Wednesday, October 28, 2015

St. Jude, My Reversion Intercessor

Happy feast day of St. Jude (and St. Simon!) For those who haven't been reading this blog long enough, you may not know that St. Jude played a huge role in my reversion. Since I'm crunched for time, I'm going to pull some of my past blog posts to help tell the complete story of how his intercession led to my reversion.

There are some of you who've been reading this blog for almost 8 years now (crazy!) so you may sort of know the story, but not in its entirety. I don't think I've ever written it out completely so... here we go.

I unofficially left the Church shortly after my confirmation at age 13 even though Mass attendance had been sporadic since I was about 11 years old. Yes, I was confirmed early. That itself will get its own blog post on St. Cecilia's feast day since it's also the anniversary of my confirmation. For now, let's just say that I spent the entirety of my teens away from the Church. As I explained in my post about why I remain Catholic (originally posted June 5, 2015), I was "Catholic" without practicing the faith or attending Mass. But I didn't know that I still held onto Catholic values until much later. In that time, I just knew that I was "Catholic" because I had gone through the whole baptism-first communion-confirmation process.

During that time... oh boy. I was going down the wrong path. I listened to terrible advice from people who meant well but really ingrained some terrible habits in me. My teen years (well, 13 through 19) are what I refer to as my "lost years." While I managed to avoid teenage rebellion (seriously, ask my mom) and barely survived my teens in one piece (avoided partying, drinking, drugs, and every other act of teenage debauchery you can think of; didn't even break curfew), there was a lot of damage done, interiorly. I was still going down the wrong path when I entered college but something happened between 19 and 21 that completely changed me.

First, at 19 and 20 was when I began to, basically, mature. It was a slow process (am I done yet? lol) but I began to see that there was more to life than going to concerts three times a week, more than the drama that some people live for, more than what my life was all about. I had received an offer to fully enter the entertainment business at 20 and I declined it. I've always been a people pleaser but 20 was when I began to stick up for myself and to pull myself away from the wrong crowd... and they didn't like that.

The mental and emotional abuse I received from my so-called friends was so bad that I ended up getting sick. I was an abnormally healthy child/teenager so it scared everyone. The doctors couldn't figure out what was going on with me (this was before they began attributing my symptoms to anxiety disorder). At one point (in the summer of 2006; shortly after I turned 21), I ended up in the E.R. three times in 5 days. As originally posted: October 28, 2010: "... I was so sick that things like 'she won't make it' and 'she has little time' were thrown around."

I began to pray for the first time since my teens. Mom was a fan of St. Jude's so I began to pray and ask for his intercession. Because I wasn't properly taught how to pray, I bargained. "Help me get healthier and I'll stay in L.A. for college. I'll go to a Catholic college." (side note: I was England-bound in those days; Bath Spa University was where I would've ended if I hadn't gotten sick and if my dad's cancer hadn't returned.) I somehow began to get healthier within the following two weeks or so, the so-called friends began disappearing, and so I kept my promises.

Having my prayers answered, my curiosity was piqued. What was Catholicism all about? I mean, really? Why were these prayers answered and not my last prayer? The faith of my childhood was so foreign to me at that point. I had wanted to be a nun when I was about 5-7 years old and I loved attending my catechism classes for my first communion but my confirmation was actually what made me step away from the Church. (Again, I'll share this story in a couple of weeks.) My inner academic nerd began researching and eventually it all just clicked for me. I basically renounced all my bad habits (some of which were just... horrifying) and made a personal vow to get rid of them as I learned more about the Faith. That eventually led to a complete 180.

Friends who knew me prior to my reversion can attest to the fact that I'm not the same person I was at 19/20. I mean, my core personality is still the same -- still goofy/silly, a bit reserved (bordering on shy in some situations), sensitive, I still love writing, and I still love helping people. That has never changed. But the little things that they were used to... gone. I'm so grateful to St. Jude for his intercession because it was through that answered prayer that I reverted back to Catholicism.

One more thing... are you wondering how this St. Jude statue got chipped? Here's the shortened version of the story (originally posted: December 27, 2007):
"This story takes place in mid-January 1994. I was about 8 years old at the time and I'd never experienced a real big earthquake before... I felt my dad picking me up from my bed, very abruptly, and I opened my eyes to see (and feel) everything shaking violently. Things were falling off the walls, glasses and china was breaking everywhere, if you've ever experienced an earthquake, you know what I'm talking about. Since this earthquake was a really big one, the lights went out almost immediately after the intense aftershocks started...

I don't remember too many details about what happened during the shaking except that the statue of St. Jude fell as soon as we (my parents and I) reached the doorway and were safe from anything falling on us... I was talking to my mom about... the St. Jude statue in my room. I very faintly remember (or think I remember) St. Jude's statue falling as soon as we got under the doorway and my mom confirmed it. Apparently, while all other things were falling around us there are three things that didn't fall: the statue of Santo NiƱo, the statue of St. Jude and the big framed picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe which was up on my bedroom wall. Now, the earthquake was a 6.7 on the richter scale, it was pretty intense. Windows shattered just by the shaking, yet the picture did not fall or get hurt in any way...

My mom says they (saints and Our Lady) were all looking out for us... We haven't experienced an earthquake that intense since, thank God, but every time we have experienced smaller earthquake (and/or aftershocks from nearby earthquakes) my mom grabs the St. Jude statues without even thinking about it. My dad grabs the statue of Our Lady and my mom grabs St. Jude... if I don't get to him before she does."

While my dad is no longer with us, we definitely still grab this St. Jude statue (chipped and all) when there's an earthquake / aftershock.

And, for the record, future husband -- I fully intend on giving our first born son the middle name of Jude after St. Jude. You have been warned. :-P

There you go -- the story of my reversion and of why this St. Jude statue (we've been given two more since) is chipped. :D

I hope y'all have a great rest of day and remember that St. Jude is a powerful intercessor that you should definitely not be afraid of reaching out to in difficult cases. :D

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Why I'm Not Ashamed to Cry

This past week has been particularly hard for me. After the summer I had, my car accident last week, and everything that has followed since, it's no wonder that I had a moment in which I felt like I had to take a break and do something I'd been holding in -- cry. I didn't do much of it but the couple of minutes of it followed by a nap really did me good.

I didn't cry when my car got hit, when the impact made me hit my left temple (hard) on the plastic divider next to the door or when my right kneecap hit the steering wheel. I didn't cry when they had to put a neck brace on me and put me on one of those hard, plastic boards and taken to the E.R. I didn't cry when the doctor told me that my platelets and red blood count had gone below normal again. I didn't have a panic attack or cry in the following days.

I didn't cry when I realized that I would be playing "catch up" in my classes for the rest of the quarter due to the week plus that I lost due to the pain of the injuries sustained in the accident. (side note: I lost all of last week because I couldn't read for more than 15 minutes without getting a horrible headache that lasted hours).

Crying has gotten a bad rap and that's hard for me because I've always been a crier -- since I was a child. I'm sensitive and that's perfectly fine. I cry at the end of Hallmark commercials, people. lol. It's who I am. I feel things a lot more deeply than people think. However, throughout the years I've been told that I shouldn't cry. Crying meant weakness. Crying meant that others had power over me. Crying meant that I was giving up. It took me a long time to realize that that wasn't the case. Even up until recently, I had to hide when I cried because people made me feel ashamed for crying.

Crying this past week didn't mean that I was weak. It just meant that I needed to release a lot of the stress that I had unintentionally bottled up. Crying is my release -- when I'm angry, sad, stressed, or even overwhelmingly happy. After everything that happened, I needed it. For the first time in a long time, no one made me feel like there was something wrong with me for crying and I appreciated it.

After those couple of minutes of tears shed, I ended up falling asleep. I've been doing a lot of that lately -- sleeping. My body is trying to recover from everything so that's understandable. After I woke up, I felt a lot more energetic and I didn't feel as sad (which I've been fighting this week). I was able to finish an assignment for a class and go on with everything else I've had to do.

If I've learned anything since the accident (besides the fact that my guardian angel is a heavenly rockstar and that my friends are amazing), it's that it's okay to do things that are seen as "weak" by others. Asking for help? Despite it being drilled into my head that I shouldn't ask for help and that I should do everything myself, I've come to realize that it's okay to do it when you just can't do something by yourself. Admitting that I can't do something and voicing it? Totally fine. Crying? No longer ashamed to do it, even if I get reprimanded for doing it.

How have I been since the mini crying jag? Fine. Things are still super stressful but I have faith that everything will work out. Afterall, God never gives us anything we can't handle... and what we think we can't handle is what brings up closer to Him.

School: I've been able to do what needs to be done though time is not on my side. With so many chiropractor appointments, hospital/doctor visits, and the use of public transportation, I can't find much time to catch up on reading for my classes... but I feel as if I've been training for this all my life. The reading marathons, I mean. ;) Before anyone suggests reading on the bus, nope. I feel sick if I try it and sometimes it's impossible if there are no seats available. I don't know when I'll catch up but I'm not throwing in the towel yet. Verso l'alto!

Car accident: It's hard to not have a car in this city. I dislike public transportation because of the time wasted. I will admit that I hate chiropractor appointments but I seem to have hurt my back so I need to continue attending them. I've been walking a lot more (kind of have to) so my kneecap doesn't hurt anymore and my legs are getting stronger. All of this will help me so I shall endure it.

Health? I've had low platelets and anemia for a while now (only had a brief break between April and earlier this month, apparently) so I know what I must do. Lots of red meat and iron-rich foods (Mini Shredded Wheat!). I've lost some weight since the accident but I can gain that back. Goonies never say die! ;)

Yes, life is stressful and I may again cry at some point due to the stress but that's okay. Crying shows that I care. It shows that I feel deeply and that my heart is in the right place. Crying is part of my self-care routine and that is actually good for me, healthwise. Hey, if I can quote Anne Shirley and joke easily with friends, you know this "crying to release stress" thing works. ;)

Anyway, I should try to get some more reading done. I'm stuck at home until, at least, tomorrow or Monday so I should take advantage of it. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

To My Godson on His First Birthday

Dear Neil Flynn,

I can't believe you're a year old today. It seems like just yesterday that I was at UCLA, taking an exam for a class (for which class, I don't remember), when your dad sent me a text message that your mama was in labor. I was both thrilled and a little nervous for you and your mama since the delivery took a little longer than we had hoped. I anxiously waited for news of your arrival all day. When your daddy finally sent me a picture of you, the moment you were born, I felt a great love and relief. Relief that you and your mama were okay and an immense love for my first little guy.

You see, little man, I don't have babies of my own yet. Therefore, you are my first little one... even if all I am is your spiritual mother. Although I cannot physically be there to watch you grow up (since you're currently in Florida and I'm across the country in Southern California, your mama and daddy have done a great job keeping me in the loop since before you were even born.

Yesterday we found out you have Koolen-de Vries syndrome. I've known your parents for years -- since before they were even married... I think before they even started dating -- and you couldn't have asked for better ones. I know they will do everything in their power to make sure you thrive despite whatever obstacles are thrown your way. I will also be there every step of the way, even if I can't physically be there all the time.

The future is bright for you, little man. I cannot wait to see you grow up... to watch you reach every milestone... to help you grow, especially spiritually... and to always remind you that you are special and very much loved. You've already taught me so much in your first year of life and I know this journey is just getting started. It's been an immense honor being your madrina and I'm so lucky to have you in my life.

I ask everyone reading this to please say a prayer for my little man and his parents on this special day,

Enjoy your gifts, little squishy, and I hope to see you soon. God bless you!

With all my love,
Your godmother

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Car Accident and Guardian Angel

I don't think I can talk about too many specifics about the car accident itself since my lawyer, my insurance company, and the police have their investigations open but I'll write what I think I can talk about.

As many of you heard via social media, yes, I did have a car accident earlier this week. I'd actually just gotten home from spiritual direction and had decided to go get some food since we (mom and I) were hungry. Mom decided to stay home while I tried to go to In-N-Out for burger and fries.

The accident happened right outside my apartment building, which was a blessing. An ambulance had to be called since there were some injuries on my end. I had to be taken to the hospital. I don't know who told them to take me to the nearby Catholic hospital -- a block away from where my dad is buried, no less -- but I'm grateful. I was treated well and was grateful for all the help. To the witnesses who rushed to my aid, our apartment manager, maintenance workers, neighbors, paramedics, ER nurses and doctor, and police officers: may God bless each of you for being there for us during this time.

This is what I wanted to share with you: my thoughts/feelings about the incident and a story that I was hesitant about sharing at first but decided it needed to be shared.

First, I have absolutely no ill will towards the other driver. Neither does my mother. I have absolutely no anger in me. All I feel is gratitude. I have neighbors who were there and friends who saw how badly my car ended up who were/are furious but we (mom and I) were just grateful that it wasn't more serious. Police have each side of the story and I'm sure that, by the impact and the witnesses, they will come to the honest conclusion of who caused the accident. The paramedics themselves figured it out by the injuries and how the cars ended up so I have no doubt that the police will as well. I pray that the person who caused the accident takes responsibility for it and that it all gets resolved quickly.

Second, mom and I had a very interesting experience that made us feel like my guardian angel was there with me the entire time. If you're one of those who've seen the state of my car... you know the accident could've been much worse for me as far as injuries go. I sincerely believe that my guardian angel helped me escape something worse.

Mom and I were talking about what happened the day after the accident and we both talked about our experiences with an unknown young man.

My side of the story: All I remember is a young man with sunglasses kneeling down next to me while I sat on the sidewalk after I got out of my car which wouldn't decelerate. He said he could help me; that he had people who could take care of me and help me. He got my name and number and stayed with me even when those who knew me (such as our building manager and maintenance work) came to check on me. I don't think I can say all he said to me but let's say that he was a witness and was unhappy with how the other driver had handled the situation. He told me not to worry about anything. He stayed with me until the paramedics came. I didn't see him after the paramedics took over but he was there from, what I can remember, the moment I got out of my car until the ambulance came.

Mom's side of the story: while the paramedics attended to me, he talked to mom. Mom said he told her -- in perfect Spanish, no less -- to calm down because she was hysterical. He told her to not worry, that everything was going to be fine, that I was going to be fine (I'd only be bruised), and that she needed to trust God because He was going take care of us. She told me that as soon as he mentioned God, she stopped crying and felt an overwhelming peace in her heart. He didn't leave her side until she calmed down and it was time for the ambulance to take me to the E.R.

We don't know where this young man came from or where he went. He seemed to have disappeared shortly after they put me on a stretcher (precautions) but I'm grateful for that stranger's kindness.

This is the interesting part: while he knelt down besides me, the thought "I wonder if this guy is my guardian angel..." came to mind but I didn't say anything to anyone because, well, some people will have their opinions of it. I actually felt sharp (focused) and calm in that moment. When my mom came in to check on me the next morning, she said to me, "you know what? A thought came to me while I was ironing... what if that guy was your guardian angel?" Then she told me her story. Later in the day, we saw neighbors (some of whom came over to check to see how I was doing) and one of the women who comforted my mom had said that they didn't see him there. We described him but she said she couldn't remember anyone who looked like him.

My good friend, Alli (who is also the mama of my godson, Neil Flynn), set up a GoFundMe account because we heard that the other driver didn't have car insurance (I can't verify this as fact because I was taken to the hospital but was told by a couple of people who stayed at the scene until my car had to be pushed back into my parking spot) and my car insurance only covered liability (because, as y'all know, mom and I have been in financially strained and couldn't afford better). I'm not saying "donate" because I know many of us are in tight financial situations but if you could please pray that we can get what is necessary for any costs that won't be covered, I'd greatly appreciate it. We greatly rely on a car because (as y'all have come to figure out by my 4/5 a.m. PST tweets) I drive mom to work in the pre-dawn hours and public transportation in our neighborhood is incredibly dangerous at that hour. Seriously, prayers are amazing.

Anyway, that's it for now. I just took a break to write this so I can now focus solely on what I need to turn in for my classes. I've read a bit but I'm sooo behind because of all the doctor's appointments, the calls (so many calls), and everything else I've had to deal with post-accident. If y'all have a prayer to spare, prayers that my headache gets better and the mental fatigue lessens so I can knock out an assignment tonight, I'd appreciate it.

I hope everyone had a better week (ha!) and that y'all have a great rest of weekend!

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

Friday, October 9, 2015

Grad School Blues

Grad school and I have had a bumpy start for several reasons. First, I was hit with incredibly debilitating physical fatigue. Seriously, I sleep until 11 a.m. to noon most days because I'm so exhausted. I have no idea where this is coming from. I'm not pale enough to think it's anemia once again and I'm not bruising anywhere so I doubt it's low platelets again. We have a theory that it's because I've been cooped up in the house for so long. Well, that's mom's theory. I just think my body is out of whack due to the stress I've been experiencing lately. No, not school stress; just other personal stresses that have come up lately. Either way, I lose prime studying/reading time because it's so hard for me to wake up some mornings.

Then another bump in the road and it was something I couldn't control. I was on top of the readings and everything... and then the lecture videos had glitches for almost an entire week. That pushed things back and disrupted the awesome study flow I had going on. This is not good for me since I do best when I stick to my schedule. Not only that, no one warned me that grad school is a lot less structured than undergrad or, really, most of my academic experience. No deadlines on exams? Only deadlines on research papers? Whaaaat?! Does not compute!

I like having a bit of structure, especially when it comes to academia. I like deadlines because I can easily get distracted and procrastinate. I do my best work under deadlines... well, as long as there's a little wiggle room for anything that may come up. I think I just like having those goals. There's something very satisfying about crossing things off of a to-do list... and I can't really do that right now. I mean, I can -- I can give myself deadlines -- but it's not the same because I can find excuses to put it off "just one more day," you know? Sometimes it's not hard for me to work under self-imposed deadlines... but with everything else going on, it's hard.

I've been going through some majorly confusing things in my personal life. My mom's going through something that we never anticipated we'd have to deal with and it's been hard for me to see it unfold. I feel almost helpless in this particular situation and it's dampened my spirits quite a bit. It's made me feel very angry. I'm sure those closest to me are surprised at how upset I've been (even when I haven't shown it)... and how long it's lasted since I usually get over things pretty quickly. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is what's been taking a toll on me, physically.

On top of that, I had something else that came up which threw me for a loop. It was quite unexpected and it took me days to sort through. The good news is that this particular thing is actually pretty exciting (in a way) but it was still incredibly distracting nonetheless. I had to make some big decisions that took me out of my comfort zone. I actually tried to put it off for a couple of days but it just distracted me from concentrating on school work. After a solid heart-to-heart talk with mom about my fears and worries, I'm at peace with my decision. I know I'm still going to bring up at my next spiritual direction meeting because it's one of those decisions that is going to change a lot of things for me. That's basically all I can say about this... for now, at least. Prayers for this (as well as for mom's situation) would be greatly appreciated.

As you can see... lots going on. I've been trying to do little things for myself -- like working on an autumn-themed jigsaw puzzle and re-reading Anne of Green Gables before bedtime -- but I'm still exhausted and I can't concentrate most days. I feel so horrible for not being as "on top" of things regarding school as I was the first week but there's been so much going on. It's a miracle that I'm still functioning like a human being. A very tired, sleepy one but one that hasn't had a panic attack, thank goodness. Not the best way to start grad school but if I can survive this, the rest of my time at JP Catholic will be great. :)

I'm just rambling on at this point. I'm going to help myself to some freshly baked French bread and a cup of tea before I dive back into making sure I'm on top of my coursework.

I hope everyone is doing well and that y'all have a great weekend. :D

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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Autumn Bucket List

Yep, I made this one. Please do not take.
Oh, lovely Octobers... I do love you so. This morning's cool, rainy weather inspired me to make an autumn "bucket" list. Autumn is my second favorite season (after Spring) so why not do things to make the season even better by coming up with a list of things for me to do?

I didn't get to do a lot of things during the summer. As most of you know, I spent most of it in and out of the hospital and doctor's appointments (as well as recovering from surgeries). However, I liked the idea of having a warm weather bucket list. Before sharing the autumn list, here are the results as of September 30th (which was my cut-off date):

- Get involved in my parish's new garden (vegetables and fruits, I believe). (Only happened one weekend.)
- Celebrate my 30th birthday.
- Learn to knit a beret for myself.
- Learn at least 2 new breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes that I can do without turning on the stove.
- Go for a walk early mornings, before the heat begins.
- Have one weekend on which I play tourist around L.A. I might've been born and raised in the city but there's a lot of touristy things I have yet to experience.
- Spend an entire morning/afternoon just browsing records at Amoeba Records.
- Find a decent local bookstore that isn't part of a large chain and spend at least two hours exploring it. (None found within a couple of miles.)
- Have a picnic by a lake.
- Hike one of the trails in the Santa Monica mountains before it gets too hot to enjoy them.
- Visit my alma mater if only because I miss the campus location.
- Have a mini road trip, preferably away from L.A.
- Finish my third novel. (I didn't get a chance to finish it.)
- Give my wardrobe a much needed overhaul... and do it on a budget. (I did find new items but my savings went to bills and necessary expenses. Have been Pinterested for future reference.)
- Finish all the books I've started on my Goodreads list before starting new ones.
- Have lunch or dinner with friends I haven't seen in ages.
- Watch FIFA's Women's World Cup.
- Clean out all the random bookmarks on my browser. (Got through only part of this... but an important part.)
- Learn to play a couple of songs by the Good Lovelies on the guitar.
- Attend at least one concert.
- Go to at least one museum.
- Go to the beach at least twice before the triple digits begin.
- Find a good place to go swing dancing.
- Go to the Cicada Club.
- Visit the Griffith Observatory.

As you can see, it seemed like an "unproductive" summer on paper because I had to take it easy and stay indoors a lot (I didn't leave the house for two weeks post surgery recovery) but I think that was okay. I had a lot of time to grow spiritually despite the temptations and other obstacles thrown my way. His plans are always greater than our own... and everything I experienced was much better (though harder) than anything on my list. I almost crossed off the last thing on my list -- to visit the Griffith Observatory -- but what we wanted to see was closed down all of last week (which is when we had it planned) so it didn't work out for us. I'll just save the rest of the bucket list for next summer. ;)

And now for my new autumn bucket list:

- Give my bestie and her sister a mini-tour of L.A. on their latest visit.
- Decorate my "office space" with autumn decorations.
- Reach my new Goodreads goal of reading 40 books before the beginning of winter. I'm currently at 32 books.
- Visit the Griffith Observatory.
- Change the songs on my iPod song from mostly classical to mostly jazz (as is my tradition every autumn and spring).
- Learn 3 new baking recipes that are dairy and egg-free.
- Keep working on my third novel in my free time.
- Re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series, replacing my autumn/winter Jane Austen tradition. Well, Anne IS my literary heroine.
- Stay on top of my coursework. Minimal deadlines = temptation to procrastinate.
- Stay on top of my snail mail correspondences.
- Celebrate my godson's first birthday.
- Have a classic MGM musical movie marathon with at least 5 films.
- Go back to Disneyland and California Adventure at least once.
- Avoid getting sucked into doing NaNoWriMo this year.
- Go watch The Peanuts Movie opening weekend.
- Get Advent candles and materials early this year.
- Celebrate St. Cecilia's feast day / my confirmation anniversary (same day) in a special way.
- Go to a concert.
- Visit a museum.
- Begin the Consecration to Mama Mary for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
- Take an "autumn drive" down one of the L.A. streets that makes you feel like we get actual seasons in the city. The trees look amazing down one particular street.
- Survive my first quarter of grad school. lol.

There you go. A bit shorter than my warm weather bucket list but things that I think are do-able. Most of them are fairly easily (i.e. changing the songs on my iPod) but, trust me, if it's not on a "to-do" list, it's not going to happen because my mind will wander off instead of doing things. lol. I am prone to daydreaming in the autumn and spring. I like my lists because it's the only way I can stay productive. ;)

Anyway, that's it for now. Just wanted something quick and fun to share because I have no idea when I'll have the chance to blog again. I am hoping sometime this coming week, if I can finish all my coursework early enough / need the break. :D

I hope y'all have a great rest of weekend!

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


Friday, October 2, 2015

Week of Craziness

I'm currently sick and trying to read and concentrate on my coursework is futile right now so y'all are getting a new blog post. :)

For those wondering how grad school orientation at JP Catholic went: it was an adventure. See, the day before the trip I decided to try the Trader Joe's chicken taquitos. I usually don't try anything new the day before a trip or an exam because of how sensitive my stomach is but I was hungry and it was the only thing that we had to eat. Big mistake! I woke up the morning of orientation at 3:30 a.m. with the worst stomachache. I thought about calling my friend Joe (who had offered to drive me down to Escondido) and tell him that the trip was off but I really wanted to go and thought my stomach ache wouldn't last too long so I said nothing. Was I able to function on 3.5 hours of sleep? Surprisingly, yes... and without aids of caffeine or anything. Whoo! All 6 hours on the road (3 hours down to the San Diego area and another 3 coming back home to L.A.) were terrible only because of the pain. My stomach had never hurt that much nor that long before. I actually had to leave orientation early because I started feeling a bit faint and just not comfortable sitting without curling up a little (that helped my stomach in the car). However, according to the itinerary, the only thing I missed was the welcome speech at the end so that was okay. I just wanted to get home. That stomachache lasted about 12 hours. Never again will I eat those taquitos. So not worth it.

Of course, the entire trip wasn't a bust. I got to meet some of my classmates, who were all great. So many friendly people. I stepped a little outside my introverted comfort zone and introduced myself without prompting from some of them. Yes, it was a big step for me since I'm usually really shy and reserved at first. I mean, I said hello, introduced myself, and then asked a question (usually if they were also in the MA program since the orientation was for both MAs and MBAs) to break the ice. Raise your hand if you're proud of me, especially those who've known me for years. lol. After that, I was okay letting the more extroverted people take control of the conversation... and was even fine when they all started talking and I was left to look over the information folders we were given. I have to admit that at one point that I was getting really drained by all the conversations but I stuck it out. :)

I also got the chance to meet some of the staff. Oh! And, bonus, I got to go to confession right before orientation began. The resident priest was there early so I got a chance to talk to him. I seriously felt like he was reading my soul just by the types of questions and comments he made. I'd never met him before but he hit the nail on the head for so many things -- from career to habits and prayer life. It was a great experience for me. I'm a little bummed I couldn't stay for Mass though. I had taken my chapel veil because I had counted on staying for it after orientation. If I hadn't had that terrible stomachache, I would've stayed through to the end but, eh, what can you do?

How's the studying going? Well, I've developed a great little study plan that's worked well thus far. I was able to get through the parts of the Summa Theologiae that were assigned as well part of the Catechism for my Theology course. In fact, except for the class lecture (which has yet to be properly uploaded), I'm already done with the first week's readings and quiz. I goofed up on the quiz and I felt incredibly dumb but, hey, that's how you learn. As long as I pass... and I did. lol. We didn't get anything early for my Philosophy course so that is what I'm going to be tackling as soon as my mental fog clears up. So far, I'm really enjoying the courses. The professors have picked excellent reading material. I got God's Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI yesterday and I'm going to be starting that tonight if I feel well enough. As for the Summa, a fellow classmate was gracious enough to share his study tips with us (in a private online group) and it really made a difference. I feel a lot less intimidated by it though I am nowhere near being 100% confident with it.

I've been using the Pomodoro Technique to study, which has been excellent. I study for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break (this usually means that I get up and stretch, do some sort of quick exercise, or do a quick social media / Pinterest check) and then I repeat the cycle. After a couple of cycles, I take a 15 minute break and then back to the same. It's really helped me absorb and understand what I'm working on more than any other study method I've ever tried. No, I'm not being paid to say this. lol. If you're studying anything, I highly recommend it. I'm using the free app on my iPod touch called Flat Tomato. I will have to use it when I have time to work on my novel because it's seriously done wonders for my productivity. And... unpaid advertisement done ;)

What else? OH! I was asked by two different people if I was sure that I wasn't meant to be a nun. lol. Long story short: my new dentist and, it seems, most of her staff are Catholic and they saw me holding Rosary beads in my hand since I prayed it while I was waiting. The dentist didn't want to accept my answer that religious life wasn't my vocation and brought it up 3 times before I left. I got a kick out of the whole thing before it happened on St. Therese's feast day. Before anyone asks, yes, I'm positive it's not my vocation. I've discerned for years (since I was 22) and the more I discern the vocation of marriage (in the form of dating and getting to know fellas), the more sure I am that this is my vocation. This is coming from a gal who hates dating, too. Seriously, I wish I could just skip it. The Fella has yet to appear but the baby steps are helping me. :) I have yet to receive the specific color rose I asked St. Therese as a sign that she was praying for my vocation discernment but I have a lot of patience so no rush there. :)

Besides all of that, life's been about not letting little obstacles get me down. I'm sure most of you didn't notice but I took a mini-break from Twitter while I was dealing through some personal stuff. I've had a really rough time with a couple of things (that I haven't mentioned) lately and I needed the break. I'm in "Little Emmy That Could" mode. I could either let these things break me down or I can say "okay, this is happening... but it won't last forever, let's keep going." I've obviously chosen the latter. At this point, I've learned to trust God enough to remember that He has my back. Do I still get upset? Of course. I have feelings but I'm trying to learn to not let them overwhelm me. My trip to school showed me that I'm stronger and braver than I've thought of myself in the past. It was a miserable trip due to my stomach pain but good things happened during it. I just have to keep going. :)

That's mostly what I've been doing since the last time I blogged. Just dealing with some things, getting ready for classes, and, now that they've started, trying to stay on top of things. Not having deadlines (except for a couple of papers) is foreign to me and I don't really like it because I work best on deadlines. I'm going to have to give myself deadlines so I don't have the temptation to procrastinate. My best friend is coming back to visit next week so I have an excuse to finish studying for my first week of classes (which goes from this past Wednesday through next Tuesday) this weekend before she gets here. I'm pretty excited about that. :D

Anyway, that's it from me for now. I'm sure there are a number of typos but, like I said, I have some serious mental fog because I'm feeling unwell so please forgive me for that. I'm going to go eat something and then work on a puzzle or something relaxing. ;)

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

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