27 December 2015

Christmas Snow

We certainly had a white Christmas. Our snow level must have risen a foot since December 24.
Claudia, who is in France, requested that Tessie and I send her some photos of the snow around the house to show the little girls of the family she is staying with.

What I took on the camera...

...while she took this on the phone.

the street to campus

the street to downtown

house across the street

Tessie looking majestic

The sunset was almost worth the cold.

the abandoned house across the street

a message we sent Claudia


 We have been relaxing and enjoying our Christmas presents. I also have a few more photos from Christmas day.
We got the 10th anniversary edition of Ticket to Ride.

Each train is different!

I've been having fun with the coloring book Claudia sent.

26 December 2015


We are celebrating Christmas to the fullest here in the Braga-Henebry house! Merry Christmas to all!

A few days before Christmas we went to see the new Star Wars.

Mirror selfie in the choir room

After Christmas Eve Mass--the singers.

At home the sisters took a series of selfies...

Christmas Day, playing Ticket to Ride. The mustard yellow scarf was a gift.

Patrick jumped in for one of our selfie sessions.

21 December 2015

Christmas Choir Concert

I meant to post about this before, but alas, things were too busy until now. So here I am.
Our Christmas concert went well. We got to sing in mixed position (voice parts are scattered instead of in blocks), which was awesome. Here is the video of the entire concert. Tessie's choir begins singing at 10:15 and mine begins at 28:00. Whoever put the video together cut off the first quarter of our first song, but maybe I can find a complete version of it somewhere. Also in the end of our last song the sound cuts out.

Our songs:
Deck the Hall (arr. John Rutter)
Bogoroditse Devo (Ave Maria) by Sergei Rachmaninoff
See Dat Babe (arr. Stacey Gibbs)
w/ Mixed Choir: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (I forget who arranged it)

It was a good end to the semester!

10 December 2015

Crime & Punishment

Today our Russian Lit class will finish discussing Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting to--it was fascinating, intense, unpredictable, and so different from anything I had read. The story focuses a lot on the inward state of the characters, because that is the real driver of the plot, but that's not to say it doesn't have its share of action.
I loved how much it emphasized the fact that no one is either all good or all bad; rather, all the characters lay in varying levels of the gray area. Even the most virtuous characters have their moments of questionable decisions and moral ambiguity. Despite this, it's easy to tell which characters are bad news. Dostoevsky's characters are incredible nuanced. Each of the icky characters is icky in his own unique way, and the reality of their ickiness makes you cringe.
The entire host of characters is varied, human, and rigorously alive. Dostoevsky manages to dig deep into each character's soul, sometimes bypassing such trivial things as physical description, and brings the character's true motives into the light in very few words.
And then we come to the plot. The story is heavily introspective. Every plot point that occurs has something to do with the mental, emotional, or spiritual state of those involved. Moments of discovery, redemption, or tribulation are shown mainly through the thoughts of the characters. I expected to get tired of this, but I didn't. Nowadays everyone tells writers to "show, don't tell," but look at what Dostoevsky has crafted by putting action secondary to character development. It is one of those few stories in which the plot is driven by the character development, rather than driving the character development.
Dostoevsky doesn't gloss over things. His descriptions are blunt, straightforward, and sometimes brutal. He makes you feel what the character is feeling, often down to physical sensations. The mood of each scene is revealed in the way it makes the reader feel, as much as in the way it makes the characters feel.
I didn't really like the epilogue, but that's personal preference. I wanted to read more!
If you're looking for a book that challenges your intellect through the lens of vivacious characters, an impelling plot, and wonderful writing, read Crime and Punishment.
(Oh, and if it sounds a bit somber for you, I promise there are funny parts!)

07 December 2015

Birthday Party

On Saturday we had a birthday party for the twins. First we saw Maren dance in the Nutcracker--it was a really good production and she did an amazing job! I don't have any pictures of that, sadly. Afterwards we went to Nicole's house for cake and ice cream, and the twins opened their presents. Here's what I gave them:

Tessie made the backgrounds, and I picked out the verses, did the lettering, and chose the frames. It was a fun and relatively fast project, and I'm happy with how they turned out. 
For Susannah...

...and for Cecilia.
We had a sleepover and watched a movie. After the movie everyone else had a mini-dance party, but I stayed wrapped up in my blanket and watched. I was half asleep. Anyway, it was a bunch of fun, and a fairly relaxing weekend.

03 December 2015

A thought while reading history...

"All men...have certain inherent rights, of which...they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity. [These rights are] the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." Virginia Bill of Rights, signed on July 12, 1776 (italics mine)
The Virginia Bill of Rights was the first of its kind in the newly-independent United States. According to archives.gov, "It was widely copied by the other colonies and became the basis of the Bill of Rights." The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.
Our constitution looks pro-life to me.

30 November 2015

The end of NaNoWriMo

If you're still wondering what NaNoWriMo is (and maybe how to pronounce it), go here. Beyond that, there isn't much I can do to help you.
Anyway, I can't believe it, but I finished my novel. That's right, I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. As I've mentioned before, the writing is atrocious and little short of deletion-worthy, but editing will fix all that. But first, starting in December, I'm going to edit my first novel. It's going to take a long time. But it will be a nice change from writing over an hour a day. And now that I'm sick of hearing from one set of characters, I can go back to the other. It's really a win-win situation.
My advice to people interested in NaNoWriMo: Don't do it unless you know you'll have an hour a day to spend writing. It's too stressful to try busting out thousands of words in one sitting. And it's not rewarding. The whole ordeal is really only slightly rewarding...you slave away in front of the computer for 30 days and all you have to show for it is 50,000 words of questionable writing. But even though I'm saying all this, I really enjoyed doing NaNoWriMo. It was a fun new challenge, and it taught me a lot about using my writing time as efficiently as possible.
At some point I'll start my third novel...yes, I have an idea for a third novel. But for now I'll be an editor.

28 November 2015

Thanksgiving Festivities

It was an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend, despite the fact that I got sick on Thanksgiving. But no worries, I didn't get really sick until after Tessie and I sang for 8 am Mass. It was relaxing and fun to spend time with family, cooking while the boys watched football, etc. And, of course, Tessie had a birthday on Friday! She is 15 years old!

The table awaiting the edibles.
The table with edibles and people. 

Playing board games, obviously. I went up and took a nap. 

19 November 2015

Another quiz bowl win

On Monday was the fourth quiz bowl of the season, and my team's second first-place win! Our other team got second place. It was a huge quiz bowl--36 teams in all. I was happy because there were some great literature questions, including ones about Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, and The Divine Comedy, with side stuff thrown in about Faust and Paradise Lost. And it was light on the math and science. My kind of quiz bowl!
Photos courtesy of Mrs. McLaughlin.

18 November 2015

The second half...

A few days ago, November 14 to be exact, I passed 25,000 words in my NaNoWriMo novel. That's right, I was one day ahead of schedule. Now my total is around 31,500. I've had a few really busy days and was only able to write 600 or so words.
I can't believe we're in the second half of November! The month is shooting by, with quiz bowls, tests, random events, and TONS of writing. It's fun.
It's strange because some days I sit down to write and feel like I was doing really well, then realize that I've only written 900 words. Some days it's the opposite. On Sunday I wrote 1,779 in one sitting, which was a bit much. The most important thing right now is that I have a writing group to talk to. It makes such a difference when you can talk to other people who are undertaking the same insane task as you are, and encourage one another. It's bad writing. It's awful writing. But, as they say, "you can't edit a blank page." So we're keeping our eyes looking forward, not back (thanks to light gray font), and plowing on despite the disheveled trail of abysmal writing we're leaving. There's always time to edit come December.

10 November 2015

New Desk!

I got a new desk! It's wide enough for both my computer (for online classes) and my laptop (for writing) to fit on it. Plus there's a lot of storage. It makes my room feel bigger, too!

I took the opportunity to do some lettering art on Sunday evening:

08 November 2015

Beautiful Things

First of all, I found out ten minutes ago that I got 100% on my most recent math test. That's my first 100 in math since I started high school!
An old family friend stopped by on her way to North Dakota and spent the night with us. It was a fun, short visit!

Kind of an awkward picture but you get the point!
We went for coffee after Mass this morning.

On Friday we went to Sioux Falls to see my friend's Schola Cantorum (of the Cathedral) perform a Requiem Mass by Cristobal de Morales. (What a name, right?) It was absolutely gorgeous. In each part the soprano voice would open with one line of the chant from the Requiem Mass, then sing the chant melody very slowly while the lower voices filled in the overlapping harmonies.
A lot of us friends met up at the concert.
The program.

The last piece of news is that I made it into North Central Regional Honor Choir! I'm overjoyed and excited to have such an experience. Shoutout to my voice teacher for helping me audition!

02 November 2015

18th Birthday

Today is the 18th birthday of two of my very special friends. This past September marked the 10th anniversary of our friendship...and it has come such a long way! I was talking to them two nights ago and we realized that though we've grown and changed a lot together, it's hard to distinguish specific stages in our friendship. Everything is a blur of laughter, tears, occasional anger, and always love.
One of my worst fears used to be that after college I would lose touch with my current friends. Now I know that's not going to happen. We'll always be there for each other, just as we already have for the past ten years.
And now my friends are 18, and embarking on a new and beautifully unique adventure. Next year they'll be away at college, starting their lives as new adults. I know I'll miss them every minute and cherish the time we have together when they're home on breaks. I'll also probably send them way too many texts asking about college life!
I'm so proud of my friends. Wherever they go to school, that school should consider itself lucky to have such bright, caring, and determined students. I know they will make an impact wherever they end up. I'll never forget the impact they have made on my own life.
Today my childhood friends are all grown up, and I couldn't be happier for them.
Happy birthday, Sus & Ceal!

30 October 2015

the end of October

I've been in a whirl preparing for NaNoWriMo...character profiles, floor plans, plot outlines (which have gone through several versions by now), experimenting with point of view, structure, and opening lines. And November is fast approaching! I'm very excited and a little bit apprehensive, which I guess is good for novel writing. The support of my writing group is essential.
Since I know someone will ask, I'll put up the little blurb I have on the NaNoWriMo website:
Our Halcyon Days [Yes, it even has a title!]
Sebastian and his cousin Antonio live in the nicest house in a college town rental neighborhood. They lead an eccentric and unpredictable life, whose pitch only increases when an intriguing girl and her family move in next door, Antonio discovers a secret his parents have been keeping from him, and a girl from school disappears. Could it all be related?
In other news, Isabel came for a visit last weekend, yay! 

While she was here we carved pumpkins.
 I submitted my entries for two essay contests this past week. Also I submitted my application to the Thomas Aquinas College summer program...yikes I'm so old!

15 October 2015


They've been rolling in at a good pace this past week.

We had our first choir concert on Monday.

I also finished the first draft of my book on Monday! I can't believe it's finally done, after over two years of planning and writing. Now I'm planning to do NaNoWriMo, after which it'll be time to put on my editor's hat! I sadly don't have a photo of this momentous occasion, but I will say that in my excitement I forgot to type the words THE END.

Oh, and in passing, I received a 100% on my first chemistry exam.

On Tuesday was our first quiz bowl of the season. It was a success, and as usual a ton of fun!

And then yesterday I took the PSAT/NMSQT. The English part was very easy, but the math part was harder than the ACT in my opinion. I was exhausted for the rest of the day. I always like checking the boxes at the beginning, though, saying both my parents have a graduate degree!

I hope things keep going this well!

11 October 2015

Various October Things

Played piano at the nursing home for the third time on Friday morning. 

Obviously mom took a picture.
Last weekend Gus came for a "sleepover" visit. It's so nice that there's at least one sibling close enough to do that! 

He came on Saturday afternoon and left on Sunday morning.
Things have been pretty slow around here...well, for me. Tessie has been insanely busy (got back from a band competition at 2am so she and dad are at late Mass). Speaking of which, I sang for Mass last night without Tessie due to said band competition, then got home and Dad was here, back from Kyrgyzstan and Turkey! I had a writers' group Skype session which lasted over two hours, which was fun. I was the first one up this morning, and I didn't go downstairs until 8:45!