conversation, we discovered that neither one of us remembered where we had met each other. We still haven’t figured it out yet.

UPS is a small school so you will run into faces you recognize. You will not necessarily remember, the names, majors, or places attached to those faces. If you’re lucky you might recall some random fact about the person i.e. that they once worked a lousy housekeeping job at a hotel somewhere. Tonight I had the following conversation.

“I know we’ve met but I can’t remember where. Can you tell me?”

“I’m in your memoir class and I’m a friend of Laura’s. We’ve eaten lunch together.”

“Oh. Wow.”

“Don’t feel bad though, I didn’t specifically introduce myself. I’m just really good at remembering faces.”

“Do you have any tricks for that?”

“No, I’m just good at it.”

While this is nice for her, it doesn’t do much for the rest of us. My theory is that our minds are so stuffed full of academics that there’s no room for little details like people’s names, or by the end of final’s week, our own names. My thesis, internship, and connections presentation are all fighting each other for space in my brain. Things like other people’s majors don’t stand a chance.

When I forget who someone is I smile and ask where we’ve met before. This usually works pretty well. Most of us here at UPS are friendly. We’re not going to freak out if someone forgets a name. We’ll just watch you blush while we reintroduce ourselves. We may even tell you something new that helps you remember us next time.

So the upshot is; if you forget names you’re not alone. I do it too, more often than I would like. Also, if I forgot your name at some point, I’m sorry. Consider this my blush.

PS: I finally found out where I met the girl in the library. It was at logjam last semester. So there is hope.


The transition back to UPS after the break can be a bit jarring, in the sense that flying in the Alps can be a bit bumpy. Over break my main responsibilities were drinking chai tea and reading chick lit, half the time I didn’t even have to get the tea myself. I was sick so my family got it for me. Now I’m back at school, I’m getting my own tea again (though admittedly it’s not that hard to take out a tea bag and fill it with hot water from the SUB). I’m also reading books with sentences like: “America is neither dream nor reality. It is a hyperreality. It is a hyperreality because it is a utopia which has behaved as though it were already achieved.” When I was on break all anyone asked me to deal with was reality, now I have to figure out hyperreality too. The whole thing seems very surreal.

But there are good points to coming back to UPS. The cherry trees are blooming and the SUB is serving Pork Hum Bao. We’re exercising our minds again, by force if necessary. I enjoy learning things and UPS is where I do that. Last semester I learned some Marx, some post-modern literary philosophy, and how to get nail polish stains off a carpet. This year I’m looking forward to learning what Henry Louis Gates wrote in his memoir and how to scuba dive. It involves oxygen and a wetsuit, and that’s pretty much all I know about it.

That being said, it’s a good idea to take some time for yourself. You can watch a movie, take a walk with a friend, or even make plans to become an international fugitive to avoid student loan payments. Take a deep breath and thank God it’s Friday.

Snowshoeing Is Actually Work

Snowshoeing is hard work. You do not just magically glide over the snow; that would be downhill skiing. I learned this as I was hiking up Mount Rainier, looking out at the smooth white mountains and wondering if my lungs were about to deflate like balloons. I had gone into it thinking it would be fairly easy; I’d sweat a little but I wouldn’t pant or anything. Turns out I did plenty of panting.

This was my first time snowshoeing and I went with Puget Sound Outdoors. We’d spent the morning driving through the kind of towns that were mainly gas stations with maybe a couple of trailers thrown in. The radio stations had a disproportionate amount of Spanish and Jesus rock. It was hazy but the sun was sort of shinning. In Washington in December, a sort of shinning sun counts as a clear blue sky. So it was a gorgeous day.

We stopped at the visitor center and ate some soup, bread, and some “ruggedly mature” cheese; that label got made fun of a lot. Originally, we had some of our soup in wine bottles to transport it better. Also, we were pulling it on a sled and sledding wasn’t allowed. Combine that with about ten college kids who may or may not be twenty one, and we got a visit from the ranger. She walked over, asked us a few questions, and looked at us semi-sternly. To her we probably seemed like paper work waiting to happen.

When we finally ended our hike my lungs were about to mutiny, but it was worth it. There was that rush of endorphins that comes after a workout. The view was spectacular. The sky was dark gray and sunset came early. The trees looked like they came from a holiday post card. Also, those of us who brought Gatorade poured it on the snow and made snow cones with it. I just ate a lot of snow. It’s surprisingly good, cool and clear with just the right amount of crunch. You should try it sometime.


In Defense of English Majors

From the time I was in sixth grade I had wanted to become a writer so an English major was the logical choice for me. I don’t regret it. It has been very rewarding  both personally and academically. However, since my freshman year I have been second guessing its practicality. When people asked me what I was going to do with my English major I told them that I wanted to be “a writer with a roof.”

I have been taught to believe, and to a certain extent taught myself to believe, that English was impractical from a monetary standpoint. On occasion, when I’m feeling stressed, I picture myself living in a cardboard box or moving back in with my parents. I don’t think this anxiety is unique to English majors. We all worry about what we will do after college. We cringe a little when someone asks us that question and we have no clue. However, since English is such a general major we don’t have a prescribed career path. That’s good in that we have to go find one ourselves and its bad in that we have to go find one ourselves.

It’s a specific form of English and other Humanities major nerves. But it’s absolutely worth it if you’re passionate about it. First off, it teaches you how to think in ways you would never have imagined going in. For instance, in my American Literature class we’re learning about the post-modern conception of reality—that there is no reality and all there is the projection of the artist meant to fill the void. It’s a cheerful little topic. Second, you get to meet people who care about the same things you do and then have conversations about sea-monsters w/bird beaks. And most importantly, you get to do what you love.

The nerves don’t go away though. You just have to learn to live with them. Tell yourself you’ll at least get two cardboard boxes for the winter. And if need be you can write graffiti poems on the subways, give commuters something to look at besides swearwords. If that doesn’t work you can write a blog.

Lighthouse Discussion: Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation

Last night, I attended the Lighthouse discussion on cultural appropriation and appreciation. It’s a complicated topic, and there is almost no complicated topic that cannot be made more complicated by having an academic discussion about it. It felt like looking at a sample under a microscope, only you have multiple microscopes and you’re not quite sure what the sample is. It got me to consider the issue in ways I hadn’t previously, which is what an academic discussion is supposed to do. That’s why I’m here, to learn how to think.

Before this discussion I had been a fan of cultural appreciation. Because of it I have been able to enjoy things like, yoga, enchiladas, and Celtic music. Looking at other cultures has expanded my world. I recently spoke to my friend who was studying abroad, and she regaled me about the benefits of tea and hijabs in Morocco. Personally, I may not agree with those things, or other cultural traditions I encounter, and that’s okay. Multicultural experience has made me think outside myself.

When it comes to cultural appropriation it gets trickier. No one wants to say that they are a fan of cultural appropriation. Yet, as westerners, I believe that we do appropriate other cultures as well as appreciating them. I have yet to come up with a final answer for this topic. I doubt that anyone has come up with a final answer for this topic. My take on it is that it’s generally okay to use material from other cultures as long as you acknowledge where it came from. Like when you write a paper, you want to include a bibliography.

At Lighthouse I learned that my take may not matter. In the large group discussion, someone made the point that, as members of dominant western culture, we don’t have the right to decide what we can and cannot take from minority cultures. This point makes sense to me. We may not be entitled to just grab whatever we like.

On the other hand…I still love my Celtic music.

Internship Search

This semester I decided to find myself an internship. The process was like the Odyssey, only with more paper work. As far as I know, Odysseus never had to write any cover letters. It was stressful, arduous, and time consuming but in the end I got an internship. Next semester I’ll be writing grants for the Gig Harbor History museum. It’s a fun environment with enthusiastic and dedicated people, which counts for a lot. I decided not to pursue an internship when an interviewer said to me “this job requires a thick skin which I don’t think you have.” That day I got to bike three miles there and back with a migraine to be insulted by a complete stranger. Fun. The internship process is full of little pitfalls like these which is why I’m going to share what I’ve learned. I sincerely hope it makes your life easier.


  1. Start early. Remember how it took Odysseus twenty years to get home? Well finding a good internship took me five different applications. Don’t expect the first opportunity to you find to pan out.
  2. Use resources like ASK Night and the Career Fair. I found my internship at the Career Fair. It was a great way to meet potential employers and see face to face who I was dealing with.
  3. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to interviews. I borrowed my roommate’s car and couldn’t figure out how her ignition worked. Previously, I had only driven a Prius, where you push a button and away you go. I sat there for a half an hour sending panicked texts and having several mini heart attacks.
  4. Be prepared for internship limbo. This is the period after you interview but you haven’t heard back yet. It’s a bit like Calypso’s Island without the sex. You sit there, not doing anything, and it drives you nuts.
  5. An interview is a two way street. When you interview with an organization you are also interviewing them. Ask questions. If it’s going to make you miserable you want to find out before you decide to work there.
  6. Celebrate. You worked hard. You deserve a treat, a little bit of your favorite something. Just don’t do the lotus eater thing.

If my advice doesn’t work out… find your own. Good luck with your search!