Nobody loves Christmas like my dog Sally. She’s our calendar every year. Before we even think about a Christmas tree, Sally plants herself in our living room right where we set up every year.

We all love Christmas, but I guess we’ve gotten a little less enthusiastic over the years. My brother, sister and I were always the first up before the sun had even begun to show on Christmas morning, eagerly waiting for my parents to get up so that we could run downstairs and get the party started, but we’ve all gotten a little old. At 22, I’m the baby, so none of us get moving in the morning without a little coffee first, making getting up early a little anti-climactic. But Sally gets up at 4 a.m. sharp every Christmas and if you don’t beat her down there she’ll open everyone’s presents without you.

Every year Sally opens just about everything under the tree, a lot of which is actually hers, and she does it with tender care and surgical precision. Sally’s love of Christmas has always been reverent, never greedy, which makes it especially sad that she never got what she wanted. Sally died two years ago while I was here at school and the holidays really haven’t been the same sense.

The emotions that I’m sure every dog owner feels after losing a pet that they love so much are there year round, but on Christmas things always seem worse. It’s hard to remember Sally laying under the tree or eagerly running around sniffing packages figuring out which one she wanted to unwrap first. Instead, all I can really see is the way she would toss toys, treats and everything else we bought her aside. Sally never got what she wanted for Christmas.

What kind of dog doesn’t want piles of stuffed animals and dried meats? Most people would probably think a stupid one, but Sally might’ve had one up on the rest of us.

Sally had one other habit that sticks with me: she liked to take in animals from the outside. Every year sally jumped the fence and went around the neighbor hood to play with deer and rescue baby birds that had fallen out of the nest. Nothing made her happier than coming home and dropping a baby bird into her bed to take care of until someone caught her and brought it back to it’s nest.

I’m from Connecticut and though my family came out of super storm Sandy mildly inconvenienced, there are people who still don’t have a place to live less than an hour away. Just as much as I want the new Wii U for Christmas, something still won’t be right even if it is under the tree.

I think what Sally really wanted every Christmas was a baby deer whose mother got hit by a car or a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest. She had a lot of love to give, but she never got the chance unless she jumped the fence.

Sally might have had the right idea. It’s easy for me, you and just about everyone else around us to talk about giving to those in need, but for some reason it’s always harder than it should be. Sally couldn’t talk, so she never got to do what she wanted on Christmas, but we don’t have any excuses.

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Christmas music has been playing at the mall since Halloween. Holiday sales have been going on since the week before Thanksgiving break. Lights have gone up, trees have been decorated, candy canes are already a staple. The Christmas season starts earlier every year, and it appears that my excitement about the big day can’t withstand this extended time period. So I’ve started marking the start of the holiday season with something different, something a little more meaningful- Christmas episodes of my favorite TV shows. When the Christmas episodes play, you know it’s time to really get into the holiday spirit, whip out the Christmas sweater, and buy those break-and-bake sugar cookies with pictures of reindeer and Santa.

While doing some research for this blog, I came across this wikipedia article which lists all the American TV shows which have Christmas episodes (if you want to check it out, click here). The length of the article and sheer volume of shows which keep the tradition of having special holiday episodes points to the popularity of the seasonal episode among television watchers. My favorites?

1. Grey’s Anatomy. Sick people’s lives are saved and there’s always two doctors who are stuck at the hospital on Christmas Eve which makes them realize that they’re in love with each other.


2. MASH. American soldiers in the Korean war look for ways to capture the Christmas spirit. Doctors fall in love.

3. Boy Meets World. In the spirit of Christmas, friends forgive each other for past wrongdoings. Teens fall in love.

You might be sensing a theme here. Christmas, as presented through these shows, is about love and reconciliation, friends and family gathering together, and making the best of what might not be the best situation. If you ask me, there’s not better way of summing up “Christmas Spirit.”

To kick off my Christmas season, I’ll be watching New Girl on December 11, Glee on December 13, and Misfits on December 16. What shows are you most excited to watch this holiday season?

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Amphetamines, nicotine, Cocaine, Ecstasy, coffee, Adderall, and even Coca-Cola have something in common.

Stir it up, chug it, shake it up– all of these things are stimulants, but do they really help you study?

As finals are right around the corner, the question arises, how can I do it all? The answer is energy. Energy sounds like a simple fix, but having your mind feel like a recharged battery may take some tricks.

The best way of studying may not be cramming, but most college students have found themselves in that predicament. Especially in a city like New Orleans, that has so much to offer– student’s end up thinking too much work, not enough time.

Not enough time with 1440 minutes in a day? First, consider eliminating any time wasters: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram often lengthen the amount of time a person spends studying. Maybe instead of three cups of coffee, try clicking out of the many websites competing with your textbook.

The real myth behind stimulants is that the effects are positive. According to a rehabilitation website, “Stimulants are mind-altering chemicals and if used in high doses can cause hot and cold flashes, hostility, respiratory problems, hallucinations, psychosis and panic attacks.” These consequences include a scientific viewpoint behind the negative effects of stimulants. A person may feel detached and energetic for a period of time, but the human body will balance itself out. In other words, you will crash.

Also, addiction can result from the abuse or mistreatment of these drugs. The consequences are real and oftentimes scary.

The purpose of studying for midterms or any exam should be to gain knowledge, retain facts, and various other things; however, it should not be done at your body’s expense.

As a person seeks purpose, a Jesuit value, the Call to Excellence, is important to reflect on. This Jesuit ideal describes the development of gifts and a call to academic excellence as well. In other words, getting an “A” is never more important than sacrificing your values.

The question still remains; do stimulants really help you study? If the answer is yes, ask yourself, is it worth it?




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Happy December y’all! This is one of the greatest months of the year, but there is this one thing that adds a slight damper to all the festivities: FINALS.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I personally hate exams and everything that goes with them.

One of the biggest things that I see with exams, papers, or even big tests is people pulling “all-nighters.”

Now, I am the type of person who cannot handle all-nighters, I need my sleep. My brain shuts off after a certain point and I know that sitting there cramming when my brain isn’t functioning properly isn’t helping anything. I would rather be refreshed in the morning than dazed and confused.

However some people thrive on all-nighters and can actually pull off that “A.” Which I totally respect those people, because I cannot function without my minimum six hours of sleep.

I have read that all-nighters can be bad for scientific reasons, not just your emotional being.

Apparently while you sleep, memories are created. All day your brain is processing information, but when you fall asleep it allows your brain the time to make that information a permanent part of your brain.

So under that theory, avoiding sleep can lead to your brain not making the information permanent and it just goes away. Did you ever hear the old myth that you should study before bed, because it’ll make you remember better? Maybe that actually has some significance.

I have also read an article that said your state dependent, or state of mind, plays a part in your studying and then test taking. The state you are in when you learn something is the state you should take the test in. So, if you start studying for the test alert or sleepy and that condition is different for the test, then you might not perform as well.
You know what works best for you and your body. If you are the type of person that can function with a limited amount of sleep, then right on. If you’re like me and need you’re beauty rest, I totally understand.

What study habits do you have and what do you find works best for you? Do you think it is beneficial to stay up and cram, or would you rather get some sleep and study in the morning?


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One of my least favorite things about finals week in high school was that I spent a lot of it alone. We got two study days, when we had to go to school but were free to study while we were there. Then, we got a weekend, and our finals began on Monday. By the first day of finals, I had spent four days in isolation with my books, notes, and computer. I was lonely. By the second day of finals, I was going crazy.

I was understandably nervous about my college finals. After a few years at Loyola, though, I find that I have no reason to be. Finals are so much more of a community experience. I’ve found the students and faculty very supportive, offering numerous study breaks with free food (sometimes, they bring in therapy dogs to pet!) Last year, some students ran around the library in Muppet costumes to make everyone laugh and feel a little better.

During finals at Loyola, the library is open 24 hours, which helps accommodate different study styles and the amount of work that students do during finals week. During my first two years at Loyola, I found that I really liked to knock out studying and papers during the first few days of finals. So, I’d camp out in the library for a couple days and finish a lot of work so I could spend the last few days of finals week resting. While staying up into the wee hours of the morning isn’t for everyone, I will say that between the hours of 4:00 am and 5:00 am, I found myself in an impromptu group dance party in the middle of the library. I got all my work finished, of course, but you can’t make up experiences like that.

This year, my study style has become more reshall-centric, and I’m more apt to study in my room. 24-hour quiet hours are enforced during finals so that students who maybe don’t want to spend time in the library can get work finished in their rooms. Several of the resident chaplains offer study breaks with good food, cheese, and holiday music, so I’ve never felt like I was missing out on anything.

Finals are a time of solidarity at Loyola—you can find comfort in the fact that you’re not the only student who has to go through the experience. Try not to get too stressed, though. Some of my most memorable moments of college happened during finals. Happy finals, and happy holidays.

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I’m a decent enough student, but in a philosophy class I took last semester I was barely scraping by. Right before finals, my professor sent me an email telling me about a study group in the library. I figured I’d better go, maybe just showing some effort would be enough to get me through the end of the semester.
I arrived on my own at around 11 p.m. the night before the final exam, empty notebook in hand, to find two other students waiting for me, barely acknowledging each other. They were both girls I recognized from class, but no where else. One was named Estelle and the other Ines. I sat down and asked what they covered so far, but I didn’t get a straight answer from either of them.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” said Estelle. “ There’s so much to cover. Maybe I could just get a copy of your notes and we can work off of them together?”
I tightened the grip on my notebook. “My handwriting is no good, you’d never be able to read it.”
I could already tell I’d be better off out on my own, but it was too late to leave.
“He doesn’t even have notes,” Ines snapped, acknowledging the rest of us for the first time.
“Of course I do! And I don’t see you offering yours up.”
That’s when Ines cracked. “Can’t you see why we’re all here?! The professor put us all together because none of us do any work. We don’t even have class notes.”
Estelle started to panic. “This is a mistake! I shouldn’t be here, I always do the readings and show up to class every day.”
Ines was ready for Estelle as well. “I didn’t even know you were in our class. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in there.”
Estelle snapped right back. “I’m there enough to see that you spend all class on your laptop going through tumblr.”
The two of them continued like this for nearly twenty-minutes. It turns out Estelle was part of another study group, but spent the entire time mooching off of other people’s notes and never contributing until they finally kicked her out. Ines spent all class blogging. None of us had done any work all year.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do something or I’d never pass this exam.
“I don’t take notes either!” I yelled. They both went silent. “I should just go. There’s no point in any of us being here anyway.”
I moved for the door, but Estelle stopped me. “No! Nobody leaves until we’re ready for this exam.”
We all needed to read. That was all there was to it. “Then we need to sit here and ignore each other. We need to read.”
I started where the syllabus ended, Sartre’s “No Exit.” I pulled my personal copy out of my backpack and sat in the corner, but they never stopped arguing. That’s when I realized it was too late for all of us. This wasn’t a study group, it was our punishment. We we’re stuck in that room together for the entire night and made no progress. We could’ve been there for eternity; it wouldn’t have mattered. I never finished “No Exit,” but I did realize one very important lesson. Hell is other people. Study groups can’t save your soul for a semester of sins.

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For all of you who read my post about finals last semester, you’ll remember that I love social media. For those of you who didn’t… let me tell you- I’m social media’s number one fan. I tweet al the time, I constantly check Facebook, I use Instagram on the regular, and Pinterest is the home page on my computer. I have an iPhone, which doesn’t help my addiction (or my sleeping habits) but what can I say? I love being over connected.

One day last week I was trying to do my homework, casually browsing Twitter, catching up on my Facebook newsfeed, and it hit me: I could use social media to get my work done! So I started tweeting. @TheMarkTwain what was your inspiration for Huck Finn? @ThomasHobbes tell me about your social contract theory! @WallStreetJournal What exactly is going on with the Euro? I changed my Facebook status: Looking for someone to explain interest rates to me! I will pay you in cookies! I instagrammed an artsy pic of my textbooks and invited people to come join me. I checked into “The Nook” on foursquare so people knew that I was in the library. I pinned some study tips onto my “productivity” board on pinterest. And then I waited for the responses to roll in. I waited for the people I tweeted at to tweet back at me with answers to my questions. I waited for friends to come study with me. I waited. I waited. I waited. No responses.

In all, it probably took me about an hour to do all the things I did through my various social media outlets. In that time, I could have read a chapter of Hobbes “Leviathan”. I could have read a few articles about the economic crisis in Europe. I could have cracked my economics textbook and learned about interest rates. Lesson learned- social media is great, but it doesn’t get your homework done for you. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Pinterest, and Instagram are a lot of fun, but they didn’t help me get my homework done. Maybe the best way to do your work is to *gasp* sit down and… just do it!

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“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

While I disagree with Albert Einstein that our world is infiltrated with a bunch of idiots, I believe he anticipated a day that technology would substitute itself as a necessity in everyday life.

I look around my room, and I see my television, smartphone charger, lamps, calculator, and alarm clocks. I use technology every day, but I do remember a time when I didn’t have all of these things. My childhood was filled with bike rides, hide and go seek tournaments, running through the neighborhood with friends, and endless hours of laughter. These are very different activities, but a common factor connects them all—human interaction.

If I had to guess, younger Americans do not know a world without constant interaction with technology, so throughout the 2012 holiday season, I am thanking God for relationships, family time, and interaction with others.

Thanksgiving has become a time of reflection for me. Through this reflection, I have found that memories with others often stay with me longer than any gift or television series. This holiday season, I plan to make time– time for others, for God, and for myself.

What are you thankful for this holiday season?


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Thanksgiving prompts reflection on what we are most thankful for, and everyone says how grateful they are for their family and friends. When I got the email about writing this post, I started thinking about my list of things.

Obviously family and friends were at the top of mine too, especially my friends who have helped me through a lot of stuff and because they are awesome at keeping me sane. However, I started thinking about the things I have in my life that others don’t.

I am extremely grateful for my education, not everyone gets the opportunity to go to college and yet here I am at one of the best universities in the country. Not only am I attending college, but my university is affording me with so many incredible opportunities, like I just got to attending the Associate Collegiate Press National College Media Convention at the beginning of this month and I have the chance to write for The Maroon, which is an award-winning paper. Loyola has been an incredible blessing in my life that I definitely take for granted, especially when I say things like “I don’t feel like going to class today.” Some people don’t have the opportunity to go to class and I do, so I am learning to embrace it and be thankful.

I also take for granted my jobs, when 7.9 percent of this nation is out of work. I should be thankful that I have the opportunity to make money and work in place where my working conditions are not hard at all.

As silly as this might sound, I am extremely grateful for my iPhone. It’s another one of those things I take for granted everyday and I get upset when it won’t work properly and I have to wait for it to reset. When I think about the times I’ve complained about my phone not working I feel ashamed. I also picked my phone as an example of one of the little things. I am sitting here writing this post on my MacBook while listening to John Mayer in Spotify and drinking my grande mocha from CC’s, which makes me realize how much I take things like this for granted everyday.

I am going to challenge myself to stop complaining and start taking advantage of all that I have available to me and be grateful that I do have those things available to me.

What are you thankful for and what sorts of things do you take for advantage everyday? Will you make an effort to show your appreciate more often?

I am going to leave you with one of my favorite Paul McCartney songs that wraps up my blog post’s point, which is just to be grateful for what you do have and make sure to show your appreciation to your family and friends.

Click here to hear Gratitude by Paul McCartney


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It was a truth universally acknowledged at my grade school (and most probably other grade schools across the US) that Thanksgiving was an excellent time to make children create crafts that fell under the heading “What I’m Thankful For.” I made several such crafts during my early education. The one I remember the best was one that we made as part of a (convenient) computer project. We were to type out the thing we were thankful for, provided no one in the class had picked it, print it out, and our teachers glued the words onto various Thanksgiving paraphernalia and put them on The Class Bulletin Board so we (and our parents) could admire our work. I remember that all of the good responses like “my mom” and “my family” were taken, so I settled on the only thing I could think of. We had just learned that the plural form of a lot of nouns ending in -f was -ves. I decided that I was thankful for leaves. I thought about the big, beautiful autumn foliage displays from paintings and books (displays we did not have in Houston, Texas, where we were lucky if a tree’s leaves turned slightly yellow by January). My mother came after school one day to pick me up and asked me why I wasn’t thankful for something more important…like a person? She felt bad I hadn’t said anything about my family. I felt bad that my mother didn’t recognize my seven year-old academic genius. It’s a story we laugh about now.

Writing about Thanksgiving now reminds me of those countless projects I did when I was younger. How do I do something original? Looking back into this story, which has become one of those famous family holiday stories, one people tell during football commercials or while cooking in the kitchen, I find several important teachings about thanksgiving.

I am thankful, for example, for knowledge. I am thankful that I can read and write and know that words like “leaf” have plural forms that end in -ves. It’s a privilege, one that I often take for granted. The skills I was fortunate enough to learn as a child and teenager have helped me to receive a college education here at Loyola, an experience for which I will forever be grateful.

I am thankful for family. I am thankful for parents who tried to understand their seven year-old daughter’s weird thought process that led her to publicly direct her gratitude toward a plant part rather than the people in her family. I am thankful that my parents took the time to see the numerous bulletin boards that I filled with my gratitude when I was younger. I am glad that they take the time to read the blog postings I make about being thankful now that I am older. I am glad that they have crazy stories about my grade school days and tell them while making mashed potatoes in the kitchen.

I am grateful that even though I’ve done countless assignments on “What I’m Thankful For,” I always have new and different answers. Within that one story, I’ve found so many things. I could find many more.

The holiday of Thanksgiving traditionally begins the holiday season, a “holidaze” where stories about seven year-olds who are thankful for leaves take a backseat to all of the responsibilities associated with families, food, and parties. Growing up can do that. However, I think it’s cool that in a given moment, with a little bit of thought, one can find so many things worthy of gratitude.

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