Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: The Year This Nerd Grew Up

Photo by Nino Andonis.

No, I was not immature (or I hope I wasn't) but I felt like I did a lot of growing as a person this year. I started the year kind of numb, a little apathetic, still mourning the death of my father and ended the year feeling the most alive and spiritually fulfilled that I've been to date.

As I said, I started the year in mourning. My mama went to my dad's room at the strike of midnight and broke down in tears as it was our first New Year without him. I also cried but I think it was harder for her as they were married for nearly 27 years before he passed. A week into the New Year I decided that I did not want to be in the rut I was finding myself in. I did not like feeling numb to most emotions. I did not like being a walking zombie who did not care about a lot of things. Though my faith thankfully did not take a hit, I was still going through the motions without emotions. To be honest, I didn't really snap out of this state right away. It wasn't until this summer, a year after my father's death, that I truly felt like myself once again. The hardest days for me were what would've been my father's 67th birthday, my birthday, and Father's Day. Thankfully I had amazing friends all year that helped me out. The majority prayed for me to get out of my state depression and mourning. Some went to Mass with me and I had two go to the cemetery with me to leave flowers on daddy's grave. I was thrown the best birthday party ever (breaking my bad birthdays "curse")... and basically everyone made sure I never felt alone. Whether they were online friend or friends I got to see in person, I was (and still am) to have truly amazing friends.

Of course, this year had the usual ups and downs. I was sick but less than usual. The anxiety was under control for most of the year (and, bonus!, I finally got to the root of it so I can hopefully move on) and I didn't have many health problems except for the stomach bug I got a few days ago (now you see why I haven't posted in a week?) and two allergic reactions. Otherwise, I'm solid, man. lol. :D School was a trip. For those following my tweets and my blog posts, y'all know what I mean when I say that school was interesting. Little did I know that my experiences at school would bring me so much attention... which I am still surprised by.

The CINO (Catholic in name only) College post unexpectedly blew up. I kind of wanted to hide, to be honest. I don't like being in the spotlight (or the limelight) but my post helped others which is all I wanted. I ended up on websites like the Cardinal Newman Society and First Things blogs. I got tons of comments, emails, and phone calls (seriously!) with words of encouragement, advice, and even schools offering to help me transfer to their schools where being faithful Catholics was the norm and feminist, liberal agendas were nowhere to be found. As I explained, financial and family responsibilities ultimately kept me at the CINO college I wrote about but I'm much more confident going into the next semester (though I don't start until the 10th). I have friends who help me out when I'm stuck on things that professors bring up. I'm still learning about our beautiful Faith so I occasionally need help. Thankfully I also have Patrick Madrid helping me which is amazing 'cause I'm learning a lot from him. Oh and something else that Patrick helped me with was getting my first article published in Envoy Magazine. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity and it only solidified my dream of doing what I want to do for a living which is writing. I still have a lot to learn but I've been fortunate enough to have good guidance. :)

Personally, I think I've grown a lot. From the late night-early morning epiphany I had last January in which I realized how lucky I am to have left my old life and dedicate myself to my faith and to doing God's will to coming out of the spiritual desert I just came out of, I have never felt closer to God than I did this year.

Oh, and in case you're wondering what I'm talking about when I say spiritual desert... in a nutshell, I just spent Advent being attacked by you-know-who with things I did not even know I would ever have to deal with. I had to deal with a lot of issues I'd unknowingly buried when I was a child and I went through a really rough time right before (and during) finals. I believe that if it hadn't been for the second 54-day Rosary novena I'm currently doing and my soul sister Angelica being there for me, I don't know how I would've (emotionally) survived. I had weak but secularly logical "valid" reasons to be angry at God, but I wasn't and still am not. I know other people who've gone through similar experiences have blamed God and/or lost their faith but I didn't. If anything, I came out of the spiritual desert with a greater love of God... and it's given me absolutely no doubt as to what my vocation is. On the contrary, I'm looking at the whole experience as a blessing. Though I spent nearly a month in constant tears and trying to make sense of everything, I feel like I had to go through everything in order to be completely ready for my future role as wife and mother. I'm still single and am in no rush, but never before have I felt more ready for whenever my future husband decides to show up. In fact, I'm excited that I will be sharing my vocation with someone and that we our love of God will only get strengthened by it. (Though, knowing men, whoever the guy is probably got lost and has refused to ask for directions thus making me wait a little longer. Typical. lol. jk.) I will soon write more about this -- you have been warned. ;)

Anyway, I've learned so much about myself and I've gotten some comfortable in my own skin that I feel like I can say that 2010 was the year this nerd grew up. The months of February (at the beginning of Lent) through May were especially good for me on this front. Maybe it was because I was entering my 25th year or maybe it was because, as I believe, God is getting me ready for the next phase of my life but I really did grow as a person and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. By the way, who knew that knowing what my temperament, Phlegmatic-Sanguine, would help me on the path of self-discovery? As I said right before my birthday, in my unofficial declaration of independence (from expectations and peer pressure), I decided to embrace who I was and be unapologetic of it. Although I still have a hard time being assertive (except when I fight against heresy and blasphemy in my classes as this is when my passionate Sanguine side comes out; I'm a lot quieter and can be quite shy in person which I know some of you aren't used to online, lol) I don't deny who I am and what I like and am steadfast in my beliefs. I've lost friends in the process but those who were really my friends have stuck around. :) I have a new outlook in life, and no longer live in the past, which has made me very happy with myself and with where my life is heading. :D Needless to say, 2010 was an amazing year for me despite the lows.

And this concludes the final blog post of the year. :D I still have to pray the Rosary novena for the day as well as take care of my mama who's sick with food poisoning (or possibly the start of the flu I just dodged). I hope everyone had a great year. I want to thank everyone who left a comment, sent an email, or sent me a tweet. Y'all made my year that much better. :D

I wish everyone a wonderful 2011 and look forward to seeing what the year brings (besides the start of my senior year this Fall). Oh and my 26th birthday at the end of May can just get lost; I'm good with being 25 and looking like I'm still in high school. lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Traditions; First Year with a Nativity

As Christmas is only a few days away I've been trying to figure out just what Christmas traditions we're going to be doing to sort of make up for last year since we didn't celebrate anything from the last Father's Day (June 2009) we had my dad until my 25th birthday this year. Unfortunately, we were still in mourning and kind of numb to everything last Christmas so there was no celebrating. This year, however, I've been on a mission to celebrate Advent and Christmas properly. Being Mexican, Spanish, Irish, and Italian I have a lot of traditions that I'm trying to incorporate into our humble celebrations this year.

First off, with the help of my confessor, Fr. Peter, we were finally able to convince mom to get a Nativity scene. Yes, you read that right: we didn't have one until last week. Actually, we had one when I was growing up but it got broken/thrown away/lost when I was about 7 years old. We haven't even had a Christmas tree since I was that age as well. My parents weren't/aren't anti-Christmas but for some reason we just didn't really celebrate it aside from some presents (though I didn't always get those because I've asked for no presents for a number of years) and the occasional Mass. As I said, things are going to change this year.

The main thing behind my plans is that we remember one important thing: Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ and the hope that gives the world. The Nativity, though quite small, in the living room was the first step. As mom and I are still growing in our faith (and I don't think we ever stop growing with in comes to the love we feel for God), it was important for us that this (as well as the Advent wreath and candles at the beginning of Advent) were the first things that were taken care of. Since I've been stuck in bed (and indoors) for the past 5 days, both due to being sick and due to the torrential rain, I haven't been able to put the other plans into action just yet. Hey, I have 2 more days and most of what I need involves going grocery shopping and cooking/baking so I am not behind schedule. ;)

We have one new tradition, inspired by my paternal grandmother's side of the family, which I have ready but I won't have up until Christmas Eve. In Ireland there is a tradition of lighting a candle and placing it in the windowsill on Christmas Eve. It is said that this was done to symbolize a welcome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph on their search for shelter. Tradition says that the light is to be lit by the youngest member of the family, which is me in this household as it's just mom and I. Tradition also says that the candle should be extinguished only by someone in the family named Mary but the last Mary we had was my late paternal grandmother so we'll have to assign this to either a guest (since we've had family members unexpectedly stop by) or my mom turn it off. Yes, "turn it off" since we will have an LED candle on the window. Since we live in an apartment, and the manager would have a cow if we lit an actual candle overnight, we'll have to settle for one that we can get away with. :D

I will spend Christmas Eve baking. I've never tried to make a pandoro (an Italian sweet bread; a nod to my maternal grandmother's part of the family) but I guess this weekend is as good as any to try. We may buy a Mexican Rosca (different style from the Spanish and Portuguese versions) but those are usually pretty expensive and too big for us. I would attempt to bake it by myself for Christmas but I may not have enough time with all the other things planned. I'll save the attempt for the Epiphany in which, once again, our heritage will help us celebrate. I will save those celebrations for another post though. ;) I also have other plans that involve food but not for ourselves. I enjoy giving for more than receiving... and my friends can attest to my specific instructions for no presents both on Christmas and my birthday (though I'm rarely listened to.)

I will try to go to Midnight Mass this year though I will have to go by myself as my mother has to work on Christmas and her shift starts at 5 in the morning. (There is no rest for those who work in hospitals.) If not, I will at least be tuning in to the Solemn Mass of Christmas Eve with Pope Benedict XVI via EWTN (online as Time Warner Cable is greedy and took my channels away) and then attending Mass on Christmas morning.

I'm always curious to hear others' Christmas traditions so please share if you'd like in the comment section! :D

Alright, I have a lot to do as I'm a couple days behind on the annual clean-a-thon (those reading this blog long enough will know what I'm talking about) and I need to start getting the last phases on my plans in motion. :D

OH! And if you haven't already: please vote for the patron saint of this blog for the coming year. At the moment, St. Therese of Lisieux is in the lead with 10 points followed by Mary Undoer of Knots and St. Gemma Galgani tied for second with 8 votes each, and Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, St. Raphael Archangel, and St. Thomas Aquinas tied for third with 7 points each. Last year it really came down to the last day of voting for St. Cecilia to win so your vote still counts. Only 9 more days of voting left! :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Help Me Choose the Patron Saint For 2011

I took this picture of St. Cecilia the last time I went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

It's that time of year. Clean-a-thons are about to begin, cards are being sent out to different corners of the world, and a new patron saint is chosen for this blog. As is tradition, I have posted a poll in which you can choose as many saints as you'd like in hopes to help me pick out the patron saint for 2011. I had multiple saints in 2008, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati in 2009, and St. Cecilia this year. The purpose of this is to help me focus on a certain saint for the year and hope that he/she will help me grow spiritually. Since I'm pretty indecisive I let my friends help me out... and thus the whole concept of the poll was born.

I have the poll set up so that it's open until December 31st so you may vote, or change your vote, until then. The patron saint for the year will be announced on the New Year's Day. Oh! And because there's a possibility of being asked again this year... I pick the patron saints for specific reasons. Each saint is the patron of various vocations or health issues. I tend to pick them according to what I believe they could help me out with if they are chosen as the patron for the year. This year is focused mostly on my vocation. You can either vote for your favorite or for whomever you think you be the best saint for me to focus on. That part is completely up to you. Last year St. Therese of Lisieux was only a vote from tying with St. Cecilia and she helped me out this year as much (if not more) than St. Cecilia did. :D

Anyway, that's it for now. Please vote and help a nerd out. The poll (in case you're getting this post via email) is on the right side column of the blog. :D I have a book to finish for review. :) I hope y'all are having, or had, a great weekend! :D

As always, thanks for reading (and voting) and God Bless!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finals, Cancer Scare, and Rosary Novenas

... And I'm officially back! Sorry it's taken me nearly a week after finals to return to the blogging world but I have good reason for it... and you might've guessed what it was from the title. First, though, an update on how the first 54 day Rosary novena has been working and how it's affected my experience at the CINO.

I know I have yet to post an entry on the novena (which I will hopefully tomorrow) but I'm going to go ahead and say that it's worked wonders. I started the first Rosary novena at the beginning of the semester because I knew that I was going to need major intercessions as long as I attend the CINO. After the first week of heck (which is explained in the upcoming post), I started to notice things changing. It wasn't an immediate change (and things are still a work in progress) but I am truly grateful for what has already changed. While before I was overwhelmed and upset with everything that was going on, I now have a little more fight in me and I am at a place where I am feeling so much better. I still don't agree with my professors but I now openly challenge them in class because I'm no longer being a Little Miss Nice Nerd. I'm sorry but when material that is clearly anti-Catholic or trying to be passed as Catholic (when it really isn't) is presented I'm going to say something. I can't sit there and allow it to happen. I sometimes wonder how things would've gone if I hadn't completed the first novena because, even though I am openly defying my professors, they're not marking me down as much as before. I actually did pretty well this semester. I managed a 3.0 which is kind of miraculous considering everything that's happened. A 4.0 is a pipe dream at that school so I glad I got the required 3.0 to keep my financial aid. Finals were the most intense thing I've ever experience in my academic career, but I came out alive. Even though I got marked down for ripping a pornographic, anti-Catholic film that we were forced to watch to shreds, I still made it out in one piece... without having to compromise my beliefs. Thank God in heaven and all the saints and angels that helped me along the way. By the way, the fact that I was dealing with a cancer scare during finals made things a little hard for me.

I'm on day 20 of the second 54 day Rosary novena and, well, things have (had?) not been going very well for me. I actually had to restart the novena (on day 15 no less) because one of my professors decided to change our last essay at the last minute and had to basically rethink my essay and do everything from scratch. That night I finished right before midnight, lost the day, and thus had to restart. Just like my "week from heck" during the first novena, the past (nearly) 3 weeks have been really hard for me. This time around, things have gotten just a little more intense but I refuse to stop praying the novena. Repressed, and deeply unpleasant, memories randomly popped up the week before finals which did not help. As soon as I was able to get the memories out and began the healing process (through more prayer) I had this cancer scare. So during finals I was pretty depressed. Only one of my friends, whom I consider one of my closest, knew what was going on because I don't like worrying people. I actually didn't mention the scare to my friends or anyone until I a few days before my doctor's appointment (which was yesterday) and that was because I was so nervous and panicked that I really needed prayers. Because of the kind of scare that I was going through, I reached out to my girlfriends first because they are amazing women and I knew that they would have an idea (or could imagine) what I was feeling. The night before my appointment I was still a little panicky so I took to twitter where we Catholics have become pretty good online friends.

I won't lie and say that I wasn't fearing the worse but hoping for the best. After having gone through 7 years of my father's fight with colon cancer and seeing him die from the disease last year, it's no wonder why I was so scared of potentially having cancer. I've cried more these past 2-3 weeks than I have all year and things just felt horrible this week while waiting for the doctor's appointment. I was ready and prepared to do what God wanted, even if that meant that the worse case scenario would happen, but I was still terrified. Through the prayers of my friends, and through the second Rosary novena I'm doing, I felt nervous but more accepting of things. Like I said, I had resigned myself to whatever God's will was. After the doctor told me that it wasn't a cancerous tumor (though it is a benign tumor) I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and thanked God that it wasn't cancer. I actually imagined St. Therese of Lisieux and her mother, Blessed Zelie Martin, at either side of me as the doctor made his diagnosis and I'm glad I did it because it kept me from breaking down into tears. We don't always understand why we go through things until they are over and this experience was no exception. Though it may be too soon to say that my theory is right, I do believe that I have gone through everything for specific reasons.

I believe the stress of finals (and of the semester) needed to happen because I needed to strengthen myself, spiritually, more. After dad's death I went through a period where I wasn't completely apathetic but I definitely felt numb. I never lost my faith and love of God but I didn't feel the same way as before. Everything I've gone through the past couple of months have reawakened those feelings in me and I truly grateful for that. I believe the repressed memories came up because I needed to really deal with them. I am afraid I can't say what they were about as I'm terribly private about certain things but I will say that it was something that needed to be dealt with so that I could truly move on and be ready for my vocation without any reservations. Believe it or not, the cancer scare also helped me realize that I am truly ready to become a wife and mother as soon as God sends the right man my way. It took all these things to help me both reevaluate my priorities and also put me back on the track that I was on prior to my dad's death. I've snapped out of all the worries and I'm back, baby. lol. ;) Because I've finally snapped out of the funk, have 4 more weeks of vacation, and said "adios" to the blog writer's block, expect more blog entries from me. Sorry. lol. :D

I have to go finish an online game for review *gasp*, as well as a couple of books that will also be reviewed on this blog, so I should get going. I hope everyone is having a great week thus far. :)

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

P.S. I've posted some back entries from October until now that I hadn't before so please check them out. :D

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm Undercover at the CINO...

This is Emmy and I'm reporting live from the CINO (Catholic in Name Only) college with this breaking news... I am officially done with my Intro to Catholicism class! Whoo! I just finished my final presentation on parishes within the L.A. Archdiocese. Phew! But that isn't why I am blogging today.

I've been getting a lot of hits on my CINO post, largely due to Patrick being nice enough to send them my way for advice and comments of support, and I've realized that I haven't really updated how it's been going since the post. While I do tweet about my experience, as it happens, on twitter I haven't had the time to sit down and write a proper entry on here. I also feel like I should clarify some things. By the way, to the person who called me a "dumb, ignorant, pathetic excuse for a Catholic" (I'm paraphrasing but those were the words used) for "making a dumb decision" regarding what school I chose to attend: I hope this post will make you understand where I'm coming from and will make you re-evaluate the hurtful attack you launched on me last night.

First off, thank you for all your comments. As I said in a previous post, I made my decision as to what to do. After much consideration, talking to friends whose opinions I valued, and prayer, I decided to stay where I am. Before anyone comments on that, especially for my new readers, let me explain something. When I initially chose this school in 2006, I was barely returning to the Church. As I got more serious about my faith I looked elsewhere. I wasn't majoring in Religious Studies (I was an English Literature and Jazz Studies major before I settled on RST) so it wasn't like I was looking for the school with the best Religious Studies or Theology department. I looked into St. Bede's Hall in England, Thomas Aquinas College, Ave Maria, Steubenville, etc. I actually came very close to going for the more faithful colleges, as well as the secular University of British Columbia, when my father was diagnosed with cancer the second time (before the third and final time). Since I wanted to take care of my father, and I was still dealing with my anxiety and panic disorder, I decided to stay in L.A. and I chose to attend my current college over the other "Catholic" college in the area because I hadn't heard as many bad things about it. From the research I did, it seemed to have been getting better in terms of the heresy spewed so I decided to give it a shot. Still, I applied elsewhere just in case my dad did get better and I could go away. As my father got worse and his cancer became terminal, I decided to stick with the plan to stay in L.A. for as long as needed. When my father died last summer (2009), I decided to stay at home for various reasons but mostly because of the concern for my well being and because of family responsibilities I inherited with his passing. I didn't want to go away while mourning my father and while my mother was inconsolable (and she still is nearly a year and a half later; they were married nearly 30 years).

Right before I started this semester, literally weeks beforehand, I started hearing about how bad it was. From what I heard I thought I'd still be able to survive in one piece and thought "Hey, if they still allow me to believe what I do and to engage in conversation, I'll be okay." After all, it never hurts to learn the arguments from the other side to both strengthen your own beliefs and to get an idea of where they're coming from. So I began the semester but quickly learned that it was "my way or the high way." I began the 54 day Rosary novena, hoping Our Blessed Mother would help guide me on what to do. Things got worse before they got better. As I got closer to finishing the novena, I noticed a sudden change in my professors. With the exception of one, they began to allow me to challenge their beliefs. By the time I finished the novena early last month I was no longer getting marked down. On the contrary, I got full points for assignments in which I argued with the pro-Vatican II, "traditional Catholics need to get with the times" classmates. I learned how to do my assignments without agreeing with them, and getting my points across tactfully. One of my professors, whom we don't believe is actually Catholic, spoke to me after class and she said that she actually admired me for sticking it out and for "having the guts" to major in RST in this "environment."

Also during the novena, and after, I got to know some of my classmates better. There were some closeted "traditional" Catholics or simply conservative Christians on campus that were in the same boat as I was. We all formed a support group. In one of my classes, I met someone with whom I could roll my eyes with and with whom I could talk about Catholicism properly. (Btw, she might read this so hi! :D) When we had the assignment to visit parishes in the Archdiocese, I got some of the girls to attend a Latin Mass given at St. Catherine of Siena in nearby Reseda, CA. That made my professor not too happy with me but she's since gotten over it. While I still clash with my professors (boy, do we clash) I am allowed to speak my mind. Things are so much different... including how I view things.

I still have the same beliefs I had prior to attending this school, but I have a better understanding of where the "progressives" on campus come from. It's making me do more research and it's helping me learn so much more about my faith. My arguments are stronger and clearer than before. I'm gaining confidence when defending the Faith while helping bust stereotypes some of my classmates had about what it is to be Catholic and what the Church's teachings are regarding subjects such as homosexuality and birth control. While my professors do skip over me when they say something they know I will contradict/try to defend, for the most part it's getting much easier for me. I expect to continue having a hard time but it's now manageable. I know what I can get away with and have found loopholes around a lot of things so I can't technically get kicked out or failed for stating my beliefs.

Thank you to all of you tried to help me transfer to other schools but due to financial difficulties, familial responsibilities, and other things, my only option is to stick it out. Through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, and by praying the 54 day Rosary novena, I am at a better place now. I can do this... and I more willing and prepared to defend our Faith than I was when I first started in mid-late August. :)

My Lit class starts in about 15 minutes so I should go but I hope that this blog will shed some light into my situation and decisions. For the person who decided to attack me, I have no ill will towards you and I pray that this post has been eye-opening for you. I still recommend really looking into colleges carefully and I do not recommend my current school for other faithful Catholics (and I stick by what I wrote in the first CINO post). For everyone who is in a similar situation, please know you are in my prayers and hope that you stay strong despite opposition for professors, faculty, and other students.

And now off to Literature class I go. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!