Friday, November 28, 2014

What Are You Really Thankful For?

Happy Black Friday!  I hope everyone who ventured out today was successful :) The power at my house just came back on after almost 48 hours without it, so, in between celebrations of the fact that we now have electricity - and the fact that yesterday was Thanksgiving - I thought I'd write a little more about what I'm thankful for.
Even though it messed with our power, the snow is still beautiful!
I like to think of myself as a grateful person, and most of the time I think I do a pretty good job acknowledging the blessings in my life.  However, it is very easy to get distracted by various stresses in my life - too much homework, not enough sleep, not being able to decide what to make for dinner, etc.  What I need to remind myself is that these can all be looked at as blessings in disguise.  If it weren't for my parents' encouragement and support, I wouldn't have the opportunity to go to school, and therefore wouldn't "get to" be stressed about homework.  As much as I enjoy sleeping, I have to remember how fortunate I am to have a place that is comfortable and warm to sleep every night.  As for dinner, I am so lucky to be able to decide what I want to eat, and that I can eat something different every night if I want to.

I have mentioned in many of my posts how lucky I am to go to Saint Mike's and to have such wonderful people in my life.  But there are some things - like electricity - that I forget to be thankful for.  My recent lack of electricity, while annoying, no doubt, has reminded me how lucky I am to have a few things in particular that electricity provides for me:

-Running water. I didn't realize how often I actually use running water.  The first things I do in the morning are wash my face (usually with warm water), use the bathroom, and brush my teeth.  Throughout the day, I am constantly going to the sink to fill up my water bottle.  Since my house has a well, these things aren't as easily done when the power is out.

-Refrigeration. Although we arguably have a "natural" refrigerator outside since it's so cold, my parents made sure everyone was very careful about not opening the refrigerator so as to make sure our food didn't go bad.

-Lights. I have certainly been much more conscious of daylight during the past 48 hours.  Also, as a college student, I tend to be up working long after dark.  Not having power made me all the more aware of this fact, and I am now that much more appreciative of lights and how they enable me (for better or worse) to stay up working!

-Internet. As much as I sometimes wish it weren't the case, I am on my phone quite a bit.  And as I always point out when I come home, New Hampshire isn't known for its fantastic cell coverage.  I can send texts, but trying to open my email or any of my other apps is a bit much when I don't have internet.  Thankfully I wasn't in dire need of wifi for the past two days, but it affected me nonetheless.  My roommates and I have a group chat on Facebook, which is how we primarily connect with each other when we're all home.  Not having internet, and therefore not being able to talk to my roommates as easily, was not fun for me!
Lauren, Cait, Alex, and me after a delicious dinner
at
El Gato on Church Street - one of our favorite spots!

So I have to admit that my family does have a generator (finally, after many years without one!).  I know this might seem like cheating or that I didn't really have to go without power.  Our particular generator doesn't make everything in our house work, and we turned it off at night.  We also didn't even turn it on the first night of having no power, so we relied on candles, flashlights, and lots of blankets!  In any case, the generator is one more thing to be thankful for.

To end this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for my family, my beautiful friends, my health, safety, Saint Mike's (and everything that encompasses), my faith, love, all the opportunities that have been put before me, and all the things that come with electricity, among other things.  And of course, I'm thankful for everyone who reads my blog! :)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and really took some time to think about the blessings in their lives.  If you're reading this, that likely means you have internet, which is certainly one thing to be happy about!

Happy almost December!
Merrill

PS In case you're wondering, my family did have turkey yesterday.  My mom grilled it!

PPS Since it's now after Thanksgiving, I think it's officially socially acceptable to say that I'm listening to Michael Buble's Christmas album and absolutely loving it :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Break - Half Way Over Already!

Hello everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! And to those of you getting snow at the moment, I hope you're enjoying it :) I have been home in New Hampshire since this past Friday and have been loving every minute of it.  

I surprised myself on Friday afternoon when I realized before I left SMC that I had little desire to leave.  This was yet another reminder of how I really consider Vermont to be my second home.  However, I have been having a great time in New Hampshire, so much so that I didn't do any significant amount of homework until today (oops!).  As soon as I arrived home on Friday, I went for a walk with my mom before it got too dark.  We went to one of our favorite spots that has a great view of the mountains (just like Vermont).  Just like what happened in Ireland, none of the pictures we tried to take captured the beautiful sunset.


One of Connell's and my favorites at the moment.


In addition to walking, I have been having a great time quoting some of my favorite movies (specifically Pirates of the Caribbean and Elf) with my brother Connell.  Aside from a select  few (shout outs to Lauren and Emma), I don't normally tend to quote movies as much at school as I do at home.  Must be a New Hampshire thing!



I have also gotten to spend some time with my goat Jack.  My other goat, Sonia, unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago, so it has been really important to me to have some bonding time with Jack.  All he wants to do is eat, per usual!

On Saturday, I went to Mass with my family.  As much as I like the priest at my parish here, I have never found any church with music quite as good as the music at Saint Mike's.  Sunday night Mass is definitely one of the things I'm looking forward to when I return this weekend!

On Saturday I also spent a lot time searching online (Etsy is dangerous) for the perfect Christmas presents for my roommates.  I was successful, and absolutely cannot wait until they arrive so I can wrap them and give them out!

Sunday morning was spent with the girls I babysit for.  We made rubber band bracelets, played outside, had brownie cupcakes, and one of them made me a banana peanut butter smoothie.  It was such fun to embrace a bit of my inner child with them!

My best friend Paige slept over on Sunday night.  We hadn't seen each other since the end of August, and since she usually doesn't come home for Thanksgiving, our time together was particularly special.  As much as we text and talk on the phone, it was even better to be able to hang out face to face and chat about what's been on our minds lately.

While being home I was also able to visit Meghan, who I roomed with while I was in Ireland.  She happens to live in Vermont and go to school in New Hampshire, just half an hour away from my house.  We shared some hot cider and I got to see her townhouse.  I had a great time and can't wait until we meet up again!
Meghan and me, back in August when she came to visit me
in VT before the semester began
I had every intention of starting some of my homework yesterday, but instead I ended up hanging out with my friends Rebecca and Amber (we were going to hang out tonight, but decided it was best not to drive in the middle of a snowstorm!).  Today I was actually productive (thank goodness) and am feeling a bit less overwhelmed.  It is often difficult for me to justify taking breaks when I know I have a lot of work to do, but even writing this post has helped me to see that I really have been doing a lot with my time (even if it hasn't all been devoted to work).  I have even made a little time to read (a novel, not for school) before bed every night.  I am certainly looking forward to doing more of this when I'm  home for Christmas.

So I guess the main point of this post is to remind everyone (especially myself) that it really is okay to take a little time off from work.  I even got an email from one of my professors yesterday saying that she hoped we were all having a "real break."  After taking some time for myself, I am feeling better about what I need to accomplish before the end of the semester.  More importantly though, I am overwhelmed (in a good way) with how many wonderful people are in my life (both at school and at home), which I think is quite fitting for this time of year.

Since I'm obsessed with snow, I have to include one of the pictures I took of today's storm:
For everyone driving, stay safe!  And for those of you who aren't, enjoy the winter wonderland :)

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading!
~Merrill

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What's Up With Townhouse 214

Hello everyone! With only one week left of classes until Thanksgiving break, the end of the semester is getting closer and closer.  So crazy to think about! However, my townhouse (#TH214, as we like to call ourselves), is committed to having a little fun mixed in with our work.  

For the past three weeks, an electricity competition has been going on to see who can use the least amount of energy.  Our house came in second place.  More importantly, every Friday during the competition, we received an email with a spreadsheet of how much electricity we used as a house as well as individually.  The email also included an estimate of how much our electricity bill would be (per month) if we were paying for it on our own.  Given that we're seniors and will likely have our own places to live next year, this information will be really helpful in the future.  The competition also inspired us to be more conscious of how much energy we use.  We now make more of an effort to turn off lights downstairs when we're all upstairs, for example.

As I alluded to in my last post, my house is also getting pretty excited for Christmas (yes, we know it's not even Thanksgiving yet).  Last weekend, we did some decorating, but with all the other exciting things we did I didn't have room to include pictures.  Here's one of our tree:

Hopefully I'll bring back some presents to put under it after Thanksgiving.

While decorating, we found a big stocking, but decided that we wanted to get a few more so we could each have one.  On Monday I happened to be in the grocery store and saw some adorable mini-stockings, so I decided to get them for everyone in my house.  We hung them up by the stairs:


This weekend has been fairly productive for all of us.  On Friday, we all attended the annual Career Symposium.  There were a lot of alumni who came in to help with the panels and roundtable discussions, which was very much appreciated!  It was a great opportunity to be able to connect with alumni, hear their stories, and ask them questions about how they got to where they are now.  The best part is that, through the Office of Career Development as well as the Alumni and Parent Relations Office, we can connect with alumni any time we want!

I spent much of yesterday doing homework, and ended it by watching Friends (for the first time ever) with my housemate Lauren.
Oldie but goodie! :)
Now I'm off to do some homework before Mass tonight.  Have a great week!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Beauty of Being Sporadic

Hello everyone! I can't believe (once again) it is already Sunday.  My weekends here at SMC always seem to go by so quickly!  This weekend was particularly packed and exciting, however.  As you may know from my previous post, I have been wanting to visit the Whale Tails on the side of I-89 that I always pass on my way up to Vermont.  My housemates helped make that little dream come true for me this weekend.

Thankfully, one of my housemates Cait (also known as Sharkbait), knew how to get to the Tails.  So yesterday afternoon, after we feasted on some monkey bread and decorated our house for Christmas (we know it's early, but we're really excited), we piled into my car and set out on our little adventure.  The Tails were actually really easy to find, and there just so happened to be some people there when we arrived who were kind enough to take a group picture for us.
Alex, Lauren, me, and Cait
Being the slightly crazy people we are, we of course had to take some silly photos:
Lauren, me, and Alex
Lauren and Cait
My signature victory/this is great/I'm finally here pose (which started while I was in Ireland last semester):

After we had our picture-taking fun and were walking back to the car, we noticed another silly picture opportunity:
Cait, me, and Lauren
Me, Lauren
I was so happy that my housemates were able to take some time out of their days to help me check off something on my SMC Bucket List.  We had been planning on going since last weekend, so it was nice to have our little adventure to look forward to throughout the week.

As much as I love making plans (and don't know what I would do without them), I also love to do things in the spur of the moment (sometimes).  On the way home from the Whale Tails, someone suggested we visit the Cabot Cheese store in Waterbury.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity, and though I could've used that time to be doing homework, I decided to continue the adventure.  This whole semester, I have been feeling like time has been flying by, so I've been working on trying to take some time to just breathe and enjoy life.  Plus, going to the Cabot store was another item on my bucket list, just waiting to be checked off.

We dropped Alex off because she had to study for the GMAT exam she'll be taking on Thursday (good luck Al!!), and then Lauren, Cait, and I headed to Waterbury.  The store was awesome - full of fun Vermont/cheese-themed gifts.  My favorite part was the endless amount of samples they had - I never knew there were so many kinds of cheese!
sampling round table toothpicks cheddar artisan reserve garlic and herb

Once we had our fill of cheese, we headed back to SMC.  To go along with our Christmas theme from earlier that morning, we put on some Christmas tunes.  I already love driving, and driving with my housemates listening to music and being silly was exactly what I needed for the afternoon.  If you had asked me this past week if I thought I would have time to go to the Whale Tails and down to Waterbury, I would've said no.  But I decided to make the time to do it anyway.  And although I might stay up a little later than I should tonight, I don't regret it at all.  

During my Practicum class this week, my professor asked everyone to go around the room and share what we do to take care of ourselves, especially during this time when the end of the semester is so close and finals are approaching.  I couldn't help but think of him as I decided to take the day off yesterday.  I do have a decent amount of work I need to accomplish tonight, but I am in a much better place, mentally, to get a lot accomplished than I would've been if I hadn't taken that time for myself.  It took me a while to learn the importance of relaxation, and I still have to remind myself to do it sometimes (in all honesty, this post is partially to help me justify the way I spent my day yesterday!).  But at the end of the day, I get so much happiness from spending time with my housemates and friends, and wouldn't trade that time for the world.  I am so thankful every day that I chose to come to Saint Mike's and meet the people I have.  As I've said before, I couldn't ask for a better SMC family!

Very quickly before I get back to my work - special shout out to my friend and previous roommate Emma, who had a birthday yesterday!  Another shout out goes to all the prospective students and families that were here for the Open House today - I had a great time giving a tour and I hope you all enjoyed your time here!

Thanks so much for reading my blog, and feel free to email me with any questions you may have!

Merrill

PS I haven't included a "what I'm listening to now" feature in a while - sorry about that!  My song for the week is Take Your Time by Sam Hunt. Loving it!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Update on the SMC Bucket List

Though I look forward to every weekend at Saint Mike's, I had been looking forward to this one in particular for a while.  The girls I nanny for at home in New Hampshire during the summer and their mom had been planning a trip to come visit me at school, and this weekend it finally happened.  In addition to having fun just spending time with them, I got to do some things that are unique to Vermont.  On Friday, I met them at the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury.


 We took a tour of the factory and of course received free samples at the end - Sweet Cream and Cookies was the flavor of the day.  It tasted just like cookies & cream (one of my favorite flavors) and was absolutely delicious.  Since it was Ben & Jerry's, I would expect nothing less!

After the tour, we went to the scoop shop and got a few more samples.  I tried one of the new Saturday Night Live flavors called Gilly's Catastrophic Crunch.  It was absolutely delicious!  Once we finished our ice cream, we had some fun exploring, including playing on the playground and walking through the Flavor Graveyard.


It looks even better with the fall decorations and mountains in the background!

Genevieve, me, and Grace, all smiles :)
Next, we headed to Burlington to have dinner at American Flatbread.  I was especially excited for this part of the weekend because I make frozen American Flatbread pizza for the girls quite often when I'm taking care of them, and because it has been on my Saint Mike's Bucket List for a while now.  Sure enough, the pizza was absolutely delicious, and so were their salads!  It was really cool to be able to see the oven where the pizza is made - it contributed to the overall fun, cozy, Vermont atmosphere.  We even made room for some dessert.  I have to say though, the ice cream didn't compare to what we had at Ben & Jerry's earlier!

The next morning, we went to Sneakers for breakfast in the Winooski circle - just down the street from Saint Mike's.  I had heard of it before but never gone.  Some of my friends from my Practicum class strongly encouraged me to check it out.  Unfortunately we had to wait a while before we were seated, but the food was totally worth the wait!

Once we were full of delicious breakfast, I took the girls back to Saint Mike's to show them my townhouse and some of my favorite parts of campus.  It was really cool to be able to show them what I've been talking to them about for four years now.  We spent a lot of time hanging out in the word garden - I think that might have been the girls' favorite part of campus!


Me (holding "Believe"), Grace (holding "Glad"), Genevieve (holding "Thankful")
One of my creations - inspired by the many hugs I received
this weekend as well as in general - SMC is a very huggy place!


 Once we were done exploring campus, it was time for the girls to head back home.  I was sad to see them leave, but I'll be able to see them in a few weeks when I go home for Thanksgiving break.

Though I know I could've gotten more homework done this weekend, I'm really happy that I gave myself a break (I had to hand in a partial draft of my senior thesis last week!) to have fun AND check off a few things on my Saint Mike's Bucket List.  To be honest, finding a balance between work and relaxation is always a challenge, but hopefully it'll all be worth it in the end!

Thanks for taking the time to read my post!  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email me or contact me via Twitter.  Have a great week everyone!

Merrill

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"So, What Are Your Post-Grad Plans?"

Throughout my time as a college student, but especially now that I'm a senior, I constantly get asked what I want to do after I graduate.  It has simply become a habit to respond by saying that I want to be a school counselor.  This was my intent when I came to college - I chose Psychology as my major because I wanted to be "the next Brian" (Brian was my high school counselor).  Now that I'm getting closer to the end though, I'm not so sure.  This is partially terrifying, but it is also liberating to know that I'm not tied down to any one thing yet.

So, where do I go from here?  This semester I have been thinking a lot about what I might want to do next year, not in terms of specific job positions, but about what I might want out of my career.  If I know anything about myself, it is that I love connecting with people.  Even though I might be shy in some situations, I have come to realize that I do not feel fulfilled at the end of every day unless I've had meaningful interactions with the people around me.  A few weeks ago in my Practicum class, we took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test.  I was surprised to see that my results indicated that I was a slight extrovert - something I never would've classified myself as before.  But after having one of the wonderful career counselors, Chris Clary, come in to my class and help us further understand our results, considering myself a slight extrovert made sense to me.

Here are the different categories that the test rates you on. (Photo source here)
A few weeks ago, I got an email from Career Development about a workshop called "Right for You, Good for the World: Aligning Your Skills With Your Passion."  This could not have come at a better time for me and I was very excited to attend.  Career counselor Ingrid Peterson and Joan Wagner, Director of Community Engaged Learning, presented information they had learned from a conference they attended this summer.  The workshop centered around thinking about my "head" (the abilities I have/that others see me as having), my "heart" (what I care most about - people, issues, what I want out of life, etc.) and combining these two things to form my "hustle" (a job or position that I would get a lot out of).  While I didn't come away from the workshop with a solidified idea about what job might be best for me in the future, the diagram I filled out/notes I took definitely gave me some material to continue my thinking.

Last week, I had an appointment with my career counselor Aislinn Doyle.  Her office is in Klein, and it was the first time I'd been back since being in Ireland.
Here's Klein - home to Personal & Career counseling,
the Office of Study Abroad, Peer Tutoring, and Human Resources.
I was honestly a bit nervous to meet with Aislinn because I hadn't prepared anything concrete for her to look at or for us to talk about, but I walked away from the meeting feeling very successful.  She listened as I explained to her my thoughts about next year.  She agreed with my decision to take at least a year off before attending graduate school, especially because I'm not absolutely positive about what I want to do.  Aislinn also gave me a few websites to explore and suggested I start looking at job descriptions that might interest me.  Best of all, she reassured me that I was in a good space for the time being and encouraged me to come back at any time with questions I might have for her.  I was so happy I finally had an appointment with her (6 weeks into the semester...whoops!).

I am home this weekend because we had Friday off and I had to get my wisdom teeth out (this relates, I promise!).  Yesterday I was in the grocery store with my mom and we ran into my elementary school art teacher as well as a parent of one of my elementary school classmates who of course asked about my future.  Although I don't have a specific plan for after graduation, it was great to be able to admit this, yet also explain that it's not for lack of effort or thinking on my part.  I am so happy to be able to take advantage of all the resources Saint Mike's has to offer (including a GRE prep class, a graduate school fair, the Learn, Work, and Serve Expo coming up on Monday, the Career Symposium in November, and much more).  While I'm not excited to leave the SMC, I know I'll always be part of the community no matter how far I am from campus.  I'm excited to continue living with my awesome housemates, as well as after graduation, no matter where I end up.

Thanks so much for reading my blog, and have a great rest of the weekend!
~Merrill

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Home Away From Home

Hello everyone and happy Open House day! It seems like just a few days ago I was packing up and getting ready to head back to Saint Mike's for my final year (craziness!).  Although time is going by faster than I'd like, I'm keeping busy with my classes while also making time for some fun adventures with my friends. I will be giving my first tour after being back from studying abroad in Ireland in a little while, so I thought I'd write a post to get me even more excited to share all the things I love about SMC.

First of all, I absolutely LOVE my housemates.  I'm living a townhouse this year, which means I have my own room for the first time (in college, that is).  Downstairs we have a kitchen and living area complete with a big table as well as a couch and some of our favorite comfy chairs.  Upstairs we have a nice bathroom and each of our rooms.  This year I'm living with some of my favorite people on this campus: one of my best friends Caitlin, and my friends and fellow bloggers Alex (check out her post with some awesome pictures of our house) and Lauren (who has also blogged about our house).  I could not be more thankful to be living with these girls - they never fail to put a smile on my face, no matter how stressful my day has been.  Hanging out with my housemates is always a highlight of my day.
Cait, Alex, me, and Lauren
My housemates are more than just the people I live with.  They are there to support me in all that I do - on campus and off.  This semester I'm taking four classes, which have all proven to be a lot of work so far.  My weeks start off on Mondays at 9:45, when I have my Psychology Senior Seminar, called History & Issues.  I am really enjoying this class so far because I've never taken the time to look at how the psychology I know today has developed.  I have decided to write my senior thesis for this class on eating disorders and what causes them.  While I've written many papers throughout my time at college, I've never gone to the library specifically to have a reference librarian help me find articles relevant to my topic until this past week.  I was amazed at how quick, easy, and helpful it was and definitely plan on using that resource again.

The other psychology class I'm taking is called Practicum. While we meet for two and a half hours a week (on Monday afternoons), the majority of the work for this class takes place off-campus.  Each student in the class has an internship somewhere in the Greater Burlington area.  My placement is at the Winooski High School, about five minutes away from SMC.  I'm working in an alternative classroom helping children who, for a variety of reasons, work better when they are in a more individualized classroom environment.  Though I'm still getting used to the flow of things, I'm really enjoying this internship.  I love kids and want to eventually work with them in some capacity (related to psychology, of course)!

I'm also taking two classes for my Sociology minor this semester.  The first is Intro to Human Geography.  After having some practice reading maps during my traveling adventures abroad, I am much more interested in where different places are.  We have had two map quizzes so far (on Africa and Asia), and I'm amazed at how much more aware I now feel of places I've never been (though I know I still have lots to learn).  It is also really interesting to study the relationships between people and places, and how each of these affects the other.

My final class is called Race and Ethnic Relations.  I have to admit that I was pretty intimidated during the first week of this class - it seemed like it was going to require a lot of time and effort.  While I think that's true, it has also been extremely rewarding already.  Dr. Bhave has gotten me to look critically at how race has affected my life, especially in ways I wouldn't have considered on my own.  I am very much looking forward to the rest of the semester!

Here are some highlights of my semester so far:

One of the many beautiful trees around campus - I absolutely love red leaves!
Me, Cait, and our beautiful friend Sharon (who came to visit for Alumni Weekend)
Lake Champlain with the mountains in the distance; taken on
the way to St. Anne's Shrine in Isle la Motte
Sunset from the car (still pretty even through
the traffic lights!) on the way to El Gato to celebrate
Alex's completion of the LSATs!
As always, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. More to come soon!
~Merrill

PS Special shout out to all the prospective students and families that will be on campus today.  We're excited to welcome you!

PPS Since I listen to a lot of music (especially in the mornings - see Lauren's post about that!), I've decided to start a new feature at the end of every post: What I'm listening to now.  One of my favorite bands, The Script, released a new album this week.  I've had their song "Howl at the Moon" stuck in my head all week!