Merry Christmas From Marion Station - 2013

Merry Christmas from Marion Station, that little hamlet on Maryland’s Eastern Shore set between Westover and Crisfield that was named for a little girl whose father donated land for a railroad station. When local officials asked him what he wanted to name the station he said, “Marion after my daughter.”  A town grew up around that train station, a town that was an important agricultural shipping hub, particularly for strawberries.  Strawberry barons built ornate Victorian homes flanking the lane across from the station.   The locals called it “Millionaire’s Row.”  It’s the same lane Dan and I live on today some hundred years after the boom when all that wealth was created, though it’s a bit more humble in its surroundings these days.  The spirits of those who built Marion Station still creep into this old landscape, and little Marion Horsey’s name lives on through all of us who call Marion Station home.  There’s a palpable connection to the past here.  And somehow, we sense that we belong in this particular place.

2013 was a year of beginnings for us … and a few sad endings.  We lost our Uncle Sonny (Lou Granados) last summer.  We remember him for hosting our Granados clan every Easter when we were kids, and for preserving much of the Granados heritage so that we 500+ living Granados descendants of Ramon and Maria Concepcion could feel that connection with our ancestors.  Every time I made my way down to Ocean City to see Uncle Sonny he’d have a family story to share.  I’ll miss those visits.  While it’s a sad ending for the Granados’, those stories and family memories he left us will help keep us connected.  

As one life left us, a new life arrived.  This year we welcomed grandchild #9 – Catalina Morgan who has the face of an angel.  She belongs to Al and Ruthie who live in Georgia.  Dan and I haven’t met her yet but we’re excited that she’ll be visiting this Christmas with her big sister, Bailea.  Our eldest grandchild, Ben is graduating high school and has decided to serve his country in the US Army. We’re so proud of the young man he’s become. His 11-year old brother Connor spent a week with us and made us remember how fun eleven year olds are.  Like most his age, Connor thinks deeply about things, has a lot of wisdom and can have fun without feeling awkward about it.  He hasn’t quite reached that age where he think most adults are stupid.  He’s young enough to find the wonder in flying a kite old enough to do it with style and skill.   

Last summer our 9-year-old twin granddaughters Mia and Grace came to stay with us while Amber (their mother) interned at the Crisfield Pharmacy.   We did the beach (often), we rode bikes through Janes Island, flew kites at the Inlet, went to the Boardwalk, rode all the rides at Jolly Roger, did Theater Camp, toured St. Michaels, Oxford, Cambridge, and almost all of the Queen Anne’s County nature trails.  We rode the Lewes Ferry to Cape May and the twins got a tour of the Bridge and visit with the captain (thanks Shari).  We went to the Sea Glass Festival, a ghost tour in Berlin, a cemetery walk in Crisfield, fishing with Grandpa, ice cream in Chincoteague, and snowballs and fireworks in Crisfield. We watched all the Harry Potter movies and created enough artwork to fill a gallery.   

 I saw the twins last month and asked them, “What was your favorite thing of all that we did last summer?”  I recounted much of what I mentioned above to refresh their memories.  Mia said her favorite thing was coming into my office in the morning and talking when it was just the two of us.  Grace said, “My favorite thing was the walks we took at night when it was dark and we could see the stars.”  Go figure. All that entertainment and what they liked best was staying at home.  This made me realize that the entertainment was really for me, trying to squeeze every bit of fun out of our time together… to make important memories.  Silly me.  I was missing that the strongest part of lifelong memories is the people you spend it with, not so much the place you visited or the things you did.  The memories of being with people who teach us about ourselves are the stuff that life is made of. And I learned a lot about me this summer. It was one of the best summers of my life.  

Primrose's sweet little face.

 And the grandchildren keep coming.  We expect grandchild #10 to arrive in a few weeks.  Lara and David are having a baby girl next month.  Her name is Primrose.  She will be sleeping in her mother’s crib, wearing her mother’s baby clothes and hugging the teddy bear Lara used to hold.  Primrose’s arrival is much anticipated and her 3-year-old big brother Tristan (aka Muffin Man) is getting excited about the arrival.  Lara dug out her old Cabbage Patch doll from our attic and gave it to Tristan so he could have a baby too.  He feeds it, puts it to bed, wheels it around in his little shopping cart and occasionally spanks it for being bad.  Then hugs it, kisses it and says, “Awww, don’t cwy baby.  It’s okay.”  That kid should have an agent. Though Tristan looks like his daddy he has his mother’s laugh.  Could it really be that long ago that I was hearing her little laugh?  My love lived inside that little girl’s laughter. Now I see it coming around again only now it’s her love inside Tristan’s laughter …. and time circles around us.

All our grown kids are doing well though we don’t see them as often as we’d like. We keep in touch weekly (sometimes daily) via Facebook, texting and Facetime. 

This year I launched a series of ghost walks in Eastern Shore towns.  We named the series Chesapeake Ghost Walks, and due to the current popularity of ghost walks, they were very successful. I led a total of 29 tours in 2013 through Easton, Cambridge, St. Michaels, Denton, Crisfield, Princess Anne, Pocomoke City, Snow Hill, Berlin and Ocean City.  All but three sold out.  In September I led a tour through the northern region of Ireland and got some great press coverage, one media outlet stating that our Thin Places –Discover the North tour was the most comprehensive commercial tour of Northern Ireland that anyone knew about.  Both of these successes gave Dan and I the courage to officially start a tour company - Travel Hag Tours (Dan wishes the name was different). Through the company we’ll run Chesapeake Ghost Walks, tours of Ireland and eventually local group tours targeted at women who want to travel with girlfriends.   Dan is doing all the behind the scenes research and admin work while I craft the itineraries and develop the products.  So far, so good.

One of our friends asked me why I keep going back to Ireland. Why not Scotland, Wales, France?  I didn’t have an answer.  Then I started to think … “Am I in a rut?”  But on day 3 of our Ireland tour this year we visited Glencolmcille on the Slieve League Peninsula in County Donegal.  As my tour group scattered, exploring the glen, the graves and the old stones, I walked around  to the back of St. Columba’s Church and looked out across that glen. In one single moment I knew why I kept returning to Ireland.  In some strange way, I ‘m connected to that land. There’s magic in the landscape. It transforms me.  It transforms Dan.  Why go somewhere else? 

The Dark Hedges - County Antrim

The picture on the front of our card this year was taken last year in Northern Ireland.  It’s known as the Dark Hedges, and is Northern Ireland’s most photographed spot.  This lane leading to an old County Antrim plantation is lined with beech trees that were planted in the 1750s.  They’ve now grown to create the ethereal canopy of silver-limbed branches.  The Dark Hedges was the setting showing the Kingsroad to Winterfell in the Game of Thrones series.  It captures that “sense of the otherworld”  - the thin places where the two worlds mingle in the magical Irish landscape.  The picture of Dan and me on the inside of the card was taken on our anniversary at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.   This year we’re running two tours to Ireland, one in May – Discover the North repeating much of the 2013 tour but with an overnight stay on Tory Island, and a 2nd tour in September – Castles, Saints and Druids where we’ll visit 7 castles (including an overnight visit at Barberstown Castle), 10 monastic settlements and 8 megalithic sites.  We’d love for you to join us.  You can see the complete itinerary at  <---  shameless plug.

An Irish friend told me that he missed the days when Christmas was celebrated with only food, friends and the Christmas candle in the window.  The current commercialism clutters his Christmas experience.  I told him I loved the glitz, the lights, the trees, the carols, the decorations, the cards, the parties --- and yes, the presents.  Sure some people make Christmas all about things but those folks would have difficulty with any kind of Christmas because their hearts empty.  But for me the lights and decorations create an anticipation of something great to come, they frame a meaningful experience. And there’s something about seeing a wrapped gift with your name on it.  What’s more personal than your name, handwritten on a tag attached to a gift someone chose for you – a gift they wrapped in pretty paper to make it a surprise? Exchanging gifts gives us joy.  Presents are the physical manifestation of love, like a wedding ring or a sliver cup for a new baby or new bike for 7 year old.  

The Christmas glitz provides a backdrop for an experience of remembering  - remembering our blessings, remembering that there is value in this crazy life as long as we cling to love, remembering that there’s always hope no matter how bad things seem, remembering a little boy who was born away from home to frightened young parents who had to run for their lives shortly after his birth, who didn’t even have a shirt to clothe him in – the same little boy who grew up and told the world to welcome the stranger, include the marginalized, liberate the oppressed, feed the hungry, comfort those who mourn, to stop judging and start loving.

Christmas is the road we follow back home every year. It’s the place we stop to remember the good things when time circles around us. Christmas is about connection and knowing every good thing in life comes through connection. It's knowing that nothing is ever accomplished or gained without being connected to others. No one rises from the ashes of despair without relying on a friend.  It’s what we hunger for – connection to our ancestors, to the land, to those we love, to nature, to our Creator.  And sadly it’s a time of despair for those who can’t grab onto anything because their disconnection is magnified by a world of people seemingly fixated on remembering everything they ever loved. 

Here’s to being connected to you, our friends and family.  Though we many not see you often, you matter to us.  Nothing is ever lost to the heart, which is why we can pick up where we left off the next time we’re together and know our affection for each other has not changed even though our hair continues to grey and our faces have a few more lines.  May your new year be blessed with connections that fill your life with joy and love and laughter.   

May your road be easy, may you find new friends and may all your Christmas wishes come true.   

May God bless you and those you love. 

Dan and Mindie Burgoyne
Marion Station, MD
December 19, 2013

Happy Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus for the Rest of Us
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5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Christmas Letter
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Thanksgiving Traditions & Recipes - It's Good to Be Stuck in a Food Rut

Gobble Gobble Gobble

Some Things Should Never Change - Like the Thanksgiving Menu

 As far back as I can remember we have always prepared the same Thanksgiving recipes on Thanksgiving. There was never a deviation.  The menu was always the same.

When I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I served the same food my mother  serves and she the same as her mother.

Later, when my siblings hosted our family Thanksgivings - they might add a dish or two  (from their spouse's family traditions) but we always had "our" same Thanksgiving foods prepared the exactly the way they'd been prepared for three generations.

Thanksgiving was not a time to get creative with new recipes.

Once somebody thought it would be good to have oyster and sausage in the stuffing. I remember thinking "Why?"

It wasn't a hit.  It wasn't that we were adamant or committed about having the same old food.  We just ....always had the same old food.  Not to have it was awkward.  Our subconscious minds were dictating ... "of course we'll have avocado salad with crab meat, turkey, cranberries, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green beans with garlic, stuffing, sauerkraut (I honestly don't know how that got started), pumpkin pie and apple pie with genuine whipped cream."

The Thanksgiving menu was always the same.  You be as creative as you please with food on Christmas or Easter or birthdays, but if we didn't have the same old food on Thanksgiving - it wasn't Thanksgiving.


1979 - Son, Dominic's first Thanksgiving
Besides the traditional food you always eat, there's the things you always do.  You don't know why you do these things. You just do them.

The Thanksgiving rituals in our house, and in my mother's house, and in my grandmother's house were the same.  I don't particularly love the traditions.  I just do them.  Because it's what we do.  It's like Catholic guilt.  You just can't overcome it.  The traditions are bred into you.

Don't even think about not having sauerkraut smell up the house first thing in the morning or not serving sweet potatoes. I hate sweet potatoes and so do most of my children.  But I make them. Because you have to have sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving.

Guilty confession:  I dropped the avocado and crab meat salad.  Avocados make me puke and putting crab meat next to an avocado is like creme brulee next to dog poop.

Eating off the fine china - no paper plates for us.  My grandmother had six children and those six gave her thirty grandchildren.  When her house became too small for the whole family to gather at Thanksgiving, we rented the Candlelight room at St. Bernard's Church.

All the Granados' showed up, and each family brought their own china. Folding tables were placed in one long row, with tablecloths and cloth napkins.  Each family was identified by the plates on the table.

China was something to brag about in those days.  Young girls picked out a pattern before they got married and gradually acquired a full set  for when their families could eat Thanksgiving dinner on their china. When my sister and I got married, my mother gave us the china we had chosen.  Mine was Royal Doulton - Old Colony, and this year, like every year my family will be eating off that china.

2011 - Grandson Tristan's First Thanksgiving

Youngest gets the drumstick - Whomever was the youngest on Thanksgiving would be awarded the drumstick. Then someone would invariably take a picture of this lucky kid with the drumstick carefully placed in front of him or her. Then there would be clapping and ooohing and ahhhing as the dumbfounded child was encouraged to "dig in" to the big prize.

I think I got the drumstick for about 17 years because I was the youngest in the family.  I was so glad when my nephew Preston was finally born and I could finally shake the "youngest gets the drumstick" legacy.

2010 - Anabelle was the youngest - She got the Drumstick

Christmas music starts - I start playing the Christmas music on Thanksgiving and then play it continually through the season.  I still have 50-CD changer and have so much Christmas music that I can fill it up twice. I turn it on every day that I'm home all the way through the Epiphany (Jan 6) which marks the end of the Christmas season for us.

2005 - Mia and Grace's first Thanksgiving with
their drumsticks (on the Old Colony china)

New Tradition - Little Girls eat off their "future" china.   This year I'm starting a new tradition.  We have twin granddaughters who are seven this year.  After they were born, I began buying them pieces of Homer Laughlin china, American table ware from the 1940-50s.  I chose the pattern "Mary Ann" for Grace and "Tulips in a Basket" for Mia.

By the time they are married I should have the full set done for them which is when I'll let them finally take it out of my china closet.  This Thanksgiving, I'm going to let Mia and Grace eat off the   china that I bought especially for them.  So they can get a little feel for something that will be theirs one day. 


Here are a few recipes from our Granados Thanksgivings.  Don't expect culinary wonders here.  We aren't chefs.  Well, my cousin Katie is a chef - but I think she'd still make this same food on Thanksgiving.

These are my favorites.

Green Beans with Garlic
Totally unhealthy - heart attack inducing comfort food - serves 10 to 12

Put 5 to 6 slices of bacon in a frying pan and fry until crispy.
Remove bacon and drain off all but about 2 Tbs of bacon grease.
Over medium heat, saute 4 cloves of chopped garlic in the bacon grease.
Break up the bacon and add it in.
Add steamed or canned green beans and turn lightly so all are coated.
Cook the beans for about 10 - 15 minutes until they absorb the grease.
Add a little garlic salt.
Serve immediately.

Apple, Raisin and Sage Stuffing
This stuffing is addictive.  You can't stop eating it.

1 bag of herbed breaded cubes or 9 cups of bread cubes
1/2 cup raisins (soak in hot water 1 hour before)
3 stalks of celery - chopped (with leaves)
1 lg. red onion
3/4 cups butter
2 apples - peeled and chopped
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp crushed sage leaves
1 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp pepper

In large skillet, saute onion and celery in the butter.  Stir in 1/3 of the bread cubes.  Turn into a deep bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and toss.

If stuffing a turkey, add stuffing just before roasting.  Cook additional stuffing in a covered casserole dish in 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Sauerkraut with Pork
Super easy - nothing to this.  Best part of making this is starting it first thing in the morning, making the house smell like sauerkraut, and tasting it constantly while cooking the meal (with wine, of course). Hopefully there will be some left by dinner and the cook is still sober enough to serve it.  

2 lg cans of sauerkraut
1lb pork shoulder butt (Westphalia Ham)

Dump sauerkraut into a large saucepan. Cut up pork into chunks and add to the sauerkraut.  Cook about 5 to 6 hours - simmering.  Taste often.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I'd love to hear about your traditions.  

 Read 5 Tips For Creating the Perfect Christmas Letter

Other Christmas Posts:  
Five Christmas Traditions to Enrich Your Holidays 
Happy Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus for the Rest of Us
The Santa Diaries - A Private Look at Christmas in St. Michaels
An Eastern Shore Solstice - Darkness is Ebbing
When People Hurt at Christmas

Burgoyne Christmas Letters
Christmas Letter 2013
Christmas Letter 2012
Christmas Letter 2011
Christmas Letter 2010
Christmas Letter 2009
Christmas Letter 2008
Christmas Letter 2007
Christmas Letter 2006

12 Things I'd Do if I Were Pope for the Day

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would order all bishops and cardinals if they're not already doing so, to live with their priests in the diocesan communities - not in an exclusive residence.  The title bishop should not exalt the ordained, but humble.  I would remind them that they are shepherds called to serve their flock.  They need to live among the sheep. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would challenge all priests to rediscover the wonder and mystery of the sacraments.  If they believe in grace, in blessings, in miracles - if they believe that bread and wine is transformed into the Divine Presence during the consecration - it should show on their faces.  Their eyes should reflect that sense of wonder.

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would address Catholics everywhere in a public video announcement that would be posted to the Vatican YouTube Channel and released to press outlets worldwide. I would speak on behalf of the Church and say:
"We are sorry.  We are sorry that priests whom you trusted, abused your children.  We are sorry and disgraced that in some cases we protected these predators.  We are also sorry that through our efforts to keep our universal family in tact, we sometimes disciplined without love, judged without understanding, and used fear and guilt to control you, rather than employ vision and passion to lead you.  But we love you - all of you.  And as all men's sins are shortcuts to love, we confess our sins, but proclaim that love for you has always occupied the greatest portion of our heart.  And our love still stands firm, unwavering and unconditional.  We pray that God will show us how to bind up our wounds and find each other again, and walk together as a family."

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would remind my faithful - especially priests, teachers, and parents that love relationships are like bank accounts.  Affirmations are the deposits.  Corrections and criticisms are withdrawals.  Overdrafts carry penalties, and bad credit is hard to shake.  Don't offer a correction or cast your judgements without making a few deposits first. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would immediately decree that women can be ordained and priests can marry.  Then I'd appoint a task force to develop a strategy for integrating these changes into the Church's infrastructure.  There would be little or no discussion regarding the justice of this decision. 

If I were Pope for day ...
... I would pose this question to every woman... "When does life begin?"   And since we could debate the question into infinity, I would beg women everywhere to give "life" the benefit of the doubt.  Choose life.  Always choose life.  Trust God to work it out.  Likewise, I'd encourage Catholic institutions to demonstrate their support by not exiling women who choose life from schools and pastoral ministries just because they are unwed mothers.

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would allocate funds for a worldwide marketing campaign that encourages praying the rosary, complemented by handing our free rosaries, online instructions on how to say it, and testimony from rosary devotees about the benefits.  Funds would also support developing a Rosary YouTube Channel. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
...I would demand two immediate changes in clergy lifestyle.  Priests and bishops would be required to spend at least two weeks per year in personal reflection and uninterrupted prayer (not a vacation) in order to recharge the spirit.  They would also be required to share at least one meal a week with a local family.  Yes - every week.  The purpose of this meal-sharing is for the clergy to learn - not teach. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would ban all clothing that denotes religious importance.  This would include gold crosiers, ornate mitres, choir robes and expensive vestments.  This is not an effort to berate symbolic or ritual garments, but to eliminate the flashiness that implies that those wearing the garments are worthy of worship. I would also officially ban forever - the kissing of rings.

If I were Pope for the day ...
...I would assign a marketing task force to bring the good works of the Church into the media spotlight.  The Church gives millions to charitable causes world wide, and engages in countless acts that serve the world's poor and needy, yet we keep a low profile about these involvements.  It's time to balance the public view. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would warn all priests and bishops that ecclesiastical ambition is sinful and unnecessary.  I'd encourage them to reject the desire for title, power and recognition, and realize that God is strongest in them when they are the most vulnerable. Jesus Christ rejected titles, and the ones around him who sought power and control were the very ones who organized his crucifixion. 

If I were Pope for the day ...
... I would encourage the faithful to realize that being a priest is not easy.  Most of the feedback they get from a congregation is critical.  Priests are seldom appreciated or personally affirmed, yet they are expected to be an infinite well of spiritual insight, understanding, forgiveness, and encouragement. Priests are always on call, and to them it often seems that no matter how much of themselves they give... it's never enough.  They are often lonely.  Remember that priests are human too.  Affirm them when you can, give them the space they need,  and do your part in working with them to nurture the faith of the community. 

There it is. Twelve insights of a lifelong Catholic who worked many years in the Church.  I'm sure  some readers will find my insights impractical and even blasphemous.

But then ... the name of this blog is ...   (read the header if you've forgotten).

Copyright 2013, by Great Blue Media.  Portions of this article were published in 2007.  This article written on the morning Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.