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.

05 December 2017

Thanksgiving Break

Over Thanksgiving I went to my friend Maddie's house in Vista, CA. It was a super fun and relaxing weekend filled with music, games, shopping, and movies galore! The weather was beautiful over Thanksgiving, so we walked by the harbor in Oceanside. It was so nice to hang out in a house with a family and eat non-school food! Maddie and her sisters took us to the Mission of San Luis Rey, the Benedictine abbey near their house, and some fun places to walk around. Our train back to campus on Sunday left at 5:40am, but we didn't let that stop us from having a great time. Being back on campus was nice, too, though--it's weird how quickly we started to miss everyone. It's so good to have good friends.

04 November 2017

Section Dinner

First of all, I have a Public Service Announcement: my section (Section 1) is the best freshman section at TAC this year. It's objective.
Now that you know that, I'll recount a fun thing my section did this week...section dinner! Each freshman section goes to dinner at the house of one of their tutors, co-hosted by another tutor. We got two of our favorite tutors for section dinner, and it was such a fun night! It was really nice to be at a house again, eat homemade food, play with little kids, and just relax. We love hanging out together. On the way back to campus, we blasted Christmas music. And later that night, my choir sang for All-Night Adoration, which we have every First Friday.
Now we have a relaxing weekend, with our theology paper due in two weeks. We had no classes on All Saints Day (perks of Catholic school), so we're in a bit of an academic lull, which is nice. Every day it gets better. It's crazy how fast freshman year is going! What a blessing to be here.

15 October 2017

Tessie's Confirmation

I flew home on Columbus Day weekend for Tessie's Confirmation, since she asked me to be her confirmation sponsor. It was a really fun and relaxing visit, and a beautiful Confirmation Mass.
She chose two confirmation saints: St. Faustina and St. Martin de Porres. She needed to give one name for the bishop to say during the ceremony, so she chose Martina -- which she told me may be the feminine form of Martin, or may be a mash-up of Martin and Faustina. Who knows. It's cool because my aunt Nina, whom Mom and I visited at her abbey in Germany last year, has the religious name of Sr. Martina after St. Martin de Porres. So she and Tessie are saint twins now!
I feel so blessed to be Tessie's sponsor; it gives us an extra connection over the miles.

Love you, Tessie!

14 October 2017

General Life Update

Hello, yes, I'm still alive.
College is absolutely insane, but in a good way. I'm loving every minute of it. 

I love my section and my tutors. Here are my classes:
Math (four times week)
Language (three times a week)
Philosophy (twice a week)
Theology (twice a week)
Natural Science (twice a week)
Literature Seminar (once a week)
In addition, I have 13 hours a week of work-study in the kitchen and sing in two choirs. It's a lot of work, but I love it.
This upcoming week is Don Rags, which we have instead of midterms. It's when your tutors sit down together and evaluate how you're doing as a student. I'm excited because I think it will improve my section a lot, since we will know what we need to work on individually. Another nice thing is Don Rags means we get three days of no class!
We have four fabulous chaplains on campus, which makes it easy to get to Mass, Confession, etc. There is a Dominican, a Jesuit, a Norbertine, and a diocesan priest. They are all wonderful to talk to and such a beautiful presence on our campus.
When people ask me what I like best about college, its hard to answer, because there isn't really any aspect I don't like. It's surreal to be so at peace with a decision I've made.

Well, that's all I'll say for now. Gotta get back to studying.

14 August 2017

Weddings, Concerts, and Future Plans

Here I am, sitting on my bed under a blanket and drinking decaf earl grey with whole milk. The floor of my room is littered with suitcases, one full, two half-full, and one empty. Also a drawer from my dresser is on the floor, don't ask about that. Packing is an ordeal when you're flying to college.

I'm on my computer, trying to put my last few days of wifi to good use. Because, you guessed it, there ain't no wifi at TAC. *collective gasp* So naturally, blogging won't happen as much during the school year.

I will definitely try to keep up on posts, especially since I'll have lots of grand new photos of California life to make you all jealous in the winter. But, as I'll be in an actual class schedule (first time for everything, kids), skipping off to the mailroom to hook up to ethernet will probably be seldom.

Anyway, my current plan is to post at least once a month. We'll see how that goes. For now, here are some recent photos!

We went to the wedding of a family friend on Saturday. It was a really fun day! 

Yes, I took off my shoes as soon as was socially acceptable

The Pepinos came up for the wedding and we did a little of the sculpture walk downtown between Mass and the reception. You probably remember 5-year-old Josie from Isabel's wedding!

Last weekend we drove up to Aberdeen for Tessie's honor choir concert. It's so great to pass the honor choir baton! She will have a great junior year!

And today was the last day of my summer job! It would have been a lot less fun working as a research assistant for Dad's center if Susannah hadn't been working alongside me all summer! We kept each other awake and shared snacks and commiserated over Google Scholar and Excel. What more could you ask for?

T-minus three days until I'm a California girl!!

09 August 2017

Why I'm Going To A Catholic College

     One more week, and I'll be calling a small room in a mission-style building with a courtyard my home. Every day, I will walk across the well-watered lawn to the St. Joseph Commons for my meals. I will spend time reading in the St. Bernardine of Siena Library, and I will take classes in St. Augustine and St. Gladys halls, and study science in Albertus Magnus hall. I will walk the few hundred yards from my dorm to the big chapel which sits at the head of the quad, overlooking all of campus, for Mass. Surrounding the campus, I will be able to see reddish-brown mountains smattered with green plants. Every night at 11:00, the gate to my dorm's courtyard will lock, and I will be inside, getting ready for bed or studying or hanging out. I will sleep in my small room, in the small dorm, on the small campus of my small college. My small, Catholic college.

     What made me choose a Catholic college? I'm already Catholic; is it really necessary to go to a school where nearly everyone else is, too? What difference does it make, if all I'm looking for is a college degree?

     If that were all I was looking for, I wouldn't be going to a private, Catholic school. I definitely wouldn't be going to Thomas Aquinas College.

     When I began my (albeit very brief) college search, I had three requirements: the school had to be a liberal arts school, it had to be small, and it had to be Catholic. Obviously, these requirements would be different for someone interested in a different field of study. But for me, choosing a college was about more than just the quality of the academics (although that was important, too). When you begin college, you're 18 years old, just starting out life as an independent person, making your own choices and building your own lifestyle. How much would environment affect that lifestyle, that person you become? A lot, I would think. You need a community of people you can trust, and who trust you. You need an environment that will support your morality and your Faith. Because at the tender age of eighteen, it would be all too easy to forget your upbringing and abandon your Faith, if you were formed in the wrong environment.

     And that's really a lot of what college is, to me. It's a time of formation. It's a time when you solidify your values and dig deeper into the truths you're passionate about. You learn about the world, about your field, and about yourself.

     In my opinion, there's too much at stake here to spend four years any old where.

     And I'll tell you something else. Discerning your vocation is hard. No matter how much effort you put into it, sometimes God wants you to be patient and wait for an answer. But in order to hear the answer when it comes, you've got to be listening. You've got to be in the habit of listening.

     This past year, I've come to realize a reason I'm so glad I'm going to TAC; a reason I didn't even consider when committing to it. At TAC, I can really, truly, intensely continue my discernment. I'll have all the tools necessary, and then some. Daily Mass (my choice of four!), Confession, spiritual direction, a chapel just steps away from where I sleep. And peers who are equally as committed to their Faith. As Sr. Scholastica told me during my visit to the Benedictines in Missouri, TAC is the best place I could be going to discern religious life. And it's no coincidence how many priests and religious have come out of there.

     Anyway, this was a really roundabout and scattered way of saying this: going to a Catholic college is important because the four years of college form you as a person and prepare you for adult life, and  being in a place where virtue and morality and a relationship with God are encouraged and upheld can only be a good thing. College isn't just a degree; it's a starting point, a launch pad.

     Plus, an authentically Catholic lifestyle is the most peace-giving and rewarding thing you can have this side of Heaven.

     I couldn't be more excited to begin the next chapter of my life at Thomas Aquinas College!

03 August 2017

End of the Summer

Two more weeks until I move to California and start college!!!
Lots of fun things have been happening in the meantime.

Jack, the sweetest tomcat around

driving to Sioux Falls for a shopping trip

fun on SDSU campus

Katie came over and we accidentally coordinated

Farmer's Market fun with mom's new bike

28 July 2017

5 Things I Learned in Senior Year

Senior year was an adventure. It was a wonderful way to close my high school career. I learned a lot. Including these five things.

1. Traveling alone isn't that bad.
Last July I went alone in an airplane for the first time. I was very anxious, but it ended up being fine. Since then I've flown alone several times, and it gets less stressful every time. Really, flying alone is just boring because you have no one to talk to while you wait. Maybe I'll get better at that part as I fly home for breaks during the school year.

2. Having a marketable skill is really convenient.
Despite my 12+ years of piano lessons, I never expected my musical knowledge to serve me practically. Boy was I wrong. This past year I played piano for assisted living homes, helped out with youth choir at church, began accompanying for Mass, and accompanied for solo contest and honor choir auditions. Turns out, people are willing to pay you pretty nicely if you're decent at playing piano. Who knew? I'm going to see if I can get scheduled to play organ for Mass in college, as the chapel has no piano.

3. People are more willing to help you than you may think. 
Throughout this year, I emailed TAC a lot. Like a lot. Every small question I had, the admissions office would get another email. I expected them to be a little annoyed, especially since some of the things I asked them I could easily have figured out myself. But they were always incredibly courteous and cheerful! This is only one example of what has happened over and over to me. People enjoy being kind if they feel like you really appreciate it. The trick is being kind to them, so they want to be kind to you.

4. You may crave change, but remember to savor your current situation.
I was one of those seniors who got "senioritis". A pretty bad case, in fact. I was so ready to be done with the monotony of high school and move on to new experiences. My family was very patient with my temper tantrums, provoked by sheer restlessness. The two convent retreats I went on really helped me refocus on enjoying high school before it was over. And I did have some fantastic experiences during senior year: helping with youth choir, All-State Chorus, and trips to Chicago and Germany. Looking back, it was a better year than I felt it to be while it was happening. I'm definitely glad I'll be starting college with the new experiences and lessons that senior year gave me.

5. In the end, a lot of things don't really matter. 
It's easy to get caught up in details, fret about the small things, and miss the big picture in life. I am prone to freaking out about little matters and ignoring the things that count. This past year, spending time in voluntary poverty (during my convent visits) and preparing to move away taught me how to take a step back and evaluate my priorities, especially when it comes to possessions. I can safely say that I now pack more lightly, get rid of things more easily, and give things away with less reluctance. Because none of it matters, as long as you've got the Faith, a family, a roof over your head, and food to eat.

Only three more weeks until I embark on a brand-new adventure at Thomas Aquinas College!

20 July 2017

Sword of Honour

     The latest book I listened to was Sword of Honour by Evelyn Waugh. It was my first experience of Waugh's writing, and I greatly enjoyed it. Apparently the book is actually a trilogy of novels, but the edition I listened to seamlessly connected them and I didn't even notice. 

     The plot follows Guy Crouchback (lovely name, I know) and his experience as an English soldier during World War II. Most of the action takes place in a military setting, which is usually boring to me, but Waugh does a wonderful job of being just technical enough--but not too technical--that it's both informative and engaging. My favorite part of the book (as usual) is the array of gloriously diverse characters. Despite the complete absence of physical descriptions, I felt as though I knew each character personally and could picture each one with ease. I was laughing out loud countless times while sitting at my computer at work. The close of the story is not as satisfying as I would like, but I can't think of a single book ending I did enjoy completely! 
     Sword of Honour definitely got me interesting in reading more Waugh. Especially if all his books are so hilarious! It is a great story, with a wonderful balance between plot and character. A must-read for anyone who enjoys British literature!

18 July 2017

The Brothers Karamazov

     I recently read The Brothers Karamazov by the Fyodor Dostoevsky. On the whole, it was very interesting and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that the plot was difficult to follow most of the time. There was a distinct lack of likable characters (only one to my count), but that doesn't usually stop me from enjoying a story, and it didn't this time.
     The story follows the Karamazov family: Fyodor Pavlovich, the dissolute father; Dmitri (Mitya), the military son who follows somewhat in his father's footsteps; Ivan, the atheist and scholar; and Alexei (Alyosha), the kind and quiet would-be monk. Relations among all the members of the family are strained, and there is talk of theft and mental illness--especially when Fyodor Pavlovich is murdered.
     A good chunk of the story is a murder mystery, but with one downfall: you never find out beyond doubt who the murderer is. Woven into the seams of the mystery are many tragic, frustrating, funny, and entertaining encounters between characters. I know this book is considered great literature by many people, but if there is a deeper underlying theme, I definitely missed it. Wouldn't be the first time, either. I'll leave the analysis to the scholars.
   Anyway, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who knows what to expect from Russian literature and is looking for an entertaining and not-too-deep story!

11 July 2017

Matt & Isabel's Wedding

At last, the long-awaited day arrived! I don't have very many pictures, but here are the few I took.

05 July 2017

Shakespeare Camp 2017 - performance day photos

Photos from the Shakespeare Camp performance are here, courtesy of Mrs. Scott!

group photo in the shirts

Tessie doing my hair

shirt signing

Marie getting her hair done (we played the same character)

Getting ready backstage!

Viola and the sea captain

Cesario (Viola) and the Duke

Maria and Sir Toby Belch

Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek

Lady Olivia with Malvolio and the Fool

Malvolio in his yellow stockings and cross-gartering

the fool pretending to be Sir Topas the curate

Group picture backstage!

It was an amazing seven years of Shakespeare Camp. I'm so grateful that I was able to have this experience in homeschooling!