Wednesday, May 25, 2016

As a Woman, I'm Insulted...


Dear (Most) Writers of Women's Fiction,

As a woman, I'm insulted by the rubbish you've written for us. Though I'm grateful that the LAPL (Los Angeles Public Library) has an excellent selection of eBooks for us who can't keep driving to and from one of the local library branches, your books have made me sorry to have so many options because most of them are terrible and an absolute waste of time.

Now, I'm not dumping on everyone. I've read some decent novels that were hard to put down. Though I might've had some personal issues with the language and a small thing or two because I'm a "prude," but, overall, the characters were relatable and the story was engaging. To you 2% who don't focus on superficial things in novels, massive kudos to you!

As a writer, I understand that it's not easy to write a novel. I wrote (and rewrote) my first novel several times over a period of about 5 years. The second was easier as it was a sequel and I already knew how the story was going to end. I get that sometimes when we write, we think what would appeal best to our intended audience. Sometimes, though, I get a feeling that some of us (and I'm going to exclude myself from this bit) write what we think will sell for the sake of selling, leaving the plotline to suffer as a consequences.

As a woman I'm insulted that you think that all we think about is lustful sex... and clothes... and unrealistic romance in an idealistic world. Yes, we women like romance. Hi, I like Hallmark movies and will cry at the end of some of those movies. However, I'm worried that the way stories are written will have an adverse effect on women in general.

What are the most common plots I've noticed in books I've read lately? Woman wants to reform a man... woman wants a man she can't have... woman is unhappy in her relationship/marriage so she seeks to get her pleasure kicks elsewhere... woman dreams about her dream man and she gets him... woman is obsessed with looking thin and perfect. Do you see where there is a problem in the genre?

How about books of women going through real life struggles with the help of their family and friends? How about a focus on platonic love instead of writing smut? Yes, most of us women thrive when we feel a connection with another person, but it doesn't always have to be dramatic and romantic. How about writing about real issues we women face like how complicated relationships are, about women suffering from infertility, about genuine human connections that inspire us to be better women? Why must the majority of books lead down the smutty road of lustful sex? Newsflash: not all of us like that stuff nor do we live it.

I'm sure there's an audience for these types of books but, if the reviews on Goodreads are any indication, most of us are looking for more than one dimensional characters getting their groove on. We want literary women of substance. We want to read about ordinary women who do extraordinary things against all odds. We want to read about heroines who strive for more than finding the perfect boyfriend/husband, having the perfect wedding, and/or exceed in beauty. Give me a "frumpy looking" character whose mind and heart challenges and inspires readers rather than a beautiful one who is shallow and loathsome.

As a writer I promise to try to write characters that I would've hoped someone else would've written for me, if that makes any sense. I want to challenge my readers. I want to show younger readers that there's more to life than snagging the "hot" and "sexy" guy... more than fitting into the "right" clothes... to looking "perfect"... to being what the world expects me to be like. I'm not saying my books will be likeable to all or even "good," but if I can help combat the crud that is out there, I'll be happy.

Anyway, sorry for this rant, y'all. I just got done with yet another terrible novel (this one had a main character who was in an adulterous relationship for 6 YEARS with a man who clearly wasn't going to leave his wife -- not that he should've -- and kept making excuses to stay with him) and I needed to vent my frustration in long form. It frustrates me because so many of these books have promising ideas behind them and the blurbs are intriguing but the ysimply crash and burn within the first 50 pages.

Any of you ladies have similar thoughts when reading fiction novels, especially those aimed at us? Have any of you read any books that have rich, complex characters that you can recommend? Please let me know; I need stuff to read before bed -- it's how I unwind and it helps me fall asleep. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Your Mom Constantly Drops the "H" Word


You know your birthday is coming up soon when your mother constantly drops the "h" word. What "h" word? Husband. "I wish you would get married." "Who cares about me? You get married and have children!"

I love my mom. I really do. She's sacrificed a lot so that I could get an education and have a good life despite growing up (and still living in) a high-crime neighborhood. She's worked hard to keep me on the right path. Advice hasn't always been the best but she tries because she cares. That being said... I wish she would stop telling me to get married and have children because it doesn't help.

Those of us in our late 20s (think 25 and up) and 30s and even 40s get enough grief from the world as it is. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why I'm not married, told me that my biological clock is ticking, or pitied me for being single at 30, I'd have enough money to pay off my student loans and fund working towards a PhD if I wanted one (spoiler: I don't.) Yes, I'm 30 and unmarried. Yes, I'll be turning 31 on the 30th of this month (11 days away but who's counting?). No, there are no current prospects. Yes, I'm perfectly happy with how things are.

I've been very fortunate to have my point of view regarding my singlehood challenged (in a good way) recently and it's helped me with the "ache of loneliness" (as I've heard Jackie Francois Angel call it before). As I've written before (and won't rehash), I've entrusted my singlehood to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and my loneliness to God. Earlier this year I mentioned how I'd decided to date myself. It went well. lol. I definitely learned a lot about myself and it helped ease some of my fears regarding the vocation of marriage. I don't feel like I need to discern my vocation any longer (despite well meaning people trying to push me towards the religious life) because I've never been as sure about anything I've discerned before. If you say "well, you can't discern without someone to discern with..." Trust me, I've discerned to the point where I know this is what God wants me to do. I just haven't found the guy to live out my vocation with yet. And, yes, this is my way of saying there's been someone in my life whom I seriously considered the vocation with but it didn't work out. Surprise to almost everyone since I don't talk about this with almost anyone. lol.

A few weeks ago I came to the realization that I've done all I can in regards to putting my part and and my effort into furthering my vocation up to this point. I've figured out what things I needed to personally work on and I've worked hard on them (though I'm sure some of these things will be lifelong projects). I've prepared myself in every way that I can by myself. I can't think of anything else I can do so I'm just not going to do anything. While I've always placed things in God's hands and have reminded myself that it's all in His time, not mine, I had left things entirely in His hands... as in, I didn't put in any effort on my end. I changed that and made an effort. Nothing has worked out thus far so I quit. Yes, you read that right: I quit. Cue Mom revving up her comments on getting me married off. lol.

I'm not saying that I quit making an effort. I'm not saying that I quit with the dream of getting married. I'm saying that I quit trying to make things happen because I've unconsciously let the comments get to me. Unknowingly to me, I was almost pushing myself to trying to please others, in a way. I pushed myself beyond my boundaries to try to meet someone so people would get off my back about being single. As uncomfortable as some of it was, it was good because I learned a lot about myself... including the fact that I don't like certain things (e.g. online dating). Though I've prided (ruh-oh) myself on being an independent woman, the comments really did -- and still do! -- get to me.

Unless you're single beyond your mid-late 20s, you don't know how much it sucks to have people constantly reminding you that you're by yourself. Even the most content person in their singlehood will eventually feel low because of the comments. Honestly, most days I'm perfectly fine with the fact that I'm still single at 30. I'm grateful to have the chance to continue my education and do something I love. I'm grateful to be able to rest and nap when the anemia kicks my tush. I'm grateful to be a little selfish and to take care of myself because I neglected that for so many years. I'm thankful to be able to do things I missed out on doing in my late teens and early 20s because I was helping take care of my dad. I feel like I'm getting a belated chance to experience some selfishness before a fella and a family become my priorities. Getting it out of my system is great because I grew up as if I was an only child (older half-siblings are still practically nonexistent in my life) so I have selfish tendencies. I'm still growing and it's wonderful. This time in my life is further preparing me for the future.

Do I long for a husband and children? Of course. I love babies and I love love. I love the domestic life... probably more than I should. lol. I love take care of people. I love cooking. I love cleaning. I love doing things that I will be doing as a wife and mother. 98% of the time I'm perfectly happy with waiting because I know that God's plans for me are greater than my own plans for myself. If waiting means that I'll be an "older" bride, so be it. But it's that 2% of the time that still hurts. The comments make me think "will I run out of time before I can get a chance to have biological children?" New fears and doubts pop up.

If you have friends who are still single and over 25, please don't constantly mention their singlehood. Unless they ask, please don't try to set them up. (side note: I'm shooting my friends serious stares at this point; I hate being set up.) Please don't make "subtle" comments about the fact that they're single / would be a good mother (or father) / should discern other vocations. Don't even ask to pray for their vocation; just do it. Pray for them and their future spouse.

If you're a parent of someone who is still single and are reading this, while we appreciate you wanting to see us happily settled, I think most of us would rather you pray for us and our future spouses than have comments made about our singlehood. Even if we don't find about it, your prayers would greatly help us in ways that only God knows we need.

For the tl;dr crowd: some of us have accepted that we will be single for a while (even if we don't want to be) and are content with where we are and what we're doing in our lives in the meantime... but that doesn't mean that the comments about our current state in life don't affect us. The more sensitive the person is and the bigger their desire for a family, the more demoralizing the comments will be. Please just pray for us and our future spouses. If we get excited about furthering our education or career or having a list of things we want to do so we're not just waiting for our other halves, feel free to get excited for/with us. Some of us (like myself) aren't sitting around, waiting for our future spouse to come along. We have other things going on and not just things to pass the time until we get married. That's okay. We're not broken in any way. Only God knows why some of us marry a little older than others. How about we all just thank God that we older single people take marriage more seriously in a culture where divorce is even sometimes glamorized?

Anyway, sorry for this sort of rant but it was building up and I needed to let it out because I feel like I have this conversation way too often with fellow single people.

I'm pretty much caught up with my coursework so I may blog again tomorrow. We shall see where the writer's block is and how the time management works out for me. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Escape from Homeworkland and Other Updates


Can you hear the angels singing? They are singing because I've finally caught up with all the reading assigned for my Historical Books of the Old Testament course! YES! Everyone conga! I'd fallen behind two weeks due to a combination of lack of textbook and lack of concentration (amongst other things) but I've done it! To celebrate I'm going to blog. lol.

Now, this doesn't mean I'm caught up with doing my exams -- I have three to do -- but at least everything with a due date is done and I'm going to try to get at least 2 of those exams done by tonight so I can focus on my final project. I've been putting off taking the exams due to lack of concentration but hope a nap later today will help with that. The final project isn't due for another 3-4 weeks but I want to take my time doing it (because I'm so into the material) so I want to start a bit early. :D

All of this is a bit miraculous, especially if you know my track record with school over the last couple of years. I'm very much prone to procrastination. It's a major problem. Sometimes I allow little things to derail me. I use them as excuses. Now, I've had legitimate excuses lately.

On Tuesday I found out I'm slightly anemic once again. Though I've reached my weight goal (after struggling with being underweight for about 3 years; another fist pump in the air!) and my platelets and everything else is within normal range, my white and red blood count and ferritin levels are still a bit on the low side. Folate level? Abismal! That explains why I've been so fatigued lately. I've been napping more often than usual and I can't concentrate as easily due to the mental fatigue that accompanies the physical fatigue. Still, I've been able to get lectures and reading done (though I'm a week behind on lecture videos) as well as two exams (both of which I did well on) and discussion posts.

I think it's thanks to the intercession of the Holy Spirit, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and St. Catherine of Siena that I've been able to accomplish as much as I have. First I asked Bl. Pier Giorgio and the Holy Spirit to intercede -- Bl. Pier Giorgio because he died a few exams short of receiving his degree and because studying didn't always come easy to him. The Holy Spirit because, well, it's obvious. ;) I asked Bl. Pier Giorgio to intercede because of my lack of concentration. I was doing well but still struggled once in awhile. Then the novena of St. Catherine of Siena started and I asked her to intercede when it came to the temptation to procrastinate (since she's a patroness against temptations). Fast forward a couple of weeks and I actually have the opportunity to be 2 weeks ahead in my textbook reading instead of 2 weeks behind. Thank you, Holy Spirit, Bl. Pier Giorgio, and St. Catherine of Siena!

It doesn't hurt that the textbooks and course material has been right up my alley. We've been learning -- as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog post -- about the historical books in the Old Testament. That is to say, we've been reading Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings thus far. Next week we tackle 1 Chronicles and so forth. Is it possible to be in love with the material? Because I am. If there was any doubt that this was the path that God wanted me to take, it's gone.

Likewise, if there was any doubt that I have strong Dominican tendencies (which my spiritual director himself said I had a couple of years ago), it's gone. lol. After all my indecision between choosing either the Dominican and Carmelite orders, I can now see that I'm better suited for the Dominican lifestyle. However, my SD advised me to wait until I finished graduate school to start the process to become a lay Dominican. And, before anyone asks, yes, I'm sure I don't have a religious vocation. God has made that abundantly clear in my life, especially lately. Also, yes, I know that it's been through the intercession of two Dominican saints that I've been able to accomplish what I have in my course this quarter. ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to give y'all a little update on what's been going on with me since I've been pretty silent on this blog and on social media, though I've been a bit more active on Twitter lately.

Before I end this blog post can I just say how grateful I am with how things have worked out in my life lately? It's been a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs but everything has shown me that God is doing some incredible things in my life. He has shown me that He's heard my prayers for Him to help guide me down the path He wants me to take. As I reflected on Twitter a couple of nights ago, I'm grateful for the ability to take naps as needed. If I had a husband and children to take care, this anemia-induced fatigue would've made grad school difficult for me. That's not to say that I would prefer a Master's degree to a family -- I quite frankly don't; I honestly would've preferred to have gotten married and had children at a younger age instead -- but if it's God's will for me that I do this before I start a family then I'm grateful for the ability to do so. It's all about His plans and His timing. I'll expound more on this next time because I certainly have had a major breakthrough in this area.

For now, I'm going to say: I hope y'all are doing well! I think I'll get a chance to blog more often in the coming weeks but don't be surprised if I miss a couple of days whenever things are due. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Monday, May 9, 2016

What Kind of Catholic Are You?

Recently I've been swapping out some pretty pointless YouTube subscriptions for Catholic ones for my own reasons -- oh, hey, vague statement -- and I've come across some awesome channels. One of my favorite videos has been the different kinds of Catholics. Watch them and find out which one you are.



I am: TheoNerd (Biblical Theology graduate student over here) and part of the Benedict XVI Fanclub Forever.

I can be: Newly Scrupulous and Gregorian Can't Even.

Anyway, just a quick blog post because -- surprise! -- I have a ton of reading to do (as well as lecture videos to watch) for my course. Am I loving it? Yes! Do I wish the classes were longer than 10 weeks? Yes! Why? Because I need more time to fully immerse myself in the material. It's all so good and I want to go slow but can't because of exams and discussions. I'm also starting my final project this week (though it's not due until June 7th) because I don't rush through it so you'll are getting quick blog posts for a couple more days. Sorry!

Let me know which kind of Catholic you are. :)

I hope y'all are doing well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thank You For This Mess, Lord


Hello there! I was actually going to wait to get more caught up with reading for my class (fell behind when I couldn't purchase the book) but I have a tension headache due to what's going on with our building manager so a break is needed. And, anyway, I was trying to work through the headache but the idea came up to share this thought that popped up a little while ago: "Thank you for this mess, Lord."

If you've been reading the blog for a couple of months now, you know that they gutted the master bathroom in October (shortly after my car accident) and that they haven't done much since then. It's gone up within the Housing Authority of L.A. County because we're paying for that bathroom that we're not using. The inspectors have made a couple of trips out over the last couple of months and they've asked the property manager and, I'm assuming, property owners to get the bathroom done but they haven't done much.

Since yesterday, they've been working on the plumbing. Today they informed us that the bathroom was done as is. Yes, that picture you see is exactly what it looks like. That shower is about a third smaller in size than it was... which was already small to begin with. With both Mom and I having claustrophobia, guess which bathroom we'll be paying for but not using. Yes, they know we have claustrophobia. But they apparently got a permit to leave the bathroom as is -- despite two different city inspectors asking them to make it bigger since we can barely fit inside of it -- so they're leaving it unfinished and small.

This is the part that I had a strong urge to share: I have claustrophobia because I used to be locked inside a bathroom when I was a little girl. When I was maybe 3-5 years old, my sister-in-law and one of my half-brother used to live with us. She was supposed to look after me while my parents worked. In an attempt to not deal with me, they used to lock me in the bathroom for hours. One of my first memories is still of me sitting in the pink chair in the bathroom, staring at the sink. I don't have any memories of how long it lasted but I do remember being locked inside. Recently I described to my mother, in great detail, what that bathroom looked like. I haven't been inside that apartment in over 25 years so you know I'm not just imagining it. Mom said that she had my dad kick both my half brother and my sister-in-law out of the apartment when that happened... which, I think, was also around the time that they caught me standing on top of a chair, over the open flame of a stove, trying to heat myself some tortillas because I wasn't fed properly.

Fast forward a couple of years later. At 15 I dealt with some horrific teachers that would make me feel trapped inside classrooms when they allowed my fellow students to attack me or when they made me feel like I was an incompetent human being. (I mentioned details of what happened in the blog post Therapy, a Diagnosis, and My Superpower.) I developed severe agoraphobia and social anxiety. I was pulled out of regular school and finished high school through a charter school. (side note: this ended up being a blessing because it not only prepared me for college better than if I had stayed at the public school but also allowed me to finish 1.5 years ahead of schedule). I couldn't go anywhere because being in crowds made me feel like I was going to get sick. I needed to know where the exits were at all times and I tried to be as close to them as possible. I didn't know then that what happened as a child would set off that panic when I felt trapped in my environment.

Fast forward another 15 years: at 30, I'm in a better place. Thanks to the cognitive-behavioral therapy I've received, I no longer panic in public places. Why do you think we started going to Disneyland as much as we did? To help me learn to deal with the crowds! I can take buses without feeling panicked. I still have a bit of claustrophobia that lingers now and then but I can better handle the situations. Unfortunately, my mother still had claustrophobia (she went through a similar situation when she was in her pre-teens) so the bathroom is going to be a problem.

I got my headache when I was informed that they weren't going to make the bathroom smaller. What about my mom's claustrophobia?? What about my neck?! (side note: we have two bathrooms but the showerhead measures around 5'5" and I'm nearly 5'8" so my neck and muscles strain trying to wash my hair.) As I was making myself something to eat (to try to see if it would help the headache go away), I had a sudden thought which I've already shared: "Thank you for this mess, Lord."

We've fought our building manager on this bathroom and our parking space (especially since I'm prone to fainting in the heat and she took my covered parking space and put me in a space where the sun hits from sunrise to sundown; she's basically said it's not her problem despite giving her a letter my doctor sent her) but nothing's been done. Mom recently confessed that she's having a faith crisis because she keeps praying for the praying situations with the bathroom and parking (she's already helped pick me up when I was fainting a couple of weeks ago). However, I'm going to thank God because, really, we're in a good place despite the problems we're having.

Yes, I may faint (especially this summer when the temperatures reach over 100 degrees -- let this blog post, written months in advance, be my record that I've warned the manager of possible health issues since December 2015) but at least our car is inside the gated parking lot and not out in the streets where cars are stolen and windows are broken. I'm grateful for the roof over my head and the running water that we have, which not everyone can say. I'm grateful for the one shower that works, even though my neck and back muscles need to be massaged frequently. I'm thankful for this headache that appeared when I got the news because it reminded me that I needed to stop studying to eat. I'm grateful for all these problems because they make me realize that these "problems" aren't problems at all but opportunities to be grateful to God for all we do have.

Life isn't going to be easy. Yes, things will be a pain to deal with but maybe these are just challenges to help me look at the positives in life. Not a single saint made it to heaven without enduring some hardship (at least I can't think of one). Not to say that I'm a saint but I aspire to be and maybe these little things will help mold me into someone who can enter the gates of Heaven. Just a couple of random thoughts that are popping up as I type this. :)

Anyway, that's it for now. I have to go pick up Mom from work in a couple of minutes. Thankfully it's not hot or sunny today so I don't have to worry about possibly fainting. ;)

I hope to blog again soon but we'll see because once I get into the "study zone" few things will keep me from spending hours reading (using the Pomodoro technique, of course). :D

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D