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Four Years at the Mount

On giving thanks

November 2014

Dear Teachers

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

The month of November is set aside for giving thanks for everything we have and to the people who have helped us become who we are. This time more than ever, we are grateful for what we have and are more generous in giving to those less fortunate. We celebrate with food, drink, and general merriment. It is a time during which we thank our family for taking care of us, and our friends for always being there through thick and thin. We look back on lessons learned and memories, and we are grateful for everything we went through. But this year I am taking time to thank those I have previously forgotten. My family has had an impact on who I have become; how could they not? So too have my friends, but the fine educators that have taught me along the way deserve the highest praise. It is because of you I am who I am today. So I write this is to you, the ones who imparted lessons that I will not be forgetting anytime soon and have left an imprint on my life in the best of ways.

First, I would like to thank the teachers at Visitation Academy; you all taught me that a little knowledge and confidence can open so many doors, ones that are full of new opportunities. Although my thanks goes to the Academy as a whole, there are some teachers to which I owe a special thanks: Mrs. Holcomb, my fifth grade teacher, for helping to create the next generation of women scientists. You showed that anyone can be anything they set their minds to and you gave them the tools to achieve it. Mrs. Kirby, my fourth grade teacher, for her unending patience and practical perfection, and for teaching us how a little kindness and perseverance can go a long way. Mrs. Castleman, my eighth-grade history teacher, thank you for imparting organization skills (via color coding) and teaching me how to properly write an essay. Mrs. Adams, thank you for imparting your love of God and helping to build a strong foundation of faith. Lastly, my biggest "thank you" goes to the Visitation Sisters. You have all made a lasting impression on the school community by leaving behind lessons of charity and faith that will last for years to come. Once again, thank you for empowering young girls and arming them with education and a strong faith, showing that anything can be achieved so long as you, "Be who you are and be that well" (Saint Francis de Sales).

My next thank you goes to Saint Maria Goretti High School. The teachers there not only helped me realize where my true passions lie, but also paved my way to the Mount. A special "thank you" goes to my English teacher, Mr. Cuthbert. You brought my love of literature to a new level and you are one of the best English teachers I ever had. Mr. McFarland, thank you for showing that art and beauty is everywhere and for proving that still waters run deep. Mr. Bell, thank you for being a wonderful math teacher (I do apologize, though, for not being the best student). All the teachers at St. Maria Goretti placed me on the path I am on now. They showed me my true potential and helped me to achieve it. The teachers there helped me discover who I was and who I wanted to become; and that led me here, to the Mount, where my future is slowly taking shape.

This brings me to Mount Saint Maryís. First, I would like to say a "thank you" to the excellent professors here. Although it is only a few months into my freshman year, I am still eternally grateful. I thank them for their patience with "grown-up" college students and for preparing us for the real world. They help their students flourish and achieve their dreams. Through their passion for teaching they aid their students in determining a career path that would make them happy. I would also like to thank the Mount Saint Maryís community as a whole for creating a family, one of which I am proud to be a part.

My final "thank you" extends to every teacher out there. To those considering it as a career path, teaching the worldís youth is one of the noblest things one can do. It takes patience, resilience, passion, and intelligence, and is too often overlooked. So, dear teachers, this is a thank you. Thank you for teaching everything from how to write our ABCs, to writing a dissertation. Thank you for the life lessons and advice, for the opened doors and the opportunities you have given. Thank you for our future. You raise doctors, writers, lawyers, actors, scientists, politicians, and, of course, teachers. You mold our youth and imprint on them everything you teach; you sculpt young minds and help them grow. You are role-models, heroes, and luminaries. Without you to light the way, our future would look dim. So let us raise a proverbial glass to the wonderful, awe-inspiring teachers that have shaped us and the ones currently molding our future. Hereís to you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Read other articles by Sarah Muir

List of thanks

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

I used to have a list, a list that I canít find anymore and wouldnít even know where to look to locate it. It was a part of a high school project and it was a list of people who I should write thank you letters to when I graduate. It was a hypothetical practice list and Iím not sure if we were ever meant to keep them, but I didóand then I never wrote those letters. Iím sure that my original list had more people on it than I can even remember now, and Iím positive that now that Iím two years out of high school, Iím thankful for different things than I thought of then. In fact, the list I would make now would be much different than the original. Now I would need to thank my coaches for seeing something in me that I never saw in myself, and the tough love that stemmed from them that I could never appreciate. I would have to thank the friends who taught me what friendship is and those who taught me what it isnít. I would add so many people that my hand starts to cramp just thinking about the letters I would write. I canít fit them all into this article, but hereís my attempt at a few thank you letters I never wrote.

First I would thank Ms. Beth Ann Brown, my coach, teacher, and yearbook advisor, who influenced my life more than she, or I, ever knew. I spent two years in and out of her classroom before I ever realized how important our relationship would be. During my junior year I began to spend more time with her and the yearbook editors, but during senior year, Ms. Brown was the reason I was able to keep my sanity. She built a safe place in her classroom that I still cannot recreate. At the end of my senior year and yearbook career, I did get to thank Ms. Brown a little bit in the yearbookís colophon. I thanked her for always believing in me and in the book, even when I didnít. But I didnít get to thank her for giving me a purpose all year, for keeping me sane with food, for telling me boys arenít that important when she saw me cry, for caring as much about the spacing between words in a headline as I did, for believing in my creativity when I really didnít have a plan, and for knowing when to take a break to watch Dance Moms. I never thanked her for not losing her mind on the same days I did, for taking me across the country, for all of the stories she promised to tell me when I graduate, for the looks on her face that told me what she thought, and for being the person I hope I can someday be. For all that and so much more, thank you.

Next I would thank Sarah, my best friend. There arenít words to express how thankful I am for her and for all she has been for me. She hasnít been my friend longer than anyone else and I canít say anymore that we talk the most of all my friends since weíre so far apart, but she came into my life when I was fifteen and has been everything I ever needed since then. Sarah, thank you for never leaving my side. Thank you for listening to me cry over boys, sports, shin pain, and everything in between. Thank you for never saying no to ice cream, for being a constant source of emotional support and for truly just being an incredible person. I look up to you in so many aspects of life and although I tell you every day how much I love you, I never tell you how thankful I am for you. Thank you for pushing me to be better, for constantly telling me that I deserve the best and for not giving up on me when I donít listen. Thank you for straightening my hair, lending me your clothes, and sharing your family with me. For being my best friend and sister, thank you.

I think the hardest thank you I need to write would be to my parents, who I thank for food all the time, but who I never really thank for being the best parents in the world. My mom knows how thankful I am for her, because sheís perfect. My dad, on the other hand, probably doesnít know. My dad is the reason I am who I am today. So, Dad, thank you for teaching me not to cry. Thank you for always being proud of me, because even when you donít say it, it means the world to me. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of tough love and making me strong. Thank you for always being rightóI bet you never thought you would hear that one. Thank you for never judging me or my choices out loud because I know thatís not easy. Thank you for teaching me to be independent, but still being there when I need youólike during tax season. Thank you for being selfless and caring, for teaching me the importance of intelligence, for teaching me how to ski and shoot, and for trying to understand field hockey. Thank you for building everything we ever wanted and for being my role model. You are the reason I love the water, the reason I can take criticism, the reason I have to get straight Aís, and the reason Iíll build a strong family one day. Thank you, Dad, because I know that "get out of my house" is code for "I love you."

There are a million other thank you letters I would have to write. I would thank Coach Williams for never taking me out of a field hockey game because she believed in me even when I didnít understand why, Matt Riggins for taking me to Haiti and changing my life and future, all of my friends for their never-ending love, Mrs. Fertenbaugh for telling me, "You are good enough," and being the reason I want to teach English, and a thousand other people for a thousand other reasons. I hope someday I can write thank you letters to all of these people, but for now, during the season of thanks, Iím going to make it a point to thank everyone who has an effect on me every day, from the lady who makes me breakfast in the morning to my friends who get me through the evening. Iíll start to say thank you as things happen, instead of waiting four years and trying to put my unexplainable feelings into a mess of words. For now, thank you to everyone in my lifeóeveryone who has said hi and brightened my day, everyone who has encouraged me to try something new or keep going, and everyone who makes me smile or shows me why I should. Thank you.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

Be more child-like

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

Every morning I woke up by seven, grabbed myself breakfast, and hopped into my car. I drove the few miles to their house and turned quietly into their driveway. I would walk across their gravel path and in through the back door that they always left unlocked for me. I would go into the kitchen and wait for a few moments before I heard their gentle footsteps as Finn climbed down the ladder to the bunk beds and Brice plopped his little feet onto the chilly hardwood floor. Iíd listen as they began to whisper to each other and plot their surprise attack. In the silence I would hear their tiny feet along the floorboards as they tiptoed from their bedroom. They would hide behind the nearest wall and I would turn away as if I had no idea they were there. Then, only seconds later they would jump out and yell, "Boo!," hoping to see me jump. I always did. Like clockwork, every morning we went through the same routine. Much like I could count on them trying to scare me in the morning, they could count on the fact that I was going to be there to be scared.

I first met them years ago. I was working at a daycare in the area and they were new to town. Brice was only two years old at the time and Finn was five. They were both troublemakers, like most boys their age, and yet I could not help but adore them. Every afternoon after my high school classes I would go work at the daycare and there they would be, always ready to play and to learn. I watched them grow over that year. Brice celebrated his third birthday and shortly after, Finn moved on to kindergarten. It was not long after that their parents came to me asking if I could come over and watch them for a bit so they could go out to dinner.

What started as just a simple babysitting job turned into much more. That summer I became a nanny for the boys, which meant watching them day in and day out. After I went to college I was only able to babysit off and on, but I always managed to see them during Christmas break and come summertime, I would start nannying again.

It is safe to say that the boys and I have spent a lot of time together and over this period, they have watched me grow just as much as I have watched them develop. Though my handwriting hasnít improved and my feet havenít gotten two sizes bigger like theirs, I have been growing this whole time with their help. These two little boys with their big hearts have changed my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

It seems that while I was teaching Brice how to spell his name and helping Finn sound out the words on his vocabulary list, they were both teaching me patience. And while I was comforting them about a lost toy and trying to convince them that it wasnít the end of the world, I learned that I too tend to overreact about the little things. And while we were all running around and making a mess in the process, I learned that life is about having fun and nothing should be taken too seriously.

These two boys enabled me to see through the eyes of children, through which the world is painted as a beautiful place. They let me see through a lens other than the tinted ones used by most adults. Children are quick to forgive and they easily forget. They rarely hold grudges because they do not let themselves live in the past. They explore their interests and aim to discover. They laugh without restraint and smile without reason. They try without first doubting their abilities and they believe in themselves. They wonder in all things and do not limit their dreams.

Because of Finn and Brice I am more aware of the beauty that hides in the little things. Because of them I know when to ask for help and when to apologize for hurting someone else. Because of them I have realized how much room there is within a heart for love. Their influence has made me a truly better person; I can feel my strength when I jump up and down on the trampoline, the dew on the grass under my toes as I run around the yard barefooted, the wind rushing through my hair as I go down the slide, and I no longer cringe as their dirty little hands reach out to hold mine tightly.

I am not sure what the world has in store for Finn and Brice. I do not know what they will be like in the years to come, if Finnís favorite color will still be red and Briceís will be blue, if they will still have blonde curly hair or if it will turn out to be dark and straight like their parents, or if Finn will become a scientist and Brice will become a professional soccer player. But what I do know is that these two can move mountains if they put their minds to it. I truly believe that the sky is their only limit.

Finn and Brice, after every day we spent together, learning, laughing, and loving, you were sure to thank me. But too often I forgot to thank you both in return. It seems that while I was so busy trying to make the most out of life for you, I overlooked the fact that you were making the most out of life for me. I am so grateful that you have enabled me to see through the eyes of a child. You have changed the way that I see the world. Thank you for all of the memories that we have made over the last four years. I will cherish them forever.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

Challenges of the everyday hero

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Maybe itís the recent end of Halloween and the impending arrival of Thanksgiving that makes me think the way I do. From the latter holiday, I am reminded of turkeys bursting with herb-encrusted bread and thin strands of steam rising slowly from baked corn. The other mental picture that pops into my mindís eyes is the image of a tightly cramped ship stuffed to the brim with Puritans dressed in clean black and whites, waiting to arrive at a new world. Halloween conjures up images of monsters, bags of candy, and ghosts.

A ghost is a funny thing. I donít say that to be cute or smart, but when you really sit down and think about it, the idea of a ghost is rather strange. Itís the concept that some part of a person remains unseen in the waking world. In a lot of ways, the world is populated by people who we sometimes donít think about, but who play an instrumental role in our lives; people who remain unseen despite the work that they do. These are the figures that take the mundane moments of our lives and transform them into something incredible. More than pilgrims, or turkey, or bags of chocolate, we should be thinking about those who make our lives so much better, and where better to start than at our own campus?

You can look anywhere around Mount St. Maryís University and find examples of unsung heroes in our lives. One of the first people in my career at the Mount who reached and grabbed me on a deep personal level was Bessie. Those of you who have been reading my articles since the beginning will remember my undying love for this wonderful, pastry-wielding goddess. In a lot of ways, the workers who serve our food are somehow the first to be overlooked, and thatís nothing short of a crime. Every day that I came into Patriot Hall, Bessie was there, waiting for me with a scone and a smile. She taught me that I should not only appreciate the great things happening in my day, but also take the time to get to know every single person who worked hard to make our daily meals. Kinte at the grill is nothing short of a miracle worker with a deep fryer, ketchup and pickles. Nancy has a knack for picking out the best slice of pizza any time, every time, and thatís not just friendship or admiration; thatís science. To some, they are the people who make our meals, but to me, theyíre so much more than that. These people are reminders that I have something to look forward to every day, even if it is something as simple as a warm meal on a day when Iím otherwise feeling down.

Beyond the cafeteria, there are so many other figures that play an incredible role in the things we experience at Mount, but these individuals may not always be in the front of our minds. The men and women who work for Public Safety come front and center in my mind. Of all the officers who work so hard to keep our campus safe, Lieutenant Macintosh is the one who impacted my life in a way that I never thought would happen. Two years ago when I joined Mount St. Maryís RA staff, I was wildly intimidated. As a college sophomore I felt like I wasnít even qualified to make microwave popcorn, let alone take care of an entire group of boys younger than me. Summer training rolled around and the RAs got the chance to meet the Public Safety staff.

I remember the first time I met Lieutenant Macintosh. I recall thinking that she was the most powerful looking person Iíd ever met. She was confidant, collected, and more than anything, she was in control. At the start of my training, it felt wonderful to be confronted with someone who wasnít fazed by anything that was happening around her. To a young RA who needed an example of strength under fire, she was the perfect mentor, and she did it all without saying a word. As time stretched on, the moments when I worked with Lieutenant Macintosh proved what I already knew, that she was a consummate professional and the thing to aspire to be. Despite this, she remains one of the Mountís unsung heroes and someone who has made my life considerably better.

This month, in between stuffing your face, and facing your stuffing as the case may be, try not to forget about the people who make your life better than you had ever thought. More than simple capstones on your day, appreciate that these people are the ones who can transform your lives, most likely without you even realizing it. Take a moment to appreciate them, even if itís some small gesture to show them how much they mean to you. Small or not, they most certainly deserve it. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

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