28 August 2016

Weekly(ish) Prompt Writing

Now that I'm finally back home, this series can start back up!
Here's from yesterday's Skype meeting.

Cold. I knew there was a reason I had stayed in the south all my life. I'd never been this cold. My lungs burned and I gasped for air, but instead of oxygen all I breathed in was more cold. I tried to keep my scarf over my nose and mouth, but it smelled of sweat and made breathing even harder. My teeth chattered, but if I clenched them my whole body shook instead. I wanted to scream from the pain of freezing.
My eyes, almost frozen shut from the snow on my eyelids and squinting against the wind, caught a glimpse of yellow. It was candlelight. It was dazzling against the gray of everything else in my line of vision. I didn't have to turn my horse toward the light; he approached it by instinct.
Soon a village appeared in relief, and at the end of the high street, what looked like a monastery. I headed for the most inviting entrance I could find. Dismounting was a stiff ordeal, and I was gratified to have the door open only seconds after my gloved fist pounded on it, shaking the snow off its wood. A monk in gray hooded habit smiled and gestured me inside.
The hall was awash with candlelight and warmth, and the smell of fire and cooking wafted from somewhere. I drank in the sensation of my bones thawing while one of the monks went out to stable my horse.
"Thank you," told the first monk.
He nodded. "Do you come from far?"
"I'm a southerner," I said, as much in apology as in explanation. He gave me a comprehending smile and led me to the kitchen.
"What brings you to our sleepy little town in the dead of winter?" he asked while I burnt my tongue on a cup of spiced cider. 
I glanced around out of habit. "I'm afraid I can't tell you," I said. Even in a monastery, a spy remains undercover. 
The monk raised his eyebrows but said nothing. 

27 August 2016

Starting School

The end of August means the beginning of the school year, which is my senior year of high school! I'm so glad to be getting done with high school and moving on to bigger and more interesting things. Here's my (mostly-elective) lineup for senior year:
American History (part 2)
Ethics (theology)
German (still teaching myself for fun)
History of the Church
Poetry (with Dad)
ACT math test prep
Concert Choir
...and the obvious piano and voice lessons.
With so little school to do, I'll have plenty of time for my favorite hobbies: writing, reading, baking, and music!

26 August 2016

First (...and maybe last?) College Application

I wrote and revised all five essays, completed the forms, and lined up my letters of recommendation, so I was ready to mail off my first college application! I applied to...wait for it...Thomas Aquinas College! (Shocking, isn't it?)
Mom insisted on a photo when we dropped it off at the post office.
Now begins the waiting!...

17 August 2016

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday I said goodbye to two of my best and oldest friends. Today they leave for college, and we won't see each other again until Christmas.
I remember being younger, and joking about what we would say at each other's graduation parties, and talking about all going to the same college, and viewing it as too far in the future to be worried about.
Well, now it's here, and it's taking me a while to realize that this is real. It's going to be hard, but I couldn't be happier for my friends. Susannah is studying biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Cecilia is studying nursing at Ursuline College. They're both going to be amazing and wonderful and I hope they have the time of their lives.
photo credit goes to big sis Claudia

All I can really say is this:
I don't think I've ever known
A love this pure, this plainly shown.
If all my hopes and dreams would end,
This I would know: you are my friend.

When I get tired of day-to-day
And dreads and fears obstruct my way,
Through all that life's worst storms may send,
At least I know you are my friend.

Your every laugh and hug and joke and tears
Remain with me across the years.
And if our lives cruel fate may rend,
Still I will know you are my friend.

If you grow weak and need relief,
Some shelter from your pain and grief,
I'd go for you to any end.
I hope you know I am your friend.

11 August 2016

South Dakota Honor Choir

After one night in my bed at home after returning from California, I repacked my bags and set off for South Dakota Honor Choir. It was a good week, even though the food was awful and the activities weren't much fun. The focus was the music, and the music was magical. I really liked our director. He liked to make us conduct ourselves, which allowed for a nice freedom when singing.
Our song selection was very good, on the whole. My three favorites were "Invictus" (English), "Vita de la Mia Vita" (Italian), and "Umi Sono Ai" (Japanese). It was a really good experience, and I'm glad I was able to do it before graduating. Once we get the CD I'll put our concert up here. The next upcoming audition is for National Honor Choir in September!
The first day without tea was rough. Thankfully we found some the next day.

Mrs. Perry made SDSU-colored binders for each of us.

The alto section! We were obviously the best.

With Aine, my riser buddy. We had fun jamming out to the classical songs.
With our director, Mr. Stenson.

The BHS contingent: 13 of us went to Honor Choir.
With Nicole and Aunt Nancy, from Mom's FB 

10 August 2016

TAC 2016: Final Days & Dance

After our trip to LA, we stayed on campus for the rest of the program. We finished up the final week of classes (one of the days I got sick and slept through both...haha) and did some more activities, including an admissions Q&A and a "theology on tap" night with Fr. Sebastian (which was beyond amazing because Fr. Sebastian is the coolest priest ever).
On the last night we had a farewell banquet (pasta and shrimp, yum yum!), a talent show, Rosary, and Adoration, before an outside dance. The dance was incredibly fun and I got rather sore! We did lots of swing and waltz, with a little rumba and tango. Because of our previous dance practices everyone knew the basic steps, so we could all join in. It was what I call a "real" dance, which are always the best!
After the dance (so around 12:30) we sat down in front of the projector for a final slideshow of pictures from the whole two weeks.

The next morning I was in the lucky group which left at 6:25am, so I got around three hours of sleep and didn't get much of a chance to say good-bye, but at least I got home at a decent time!
It was truly two of the most amazing weeks in my life. I've already begun my application, so we'll see if I end up at Thomas Aquinas College next year! And hopefully I'll reconnect with some of the friends I made at the summer program.

09 August 2016

TAC 2016: the Getty Center & the Hollywood Bowl

Two days after our trip to the beach, we boarded the buses again, this time heading toward Los Angeles.

First stop was the Getty Center. We didn't have as much time there as we would have liked, due to fires and bad traffic, but it was still a lot of fun. My group headed straight for the Impressionist paintings.

 After seeing our fill of those, we moved on to Sacred Art.

a beautiful little Annunciation
 There was a whole room of old illuminated books and manuscripts. It was my favorite part! 

 We tried to read the Latin but the handwriting was a bit too intricate for our modern minds.

 There were also some stained-glass windows in an adjoining room.

St. Margaret of Scotland: the patron of our homeschool group.

After the Getty Center, we drove to the Hollywood Bowl. We had pizza and fruit around picnic tables outside the entrance, then went in for the orchestra concert.

You could almost see the Hollywood sign from our seats!
with Antonia and Bernadette before the concert
The concert was fantastic—Beethoven and Ravel.
We got back to campus around midnight, all exhausted but happy.

08 August 2016

TAC 2016: the Beach/Santa Barbara

On Sunday after Mass we headed for our first field trip to the beach in Ventura then spending an evening in Santa Barbara.
First stop: lunch at In-n-Out!
Our group: Maddie, me, Hannah, Sarah, and Sarah.
Of course we had to take a group photo with the sign.
Next we spent a lovely time at the beach!
 A lifeguard came to give us a safety talk, and she kind of freaked us out. "If you get stung by a sting ray, there will be excruciating pain, you'll cry, but you'll be fine. We'll just call an ambulance to take you to the hospital..." She also mentioned the aggressive seals and the dolphins that bite. But we had fun anyway!

At one point we began building an epic sand castle, but couldn't even finish the outer fortress before we had to leave.

with Tilly

I loved all the palm trees
 Next we headed into Santa Barbara for a fun time downtown! We walked into a bunch of cute shops and had a nice dinner. We even stopped to watch a street musician and put some dollars in his violin case, then passed by a group of musicians jamming out at a restaurant table.

There was a random cute alley that we walked through.

This fascinating plaque was inside the alley.

There were flags hung all over.
We went to a delicious pizza place for dinner!

After dinner we went out for frozen yoghurt.

Isn't it cute? It was coconut—yum yum!

After we finished our eating/shopping we waited for the buses in this beautiful spot.
with Sarah

Driving home, it was dark, but my phone got a cool effect of the distant mountains.

07 August 2016

TAC 2016: The Classes, Etc.

Thomas Aquinas College has a Great Books curriculum, which means the students spend four years reading the "great books" of western civilization and learning about the world and God through them. To give an idea of the kind of things they read, here's what we read on the Summer Program (all of which are read at some point during the four years):
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex and Antigone
Plato - Euthyphro
Fragments from the Pre-Socratic philosophers
Genesis - chapters 1 through 25
Kierkegaard - Fear and Trembling: "Exordium and Eulogy on Abraham"
Pascal - "The Wager"
Fabre - The Bees
St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologica, Q.2, art. 3
Euclid - Definitions, Common Notions, and Propositions 1 - 32
Boethius - The Consolation of Philosophy
Flannery O'Connor - Everything That Rises Must Converge
We would read the assigned reading, then discuss it in class. We were all broken up into sections, led by a tutor, who would ask an opening question. Then he would guide the discussion, but the conversation was fueled by the students. My section got into some deep stuff, including how to prove the existence of the soul, whether or not faith is reasonable, the purpose of creation, the definition of piety, and much more. It was magical to be able to discuss these fundamental questions with my peers in the light of Catholic teaching. It's kind of mind-blowing, really.
We also had Study Hall every evening, which meant everyone was in the library for two hours of silent study. It was nice not to have to make time for getting the reading done!

the whole Summer Program group

my section, Section 2, with our tutor Mr. Augros
Besides classes, we did a lot of sports, music, and prayer. There were two Masses every day, one Tridentine and one Novus Ordo, both in Latin. While we were there there were two to four priests present at all times, depending on the day. We had Confession, Rosary every evening, Stations of the Cross, and a Marian procession, in addition to praying before every class.
On Sunday we were allowed to sing in the choir, so I met the choir director. We sang Hassler's "Missa Secunda" for the Mass parts and all sorts of beautiful traditional hymns. The chapel was really cool from the choir loft.
There was constantly someone at the piano in the commons, and we had a bonfire one night and sang songs.
We also performed a Shakespeare play, the Comedy of Errors, which was a lot of fun and very funny. There was also a dance on the last day, for which we had practices throughout the two weeks. We would go down to the ponds sometimes to swim or wade, and we went hiking in the mountains one day.
We also took a couple of field trips, which will the subject of my next two posts.

06 August 2016

TAC 2016: Around Campus

Now that I'm finally back from California and Honor Choir, I can sit down and blog. So here's the first round of photos from Thomas Aquinas College! The campus was beautiful—nestled in the mountains near Santa Barbara, half an hour from the beach. More on the actual program in a later post.
Waiting for take-off around 6am.

Flying over mountain/desert on the way.

Approaching Los Angeles.

The prefects decorated each girl's name-tag differently.

My room for the two weeks.

Looking toward the quad from outside the dorms.

The girls' dorm: Saint Monica Hall.

The statue of St. Monica just outside the dorm's gate.
The courtyard of St. Monica's.

 Closer to the Chapel.
Saint Augustine Hall, where my section had class.

One of the man-made ponds behind the Chapel. There were hundreds of tadpoles in it sprouting legs.

The mountains behind some other dorms.
Another view of the Chapel—I couldn't take enough pictures of it!
A panorama I took of campus.