Friday, November 29, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 11: Conquering NaNo, Thanksgiving, and Novena Edition

-- 1 --
Who finished her required 50,000 words for this year's NaNoWriMo? THIS GIRL! I'm never doing it again. lol. As I said earlier this month, I got my priorities wrong during it so I'm just not going to do it again. Anyway, I already proved to myself that I could do it in less than a month so I'm good. lol. Here's the proof (feel free to click for a bigger version):

-- 2 --
As you can see, I finished NaNo yesterday. Ever since my big brother moved to Texas, it's just mom and I so we didn't really do anything for Thanksgiving. A cooked for us (and then washed the insane amount of dishes by hand) and then we just took the day easy. Our downstairs neighbors kept us up the night before so we slept a good portion of the day. Please, don't feel sorry for us; we're so blessed to have each other that we don't worry about it being just us two for the holidays. :)

-- 3 --
As many of you have seen via Twitter, I really don't like Black Friday and refused to buy anything today. My dad used to get me up early for them when I was younger and I just didn't get the whole point. Okay, you get things on sale... but sometimes you get things cheaper on sale throughout the year. i.e. Octobers are traditionally the time in which electronics are cheaper, etc. It just seems off that the day after we give thanks (or the day on which we should give thanks), we focus on increasing our material wealth. I'm so glad mom and I are on the same page because, if she had wanted in on the sales, I would have to drive her (I am the sole driver in the house). So, I'm thankful for that. lol.

-- 4 --
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. While I am boycotting today and, really, am trying not to buy things through Cyber Monday, there are a couple of things that we do need so I'm going to participate in Small Business Saturday. And, for the record, the only places we're buying (non-food) items from are Aquinas and More and The Catholic Company for last-minute Advent/Christmas items and cards for mom that have Mass responses that she can't memorize. See? Keeping our priorities straight. 

-- 5 --
If you're wondering why I was one of the few bloggers who didn't write a Thanksgiving blog post, it's partially because I was trying to finish NaNo and partially because I reflected on what I was Thankful for on my own. Though I missed Mass (slept through alarm because of the little sleep I got; thanks, neighbors), I'm thankful for everything God's given me and I said my prayer of Thanksgiving to Him when I was home alone. If you're in my life, I'm thankful for you and I know you know. See? No need. :)

-- 6 --
Is anyone else up for doing the St. Andrew Christmas novena? It begins tomorrow and it's not exactly a tradition novena but it's definitely one of my favorites. It's prayed 15 times a day, which usually turns people off until I explain that they can say all 15 at one time, in a couple of minutes. If you want more info, please feel free to read about it here. If you want to do it, but think you may forget, let me know and I'll add you to the list of people I'll remind on a daily basis. :)

-- 7 --
Tomorrow is the last day of the liturgical year and I'm so stoked because Advent and Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love focusing on the meaning of Christmas (which is what Advent in) and then celebrating His birth. I'm going to try to do things a little "old school" this year (I'll write about this soon) which I'm very excited about. Are y'all ready for the start of Advent on Sunday (or Saturday evening if you attend Saturday Vigil Mass)?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

That's it for now. :D I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and start of Advent. :D

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I Learned Wednesday #24: End of Year of Faith Edition

1) Looking back on the Year of Faith, I feel like I can personally call it a success as I learned quite a bit about the Faith. However, I was sad to see how many people began the year excited and how almost everyone seemed to ignore it at the end. Maybe it's just my group of friends (online and offline) but I didn't see many people reflect or even given a hoot about the end of the Year of Faith. Why is that? Okay, I totally dropped the ball more than once on my What I Learned Wednesday posts but I still tried. And, okay, I also didn't finish reading the Catechism but I'm still reading it at the moment. That is a goal that I still have time for (giving myself until the last day of the year). The main thing is that I tried from start to finish. I think the effort is what counts. My curiosity and love of learning new things was definitely awakened this year and it's just going to continue. So, hooray Year of Faith!

2) I also recently noticed that I have received 5 of the Seven Sacraments. Here's my list:
a) Baptism: September 1st, 1985.
b) Holy Communion/Eucharist: May 21, 1994 (First Communion). I try to receive Eucharist as frequently as possible.
c) Reconciliation/Confession: Approx. April 1994 (first). I still go at least once every two weeks when I'm not sick. 
d) Confirmation: November 22, 1998.
e) Marriage: TBD.
f) Holy Orders: The one I'll never receive.
g) Anointing of the Sick: May 10, 2013.

I obviously won't receive Holy Orders but, God willing, I will receive the 6th and last Sacrament (Marriage) at some point in my lifetime. I think this is pretty cool.

3) Who didn't see the MSM's shoddy reporting on Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium coming? Y'all (MSM) are so predictable. Mom and I watched Spanish language news yesterday (as I get enough of the English language news online) and it was pretty much the same thing. "*gasp* Pope Francis declares war on materialism!" "Pope Francis is implementing new changes that will rock the Church, only at 6 p.m.!" I think mom and I become Statler and Waldorf whenever any new report on the Catholic Church comes on because it's always so cringe worthy. You don't do your jobs, news reporters. You try to lie to the audience on the actual facts. We get it. Yawn. I'm actually going to read the Spanish-language version of Evangelii Gaudium (thank you, mom and dad, for raising me bilingual) because I heard Pope Francis originally wrote it in Spanish. That and I've heard people complain that the English version is a poor translation. *shrugs* I'll keep y'all posted on that.

Anyway, that's it for now. I am almost caught up on NaNoWriMo (I should be at 45,000 words today and I'm currently at 44,862) so I'm going to do that tonight. I hope to finish the required 50,000 words by Friday. It's doable since I average 4,000 words per day and my record has been 7,000 words in a single night. And to think that some of y'all called me a quitter! ;)

I hope y'all have a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving Day! I am definitely thankful for each and every one of you who are sharing this journey with me. ;)

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 10: St. Cecilia, Emmy, and Music Facts Edition

Happy St. Cecilia feast day. Today is a particularly happy day for me as well... and you shall see why. :D

-- 1 --
Today is the feast day of the patroness of music and musicians... who is also my confirmation saint. Yes, St. Cecilia is my confirmation saint. I always say that I didn't choose her -- that she chose me -- because I really didn't pick a confirmation saint. I'll explain why in a bit but I am so happy that St. Cecilia is my confirmation saint because (as many of you know) I'm a massive music nerd. My first love was music and the only times I go without it is for a brief period during Lent. Even when we were mourning my dad's passing, I listened to music because it's my security blanket. Music helps me express myself without my having to utter a single word. 

-- 2 --
If you're wondering why I said I didn't pick a patron saint, it's because I was confirmed in Mexico where they don't pick confirmation saints. I was confirmed at age 13 (against my wishes, fyi - I wanted to wait until I was 15-16 to be confirmed with my friends) and since we have a priest in the family (on my mom's adopted side), I was confirmed in his parish. This parish was named after St. Cecilia... and I was confirmed on her feast day in 1998. Yes, today is the 15th anniversary of my confirmation. It was just meant to be. When I found out all these things after my reversion, I decided to make her my patron saint and she's been a wonder heavenly buddy ever since.

-- 3 --
Fun fact for those of you who don't know: I actually almost majored in Jazz Studies. I had taken music courses at Santa Monica College (including a course with Prof. Fiddmont; seriously, Google him) and I had the application to USC filled out but things happened and I ended up reverting to the Faith and then switching majors to Religious Studies instead. Still, I'm a huge jazz geek (jazz, swing, big band, and classical are my preferred genres) and I often wonder if I will one day get over my shyness and perform again.

-- 4 --
Oh yeah, that's another fun fact: I used to perform when I was younger. I had the wonderful Ms. Shelby Flint as my teacher when I was about 11 years old and she was the first to really encourage me and give me confidence in singing. I also learned how to play a bit of the piano thanks to her. I sang in chorus at school until I got to high school and developed anxiety. I haven't sung in public since I was about 15 and it would take a lot of courage and a miracle to get me on stage again. I'm just not cut out for it anymore.

-- 5 --

This is my statue of St. Cecilia which sits on top of the family recorder player. Yes, we are vinyl people. ;) I got her a couple of years ago at the parish where I did my first communion. I saw the statue and went "*gasp* I must have it!" It's actually one of the last things that Fr. Leo Leblanc OMI (who helped us when my father passed away) blessed for me before he passed away so it holds a special place in my heart as well.

-- 6 --

This is my baby... and my skinny legs. lol. Yes, I have a pink guitar. Don't hate; it was my big brother's gift to me when I was in my early 20s. It's not my first guitar but it's been my main one for a couple of years now. It's a Daisy Rock brand. I choose it because they make guitars with slimmer necks especially for women because some of us have tiny hands. It has a good sound. I am saving up for a new one because I really love playing classical/Spanish style and I need a guitar that's especially made for nylon strings. Now I just have to find one that I can use with my dainty lady hands. lol.

-- 7 -- 
As you can tell by now, music and I are tight. I use Spotify to make playlists for different things, i.e. workout music, cleaning music, and I even make playlists for my novels and the characters in my novels. To attempt to make a playlist with all my favorite songs would be impossible but I'll share with you the songs that are always in my top three (in no particular order):

Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind":

George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue":

Schubert's "Ave Maria" sung by Andrea Bocelli (never fails to make me tear up):

And that's all for now. I have about 4000-5000 words to write today if I want to catch with NaNoWriMo (and finish on time). ;)

I hope y'all have a great weekend!

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Can We Please Stop Competing Against Each Other?

I've noticed a trend amongst young Catholic bloggers (particularly those between about 23 - 29)... and it's not a good one. What is the trend? It's competing against each other; trying to have a bigger and more successful ministry/blog/online following than the others. I wonder if I had been the only one who had noticed it so I posed this question on Twitter. From the replies I got, it seems that I'm not the only one who has noticed it... and those who have noticed it fall in the young Catholic blogger category.

I'm not saying competition is bad. There have been some competitions that have produced great results that benefited society and/or a specific group of people trying to better things. Competing with my brothers during games is not bad... as long as I stop the urge to dance when I win. lol. It's when the competition gets ugly and/or puts us in temptation to do something sinful that it becomes a problem.

Look, we all want to be successful in one way or another, even if that success is leading a good life here on earth and then spending eternity with God and the communion of saints. Nothing wrong with that. But trying to be more popular than others who are doing the same thing we should all want to be doing -- evangelizing and getting more souls to heaven -- that's when the risk of temptation for pride, vanity, anger, etc. to weasel its way into your heart and soul becomes greater.

"I want to outdo *insert well-known young blogger's name*." "I want to cover something *insert young blogger's name* hasn't with their ministry... and make it bigger and better than what they have now." "I want more followers/readers than *insert person's name*..." Do y'all see where it becomes a problem?

I notice these things and, as a peacekeeper/maker, it hurts me so. I've seen so many talented bloggers (both young and old... but mostly young) fall into this trap. We shouldn't try to outdo each other's ministries. We should try to either help spread the word of someone's ministry (especially if you feel like they do a better job than you do at explaining or carrying out certain things) or contributing to Catholic evangelization in ways that haven't been covered by others. Sure, you can have a ministry/blog/website that is similar to someone else's and you can offer others a different point of view or way of reaching out; this would actually be great. Just be careful that you don't get to a place where you let yourself fall into the "I want/need to be more popular than..." trap.

I feel like this is sort of rant because I'm personally tired of seeing this happen. I personally don't keep track of my reader count because it's so easy to fall into that trap. I write because I want to write and I feel like if what I write helps one person throughout the entire history of this blog (for how ever long it may be), then I've done my job. Even if that one person is me figuring out a way to better myself as a person, than that's all I can ask for.

I don't pretend to be eloquent with my writing because I just write what I feel. I don't pretend to know everything or even a fraction of what other bloggers know because I obviously don't (Hello, What I Learned Wednesday concept ;D). I won't pretend that I don't see others turning Catholic evangelization into something ugly because I know it will only divide us.

Young Catholics, we are in a very crucial point in our lives and history right now. We are getting married, having children, and raising the next generation of young Catholics. This is happening now. How about we pray for those who have successful ministries? How about we pray that we can help out the Church in any way we can? Why not take a page out of St. Therese of Lisieux's book and contribute in our own "little way" if you aren't able to on a bigger scale? C'mon, y'all... don't let the Enemy divide us when the world is already so very much against us!

Anyway, I woke up wanting to write this and I found the time (a miracle, really, lol) to write it so here it is. I hope no one feels attacked by this. It's not my intention to attack anyone; I just wanted to put this out there in case anyone wants to reflect on anything.

I should go get some silent prayer time in before my day gets crazy busy again.

I hope y'all are having a great start of week thus far!

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

Friday, November 15, 2013

7 Quick Takes Vol. 9: Jumble Edition

-- 1 --
I have not given up on blogging! I told y'all that NaNoWriMo would mean less posts than usual because I'd be focused on the novel. However, I had an epiphany these past days that basically boils down to "NaNoWriMo is not as important to me as my Faith"... which, I am ashamed to admit, I have not been horrible at. So NaNoWriMo is now on the backburner (though I do still write) to everything else. I won't let me competitiveness get the best of me. This also means: expect more blog posts from me before the month ends.

-- 2 --
Like I said, I've been neglecting my "Catholic" side... and this is what I was worried about when I chose to do speech therapy. I've been so busy (volunteering, writing, taking care of my sick mama) that prayer and everything else is sort of pushed back. Not intentionally but I don't like it. Now I have to figure out how to do everything whilst keeping my prayer life up. I've never had to juggle so many things at once (at least, not since my reversion) so it'll be an interesting challenge. Still, not giving up on my faith.

-- 3 --
I promise never to post inside jokes on Twitter again. I did last night and I got grief for it. I will say this, though: it's a sad day when I cannot make a joke that a few people will get a kick out of because others take everything I say literally... and then put words into my mouth. Seriously, not worth it. Next time it happens (that people misinterpret what I say and then pretty much call me a liar because they misinterpreted me), I'm not returning from Narnia. Just send my mail and everything else to Cair Paravel, 'kay?

-- 4 --
For those of you who were worried about me after my last What I Learned Wednesday post, I'm happy to report that there will be no danger there. I was just informed that, since I cannot get the flu shot (allergic to eggs) and I cannot wear a mask whilst volunteering, I cannot go back until March. It's a hospital and they don't want me exposed to viruses and vice versa during flu season. Problem solved. lol.

-- 5 --
I officially have all of my Advent things ready to go. Bought the candles for the Advent wreath last week and had been getting a couple of other things over the last couple of months so I'm ready. Now if I can just convince mom to get a little Christmas tree (she doesn't like them), I can get ready for Christmas season...

-- 6 --
My dear friend, Kathryn, had her baby girl today and I couldn't be more excited for her. :D She already has a little boy, Adam (who actually inspired me to become a speech therapist), but I know her little girl is just going to bring so much joy to her family. And, because I know many of you are military wives, I'm also going to pass along the fact that her e-book, Journey Through Deployment, is now out for y'all to read. She didn't ask me to plug it; I just wanted to because she's been a great friend for many years. :D

-- 7 --
Speaking of e-books... I decided to get my novels self-published. After seeing (and hearing) how much better it is from both Kathryn and Nancy, I've decided to take this path. The novels will be published as e-books for the time being. Yes, I do find it ironic that I've chosen the medium that I don't like (seriously, I still don't like e-books) to get published. Judge away! lol. So far I will say that I'm not far from moving forward and that I've gotten good responses from three friends (two ladies and a dude) who have read the entire first novel. More details (hopefully) coming soon. ;)

And that's all for now. I'm gonna go... write or watch a movie. I haven't decided yet. ;)

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

No Makeup November Campaign

Sorry for the lack of updates but there aren't enough hours in the day to write; I'm even behind on NaNoWriMo.

And before, I go on, let me just say that I am offering up my stresses and unpleasantries of the day for the recovery of Thomas Peters. #IStandWithThomasPeters

This is just a quick post about something I've been doing for a couple of days now. Can you guess what it is? *points to post title* Yes, I am giving up makeup for November... which, to be honest, shouldn't be hard as I hardly wear any at all. You men have No Shave November and we women have No Makeup November... and the inspiration behind it is actually why I decided to join in.

See, No Makeup November was started as part of a Christian ministry to bring awareness to human trafficking which I haven't seen mentioned on virtually any Catholic blog (unless it's a social justice blog). I know that the subject is one of the "pet projects" of the "liberal"/liberation theology proponents but it's also been mentioned (and condemned) by the Vatican recently as well. I've seen enough videos and documentaries on the subject (courtesy of my pro-liberation theology alma mater) to know just how terrible it is for all involved.

The point of the campaign is to bring awareness to the human trafficking, especially the young women who suffer because of it. No person deserves to be in that position. I don't care what atrocious acts someone has done, no one deserves to be treated like an unimportant object. According to the official website, this campaign was designed to counter what society tells us beauty is:

"A culture that tells our young girls, mothers, and yes, even grandmothers that they are not close to being good enough. That in order to be of worth you must be physically beautiful, that unless you are a specific size you should be cast out, that the true amount of your worth is based upon one simple yet important factor, ones physical appearance."

If you haven't figured out what this has to do with makeup, well, a young woman who is brought to the States or to other countries as part of human trafficking are required to wear makeup in order to make themselves more appealing to those whom are perverse enough to seeking their, ahem, company. Make sense now?

I also like the message that we don't have to change ourselves to make ourselves more appealing to others; that we should worry about what God wants from us and not how to attract the wrong kind of attention. I know some women who like makeup and see it as a form of art. To y'all I say, right on! It's when we use it because we think it's the only way we'll get a guy to like us that has me worried.

I know that a very small number of you who know of a private social network profile of mine have seen the picture I have posted of myself without makeup. It's nothing shocking as the most makeup I wear is a bit of powder under my eyes and the occasional blush when I'm not feeling too great but it does make a difference. I wish I could post it here but, as many of you know, I cannot for safety reasons. But let's just say I'm taking part in this campaign and I have proof which others (like Julie; btw, check out her latest post - we didn't plan that) can verify for y'all if you don't believe me.

As many of you ladies know, you have to replace your makeup every couple of months to avoid bacteria growth (and because some makeup is designed to last only a few months after opening) so I think many women are using that money that would've been spent this month and donating it. I actually don't know of a legit Catholic charity that does this (and doesn't have iffy ties) so I am going to donate the money I would've used for my replacement blush brush and powder to a pro-life charity instead.

So, any of you ladies want in? I know we're already halfway through November but it's never too late to start.

Anyway, I need to go finish cleaning my room (I'm procrastinating ;D) and then try to catch up on the novel sequel word count.

I hope y'all have had a great week thus far!

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

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I Learned Wednesday #23: Married Men and Temptations Edition

This post was originally going to be a follow up to last week's Speedy Questions post but I've had a very interesting week (blog post title should give you hints) so I'll write about that instead. I think it's more important to share some things that I realize that some of y'all also go through but don't talk about. Some of you may be uncomfortable with the topics but I haven't seen them posted anywhere and I know I cannot be the only person who goes through these things.

1.) As a single young woman who knows her vocation but has yet to find that special fella, it's very easy to fall into different types of temptations. You guys know I'm notoriously private about my relationships and this part of my life but I need to share this. During the volunteer work I've been doing lately, I met a nice fella with whom I could easily talk to because our personalities and temperaments just click. He is (to a T) the kind of guy that I like (except for the "he's not Tom Hiddleston" part, lol). My mom likes him, his mom likes me... so what's the problem? He's married! I knew this beforehand because my mom told me a long time ago so I was cautious. I am not the type of person to break up a relationship (even if it's just dating) so I made sure I didn't do anything that would be inappropriate. The moment he said something that let me know there was interest on his side, I avoided the guy as much as I could. I don't know his wife but I respect his mother, myself, and the sanctity of marriage to put either of us into any further temptation.

I know some of you will get upset at me for saying that I avoided him because I did nothing wrong, but that's the thing -- I could easily fall into temptation myself. I'm not saying I would ever go there (I wouldn't) but why push my luck? I'm a human being and I make stupid mistakes all the time. Guys aren't one of them (hi, still single here, lol) but that's not to say that I'm not susceptible to it not happening to me. The devil is sneaky; he'll find a way to turn something innocent into a terrible temptation. And, for the record, yes, for a split second some thoughts did enter my mind but I quickly recognized them and knew that they were not the type of thoughts I would normally have. I said the prayer to St. Michael Archangel and then spoke to the priest in the confessional about it (it all happened on a Saturday).

2.) What I'm trying to get at with this example is that, we single young women (and men!) need to be very careful to avoid temptation. My temptation could've easily become letting him appeal to whatever vanity I have by letting him (inappropriately) compliment me and call me beautiful (which he did). My temptation could've been making excuses for his actions because of the attention I was getting. My temptation could've been letting him commit adultery in his heart by letting myself stick around. Again, some of you may have issues with the way I phrased that last sentence but it is what it is. I have as much responsibility as he does to help each other avoid any kind of temptation. And I know some of you have been there or have been on the other end. I've heard of friends who have had their spouses hit on by coworkers, etc. It's terrible. I've seen relationships and marriages broken up because of people who have either simply tempted someone to be unfaithful (though it never went far enough) or have flat out broken up relationships.

3.) I see so many young woman (and men, I see y'all on Twitter, too) lamenting being single and having a deep desire to have any sort of attention that they don't even realize what harm they could be doing to themselves and others. I have amazing guy friends, many of whom are married at this point as we're mostly between mid-late 20s to early 30s. I know and am friends with their wives. They have my back (and act like big brothers) and I have theirs. I love them all (platonically) but there's a fine line that cannot be crossed. Even if they're just dating, there's a fine line between friendship and flirting that is clearly drawn. If I feel like one of them is dangerously close to that line (and it has happened), I make sure my actions speak for themselves. I pull back and even cut off all contact from them if necessary. If they don't get it, I will spell it out for them as bluntly as I am able to with my Jane Bennet tendencies. As I like to say, "homegirl don't play that."

I hope this post didn't seem like I am full of conceit and think of myself as someone who can cause temptation 'cause I don't. In fact, I am actually surprised I had this happen to me. I actually wanted to ask the guy what he was smoking when he said I was beautiful but I opted to pretend that I hadn't heard him and I physically removed myself from where he was.

I wrote this post because I've seen and heard it happen to others and I just want some people to know that no amount of flattery is worth causing problems. Even the nicest person can have a moment of weakness and make a huge mistake. Like I said, temptation will present itself whenever it gets a chance so we must be on our guard. I am just grateful that I have amazing spiritual direction, great friends who pray for me (and I did let two friends know about my predicament as it happened) and that God has blessed me with a hyper awareness of things (except when single guys are flirting with me; I'm clueless then. lol).

Anyway, that's all for now. I am super behind on NaNoWriMo (volunteer work, errands, and illness -- grr!) and I want to get some work done before the CMAs. Go Hunter Hayes (even if I am not even sure he's nominated for anything. lol).

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

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