Sunday, January 24, 2010

God is Truly Amazing: A Late Night Epiphany.

I don't think we realize (or really think about) just how amazing God is until after He reveals something to us. Just as I am coming back from that inner struggle between apathy and wanting to move on and enjoy life to the fullest, God has shown me that He IS with me and that, thanks to His divine grace, I am exactly where and who I want to be. I want to cry tears of joy just thinking about it.

Out of sheer curiosity I looked up an old friend whom I used to count as a best friend. Without going into the gory details, our friendship ended around the time I got really sick, right before I returned to the Church. It didn't end well. She badmouthed me to anyone who would listen, dragging my name and reputation through the mud. How someone could go from telling you she appreciated you for who you were to being the opposite... well, I don't know. I don't remember what caused me to look her up but I am glad I did because God was able to show me what I needed to see.

Not only is she still holding a grudge against me, which is justified... I guess (this is the "I probably deserved it" mentality I've grown to have), she is still badmouthing me. This is YEARS after our friendship ended. My heart pounded, my anxiety reached a 10, and I wanted to cry. How could I have ended a friendship that would cause so much pain; pain that would ultimately cause someone to say so many hurtful (and often times, untrue) things about me? After the initial shock, I had an epiphany. If I hadn't gotten sick and subsequently rejected the path I was going on, I would've wound up in a place I would've hated. I don't want to think about what sins I would've been tempted to do.

I am not going to sit here and criticize her. I refuse to take that road. Despite what she's done and said, I have forgiven her and pray that God forgives her too. Lord, she may not truly know what she's really doing. I've seen the path she has gone down on, the path I would've continued going down on, and it's not pretty. I have never been so thankful for my illness as I am at this moment.

I've often said that I find my illness (anxiety/panic disorder) a blessing because it brought me closer to God. I am now even more grateful that God allowed me to see, through this late night/early morning epiphany, that He is incredibly merciful. If I had continued down the path I was on, I would be someone entirely different from the person y'all know today.

Can you imagine me cussing up a storm? Dressing immodestly? Jumping from guy to guy (though still not sleeping with them; that was one thing I've never had an interest in doing)? I would've probably also still abstained from smoking, doing drugs, and drinking (three other things I've never had any interest in) but I could've done other worse things. Lying to keep people liking me? Lying to my parents about what I was doing and with whom? Slowly poisoning my mind with lustful thoughts that could've easily made it into my mind and sight? Supporting things like abortion (which I have never supported) and other things liberals are passionate about? I feel sick to think that could've been me right now. At the same time I'm eternally grateful I was able to avoid that. Thank you, Lord, from keeping me from that!!!

It's nearly 4 a.m. and I should go to sleep so I'll say this one last thing: be thankful for every experience God gives you. You know the saying, "What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger?" It's true. I've survived so much (including malicious gossip and negative people) and I'd like to think I came out a stronger person because of it. And I owe it all to God who is truly amazing!

That's all for now. It's way past my bedtime. ;) I hope y'all have a wonderful Sunday. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Being a Hepburn in a Hilton World

After finally having a chance to hang out with my adopted "little sister", Delaney, (who, btw, is an absolute doll, I'm so proud to call her my little sister) at Borders, I picked up a book I'd been wanting to read since I saw it on The book is called How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World... and the book definitely lives up to its expectations.

Just like the title promises, this books gives really great tips on how young women can live as classy and modestly as the great Audrey Hepburn did. From the first page to the last, author Jordan Christy does an amazing job offering advice in a witty manner that makes it sounds like a letter from your cool, older sister that you look up to. (side note: Though the author is my age, I did feel like she was the older sister I wish I had, imparting wise advice to her younger sister.) I actually felt like I knew the author and that this advice was actually tailored to me (being a big fan of old fashioned manners and morals). Everything from fashion to relationships, both personal and professional, is covered. That is actually very rare. I'm uber picky with the non-fiction books (my review on Jane Austen's Guide to Dating anyone?) because the advice given is usually... well, not good... at all! I didn't have that problem with this book.

I am so glad that she really gets "it", what it means to be a modest young woman... and she doesn't care about stepping on the so-called feminists' toes. Jordan really emphasized the fact that our culture is overrun with the Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans of the world that make our gender look like a bunch of "Stupid Girls." She uses real life examples to show us both sides so we can see why their way of living should become extinct, and why the way of Audrey Hepburn and our great-grandmothers should be brought back.

I loved the advice she gave on relationships -- both platonic and romantic. Everything from dealing with the toxic friends that won't leave you alone to how to handle yourself with grace and dignity in other social situations... it's pretty much what I would tell my "little sisters" and nieces. The issue of sex comes up, and she handles it very well. It doesn't feel like yet another person "forcing" the idea on us. She uses reason and common sense, fused with "old fashioned" morals, in a way that I wish was presented more often to young women.

One thing that this book has that others sorely lack is that it's actually very fun and interactive. There are quizzes that you can take such as the one that determines your true style (I am a heart - my style is sweet and romantic with laces and ruffles and light colors) as well as recipes to make of yourself or with friends (the Tennessee French Toast is so good!). And, bonus, she encourages young women to better their lives and to go ahead with the dreams that most people would want to squash.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book is that she really makes you feel like you're a) awesome for wanting to be (or already being) more modesty and classy and b) that you should totally embrace who you are because that girl is amazing. I had such a boost of confidence after reading this book because I really identified with it.

Have I mentioned that she actually advocates for young women to get more involved in their community and to do something for someone in need... without getting anything back in return (except for that lovely feeling one gets when we do good)? Want to start? Please do something for those who have suffered due to the Haitian earthquake. (I personally love the American Red Cross).

In a nutshell, at the end of book, I was thanking God that I'd finally read something that I could recommend to my fellow Maidens of Modesty. I would definitely recommend this book to any young woman who, like me, is a little old fashioned and wishes she lived in an era like that of the incomparable Audrey Hepburn. Who knows, maybe if we get enough young women to start acting this way (and passing it on to our younger sisters, nieces, daughters), we'll see women regaining the respect and dignity we are more than worth of.

Alright, I am going to go continue planning on how to revamp my own wardrobe a little more (since I've decided to embrace the girly side of myself.)

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is My Novel Catholic Literature?

As many of you have read, via my twitter, I have been hard at work on my novel in the past couple of weeks. In fact, the sequel is already in the works as well. (There are a total of 3 planned books in the series.) I have been working on this novel for quite some time now... and it's taken longer because a few chapters are being re-written. There are a few reasons for this, mostly because I want to make it more realistic (and closer to actual events that inspired certain chapters and characters). With these changes I've gotten one question: are the changes done to make the novel more Catholic? The answer is no... because I already had the fate of the characters and the story in mind when I was still dreaming up how I would flesh out the story and dialog.

SPOILERS AHEAD (Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know the themes).
From the beginning, the character Lina was always going to be Catholic and the character Will was not. That's how it is in real life - I'm obviously Catholic and the inspiration for Will's character is not. Though I (and thus Lina) don't shove Catholicism down the reader's throat, I do mention it and other things we believe such as being pro-life, pro-abstinence, and attending Mass and confessions regularly. It's a part of who Lina is. If this qualifies it as Catholic literature, then I guess it is. Again, I do this without being preachy.

I've always disliked books that try to convert me to whatever the author's religion is. Nice try, but not even professor and classes at school have succeeded. As a Religious Studies major at a public college (for now... I return to my Catholic college next semester), I've studied the various religions and all of them have just strengthen my faith. I'm just going to write about Catholicism the way it is, the way one lives it faithfully, without any secret motives. I've read many books in which a character is Catholic, but the way they are portrayed is horrible. Either they are Catholic but they "fall away" and start sinning like crazy, or they're portrayed as being completely psychotic and obsessed about their faith to the point where they hurt others around them. It totally ticks me off that there aren't enough good Catholic characters in literature, but I hope so change that (with the little I can do). I am not saying that Lina will be "perfect" Catholic model, because I know I'm certainly not, but I hope that people who aren't Catholic will realize that we're not the way we've been portrayed in literature (or the media for that matter).

As for how the none Catholic characters (like Will) will fare... well, I guess you'll just have to read the novel. I did not bash any religion or any person's lack of religion. I just wrote things as close to real life as I could; portraying how life actually is... not how idealistic or pessimistic it can be, like in other fictional stories.

And while I'm still thinking about this... I forgot I have to go rewrite a certain chapter. This is what happens when you start off with one idea and then, as you write, it changes course -- for the better! At this rate, I'll never get done. lol. I hope I will before the semester starts next month. I'm averaging about 4,000-5,000 words per night, but I don't write every day/night. We'll see. :)

Alright, I guess I should go back and work on it for a bit. :D OH!! If you're a Facebook bud, keep your peepers open because I'll be uploading pictures of places mentioned in the novel. Sort of a sneak peak thing without knowing anything about what happens at these locations. :D

That's it for now. I need to get some dinner in me and then spend the night writing. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Giving Thanks to God for Finding Myself

I'm terribly sorry I haven't written anything lately. I have started many blogs, but I haven't finished them for one reason or another. To be quite honest, I just haven't felt like writing much (apart from my novel). In the past couple of weeks, I haven't wanted to do anything. At all. Let me explain why this is.

As many of you know, I did not pass my Intermediate Algebra course by only a few points (I said three, I think). I had signed up for the next math class before I knew I hadn't passed... and they haven't dropped me from the class. I hope this means that either a) someone up there likes me and is helping me stay in the class, b) a computer glitch is allowing me to go onto College Algebra with the D (high D, but D nonetheless) I received, or c) they haven't figured it out and are waiting until the beginning of the semester to drop me. I hope it's either a or b because I want to get math over with. Anyway, while I was studying my brains out (I think my record was something like 14 hours in a single day) I thought to myself that maybe I wasn't meant to finish college. I overworked myself and I did not pass the class I worked the hardest in.

I also did my best in my Philosophy of Monotheistic Religions course but I got a C in it. I actually take that C with pride because I knew that I did not compromise my beliefs in order to get that A. I had a semester long battle with that professor (who I believe is an atheist or, at the very least, agnostic), and apparently I wasn't the only one. A fellow classmate, and friend, wrote a great paper on Christianity and she got a C on it. Whatever. I'd rather fail than deny my beliefs.

I did pass my Interpersonal Communications and Career Planning courses with A's, so the semester wasn't a total bummer. Many people have told me not to sweat the fact that I didn't pass math... especially since this was my first semester back since my father's death. I went back to school one month after he passed away. I knew that staying at home, mostly alone, would only hurt me. Still, failing hit me hard.

After the semester was over and I had nothing to do, I sort of freaked out. I have a tendency of overthinking things which is why, I suspect, my anxiety hasn't left me completely. The holidays were particularly hard on me. Every time I thought about how it was my first Christmas without my father... my first New Year that I didn't hug me and wish him a great New Year... I burst into tears. I'm still tearing up, just thinking of this... writing it all out.

I started to question a lot of things. Do I want to burden myself with the loans I would have to take to pay for school next year? Am I even supposed to finish college? Every time I've tried to go forward, something had kept me back. I thought about how maybe the previous times were because I was always planning on going abroad, and the Lord wanted to keep me in L.A. because my father didn't have enough time left with us. I am still unsure. I love school (I genuinely enjoy attending classes and studying) but in the last couple of weeks I just wanted to quit.

I've watched my mother slip deeper and deeper into her own depression, which emotionally drains me as well. All she does is sleep and work. She doesn't eat much and has lost a lot of weight. (I myself still haven't recovered the 10 pounds I've lost since dad passed away.) I feel completely helpless. It's like I stopped taking care of one parent, just to do it all over again with the only one I have left.

I've thought about how I've given up doing a lot of things I've wanted to do. As I get closer to turning 25 years-old (which will happen at the end of May), I wonder if I'll get to do what I've always wanted while I still have the chance to be somewhat selfish. Is this part of the quarter life crisis everyone is talking about? Friends, and priests, have told me to start living for myself... something I have not done very well.

In the midst of all of this, I clung unto an old friend and I was not quite sure why. I often call him my best friend... because that's what he's been. Through the good and bad, I've always relied on him to be my emotional support. My ONLY emotional support. I have friends... but none at this level. Most of my friends have been become acquaintances due to life's demands. It's very selfish and wrong of me to think and say this... but I felt very sad that at a time when I really needed my friends, I felt utterly alone. I still feel that way sometimes... but it's gotten easier these past couple of weeks.

Anyway, what I didn't realize is that the reason I held onto this friend like he was a life preserver was because he reminded me of the last time I was truly happy... which was at the end of 2006, a few months before my father was diagnosed with cancer the last time. During this time, I was very much in love with said friend. It was truly the most idealistic time of my life. I was returning to the Church (though still slipping) and I was really happy. Months later, my father was diagnosed with cancer and my friend (who ultimately became the inspiration for the male protagonist in the novel I'm writing) and I parted ways, everything went down hill. Those couple of months during the Fall and Winter of 2006 into 2007 were some of my best memories... which is why he came back into my life when I needed a reminder of that.

I believe God gave me a great gift on one of the most beautiful days of the year -- Christmas. On that day I realized two major things that have changed me in a good way. First, I realized what I was doing and thus I was able to let him (and subsequently everything that happened with my dad) go. Deep down I knew that though I love him (in a strictly platonic sense), I don't need him in the way I'd been thinking. Thanks to him I realized that I was content to be single and not have that added responsibility at the moment (especially since I take my relationships seriously AND my being on an emotional rollercoaster following my loss wouldn't have mixed). I also acknowledged that I needed to be more assertive, but that's another story. lol.

The second gift I received from God was acceptance. I accepted that I didn't pass my class, but I know there's a reason for that. I'd remembered that, just like my friend, just because you don't see/talk to your friend in a while, it doesn't mean that the love and respect isn't there anymore. Sometimes you have to be alone, and maybe the reason why I didn't have the emotional support I wanted was because I have to learn how to grieve and rely on myself for once. I also accepted the fact that I have changed, whether I want to or not, and that that's okay. In fact, I can honestly say that I am very grateful for everything I've gone through because it's made me the woman I am today.

With the New Year, I made a resolution to start the new chapter in my life. First, huge internal makeover (hence the lack of posts lately). I've taken time to find myself once again... find the person that was tucked away, for safe keeping, when I was a mess. I feel like I've done a lot of that lately.

Taking the advice of a new parish priest, Fr. Brian, I've allowed myself to start doing things I once loved. Writing, of course. I temporarily gave that up at the end of the year but I'm back with that. I wrote nearly 10,000 words in the past two days. I've embraced the literature geek in me and have started reading books I love again -- mostly Catholic literature and classics like Pride and Prejudice (and the like). I'm started watching movies again, lifting the hold on my Netflix account. As you can see, I've redesigned (with help, of course) the layout on this blog. It may be a tad girly, but this is who I am.

I am the girl that loves Jane Austen and the Victorian era. I am the girl that would be happy in a room filled with flowers. I love getting dressed up. I love the idea of having high tea with friends. I love the color pink. I do still love soccer but I'm letting myself be more girly than I have before.

I've made a resolution not to be so scared of what others may think of me. I owe part of that resolution to someone who's become somewhat of an unlikely role model for me. Though this person is very different from me, she's fearless and she's herself without letting the opinions of others affect her. Though I've been been able to ignore the negative comments, I've still been a people pleaser. I have the "if you don't like my blog background/layout, I'm sorry but this is who I am" mentality. Love me or hate me... I can't change the way I am.

I will probably be more outspoken on things such as being pro-life/anti-abortion and on being a hardcore believer in abstinence before marriage, though I know I will probably alienate some friends. Deep down I know that those who are my true friends, who disagree with my beliefs, will put it aside and still love me for me. I've had two great guy friends both tell me that, though their beliefs differ from mine, they still read my blog and they still respect what I have to say. (Austin and Matthew, thank you!)

So... new layout is due to a New Year, a new me, and a greater appreciation for God and His mercy on me. Thank you, God, for allowing me to find myself once again. :) May St. Cecilia (this blog's patron saint for the year 2010), help guide me down the path God wants me to take.

If you've made it this far, God Bless you for it! lol. I promise my other blogs won't be this long. I just wanted to get everything written. :D

That's it for now. As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Under Construction

This blog is currently "under construction." New Year + new me = layout remodel. I will notify everyone when it's all done. :)

God Bless!