Monday, January 26, 2015

MLK Jr. Day - More Than Just a Day

Hello all and Happy Monday!  As I'm sure you know, last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  In honor of this day, Saint Michel's (particularly the MLK Jr. Society) put together a host of events for students to attend throughout the week.  I attended the Convocation on Monday, with keynote speaker Kevin Powell as well as many other speakers from Saint Michael's and the surrounding area. Though it took a large junk of time out of my busy day, I'm so happy I went.


society racism groups media hip hop
Kevin Powell speaking in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel last Monday
For most of my life, I've thought of MLK Jr. Day as just another opportunity to miss a day of school. However, this year in particular, I viewed the day a bit differently. In light of many things, including the Convocation on Monday, my Race and Ethnic relations class last semester (arguably the most influential class I've taken at Saint Mike's), the many events that have raised our attention to the racial injustices in our society, coupled with my recent viewing of the movie Selma, I find that I have had a lot to think about throughout the past week.

First and foremost, as my Demography and Public Health Professor pointed out on the first day of class, I am lucky to be alive.  More than that, I am extremely fortunate to have been born into a family that has enabled me to earn a high school (and soon college) degree.  In two of my sociology classes, we have read an article by Peggy McIntosh about white privilege.  Each time I read it, I gained a greater appreciation for all that is granted to me in my everyday life.


I don't want this post to sound preachy, but I do want to take a moment to be grateful for my life, as well as acknowledge the fact that not everyone has the same privileges I do.  Another one of my professors last week urged my class to go see the movie Selma in order to gain a better appreciation for the struggles that African Americans went through in order to obtain the right to vote.  As I said to my roommates (who went to see the movie with me), I don't get angry very often, but during the movie, I was quite mad at what I was seeing.  As I write this post, I'm having a hard time articulating my thoughts into words.  But I think what I'm trying to say is that it is that people were, and still are, judged and looked down upon because of their race of ethnicity.  It is unacceptable.  And it's not just in the media.  Just this morning, my Psych of Health and Wellness class had a discussion about an article we read pertaining to the the fact that race and ethnicity both have an effect on interactions, treatment plans, as well as outcomes of those seeking medical help.  I understand that it might be easy to group people together and make assumptions based on their looks - some would even argue that grouping people is a natural human tendency.  However, just because people may have similar looks doesn't mean they're the same.  As one of my good friends and mentors says, we are all strategically different, and that's a good thing.


A few days ago, I was having a conversation about people from South America.  One of the people I was talking to was trying to make a distinction between two South American countries, while another spoke of the countries as though they were one entity.  Though I'm sure no harm or offense was intended, it struck a chord with me.  Last semester in my Human Geography class, Professor Kujawa brought to our attention the fact that so many people speak of the entire content of Africa as though it is one country, when in fact there are at least forty seven separate countries (depending on whether or not you count the islands).  People do the same thing with other people.  Not all non-whites are the same.  Not all Asians are the same.  Not all Europeans are the same.  And everyone deserves to know that they are valuable and important.


While the speeches I heard on Monday were important, inspiring, and heartbreaking all at the same time, I left the Convocation still unsure of exactly what I'm supposed to do about the current state of our country as a soon-to-be college college graduate.  The best I can think of so far is to continue the conversation, with my friends, parents, peers, and you.  I also feel want to point out that for many years it has been my gut reaction to tune out whenever people use the word "history."  Now, however, I am slowly coming to understand that maybe learning about history isn't so bad after all.  As my Practicum professor said last week, we cannot afford to pass up the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  We cannot just sit back and assume that others will take care of our problems for us, whether they have to do with racism, inequality, or something as simple as procrastinating on homework.



for the better

I have to admit that I had every intention of posting this on Friday as a conclusion to MLK Jr. week.  However, life got in the way, and here it is, already the end of the weekend and the start of another week.  After a moment of reprimanding myself for not posting this sooner, I realized that it's actually kind of perfect that I waited.  To me at least, it shows that conversation about these issues (and many more that I didn't discuss here) shouldn't be reserved to one week of the year.  The effects of people's actions have constant effects.  I hope that everyone continues to be inspired, in one way or another, to pay more attention to individual differences and to see the beauty in them.  We have a lot to learn from each other.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!
Merrill

PS I've been on a Script kick for the past week...no song in particular because they're all great! :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

One More Round

Happy Friday everyone! Even though I've been back at Saint Mike's for almost a week now, it seems like it's been forever (in a good way).  I am so happy to be back living with some of the best people I know and having as much fun as possible (in between classes and homework of course). I can't believe it's my last semester here - the time went by more quickly than I ever imagined it would. But before I get carried away thinking about everything I want to do before my time here is up, I thought I'd take a minute to update you all on my schedule for this semester:

I'm taking four classes, three of which count toward my psychology major.  The first one, which I have on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 8am (bright and early, I know) is called Psychology of Health and Illness.  Even though it's early, I think I'm really going to enjoy the class, because of the professor as well as the content.  I've never had a class with Professor Tomasulo, but she seems very enthusiastic about the material, which will certainly help me out on days when I might rather be in bed!  One of the main components of the class is completing a health genealogy project. While it might be nerve-wracking to learn about what I might be genetically at-risk for, Professor Tomasulo has assured us that, while we can't control our genetics, there are things we can do each day to improve our overall (physical, mental, emotional) health. When I'm home, my mom really encourages me to eat well and exercise often, so I'm hoping her motivation as well as this class will continue to encourage me to be healthy each day.


Thank you to my roommate Lauren for the inspiration to use funny pictures on my blog!

My next class, which I have on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, is the last class I need to fulfill my sociology minor.  It is called Demography and Public Health, taught by Professor Bolduc. I've never taken a class with Professor Bolduc before, but he has stepped in for a few of my previous sociology classes when my professors have been absent due to conferences, etc. so I have certainly seen him around!  I don't have much experience with demography except for what we covered last semester in my Human Geography class. Regardless, as I was reading just last night, demographic information has many uses that can be applied in a variety of areas, so I'm excited to be able to add this to my current sociological knowledge.

My last class on Mondays is Practicum II, which is a continuation of Practicum I, which I took last semester.  The major work for the course is done outside the classroom via an off-campus internship. I will be continuing the work that I started last semester in an alternative classroom in Winooski High School, just a few minutes from Saint Mike's. I was able to learn a lot last semester from my internship, and hope to do the same this year. I will be at the school Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. My schedule this semester allows me to be at the school at different times than last semester. I am happy about this because it ensures that I get to see different parts of the school day and how students motivation, etc. changes throughout the day.

My final class, which I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is called the Psychology of Marriage and Relationships. I have wanted to take this class since I first heard that Saint Michael's offered it, so naturally I was extremely excited when I was able to register for it last fall. Professor Millwood teaches the course. I took Research Methods II with her during my sophomore year, and am looking forward to having another class with her. From the discussions we had this week, I am fairly certain that this will be my favorite class of the semester, and potentially my favorite psych class altogether. I'm sure I'll be dedicating many future posts to it!

In addition to my classes and internship, I'll be giving a weekly tour on Mondays, leading Liturgy of the Word (LOW) lunch on Fridays, and of course, singing in the Liturgical Choir, which is by far my favorite activity on campus. I'll also be doing my best to have as much fun as possible - this week my roommates started a semester bucket list, which we hope to complete by graduation. First on my list: get to Smugglers' Notch and go skiing!


Oldie but goodie of Cait and me at Smuggs!
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!
-Merrill

PS To continue my tradition from last semester, I've been listening to Ed Sheeran non-stop this week. Specifically, the songs "The City" and "Gold Rush." I've also been listening to Nick Jonas' latest album (no shame). :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Belated Shout-Out to my Awesome Professors

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!  I have been home in New Hampshire for a little over two weeks after surviving finals week and am somehow just sitting down to write this post!  I wanted to thank two of my professors in particular for going out of their way to help me during the last few weeks of the semester.

As you know if you've read some of my previous posts, singing in the Liturgical Choir at Saint Mike's is my absolute favorite activity on campus.  During the Thursday of finals week (December 18), Deacon Lino Oropeza was ordained into the Society of Saint Edmund.  As a member of the Lit Choir, I had an opportunity to sing at this ordination (the first of its kind in almost 20 years).  One problem - my final for Human Geography was scheduled to be right in the middle of ordination.  

A bit nervously, I have to admit, I went to Professor Kujawa's office hours and told him how I, as well as one of my fellow classmates, would really appreciate it if he could move the final for us so that we would be able to sing at the ordination.  Moving finals isn't necessarily ideal for professors - it takes up more of their time and they have to reserve a room - so I was happily surprised when Professor Kujawa agreed to let my friend Maureen and I take our final a day late.  The ordination was an absolutely wonderful experience and captured everything that I love about being in Lit Choir - great music, spiritually enriching time with my friends, and that wonderful community feeling that is Saint Michael's.  I was actually a bit sad when it was over (partially because  I had to return to studying, but more so because I had such a great time).  So, a big thank you to Professor Kujawa (as well as other professors who did the same for other students) for being flexible!

I also wanted to thank my psychology senior seminar professor, Professor Kuntz, for giving each student in our class cards on our last day of class.  Though she knew some students better than others, she still took the time to write each student a card expressing her gratitude for our participation in the class as well as her best wishes for our futures (though some of us, including myself, are taking more psychology classes in the spring, our senior seminar is the culminating course for psychology majors).

In my card, Professor Kuntz  included a rock that says "Kindness."  This was particularly special to me for two reasons: one - because I happen to love rocks with words on them (I have a small collection), and two - because it indicated to me that she understood through my actions in class that I do my best to be kind to everyone, and it's always nice to have that recognized!


The card reads "Behind the complicated details
of the world stand the simplicities. - Graham Greene"
While I was quite relieved when I completed all my finals, I have to say that I am looking forward to the upcoming semester.  All the classes I will be taking pertain to either my major or minor, and they all sound quite interesting!  You will certainly hear more about them in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for reading!  And if you are in a place where it's super cold, stay warm!

-Merrill

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!