Thursday, February 11, 2016

Win a 2016 Magnificat Lenten Companion!

Yes, that is my actual face. lol. #AshTag
Hello, my dears. I hope your Ash Wednesday went well. I had a pretty packed day. A city inspector came to check our bathroom (which has remained gutted/undone since about October 19) and, presumably, put the pressure on the owners to get it done. Yeah, we need that bathroom, y'all. After that, I went to mom's work before we headed to Mass. We actually got there a bit early and something unexpected happened; something I still can't wrap my mind around.

We got to our parish about 20-25 minutes before Mass was scheduled to begin. That was done purposely because we have to rely on that public transportation system we have until we get our car returned. (side note: mechanic said later today. Fingers crossed!) We thought we'd just sit in the back and wait but we found that they were doing a short prayer and distributing ashes before the Mass began. We heard them do the Confiteor in Spanish as we walked towards the back doors and walked into the church while the Spanish-speaking priest did the blessing of the ashes in Spanish. We were going to sit when he began to ask if anyone could read the blessing in English. Everyone looked around and I found myself saying "I'll do it, Fr." Who am I and what have I done with Emmy? lol. Anyway, since I was just reaching the pew when I said it, I didn't have time to put things down. I ended up walking up with my tote bag and book.

I would be lying if I said my heart wasn't pounding as I read the prayer. I was trying to breathe properly while I read it and tried to focus on the fact that I was doing it for a greater good. I hate public speaking... with a passion. When I gave the valedictorian-style speech at my high school graduation, I shook. I hate the attention. It's extremely unlike me to volunteer to do anything, especially without thinking about it first. In fact, I honestly don't know what came over me. I didn't think about it. I just found myself saying "It'll do it, Fr." surprising myself in the process. Still, I read it without making a mistake (another miracle) and then headed back to my seat. Miracles do happen! lol.

Mass was great. I've never been to a proper bilingual Mass before but I enjoyed it, probably because I understood both languages without problem. Thanks for insisting that I be raised bilingual, Mom and Dad! After Mass we got our ashes and then we came back home. Did I finish everything I said I needed to finish before Lent? Nope. Two things are left over from my list as I type this out (it's currently Ash Wednesday; scheduling this post since I have stuff to do tomorrow as well). I'll get to them before I go to bed. They're not Lenten deal breakers. ;)

Anyway, when I got home I saw that the lovely folks at Magnificat got in contact with me about giving away one of their 2016 Lenten Companion apps for iPhone / iPod touch / iPad. I had actually put "look into Magnificat Lenten Companion" on my to-do list earlier this week so it worked out perfectly.

If you're wondering what it is, let me tell you. I have it downloaded on my iPod touch (since it goes everywhere with me), in my Lenten folder on the home page. The Lenten Companion has Morning, Evening, and Night prayers as well as Mass readings and Lenten meditations for every day of Lent. Other Lenten features include Chants for Lent and Easter, the Stations of the Cross, Prayers for Various Vocations, and much more. Sound like something you'd be interested in? Here's your chance to win a copy! Just scroll down to the bottom of the post and enter! Again, this is for the app, not the physical copy of it.

"But, wait, Lent already began!" you may be saying. True, but you can still use it for the rest of the days of Lent. Like I said, I was just contacted on Ash Wednesday or else I would've done it sooner. I also would've posted this yesterday except I fasted from social media all together and I didn't want to make this contest unfair by giving some people an additional day to enter so I waited to post this when it could be posted everywhere at the same time.

The contest will be over in a relatively short time (noon EST on Valentine's Day) because I didn't want some of y'all to go too far into Lent without having a chance to win this! If you don't win, I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy. No, no one is paying me to say this. As someone who has been super busy lately, I appreciate that this app is something I can take with me. I do have free time on the way to and from destinations and this is just perfect for a sort of mini retreat moment on the go. :)

Anyway, I still have a ton of stuff to do so I'm going to try to get that done.

I hope y'all had a great start to Lent!

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

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wait... Lent Begins Tomorrow?!?!

I have a long list of things I still have to do in preparation for tomorrow so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors since I'm rushing through this post. Simply put: I didn't have enough time to prepare for the start of Lent. Or, I should say, I had lousy time management skills in the weeks leading up to Lent because I guess I assumed I had time. Nope. So now I'm rushing to get everything done before tomorrow.

So far today I've: attended morning Mass, gone to confession, had my weekly "treat yo'self" brunch with mom, gone to get more / new foods for me to try, ran quick errands, booked one of two reservations needed for tomorrow (public transportation service), etc.

I still need: to set up this blog on Bloglovin' so that it'll post the links to Twitter (since I'm giving it up during Lent), to book the second reservation (which I've tried to do twice already), finish cleaning my bedroom, finish cleaning my bookcase (yes, two different rooms), vacuum and dust the living room, answer emails, make sure I have all my Lenten goals written down, and a whole list of other things. I need to make sure I eat, drink plenty of water (it's 85 degrees Fahrenheit in my part of L.A.... yes, it's still early February here), shower, and pray sometime before bed, as well. 

Between spending a good chunk of my day in downtown L.A. followed by grocery shopping, and cleaning out my book cave yesterday and then all I listed (so far) today, I haven't had much time to rest. I'm so very tired. I've gotten up at 5:30 a.m. each day and have gotten to sleep around 11:30 p.m. - 12:20 a.m. both nights. Add the walking (so much walking!) and bus and train rides... you can imagine how exhausted I am right now. Did I mention I still have a couple of more things to do tomorrow? Yep. Contemplating leaving that off until this weekend since I'm already spent from everything in the past two days. What can I say? This introvert has gotten too much stimulation in the past two days. 

Anyway, I just to de-stress a bit but letting all my nervous energy out through writing this post. That and I need to test the Bloglovin' feed to make sure it posts! If you're wondering what I'm (still) planning on doing this Lent, here's the post that I wrote recently. I'll more than likely blog tomorrow since there's a lot I do want to talk about regarding Lent but don't currently have the time to do it.

For those of you who will be off social media this Lent, God bless you all and may your Lent be fruitful. If you'd still like to read blog posts, you can subscribe by email (nifty widget on the right side; not mobile accessible, sorry), like this blog's Facebook Page, subscribe through Bloglovin', access through Twitter (for those not abstaining from it), check me out on Awestruck, follow my author's page/feed on Goodreads, or just send me a message and I'll add you to a list I'll personally email when a new post is up. No, I won't do smoke signals. Sorry about that! ;)

I hope y'all are enjoying your pancakes or whatever it is that you're all feasting on. Since neither mom and I are fasting (mom due to her age and me due to health), we're not doing the whole "stuff your face with pancakes" thing. Or we may just eat pancakes tonight because brinner is just awesome. We'll see. ;)

That's it for now. As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Gifts from God?

This morning started out like any other morning on which I have errands to run. I tapped the "snooze" button on my iPod touch twice. "Oh, I can get ready in under 10 minutes," I reasoned. (side note: one of my guy friends can attest to this -- I made him keep track the last time we hung out just so I can say "yeah, well, Jose can tell you it's true." lol.) I got ready, grabbed reusable grocery bags (because they charge for plastic AND paper bags in CA), and headed out the door. I got into the van (I have access to a transportation service that allows me to reserve a ride where I need to go a day ahead of time) and I heard someone talking about prayer on the radio. "Hmm... talk radio? Christian radio?"

Drivers having Christian radio stations during the rides isn't new for me. It's usually the Hispanic drivers and it's usually a branch of Protestant Christianity. I kept listening to the listener talking about the Pledge of Allegiance being a form of prayer. Then the host of the program started talking. "Wait... I know that voice..." I said to myself. "Is that Patrick Madrid?" I asked the driver. Surprised by my question, he said it was. That sprung a conversation that made me think a lot about my faith and my role in the Church.

I told the driver that I was a Catholic blogger and he became excited. Seriously, stoked. He said that it was great that I shared my gift with others, especially other youth. It became clear that he thought I was much younger than I actually am. I get this a lot, especially when I don't wear makeup (which is about 98% of the time). He told me that he used to be a confirmation teacher before he began driving for the company. He shared how difficult it was to teach confirmation because a lot of young people are apathetic to the faith. Not only do they feel forced to be there, their parents are just as bad. "I'm glad there are people like you who are sharing your faith," he said to me. "We need more young people to help evangelize youth." That reminded me why I felt a great pull towards doing youth ministry.

Long story short, over the last couple of years I've had a lot of younger (teens into early 20s) Catholics spring up conversations with me over a myriad of topics. I've also had random adults open up to me but it's mostly youth who do this, both in person and online. I guess they just see me and they go "hmm, maybe she'll understand." Maybe it's because I look so young or maybe there's something about that I don't see but makes other people feel comfortable divulging big things they want to talk about. Either way, I've felt like the Holy Spirit has used me to help (to the best of my abilities) these young people... which sent me down this path of wanting to work with youth.

I thought about this -- about how this weekend I'm getting introduced to the kids at my parish and how I will have to overcome a fear (getting home a bit late on a Sunday night; I live in a shady neighborhood) to go to these meetings. I thought about all the young Catholics who've felt safe enough to open up to me over the years. Though I don't feel particularly wise, I always ask the Holy Spirit to help me figure out what to say to them. I thought about how many private messages I've gotten about certain blog posts, filled with gratitude about opening up about certain topics. I've never really seen writing as my gift (I didn't become an English major for a reason, lol) nor have I considered youth opening up to me as a gift... but maybe I should. Not in the "oh, I'm so great. Boom! Look what I can do!" way but more "wow, okay, God gave this to me to share with others; to bring others closer to Him."

I, of course, can't do it by myself. The Holy Spirit needs to help guide me because I feel clueless more than half the time. lol. The internal monologue goes something like this: "What am I doing? Are You sure I'm not seriously underqualified? I feel underqualified. Alright... if it's what You want..."

Alright, God... You have my attention. You got my attention through a fellow Catholic who was listening to Patrick before I even stepped inside the van. He said things that both humbled me in the best way (which I'm keeping to myself) and lit the fire within me. As my beloved Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati used to say, "Verso l'alto!"

Anyway, I just wanted to share these thoughts that have been bouncing around in my mind since this morning. I have to go get lunch started since mom will be home soon.

I hope y'all are having a great weekend thus far! :D

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why I'm Throwing Away My Meg Cabot Books

Once upon a time, a 16 year-old Emmy went to see The Princess Diaries on the big screen. Though she never dreamed about being a princess (no, she grew up a tomboy and dreamed about playing soccer), she loved the story. So she started reading and collecting the novels written by Meg Cabot. She was away from the Church, educated in liberal Los Angeles public schools, and was never properly catechized so she read the books focusing on the love story between Mia and Michael. 

When the author (Meg Cabot) got a website and started giving advice to young women when she (Emmy) was 19 and 20, she thought it was great. She continued to read the books even after her reversion. She felt she had invested enough time to see where the series ended. So she got to the last book in the series at age 29... and felt like she had wasted her valuable time. 

At 30, when the Great Book Purge began, she remembered those words a close friend said to her the last time she considered throwing the books away: "But you have the complete series! Don't you want to pass them along to your daughters when they grow up?" The answer this time was a big fat "NO!" So she decided to write a blog post about this topic and here she is now.

Can I stop speaking in third person? Phew! lol. But, really, all of that is true. I did watch the movie based on the series and I did love it. In fact, I still occasionally watch it and its sequel which is nothing like the book. Disney made the films so of course it's a lot cleaner than the books. However, as much as I loved the books as a teenager into my early 20s, I can't say the same anymore.

I've been re-reading the books in the series because I decided to throw them away. No, I'm not even donating them. They're going in the trash bin. The reason I decided to re-read them was because I honestly forgot how the series began. I thought "well, maybe I could keep a book or two for my future daughters" but after going through the first 5 of the 10 (the 11th book is the first and only adult book in the series and it was pretty explicit), I've decided to stop reading them because they just keep on getting worse and worse. My friend's words keep replaying in my mind: "But you have the complete series! Don't you want to pass them along to your daughters when they grew up?" The answer still is: NO!

If you haven't read the series and are wondering if I'd recommend them, well, you can guess what the answer is. If you want to know why, please keep reading. If you're a fan of the series and are having an issue with my objections -- or are planning on reading the series for yourself and don't want any spoilers -- please stop reading because I'm about to give away major spoilers and, yes, I'm going to say why I don't like them.

Re-reading the books from a Catholic point of view, especially as an older person (I don't know if 30 is still considered young adult despite looking and feeling younger than my years), I just couldn't stop objecting to the topics in the series. The deeper I got into the series, the more disturbed I became. 

Mia loves to obsess over her love interests. "Well, all teenage girls do that," you may argue. Not like Mia. She bemoans how her first crush mentioned doesn't sexually harass her. When he turns out to be a cad, she moves onto someone else and then obsesses over him... for the rest of the series. Sure, she dates other guys since they do break up before getting back and staying together, but it's almost always just about Michael. You know how Twilight's Bella Swan is obsessed over Edward "I Spark, I Brood" Cullen? Almost that bad. It's just not a healthy way to look at romance. It's more about how she feels and what would make her (and her hormones) happy. Sure, her friends do try to snap her out of it in their own ways, but Mia's so consumed in her love/lust for Michael that it takes a while for her to see that there's more to life than lusting over your crush/boyfriend.

Morality is seen as subjective. Mia lies. A lot. She only wants to stop lying "or think of better lies" whenever she gets in trouble due to them. And sometimes lies get you out of things you don't want to deal with so, yay lying! Sex is also seen as something you just do. They do touch upon how it seems to a more emotional thing for women than men but that's about it. Mia obsesses about getting to second (then third... etc) base with Michael. Some relationships do seem healthier in terms of the give and take (and not just physically) but, overall, I wouldn't recommend any young women looking to the series for love advice.  
Religion is frequently looked down upon. There's a chapel and Sunday services mentioned in fourth book but it never states what religion she is. She only says that she gets caught writing her obsessing thoughts about Michael in her journal during a service. God's name is misused a whole lot.

I could go on and on about on my objections to the book but you get the gist... and I only got through half the series before calling it quits. The thing is, this is not the only series of Meg's that I have... and will be throwing away. 

The Mediator series is about a high school girl, Suz, who is a -- you guessed it! -- mediator. That is, she can see and talk to ghosts. She helps them "cross over" to the "other side" and there's a lot of scary scrapes she gets into in the process. Sure, there's a priest mentioned in the series -- another mediator who helps ghost cross over -- who is the principal at the Catholic high school where Suz attends but the theology is all wonky. I actually got rid of the sole book I owned of the series (though I read the entire thing thanks to the LAPL) after my reversion because of how uncomfortable they made me felt. Forget the paranormal stuff (there's some real sinister stuff in the books) and the wonky theology (which, in all honesty, I don't remember much of). Suz gets into a relationship with a male ghost who lives in her old room (yep) and some chapters can get pretty steamy for a human-ghost relationship. This gets steamier after (spoiler alert) her hunky ghost boyfriend somehow becomes a flesh and blood human being after being dead for several centuries. Seriously. Um, pass.

Other books includes: a girl saving the president's son from being assassinated, a typical HS girl who helps an actor, a book on how to be popular, etc etc. Hate to say it but I'd rather my future pre-teen and teen daughters not get any ideas from them.

The only book I'm keeping of Meg's (without much objection) is Avalon High. I love this book. Not only does it appeal to my Medieval/Arthurian legend geek side (oh yes, that side exists) but it's something I would have no problem passing along to a future daughter of mine. The heroine is a typical teenager so there are some whiny moments but she's a lot more balanced and closer to the Hermione Granger-type heroines in YA literature. Sure, I would have to explain to my future girls that reincarnation is not a real thing (the book talks about how King Arthur and other figures in the legend are reincarnated time and time again) but I'd focus on some of the other lessons (selflessness, courage, etc.) in the novel.

I'm not saying Meg Cabot is a bad writer. I've actually enjoyed reading her books... but it's the content that I cannot keep. She herself is a nice lady. I met her a couple of years ago (actually, over a decade ago) and she was so encouraging (she even wrote me a letter afterwards) that I appreciate her as someone who is positive with others. 

I'm not a massive fan of the advice she gives her readers, that's for sure. Besides her books, she kept (keeps?) a blog in which she once told a girl that sleeping with guys was fine because it was like trying on a pair of pants -- she had to find one that fit before committing to it. Who wants their teenage daughter to receive that type of advice? I sure don't!

If you like her books and don't have any objections to them, that's totally up to you. I'm not going to judge you for it. However, for me and my "prude" ways, I'd rather not keep anything like that on my bookshelves. Yes, I spent a lot of money completing the series... but that doesn't seem to matter anymore. And, okay, I will keep just ONE of the Princess Diaries books in the spare bookcase in my book cave but that's only because a good friend of mine went through a lot of trouble sending it from Scotland while she was studying at St. Andrews'. They used to release the books in the UK before the U.S. so she sent me a copy before it came out here. However, I won't read it and will only keep it as a reminder of my friendship with her (going on 12-13 years now). 

I posed this question earlier on Twitter but would love to hear from those of you not on Twitter: for those of you who consider yourselves more on the "traddie" side of Catholicism, what are your opinions of paranormal YA novels? Like the ones I described by Meg Cabot, the Mediator series? Would you let your kids read it? Would you have any objections to them? 

Also, for those of you who have read the Princess Diaries series novels, would you recommend them to a future generation? Not looking to debate anyone, just genuinely curious is all :)

Anyway, I'm going to go indulge in some more non-Catholic books (the list is long) since I have only a week before Lent (and my Catholic books only marathon) begins. :D

I hope y'all have had a great week thus far. :D

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting Youth Ministry

I took this photo after getting fingerprinted.
I had this fun blog post planned for this weekend in which I was going to let everyone in on a little secret that's been months in the making: I'm getting involved in youth ministry. I had it all planned: a new blog post yesterday detailing how my first meeting with the kids went and more details on what I was going to do. However, because the mechanic still refuses to answer his phone or even call me back when he says he will, I missed what should've been my first official meeting with the kids.

Yes, the mechanic still has my car. Yes, I was originally supposed to get it on the 24th of December... then the 2nd of January... then the 11th of January... then the 18th of January... then January 23rd... then the 28th of January. Yes, it's now the 1st of February and I am still car-less. Note to self: do NOT return to this mechanic ever again. He comes up with many excuses as to why my car is not ready on time and I call him (an average of 5 times per day) he fails to answer or texts me that he'll call me back later but never does. Sigh. Offering it up... offering it up...

Anyway, I'm really excited about working in youth ministry. It's something I've felt called to do for a long time now and not even warnings about how my idealism might get shocked when I see the behind the scenes stuff deterred me. My former SD set the wheels in motion late last summer but, due to everything that happened, I couldn't get started until last month.

Last week I went to get fingerprinted at a local parish as is customary for anyone working or volunteering with youth in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. I'm also already scheduled to attend a meeting/session for the VIRTUS program later this month. Gotta keep the kids safe! Basically, I'm getting all my stuff together now so that I can get the ball rolling before I return to school.

I'm not sure how I'm going to balance school with this but if there's one thing I've learned while spending less time online it's been that I have a lot of free time. Well, I have a lot of free time right now. I spend my day reading when I'm not cleaning, washing, or cooking. I've already read 15 out of the planned 24 books on my yearly Goodreads challenge. It takes me an average of 2 days to finish a book; less if I have absolutely nothing to do that day. Even if I wasn't reading for fun, it's been clear that I have a lot of free time once I cut back on social media. I could actually stay on track with my weekly assignments for school now that I've been learning how to better manage my time.

At least, that's what I keep hoping; that I'm finally kicking my social media addiction to the curve (little by little) and that I will have more free time to be able to balance school, household work (I clean, wash, cook, balance checkbook, etc), and youth ministry. I'm starting slow. First I got a schedule down for keeping the house running. Now I'm adding youth ministry to the mix. In April I'll be adding school. I also have a big writing project coming up but that will thankfully hold on the spring. Slow and steady wins the race... which has not always been my motto because I have a tendency to want to do everything at once... and fast.

Sadly, this blog post is just a boring intro into what I hope to officially do next Sunday. I'm still really excited about working with the teenagers (who occasionally think I'm one of them, apparently, lol) but I'm a little bummed that my first day meeting the kids was postponed due to lack of transportation. :( No, I didn't even make it to Mass because it was pouring rain and the cold, windy weather (with how fragile my health has been in previous months) wouldn't have been a great idea for walking or even taking the bus and then walking from the bus stop to our parish. No, we don't know anyone who lives around here who would've taken us either. We don't even know who to ask to help us on a grocery run. Yeah, sad panda all around.

If any of you work or have worked in youth ministry, do you have any advice for me? Any stories, good or bad? I want to go into this as prepared as possible. ;)

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm going to keep calling the mechanic until the dude picks up... though the last call he switched me off to voicemail right away. Sigh. I want to go to Mass tomorrow for the feast of Candlemas so you can bet I'm going to keep bugging the guy until I get to talk to him.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and have a wonderful week. :D

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