09 June 2018

Living with a Dress Code

     Telling others about Thomas Aquinas College, many people are, shall we say, appalled when they hear of our strict class dress code. If you don't know, our dress code is as follows: for class, Mass, and meals, boys must wear collared shirts, dress pants, and dress shoes; girls must wear skirts which fall below the knee, sleeves which cover the shoulders, and necklines no lower than four fingers from the collarbone. Sounds excessive, right? "Sends the message that girls can't learn while wearing pants," you might be thinking. I won't pretend it doesn't feel burdensome and a little archaic at times. But the truth is, having everybody dressed so well does a lot to improve the atmosphere, dominated as it is by college students with no pretensions to put-together-ness. It makes us hold ourselves and each other to higher standards.

      (Disclaimer: the following are my own thoughts, and not the official reasons for TAC having the rules it does. I do not speak on the College's behalf.)
     I think the characteristic quality of people my age is laziness. At this time of life, we have so much potential to do whatever we want with our lives. The main reason many people don't reach this potential is simply not being willing to work for it. Everything worthwhile must be worked for: if we were just handed all the good things of this life as children, what pleasure would we derive from them? This rule holds true for, I would argue, every aspect of life. What you achieve is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put into it. But the fact is that most people my age don't have a good work ethic and have no desire to work for what they want. This attitude leads to bad grades, slovenliness, carelessness about morals, and a host of other evils.
     How, then, to fix this generational disorder? One way is to mandate effort. It sounds weird, but if you are required to put effort into something, it will get you used to doing so, even in non-compulsory situations. This is the beauty of the "fake it til you make it" philosophy. And that's one of the things that a strict dress code achieves. We have to put effort into a seemingly small aspect of life--the very clothes we wear--and as a consequence we find it less taxing to put effort into a more important thing, like our studies.
     But that is only one of the benefits of having a dress code. Another is mindset. Like it or not, no one can deny that the mental disposition of a person while wearing sweatpants and fuzzy socks is not the same as the mental disposition of the same person wearing a business suit. Occasions for which we dress well tend to have more import, and thus we are more engaged in whatever we are doing. One thing our dress code has taught me is to take things more seriously. Dressing in such a way as to be better engaged helps us acknowledge the gravity of what we do in acquiring an education. At TAC, we place a great emphasis on education as a serious pursuit of the Truth. This pursuit is essential to education--how can we pretend to any kind of knowledge or wisdom if we are not constantly seeking out what is good, true, and beautiful? And if dressing well aids us in this search, we have little excuse to set it aside. As my friend Emily put it, our dress code is "our way of paying respect to what we set out to find in every class--the truth."
     Another aspect of this discussion is paying attention to how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. As human beings, we depend on sense perception for our knowledge of the world around us, and sight is one of the principle senses we rely on. Because of this, we tend to make judgments about things and people based on appearance. This is not altogether good, but is also not necessarily a failing; someone's character is often manifested in their mannerisms, body language, and personal attire choices. It can often be an identifying feature--think of how easy it is to spot American tourists in foreign countries because of our distinctive habits of dress and mannerisms. It is a gift to have such an impactful way of expressing ourselves in our appearance, but it is one that ought to be used properly, as with all gifts. And it should be noted that this can sometimes work in the other direction, too: dressing better may positively affect my self-image.
     If my dress can have this much weight for my perceived person--and perhaps in who I really am, to a certain extent--then I ought to take my habits of dress seriously. If I want to be construed as a classy, put-together person, worthy of respect, then I should dress in a classy, put-together manner that is worthy of respect. Every human being has inherent dignity as a child of God, and we should dress in accordance with that dignity. Dressing well serves as a reminder, to ourselves and to others, of our value and our right to be respected.
     All this is common sense, and is reflected in TAC's custom of dressing with modesty and some degree of formality in classroom and social settings. Living with this custom has made me more aware of the dignity of myself and others, and of the importance of my education. Yes, it can be a pain at times, but it is well worth it.

03 June 2018


Well hello, world!
It's been a long time since I sat down and wrote a blog post!
     Freshman year has come and gone, and I am a little in shock looking back and seeing how fast it went. So much has happened in the past year, but it hardly feels like any time has passed! I have learned a lot about God and the world and other people and myself. I have met countless new and beautiful people, and thought of and talked about things I never thought of or talked about before. I got to experience the true Catholic life--living every day according to the liturgical calendar--and learned to value the Mass and the Sacraments in a new and better way. I read dozens of ancient books written by great and thoughtful men, and discussed them with great and thoughtful tutors and classmates. I had the new and different experience of meeting people who know only me, and not my whole family (which is weird for a big-family Catholic homeschooler). I was reminded again and again of the hugeness of the world and the littleness of my own experience of it. I learned to appreciate so many small things I took for granted before: a breathtaking view, a quiet library, good food, laughing with friends, saying good-night to my family, dancing to loud music late at night, kneeling in the still chapel while the sunlight slants in through the windows high above my head. I was unambiguous about my excitement for college before. But nothing could have prepared me for how absolutely wonderful it has been so far. It exceeded my expectations in every way.
     And now I am spending a quiet summer working and resting before the craziness of sophomore year. It is such a strange feeling to be "visiting" home and have school be the place I go back to at the end of break. It certainly makes me want to enjoy this summer as much as possible. It's like a three-month retreat for my brain. And heaven knows my brain needs it! Being home from college gives me an opportunity to look back on the year and realize how truly amazing of a year it was. And to prepare for next year, so I can learn even more and make even better habits and friends and memories. The past year has really motivated me to simplify my life--to own less stuff, make fewer plans, and focus only on what is important: God and my family and my friends.
     Such is my frame of mind going into this summer, and such hopefully will still be my frame of mind going into sophomore year. With the grace of God and the help of the saints, we journey on upward!

20 March 2018

Walk for Life San Francisco

Every year, TAC leads the Walk for Life in San Francisco, so in January we hopped on a bus and drove up for a crazy weekend in the crazy city!

It was a really cool experience being the ones to lead the walk and know what was going on. We walked past a lot of counter-protestors, some of whom were pretty aggressive, but we were all singing and laughing. Everyone involved in the walk was cheerful and helpful, and they were so grateful for the College coming up to give the witness of young people standing up for the truth. It was definitely a pilgrimage of sorts--sleeping on a gym floor with two hundred other people and no showers--but as usual, the pilgrimage was worth it. And it was really nice marching for life in beautiful sunny weather as opposed to a blizzard!

01 January 2018

2017 in Review

Happy New Year! It's always fun to take a look back on the previous year month by month.

In January I went on a five-day vocation retreat with the Nashville Dominicans, and even after the rest of the 2017, it's still one of the best things that happened this past year. I hope I can go back to visit them again soon.

One of the main things I did in February was work on my writing, both my big projects and my smaller ones. It was a blessing to have so much time to do it in senior year because I have pretty much zero writing time at college!

In March Patrick flew Tessie and me out to Chicago for a birthday trip. It was such a fun weekend filled with lots of walking, yummy food, and cool museums and sightseeing! I don't think I'd like to live in Chicago, but it's definitely a nice place to visit. 

April saw my last homeschool dinner dance! It was a fun tradition in high school, and it's only gotten more fun in college with five dance this past semester. 

I graduated! What with senior recital, open houses, and lots of other end-of-the-school-year things going on, May was a crazy time for sure. I'm still so happy to be done with high school. 

My summer job (research assistant at Dad's center, GSCE) may have been boring in itself, but doing it with one of my bestest friends every day made it so much fun! We made a lot of memories in that cold, dark computer room this past summer, including but not limited to helping each other stay awake, bonding over Spotify playlists, getting frustrated with Excel, and learning more than we ever expected to about Central Asian countries. 

Isabel and Matthew got married on July 8! It was awesome being a bridesmaid for their wedding, and Matt has been such a fun addition to the family!

On August 17th I became a real live TAC student--a dream I'd had for years! I expected a lot from college going in, but it's been so many times better than I ever dreamed! 

I joined our school's student-led chamber choir, Chrysostomos. Here's one of our songs that we sang for All-Night Adoration in November.

I got to be Tessie's Confirmation sponsor in October! It was a quick visit home, but I was so glad I was able to make it for such a special day. 

For Thanksgiving Break some of us went to my friend Maddie's house in Vista, CA. It was a super fun and relaxing weekend, and so nice to hang out in a house with a family again! I have made so many wonderful new friends in college and I'm so lucky to share freshman year with them. 

The harbor in Oceanside, CA.

I could mention the California fires here and all that drama, but I have something more important to remember as the highlight of December 2017: Gus and Jessie's wedding! I am so happy to have Jessie as a sister-in-law--what a great Christmas gift! As a side note, Christmas weddings are the bomb. 

So there are some of my highlights from the year 2017! Thanks everyone for making it a great year, and here's to a fantastic 2018!

31 December 2017

Christmas and a Wedding

It was a fun and relaxing Christmas. The whole fam came home, so we were squeezed in our house..but not for long! December 27 saw us heading down to Sioux Falls for the rehearsal dinner of Gus's wedding.

Claudia wasn't able to get home until late Christmas Eve, but at least we had Jessie so the girl-to-boy ratio wasn't too off!

Tessie, Isabel, bro-in-law Matt, and friend Nicole and I did the music for the nuptial Mass. It was a challenging but rewarding project being in charge of wedding music! I think we sounded pretty good. 

My fuzzy photo from the choir loft.

It was a great party and so nice to see so many family and friends at once, since I'll be going back to school soon. 

All dressed up and Christmassy! Christmas weddings should happen more often!

Since getting home from the festivities, we've had some nasty cold temperatures, but aside from going to church we've been curled up at home recovering from the holidays. 

One of the warmer recent days.

So you see, I have an excuse not to have posted in a while, because on top of Christmas and the wedding, I've had finals to study for. I have one more week home and I need to get as much reviewing done as possible before the real deal begins on Monday!

14 December 2017


     It's been a crazy time, that's for sure. TAC decided to end the semester early, so we have finals week once we get back in January. While none of the buildings on campus were damaged by the fire, there is a lot to do still, including replacing the food that went bad, getting power back, and clearing out trees that were burned. I flew home early once we got the OK to do so, but some of my friends drove back to campus to grab their books and clothes. Several of them said everything surrounding campus is black and destroyed--it's really a miracle campus is okay.
     It's definitely a different Christmas break than I was expecting, what with not having any of my belongings and having an extra week of break, but it sure is nice to be at home and sleep a lot. My brain is slowly adjusting to the lack of constant California sun and the central time zone. In the meantime, I have time for things like knitting, baking, and watching TV! Crazy.
     So many people helped me in so many ways during the fires. To name the principal ones:
     Thank you to Tahlia, who graciously and calmly drove a very full car off campus that first night.
     Thank you to Leslie, who let us use her car, and to Marya, who drove us from Ventura to Ojai in Leslie's car.
     Thank you to Dominique and Lizzy, who hosted us in their adorable house in Ojai until we decided to leave for a safer area. Thank you for being our moms for those few days!
     Thank you to Mrs. Hurtado, who drove through burning areas to pick us up and take us to her house, and who hosted me for the rest of the week and drove me to the airport.
     Thank you to the several people who went into my room on campus and got the essential things to ship to me in South Dakota. You are lifesavers!
     As you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for.
     Times of crisis like this really show you what kind of people people are. And all I can really say is, I chose wonderful friends. They all stayed calm and cheerful and practical during the chaos. You learn how much you love everyone when you're in danger like that. We have an incredible community at TAC. I wouldn't change it for anything.

     As a side note, one of our chaplains told me to meditate on my death on the first Sunday of Advent. It's been a pretty prominent theme during this Advent, with everything that happened. I'm guessing that's not what he meant. :)

07 December 2017

Fires and Finals

Christmas break is right around the corner! We put a mini Christmas tree in our room for decoration. 

We also decorated Maddie's room to surprise her when she got back from Massachusetts. 

Just the other day, campus looked like this....

And then, on Monday night, it looked like this. 

     A huge fire started at the campground right next to campus. Campus got evacuated and we all drove to a church in Ventura. Then Ventura got evacuated, and the group I was in drove to the house of some alumni in Ojai. Late into the night, we weren't sure if we were going to get told to leave Ojai too, so we drove to Goleta, CA (near Santa Barbara) at 3am. We spent a couple days hanging out in Goleta until Emily's mom picked us up and now I'm at her house in Perris. On the way, we passed by some sketchy smoke-filled areas. 

     This fire is still 0% contained so far and has ravaged through 96,000 acres last I heard. They are calling it the Thomas Fire, which we don't really appreciate, since we didn't start it. Actually, campus is totally fine, even though everything surrounding it is burnt up and there's no power. So the authorities are trying to get us all back on campus in time to have finals next week. 

Marya put it well.

     Yeah, they still want to have finals. We've been without our books since Monday and had no classes, but I guess we could still take exams, right?
     We are all eager to get back to campus--and our possessions. It's been a rough few days, but we're counting our blessings. You don't realize how much you love everyone until times like these. I'm just happy I'll be heading home to SD soon, where there is no chance of fires. Until then, we're chilling with Emily's tiny dogs and waiting to hear from TAC.