Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Weekend Adventures in Emmy-land

Since D is the Lizzie to my Jane, this gif from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries seemed appropriate. ;)

I know some of y'all are curious about what happened when my bestie (D) was visiting (from last Thursday through yesterday) after my last blog post. Well, let's say that the days flew by way too quickly... and was pleasantly surprised more than once. Here's a recap some of my adventures...:

On Friday we met up with Bobbi from Revolution of Love Blog, Micaela from California to Korea, Kendra from Catholic All Year, and Meaghan from Happily Hoxsey for a viewing of Little Boy at the local movie theater. It was my first time meeting these lovely ladies in person, though I'm positive I've seen Kendra and her family at Mass before. Since these ladies are either fellow locals or were in town for the Catholic Women Blogging Network Conference and I had to pull out of the conference when I found of my D's schedule, I was glad to be able to at least watch this film with them. The movie (which will get its own review later this week) was a great pick to watch with these inspiring women. Lots of tears shed but lots of hugs and smiles all around.

On Saturday morning, D and I picked up Andrea from Modern Catholic Mom from the airport, which was great because I hadn't met Andrea before that day. Though I had pulled out of the conference, I still offered my services picking up anyone who needed a ride to the conference since it was being held very close to where I live. I loved listening to Andrea talking about the Church forefathers on the car ride to the conference and it made me a little sad that I would be missing her (and the rest of the speakers') presentations.

After dropping her off, we headed to Mission San Fernando. I wanted D to experience the Mission (which is a favorite place of mine when I want to get away from the chaos) and she wanted to shoot some new author pictures for me so we killed two birds with one stone. :D We had fun walking around the Mission. She was really soaking it all in and I even pointed out the parts of the Mission that I'd written about in When Two Worlds Collide.

Once we were done with the self-guided tour of the Mission (I could give them in my sleep), D took some professional pictures for future novels and articles. Monsignor Francis Weber walked by as I was fixing my hair near his office. He just smiled and paid me a lovely compliment. I never know what to do when I receive compliments so I'm sure I turned bright red and became a little shy. I wouldn't be surprised if that'll show in the photos. (side note: I'm honestly unsure if I'm going to use them on the blog or social media since I do love the little bit of anonymity that I have.)

Later that day mom and I headed to confession with D. I was wondering if I had to explain our beliefs on that since D and her family don't do it but I didn't have to. We did have a conversation about the saint statues and portraits we have around the living room. I admitted to her that I was a bit nervous about it because we've had other non-Catholic friends visit and they look at the statues with disdain. Of course she was great about it and if she didn't understand how we Catholics view saints, our Blessed Mother, or why we have statues, she does now. :D

I was feeling tired on Sunday morning so we slept in and attended a later Mass than usual. Since D gave me two mantillas for my birthday, I wore one to Mass. I was pleasantly surprised to hear D participating in Mass. She used the missal to follow along, singing, responding, and praying along with the rest of us. I had to keep myself from tearing up. It really touched me that she did all of this because she knew it was important to me. :)

If I took anything from this weekend (and the rest of her visit) is how incredibly blessed and grateful I am to have her in my life. We've been friends for nearly a decade (we actually met in the early days of my reversion) and we've always had differing beliefs but that's never been an issue in our friendship. She understood when I had to take some solo time to do my morning and evening prayers (yes, I was able to finish some of the novenas I was doing, pray the Rosary on a daily basis, and go on with my usual prayer schedule) and I understood when she wanted to take some time to do her devotionals and Bible studies.

Everything that happened this weekend (what I've written about and other things I've decided to keep to myself) made me want to get closer to God as well. It made me more excited about starting grad school, to learn even more about the faith, and to eventually share it with others. I actually feel the same joy and excitement that I felt in the early days of my reversion. I'm incredibly grateful for D's friendship, the camaraderie within the Catholic ladies blogging world, and where I am at this point in my life.

Though some unexpected things came up this past weekend that are making me question some things (in a good way; all vocation related), I feel like it's something that is long overdue. I also have an intense desire to spend more time parked in front of the tabernacle and in Adoration, which is not a bad thing. I guess we'll just have to see what new adventures God will have lined up for me in the near future. ;)

Anyway, that's the "in a nutshell" recap of my weekend. I feel like I'm going to need the rest of this week into the weekend just to recharge. lol. What? I'm an introvert; I get drained easily and I put more miles into my car in five days than I probably do in 6 months. lol.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and are having a great week thus far. :D

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Your Non-Catholic Bestie Visits...

I have a confession to make: I'm a little nervous about my non-denominational Christian bestie's visit because my faith is a huge part of my life and my daily activities. I've spent an hour (or over an hour) in prayer in the evening for the past couple of days because I've added a couple of novenas to my daily prayer routine. With the start of the Mary Undoer of Knots novena yesterday, it's now gotten longer since it means praying the Rosary twice a day. I have absolutely no problem with that... except that I don't know how to balance all that time in prayer with company.

Last time we had company, it was my older brother who stayed with us for a couple of days (back in early February). I didn't have to worry about things because he understood... and mom kept him busy anyway. All the things we couldn't get done because we needed the muscle? Yep, he took care of it. lol. This time around, the responsibility of being a good hostess falls on me. How am I going to do it when I spend part of my waking hours praying?

I don't get out of bed until I finish my morning prayers and those can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the day. The Rosary? 15-25 minutes, depending on the amount of distractions. Evening prayers? Half an hour on non-novena days; an hour on novena days. I'm on day 6 of a couple of novenas and day 2 of the Undoer of Knots novena. What am I going to say? "Sorry but the first half hour and the last hour of my day you're on your own because I have prayers to do"? That is not including random times in which I see prayer requests and pray for whoever needs prayers. I'm just worried about being rude and being a bad hostess, you know?

I'm lucky that D has already expressed an interest in attending Mass with us on Sunday. Not only that, she's going to veil because she knows that I love veiling. I've already told her that she doesn't have to do it but she already said she would. She's also joining a couple of us Catholic lady bloggers (who are in town for the Catholic Women Bloggers Network - California conference) for dinner and a viewing of Little Boy this weekend. Oh, and she'll be going to confession with me this Saturday as well.

Maybe I'm just worried over nothing but, like I said, I just don't want to be rude. She's coming into town to visit and celebrate my birthday (a month early but I don't mind ;D) and I don't want her to feel like either she's imposing on me (which she could never do) or like I'm trying to push Catholicism on her, which I'm not. Oh... and she's going to be surrounded by images and statues of Our Lady and saints. I have my Mary Undoer of Knots statue on top of my main bookcase in the living room, along with a picture of St. Benedict of Nursia and a crucifix from Jerusalem... Oh, and a St. Cecilia statue sits on top of the record player (yes, I have a record player...) next to the TV, across from the bookcase. Have I ever mentioned that you can tell we're Catholic by simply stepping through the front door of my apartment... or that I tend to over-think things sometimes? lol. Yeeaah. Nearly 10 years of friendship and I'm still worried about these things. *blush*

I might blog during the visit and how we're coordinating everything because I think it may be interesting. I'll have to ask her if it's okay but I'm sure she'll be onboard with it. By the way, feel free to laugh over my worries; it's just been ingrained in me that I have to be on top of things and make sure my guests are comfortable and feeling like my home is their home as well.

Anyway, I need to go finish vacuuming (for the second time this week... yes, I'm one of those people who likes their home clean and orderly) and some dusting before I have to go pick her up from the airport. Wish me luck. ;)

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rosaries at the ER

Yes, I know... there was a long gap between blog posts but I have good reasons. I've been busy, sick (physically exhausted), and I spent my afternoon-into-evening in the emergency room on Monday so, you know, I haven't had time to write. That and I had writer's block for a couple of days. However, I'm ready to catch up with blogging, working on my third novel, and everything else.

If you're following me on Twitter, you might've read my tweets from the ER. I woke up on Monday feeling like my lower limbs (from torso down to legs) were very heavy and I couldn't even stay seated for long because I felt as if my body weighed more than 118 lbs I actually weigh. I'd had these symptoms for several days before but it was much worse on Monday. To top it off, there was blood where blood should not have been that morning. Because of this, and because I couldn't get a doctor's appointment anytime soon, I was told to head to the emergency room by the nurse advice line for my health insurance.

Long story short, they were concerned about internal bleeding. Six vials of blood were taken, I was hooked up to an IV (and was given fluids), and a CT scan was done to try to pinpoint where the internal bleeding was coming from. CT scan came back clean (though they did find something that isn't serious but should be kept track of) and the conclusion was that the bleeding most likely came from a source which I do not feel comfortable sharing. Let's just say that it's not serious. The blood work revealed that I was "slightly anemic" and I have to take iron pills (along with an iron rich diet and B-Complex multivitamin) for the next two months so that my iron can get replenished and I won't feel so exhausted. So, yay for health... except for low iron, which can be fixed. :)

The big surprise was that my platelets were at 140k... normal range! It's the lowest number within normal range but I have not been within normal range with my platelets for about 2 years so it was welcomed news. I hope they continue to stay at/around 140 or even go up a bit higher. No explanation for the increase of platelet production but I am so grateful. Anyway, now that I have all of that information out of the way, I wanted to share something about my experience in the ER that was wonderfully calming for me.

I pray the Rosary daily and I always carry around one of the custom made rosaries that Allison has made for me... but I seemed to have forgotten that I had placed it into pocket that morning. I don't know about y'all, but sometimes I forget to pray when dealing with high levels of stress. It's one of those things I have to work on. In the stress-induced tunnel vision I had driving myself to the ER (while feeling like I had zero energy to even sit) and of getting checked-in, I had completely spaced on praying. I prayed the Little Office that morning but I hadn't prayed since. It wasn't until I was taken to the lab to get a CT scan that I remembered that hadn't prayed the Rosary and decided to do it while I was getting the scan done.

As I received the breathing instructions from the machine (if you haven't had a CT scan done before, you hold your breath for a couple of seconds while the machine scans your insides), I prayed Hail Marys. I felt so peaceful and at ease instead of anxious that the whole process was a breeze for me. When it was done, I was told that I could get my lower half dressed again and as I did it, the rosary fell out of my pocket. It surprised me because, as I said, I'd forgotten that I had it. The lab tech saw it and said "Oh, a rosary! That's a good thing to have!" I agreed with him and then I was wheeled back to my room. As I got to my room, I told my mom what had happened and the rosary once again fell out of my pocket in front of her feet. We both felt as if Mama Mary was there with us through the whole thing.

As I waited for the CT scan and blood work results, I finished praying the Rosary. I felt even more at peace (as well as more alert than I had earlier). The results, you now know. I felt relieved that it wasn't anything serious and that my platelets were back to normal. The nurse who took out the IV (I still have nightmares about that since I hate needles and those plastic IV tubes), saw the rosary on my lap and also recognized it and said it was good that I had it. After I was discharged, I prayed a Hail Mary for the patients I passed on my way out.

The whole thing reminded me about how, in those times of stress, we sometimes forget to pray... but God never leaves us. The brain fog from the exhaustion and the stress can momentarily throw us off but we're always reminded that we're not alone. Whether we choose to take those moments to pray and be thankful for what we do have or pray that we'll soon be in a better state, that's entirely up to us. It's so easy to put off prayers because of x, y, z excuses but I personally think it's better to do it in that moment before other distractions pop up.

Anyway, I'm doing better (the IV fluids really helped; I think back-to-back stomach viruses dehydrated me a bit) and I have iron pills for the anemia so, God willing, I'll be back to normal soon. :) I have a couple of blog posts planned but don't know when they'll be going up. My best friend is coming to visit this coming week into the next week so I'll be a bit MIA. Maybe I'll just schedule the posts. We shall see.

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Romantic Disappointments

I know I'm notoriously private about my love life (friends like to joke that I'll probably be married before they find out there's even a guy in my life) but I've been inspired to write about romantic disappointments because I feel like it's not talked about enough. Yes, we occasionally hear about it from a married blogger but rarely do we hear about it from a still single gal. This is fairly new territory for me so please forgive me if I stumble along the way.

The one thing that stuck out for me last night (when I had this sudden inspiration to write this post) is that, though the disappointment in the romance department stinks, when you leave your vocation up to God, it stings a lot less. Instead of lamenting over what happens (or doesn't happen), I turn to God and thank Him for the learning experience and pray for the other person involved. Now, let me tell you that I would've never gotten to this place if I hadn't had years of learning to do.

I am a little ashamed to admit this but my first experience praying for a significant other (when I was 17) left me not wanting to pray for years. I was a selfish, immature teenager who prayed that a rocky relationship would mend... only to have it end a week later. I was put off. "I prayed for this to get better, not to end!" I griped. I didn't understand that when we pray, we're asking God to please help us with something which may or may not be a part of His will for us. If it's not, our prayers will be answered in ways that we may not want but need. I had been poorly catechized, I was away from the Church, and didn't know or love God the way I do now. Later on, his young man revealed his true colors and he earned the nickname "poopy diaper" (did I mention I was immature at 17?) amongst my friends. Dodged that bullet... but it took me years to realize this.

Fast-forward 6-7 years later... When I was in my early 20s (and in the early days of my reversion), I met a young man who ended up helping me leave my immature ways behind. See, I was terribly selfish in my relationships up until I met him. When I prayed for someone, it was always that I ended up getting what I wanted. "Please let him be for me," I would say. With this young man that I befriended, it changed. 

I knew, early on, that he was open to being called to the priesthood. Though he was not the first guy I'd been interested in who was open to the vocation, he was the first whom I prayed that God would show him his vocation. Instead of "Lord, please let him like me," my prayers became "Lord, please help him figure out what his vocation is supposed to be. If it's with someone else, please bring a good woman into his life. If it's to the priesthood, please guide him. If it's to the single life, please let him see that." It was not about me and my happiness... it became about him and his doing God's will. Not only that, my prayers also became "Please help me figure out my vocation. If I'm meant to marry and have children, please help me learn to be the best wife and mother possible."

My feelings for this young man lasted for about 5 years, on and off. Cue surprise and shock from a majority of my friends (my best friends knew my feelings but not the depths of them which, for obvious reasons, I won't get into). After countless novenas and prayers for him, he finally entered the seminary last year. The day he entered was bittersweet. I was both incredibly proud of him and excited to see him embark on his new journey, yet I couldn't help feeling a little sad.

Was I disappointed that years of feelings ended up the way it did? Honestly? Yes and no. Yes, because I had asked God (for several years) that the feelings I had for him would go away if nothing was to come from them... and they didn't. In fact, I spent an entire evening/night having a "why did You not take these feelings away from me like I had asked? Why make me go through this? Please help me understand what the point of me going through this was..." conversation with God shortly before my friend entered seminary. No, because I knew that he would be discerning the priesthood and because, looking back, I know that it's thanks to him that I was able to mature and, in a way, get closer to God. Isn't that what a good priest does? Inspire those around him to get closer to God? ;) 

I'm grateful for having this experience for several reasons. My feelings for this friend popped up right before my father passed away. I think that helped me have some sort of sense of normalcy and balance in my life when everything else had collapsed around me. (side note: I should state that he is NOT the inspiration for Will in the novels; Will was entirely made up in my mind.) I ended up discerning (and re-discerning) my vocation during this period. It became clear to me that my vocation is of future wife and mama. All those chick flick and Disney-fueled notions of what love was supposed to be were replaced by my love for God (as much as I can love Him with my very limited, human understanding of love) and my understanding of what the vocation of marriage truly is. I've also come to believe that my feelings might've been given to me because my friend needed all the prayers he could get while he discerned entering seminary. He still gets them even though the feelings have gone. ;)

Being practical, I never really allowed myself to envision a relationship with my friend. To quote Jane Austen, "a lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment." I didn't do that. I refused to. Why? Because the disappointment would've hurt more. Recently, I had another disappointment in the relationship department but, having learned to trust God with my vocation, I automatically prayed for the young man and thanked Him for the experience. Again, I refused to think about the "what ifs" and tried to be practical and discern things. It saved me from heartache and I am grateful for it.

I wanted to share this because I feel like there's too many people who a) lament about being single to the point where it drives people crazy, b) who don't pray for their future spouse, and c) who don't trust God with their vocations. I pray for my future husband, whomever he may be, on a regular basis. As I wrote on St. Joseph's feast day, I've learned to let go and trust God with my vocation. While I do feel broody when I see pictures of my friends' babies and while single gal pains do pop up when I get news of engagements and upcoming marriages, I'm also reminded that every romantic disappointment that I've had has led me closer to God... and has prepared me for my future spouse.

One more thing: it's very easy to be fooled by feelings. We may feel like this person may be "it" or "the one" for us, but we have to remember that feelings are fleeting and often deceiving. That's something I've learned through the years. Instead of letting yourself get carried away with whatever feelings may have, pray that God helps you discern them. If you're feeling down about being single, pray for your future spouse. Have feelings for someone? Pray for them, for their vocation, and for yourself and your vocation... but don't let the prayers become "please, let him be for me." Trust God. If something doesn't work out, it's because He has something better in store for you. Yes, so cliché to say but it's cliché for a reason. Yes, the disappointment of failed relationships and crushes is going to stink but it's better to do His will than chase after earthly "happiness" that could pull us away from God.

I don't think I'm going to write something like this again for a long time (hello, notoriously private over here) but I felt inspired to write this while I prayed last night. I hope that it helps at least one person who may be struggling with something similar. OH! And, for the record, I'm not saying that this is how it's supposed to be; I'm sharing my experiences and my thoughts and ideas. I'll get back to y'all after I read Three to Get Married by Ven. Fulton Sheen if need to tweak some of my ideas. ;)

Anyway, that's it for now. My best friend is coming to visit in two weeks so I need to go narrow down the list of things we can do while she's here. Yes, I need two weeks to figure things out. What? L.A. is a big, spread out city and I want to make the most out of the time she's here! ;)

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

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lecture Notes From My CINO College Alma Mater

Two things happened today:
1) I received the enrollment agreement to JP Catholic (where I'll be working towards my Biblical Theology MA) and
2) I found (without looking for them) notes from my CINO college alma mater. 

These aren't all the notes I took but I remember that I put these aside in case I ever needed them as proof of what was (and most likely still is) taught at my alma mater. After sharing some of them on Twitter, I was encouraged to make a blog post with more "gems" from this *lovely* school. 

I'm going to warn you, some of them may have you seeing red. It definitely made me upset all over again, and I graduated a couple of years ago. Again, these aren't all the notes but some of these were amongst the most offensive.

Direct quotes from lectures and handouts from my CINO college alma mater:
- "Jesus was prejudice."
- "Jesus was adopted by God."
- Gospels show hostility towards Jews.
- "Gay writers: Jesus was a gay man on basis of relationship with 'beloved disciple' of John's gospel." 
- "Heterosexuality is a sin."
- "Don't believe Bible is absolute." (from video shown in class)
- "Religion is the new slave master." (from video shown in class)
- "Our Lady comes from a goddess." (from video shown in class)
- "You don't need to know more; your body is the original text." (from video shown in class)
- "Notion of virginity is culturally constructed and not from God."
- "At various times of your life you fluctuate between hetero- and homosexuality."
- "We're not sure about how Jesus came to be."
- "Jesus had brothers and sisters, not cousins."
- "Virgin Mary didn't remain a virgin."
- "Hell may not exist."
- Nun prof.: "(I'm) smarter than (the) priests and they know it."
- "Our Lady of Guadalupe was an Indian goddess that the Catholic Church adapted to convert." (documentary video shown in class.)
- "Christianity is a religion of domination."
- "Bible is oppressive."
- Nun. prof.: "(I don't) agree 100% with the Catholic Church and no one should."
- "(Pope Benedict XVI is) a rat with big red shoes."
- "It's the Holy Spirit that riles anger in us."
- "God's going to get you in your curiosity."
- (Paraphrased) "We're apathetic lemmings who don't know how to take care of ourselves."
- "Church is patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, hypocritical."
- Nun prof.: "I'm sick and tired of this Son of God cr*p."
- "People paid attention to Jesus because he was male."
- "Story of Genesis is false; there was no Adam or Eve."
- "Church is oppressive/oppressor."
- "White magic is good; black magic is bad."
- "Santeria is compatible with Christianity."
- "Sin of Sodom was lack of hospitality."
- Prof.: "God is a child abuser." (In my notes I wrote "forgive her, Lord.")

Who is as nauseated as I am? I have a list of more quotes that I don't have time to access right now but would if necessary (i.e. if Abp. Gomez were to need them as proof.)

This was not posted to get you all riled up. Those of you who have been reading the blog for years know just how bad it was for me when I was attending my alma mater; how many tears were shed, how many dirty looks I endured, how many assignments were marked down, etc. I share these things so that others won't make the same mistake that I made.

If you have children considering going to a Catholic college/university, please make sure that they're going to an orthodox school. If you yourself are considering it, please do your research. I made the mistake of not really looking into the school and by the time I found out what was taught, it was too late. If you want to read the blog post I wrote when I was in my first semester at the CINO College, you can find it here; the follow-up post (explaining why I attended the CINO college and why I stayed) is found here.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I found these notes the same day that I received the enrollment agreement from JP Catholic... and on the 10th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II's death. If anything, finding these notes just reaffirmed my want/need to better educate myself so that I can help others better understand the Church... and fight what is being taught at "Catholic" schools.

Anyway, this is all I wanted to share for now. I need to go get ready for the start of Mass. :D

I hope y'all have a fruitful rest of Holy Week... and a friendly reminder that praying Rosary and focusing on the fifth Luminous mystery tonight would not hurt. ;)

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