24 February 2014

A Prayer I Wrote

O Jesus, 
in the inimitable Love You have for me and all the human race, 
You have showered us with such graces and blessings as we can never deserve.
In the hope of repaying this wondrous Love in part at least, 
I resolve to think of You in everything I say, do and imagine.
I resolve to  see everything as coming from You,
and to ensure that everything I do gives praise to Your holy name.
Sweet Jesus, I ask for the strength to achieve this,
and for the Love which is essential to leading a life pleasing to You.
Let me always feel Your glorious Presence. 
Amen. 

22 February 2014

Till We Have Faces

     I recently read, at the recommendation of my sister, Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. It is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I was a little hesitant to read it, mainly because my sister read it for a college theology class. It didn't sound like pleasure reading to me. But I'm glad I ran out of books and decided to give it a try.
     The main character in the novel is Orual, Psyche's half-sister. Orual and her sister Redival are the daughters of their father, the King of Glome, and his first wife. The book begins with Orual stating that she is writing to accuse the gods of depriving her life of all happiness. She explains that she is old and dying, and has no reason to fear the gods' punishment for her complaint. Then she goes on to tell about her childhood, the day the king's second wife came, and when Psyche was born. Psyche's name in the language of Glome is Istra, but Orual was taught Greek by her slave tutor, and likes to refer to her half-sister by the Greek version of her name. Orual dotes on Psyche and loves her like a mother, a child and a sister. She believes Psyche is perfect. Things get messy when she stops believing that.
     I won't tell you the whole story. It would take far too long, as it's a rather complex plot. But I will tell you what I thought of it. The characters were all very well thought-out and had real emotions.There were, as it is typical of C. S. Lewis, many allegorical aspects of the story, and especially in the word choice and writing style. The plot was unusual and intriguing, and moved along at a good pace. There were some instances of what seemed like chaos to me, and I got thoroughly confused. But such moments were generally resolved by the next chapter, and were almost always important to the plot. I can imagine some of the content and references being weird or foreign for people who are not familiar with Greek myths. But really, C. S. Lewis made it play out more like a fairy tale than a myth, structure- and style-wise. Oh, and I will warn you, it is heavily introspective. The action is minimal, though it has its moments.
     Over all, it was a very interesting book, and one that I will probably read again at another point in life to see if I get more out of it. (Yeah, it's one of those books.) I recommend it, especially if you're looking for a challenging-but-fun book!

19 February 2014

Writing Class

     I take an online fiction writing class from Home School Connections. Actually, there six four-week-long classes, and I'm currently taking the fifth one of those. The first class was Characters and Dialogue. The second was Theme and Style. The third was Conflict and the fourth was Authoring a Book. The one I'm taking right now is Plot and Structure. These classes are all taught by Erin Brown Conroy. She is a wonderful teacher, and the classes are absolutely delightful. I have never been to such enthusiastic classes. Everyone there is invested and interested, and very excited about fiction writing! Some of the classmates have shared what kind of stories they're writing and they sound fantastic. The future of fiction literature is in good hands.
    I plan to finish my first novel sometime during the summer, but we'll see if that happens. During summer I will have loads more time to spend on writing, but it will definitely take me a while to finish revising and editing. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try to get this first one published. It's more of a practice-run novel at the moment. If I'm really proud of it at the end I'll look into it.
     I'm not going to say much about the plot of my novel, because that is still subject to change. But I'd be happy to introduce some more of my characters, if there's an interest. I haven't fleshed them all out quite so well as I have done for Helena, but pressure to blog about them would be a good motivation for me to get that done. For me, characters make a book, so I'd hate to have weak characters.
     Well, this post kind of went all  over the place! I guess that's what happens when you type whatever comes to your mind. Ah, well,

17 February 2014

Once upon a time...

     Ahh, aren't those the most exciting words in the world? You read them and you know everything's gonna be okay, because there's a good story coming up. And if you think about it, any story could begin with "Once Upon A Time." But, of course, the writer wants to make things more interesting.
     That's what we're talking about in writing class this week. Opening Lines. Arguably the most important part of your whole story. If the beginning doesn't catch the reader, nothing will. It's like a magic spell that you have to try really hard to master. And once you do, you've got the reader in your power.
     Don't you love those books that you just can't put down? I think to myself, "Okay, just two more pages. I really should turn off the light before one o'clock." And then an hour later I'm like, "Okay, I'll just finish the chapter." And before I know it I've sighed over the last line and closed the book contentedly. That's what great stories do to people.
     Great stories also change the way we think. This is true for me, anyway. I will spend days after finishing a book dwelling on the moral and philosophical aspects of it, and puzzling out the more obscure concepts. That's what I call meat. A story without meat is just a plot with characters and a setting. With the meat, it comes alive. Because we deal with intangible concepts in real life, every day. Whether we realize it or not, we constantly think about things in a hypothetical light. When making a decision, we predict what would happen if we chose one way or another. That's meat in real life. Meat in stories is just the conceptual stuff that makes us really think things out. Stories don't seem real if they don't have meat.
     I'm off to cook some meat in my story!


15 February 2014

An Introduction

     To combat the somewhat chilly mood of yesterday's post, I've decided to do something fabulous.

     Do you know what it is yet?

     Okay, fine. I'll tell you. I'm going to introduce you to one of my characters!
     (Just...don't tell her she's not real. You don't want her getting angry at you. Believe me.)
   
     So.

     Meet Helena! Sadly, I don't have a picture of her. My artist sister has yet to finish her portrait. (Hint hint!) But anyway, I'll describe her to you.
   
     Helena Zara Carina d'Anovage is the princess of Samedia. (Samedia is her native country. If you tell her it isn't real she'll really explode at you. She's kind of a nationalist. Anyway.) She is seventeen years old, and has a mind of her own. She has a loving old father, King Melius, and an intelligent brother, Prince Gregory, who's known for his military skill (even though he'd much rather teach a boy Latin than fence with him).
     Helena is average height, but sometimes seems tall because she always stands up straight and holds her head high. She has very long, curly dark hair that is near impossible to brush out. Her eyes are goldish-green, and she likes to stare at people to make them uncomfortable. She wears a lot of blue and purple.
     Helena's very favorite thing to do is read. She reads anything, though she loves novels best. She also loves horseback riding, archery, singing, and playing piano. (She hates needlework but does it anyway, because that's what princesses are expected to do.)
     She also enjoys talking. She will talk to anybody and everybody. And she doesn't mind insulting them. But if they insult her she gets very angry. (She has quite a temper.) She is a master of wit and has a quick mind, and loves confusing people who are not as smart as she.

     That, I think, will do for now. You have met the main character of my story-in-progress. She has quite a life ahead of her! I wonder how she'll respond to all the surprises she'll get...?

14 February 2014

Questions...

     Now, no one likes to be interrogated. Of course not. And there are always some things that people just want to keep to themselves. There are some questions that don't need answers, and some that don't deserve answers. Some questions are easy to ask, but excruciating to answer. Here is my list of the worst questions to answer:

     "Are you okay?"
     Chances are that if you have any reason to ask, the answer is no.
 
     "What are you thinking about?"
     If I wanted you to know, I would say it out loud.

     "Well, what do you think?"
     Usually when people ask this it's because they are doubting themselves. And how do you tell them they have reason to doubt? It's precarious ground.

     "What was going through your mind when...?"
     How am I supposed to remember?

     "What is it about?"
     Just read it. Or read the back cover. Or something.

     "How do you play?"
     They put sheets of instructions in the box for a reason.

     Yep, that's about it. The very worst questions to be asked. Spare us, interrogators! If it hasn't been said already, it's probably not going to be said. Just saying...

12 February 2014

Happy Birthday, Nicole!

     Today is the birthday of my lovely friend Nicole. I think she was the first person I met when we moved here in 2005...and we've been friends ever since! We laugh together and tease each other, and she helps me not take myself too seriously. (Which I would definitely do if I didn't have friends who remind me that life is supposed to be fun.) So thanks, Nicole, and happy birthday! Love you!

11 February 2014

Holy Communion

     Today is the anniversary of my First Holy Communion. Eight years ago today I knelt at the communion rail in the Cathedral (before it was restored) and received our Divine Lord physically inside me. Wow.
     (Yeah...knelt at the communion rail. Extraordinary form Mass, with incense, Latin, Gregorian Chant and everything! But more on that in a later post.)
     For eight years, I have had the enormous blessing of being united with Jesus every week (at least). God is infinitely kind, huh?
   


Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee. Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste. May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of widsom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fulness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverence to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.


St. Bonaventure

10 February 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom!

     Today is my darling mother's birthday. We didn't have much time to celebrate, because we had a quiz bowl in which I competed (my team got 4th), my sister timed, and both my parents read. (Needless to say, we really like quiz bowls.) One of the moms there brought mom a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. If you're wondering what a quiz bowl is, you're not alone. But I'll explain that in a later post. Back to my mom.
     Ana Braga-Henebry is without a doubt one of the dearest souls on the earth. She has raised her children with inimitable love and care, and I think we turned out well for it. My mother has made me who I am. She understands my struggles and knows exactly how to show me she cares. She also instilled in me a good work ethic...I'm grumpiest when I know I'm not doing work that I know needs to be done. (I think this guilt strategy has helped me be the good student I am.)
     And so, Mom, I hope you had a wonderful birthday, and that you thoroughly enjoy the rest of your life. I know this miserable winter is hard for your Brazilian self. I'm completely with you there. All I can say is, not long now! Only around two more months of winter!
     I love you, Mom.

   

09 February 2014

"Me? I'm homeschooled."

     When an unsuspecting stranger asks me where I go to school, I can never hold back a smile as I say, “I'm homeschooled.” I keep smiling as the person opposite me usually expresses surprise. I used to wonder why it always surprised people to hear that I was homeschooled. I had never really known anything else—all my friends were homeschooled and we almost never associated with the school kids-- to us a foreign species who were always loud in libraries and seemed to be glued to their electronics. Of course, the stereotypes my peers and I held of school kids were, for the most part, hugely mistaken. But we didn't know that. How could we? We used to look at them with disdain as we quietly shouldered our backpacks and exited the library after a day of co-op classes.
     Another thing I deeply enjoy is the onslaught of questions I get when I pronounce the unheard-of word, homeschooled.
     “Do you like it?” asks the person, somewhat doubtfully. I never understand the doubtful part.
     “Of course,” I reply. Why else would I be smiling?
     “Do you get to sleep in?”
     “Sometimes,” I say offhandedly, neglecting to mention the fact that I, unlike some homeschooled kids, don't even have a specific time I'm supposed to wake up at.
     “Do you get to do school in your pajamas?” I always see this one coming.
     “Yep,” I say, trying not to sound too smug. By this time the other person is looking at me with something closer to envy than incredulity. Sometimes the conversation ends there. But occasionally the person is really interested.
     “How long does it take you to get your school done?” or,
     “Does that mean you're really smart?” or,
     “Will you ever go to school?” or,
     “Do you have friends?”
     Okay, I've never actually been asked that last one, but I can imagine it. I've gotten questions fairly equivalent to it. It always confuses me. Why would being educated at home mean I don't have friends? Sure, I may have fewer than school kids, or be more picky about which ones I actually consider my friends, and not just acquaintances, but I don't understand why the concept of homeschooling is so frequently associated with social tactlessness and the like. There are examples of anti-social people in schools, too.

     Just another strange aspect of society to ponder, I suppose. All the same, I wouldn't trade my home education for anything. And people's surprise amuses me more than it perplexes me. I would like to say to them, “There are more of my kind than you may think!" (Cue unconvincing evil laugh.)
Me in the first week of school. Notice the lack of snow outside...

07 February 2014

Piano

     I had my very first piano lesson when I was six years old. Since then I've been taking piano (somewhat) steadily for eight years. (Feels like longer than eight years.) Until recently I used the same forest-green music binder for that long. But I took nearly-detached front and back covers as a sign that I should upgrade. So my current music had a change of environment, probably for the better.
     Side Note: My most recent favorite of my current pieces is Felix Mendelssohn's Rondo Capriccioso. I've only learnt around two pages of it, but it's delightful. (What a name--Felix Mendelssohn.)
     Practicing piano is usually a positive experience for me. It relaxes me and puts me in a good mood. It empowers me...usually. Then there are the days that I just can't get it right, and I'm exasperated and leave the piano bench in a huff. It's frustrating sometimes: Hands alone. Metronome excruciatingly slow. You can't mess this up. And then somehow I manage to do it wrong. How? Who knows? So I try it again: Hands alone. Metronome even slower. You can do it...probably. Sometimes it works, and I play the measure correctly. Triumphant, I try it again. Not so great this time. Alright, back to hands alone. 
     Luckily for me, my piano teacher is one of the loveliest people I know.
     "Mrs. Gerdes, I didn't practice this one very much this week..."
     "Alright, work on it next week."
     My older sister is an amazing pianist, and she is in college for music education. I think she'll be a wonderful teacher. I would want her to direct my school choir. She and I sometimes talk about playing and learning piano music. I realized recently that I can no longer imagine not being able to sit down and play a song. I also realized that I subconsciously play melodies that are stuck in my head on my air piano (aka my lap). I wonder if that's normal...



06 February 2014

My Dream

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." 
~William Shakespeare


     Ah, how I wish I could have anything to say that would be quoted centuries after my death! I am trying. One day, people across the country will be reading my novels--I hope. That is my dream--to be a novelist. I'm not in it for the money (not that there is much money involved), I'm in it for the thrill of the ride. The tingle you get when you come up with a really amazing sentence. The blood that rushes to your head when you give a character a great catchphrase or a terrible secret. I like to think that people will enjoy my books and get something out of them someday, but in reality, I write for myself. I express myself best in writing, and it relaxes me. Not to mention it's really fun! So,Mr. Shakespeare, I will to mine own self be true, and I will write my heart out.