I moved to Michigan!

I just arrived at the University of Michigan! And have been moving in and collecting free furniture around town. My trip was exciting- I had all of my earthly possession in my little wagon and drove on 1-80 from Utah to Ann Arbor. Most of the middle of the country looks the same, but there are parts of it that are so photogenic and picturesque.

I’ve driven cross country a few times before, but I’ve never taken a road trip on my own, so I’m feeling proud of myself. On my trip, I didn’t stop to eat, and I don’t recommend that. When I needed to refill gas, I would get some nuts or a bar, but I went about three days without eating one solitary vegetable. Don’t do that.

I stopped in Chicago and LOVEd it. I have been so starved for any form of city life (Salt Lake doesn’t really count as a city) this past year and a half. Chicago is so alive; the traffic and parking are miserable, the pedestrians are so aggressive, and it just feels right in every way. Of course, there is any amount and type of food, the river walk is beautiful, and it didn’t hurt that my friend Chase’s apartment has an incredible view of Chicago. Anyone who lives in walking distance of the riverwalk in Chicago lives a charmed life.

I was so so sad to leave Chicago, but thankfully Ann Arbor is very beautiful and charming. Please come visit. I’ve just received the restaurant and hiking recommendations and I’m excited to try out everything. Maybe because it’s so much bigger than BYU, or maybe just because of its novelty, I am in awe of the campus. The museums, the hospital, the pretty Greek houses, and the ‘Big House’ (which seats 107k and has an incredible history. Did you know that there is a crane that was apparently swallowed up in the spring beneath the stadium? I love the folklore. Still not as cool as the dinosaur bones stored beneath BYU’s stadium). I am excited for the games, and although I don’t like all of the hitting that goes on in football, I am excited for the marching band performances ðŸĪ—😂😂! I absolutely love live sporting events; the cheering, the lunacy, the energy.

I also love winter, but I’m intimidated by the Michigan type of winter. Last year it got to negative 50. Negative 50! I am trying to mentally and physically prepare for that. But how do you prepare for that?

I’ve got a lot of learning (and hot chocolate) ahead of me. I’m excited for all of it- wish me luck!

Go Blue! Thanks for reading.

Why not? & Self Expression

I recently went to a discussion group where individuals were discussing the why of their brand. I’m sort of reluctant to share this, because I don’t necessarily consider this site to be a brand, but I do really value the new world of self-expression that is available online and I like to share with creatives and content creators.

Around this discussion of the why behind online content, I kept coming back to a quote from Jeff Bezos that has always made sense to me:

The common question that gets asked in business is, ‘why?’ That’s a good question, but an equally valid question is ‘why not?’

I doubt that was Bezos’ pitch to early venture capitalists 😜. But they’re valid questions: Who cares? – So what? – Why not? –

But there’s another piece of writing, which is simply telling your story and expressing yourself, sharing your own voice, and narrative and perspective.

Here’s the thing: I am an artist. I like art, I like words, I like making things, and I like really weird things. Buuuuut, I come from a very practical family. Like, growing up, although I practiced piano for hours each day and loved it more than anything, I definitely was not allowed to major in piano in college. The philosophy in our family is that art is a nice hobby on the side, but it’s not a like a job job. I’ve always devoured the newspaper and for a while I wanted to be a print journalist, but again, that’s not practical. And so I’ve studied and hustled for forever, but now, while I’m studying and hustling even more and even more intensely, I just absolutely need an outlet to create and to share. I’m not smothering my artsy instincts anymore.

For me, writing, playing piano, making art- they are just as good as eating or taking a walk. Some people drink to unwind; Not me ðŸĪ“- I go Jackson Pollack and make something weird. Thankfully, being weird is now deemed “self expression”, and you can monetize it.

More than anything, though, I really crave the chance to give and receive encouragement. I love rooting for people and at this point in history, I think it’s especially important to elevate other female professionals who are pursuing their dreams. I love encouraging individuals and sharing valuable information. I feel that it’s a responsibility to pay forward the kind words and encouragement I’ve received through the years, and that’s one of my goals in writing as well.

So thank you for reading! Be an artist and do the thing.

S

Last Batch of Palo Alto Pictures

This is the last of my Northern California nostalgia series. Northern California is a lovely place, full of redwood trees, good food, two mafia organizations, and basically everything else you could possibly dream of.

Above, I’m at Big Basin camp with two darling students. This was the funnest week, when we cooked and went hiking and did arts and crafts and (friendly) pranks. On this particular week the leaders stayed up much later than the students, talking and getting ridiculous giddy punch drunk ðŸĪŠ.

Our majestic campsite. Our ‘palace’ is on the right.

This is a picture of my brothers Paul and Douglas. They’re twins. Douglas came to visit us from Atlanta and so Paul took us out to eat at Google. Paul does front end for google maps, so think of him anytime you arrive somewhere safely (or get lost) because of google maps.

Pretty palm trees.

My friend Shelly and I took a day trip to the beach. This is Stinson Beach.

I am recently lactose intolerant, so now instead of eating ice cream, I take pictures of other people’s ice cream cones. ðŸ˜Ķ

There is nothing better than the beach. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

I have gone back to California a few times to watch the Galbraith family. They have eight kids! And if you think you don’t want eight kids, you may rethink that decision after meeting the Galbraiths. They are the funniest, smartest, bestest little humans.

Swimming time.

Wearing a helmet to make a nutella sandwich.

Joyful because she got to wear mom’s heels.

Joyful for no reason.

I took her to the wrong soccer practice and she did not complain or correct me.

All set for basketball practice!! #badmom #warmups

One of the best things about a huge family is that on Friday nights, the older siblings’ friends like to come over and play with the little kids:

We played a lot of M.A.S.H.. This lady is going to work as a mail carrier, ride a goat, and marry Diju (pictured). Also, have 3,100 tv’s in her house.

I hope my love for Northern California has rubbed off on you, at least a little.

Have a fabulous rest of your weekend.

Do you like your name?

What’s your name? Do you like it?

I like my first name, although my sister is always ready to point out that it is a “seventies” name. My name reminds me of myself 😊. I am named after my mom’s best friend and I like to think that I have now taken over that role.

My last name is Merrell and I’m a fan of that too. It comes from the word “Merle”, which means blackbird in French, and I think it’s a pretty name. My family has our genealogy for several centuries and I have some cool ancestry. My ancestor Captain Benjamin Merrill was a ‘belligerent’ colonist in North Carolina and way back in the 1200’s my ancestors were noblemen living in the Chateau de Merle. In college, I visited the Merle Castle and took a tour and it was soo cool. I’m really proud of my last name.I also like to wonder how our ancestors originally earned their last names. Did someone in the generations of the Merrell line look like a blackbird? Or like blackbirds?

Did you take your husband/partner’s last name? Would you? A handful of my married friends have kept their last names and I had a coworker whose husband dropped his last name and took hers when they got married. I thought that was sort of progressive and cool.

I’m always interested in celebrities’ names, because it can make such a difference in career and box office sales. Here is a list of celebrities who have changed their names. I know John Legend had much bigger success when he changed his last name and I’m curious if James Clear’s last name was originally ‘Clear’. It is a very marketable last name, especially for a productivity coach.

What about you? Do you have names you love? Or names that make you cringe? What’s the story behind your name?

Thanks for reading.

Pictures from the Fourth

Okay, doesn’t this woman in the foreground look photoshopped? Not photoshopped. Just an enlightened person. 😄

This Fourth of July, I hung out with my new boyfriend, saw the hot air balloons, ate a bbq and dinner and watched the Stadium of Fireworks from outside. It was laidback. The Fourth is easily my favorite holiday- no consumerism, no expectations, easy invites, and good food.

I am getting ready to move (!) to Ann Arbor, working at Sundance, focusing on staying pale, trying to finish too many books, and running through a few Utah bucket list items. What’s on your bucket list for the summer?

A few thoughts as of late:

  1. I just took an online health inventory and it said that my body type is protein and fat efficient (both true, I have a fast metabolism) and that exercise doesn’t help me lose weight. This is a fact. I actually gained weight when I ran a marathon, a good 10 pounds. I’m not complaining! I’m just saying I think my body type is weird.
  2. I don’t like it when people sign off their emails with the word, “best.” I know it sounds professional and everyone does it, especially in college, I just think you could take the time to find one more syllable to include as you sign off. I’ll let you know when I come up with it.

Hope you’re having a good one.

Best,

Shannon

That American Dream.

At this year’s Fourth of July dinner, the movie Gettysburg was on and I watched the Pickett’s charge scene. For me, it was a little emotional (I’m a crybaby) and it made me think about the unlikely series of events that has created the United States we live in; the almost two and a half centuries of disagreement that we have somehow managed to make it through. It is crazy to think that those soldiers are some of our ancestors. Life was so different then.

It also made me think about the differences between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives tend to dwell on the past heroes, the sacrifices that have been made for us and the honest deliberation that has come before us. Liberals tend to dwell on the future, creating an equal playing field for all of us, injustices, humanity, and ensuring a bright future for everyone. My question is – why do we think the way we do? Why do we have such different values?

One reason is perhaps because we have so many different experiences. Out of college, I taught English to language learning immigrants, mostly from El Salvador and Honduras- the two countries with the highest murder per capita in the world. In getting to know the stories of these teenagers, I came to understand the privilege I have always had living in America. I have had a handful of valuable things stolen in the past couple of years, but it’s the exception and not the norm. I have never worried about being killed. In contrast, my students from Central America had encountered theft, crime, and murder throughout their lives; they were surprised at and grateful for the safe and law abiding culture in America. These teenagers were simply fleeing violence, and I certainly admire anyone who works to escape crime.

In my classroom, I had a lot of different personalities and a broad spectrum of motives. On occasion we would sit in a circle and talk about ways we could contribute to our communities, in the present and after high school. I was moved when I found out that a few of my poorest students occasionally spent their Friday nights giving food to the homeless with their youth group. Some of my students planned and studied to be electricians, police officers, nurses, professional soccer players, or join the army. Many of my students supported their families by working night jobs until two or three in the morning, and then came to school exhausted. They were doing their absolute best 20 hours of the day. These are good people.

On the other hand, I had students who said that they came to America to live off the government. I had a student who was accused of rape and there were murders in the area by individuals in MS13. I am very in favor of immigration, but I can’t throw a blanket statement and say that everyone who wants to come to America should have that opportunity. This is a complex matter, and investing in a stronger immigration process would pay us great dividends.

I wish we had a diplomat for a president. If that person is ever elected, he or she could have a discussion with these countries– How can America help you curb corruption, crime, and murder in Central America? How could we help you create better education, infrastructure, and a more fluid economy? How can we support you in those efforts? Perhaps it’s quixotic thinking, but if these countries were safer, we would absolutely see a drop off in the number of refugees fleeing to America. In the meantime, at the border, we can certainly treat refugees as humans.

I have no idea how to wrap up this string of thoughts, so I’m not going to! 😂

Thanks for reading and indulging me. Have a great Friday, and watch Gettysburg if you’re feeling resolute.