25 April 2016

Choir Trip to Omaha Part II

The morning after the show, we spent some time walking around downtown Omaha.

The view from our hotel room.
 We met up with Gus, and he showed us around. He told us of the old restaurant that collapsed in a gas explosion as we walked past it.

It was a really cool building, even with all the floors caved in.

Tessie, Olivia, and Jenna got cupcakes from a special cupcake shop. They said they were delicious!
And Gus bought us Juice Stop.

We walked around in a beautiful park.

We made friends with some ducks.

And Tessie and Jenna inspected this structure, two arches stuck together.

We even had some great views leaving Omaha!

It was a great, short trip, with beautiful weather!

24 April 2016

Choir Trip to Omaha Part I

On Friday we took off to Omaha for our choir trip! We went to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Orpheum Theater. It was such a great experience!

passing out tickets in the bus

excitement mounting!

The theater was stunning.
We weren't allowed to take pictures of the stage due to copyright/royalties, so I don't have any photos of the show itself. But I can tell you, it was beyond amazing. I have watched two versions of the musical and read the book, so I had high expectations. But this production exceeded them 5 million times over! The sound effects, the set, the pyrotechnics, the acting the singing! I was blown away.

I had always wanted to see Phantom of the Opera live on stage, and now I got to see a wonderful production of it in a beautiful theater! It was unforgettable.

23 April 2016

Weekly Prompt Writing

From today's Skype meeting.

It was that gardener boy again. He dawdled around the kitchen, watching me scrub the pots. At last I couldn't bear it. "Don't you have something to be doing?" I said, wiping my hands on my apron. It was rather a process getting used to doing house work.
For a moment he just looked at me. Then he said, in a quiet voice, "Why are they all afraid of you?"
I was at a loss. "Who's afraid of me?"
He spread out his hands. "All of them. All the other girls. They all think you're...strange."
I couldn't exactly tell him that this was the least surprising thing anyone could ever say to me. Instead I handed him a wet pot and a clean rag. "Dry." He acquiesced, and I went back to scrubbing the breath out of my lungs. Would the doctor consider this strenuous work?
But he didn't appear to be finished talking. "I don't think you're strange. I think you're sad."
Dash it, was it that obvious?
"Are you afraid of me?" I asked, attempting to joke, but sounding more like a frightened five-year-old.
He shook his curly black head. "Not a bit. You're lonely. Loneliness is nothing to be afraid of."
I could tell he hadn't experienced loneliness the way I had. I couldn't think of anything more frightening.

21 April 2016


On Tuesday a priest came to our parish to give a lecture and display his traveling exhibit of holy relics: 167 of them, most of them first-class relics, even one from the True Cross and one from the veil of the Blessed Virgin!
This program is one of his religious order's apostolates, and he's traveled the world with these relics. It was really an amazing experience to be in the physical presence of some remnant of all these saints I've read about, gotten to know, and prayed to. I think the oldest relic they had there was probably from St. John the Baptist, and the newest was probably Mother Teresa or Pope St. John Paul II.
It was fun going around and looking for relics of our favorite saints. I prayed before the relic of St. Francis de Sales for our writers' group, since he is the patron of writers. After a long search, I found St. Thérèse of Lisieux, my confirmation saint. I touched my 4-way Medal to her relic, so now I wear a third-class relic of her!

Being Catholic is awesome, isn't it?

20 April 2016

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a debut novel by Alan Bradley which one six different awards. My friend gave me this book for my birthday, and I absolutely loved it!
Aside from its great title, this book has pretty much everything I love in books. A daring, intelligent, and lively protagonist, a historical setting  (1950s England), a murder-mystery premise, numerous references to all sorts of literature and other random knowledge, and fabulous, hilarious writing.

One thing that particularly struck me about Sweetness was the use of a unique narrative voice. Told from the first-person perspective of an unreliable but precocious narrator, the straightforward descriptions and blunt internal monologue couples with a conversational tone to make for a very entertaining read. Mom can testify to how many times I laughed aloud while reading. The style reminded me of a younger, slightly-modernized Agatha Christie with different focus. And the plot was compelling, as an added bonus. The only problem with this book, I would say, is that it interfered with my schoolwork because I didn't want to put it down.
And, happily, there are six others in the series!
Thanks Maren! I can't wait to read the next one.

17 April 2016

Dinner Dance 2016!

The dinner dance was, as usual, tons of fun! It was a nice way to relax and have fun after the stress of honor choir auditions yesterday morning. We spent hours and hours beforehand doing hair and makeup, talking, laughing, listening to music, and snacking! Of course the mothers insisted on a photo session, for which the weather cooperated quite nicely. 

Me with my lovely seniors!

Finn, Nicole, Maren, me, Cecilia, Hope, Tessie, Susannah, Ann, Olivia, Mary.

Despite the lack of leaves on the bushes behind us, it was quite warm.

The invariable sisterly photo!

And the bestie photo!

Selfie in the car!

The theme this year was "Arabian Nights", and the parents really went all out with the decorations. The place looked gorgeous! And the food was delicious. We danced our hearts (and muscles) out, with plenty of tango, jitterbug, waltz, two-step, cha-cha, and line dances. It was so lovely to be together with all the homeschooler friends again before the school year ends!

16 April 2016

Weekly Prompt Writing

Trying out a new POV and voice.

I put in my earbuds and switch my iPod to classical music. It helps me relax as I start walking in the direction of the town. The setting sun paints the horizon pink and orange.
What am I doing here? A small voice inside me says, You're looking for something that doesn't exist. Not anymore.
Another voice inside me says, You're looking for love.
And what made me think I'd find it here? My dad has probably forgotten all about me. But it was Mom's dying wish...
I'm out of cash, so I can't get a cab. I keep walking. I reach into my pocket and finger the soft, worn piece of paper. I've memorized the words scribbled across it: what I believe to be my dad's address. What if he's moved since then? I thrust that thought away and absently conduct the symphony playing in my ears.
I don't believe in God, but I find myself repeating a prayer to the rhythm I'm conducting. Let him remember me. Let him love me. He didn't love Mom, but let him love me.

15 April 2016

Writing Class!!!

Hooray! I'm enrolled in an online writing class, yet again!
This one is called "Writing the Short Story." Knowing how to write short stories is a useful skill to have, because it's a way to get published quickly and there are a lot of money-giving contests out there for short stories. But short stories are, in my opinion, way harder to write than novels. (Novel count: two in post-production, one in pre-production. Short Story count: zero.) How do you introduce and develop a plot, realistic characters, and emotional interest with so little space? The fewer words you have to work with, the harder it is to make readers care about the story. So you have to be really deliberate in your word choice. No time for flowery descriptions and drawn-out conversations, no purple prose. Just the bare essentials. And somehow get (and keep) the reader interested. Wha???
So that's why I'm taking a class on it. I've gotta learn the secrets of such a mystifying skill!
It's lovely to have writing homework again. Perfect way to spend my next three Thursday mornings. (Sorry, concert choir.)
I should have a writing update appearing soon...!

09 April 2016

Weekly Prompt Writing

A fly buzzed at a distant window. Charlotte could see her breath as she drifted through the house. There was the chandelier still in the entryway, but it no longer illuminated the velvet furniture she had bounced in as a child. She pushed through the heavy double-door and into the old ballroom. Her breathing echoed, and she seemed to hear again the violins whining a tune during one of those noisy social evenings. A kind old face floated across her memory, two wrinkly hands stretched out to catch her infant fingers. The flickering candlelight and the draughts wafting in from the front door. Adults chattering, laughing, clinking glasses, and little Charlotte sitting in a corner having her cheeks pinched by some tedious relative or another. 
Strange that her memories of this house should be almost fond. Little Charlotte, who was destined to be a great lady. Little Charlotte, who must surely imitate her brother's princely virtues. Little Charlotte, just barely managing to make it through her childhood illnesses. Little Charlotte, running after Miles on her short infant legs and being scolded for going out of the nurse's sight. Little Charlotte, a mediocre musician and a disappointing artist. Little Charlotte, packed off to finishing school as a last hope. Little Charlotte, dismissed from the house as soon as decorum allowed.
A step echoed on the dusty wood floor and she swung round. Blaise took off his hat and gazed at the grandeur open-mouthed. "This is where you lived?" He ran his sinewy brown hand along the stair rail. "Why'd they leave?"
"Money." Charlotte came toward him and inhaled the scent of sharp autumn air coming off him. "Let's go."
"Wherever you like, dear. Are all the houses in England like this?" He kicked a corner of an ancient rug back into position.
She half-smiled and shook her head at his wondering dark eyes. "I like Harper's Rill better."
"Oh, that old place? Seems like a backwater western ghost town compared to this."
"But it's home."

06 April 2016

The Real Group

On Monday we went to a concert of The Real Group, a world-renowned a capella group based in Sweden. It's been around since 1984, and man, they're good! They do mostly jazz songs and their own compositions. It was so much fun to hear them sing! You could tell they were enjoying it as much as we were.
My favorite song they sang was one they arranged. It's a Latvian folk song (which I can't remember the name of) about early morning and a guy losing his horse.
One of the amazing things about The Real Group is that they only have one person on each voice part, but their balance is impeccable. They were constantly listening and adjusting their volume or tone so that the audience knew exactly who had the melody. That kind of balance is hard to achieve, especially when each person is singing something different.
Anyway, it was a great concert! I'm glad I got to see them and experience their copious talent.

02 April 2016

Weekly Prompt Writing

They pried the door open and stepped into a huge abandoned hall. Grimy light filtered through the tattered rose window at the far end, and weeds wound around the sacred statues like vines around a pole. The floorboards were rotted in places and missing in others. The only sound apart from their work boots was the beating wings of birds who nested in the chandeliers far overhead. As they traversed the building, dust and animal droppings assaulted their nostrils and made them sneeze.
"Team, you know what we're here for. Let's search."
One of them cried out as a stair gave way under his weight. They helped him up in silence and wove around the loose and rotted boards as they climbed to the remains of the balcony.
From there, they could see it. At last they had found it. Here was the final piece to the puzzle. Now they could decipher the message.