Thursday, September 3, 2015

Priest Dreams and Screenplays

I'm taking a break from working on my third novel (which I'm really excited about) but still want to write so...  hello, new blog post. ;)

Two days ago I had an intense dream which I will now share because apparently some people like to read about my crazy dreams. I haven't really shared one in a while but I still have awesome saint dreams every once in a while. No saints in this dream but it did involve clergy and it took place in a church. Having had this dream the night/morning of my baptism anniversary, I got a kick out of it... and also wanted to talk to a priest as soon as I woke up. lol.

It started in a church which I believe was supposed to be the cathedral in downtown L.A.... but it wasn't the current cathedral. It actually looked like the original cathedral, St. Vibiana's Cathedral (you can see a picture of it here). My mom and I had gone to the noon-time Mass. Archbishop Gomez, Bishop-elects Barron, Brennan (who will be a part of my neck of the L.A. woods), and O'Connell were there with other priests. Yes, there are many priests concelebrating the Mass... and, no, I'm not sure why.

As Abp. Gomez began consecrating the host, with the rest of the clergy around the altar, a pack of wolves entered the side door, snarling at the laity in the pews. Most of us (myself included) began inching closer to the center of the aisles, prepared to run... but some people stayed behind, paralyzed by fear. One of the person who couldn't move was my mother. As much as I tried to get her to move, she wouldn't, so I worked up as much courage as I could and began to slowly walk back to where she was at.

Abp. Gomez and the other priests began making a human barrier around the altar, trying to protect it; a few priests stepping down and starting to close off any access to where the laity had run off. The wolves backed off, angry at them, but still tried to find a way around them. Still having my mother on my mind, I took my tote bag (yes, I usually use a tote bag) and began swinging it around (a total "come at me, bro" moment), in preparation for the wolves... but they never came. Since they were too busy trying to find ways through the priest -- the altar and laity being what they sought -- I figured I stepped up and linked my arm with a priest's in an attempt to prevent the wolves from advancing.

Slowly, the wolves began to back away and out of the church... except for one, who was really angry. Abp. Gomez and the three new bishop-elects stepped closed to it and it began to slither around like a snake. At that point, it was the only wolf still there. It was eventually surrounded by all four as Abp. Gomez threw holy water on it, never looking away from it. The wolf began to evaporate... though it left its skin behind; just the insides of the wolf had evaporated. At some point I had also gotten myself a small vial of holy water to keep in case I saw wolves in the future.

I woke up freaked out a bit. I also wanted to go to confession... which makes sense since I didn't go this past weekend. It took some time for me to realize that it was a dream and that I wasn't in immediate danger. In case you're wondering, no, the symbolism wasn't lost on me... nor the fact that it happened on the day of my 30th baptismal anniversary.

Dreams like this -- while I try not to read into them -- just remind me that my imagination is something else. Once (and if I had the time, I would go back and search it in the early blog posts) a priest told me that my dreams were better than the movies... which then reminded me of something that my spiritual director said to me last month. He asked if I had considered working in the entertainment industry to help the efforts to, basically, produce good content as opposed to Magic Mike movies (yes, we used this movie as an example in our chat).

My school, JP Catholic, has a great filmmaking program. I had a brief flirtation with "the biz" in my teens (long story short: I walked away from signing a contract with an agency when I was 20, a year before my reversion). My mind definitely works in a way that, as I write the story, I can envision as if it were a film. I have friends who are actors and/or screenwriters (hard to not to have at least one acquaintance in the industry when you live in L.A.)... yet I'm fairly certain that it's not a path I'd like to explore again. Still, it's something to think about.

Anyway, this was all just something to share because I wanted to keep writing and, hey, why not? lol.

Alright, I've spent enough time away from working on the novel. I really want to get at least 5000 words written for the day before I call it a night so this is it from me for now.

I hope y'all have a great rest of the work week. :D

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's My Second Birthday: Baptism Anniversary!

Today is a special day for me: it's my baptismal anniversary... a.k.a my second birthday. 30 years ago today, my parents and godparents drove to Nuestra SeƱora Reina de Los Angeles (Our Lady Queen of the Angels) at Olvera Street, one of the oldest parts of the city of Los Angeles, to have me baptized. I was a 3 month-old bundle of chubb and smiles.

Mom says I was very pleased with myself for splashing the poor priest, who I think is still there, 30 years later. There were smiles and giggles. I apparently didn't cry at all. Maybe I splashed the priest because I was too excited about being baptized? I don't know, I was 3 months old. lol. I'm pretty sure mom still has my little outfit stored somewhere... 'cause, you know, memories of my second birthday are important.

Being stuck (ha!) in L.A. allows me to visit the church whenever I'm in the downtown area. I usually go with my mom or by myself. I've only been to visit with a friend once, a friend who ended up entering seminary last year. I think there is (or was) an indulgence attached to visiting the place of our baptism. I don't actually go to receive the indulgence; I go because, despite my not remembering my baptism, it is the place where I became a member of the Catholic Church. It is the place where my parents helped get this beautiful journey get started.

I'm not planning anything big today, despite it being a big milestone "birthday," because I've been so preoccupied with other things. On the way home from the hospital this morning (it was my penultimate appointment for wound care), I stopped by my home parish and sat in silence for a couple of minutes. I did my morning prayers, my prayers for day three of two novenas, and thanked God for the past 30 years. I asked Him to bless me with (at least) another 30 years so that I can do great things for Him and the Church.

This month also marks my official reversion to the Church which occurred in 2006. The seeds of curiosity were planted in the summer of 2006 but I didn't have that "official" moment until sometime during September. Since I don't remember the exact date, I'm counting today as the unofficial day since it is the first of the month. So happy 9th reversion anniversary to me, too. ;)

As I wrote on my personal FB profile last night, "Welcome, September. You've given me so many wonderful memories -- my official reversion in 2006, many first days of school, mom's birthday (and Mama Mary's birthday), friends' birthdays, so many wonderful starts of autumn, etc. I can't wait to see what you have in store for me this year."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Offline vs Online; Words and Actions

Before I begin, let me say that the friends mentioned in the first part of this blog post are friends I know in my "real" world, offline.

I'm a boring introvert with an odd sense of humor. That's okay. I like my boring self. My extroverted friends love my boringness. Some have said it balances them out. I agree since they also pull me out of my shell sometimes, when it's necessary.

I don't drink nor do I smoke. Never have and probably never will. I have friends who do one or both. I adore them whether they do or don't. They just don't smoke around me and I'm the designated driver when necessary.

I don't cuss. Okay, scratch that. It takes a lot for me to accidentally slip up and cuss. I have friends who swear like sailors. Some apologize after cussing (because they know I don't do it), others don't. I love them all the same and I don't judge them for it.

I consider myself on the conservative side of politics. Some of my oldest friends are diehard liberals. We often find ourselves on opposite sides of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun control, immigration, etc. We are still able to push those issues to the side when one of us needs the other.

I consider myself very religious. I have friends who range from even more religious than I am to having no religion nor believing in the existence of God. I veil. I like going to confession. I like Gregorian chant. I love the Mass. I love the Rosary. Some of them don't get it but don't feel the need to question what I choose to believe... or they ask me why Catholics do certain things, but always in a polite, genuinely curious manner. Likewise, I don't sit around and judge them for what they choose to believe or not believe.

I'm not married nor am I in a relationship. I don't have kids. The majority of my friends are married and/or have kids. Very few of us (with most of us in our late 20s to mid-30s) are single. We support each other and don't make the others feel terrible for their vocation or lack-of (for the time being). The singles pray for the married with children and vice versa.

Then we have my online life...

I'm boring. I get called on my being "serious business" and get told to "lighten up" when I don't find something particular funny.

I don't drink or smoke. I get asked what's wrong with me.

I don't cuss. I'm made to feel like there's something wrong with and, erroneously, get accused of judging others for swearing.

I consider myself conservative. I'm not conservative enough for some. I'm too conservative for others.

I'm religious. I veil and therefore I think of myself more pious and superior to others... or so the subtweets say after I post a pro-veiling article. I'm also not religious enough for some. I'm a modernist. Others argue that I'm too religious. I'm a dangerous "trad."

I'm single. Some say I'm single by choice, that I'm a typical Millennial who is selfish and doesn't want to settle down. Others pity me for being over 25 and still single. "Poor, poor girl... it's so hard now that you're 30," they say.

Now, let me ask you a couple of questions: if you had to deal with this on an almost daily basis, which would you prefer? Your offline life or your online life? Probably offline, right? What if your work and education was mostly online? What if you were one of the last of your core group of friends who is still living in California because everyone has moved away... and the internet and social media were one of the best ways you could keep in touch? What if you got online, when you tried to talk to friends you miss seeing, and all you saw were comments about how you're wrong, you're too this, you're not enough that, etc.?

Can I be bold enough to ask everyone to consider my suggestions? Can we all try to be more careful with our words online, especially on social media? Can we all make the effort to cut back on the subtweeting and on judgmental comments? Can we pray for others instead of attacking them?

For the record, this is not me shaming anyone. This is me expressing my thoughts on a trend I've noticed in the past couple of months... not just with myself but with others. It hurts me to see others being hurt by words. You don't have to agree with what I said... but it needed to be said.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Grad School Worries and Academic Pride

Picture courtesy of Ashley Ella Design.
In about a month I start my first quarter of grad school. My school, JP Catholic, runs on a quarter system which I haven't experienced because I've always been on a semester-based academic calendar. I've heard that it's a bit more fast-paced than the semester system but I'm not too worried since I'm only allowed to take two courses this quarter... which I am guessing will be like taking 4 semester courses. Still, it's the "being thrown into a new situation" that is starting to make me a bit nervous.

I'm having those same jitters everyone has on the first day of a new school or job. I'm worried about messing up. When I received my first reading and writing assignment for my Fundamental Theology and Biblical Interpretations course (a little over a month early; thank you, Dr. Barber!) I was equal parts excited and intimidated. They're starting us off with St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa TheologiƦ and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I actually just finished reading through the entire Catechism earlier this summer but I've never really tackled Summa before. I've read bits and pieces (and very few of those) throughout the years but never at the level which I know I will have to for this course. *gulp*

As I was going through the list of questions and textbooks required, little doubts started popping up. "Am I even smart enough for this program?" "Will I be able to retain all the information?" "Will I be an adequate teacher once I finish this program and start working?" "What if I fail again? I haven't been in school for almost a year and the last time I was in school, I had to drop out due to the stress affecting my health." "What if I can't handle the workload again?" There are more questions but you get the gist of it. Oddly enough, all these questions are making me feel better about the situation. Allow me to explain...

I will be the first to admit that I've taken great pride about my academic career... to the point where a trip to the confessional was necessary. As a kid, I was the one who showed off, the know-it-all. I think I just let all the praise about being "smart" go to my head... and no one bothered to correct it. I was a kid, what did I know? While I got a better handle of it as I got older (and I got quieter and more reserved), it was still there in my mind. I took great pride in having graduated high school a year and a half early; in being able to give the valedictorian speech at the graduation ceremony. Though I stunk at math (my academic Achilles heel), I was still able to miraculously passed and graduated from my undergraduate program on the Dean's List.

After years of feeling a little too pleased with myself over my academic career, I got the much needed dose of humility and reality last year. Starting the Communicative Disorders at Utah State last year was exciting and not very nerve wrecking for me. First semester I didn't receive anything belong a B. I was feeling pretty great about myself... and then I didn't even finish my second semester, having to leave a month before it concluded. My health had suffered from me pushing myself beyond my limits. Surprise the "academic Super girl" found her match. I had begun failing exams and I couldn't understand why. I knew the material and I studied hard. I did great with the on-site work with the little kids. Still, it was hard for me to pass the exams. In a weird way, I'm extremely grateful to have gone through all of that because it helped me get rid of that incredibly prideful part of myself.

I think that part of why I'm worried about my potential success (or failure) at JP Catholic stems from what happened at Utah State. I was knocked off my academic high horse but that was one of the best things that could've happened to me. If this is what I want to do with my life (and it is), then I need to approach the rest of my academic career and training with humility. It can't be "look what I can do; look at how smart I am." It needs to be "I'm grateful for what God can do through me for others." I need to take out any selfish thinking... to rid myself of that pride that I held for many, many years.

So, yes, I'm worried about how I'll do, academically. I care too much about it. Although I fought it for so long, I know my passion is teaching others and helping evangelization efforts in any way I'm able to. I gravitate towards putting my efforts towards youth because of how poorly catechized I was and what a terrible path I was going down before I reverted. I want to help prevent that in others. I'm young at heart and I look young enough that they can feel comfortable talking to me or coming to me for advice (or so I've been told).

Of course, I'm going to approach my entire grad program keeping that in my mind. This isn't about me or what I can gain from it (other than the knowledge necessary to help others.) It's going to take a lot of prayer and a lot of revisiting my motives every once in a while. I need to keep myself in check and accountable for my thoughts and actions. :)

Come at me, negative, worrisome thoughts. You'll just remind me that I need to rely on God and to remember that I can't let the pride creep up on me again. :)

That's it for now. I have some errands to run (in 100+ degree weather... oy with the poodles) and other things to do around the house. :D Oh! I'm taking a little break from Twitter for the sake of my sanity. I think everyone (myself included) is burnt out from the craziness of the summer and there's been too much infighting and subtweeting for my taste. I don't know how long the break will last but I'll keep everyone in prayer. :D

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Are You The Nerd Writer?"

Alternate title: Top 5 Things People Say to Me When They Meet Me Offline.

Since I've met quite a number of online friends (as well people who've read my blog before officially chatting with me) offline recently, I thought it would be fun(ny) to post the top 5 things people say / ask when they meet me offline. Yes, there's a top 5. I've been blogging for almost 8 years so this is over the course of those years. I'll also include my answers so you don't have to ask anymore. ;)

1. "Are you the Nerd Writer?"
I can have a little fun with this because technically there's two "nerdwriters" in Los Angeles. I'm usually the one with "nerdwriter" as the username across multiple social media platforms but there's two of us and sometimes the other nerdwriter beats me to the username. I'm the lady nerdwriter. I personally don't know the dude nerdwriter but I know he lives in L.A. as well. So, yes... and no. Also, most of you don't know what I look like so I can always deny... though I probably won't because that would be lying and I like staying out of the confessional for as long as possible. Also, some of you aren't sure whether to call me Emmy (nickname) or Melissa (actual name): you can call me either. Even my own professors call me Emmy sometimes, depending on the number of Melissas in the class (it was a popular name in the 70s and 80s).

2. "Are you sure you don't want to become a nun?"
I usually get this question at the end of our initial meetings. Yes, I'm sure. It was actually a childhood dream to become a nun. Seriously, ask my godmother and she'll tell you that I would tell people I was going to be a nun when I grew up. I actually still wanted to be one when I reverted in my early 20s but, after discernment, I knew it wasn't my vocation. Sad panda. Belonging to a Third Order will be the closest I get. Also, totally taking it as a compliment.

3. "You're taller than I thought you'd be."
I never know how to take this one. lol. Do I "write"/"sound" short? Is it the Twitter avatar? I'm turning the question back on everyone: why does everyone automatically assume that I'm short? What about me scream "short lady coming through!" online? This amuses me to no end, y'all. Seriously, I will laugh every time I get asked this. For the record, I'm not that tall but I'm a little over 5'7" and depending on the shoes I'm wearing, I can seem taller.

4. "Oh, you're really shy. I thought you were kidding."
Nope, totally not kidding. I warn people ahead of time but few believe me. I know I'm not exactly "shy" online but in person a lot people can be quite surprised at how quiet and reserved I am... at first. I'm like this with everyone unless I've known you for years and a solid comfort level has been established. Also, yes, I am an awkward turtle. I have a weird sense of humor that uses a lot of pop cultural references. My "Emmyisms" will eventually make sense. Only a select few have met with without the shyness or awkward panda-ness. Very, very few.

5. "So do you know... *insert well-known blogger / apologist / Catholic person's name here*?"
I'll usually tell you if I do and/or don't but quickly change the topic. Honestly, I get a little weirded out when someone wants to fangirl/boy over a well-known Catholic "celebrity," especially if I do know them. I don't hide my friendships but I also don't flaunt them. If I can sense something off about the question (like, trying to use me to get to them), I'll politely decline to answer it. I think that, blogging for so many years, people expect me to know a lot of well known people but I really don't because I don't go to conferences and I'm in my own little corner of the internet without really promoting my blog or myself. I like people finding this place on their own or through divine intervention (or a retweet). I'm not trying to make myself visible so I don't seek out those who are more in the public eye. I'm always surprised to hear that people I don't know are reading this blog. I'm friendly -- I don't bite; shin kick but not bite ;) -- but I also don't like saying "Oh yes, I know... x, y, z..." Sorry, y'all.

Maybe one day I'll write a blog about the weirdest questions / things said to me. I've gotten some people I've never met in person trying I set me up with people I don't know or know very little. I've gotten wedding invites... baptism invites... (these last two aren't weird though I usually barely know the person). I have a lot of interesting stories from meeting people from my online social community offline. ;)

Alright, that's it. Shout out to the awesome people I've recently met offline who've inspired this post. ;)

I hope everyone is having a great week thus far. :D

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