Thursday, March 23, 2017

Remembering an Inspiring Professor

Before I get into this post, I wanted to say that, yes, I know the blog post from earlier this week wasn't posted to either Facebook or Twitter. The applets were down. If you want to read it please click here: Belated Revelations.

I am currently cleaning out the inbox of an email account I've had since I was in high school (we're talking circa 2001-2002; yes, I'm that old, lol). I've gone through emails from 2003 through 2009, the last only two weeks after my father's death. The email I opened was of one of my favorite professors I ever had. The email was a response to my letting him know that I was going to take him for an online course (which was still customary at West Los Angeles College in 2009).

He replied: "Wow, I knew that I knew your name!!!!!!!!!!!! This is an entirely online class so we won't see each other, or you won't have to put up with my jokes!!!!!! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this course as we take it online!!!! See you online soon.
Mr. Habel."

He was my professor for two English courses during my freshman year of college at Santa Monica College (in 2004-2005) and, years later (Fall 2009), I took him for an Interpersonal Communications course at West Los Angeles College. I took easy "filler"/elective courses at community college during the 2009-2010 school year because my father had died only a month prior to the start of the Fall semester and I didn't want to start my (now) alma mater and possibly waste $40k (that was the tuition and fees cost per year when I was an undergrad) not knowing if I would have the mental and emotional capacity to get through the entire school year since my father's death had just happened. Thankfully, I was able to make it through the entire school year (arguably my favorite of my entire academic career because of the courses I took) in one piece and with my highest GPA ever.

When I was signing up for courses, I saw that Mr. Habel was teaching a speech course at WLAC. I'd loved his English classes so it was a no-brainer to take it. Even though the English classes started at 6:30 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly), Mr. Habel was always so kind to us (there were maybe 10 of us total) and he was one of the most encouraging and optimistic professors I've been blessed to have. His class wasn't hard nor was the material tedious; he chose the right material to challenge us without making it seem like it was a challenge. He truly cared that we all succeeded and never in a condescending way.

Opening up that email brought back all those lovely memories of his courses and what a great professor he was. I decided to look him up -- to see if he was still teaching -- when I encountered news I wasn't expecting: Mr. Lowell Habel had passed away on May 27, 2015, only 3 days before my 30th birthday. I teared up. In fact, I'm still tearing up as I type this out. It's been almost 2 years since his passing but the news is fresh to me.

I'm going to take this opportunity to not only say what a great human being he was but also to remind everyone how little acts can change and inspire us for the best. Mr. Habel cared deeply for his students. I saw it in the three semesters I was his student. He was kind, funny (oh, those jokes...), and he tried to help us with things that were even outside of the material/course he was teaching. 12+ years after I took my first course with him, his optimism and encouragement still resonate with me. I wonder if he knew how many students he helped. Most of us begin college worried about doing well and he was the professor who helped make that transition easier for me. In fact, he made me feel like I was competent enough to not only do well and succeed in college but beyond, whatever career path I would choose.

I'm about to pray the Rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy (it's the 3 o'clock hour, as I type this, in L.A.). I will remember him in my prayers and will also make sure that I try to honor his memory by being encouraging to others like he had been to all of us.

Rest in peace, Mr. Habel... and thank you for everything.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Belated Revelations

After our last young adult meeting last month, my friend Joe, another group member (whom I'll call E), and I were on our way to drop off E at his house. Since it was a bit of a drive, I took the time to share with E how I still don't drive long distances because of the car accident I had on October 13, 2015. With my lightheadedness, I don't want to risk driving long distances by myself especially at night. I showed him pictures of the accident (which I had on my iPod touch) and we talked about how it seemed to trigger events that eventually made us leave our (then) home parish and switch to where we currently attend Mass. He said something that has stayed with me, a month later, and which I think I've finally figured out: "what do you think was the message from God from that accident?" (I'm paraphrasing.)

To be honest, I never meditated on it. I had the car accident, thought my guardian angel had really helped me out (which was also the same thought E had without me saying anything) and was grateful that it hadn't been worse. When E asked me what message I thought God was trying to get across, I drew a blank. 

"I don't know," I admitted. "I never really thought about it."

"Well, maybe you should. I think God was trying to tell you something. I don't think these things happen; things happen for a reason and perhaps He was trying to say something. Otherwise, it was just an accident that you learned nothing from," he stated. Again, I'm paraphrasing but that was the gist of it and probably the closest I can get to his actual wording.

It stuck with me, especially since we talked about the coincidences. I had the car accident right after I'd gotten out of spiritual direction with my (now former) spiritual director. It happened on the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. That was also the night that I first got into contact with an FSSP priests who came over the follow day (for a blessing) and who we still see (he even came to bless our home this past Epiphany). The following month, my spiritual director kicked me out of his office and that set into motion us leaving that parish and following the FSSP priest to his (temporary) parish. (side note: everyone who knows the full story has come to the same conclusion of why I was kicked out of my former SD's office on their own but since none of us know for sure, I won't discuss it.) That led to me re-evaluating things, me joining the young adult group I'm in, and has had an overall positive change in both of our (Mom's and my) lives. There was something that seemed to be missing from that puzzle but it took E's question for me to try to figure it out... and I think I have. 

It has dawned on me that I have gotten a much-needed second chance to make things right. I had the same thought when I went to the last doctor's appointment: "you're getting a second chance." See, I had reached a plateau in my spiritual direction before my accident. I felt as if I wasn't getting much out of them anymore. Furthermore, while my SD expressed his justified dissatisfaction with me for missing Mass or my prayer time in order to do coursework on a tight deadline (yeah, that was a massive problem I had when I was in grad school; one of which I have since worked on and fixed), it wasn't the massive ear pulling I needed. I feel like the car accident was that; an ear pulling and a sort of wake-up call that I've belatedly realized.

Yes, it's been almost a year and a half since the car accident. Yes, I've wasted so much time trying to figure things out. However, I'm very grateful to E for having me meditate on all of these things. Remember when I wrote about my body being weak but my heart being on fire? I think part of why I felt that way was because of this revelation. Today's health scare (I thought I was having a heart attack at the grocery store; we guessed that it was a combination of acid reflux and a bad panic attack -- my first in a long time -- that hit at the same time) just drove the point home even more: I have gotten a second chance and I need to make the most of it... which, really, is a wonderful message during Lent.

How many times did saints mess up and, still, they were forgiven, they amended their lives, and are now spending eternity with God in Heaven? God's mercy is greater than our sins... no matter how bad they are. I know (as seen through Scripture) that He wants us to repent and return to Him. Luke 15:11-32, anyone? I was able to fix my terrible priorities (now Mass comes before any exam or coursework I may have that weekend). I think I've figured out the path (for both big and little v vocations) God wants me to take and have made a lot of progress in them. Now to reorder and fix a couple more things in my life, especially when it comes to facing my fears. I've started work on that but it's still going to be a massive uphill battle for me since it's going to mean undoing years of bad habits and negative thoughts. What a better way to spend my Lent (and the weeks leading up to the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima) than to work on my relationship with God and making the most of my second chance?

Before I end this blog post, I have one more thing to share: in case you're wondering, no Mass again this past weekend. We wanted to try for Saturday but I got sick and then Sunday was a mess as well. That's officially 8 Sundays without Mass (though I have attended Mass at least twice -- during the week -- in the past 8 weeks). Still, I'm going to try again and I'll fight through the lightheadedness and other obstacles to the best of my abilities. We have a plan for this week and the weekend and any prayers you can offer up so that we can get to confession and Mass would be greatly appreciated.

Alright, that's enough for today. I have more to share but they're different topics so I'll just break them into different posts. I'm taking it easy today since I've had a busy couple of days so I may write more blog posts now and schedule for later in the week. I have a big exam this weekend, a research paper due next week, and another huge exam the week after that so I'm going to try to blog when I can and schedule them so that there aren't big gaps in between blog posts. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week! :D

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"But, Emmy... it's Lent!" Oops?

*sings along to some of my favorite songs.*

"Emmy, you can't do that! It's Lent!"

*dances around the living room or bedroom as a form of exercise."

"You can't do that, either! It's Lent!"

Oops?

I've been feeling really great the last 2-3 days so I've been singing and dancing... and twirling around in skirts and dresses since it's been summer-weather hot lately. I have a little more color in my cheeks (hello, rosy-hue I've missed) and I've been able to dance and have hour-long walks without problems. I think it's been the combo of whatever was working against me wearing off as well as the change in my diet and exercise regime. I even woke up 2 hours earlier than usual yesterday and today... on my own. I was feeling gratitude for the upswing and then... "But, Emmy... it's Lent!"

Yes, I know it's Lent. Yes, I know it's a penitential season. Um, hi. Have you read my blog posts since Lent has begun? I'm very well aware what this season is about. Still, I didn't really think that I couldn't feel happy about the change in things. I didn't know that my form of exercise (usually dancing, walking, or hiking; mostly dancing and walking when I can't get to a local mountain range) was prohibited because it was Lent. I didn't know I wasn't allowed to sing. Oops?

I usually field these questions on social media because it's the way to get quicker and more responses but I'm abstaining from social media so here's my question for those who may know more about it than I do: are singing and dancing not allowed during Lent?

Like I said, I'm aware that this is a season of penance and thinking about Christ's suffering and death. I've been praying the Sorrowful Mysteries every day except Sundays during Lent. I've been watching the daily Mass on EWTN or, at least, reading the daily readings and meditating on them. I know there shouldn't be much celebrating but... I didn't know I had to be only quiet and solemn the 40 days of Lent. If I've been doing something I shouldn't be doing, someone please correct me.

Anyway, I just wanted to put this question out there. Someone, please, let me know if that's just a scrupulous POV or if I really need to tone down my singing and dancing. I get why it's not the best idea but I also wonder if it's taking it too far. In fact, I keep thinking about this meme:


Just, help a sister out. OH! And, for the friends who've emailed me and texted me with concern after reading the latest blog posts, you can FaceTime me or ask for proof that I'm not as sick as you might think. I'll be okay. No worries, my dears. :D
<3 p="">
And now back to working on my research paper. ;)

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


Monday, March 13, 2017

When Frustrations Make You Overlook Blessings

I'm taking a break from working on my research paper on childhood stuttering (speech-language pathology students represent!) because, as I was working on the paper, I was hit with two thoughts that seem to be connected: 1) feeling frustrated when your plans don't materialize and 2) overlooking your blessing and forgetting to be grateful for what you have.

As I stated in my last blog post, despite any physical limitations I might've had lately (which seem to have been caused by an accidental dairy-ingestion), I've been wanting to do a lot more than what I've been able to do in recent weeks/months. Being unable to help out in the soup kitchen -- which I heard was an amazing experience -- and having other efforts to do more thwarted this weekend simply increased that desire and it's made me feel a little restless.

On Saturday night, I booked a trip with a local transportation system (which both Mom and I are a part of) that would take us to Mass. After the doctor confirmed that the persistent lightheadedness is due to the anemia, I knew it would be something that will derail any plans to drive to Mass in the afternoon/evening until my iron levels get better.

I want to go to Mass. I need to go to Mass. I was excited that I had a ride to Mass. That way, even if I got a bit lightheaded, I would be okay. I wouldn't be driving and thus I wouldn't be putting myself, my mother, or other people out on the street in danger. I got dressed up (and made an extra effort to look nice because I was so excited). We went outside in the 90+ degree heat to wait for our ride that was scheduled at 5:12 p.m.

When 5:30 p.m. came and there was still no ride, I called them to find out what time they would get there. "I'm sorry," the dispatcher said. "It looks like your taxi won't be able to make it." I was gutted. I walked back up the stairs to my apartment and slumped down on my chair in my book cave. I thought I was finally going to go to Mass. I was excited. I had planned it all out. I even booked the trip almost 2 hours before Mass began in case there was some delay. I didn't forsee this coming. Needless to say, we marked our 7th weekend without attending Mass.

That seems to be the theme lately: having the desire to do something and not getting anywhere. Exhibit A: Saturday's planned outing with the young adult group but having to pull out because I felt physically weak. Exhibit B: Sunday's plan to go to Mass but still missing Mass due to lack of transportation. Exhibit C: getting only 24 hours to study instead of the full 3 weeks I should've gotten prior to my last exam. There are more examples but I'm not going into them. The more I want to do, the less I can do. All aboard the S.S. Failboat, destination: Frustration Island.

With the recent trend of being a living example of Murphy's law, I decided to try to finish my research paper which is actually not due until the end of the month. Yes, I'm starting early because I'm not going to take chances. As I got more and more into the paper, I got hit with the sudden realization that I've been failing to be grateful for what I do have.

Sure, my health isn't the greatest right now... but it is improving as seen in the last round of blood work. I've been within a healthy weight range (after being underweight following my car accident and trying to do too much at the same time) for the past year without any problems. I currently weigh more or less the same I weighed a decade ago which is my normal adult weight. Now that I've turned my book cave into a home office (which just means I added a desk to the room), I've been able to study and really focus when I need to. I've somehow managed to do really well in my last three exams despite the lack of study time. I received my car (after the mechanic spent months trying to get it running safely after my car accident) a year ago and I've had no major problems with either the car or anxiety while driving. Speaking of anxiety: has anyone seen my anxiety? I haven't had a full-blown panic attack or anything of the sort for a long time.

How easy it is to get caught up in what we want and how much easier it is to forget to thank God for what we have. I have an amazing mom who will support me in whatever I decide to do. I have awesome older brothers who will do what they can for me, even if they're in other states and/or countries. I have an amazing group of friends (who are like family to me) who are there for me no matter what, even at late/early hours of the day. I have a bright future, career-wise. I've been able to fulfill a dream of getting published. I'm able to rest as much as I need to with my only worries being getting my coursework completed on time and keeping this household running (i.e. paying bills, keeping the house clean, running errands, keeping the 'fridge stocked, etc.).

I think I'm beginning to realize why God has delayed everything for me. The key word is "think." If I had a family (children), it would've made it harder for me to recover as much as I have to date. I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had until now. That's not to say I don't still wish I had a fella to share my life with or that I don't wish to have a family someday, but I'm starting to see why -- and feel grateful for -- the delay.

I spent my late teens through early 20s helping take care of my dad (until his death) and then I pretty much took over and helped keep my mom from the crippling depression that following his death. I put others before myself and I failed to learn to take care of myself. I didn't start learning to do that until my mid-late 20s. Heck, I'm still learning how to do that now, shedding bad habits in the process. I didn't have the typical selfish college years. I feel like I'm now getting a chance to be "selfish" by being able to simply take care of myself and enjoy a little bit of "freedom" before the next phase of my life. There's still a couple of things I need to break the habit of doing and other things that I need to learn to be the best version of myself.

I'm going to bookmark this post for when I'm feeling restless... or when someone is on my case about still being single (which is about to start because my birthday is coming up in May and it's usually when people begin with the comments). Most of the time, I can understand that I can't do everything I want when I want. For the times that I get impatient and my inner Grumpy Cat wants to come out, I'm going to re-read this.

All in God's time. Such a cliché saying for a reason, folks. Despite wanting to do a, b, c, d, and e, I know that things will fall into place when He thinks it's the right time for me. Who knows, maybe the lack of Mass attendance is going to fan the flames in my heart to evangelize (despite my dislike of public speaking and/or engaging in conversations that may result in arguments) or do something that will make me grow closer in my relationship with God. Yes, my optimism is showing. ;)

Anyway, just random thoughts I needed to get out of my head so that I can go back and focus on my research paper. :)

I hope y'all are having a good start of the week! :D

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Body Feels Weak but My Heart is on Fire

Oh, Lent 2017... you're throwing me some massive curveballs I wasn't anticipating. As I mentioned in the last post, on Thursday I went to my follow-up appointment with my doctor following Tuesday's E.R. visit. A new plan was put in place in hopes to better my iron absorption. Ask me if I've been able to get myself to more than one store to try to find either a ferrous gluconate or another iron pill that I can try. Nope. Ask me if this is intentional or because of time management issues? The answer is "nope!" Now that I'm trying to be even more gung-ho about finding other iron alternatives, I have something new (yet old) that's popped up. It's called extreme fatigue lethargy and it stinks.

Since about Wednesday-Thursday, I've felt a lot more run down than usual. I'm sleeping longer and later. I'm randomly falling asleep during the day. I would've blamed my anemia except for the fact that I've had my hemoglobin and iron levels much lower in the past (and they're actually not too bad; I'm only "slightly" anemic) and have still been able to retain enough energy to do what I need to do. No, this is something else. I have a few theories.

The first theory is the stress and all the non-stop busyness that has popped up in the last couple of days. I went from being sick (which a doctor warned me against) to traveling (and getting only 2 hours of sleep the first day) before I was able to full recovery. I also tried to fast on Ash Wednesday and I abstained from meat and, well, fasting and I aren't friends. That and I needed the iron. Yeah, I know, poor thinking on my part.

The second theory is that I ended up accidentally ingesting enough dairy to make me sick when the waitress messed up my order when we were in Tijuana last weekend; the waitress simply scraped off the cheese they had added to my plate (after I told her I was allergic) and didn't bother checking under my grilled chicken or fries where I later found cheese, after accidentally eating a bit of it. This feeling of intense fatigue and lethargy is typical (for me) when I have dairy and is the reason why they took it out of my diet over a decade ago.

My third theory is that it's just been way too hot lately (what is "winter" in March?) and, since we just replaced our central air filter and have been able to turn on the AC today, I've simply overheated during the day the last couple of days.

Right now, I'm going with a combo of all the above though I'm guessing number #2 (accidental dairy consumption) has been the biggest culprit for the additional tiredness. Either way, I've had to change and/or cancel my plans and it's made me a bit grumpy... and very happy.

I was set to help out at a soup kitchen with my fellow young adult group members this morning but I had a feeling I wasn't going to be able to stay on my feet or do anything too productive in the 4 hours we were scheduled to by there. I ended up emailing the group's organizer that I had to cancel. It's a good thing I did because Mom said I looked terrible this morning (before I passed out and slept for another 3 hours due to the exhaustion).

Since I nixed the plans to drive into Hollywood for the community service we were doing, I thought I was going to be okay enough to drive to a local parish for morning confessions. Nope. As I said, Mom said I looked terrible in the morning so we put it off until the afternoon. What happened this afternoon? I started feeling shaky and weak about half an hour before we had to leave. We ended up missing confession and I've not yet recovered enough to attend Saturday Vigil Mass. We'll try again tomorrow.

I normally don't have a bunch of these different health issues come at me all at once. The cold I had two weeks ago was followed by the week-long intense molar pain. That ended up in my jaw for two days and neither the dentist nor the doctor could figure out the cause for it. Now I'm experiencing extreme fatigue and lethargy? What gives? Oh yes, it's Lent and all of this started the weekend before Lent began. No, I'm not blaming Lent... exactly. It's just an interesting coincidence.

I truly believe that I'm going through all of this for a reason I've yet to figure out. Of course, I also have theories (when do I not? lol) about why I've been going through all of this... and most are making me happy. Right now, I'm going with the theory that God is going to prepare me for something good. Whenever I get hit with a bunch of things at once -- whether they are all health-related, school-related, finance-related, etc. -- I end up learning something extremely valuable that also helps me grow in my spiritual life.

Before all of this began, I was feeling pretty stagnant in my spiritual life. After an amazing Advent (with those wonderful 54-day Rosary novena results) and Christmastide, I felt like I had outgrown where I was; like I needed to step things up in both spiritual life and in my life in general. Not only was I feeling like that, the combination of fear and lack of trust were also wrecking havoc on my interior life. I was restless and I felt unworthy of His mercy but I was too afraid to do anything about it.

As weird as it sounds, since this past Thursday -- especially after beginning Roses Among Thorns by St. Francis de Sales -- I feel like I'm starting to break through that. I have such a great desire to attend confession and Mass. I was looking forward to stepping away from my selfishness and doing something for someone else. Needless to say, it's bumming me out more than usual that I missed out on two chances today due to circumstances beyond my control. (P.S. if any of my offline friends are reading this and will be in my area -- and want to help a sister out -- having the option of someone offering to drive me to Mass might help me get there for once. Just saying.)

There's a great joy and hope that I haven't felt for several weeks, maybe even since Advent ended. I feel like something in me has been woken up, that fire has been lit, *insert another cliché here*, and like I'm going to go through another massive change throughout this season. Not only that, I feel like doing a lot of good for others. I'm not sure how with what I have on my plate, but I want to do something that will make a difference in at least one person's life this Lent. Of course, I may just feel like that and nothing may end up happening (remember that feelings can trip you up sometimes) but, I don't know, that hope is there. My optimistic side is clinging onto that feeling like a life preserver.

Perhaps I have to go through all of this now to appreciate what is to come. God only knows. What I do know is that these little bits of hope and joy are giving me the courage to face my fears, a big way, too, and the strength to endure all the physical symptoms I've felt lately. To quote my favorite (soon-to-be) saint, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, "verso l'alto." I may not physically feel energized but, oh, my heart and my spirit feel on fire. ;) (side note: before two of you seminarian friends -- you know who you are -- make the joke, yes, I'm sure it's not heartburn I'm experiencing, thankyouverymuch. ;D)

Anyway, I still have to finish cleaning the apartment (I took a break while I recovered from feeling a bit shaky and weak) so I'll go try to do that now that I feel a bit better.

I hope y'all are having a lovely weekend thus far. :)

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