Friday, July 31, 2015

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 24: Favorite Music Edition

Since I've had some pretty heavy blog posts lately I've decided to end this month with a fun post. It's been almost 8 months since I last did a 7 Quick Takes post so why not now?

I often joke that music was my first love because I can't remember a time when I wasn't surrounded by it. When I was a tiny gal, I used to strum on my mom's guitar and then run away, laughing, out of sheer joy of making a sound. I was in the school chorus in elementary school and did a choir after school elective in junior high. I learned how to play part of "Fur Elise" the summer between elementary school and junior high (have since played it in full a number of times) and I eventually picked up the acoustic guitar in my late teens. I was even majoring in Jazz Studies prior to settling on Religious Studies. Oh yeah, and St. Cecilia is my adopted confirmation saint. I can tell you which songs and albums are associated with what times in my life. Most people in my life have a song associated with them. Need I go on? ;)

If you check my account, you'll see that I'm pretty much always listening to music. To narrow the list to my top 7 was hard but I think I've got my top 7... maybe. At least these are my top 7 in the jazz and classical genres since those are the ones I most gravitate towards.

-- 1 --
"Georgia on My Mind" by Ray Charles. 

No song will make me sigh and swoon as much as this song. It and "Dream a Little Dream" are quite possibly my favorite songs of all time.

-- 2 --
"Dream a Little Dream" by Pink Martini & The Von Trapps. 
love "Dream a Little Dream" in all its various incarnations. I'm usually partial to the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong version but this version by Pink Martini and the Von Trapps is my current favorite.

-- 3 --
"Being There" by the Tord Gustavsen Trio. 

I've been a fan of this trio -- which is now an ensemble -- since my reversion. I actually associate the reversion with the trio's The Ground album and this song is my favorite of the album. Warning: it's jazz and has no lyrics.

-- 4 -- 

"Feeling Good" by Michael Bublé.
I have a lot of wonderful memories attached to this song... and the video is still awesome, a decade later. Fun fact: my Jazz in American Culture professor while I was at Santa Monica College, Prof. Keith Fiddmont, was one of the professional musicians who played on the It's Time album. Great memories all around.

-- 5 --
"Thais: Meditation" by Jules Massenet
Sometimes I just want to turn off the lights in my room at night, open the blinds, and look at the stars while this song plays. Have I ever mentioned I'm a closeted hopeless romantic? No? Has my taste in music given me away yet? ;)

-- 6 --

"Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin
It's 16+ minutes of classical/jazz hybrid goodness and the song most of my friends associate me with. I have yet to watch it performed live but it's my dream and I will undoubtedly cry. lol. If you want to skip to my favorite part, it's between 10:37 and 12:26. At around 11:40 is when I start to really swoon. lol.

-- 7 --
"Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.

I saved the best for last. This song will never fail to make me cry. Every. Single. Time. It fills my heart with love and joy. I've also dreamt of myself singing it... a lot. In a powerful voice.

Anyway, I don't expect anyone to like all the songs but that's okay. These are my songs. Which are yours?

And now I'm off to the E.R. to get the site of the former abscess looked at. Fun! lol.

I hope y'all had a great week and have a good start of the weekend. :D

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vanity! Wait, Vanity?

As many of you who were following my #ERadventures on Twitter know, I had a pretty busy afternoon yesterday. After not being able to secure a doctor appointment with my doctor this week and being told that urgent care was full, they (my insurance company; I called their customer care line after exhausting my options and talking to a nurse) sent me to the local E.R.

I'll spare guys the details beyond saying that it was a non-tooth related abscess. Whether it was a spider bite or a pimple gone wrong, something set it off and it looked like I was smuggling a small walnut under my jaw, near my chin. I had it for 4 days (Sunday through yesterday). It wasn't pretty -- and it kept getting bigger -- but I ignored it... well, I ignored the fact that I had a giant lump under my jaw.

Yesterday, while the doctor was explaining the procedure to me, she said she would make it the smallest cut possible so it wouldn't scar; that it was good that it wasn't on my cheek or anywhere too visible. Her assistant made a comment that it would've been a shame if it had been on my face; "a pretty girl like you..." I half jokingly, half honestly replied, "well, I don't care. It would be good for my vanity; it would keep me from being vain." When I got home, I took a selfie to show everyone (on IG) where the procedure was done. I jokingly said, "sorry about the mug; no make-up up in here." It was in that moment that I realized that I really don't know where to draw the line on what qualifies as vanity. (side note: Nope, not touching on the fact that selfies are considered vain.)

I was a tomboy growing up. I "rebelled" against the frilly dresses that they used to make me wear by wanting to wear only jeans and shorts as soon as I was allowed to pick out my own clothes. I liked playing sports. I used to race against my male classmates to see who was fastest. In my only year of public HS, I was one of three girls who actually got into playing (mandatory) co-ed flag football. Don't worry, guys were respectful and they kept their paws off of us. It wasn't until I got older (really, early-mid 20s) that I got "girlier."

One of the things I've struggled with -- especially lately -- is knowing what would be considered vain and what isn't because I get so many conflicting messages. I consider myself pretty low-maintenance. Most days my hair is in a ponytail, braid, or up in a messy bun. I wear minimal make-up (blush and under-eye concealer on sleepless days, occasionally mascara to make my eyes look a little bit brighter, more alert) on the days that I do wear it... which isn't often because I'm admittedly lazy about going through the whole routine of taking it all off with lotions and washes and toners, etc. I'm currently going through a wardrobe overhaul because clothes aren't fitting and/or are getting seriously worn. I want to look nice and I have fun occasionally putting the effort into experimenting with different hairstyles and colors... but does that mean I've fallen for the trap for vanity?

Some people would say "yes." Some people look down on make-up and are vocal about it. 'Oh, I don't wear it. I don't need to look fake." Other people would say "no." "What's wrong with wanting to look nice? It makes me happy!" I fall somewhere in the middle, leaning more towards the latter. When I looked paler (due to my anemia), I wore a little bit of blush on my cheeks and concealer under my eyes so that people wouldn't worry about me looking so pale. Now that my color is back to normal, I don't worry about it as much.

As I said, that doesn't mean I don't want to occasionally wear a little bit of make-up or dress up. Sometimes I'll be in the mood to experiment with make-up colors or pretty hairstyles, knowing that no one will see me and that I'll undo it minutes later... and that's fine with me. It's just something fun to do. If I have a lunch date with a friend (especially if it's someone I like), I will make the extra effort to look nicer than usual. I'm sure when there's a fella in my life, I will also put the effort into looking nice for our dates... though he'll have to get used to it not being an everyday thing. Again, I'm a bit lazy when it comes to the routine of getting the make-up off of my face. lol. Does that make me vain? I would think not but, again, mixed messages from various sources has blurred the line for me over the years.

These are just some of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my mind since yesterday. I'm sure I'll eventually figure things out... I hope. lol.

Oh! If you're wondering how I'm doing post-procedure: I haven't needed to take any pain meds. Last night, when I changed the gauze, there wasn't much blood on it which is a good sign... especially with how low my platelets have been for a while. It no longer hurts when I try to eat but I'm still not eating as well as I normally do. I'm a bit exhausted but that's to be expected with a nearly sleepless night and a failed nap. Temperature did go up to 99.4 last night but it went down to 98.4. It's currently at (almost) 98.9 so I should be okay. Tomorrow I return to the E.R. to get it looked at again since there are still no doc appointments available with my primary doctor. Thank you all for your prayers; they definitely helped me stay calm and be brave during the procedure. :)

Anyway, that's it for now. I hope y'all are having a good week thus far!

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Self-Care is Not Laziness

Lately I've noticed that there have been a number of articles about the importance of self-care (Modern Mrs. Darcy's post was the one that really inspired me with its simplicity yet effectiveness)... which is coinciding with my resolution to do just that: to take care of myself. As the articles have stated, we've created an (almost) idol out of being busy. If we're not busy doing something, the word "lazy" gets added to the mix. For the longest time this used to bother me -- being called "lazy" -- because I felt it unfair. People who called me that didn't know me -- didn't know that I needed the break from whatever (school, work, etc) for my health (mental and/or physical) -- yet, because I wasn't "busy," I was obviously wasting time and being a freeloader. It wasn't until this month that I made the decision to let those judgmental thoughts slide and finally give myself some much-needed time off from everything. Really, it's going to be a two-month summer vacation (my first in years).

As many of you (who've known me for years) know, I helped take care of my dad during the 7 years he battled with cancer. From ages 17 to 24 all I did was go to school, work (I was a retail slave, no less), and/or take care of my dad. After my dad died, I still went to school. I literally took two months off before I returned to school. It took me 3 months to find freelance work after graduating from college and that's been what I've been doing since. Then I started that ill fated stint at Utah State for an intense Speech-Language Pathology program for nearly an entire academic year before I had to pull out due to declined health. Even in the middle of that, I managed to publish two novels, the second having come out only a month after I left Utah State. I pushed myself to what I thought was my limit and I messed up my health in the process.

My weight plummeted down to 113-114 lbs at my smallest, 4-5 lbs underweight. My iron levels were dismal (and I was still "slightly" anemic at my last blood draw in April) due to poor eating. Stress, anxiety, poor sleep, poor nutrition... this busy bee burned herself out. I was still trying to stay "productive busy" through earlier this month when I realized that I was not doing myself any favors by not taking a decent break. With grad school starting in late September, I knew I had to start taking better care of myself in preparation for it. I left my low-paying, high-stress freelance writing job earlier this month. I put my third novel on hold. These days I'm all about the self-care.

I'm still "busy"... but it's a busy that is necessary. I keep the apartment clean, vacuuming and dusting twice a week. I wash the dishes by hand. I check how my car is doing on oil and water as well as using a rag to clean off the dust the maintenance guys throw onto my car with their leaf blowers. I pray at least twice daily. I read books. I stay in the loop of the Catholic world by checking out the daily emails I get sent from places like the Catholic News Agency, ZENIT, and the National Catholic Register. I touch bases with friends via email and/or text message. I cook. I listen to music. I run errands. It's still a busy life... but nothing that is too stressful.

Most days my to-do list consists of:
- Morning prayers
- Rosary
- Examination of Conscience
- Nighttime prayers

That's it.

Of course, I sleep, eat, and take care of my personal hygiene. As I wrote in my Digital Burnout post, taking breaks from online activity has helped me. I installed the StayFocused app for my Chrome browser to keep myself off of sites like Twitter... though, in all honesty, it's currently disabled because I accidentally left the Twitter tab open when I went to eat, after replying to someone today, and the 10 minutes expired... and I needed it to post the link to this blog post on it. Yes, I will enable it again when I'm done posting the link to this post. I'm averaging less than 5 minutes on Twitter on the days I do log in for whatever reason (usually to reply to someone; I get the notifications sent to my inbox which is how I know someone sent me a message) and it's wonderful. Same with FB. All of this is done for my mental health and self-care.

I'm slowly working through my Warm Weather Bucket List, having modified it a bit to better suit my new self-care regime. I'm working on fixing my sleeping cycles, adopting an EST time frame since I'm up in the 4 a.m. hour (PST) to drive mom to work, which would be 7 am EST. That means not watching late night shows or movies to get proper sleep in. I'm exercising more (or trying to) and I'm eating healthier. I'm trying to learn how to make my own bread and rely less on store bought things that may not be as gentle on my stomach (I have horrible GERD/acid reflux). My weight is finally at a good, healthy place and has been consistent since about late April-early May. I'm trying to build up a "bag of self-care tricks" for when I do eventually become busy again (with school and work) to help me get through the worst, most stressful days. I'm looking at finding things I can do in 5-10 minute breaks when I'm super busy. I've even started a Pinterest board for ideas.

I'm afraid some of you with children and/or very busy lives may roll your eyes or be unhappy with this blog post. "I don't have that luxury," you may say. I'm sorry if that's the case. I'm not flaunting my self-given time off. The grass is not greener, folks. Sure, I have no husband or family to take care of but I do have a mother to help and a loneliness to battle against. All I'm saying is that it's okay to give yourself a break if you're able to do so. Hey, adult coloring books are selling like hot cakes on Amazon for a reason! Embrace the idea of a small break and take care of yourself. Self-care is not laziness. Idleness is terrible but so is failing to take care of the body God gave you. Think about it.

Anyway, just my two cents in something that seems to be a popular topic, and with good reason. I've seen enough of you lovely folks getting burnt out quickly as the summer progresses. Don't push yourselves too hard. Learn from my mistakes. Do me a favor and take 5 minutes out of your day to do something for yourself. Even if those 5 minutes is simply sitting on your couch or bed, closing your eyes, and listening to your favorite song while having a drink of your choice.

That's it for me for now. I really want to get started on one of the new puzzles I got at Target (four 1,000+ piece puzzles for under $7, score!). Self-care while keeping my mind busy before I switch to prayer and a book before an early bedtime. ;)

I hope y'all have a great start of week!

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Keeping God in Mind During Attacks

Last night I felt a pretty intense attack... but unlike any panic attacks I've had. I wasn't shaking. I didn't feel like I couldn't breathe nor was there a heaviness on my chest. I wasn't lightheaded. I just felt a sudden wave of hopelessness and desperation. I glanced at the iPod next to me (yes, I need to break the habit of having it nearby when I sleep) and it read 1:37 a.m.

"Nooo," I said to myself. "Not when I have to get up before dawn for Mass." I tried to fight it. I could hear Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" starting to play (okay, that's not true but the song pretty much expresses how it felt) as it grew stronger and stronger. Next thing I knew I got out of bed, left my room, and started pacing the perimeter of the living room. At some point I started crying because of the frustration. I hadn't had one of these nights in a really long time; so long that I honestly can't remember when the last one happened. Two years ago? Three?

I know what triggered it. I know what thoughts invade my peace of mind, causing this attack to come to fruition. Though I rationalized them away, they still held strong. "You're weak." "You're doing this to yourself." "There is no hope." Every time a thought like this popped up, I countered it with "But God has my back." "I trust in Him." The more I fought the negative with thoughts of God, the worse the negative thoughts hounded me. Still, I fought.

I tried saying the Memorare prayer over and over, only to not be able to concentrate on the prayer. I thought about praying the Rosary but knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate. Then I did something I never thought I would ever do but it was done without second thought: I literally dropped to my knees and began praying.

The worn out carpet hit my bare kneecaps hard but I didn't care. I cried harder and I began praying. "I trust in God. I don't know why I can't fight these thoughts right now but I trust in You. I trust in God. Our Father... Hail Mary... Glory Be..." Slowly, the negative thoughts began to disappear. "You won't make it to Mass; you have to get up in 2-3 hours. You won't make it" the thought said. "Yes, I can. I'm used to 2 hours of sleep when I drive mom to work and it sometimes takes me 2 more hours to fall back asleep for a nap. I can always go to Mass and come home to nap," I countered. "I WILL go to Mass tomorrow." My rational/logic explanations and my positive thoughts began diminishing the strength of the negative ones. A few minutes later, it had all passed. It still took me a few more minutes to settle down before I fell asleep again.

I can already hear some of my friends theorizing it was a spiritual attack. It certainly wasn't a typical panic attack but whether it was spiritual or not, I was glad that I was able to keep my thoughts on God. If you suffer from panic attacks, you know how hard it is to concentrate on anything that isn't what you're feeling. Even after having suffered through them for half of my life (they started when I was 15 though they've diminished in strength and frequency over the years), it's still hard for me to focus on God during those times. It's worth the try but I know not to beat myself up if I can't automatically go there.

I'm sharing this because I get a lot of blog hits from people searching the key words "Catholicism / Catholic" and "anxiety." Anxiety and panic attacks are still a major taboo with some people. There is still that stigma that there is something "wrong" or "off" with us. There isn't. We're not going crazy, though it may feel like it at times. Part of my anxiety stems from having medical PTSD (years of adverse reactions to medications and food allergies, plus seeing my dad suffer through 7 years of cancer, have left me nervous when it comes to medical emergencies). Some people have a chemical imbalance in their bodies. All are valid reasons that no one should hold against us... and, trust me, most of the time there is nothing but compassion towards us.

Whatever reason there is for these attacks, please know that it has nothing to do with what's "wrong" with us. Some things are beyond our control. Other things -- such as my medical PTSD -- can be worked through. I am making good progress on it though I know it won't be something that will go away overnight. No matter what we go through, we can always ask Him to help us carry those heavy crosses when we feel like we can't. During our times of weakness is when He's right next to us.

Anyway, that's it from me today. I still haven't gone to Mass but I need to start getting ready for one of the later Masses of the day. :) I hope y'all had a great weekend!

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

Friday, July 24, 2015

Digital Burnout

Image courtesy of Ashley Ella Design.
I don't think many people noticed but I was completely M.I.A. on Twitter a couple of days this week. I probably would've gone more days without tweeting except I got excited about Father (now Bishop-Elect) Barron coming to Los Angeles... and then I felt the need to defend myself against subsequent comments from others which made me feel attacked for welcoming him to my hometown. It was during this time that I realized just how burnt out I was on social media and on technology in general.

Having a job (freelance writing) that makes you rely on the internet (to receive, turn in, and research assignments) all day... having your entire degree online (as I did last year when I did a year at Utah State)... having most of your friends rely on social media to interact, all forced me (and, really, gave me) the excuse to be online more than I should have. When I realized that I was a lot more burnt out that I had first guessed, I made the decision to step away a couple of days a week and it's been great.

First, I've made it a mission to take better care of myself because I'd been neglecting myself for a long time. I recently quit my low-paying and increasingly stressful job as a freelance writer for a certain company... and I'm not looking for any work at the moment. I'm not doing anything but having a vacation from the busyness of life before grad school begins. I want to use the next two months to create habits that will help me during grad school and after. That includes fixing my sleeping schedule, eating better, finding what little things I can do during the day that make me relax when things get overwhelming, etc.

Second, I've cut my time both online and on the laptop/iPod considerably... and that time offline will increase through the next couple of weeks. The majority of my Biblical Theology program will be done online so I know I'll be relying on technology a lot. I'm grateful that there will be a couple of lectures/events I will have to drive down to JP Catholic for since it will give me more excuses to not get online. In order to help curve the temptation to waste time online, I charge my laptop during off-peak hours (I purposely found out what they were in my area) and if the laptop runs out of battery, it stays that way until the following day. Same with my iPod touch. It gets charged once a day. If it doesn't last through the night, it waits until the following day. If I don't use it much, I will physically be in a different room than the laptop, iPod, and cell phone.

I'll be honest and admit that I do still log into Facebook daily because most of my best friends are on there and it's the easiest way for us to communicate on our busiest days. Some days I play "FB chat tag" with a friend or two throughout the day because of how busy we can get. However, I don't spend hours on FB. I'll spend a couple of minutes (or, most of the time, less than a minute) a couple of times (3-4) during the day; it depends on how many comments / conversations I'm having. That equals less than 5 total minutes on most days or up to less than 15-20 minutes on my most active days. The decision I made to have under 30 people on my list has made the difference because no one on my list abuses FB... and no one on my list loves to instigate drama.

As for Twitter... there is a reason why I completely avoid it on some days. I like Twitter but just not as much as I used to. I noticed that a lot of my defensive/grumpy moments have happened because of something that originated on Twitter. Lately it just seemed worse than usual. Some people love to cause trouble. Other people feel like they are free to speak to you as if they know you well even if they don't (read: untactful buttinski types). A good portion of the time, miscommunication will cause unnecessary drama. I don't like drama. I dislike when people instigate arguments for kicks. Yes, I chose to be on Twitter and to reply to the comment... but I've always chosen to step away from it or even not reply to everyone on some days for the sake of my sanity.

At the time of my reversion, I took a break from the online world. It was one of the most spiritually fruitful times in my life. My focus was on my relationship with God, choosing to not listen to former friends who'd emotionally and mentally bullied me. They were not okay with my decision to walk away from their friendships -- which I saw as harmful to me. It was hard but it got me back on the right path. Having a similar experience lately, I decided to step away in baby steps and it's done wonders.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed the change. I've been feeling less stressed, less defensive, and less sassy/sarcastic. I'm less likely to be uncharitable in my thoughts and words. I'm more likely to be understanding and compassionate, to let things slide, and just smile. I feel like I did when I was in my early reversion days. The spiritual dryness I'd been experiencing has lessened considerably. Not having the online drama invade my thoughts when I log offline has done wonders for my spiritual life.

I've been doing the St. Anne novena along with one to the Immaculate Heart of Mary... in that order. Yes, I chose the heavenly mother and daughter tag team. ;) I feel a wonderful sense of peace and love when praying them, especially the latter. The St. Anne novena is for my vocation (though I'm asking for clarity of vocation not that it be a specific one). The one to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is for (as I mentioned in the last post) learning to fill that loneliness/emptiness gap I've felt with His love "as I know no human being will ever be able to fulfill it." I end up including the idea of a future husband and children in that last novena. "If my vocation is of wife and mother -- as I believe it is -- please let me be full of His love first... because I don't expect my future husband to fill something he can't. It wouldn't be fair to expect that from him. Instead, please let be so full of His love that I can reflect it unto my future fella and children." I'm not sure I would've had as much clarity if I had been worried about something that happened online.

I like how my life offline is shaping up. My communication with my mom is getting better and we're learning how to work with our differing temperaments better. I've learned a lot of things about her that have increased my respect and love for her; she's learned some things she didn't even know about me. I've been sleeping better. I'm less cranky throughout the day. I'm less anxious. I've been able to concentrate much better when I pray. Instead of having to constantly fight off random thoughts -- usually of whatever disagreement or drama stemmed from Twitter -- popping up during my time in prayer, I've been able to concentrate on (and even visualize) the words I'm praying. Life is good. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because I've seen a number of you feeling burnt-out on social media but are scared of taking breaks from it out of fear of boredom, missing out, etc. Trust me, I was in the same boat but, man, all this time offline has been great for me and it's made me want to spend even less time online. If you're stressed, try a day or two offline per week at the beginning and gradually increase it. You'll notice a difference after a couple of days. I seriously recommend it. :D

Alright, that's it from me for now. I have a number of things to do offline (mostly read... and drink tea... and watch the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility, and the 2009 version of Emma; did I mention I'm big on self-care these days?) and want to get to them early so I can sleep early. ;)

I hope y'all are doing well. :D

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Entrusting My Loneliness to God

First off, I want to say a huge "thank you!" to everyone who prayed for me over the weekend and earlier this week. As I mentioned in my last post, I felt myself going through a metaphorical desert for about a week and a half. I think that all the stress of being pushed and pulled in every direction by well meaning people (or, at least, I'm assuming they were well meaning), seeing my mom being mentally and emotionally bullied at work (please say a prayer for her if you can as it has yet to stop), and having the anniversary of dad's death all in the same week overwhelmed me. Like I said in the previous post, I shut down when I'm feeling overwhelmed.

Lately, I've been feeling lonely. I feel like people take me for granted. I ask for little in return... and when I do ask for that little bit, I'm pushed to the side because no one wants to deal with it. I have been the confidant of so many people. I keep many secrets. I'm asked for advice (sometimes on things beyond my experience or knowledge) and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me say the right words to people, even if that's redirecting them to someone who may be able to better help them. I'm always there for friends when they need to cry, rant, explode with happiness, etc. That means that I've sacrificed sleep, sacrificed doing something for myself (even if it means eating), because I want to be there for my friends. However, lately it's seemed one-sided.

I needed someone to talk to this past weekend... and I had no one. I understand that my friends were busy and that they have things going on in their own lives. However, when I expressed feeling sad and drained due to the anniversary of my father's death, those I reached out to quickly changed the topic... or asked me if I was going to dwell on it all day. I didn't want much; I just wanted someone to listen to me for 5 minutes about how hard it is not to have my dad, despite his having passed years ago. I needed to tell someone how people are making me feel like I'm not good enough for anyone or anything. 5 minutes of talking to a human being, that's all I require. I don't need any words to be returned, a simple hug or the mention of a possible prayer would've been more than enough. That's all I need to be able to keep my spirits up. What I ended up with was feeling overwhelmingly lonely.

Having the fact that I'm still single shoved in face every single day by (again) well meaning people hurts. I've had to deal with this for the past two months, almost unceasingly. Like the age of 30 -- despite not looking nor feeling that old -- doomed me to a life of old maid (or a nun because it obviously meant that I wasn't meant to marry) if I didn't do anything about it right now. I've expressed not wanting my personal life discussed with frequency... to deaf ears.

I had NO issue with my state in life until it became the sole focus on some people in my life. I was fine being single; happy to be given the time to know myself after having spent my late teens and early 20s helping take care of my father during his last years of life. I didn't feel the "ache of loneliness" (as Jackie Francois once said)... until people kept bringing it up. That coupled with the fact that I felt like I had no one to talk to me made the loneliness seem worse.

My initial reaction to being engulfed with the feeling was to seek something to fill that loneliness... and, in a beautiful moment of clarity (while contemplating a novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary), I realized that only God could suffice that gaping hole. I'm sure my daily recitation of the Rosary -- though I had to force myself to pray it on some days -- helped me reach that conclusion.

That was the turning point for me. My thoughts lately have been: "alright, God... no human being is going to fulfill that emptiness and loneliness; only You can do that." I said as much to my spiritual director at our meeting this week. When I said it to him, I realized that I was being led out of that desert by Him. I can't express how grateful I feel. I've known people who've felt the same (or greater) amount of loneliness and have sought comfort that ended up being a source of great regret for them. I didn't want to make that same mistake... and it looks like He didn't want me to either. 

I'm not sure how all of this (having Him fill that hole) to be accomplished but I trust Him. I'm going to start a double novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus to entrust my heart to them. I'm going to seek refuge in them, especially during this time when I feel taken for granted, taken advantage of, and, sadly, feeling unloved... which leads to feeling lonely.

I'm sorry this isn't one of those happy blog posts but it's what's going on with me. Though I don't always express my feelings so easily -- and that stems from my desire to not trouble people -- I still feel deeply. Yes, I know that feelings aren't always to be trusted... but I still have them. It's what makes me empathetic (or so I've been told) and what makes me me. I like myself, emotions and all.

I also didn't write this blog post to shame anyone whom I know. My hopes for this blog post are to remind people that sometimes listening to a friend (especially the one whom you normally run to) is all they need and to tell anyone who's in the same boat that they're not alone. I know I'm not the first nor will I be the last. Oh, and to my friends: absolutely no hard feelings. I understand that we can't always be there for everyone. :)

Anyway, that's from me for now. I'm trying to cut my time online (yes, again) as part of my new self-care routine (which I will share in the near future) so I'm going to try to finish everything I need to do.

I hope y'all have a great weekend. :D

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

I'm Walking Through the Desert

I'm walking through the desert again. I'm sure this is surprising to most since I'm pretty good at not showing emotions when there's something going on with me... but I felt the need to share this for some reason.

I say my prayers without emotion nor much concentration; I'm just going through the motions. I have to make myself pray even though I sometimes (most of the time) I don't feel like it. The Rosary is the only thing that holds my concentration long enough to make somewhat of an impact on my spiritual life these days.

I haven't gone to confession in 3 weeks. I went to Mass yesterday but, again, just going through the motions. I didn't receive the Eucharist (of course) and that was the first thing I've felt in a couple of days. I said a prayer for spiritual communion. Better than nothing.

I'm bordering on being apathetic to most things. I don't have much of an interest in things. I've been on Twitter more often lately because I need the distraction from whatever is going on with my internal life.

I have a general feeling of lethargy, wanting to stay curled up in bed but I don't indulge myself. I can't fall sleep at night. I struggle to get up in the morning.

I seem to go through this cycle almost every July. It seems like I unwillingly shut down around the anniversary of my father's death... but somehow it's worse this year. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I hit a big milestone in my life (entering my third decade) without him here.

Maybe it's not even my father's death that's the cause of this. Maybe I've shut down because so many people have pushed me too hard. "Become a nun." It's not my vocation, I answer. "Date this guy." I don't like him, I say. "Date that guy." Please just let me be, I plead. "Become a nun." Please stop, I ask. Every single day, multiple times a day the fact that I'm single is shoved in my face. Everyone seems to know what my vocation is except me. It's too much. I'm tired of it -- and have expressed not wanting to be pushed -- but it's still happening.

I want to cry... but I can't. I've tried to this weekend but I haven't been able to. Maybe once I cry I can feel better. We all have our breaking points and I think I'm close to reaching mine. I shut down when I feel forced... or overwhelmed. It's my defense mechanism to maintain as much of my sanity as possible. If I can't release my feelings through tears (my default release for angry, joy, and sorrow), I just shut down.

I'm trying to get out of this desert. I haven't stopped. I thirst for so many things but I know they won't happen right away so I keep marching forward. Baby steps.

For now, I humbly ask for your prayers. I know they will help me through this.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thanks for Raising a Lady, Dad

Dear Dad,

I can't believe you passed away 6 years ago tomorrow. I still think about you often and know that you're looking out for me from wherever you are. I smelled your cologne in my room earlier today after returning from the kitchen when I made myself breakfast. It's somewhat comforting because it makes me feel like you're still here for me when thought you won't ever be physically here for me again. Something that mom said earlier today made me even more grateful to have had you as a father... you taught me to be a lady.

Mom told me how you chose to work at night so that she could be here with me at night. She told (and showed me pictures) of how you used to make sure I was always well dressed, well fed, and clean. "By the time I came home, your dad had all the bottles washed, you were (bottle) fed, you were clean, and I had little to do." Furthermore, she told me that you made sure I grew up knowing that I was a lady and that I should behave like one.

We saw a cute baby girl running in her front yard in just her diaper on our way home today. It was cute and innocent but mom automatically said "your father would've never allowed that." She told me how you always had me dressed in my little dresses, tights, and hairdos she could never get the hang of. Despite there being nothing wrong with babies in only diapers during the summertime, I was surprised to hear that he only allowed it at home because you wanted me to me to be respected... even when I was a child.

I know some people will groan at what I've written. If I hear a "Oh, your father was controlling and he... *insert feminist rant*" it won't bother me because I appreciate the fact that you taught me about modesty and how to carry myself with dignity from birth. To this day, I don't like showing too much skin. I never did... and it's because you taught me that I was more than my looks and my body. It's not because you wanted me to be in date-less exile (in fact, I still remember that one of the last things you said to me was that you trusted me to make the right decisions when it came to my relationships), it was because you knew that I deserved to be treated with respect.

I'm in tears as I write this because I never realized how much you continue to influence me (in a positive way) so many years after you passed. July 11, 2009 at 10:15 a.m. you took your last breath at the same hospital where I was born and I cried tears of sorrow. July 10, 2015 at 5:38 p.m., I cry tears of joy and gratitude for the privilege of calling you my father. Thank you, daddy, for everything.

Your little girl,

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

American vs Mexican Mentalities: Living at Home

One of today's Verily articles (The Five Lies Twentysomethings Need to Stop Believing) got me thinking about something that I have to sometimes explain to others because they don't understand -- living at home. "Lie #3" on the article states that one of the lies that 20-somethings tell themselves is that they have to be completely independent and that moving away from move and dad is actually an American idea, which I agree with -- being an American idea and feeling the pressure to not live at home as soon as you're 18-21.

The idea of my still living at home at 30 seems wrong to an awful lot of people... and almost all of these people are American. People are legitimately horrified when they find out that I intend to stay at home until I marry. However, this isn't a big deal for me because of one big reason: that's not how I was raised. Despite being born and bred in Los Angeles, I was raised with a Hispanic mentality when it comes to many things, living situation included. Old fashioned Mexican father + modern (Hispanic) American mother = modern me with old fashioned values.

In Mexico (and I'm basing this on what I've seen from my family and how my dad was raised) a young woman lives at home with her family until she marries. If she doesn't marry or becomes a religious sister, she stays at home with the parents until they pass. It doesn't matter if she's well educated and has her own income, the family stays together until marriage enters the picture. That's the mentality I grew up with. Despite having enough funds to live on my own (or with roommates) at a young age, I chose to live at home because the importance of family was instilled in me.

My father was first diagnosed with cancer when I was 17 years old. He went through 3 battles of colon cancer from the time I was 17 until he passed a month after I turned 24. Out of those 7 years, he was in remission for 4 years. I could've gone to study in the UK (I practically had my bags packed to attend Bath Spa University when I was 20-21) but I chose not to because I know how much my parents needed me here. Despite having people encouraging me to apply to top universities (the idea of attending Oxford was briefly on my radar thanks to a literature professor), the sense of responsibility kept me here. After my dad passed away, I had an even bigger reason to stay at home.

There is one more thing that I've seen cause a bigger scandal: the fact that I fully intend to have my mother nearby after I marry. It goes back to the Mexican culture mentality that someone in the family takes in their parents as they age. Usually, either the oldest or the youngest child takes in the aging parents to take care of them. Being my mother's only child, it will fall on me to take care of her... and it's something that I have no problem doing.

Despite knowing my sense of familial duty (which I appreciate; I do believe it's important to treat your parents with respect, even when there are conflicts), my "American side" sometimes craves its independence, especially when life isn't exactly rosy. Living at home isn't easy, even if it's just mom and I. My very extroverted mother's ways often clashes with my very introverted ways. We communicate differently. She's very open and says what's on her mind, no matter how much someone will not like it. I'm very reserved and will be careful with how I phrase things to avoid hurt feelings. You cannot get more opposite than her and I... but we balance each other out and we love and respect each other, which is what matters. That's why I still get up at 4:30 a.m. to drive mom to work, even when we're not seeing eye-to-eye on something; love and respect for her despite tiffs.

There are moments when I think about the future -- especially about what will happen once (if) I marry since I do want to take care of my mom as she gets older. One thing I've noticed about this country is that older people often get stuck in convalescent hospitals (I should know; my mom's worked in them for over 40 years) or senior living if they're alone/widowed. You cannot imagine how many times I've heard of patients being forgotten about by their children at the convalescent hospital where mom works... only to have their children show up again once the patient has passed away. That seems terribly off and backwards to me because it's because it's not how I was raised. My paternal grandmother (the one whose temperament I seem to have inherited) lived until she was 98 years old. While she lived by herself, she often had one of my cousins at her house... which was a 2-3 minute walk from the house of one of my aunts. If she wasn't at her house, she was at my aunt's house or with someone of the family. It's just how it's done within our culture... or at least within my family. I'm not sure how much Mexican culture has changed in recent years since I haven't visited since I was a teenager. I anticipate something similar happening when I have a family of my own... which I already know scares a lot of guys. Hey, built-in way to weed out guys.

Anyway, the whole point of this blog post is to not only explain why I'm still at home (I know, some of you are disgusted with me but I'll live ;D) but to assure those who are in similar situations that you guys are not alone. Yes, we're told that we should be independent (which is not a bad thing; there's a fine line between between too dependent and being independent with familial responsibilities) and sometimes it feels like we're seriously pressured to be on our own or else there's something "wrong" with us. If your family values resemble those in which there is a great emphasis on the importance of family and staying close to home, don't let anyone make you feel like your way is wrong.

I'm not ashamed that I'm still living at home because I've chosen to follow the Mexican culture tradition of staying at home until marriage despite my American peers sometimes getting a little too into my business and try to persuade me to live on my own. It's not Millennial laziness nor is it me being too dependent on my mother. Yes, I know you're disappointed that the reason isn't much juicer than it being my choice. Sorry. ;)

Anyway, I have something coming up in about 8 minutes that requires my full attention so that's it from me for now.

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spanish-Language Blog Launch; Feast Day Celebration

First: I'd like to wish a very Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. Remember that divide we fall, united we stand. Just sayin'. ;)

Second: Happy Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati feast day. No, I'm not going to go nuts today... though I really want to. You've had a week of me reviewing DVD and books in two different posts, sharing some of his best quotes, and basically fangirl over him. Trust me, I could've written more -- and almost did -- but I didn't want it to be overkill with my unashamed fangirling so I'm just going to wish everyone a happy feast day. I'm going to celebrate in my own way -- good food, the DVD I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, and just an overall easy day with fireworks later tonight. ;)

Third: I wanted to tell y'all that my Spanish-language blog has officially launched. The first blog post for La Trayectoria de Una Escritora Católica is already post as is the FB page for it. As I said, not all the posts will be the same as the ones posted here and vice versa. I just posted an intro post but I will get into the actual blogging next week. I just wanted to launch the blog today because of someone's feast day (can you guess whose? ;D) since he is the patron of that blog. :D

Anyway, this was just a quick blog post to wish you guys a good day and let you know about the blog's launch. :D

I hope y'all have a great (and safe) weekend!

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati DVD and Book Reviews

These will be quick, spoiler-free reviews on a DVD and a couple of books on Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. If you want more info on them, feel free to ask me; fangirl is always looking for a reason to talk about one of her favorite (soon-to-be) saints. ;)

Sanctity Within Reach: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The DVD, which is an EWTN production, is broken down into three section: Family Life (26 minutes), Social Life (27 minutes), and Spiritual Life (almost 27 minutes). In those (nearly) 90 minutes, you get a good portrait of who Bl. PGF was. His niece, Wanda Gawronska, gives us details not found in books (such as the origin of his full name -- Pier Giorgio Michaelangelo Frassati -- and how the family life was). For those of you who are visual, there are plenty of photographs not found in books written about him. For someone who isn't a bookworm like yours truly, this would be a great way to introduce to this soon-to-be saint (last miracle currently being investigated) to someone.

Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family did not disappoint one bit. The book is basically a compilation of letters, postcards, and telegrams he wrote from ages 5 until the day before his death. As I wrote a couple of days ago, a lot of what was written sounded very relevant to our times. I felt like I got a really good portrait of who he was; his sense of humor, his humility, his selflessness, and his love for God and his country. The last letter (which was a message) was written with his hand half-paralyzed, to a friend, asking the friend to please deliver some injections to a poor man who needed them. If I do end up becoming a lay Dominican (which I'm currently discerning), I'm going to give credit to this book.

I've already given a mini review of My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days by his sister, Luciana Frassati, earlier this week. This was a really hard book for me, personally, to get through because (as I mentioned in the mini review) a lot of it reminded me of what I went through with my own father. Having seen my father slip away and die (I was in the room when he took his last breath) brought out some PTSD symptoms that made it difficult for me to get through this book. However, I did and it was well worth the read. Yes, I sobbed but it was also inspirational. I highly recommend it to all. Have your tissues ready, especially if you're sensitive.

While I do own (and have owned, for many years) A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati by Luciana Frassati, I haven't actually finished reading it. In fact, I'm going to have to start all over again because I've forgotten what I've read thus far. I lent it to a friend (who then kept it for a very long time) but it is on my list. I'll review it when I eventually finish it. Not sure when that will be since I have a queue from the library but it will be fairly soon if the Los Angeles Public Library keep taking their time trying to get the other books to me. ;)

The only fictional work based on his life, To The Heights by Brian Kennelly, was a good, engrossing read... but there were moments when I questioned whether Bl. PGF would actually act in a certain manner or say certain things. Of course, the dialogue is partly based on his (Bl. PGF's) letters and other facts but the other part of it is based on the author's imagination. After reading the books by his sister, reading part of the letters he wrote to his family and friends, and watching the DVD, I had created a portrait of who Bl. PGF was that image didn't fit with what was written a couple of times. However, I kept reminded myself that this was meant to be "based on" and not "fact based" so I was able to enjoy it nonetheless.

And that's it for now. I'm still hoping to have my Spanish-language blog up and running tomorrow so I need to go work on that as well as tomorrow's blog post for this blog.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Still Relevant Nearly 100 Years Later

Because I have not finished the Pier Giorgio Frassati: Letters to His Friends and Family book yet, I was going to review the Sanctity Within Reach: Pier Giorgio Frassati DVD/EWTN special today. However, I've already marked a number of quotes from Bl. PGF's letters to family and friends that I decided to share some from the first 150 pages I've read.

The reason why I wanted to share them before the book review (which I hope to have by Friday) was because the quotes read as if he'd written them this past week. With everything that's happened -- from the SCOTUS ruling to the terrorist attacks -- I found his words to not only be extremely relevant and prophetic but also very reassuring.

Anyway, without further ado, a couple of quotes that I underlined to share. They are written in chronological order and the two that are in bold font are the ones that really stuck out for me.

"But I hope that God may reopen the hard hearts of men who sow hatred..." - Letter to friend Maria Fischer, December 20, 1921 (page 71)

"We, who by the grace of God are Catholics, should not waste the most wonderful years of our life, as unfortunately do so many unhappy young people, who are preoccupied with enjoying the good life, which does not result in good, but which brings the fruit of immorality into our modern society..." - Letter to the members of the "Milites Mariae" Club, October 30, 1922 (page 98)

"Unfortunately when it is a question of climbing after worldly honors men trample upon their own consciences." - Letter to friend Antonio Villani, November 19, 1922 (page 101)

"... as far as I am concerned it's better to be alone, but with a clear conscience, than be together with all the others but with a huge stain on one's conscience." - Letter to friend Antonio Severi, December 4, 1922 (page 104)

"Modern society is drowning in the sorrows of human passions and it is distancing itself from every ideal of love and peace. Catholics, we and you, must bring the breath of goodness that can only spring from faith in Christ." - Letter to the Catholic men and women students of Bonn, January 12, 1923 (page 114)

"Because true happiness, young people, does not consist in the pleasures of the world and in earthly things, but in peace of conscience which we can have only if we are pure in heart and in mind." - Letter to members of "Catholic Youth" of Pollone, July 29, 1923 (page 129)

"The times which we are going through are difficult, because persecution against the Church rages as cruelly as ever. But you fearless and good young people, do not be afraid because of this small problem. Bear in mind the fact that the Church is a divine institution that cannot end and will endure until the end of the world, and 'the gates of hell will not prevail against her.'" - Letter to members of "Catholic Youth" of Pollone, July 29, 1923 (page 130)

Though these quotes may not seem like much, reading the entire letters from which the quotes come from make them more alive and even more relevant. That last quote, I think, is the one that we need to always remember. Yes, our faith is under constant attack (and has been for centuries... some times more intensely than others), but we must remember that the Church has survived through so much and it will continue to do so. Don't lose hope, everyone.

Anyway, the Japan vs England match just ended (Japan faces the U.S. in the Women's World Cup final; rematch time!) so I want to get off of the laptop and enjoy the rest of the book. I'll more than likely share more quotes from the book on the proper book review this weekend.

I will most likely do a review of the DVD I mentioned at the beginning of this post sometime tomorrow and do a couple of book reviews on Friday. I have no clue what I'll do for Bl. PGF's actual feast day. You'll just have to wait and see. ;)

As always, thanks and reading and God bless. :D