Thursday, December 1, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") Latin: The Un-dead Language

           In the midst of my desperate brainstorming, trying to think of a semi-interesting new post topic for this week, I was presented with a sudden idea by one of my dear teachers. Much to the dismay of many of my school friends, I share with you a persuasive essay that I wrote two years ago for a composition class. I also gave this essay as a speech, presenting it to my class at the end of the school year. It is entitled, "The Importance of Studying Latin."

Enjoy!
~Stephanie

The Importance of Studying Latin
            Contrary to common opinion, Latin is not a dead language. If it was, why would anyone study it? Latin can be found in many places, like science, languages, history, Christianity, and so much more. For you biologists, doesn’t practically every living thing have a Latin name? Or think about the popes—all of the encyclicals they write have a Latin title accompanied by an English title. Thousands of words from various languages are derivatives of Latin vocabulary. Although no one actually speaks it anymore, Latin, my friends, is anything but a dead language.
            Latin can greatly aid in the expansion of your English vocabulary as well as that of other languages. In fact, take the word language—it is derived from the Latin word lingua, meaning language. Other derivatives of that word are lingual and linguistic. They all sound very similar, don’t they? In the light of other languages, if you were to say “I love you” in Spanish, you would say “Amo te.” How would you say it in Latin? “Amo te!” Even as a person who speaks only English, I am able to recognize words from other languages, especially Spanish and French, simply because of my knowledge of Latin.
            Not only is Latin helpful in regard to vocabulary, but it also greatly helps with education at large. An excerpt from the National Review reads, “I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.” So when you ask, “How is Latin going to help me in my life?” remind yourself of this quote. The reason Latin makes learning other subjects so much easier is simply because it is in almost any other subject! In taxonomy, everything has a Latin name as well as an English name. History is teeming with Latin—think of the Romans or the people of the medieval age. Latin is in literature, philosophy, logic, music, not to mention grammar—it’s everywhere!
            If you were to go to Mass in a foreign country, it is likely that many parts of the Mass would be said in Latin. Why? Because Latin is one language that is known and understood by people of many tongues; those from countries all over the world gathering for a Mass can all pray together and understand each other. The reason for that is Latin is rooted in our Catholic faith. The popes give the Latin title of their encyclicals as well as the English title. Masses used to be prayed entirely in Latin, and some still are. This beautiful language plays, and has played, a large role in our faith.
            While some of you may be groaning as I speak and thinking up rebuttal arguments against my evidence (you logicians), there is no denying the fact that Latin is immensely important. It is the basis of numerous languages that exist in the world, it is rooted in practically any topic there is to study, it plays an essential part in the Catholic faith—none of us can just throw it out the window! Latin is an amazing language in many ways, and, if you keep an open mind about it, it can also be great fun.
            Gratias vobis ago quod meum sermonem diligenter audivistis.  Scio propter eum vos omnes nunc Latinam vehementer amare.  Aestatem bellissimam habete—quattuor menses Latinae discendae!  Gratias et valete omnes.*
*Translation: I give thanks to you all for having listened intently to my speech. I know that because of it you all now love Latin greatly. Have a blessed summer - four months to study Latin! Thank you and farewell, all. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") Music to Move the Soul

If any of you dearest readers are anything like me, then you like music. I personally enjoy all kinds of music. I listen to pop when I feel like going insane (or just nodding my head in an Egyptian-like way to a catchy beat). I listen to country (here is where many of my friends groan), and it's fun and easy to play on my guitar. I love Broadway show tunes from musicals like Phantom of the Opera (my favorite) and Les Miserables (my second favorite). I like classical music including titles like "The Prayer," or "Time to Say Goodbye" (and including artists like Josh Groban or Charlotte Church), and also am slowly, thanks to my sister who lately has been listening obsessively to Frank Sinatra, growing to even like oldies. 

Thus it naturally follows that I like going and seeing music performed. I have attended many a concert of my music-playing cousins, and have watched many of their halftime shows for marching band (both high school and college). I have seen my top three favorite musicals performed professionally (you already know my top two favs; number three is Wicked). And, although I have been to few, I love seeing artists in concert. And I recently had the opportunity to see a very special artist in concert, by the name of Eric Genuis.

Eric Genuis
In case you haven't heard of Eric Genuis, he is an enormously talented pianist and composer. He travels the country - indeed, the world - performing many, many concerts a year. He performs anywhere from alongside the Slovak National Symphony to schools, prisons, and parishes, as well as for audiences which have included Hollywood stars, Pope John Paul II, and royalty.

More than his renown, however, is the music that he both plays and composes. He writes music so as to move the soul - that is his goal. On his website he has a quote from the ancient philosopher Plato which really tells what music really is, and what Mr. Genuis strives for in his music. The quote reads: "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order and leads to all that is good, true, and beautiful." 

And believe me - hearing his music truly does move the soul. During his concert, I found myself totally mesmerized, drawn into prayer, and moved to tears. In hearing him, you listen to music like none you have listened to before, and it touches something deep within you. You are shown a glimpse of what true beauty is like.

If you have not heard of Eric Genuis or heard his music, I encourage you to check out his website. Listen to the clips available on the site, and hear some of his uplifting music for yourself. I also encourage you to check out the websites of two of the musicians who performed with him at the concert I attended - violinist Liesl Schoenberger and cellist Shannon Hayden. Both of them are incredibly talented musicians, and so was the vocalist Chelsea Morris (for whom I could not find a website).

In case I don't write another post beforehand, have a Happy Turkey Day! Eat lots of turkey and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie! I for one will also enjoy my glorious week off!

Give thanks!
~Stephanie

Monday, November 14, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") Puppy Life

As I hope all you faithful readers of Random Reflections know, my family recently became the proud owners of a new member of our clan. Our new addition could certainly be compared to having a much smaller and somewhat more mute toddler in the house. This brown, floppy-eared new family member is our miniature dachshund, Ginny.

Ginny, our sleeping beauty.

We adopted Ginny a month ago now, on October 15, when she was 11 weeks old. She is now nearing the 16-week mark, and is a whopping 8.5 pounds - as much as our late mini dachshund Daisy weighed as a full-grown adult. Nevertheless, her growing body has yet to fill out her flabby skin and fat rolls.

Seriously, how could you resist that face?
I'm sure you've all heard the song "Do Your Ears Hang Low," and if so, think of the lyrics, and you'll know the state of Ginny's ears. She also has big brown puppy-dog eyes (literally!) that, combined with her eyebrows, are quite expressive. It's nearly impossible refuse her anything - especially a cuddle on your lap - because of her irresistibly adorable face.

As I mentioned previously, one could say that having a puppy in the house is quite similar to having a toddler in the house. Anything on the floor, from a tiny bobby pin to the bathroom rug, screams, "I am a puppy chewing and choking hazard!" One split second of inattention could incite a desperate search for a lost puppy, who is probably off finding new things to choke on. And escorting the puppy outdoors after meals, upon waking up from a nap, or when she is acting abnormally crazy is crucial. Any wasted time in events such as these could mean a gift on your living room carpet that needs some cleaning up.

Such is life in the midst of raising and housebreaking a new puppy. But for all the things which require your immediate, careful, 24/7 attention, there is also much fun and cuteness involved. Ginny happens to be a very cuddly, snuggly puppy, as well as a playful and spirited one. She loves nothing more than for you to hold her so that she can put her paws on your face and lick you. Victimizing innocent plush weasels that squeak is her favorite pastime, along with napping. Body slams onto the couch, into your legs, or any such place are quite common, and are signals to you that she would like your attention.

Here is a visual of her limpness.
Ginny has many other funny characteristics. She is rather shy around new people, but once she gets comfortable, she lets loose and has a ball. She tends to be very limp - we joke that we adopted her from "the boneless dachshund ranch." For example, when you pick her up, she'll sigh and let her body go totally limp, and really couldn't care less what you did to her after that. She also has a habit of, when she is eating her meals, taking the few kibbles of food into her mouth, then running away from her food dish to chew (then of course running back for another mouthful, and so on).

One last fun thing about having a new puppy is introducing that new puppy to your seven-year-old cat. This, though, is such an amusing topic that I feel it deserves its own post, and thus will write about it sometime in the not-so-distant future. I'll just say this - the cat, bratty as she is, was less than thrilled to meet her new sister - who, she's figured out, isn't going away.

I'll keep you updated on events in the life of our puppy. She is a bundle of fun and an unending source of love and entertainment!

Happy Monday,
~Stephanie

Saturday, August 6, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") Puppy Love

For nearly ten years, my family was the proud owner of a wonderful, hilarious, and tiny dog. She had a one-of-a-kind personality - a blend of stubbornness, love of sleep and scrambled eggs, and goofiness - and never failed to make us laugh. Daisy, our miniature dachshund, brought much joy to our life.

Daisy in July of 2009
Daisy used to spend about eighteen hours of the day asleep in my parents' bed, and during her waking moments (which, as I'm sure you can gather, were few and far between), she would reluctantly eat her hated dog food, curl up on a welcoming lap, or putz around the house in search of free crumbs. We tried our hardest to take her on walks, but once the leash was clipped onto her collar, she would plop down wherever she stood and use all the strength her little ten-pound body could muster to not move. After years of attempts to get her over stubborn resistance, we finally resorted to swaddling her in a blanket, placing her in a stroller, and walking her that way; the spoiled girl was perfectly satisfied with that! Another of Daisy's funny habits consisted of, upon someone entering the house, running to the door, picking up one of their shoes in her mouth, hurrying out to the family room, setting the shoe down somewhere, and just leaving it there. No chewing or anything of the sort was involved - just mere theft of shoes, only to leave them in an obvious place for whenever the person left the house.

As I'm sure you can tell, Daisy was an adorable, unique dog. But to us, she was not just a dog - she was part of our family. In the summer of 2009, though, Daisy began not acting like her normal perky self. She was much slower than usual, and didn't get as excited about things. We didn't know what was going on, but something was definitely wrong. We took her to the vet, and an eight-pound cancerous tumor was found in her stomach. She died four days later.

I was out of the house when Daisy passed, but was called on the phone shortly after it happened and informed. When I got home, I walked into my kitchen to find my puppy lying dead in a cardboard box, now her casket. I knelt down beside her, stroked her cold body, and sobbed. My mom and sister, as well as my best friend, accompanied my dad out into the backyard where he dug a hole and lowered our Daisy into the ground. She was buried with her favorite blanket and her two favorite toys. I don't know if I've ever cried harder than I did during this process.

For two years now, my family has missed Daisy, but recalled our memories of her fondly and laughingly. We've still had our adorable cat - who is another story (maybe I'll write a post about her sometime!) - who has kept us company and kept us laughing. But, now that is has been two years, we've decided that we are ready for another adoption. In October, we will welcome Ginny, a red miniature dachshund puppy, into our family.

Ginny is the little one on the left :)
Ginny is one from a litter of three that was born on August 1 (just a few days ago), and is being named Ginny after Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter :) She's from the same breeder that bred Daisy, and will be kept by the breeder until she is twelve weeks old. She will be able to come to our home at the end of October. We are completely thrilled and cannot wait to meet her!

Although I miss my Daisy puppy, and no one will ever replace her, I am so happy about adopting Ginny. When my parents told me the news, tears came to my eyes! I can't wait for October to come - but until then, I love my new puppy already :)

Happy dog-loving, and happy writing!
~Stephanie

Friday, June 24, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") Music

"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."
~Leopold Stokowski

Isn't that a lovely quote? When you think about it, it's entirely truthful. I am a musician myself, having played guitar for eight years and flute for five. I've kept up my flute playing consistently since day one. But six years into my guitar life, my lessons stopped, and my playing fell by the wayside altogether. 


I hadn't picked up my guitar in over a year, until a couple of days ago. Of course, my instrument is the very one that I bought eight years ago, and thus is obviously a bit on the too-small side by now. Not to mention it's still strung with plastic strings. Nonetheless, I've been playing my guitar quite a lot lately, reacquainting myself with old pieces that I mastered several years back, and teaching myself new ones. Luckily, a skill like playing the guitar isn't something that goes away when left behind for a long time - when you return to it, the knowledge of it comes back to you easily. Thus, I have been having a grand old time reuniting with my once beloved hobby, my string-strumming skills flowing eagerly back into my fingers.

Saint Francis once said that singing is like praying twice. This is why music - all music, not only singing - is so important. It's two times the prayer. And Saint Francis means real music - not the kind of degrading, vulgar music that is so popular today. That is not real music. Real music is uplifting, inspiring, and moves the soul to a higher level of closeness to God. All musicians who wish to make a positive difference with their music should strive to create and play real music, for this is what is going to bring man up, not drag him down.

Happy music-making! And, as always, happy writing!

~Stephanie

Saturday, April 23, 2011

(From "Random Reflections") It Should Have Been Me


Hello everyone!
Was my last post really March 8? That was already a month and a half ago! Again, it just goes to show how much time flies, and how crazy busy life is! On a happy note, though, I'm currently on my week and a half long Easter break, and let me tell you, it's glorious! And, to make things even happier, when I do go back to school, I only have one week left for finals, and then summer freedom will be mine! Then I promise to post much more often :)
Posted below is a poem I wrote a little over a year ago. I was inspired to write it after my first viewing of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." As you may or may not know, the movie is a powerful, moving film that is very difficult to watch, and that realistically depicts the sufferings of Christ. Although we have less than one day of Lent left, I'll post my poem nonetheless.
Happy Easter, and happy writing!
~Stephanie
It Should Have Been Me
Written by Stephanie in March 2010
God sent you here, Jesus
To die for our sin.
This you did willingly,
To God’s will you gave in.
You did not deserve it—
To suffer and die.
The one up on that cross
Should have been I.
All the blood that you shed
Should have been mine.
The scourging, the thorn crown—
They should have been mine.
To think how you suffered
And endured such torment—
I know that that should have
Been my punishment.
You did nothing evil;
It was I who sinned.
Like a dog you were treated
To die as you did.
I thank you for dying
For me on the cross,
So that I might be saved
From paying that cost.
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