Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bl. Pier Giorgio's Last Days Reminded Me Of My Dad

Do not use without permission.
Originally posted July 5, 2013

"I'm usually a fast reader. My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days was supposed to be an easy read at only 120 pages. I should've finished it in less than 24 hours. How long did it take me? Four days. Why? Because I had to stop more often than anticipated. And why did I stop so often? Because it reminded me way too much of what I went through with my own father. The PTSD kicked in at times, leaving me feeling faint and anxious at times. I don't regret reading it and would gladly endure the PTSD symptoms if it was longer because I truly liked it.

First the quick book review: as I said before, I liked the book. I didn't enjoy reading about Bl. Pier Giorgio's suffering. I didn't enjoy reading about his family's sorrow. What I enjoyed was the intense love for God and our Blessed Mother that Bl. Pier Giorgio had until the end. I won't spoil anything for those of you who want to read it but I will say that I was deeply touched by Bl. Pier Giorgio's devotion and yearning for heaven, even into his last moments on earth. The book is written by his sister, Luciana, and it covers the last couple of days of his short life. She writes with such feeling and detail that I felt as if I personally experienced it with them. If you have yet to read it, I recommend that you do.

Now for the rest: the parallels between Bl. Pier Giorgio's and my father's last days... they hit close to home. If you haven't been a reader of this blog for long (or weren't a reader while I chronicled my father's last months), I'll provide links so you can catch up. Warning: I've been told tissues are necessary in some places.

I became an admirer of Bl. Pier Giorgio's before my father's last cancer diagnosis. When we heard that dad's cancer was terminal, I asked for Bl. Pier Giorgio's intercession. "Please let this be the miracle that you need to be canonized," I pleaded. "Please, help him stop suffering! Please!" I selfishly wanted my father to live. 4 years ago yesterday, I had a Mass dedicated to Bl. Pier Giorgio on his feast day. As you may read, I stayed behind and prayed for his intercession (along with intercessions of other saints for other prayer request I'd received). I went to visit my father after Mass. It was one of the last times he would be able to hold down his food and coffee... just like Bl. Pier Giorgio did. On Bl. PG's feast day, my father savored his favorite drink (coffee) just like Bl. PG did towards the end of his life (as per the book).

A few days later, and two days before his death, I wrote this post about how I was handling the news that my father had a week or so to live. Watching my father looking more and more thin every day (the cancer had spread to his liver and stomach at the end) was hard for me. Luciana, Bl. Pier Giorgio's sister, wrote a similar account with the same feelings I experienced about seeing Bl. PG deteriorate. It was hard but I prayed for a miracle, just like she, their family, and friends did for Bl. PG.

My father died, like Bl. Pier Giorgio, on a Saturday... exactly one week after Bl. PG's feast day. I didn't get the miracle I wanted but I did get the strength I needed to get through the funeral preparations and the funeral itself. A year later Bl. Pier Giorgio would intercede for me in a big way (which I will talk about in a bit). The book reminded me that life is short and precious, how we never know how or when we will go, and how we should try to live a life of the Beatitudes (like Bl. Pier Giorgio did). While my relationship with my father was similar to Bl. PG's with his father, I was reminded that my father died being proud of me as I know Bl. PG's father must have been of him when the word of his good deeds came to light.

Though my intercession plea to Bl. Pier Giorgio didn't happen (as it was not God's will for my father), he did come through for me a few months later when I applied to transfer to that horrid CINO college (seriously, I didn't know how bad it was before I attended). I received the news that I wouldn't need an enormous loan to pay for school. The year that my father died, I was supposed to enter the school with a $20,000+ (per year) loan. I withdrew and reapplied for the next year and received grants and scholarships. I ended up graduating with a small loan of $2,000 (total) for the two years I was there. Through his intercession I was able to graduate (from a $40,000 per school year college) with a savings of over $40,000 (I'm counting some interest there). Thank you for your intercession, Bl. Pier Giorgio!

Anyway, the whole point of this post is that I am incredibly grateful to Bl. Pier Giorgio for everything he's done for me. He (along with St. Therese) was my "heavenly buddy" during my imprisonment (haha!) at the CINO college, as he was before and continues to be to this day. While the book about his last days reminded me (in detail) about my father's last days, it also reminded me (through Luciana's words) that life goes on but that doesn't mean we forget those who have had a great impact on our lives. There is always time to fix any bad habits and strive for a more saintly life.

Okay, I am about two seconds from going into ugly crying face mode so I'm going to stop here. :) Oh! One last thing before I go: I will work hard to get that second miracle Bl. Pier Giorgio needs to become a saint... even if it means spreading the word of his life and his good deeds to people who have never heard of him. He will be declared a saint one day and I hope that it happens in my lifetime. :)"

And that's it for today.

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Week

I took this pic. Please do not use without permission.
If you don't already know that I'm a massive Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati fangirl, you're definitely new around here. lol. I have written about him a number of times over the past 6 or so years. He, along with St. Therese, was my go-to saint for the majority of my 20s and I know they will both remain with me into my 30s.

So, what does a fangirl do on the 90th anniversary of (one of) her favorite saint's (or, blessed in this case) death / unofficial feast day? Celebrate! No, it's not morbid. I'm not celebrating the fact that he died; I'm celebrating the fact that he existed and that, through him, God was able to give us a wonderful example of how it is possible to live a good, saintly life at a young age.

How am I going to celebrate? Read all the books!... or read the books I haven't read or finished, re-read the ones I have read, watch some of the DVDs I have on him, and then share reviews of them for y'all in case some of y'all aren't too familiar with him and/or want to know more about him.

Today is just an introduction post (the book and DVD reviews begin tomorrow) so here is a repost of one of the first blog posts I wrote about him when I was only 23 years old. Man, I just made myself feel old... lol.

Originally posted: November 25, 2008

"For the past week, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's name has constantly been on my mind. I don't remember how his name came up (I'd only heard it once before when they announced the patron saints for this year's World Youth Day) but I've had this inexplicable (pretty intense) desire to learn as much as I can about him and his life's work. It's similar to how I felt about St. Teresa of Avila almost a year ago.. Anyway, I have been researching... and I've come to find that the things he did during his short life are things that I did as a child, or that I've wanted to do. The main thing is giving to those less fortunate. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, I have made a decision which will no doubt leave tension in the household.

Ever since I was a little girl, it has always pained (yes, pained) me to see homeless people. On one of our trips to Mexico, when I was about 11 years old, there was a woman asking for money. She looked at us eating and I felt so bad that I gave her my peanuts. Granted, it wasn't much but it was all I had. She was grateful for it... but, boy, did I get made fun of by my family (one person in particular). That's something I've had to deal with: either get made fun of for what I do or get a lecture, followed by the silent treatment, for trying to help. I spoke to my mom about this on Saturday night and I told her I was determined to donate... I know I'm probably going to get scolded at and there will be unpleasantness for a few days but I have to do this.

... So, instead of spoiling myself for the holidays (I do NOT need to spend more money on iTunes or amazon.com; nor do I need an iPod -- which I've never owned), I'm going to donate money and food. I will donate clothing, if I get the time to go through my stuff before the Christmas deadlines. I've always been afraid of the "consequences" that would come from doing this, mainly because it would be going against one of my parent's wishes and thus I'd be disobeying a parent, but I cannot consciously continue to be scared of what they will say/do. Now that I'm an adult (whoa, scary thought!), and have more resources, I'm going to follow Blessed Pier Giorgio's example and help those who are in need. Maybe that's why he's been on my mind so much lately. Honestly, I did not know much about him up until a week ago.

I'm very grateful that I have been able to learn a little bit about him. I haven't even scratched the surface yet. He's already inspired me to do more for others, as well as get the courage to do it. I mean, he did so much for so many people in his short 24 years on this earth, and shared the wealth he was born into... it's amazing. He's definitely someone to look up to. And to think he was only a little over a year older than I am now when he passed away, it's very sad. Sad, but he's up in Heaven and that makes me smile. :D..."

To this day, what a 23 year-old me wrote still remains true. The current 30 year-old me is pretty happy with my younger self. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati has inspired me to be less selfish and to do more for others. Sadly, the person I spoke of in that blog post is no longer with us but let's just say that I kept my promise and I donated despite the consequences, which I don't remember there being any because I think I was sneaky about it. *shrugs*

Anyway, keep your peepers open for the reviews and possibly more reposts (or snippets of blog posts). Who knows, I may revive the habit I used to have of sharing the Bl. PGF saint dreams I used to have... and still have on occasion. Saint dreams, that is; Bl. PGF hasn't made a dream appearance in a couple of months. ;)

I hope y'all had a great weekend!

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Progress Report

Just a quick "week one progress report" on the new game plan I talked about a week ago.

- I've cut back my time on Twitter exponentially. I think I average less than half an hour on non-match days. Like I said, I wasn't going to completely disappear from social media but people are definitely noticing that it's taking me longer to reply to messages. Deleting the bookmark from my browser and sending the apps to cyber Siberia have done me a world of good.

- My stress levels are down. I've avoided Twitter on some of the more emotionally charged days which means I've avoided stress. I still get a bit of what is happening on social media from two long-time friends (who I've known since my pre-reversion days) but they're not gloating or being overly obnoxious about it so we've been able to remain friends. lol.

- I do get bored more easily because I was so used to having my time wasted on social media where you can spend hours and have it seem like only minutes. However, I'm also getting better at filling my time with good, productive things, which leads me to...

- My productivity is up. The house has never been cleaner. My goals are slowly starting to move forward now that I don't have other junk taking up space in my mind. I've been able to cross off a number of things on my to-do list, some of which had been on the Wunderlist app for almost a year.

- I have yet to read Laudato Si' because I'm trying to tackle a number of things I've had on my to-do list for months (or years!). However, I'm disappointed in seeing some people who disagree saying that they're going to waste even more resources to show their disagreement. Let's just not. Please.

- The number of venial sins committed due to social media are down from last week when I had a trial run. This is good. Very, very good and my biggest goal. The way this is going, it's going to get easier for me to stay off of Twitter for prolonged periods after grad school begins in 3 months and 2 days... not that I'm counting. ;)

And, that's it. It's Sunday and I want to spend the majority of my day offline. I'm going to finish some research (all about lay orders) before logging off for the day.

I hope y'all are having a good Sunday and that y'all had a great weekend. I'm planning on blogging again tomorrow but don't quote me. We shall see. :D

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My New Spanish-Language Blog

I don't remember if the idea of writing a Spanish-language blog really stuck while praying the Rosary last night or if it stuck this morning after morning prayers but, after years (yes, years) of entertaining the idea of writing for fellow Spanish speakers, I've decided to go ahead and actually do it.

As I said, it's something I've wanted to do for years. Though I have Spanish-speaking friends on social media, most of what we link and talk about is in the English language. Not that that's bad; it isn't. I've just noticed that most of us Hispanic/Latino Catholics, especially Millennials, don't really have much out there. Sure, we have EWTN en Español and Catholic TV has Spanish-language Masses and programming. Websites like Catholic News Agency and Zenit have Spanish-language sites. Those are all wonderful... but I haven't really seen much in terms of blogs or anything of the link. It all seems very... formal. So I'm going to take the scary path of writing from a personal perspective.

I'll be honest, I feel much more comfortable writing and speaking in English than I do in Spanish. Though I was raised bilingual, I'm more used to English due to school and friends. I identify more with the American culture than I do the Mexican or Spanish cultures (my heritage) because I was born, raised, and am still stuck in Los Angeles. But that doesn't mean that I've neglected my Hispanic roots... especially that part that is intertwined with the Catholic faith.

The new blog will be called La Trayectoria de Una Escritora Católica. Roughly translated, it's called the path/trek of a Catholic writer. A toyed with the idea of calling it The Return to the Faith (El Regreso a la Fe) but I ultimately wanted it to be similar in name to this blog. The url has been acquired and I now have to figure out layout design and whatnot.

While the new blog will be similar to this one, the posts won't always be translations of the posts I write here... and vice versa. I've already come up with a couple of topics for that blog that I won't post on here. There are just a couple of things that don't translate well. My aim to reach Spanish-speaking Catholics of all ages, but especially Millennials because I believe that our age group is the one that is most apathetic to the faith these days.

If you're wondering about the language, I'm going to writing in "Mexican" Spanish... as in, I'm going to be using words most commonly used in Mexico since that's where my father was from and where my mom spent most of her formative years. It's the language I grew up using and still use to this day.

I think that covers most of the details. Oh! The first blog posts will go live on July 4th, 2015. I didn't choose that date because it's a holiday here in the States, but because it's the unofficial (or at least I think it's unofficial) feast day of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati whom will be the patron of the blog. I will explain why he's the patron of that blog on the first blog post. ;)

Okay, I think that covers it. I will link everyone who is interested in the new blog when it goes live. :D

Anyway, I think that's it for now. I need to go figure some things out (like layout, FB page... etc) so I should do that now that I actually have the free time to do so. :D

I hope y'all are doing great and are keeping cool if you're in one of the hottest parts of the country.

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

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Admitting My Addiction and New Game Plan

I know some of y'all have noticed that I haven't been on Twitter much recently and that -- aside from a tweet I sent out yesterday about Twitter notifying me that someone had attempted to (repeatedly) log into my account -- I have not been active since Wednesday. This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision but weeks (even months) of thinking about disengaging from social media because... my name is Emmy and I'm addicted to Twitter.

Lately Twitter has been my biggest frienemy. I've been examining my conscience on a daily basis and some of the things I have to confess are due to things that happen on Twitter and because of Twitter. Uncharitable thoughts and words, wasting time, being distracted while praying, impatience, being upset with people who feel the need to get into my personal space (y'all know I'm notoriously private about certain things) which then goes back to being uncharitable with my words -- I've guilty of all of these things (and more) thanks to my addiction to Twitter.

I'll tell you the excuse I've been using to keep this addiction going: despite being an introvert, I struggle with the occasional feeling of loneliness when I don't socialize enough once in a while. Yes, I'm an introvert but even I like going out once in a while and I hate feeling cooped up in the house, which I am most of the week. Working as a freelance writer (with no other responsibilities and friends all over the country) will add to that feeling.

As I recently read Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia (aka the Anchoress; I highly recommend this book), I had to face what I didn't want to admit; I could no longer deny that I'd made an idol (a strange god) out of Twitter. I rely quite heavily on social media to get my news, to stay in contact with friends, to not feel so alone when I spend most of my days at home, by myself. As someone whose work is done solely online, it's very easy to say "okay, I need a 5 minute break... oh, hey, Twitter!" and then spend the next 2-3 hours chatting with someone. I have no children. I clean my apartment twice a week and it takes me less than half an hour to get it spotless. Basically, I have too much time on my hands, I've been using it carelessly, and that's always a dangerous thing. Idle hands are the devil's playthings after all.

It was when I admitted my addiction (and it is an addiction) -- a problem which could be detrimental to my grad studies since the entirety of my Master's degree will be done online (it would be difficult for me to commute 5-6 hours round-trip daily to and from Escondido with the infamous L.A. traffic) -- I knew I had to work on it. I know I won't have time for much socializing until I get the hang of the new routine but I wanted to get a head start so it wouldn't be harder for me.

In all honesty, the whole "raging Catholics" thing with the eco-encyclical was the perfect excuse for me to avoid Twitter through the weekend as a trial run. There was something that happened on that first day that I wasn't expecting: I felt a massive relief not being on active on Twitter.

I thought about the days of my early reversion when I wasn't online too much; how it made the biggest difference in my life. I was able to focus more on fixing my relationship with God. I read more. I prayed more. I liked the person I was without it. I wrote. I worked on rebuilding my physical and mental health after all I had endured from former friends and an ex-boyfriend. When I remembered how I felt better without Twitter I decided to also revert to how I did things in those days. I blogged. I tweeted the link. I replied to some comments (when I got them) every once in a while and that was it. I kept in touch through text messaging and emails... much like I've been doing these past couple of days. I'm not going to disappear altogether but you can expect me to be online even less than I've been in recent weeks. Replies and DMs will take much longer -- just a heads up.

I've already taken steps to limit my time on Twitter (since it's the only social media platform that I have a genuine addiction to.) I've already deleted easy access to it from my browser. The app is being sent to whatever the cyber equivalent of Siberia is. I've also given the heads up to anyone who wants to stay in touch. My email address has been given to a couple of people so they can stay in touch. Thankfully my work as a freelance writer has dried up at the moment and I have a job as the tutor for a neighboring child line up, which is going to help me spend less time online. I will be working on my third novel with the WiFi turned off if I feel myself feeling tempted though that doesn't often come up when I get in the writing zone; I can go hours just writing, even forgetting to eat when I'm really into it.

I don't plan on tweaking the time I spend on Facebook, Pinterest, or Tumblr because I really don't use them that often. I can go (and have gone) days and weeks without using them. And, for the record (and this is a message to those who will undoubtedly try to guilt-trip me for not having them on my new Facebook profile), I only have 28 people on my list with no plans of adding more than maybe two more people (max.), depending on how terrible they are with emails. I've added mostly people who don't use Twitter and/or stink at emails and whom I can't imagine not being in contact with. So far it's worked well since I very carefully added people I knew wouldn't clog up my feed (and haven't) because they're all busy people.

My beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI encouraged us all (religious included) to use the Internet for good; to evangelize. Yes, I know some of you hate that buzzword (evangelization) but, too bad, this is my blog post. ;) After the Women's World Cup, I'm going to take a much needed break from socializing on Twitter. I'm not quitting Twitter cold turkey but don't be surprised if you guys don't see anything that aren't automatic updates or shared links for a while. I seriously believe that more than maybe 80% of the stuff that I currently tweet is stuff y'all can do without. I'll be reserving the personal stories for this blog (just like I did in the good ol' days) and sharing what I believe will bring you food for thought and will hopefully strengthen you faith. I will most likely slip up at least once in the next couple of weeks -- I am a flawed human after all -- but it's a goal I will work hard towards.

If you're currently doubting me, know that my "please underestimate me; it makes me work harder" mentality is already counting on it and will be what helps me stay on course. This is how I know that there's a good chance of succeeding: on Thursday (the first day of the current Twitter fast), we had a power outage in my neighborhood. Except for being worried about the central AC not working when we were near the triple digit temperatures (the heat/humidity combo and I don't mix well and I can get sick if I'm in it too long), I wasn't worried about not having electricity. I had a book, a bottle of water, and a good seat next to the large living room windows. After the manager had kicked all the kids out of the pool, all you could hear was the distant chatter of neighbors as they walked by. When they were gone, you could hear birds chirping and a stillness that is rarely heard in an apartment building. On Friday, I chose to sit on my bed, with nothing on, in the silence, when I felt tempted to log on. I have a surprising number of things in my apartment that will keep me busy but I chose to sit in silence to show myself that I could do it.

If you're wondering how I will cope with the occasional feeling of loneliness I've mentioned, fear not. Since I've been weaning myself off of social media for weeks now, I've been relying more on text messaging (and not excessively) and emails so I still get little bursts of socializing during my day when I'm stuck at home due to the heat (have I mentioned I sincerely dislike summer?) or due to work/deadlines.

So, there are my plans... and an explanation why it's been taking me longer to reply to tweets on Twitter. Please pray for me since, even a "dinky" addiction like the one I have on Twitter is not the easiest to get over. If you've ever been addicted to anything, you know how hard it will be for me. Besties and wingmen, feel free to keep me in check... even if that means coming over to my house and changing my password for me.

Anyway, I hope y'all have a great rest of weekend. I'll be back on Twitter during the next U.S. women's national team match in the Women's World Cup (which will be on Monday) and then not again for a couple of days (again, blog post links and sporadic links sent from other sources excluded). :)

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Can We Please Stop "Throwing Shade"?

Before we begin, here's the definition gf you're wondering what "throwing shade" means. Urban Dictionary (the dictionary to slang) defines it as "to insult or judge someone discreetly or indirectly." All caught up? Awesome... let's continue.

Can we please stop throwing shade on social media... or in general? Whether it's at each other (and I've seen an increase of this these past couple of days) or at the new Papal encyclical (which has yet to be properly, officially released), there's a lot of comments that are completely unnecessary being thrown out there. Yes, this is the peacemaking side of me coming out.

Look, we don't have to agree on things. It's impossible for every single person to agree on everything. We don't have to like the decisions made or the words others choose to use when they're trying to make their point. You're entitled to your feelings and ideas... but why engage in a way that is counterproductive?

Do I need to remind others (just like I have to remind myself when I am upset) that God commanded us to love each other? This doesn't mean we have to like e everyone and/or what they stand for, but it does mean we should try to treat them in a way we'd like to be treated ourselves; in a way we'd treat Christ. "Ugh, but Emmy... that's so corny/cheesy/idealistic/*insert excuse*" you may say. Go ahead, give me your excuse. Do you have your excuse ready? Okay, now imagine you saying that exact same thing to God. "Ugh, but God... *insert excuse*" Do you think He'd say "Okay, you can throw shade because your feelings got hurt / because you disagree with them / because they made you mad"? I'm pretty certain He would not.

I'm not sure why the majority of us (and I do count myself in this because I've not been happy with how some people choose to interact with me on Twitter) seem crabby online but I think we owe it to ourselves to try to be more civil towards one another. It's not easy. I, myself, am pretty easygoing but once you push all my buttons it gets harder for me to not be feisty. See? I'm not saying "you guys do this..." No, I'm just as guilty of losing my cool online from time to time. So, as someone who totally sympathizes with y'all and knows how hard it is to turn the other cheek sometimes, I'm asking y'all please to at least try.

If someone is bothering you, block them... mute them... distance yourself from them. Do what you must (especially if you've already tried to diplomatically reason with/talk to them) to eliminate contact so that you don't fall into the never-ending cycle of throwing shade and subtweeting them. If the friendship is important enough that you want to work on it, pray for them, pray for patience for yourself, and try to communicate with them. If it's a troll... ignore. Do not feed the trolls!

As for the whole papal encyclical thing... I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always in 100% agreement with everything that Pope Francis says and does. He challenges me in ways I never expected. Despite not being a Pope Francis fan-girl (like I fan-girl over Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), I still acknowledge and respect the fact that he is the Vicar of Christ. This is just a friendly reminder for you non-sedes who are already starting to throw shade his way. Just saying.

Anyway, I just wanted to say this because I feel like people expect me to take sides in some arguments/disagreements (including over the encyclical) and I'm here to tell you that I'm not. I'll have my opinions about each situation, as well as the encyclical which I plan to read for myself to create my own opinions over it, but I'm not going to participate in the subtweeting. Sorry, it's just not going to happen.

By the way, with perfect timing, Sr. Helena Burns recently talked about subtweeting and being more conscientious about how we use social media on last week's episode of Life on the Rock. I highly recommend watching it if you haven't already.

Let's all take a deep breath, pray a Hail Mary (and a pray for St. Michael Archangel and/or St. Jerome if you're feeling particularly upset), and try to refocus our attentions on things that matter. Don't forget that the Evil one loves this kind of stuff. Don't let him win!

That's it from me for now. I'm going to get something to eat before the #USWNT vs Nigeria match in a bit. :)

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

I've Decided to Pray Like a Child

As I got through the rest of the Catechism (took me 2.5 years, on and off, but I finished it!) and reading Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina by Thelma Hall, I became aware of how poor my prayers can be. I'm not saying that I don't do it -- I literally schedule time out of my day to pray at least twice a day (morning and night) -- but sometimes I just pray without really paying attention to the words I'm saying.

Some days (really, most days), I get easily distracted while praying. When I read about how we, as children, pray without really paying attention to the words, I recalled how it was the opposite for me. As a child, I really got into the words in each of the prayers... and this was early as 5-7 years old; certainly before my First Communion at age 8. It was when I remembered how much I loved it as a child that I decided to pray more like a child and less like a busy, distracted adult.

Those who've read the Catechism of the Catholic Church know how beautifully it breaks the Our Father. As I read it, I kept remembering about how I used to pray it as a little girl. This prayer has a special place in my heart because it was my favorite prayer when I was a little lady. Being raised bilingual (thank you, mom and dad!) I learned it in both Spanish and English but praying it in English always sparked my imagination.

When we attended Mass, I would be mesmerized by the words in the prayer. In my vivid imagination, I would break down the prayer, line by line, and actually try to imagine what the words meant... as much as I could understand them at that age. I still remember, 20+ years later, exactly what used to come to mind: sun shining down on grassy hills, full of birds, trees, and (really) the natural beauty God has blessed us with. And then, as the prayer continued, I would imagine bread being broken, forgiving people... basically, whatever was being prayed.

Fast forward 20+ years... it's not the same. My faith and knowledge has grown but I have yet to pray as I did as a child. These days I sometimes rush through prayers because of poor time management. Other days I let other things like text messages, whatever is TV, or online distract me. I'm not proud of it but it's reality. The closest I get to praying as I used to is during the Rosary. I can sometimes very easily visualize each mystery (that vivid imagination of mine still exists though it is only tapped into when I write). The Sorrowful Mysteries will reduce me to tears every time that I can put all my attention on it. But, still, it's not the same.

When I realized all of these things, I decided to revert back to how I used to pray when I was a little lady. There were less distractions... distractions, which, really, are mostly due to technology. Technology isn't bad but we have to be careful with how we use it... especially when social media is involved. Unfortunately, I've used the excuse that a majority of my friends have moved away from L.A./So Cal as an excuse to overuse social media. "I need to stay in touch with everyone," I say as an excuse. No, Emmy. Stop.

I've noticed that pacing/walking around my apartment while I pray helps me focus on the words. I need to physically remove myself from my room (where I have a TV; where I leave my laptop, iPod touch, and cell phone) and I pace around the living room while I pray in the morning. At night, I wait for my mom to go to sleep (she has the best timing and manages to interrupt my prayers on her days off so I've learned to work around her schedule) and then I do my nighttime prayers with more pacing. It's getting easier for me to do this... except now I have to learn how to work with distracting thoughts.

My spiritual director has suggested that I allow the distracting thoughts pop into my mind while I pray. As soon as I figure out why they've come up, I can push it to one side and continue praying. Sometimes these thoughts come up for a reason. It's been working lately (the stopping, dealing with the thought, and then resuming prayers) and I hope that I eventually get the hang of it so I can focus more on the prayers in between distractions. Baby steps, y'all.

I know that these changes I've decided to implement won't happen overnight and that's okay. As we grow in our prayer life, we find out what works and what doesn't work for us. I've learned what causes distractions (technology, worries, hungry, sleepiness, certain times of the day when the apartment building is as its noisiest, etc.) and I've been reminded that using my imagination to visualize the words of the prayers helps the words have more meaning to me. Now let's see how long it takes me to improve my prayers and prayer time. :)

Anyway, this was just something I've been wanting to write about for a couple of days now but hadn't had a chance to because of a busy schedule. :)

Alright... this is my blog post for today. I'm trying to wean myself off of social media and being online most of the day so I should give my laptop a break. Yes, I will still live tweet the USWNT and other football (soccer) matches later today and this weekend. Hello, it's me. ;) In the meantime... I've downloaded two audiobooks and I have a mountain of books to read before the start of grad school so I can stay away from my laptop and social media without much trouble. Again, baby steps. ;)

I hope y'all had a great week and have an equally great or better weekend. ;)

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why I Remain Catholic

I started seeing tweets with the hashtag #WhyRemainCatholic floating around Twitter a couple of days ago and I was immediately intrigued. I finally found the source and thought it was a brilliant idea. Elizabeth Scalia (a.k.a. the Anchoress) issued a challenge to all of us Catholics in social media (as well as those in the public eye) to share why we are still Catholic, despite what the Pew studies report says. Though I am of little to no importance in the Catholic world, I thought I'd share why I'm still Catholic.

I'm still Catholic because it has filled a gaping void that existed while I was away from the Church. From ages 11 through 21, I was Catholic in name only. I rarely attended Mass. I was poorly catechized and therefore knew very little beyond the basic prayers. I sought things such as popularity amongst friends and classmates and even when obtained, still felt incredibly empty inside.

I'm still Catholic because a lot of what I believed while I was away from the Church still aligned with Church teachings. I didn't believe in abortion and couldn't bring myself to support friends who obtained abortions in my late teens because I knew that it meant the killing an innocent child. I believed these things despite never having heard the word "pro-life" or knowing what the Church teachings were on this topic.

I'm still Catholic because, despite being poorly catechized as a child, I still knew the beauty that existed in the Church. When I was a 5 year-old I used to tell people I was going to become a nun when I grew up. I loved attending Mass and paying close attention to what was going on.

I'm still Catholic because my life changed for the better upon my reversion. The years of anxiety, stress, dumb teenage decisions, and emptiness have only made me appreciate the love, joy, and peace I've felt in recent years.

I'm still Catholic because it's helped me get out of the stereotypical selfish Millennial mindset that I should pursue things that make me happy and that things were made for my comfort. Those thoughts created a number of stresses, sadness, and anxieties when they were not obtained. It was only until I stopped trying to control things and let Him lead me down the path He wants me to take that life had a better and more beautiful meaning.

I'm still Catholic because everything taught in our beautiful religion has made sense. As a former Religious Studies major, I had to study different religious and philosophies yet the only one I agreed wholeheartedly with was Catholicism. Even when I was an "open minded" teen, Catholicism still made the most sense.

I'm still Catholic because I love Him too much to ever deny Him. When my time here on earth is over, I want to spend eternity with Him and I believe the only way I can achieve that is to continue to be Catholic and do His will for me.

I'm still Catholic for these reasons and more. The list would be too long to actually write out but at least you get the gist of it. :)

Anyway, this is just a short list. I wrote this out while experiencing chest tightness (ah, acid reflux/ GERD...) but I still soldiered on (after a break) to finish it. That's how important this post was to me. :)

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend. If there's anything I can about for you, please let me know. :D

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How I Celebrated My 30th Birthday

I've been asked what I did for my golden birthday (30 on the 30th) by a couple of people so -- in order to save time -- I thought I'd blog about it so I can just link everyone to a single place. :)

My 30th birthday was very quiet yet wonderfully "Emmy"... and quite possibly the best birthday I've had since about 20 or 24. Yes, this introvert (who usually celebrates her birthday at Disneyland) had a very low-key birthday and it was absolutely perfect.

A co-worker of my mom's offered to work Saturday (which is my mom's last day of the work week) so that she could have the day off to celebrate my day. As many of you know, I drive my mom to work in the 4 a.m. hour so that meant I got to sleep in a bit. Hooray! No, really... after weeks and months of getting up at that hour, the body and mind gets tired so it was so welcomed.

In the morning we went to the only known (to us) parish that has confession before noon on Saturdays. No, let me rephrase that: the only known parish that was not the cathedral; they were having the ordination Mass that morning so no confessions. Mom and I actually arrived at the parish a bit early (and, coincidentally right before the morning Mass began) so we were able to enjoy that day's Mass before confession as well as some time in the Adoration room/chapel before and after confession.

After Mass, I drove to my favorite vegan bakery, Buttercelli. Since it was going to be just mom and I, I got a couple of their vanilla-vanilla cupcakes as well as one of their new vanilla donuts (my first donut in years!). It was my first time since my 24th birthday that I had any sort of cake (yes, I'm counting cupcakes in this statement) for my birthday so it was a real treat. Something very lovely that happened while we were there, right as we were paying, the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong version of "Dream a Little Dream" (my favorite song) began playing at Buttercelli. It was like my own little sign that my birthday was going to be a good one.

Not much happened the rest of the morning into afternoon. The Hallmark Channel aired a couple of my favorite movies (seriously, it was like they knew!) so I watched a couple before taking a nap. I had some weirdo dreams the night before and didn't get as much sleep as I'd wanted so the nap was necessary.

In the afternoon, I got up from the nap and we got ready to attend the Saturday Vigil Mass at our home parish. We headed to our parish earlier than usual because they were having the annual fiesta that weekend. I found parking at the end of the long block but didn't mind the walk. I had on the blue mantilla my bestie had given me for my special day and was glad that I was getting a second Mass that day. :D

Mom tried to surprise me by having my name added to the Mass intentions but I knew beforehand. Still, I blushed and looked down when my name was read along with the Mass intentions. After Mass, the visiting priest prayed over me and blessed me. I was able to see my spiritual director right after, too. We reached him while a cover of "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang was being played so he made a joke that they were playing it for me. We stayed at the fiesta for a bit before going home.

We counted down the minutes until 8:45 p.m. PST since that was the time I was born. I ate my cupcakes (saved them for the right time) and that was that. :)

Really, that was the most exciting of it. As I said, it was very quiet but very perfect for me. I got to spend time with my mama, with God, and with some of my favorite priests so it was wonderful for me. :D I don't need a big party or gifts (though I did get some wonderful ones from friends who ignore my "no gifts" request every year); I'm perfectly content with simply going to Mass and having a cupcake that day. :)

There you have it. It will seem very boring to most of you but that's okay. I'm a simple gal and I'm glad my day was peaceful as opposed to drama-filled. :)

Anyway, just wanted to share with those who were asking. :D

And now I should go attempt to finish reading the Lectio Divina book my spiritual director recommended. I have my next meeting coming up in exactly one week from today so I need to prepare for it. :D

I hope y'all are having a great start of week. :D

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Skinny Jeans Debate

As I wrote in the Warm Weather Bucket List post, one of my wishes is to "give my wardrobe a much needed overhaul... and do it on a budget." This isn't a "style makeover" per se; I just need to upgrade my wardrobe in a big way. I should also say that it's been YEARS since I last gave it an upgrade.

Do you know how old my recent (I just donated a bunch of clothes to Goodwill last week) wardrobe was? I still had clothing (in good condition) from junior year. Seriously, I had a skirt that I wore in 7th-8th grade. Other pieces were from my early 20s (jeans included). What can I say? I take good care of my clothes. My mom is the head of the laundry department at the convalescent hospital where she works so she's picked up tricks that made clothes cleaner and last longer. (side note: in case you're wondering... no, I'm absolutely not embarrassed that my mom works in the laundry; it's honest, hard work and I'm so proud of her.) So why the sudden makeover? Because clothes were either no longer fitting me or because it's no longer appropriate at 30.

Now that my weight has been (thank goodness) within low-normal range for my height, a lot of the clothes I've worn over the last couple of years have not been fitting. Those that were in good condition (and others that I had worn only once or twice) were donated. Other clothes either still fit and are faded or falling apart or look like something a teenager would wear, not a young woman of 30; these clothes will be replaced (little by little) over the next couple of weeks and months. I've been using Pinterest (*gasp* I know, I finally have a legit reason to use it) to figure out outfits and accessories but I've come across one big inner debate: whether or not I would want to to get myself a pair (or two) of skinny jeans.

A big reason why it's an inner debate is because of the modesty issue. See, I personally have not liked wearing shirts, blouses, and sweaters that don't cover my tush. It's just a personal preference thing. Though my mom is the same way, she has never told me to do this... it's just what I've felt most comfortable with. The reason why I'd like skinny jeans is because of boots. I love wearing boots in the autumn and winter and I think they look best with skinny jeans. I love my boot-cut jeans, too, but they don't always look good with certain boots (despite their name). With my preference of shirts and sweaters being long enough to cover my tush, I don't see a modesty problem... until I then hear that the jeans are still too tight.

I don't like very fitted clothing so skinny jeans are an exception. I like my skirts and dresses to be A-line. I don't like pencil skirts because of how tight they are. I don't like shirts and blouses to be tight. I'm not "shaming" anyone here; this is just my personal preference. However, the last time I did own a pair of skinny jeans a couple of years ago, I felt (basically) shamed for owning them. "They're not modest!" "They're still too tight and should be worn looser!" This debate keeps going on in my head as I rethink wardrobe changes. Thankfully, I have several weeks to think it over (we're starting summer weather in L.A. and it'll probably continue through early October) but I'm wondering what y'all think about this whole skinny jeans / modesty debate? I don't want any lectures or any debates telling me what to do (some of you mean well but...)... I'm just interested in hearing what others think about this whole thing.

So, leave me a comment on here, on the blog's FB page, or send me a tweet on Twitter if you'd like to chime in. :)

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind these last two days.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and have a great week!

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