Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Increasing Trust in God

My awesome wingman and I have a sort-of motto we like to remind each other in times of difficulty: "we must increase our trust." I had so much going on during Lent that wingman had to text me a reminder more than once.

Mom and I hemorrhaged money this past month. Our savings are completely depleted. We had new things (car related, health related, etc) pop up all the time and usually in clumps so it created a domino effect. The mechanic who fixed my car (and not well; I'm still paying to get new stuff repaired all the time, which is more $ spent) ended up getting a parking ticket last month but failed to inform me about it. It became a delinquent parking violation -- parking for 72 hours in a 24 hour parking area. I contested the ticket since I did not have the car at the time the ticket was issued but was denied. Before I learned that I had to pay the ticket despite not being in possession of it at the time, I had a little conversation with God. "You are my Father. My earthly father is no longer with us. Please help provide for us. If you wants us to pay for this ticket -- if the mechanic can't pay for it or whatever reason -- we'll pay for it. If justice can be made, great. If not, we'll do Your will."

I didn't get a hold of the mechanic until I got word that I had to pay the ticket... and he sounded terrible. I'm not sure what illness he has but he's definitely still sick. He's thinner than before and he's in dialysis so you know it's bad. We spoke to some of our neighbors the day after I was told the initial review was denied and found out he has about 4-5 kids. If they depend on his income (as a mechanic) and he's too sick to work, maybe he doesn't have the money to pay for it. I believe his house is up for sale, too. Choosing to see it this way, we decided to pay for it ourselves. Sure, our savings are basically gone from all we've had to pay but God always provides.

I also saw my health care coverage being terminated this month. I still think it'll be restored but, at the time I type this, it's set to end today. I received the letter two weeks ago. "Oh, another chance to show God that I trust in Him" I reminded myself as I tried not to stress out. Apparently they received my yearly redetermination last July (you know, what the chips hit the fan in general for me) but all my data mysteriously came up blank. They literally have a blank where my data was. I had to fax and mail them several forms needed to show that I was still eligible for it. As of now, I cannot make any doctor's appointments. There's something I'm a bit concerned about that needs to be looked at but will have to taken care of until I hear back from my provider. My dairy allergy test is on hold, which should've been done this month. My CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) sessions are on hold, which is a pity because I was making progress. I still get very tense and anxious when I feel a car is close to hitting me (PTSD) so I kind of need that therapy. We postponed the next one until the following week, hoping we'll know something by next week.

These are just some examples of what I've been going through this past month. Most started about two weeks into Lent and they're still going. All of this would've normally stressed me out but I keep trying to remind myself to trust God. Yesterday I took one of the stressful things I'm dealing with and had a conversation with God. "Please give me the strength and courage to handle this. It keeps popping up in mind, please help me put it out of my mind so I won't get too stressed out."

Life is uncertain. We won't always know what's in store for us. This Lent, balance and moderation, rearranging priorities, and letting go of perfection were all pieces of a larger picture: increasing my trust in God.  Everything I've gone through in the past couple of months (but most especially during Lent) have been about letting go and trusting God. Our savings are gone? God will help provide, whether it be a job I can do while in school or some other way. My car still needs a lot of work? God will provide help with whatever is absolutely necessary (i.e. air conditioning not working; windshield wiper motors not working). My health care coverage terminated? God will make things right, or help me figure out what to do if they (unjustly) decide to truly deny me coverage. My mind being so overloaded with stress that my concentration is shot right before I start my first class back to JP Catholic? God will help. I've got novenas to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (who died a few credits short of his degree) and the Divine Mercy going now; a novena to the Holy Spirit coming up as soon as both of the first novenas are one. Nothing is impossible with God. I'll keep reminding myself of that every time I feel my anxiety and stress levels rising.

I think that's it for my Lenten lessons series. I had a beautiful and fruitful Lenten season despite all the lows. God has shown me how wonderful life is despite all the "crosses" we carry and for that I'm grateful. :)

Alright, I should go eat a bit more to eat. My stomach has been off lately and I haven't eating as well as I should. I ate a little bit  I feel my blood sugar level dropping a bit so I'll go take care of that. :)

Oh, how God provides!!! As I was writing the ending to this post, I received a call from someone who works with my therapist: they'll provide the rest of my counseling for free as long as I return the paperwork they're sending me to my therapist when I return to my sessions next week. I qualify for free sessions. See?! God is good and He provides!

Okay, food... right... gotta eat. :D

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Letting Go of Perfection

I will be the first to admit that I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. And by "somewhat" I mean "lady, sing 'Let it Go' because perfection is unattainable."

Towards the middle-end of Lent, I asked the four people who know me best what they thought I needed to work on. Wanting to be the best version of myself, I knew there were things I would undoubtedly be in denial of. My bestie replied -- honestly but gently -- that I'm too hard on myself and that I'm quick to put myself down. It's true. It's a horrible habit that I developed in my pre-teens/teens. I can pinpoint with whom it started and why I took it hard. While I'm not angry nor do I hold ill will towards the person, it became clear that this needed to change. I was so much happier and healthier before this habit became stubborn and hard to shake off. Wanting to be more confident and comfortable with who I am, I decided to make this change.

Slowly, I noticed my perfectionist/negative side keeping me back on matters of the faith. Honesty time: I can border on being scrupulous at times. "No, we have to do things this way" or "Oh, my... if I do/don't do x, y, and z I won't be able to receive communion." Sound familiar to anyone? Two Sundays ago my mother called to ask if I could help her at work because she was feeling anxious and overwhelmed with the workload. I was so tempted to say "It's Sunday! It's supposed to be a day of rest" but then I thought about what Jesus might be happier with -- the fact that I observed the day of rest or that I decided to help my mother out when she needed help, regardless of whether it was a day of rest or not. I decided to choose to help her out. I was reminded of how the Pharisees were all about doing things by the book and how they got in a snit and (basically) said "um, hello, Jesus you can't perform miracles on a Sabbath!" I don't want to be a Pharisee. I'd rather do what I think God would be most pleased with. I got in the car, drove to Mom's work, and helped her fold what needed to be folded. (side note for new readers: my mother works in the laundry at a convalescent hospital.) I got great joy out of helping her, not only because I was able to do a little thing to make her stress levels lower but also because I genuinely love folding laundry.

When it came to prayer life and I saw that I couldn't concentrate at times I would beat myself up over it. This is something I've done for years. I still do it at times. In fact, I have so many things going on this morning that I couldn't concentrate on my morning prayers. I wanted to -- I even repeated some things a couple of times -- but my mind just wouldn't cooperate with me. When I couldn't concentrate on something in the past, I would groan and be hard on myself. "I want to do this!" "I can do this... why can't I do this? What's wrong with me?" I wanted to do things "right" the first time. Over the years I've had numerous priests tell me that I'm too hard on myself over the years but it never sunk in until my bestie pointed it out to me. I'm so glad I asked her because it's started this great journey that's enriched my prayer life and my relationship with God.

I'm also learning to let go in other parts of my life and trying to remind myself that so-called perfection is truly unattainable. Nope, you can't convince me otherwise. I've turned a new leaf. Instead of worrying about perfection, I try to see the beauty in things. As I was driving to church this past Sunday I noticed that a driver had failed to use his signal to make a left turn. This is a pet peeve of mine because a lot of accidents could be avoided if people would just use their signals properly. Instead of ranting about it and how it affected me, I noticed the mountain range in front of me and thought "wow, what a beautiful sunrise we're getting." That helps; being mindful of other things instead of what you can't control (which, really, is most things) makes letting go a bit easier.

One of the benefits of letting go has been that my anxiety levels have greatly diminished. I still have moments in which I momentarily relapse into my old ways of thinking but, thankfully, I've been able to pause and snap back into how I need to let things go. It's not easy nor will it be for a long time. This is a bad habit I've had for nearly two decades so it's not going to go away overnight. Still, I'm going to try and I'm optimistic. I'm going to work hard at it until it's automatic for me. It can be done. My CBT therapist even told me that it's possible so there's hope. ;) Rome wasn't built in a day... God didn't create everything in a single day... I won't change overnight. ♪ Let it go, let it go... ♪ lol, sorry.

Anyway, those who know me well enough to be happy over this development, I give y'all permission to keep me accountable. If you see me slipping back into this pattern of negativity, snap me out of it! Don't let me be a Pharisee! It takes a village... or any army... or something. :-P

Alright, it's still early in the day (before noon, yes!) and I want to get a couple of things done/started before I have to go pick up Mom from work so that's it for today. I hope to have the last Lenten lesson posted tomorrow. Stay tuned. ;)

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Rearranging Priorities

At the end of this Lenten season I came to one huge, defining moment in my life: after being constantly plugged into the online world since I was 16 years old, I have come to realize that I don't like being plugged in. Not only that, I love living life away from it because I've come to realize what's important to me. I do still need the internet -- for schooling and to keep up with friends who find it easier to email -- but I'm so much happier and less stressed without it. I know I've already written a lot on this (unplugging) so I'm just going to move on onto other big changes.

I'm well known for procrastinating when I don't like doing something. This is one of the biggest changes I made during Lent. If it feels like a tedious chore or if I'm tired and lazy, I'm going to put off on doing it until I "feel like it." I have to be "in the mood" to do something or else it's not getting done. I think this is my version of rebellion since I didn't rebel against my parents as a child or a teenager. I kept doing it until I remember that St. Therese did little things even though she didn't have to or want to do them. She offered up these little acts for others. Inspired by this, I started doing the same.

Okay, I'll admit that I was also inspired by this audiobook I listened to a few weeks ago called At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. Between St. Therese and the books (yes, plural) by Mrs. Scott, I realized what I needed changes and what I was okay with. Procrastinating and not doing things until I "felt like it" will more often than not result in anxiety or even a panic attack, especially if time is a factor. Not doing things because I "don't feel like it" is no longer an option for me. I do things because they need to be done. No excuses, unless I'm sick and incapable of doing them. Even then, I try to do something while sitting down, even if it's time in prayer. If something feels like a burden, I offer it up for souls in purgatory or for anyone whose prayer intention I remember in that moment but I do it anyway.

I'll be honest, the majority of what I worked on were things that as a single lady works but as a future wife and mother wouldn't. I didn't start Lent wanting to change a lot of things that revolved around my vocation (big V) but that's how it ended up. God would show me things about myself that I didn't like and knew I needed to change and it would automatically be connected to my future vocation. I didn't sit and think about it; the connections would automatically pop up in my mind. When I have a husband and children to look after, I can't not do something just because I don't feel like it. I'm going to have to do them whether I like it or not. My priorities will be taking care of my family and helping them in any way that I can so it can't be about my own selfish wants and needs.

I learned that I loved doing housework. Correction: I learned that I wouldn't mind being "stuck" in the house with a family if we could afford it and/or was necessary. I wouldn't mind being a working mother either (I've sort of expected this because that's all I knew growing up; my mom's always been a working mother) but I always worried that I would get bored being a housewife. Silly but there you have it. I found a real joy in cleaning. Washing dishes, vacuuming, cooking, baking -- I love the domestic life. The former "feminist"/"independent woman" side of me is officially dead. My former Sociology/Women's Studies professor would undoubtedly cringe and mourn the death of my former self if she ever found out. lol.

Another huge change was my prayer life. I tend to get bored doing the same routine (as the same time) every day so I switched it up. I added the Litany of Humility and the Chaplet of St. Michael to my usual routine of daily consecration to the Virgin Mary, daily Rosary, and daily morning, evening, and nighttime prayers from the Little Office. While it may seem overwhelming (and it can feel that way if I have to do most of it at night after a busy day), it's not. My time in prayer adds up to maybe an hour every day. God gives me so much more so why can't I take an hour (albeit broken up throughout the day) to pray and just reconnect with Him every day? I pray the Rosary at different times of the day so I don't get bored with the routine. Not that prayer is boring -- it certainly isn't -- but my mind wanders so easily when I have a lot going on. I need those random breaks to refocus on God (and I'll write more about this in another post.)

My faith is important to me. My mother is important to me. My future husband and children are already important to me and this is something I don't even have to worry about right now. Keeping my house (well, apartment) clean, having dishes washed, every person in the house rested and fed, doing things that need to be done first and relaxing/having time for myself second have all become important to me. All the changes and the rearrangement in priorities were much needed. Instead of wasting time online and then rushing to get everything else done at the last minute, I have a more fulfilling life offline doing what I like (or, sometimes, don't like) for those who are most important to me.

It may not seem like some huge, life altering change but it is to me. I'm the kind of person who likes routine and feeling comfortable doing her own thing. At the same time, I've been very selfish with my time. I've learned that I can't always do that. I can't be selfish all the time but I also don't feel guilty watching something on Netflix once everything is done and taken care of. If I can spare an hour or two to watch a movie or a TV series I like, I will. Balance and moderation (as I wrote in the last post) goes hand-in-hand with where my priorities are now. Self-care is important, too, y'all. ;)

I start the Spring quarter in exactly one week from today so it'll be interesting to see how I rearrange other things to fit this new start into my life. I know that my schoolwork will be a priority over watching another Monarch of the Glen episode for the millionth time but I'll also have to remind myself to balance that with my home life (i.e. keeping the household clean) and self-care. I'm going to try my best to not make schoolwork my priority over eating and sleeping again. No, don't want to fall down that rabbit hole again.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm going to watch another episode of my guilty pleasure show (which is only 24 minutes long) before I get back to do some self-care. I've ran errands, bought groceries, and cleaned the house, so I can watch another 24-minute episode (my second one, thankyouverymuch) before I do something else. ;)

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Hey y'all! Just a quick post to wish y'all a Happy Easter! Alleluia! He is Risen! :D

While I was trying to drift off to sleep last night, I had a very interesting thought pop up: why do we make a big deal out of the Resurrection for just a day (or a week, for us Catholics) and then we sort of forget to celebrate and/or meditate on it until the following year? Why don't we keep that in mind during the entire year, during times of hardship? Just some food for thought on this glorious (but cloudy, at least in my part of L.A.) day. ;)

Anyway, leaving y'all with the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah as sung by the Royal Choral Society in the UK. It's been playing in my mind since last night because I've been so excited for today. ;)

Have a blessed Easter Sunday. I should be back to posting tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. :)

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

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lenten Lesson: Balance and Moderation

Remember how frazzled I was the day before Lent began because I had poor time management and was "too busy" with life? Yes, I'm going to talk some more about being busy. No, this isn't another "being busy is bad" post. I do, however, still think that we've made an idol out of being busy and that sometimes we just don't know when to let some things go and take care of ourselves.

This is the first in my planned series of my Lenten lessons blog posts. I'm not sure how many I'll do (at least four total; this post and three others that I have in my drafts) but this is one of the biggest lessons I learned this Lent: balance and moderation.

Where to start? Hmm... Oh! Anyone remember how I had every intention to only read Catholic books this Lent? Yep, it didn't happen. I had (and still have) too many books on my LAPL holds list; being "in line" to borrow a book for weeks or even months at a time. Because I didn't want to wait for them again, I decided to read them. I'm glad I ended up letting go of this particular Lenten intention because, thanks to a couple of those non-Catholic books, I realized that a balance was needed between being busy for the sake of being busy and being beings with a (good) purpose. Not only that, I finally figured out the balance that works out best for me between being too plugged in and not being plugged in at all.

When I started my recovery break (from school) in mid-December of last year, I wanted to do nothing after being ridiculously busy for (what seems like) ages. I wanted a vacation from having long to-do lists. I know I tend to take on too much and spread myself too thin. This leads to me getting completely burnt out after a while. It's a horrible, vicious cycle I've had for at least 10 years now. Seriously, I can pinpoint it to 2006, which (interestingly enough) was also the year I reverted to the faith. For years, I've wanted to do it all... and in as little time as possible so I could move onto the next thing on an impossible "goals" list. Then the accident happen and my health declined even more than it had in the past. Looking back, I'm grateful that I was basically forced to slow because I was close to burning myself out again. However this "want to do nothing" ideal didn't exactly work as I planned. I became busy with a redundant cycle that was a waste of time thanks to having too much free time. Oops.

How did my average day look like?
- Turn off iPod touch alarm.
- Check email.
- Check Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and check email again.
- Get up and make breakfast.
- Check social media again.
- Pray.
- Check social media again. Lose myself for hours on this.
- Lunch with mom; distracted by checking social media at the table.
- Netflix and more social media.
- Evening/nighttime prayers.
- More Netflix and social media.
- Sleep.

Repeat. Every. Single. Day. Sundays would include Mass and the odd day would include grocery shopping or errands but that was what my day usually looked like. Completely unproductive but still busy because (as y'all know) you get sucked down a rabbit hole and it's hard to get out of it. One YouTube video leads to another. One link leads to 10 more. A conversation turns into something more. Basically, I was still busy but instead of being busy with something like schoolwork or something productive, I was "busy" with stuff that was fleeting and, really, a waste of time. I've already written about unplugging here and here so I won't repeat myself.

"Well, what am I going to do now?" I asked myself. "I think this is how I've always been." And, yes, looking back at my life, I've always done something. I'm rarely ever inactive, even if that busyness is all mental. In fact, in the 6th grade I was given the "Busy Bee" award from my teachers. The certificate said "Always reading, always doing something." It took some soul searching (and a couple of solid books that got me thinking about making changes) but in the end I've come to understand that not all "busyness" is bad. In fact, I found myself more busy after I unplugged but it became busyness with a purpose.

I agree with this Verily article in which the author talks about how being busy with things that fulfill your life doesn't stress you out. Though I'm busier now than when I was in the endless virtual cycle of nothingness, I find myself a lot more calm and happier. My prayers have not only increased but the quality of them has gotten better. Sure, I still space out and my mind wanders but I'm still at a better place than before. I also found myself being less selfish and being more charitable with my time, actions, and words. What I busied myself with was done for a greater good, not just because I was bored and did whatever appealed to me to entertain myself.

I'm glad that I was also "forced" to slow down with my grad school load as well. As I had previously mentioned, a few weeks ago it was decided that bring my course load to half-time instead of full time was necessary. Instead of graduating next year, I'll be graduating in 2018. The rush I felt about finishing and starting work isn't there any longer but a) I know that that will be the speed that will work best for me so I don't feel overwhelmed and b) because I realize (and, finally, know it in my heart as well) that letting go of my own timeline and letting God slowly reveal His plans for me in His own time has been working well for during this season. With Spring quarter about to begin on April 4th, I'm feeling excited but not stressed out like I had been before.

As for being plugged in, I didn't want to go from one extreme (being too plugged in) to the other (not being plugged in at all). I think that's why I'm still doing what I wrote about a couple of posts ago; it gives me a nice balance. I can make time for friends who find it easier to communicate online while still having my time away from the all the craziness and drama (llama dama-da-ding-ding-ding-dong...) Towards the end of Lent I've gone one more -- I log out completely from FB because I don't want to see the notifications first thing in the morning when I wake up and turn off the alarm (since I currently use my iPod touch for it; I'll get a physical alarm clock when I have a little wiggle room for a good one). My relationship with my mother has gotten better and I find myself in a healthier place (mentally, spiritually, emotionally) being unplugged. We'll see how the balance continues after I start the Spring quarter since my entire degree will be online. Still, I have faith in myself (or, at the very least, faith that God will help me during moments of weakness) and am optimistic that it'll all work out.

Oh! One more thing: if you didn't know (and I don't think I mentioned it on the blog): I've gained like 7 lbs since the start of Lent. Seriously! I think I may be out of the underweight category (I won't know until I get weighed again and I'm guessing that may not happen until the following week) but, well, I was eating too much. Like, TOO much. 'Sup, gluttony? Yeah, I didn't think I would ever have an issue overeating (though I've been known to eat pretty well despite being naturally athletic/thin; super fast metabolism, I guess) but it happened during Lent and it was corrected during Lent thanks to some priestly advice. Balance. Moderation. Repeat.

So, there you have it. Some of the things I had to find a balance for during the Lenten season. There's more but it'll come in future blog posts. ;)

Anyway, I really don't want to be online too much today (I feel so great when I can ignore laptop AND cell phone) so that's it for today. I probably won't post again until after Easter Sunday so I hope y'all have a fruitful Easter Triduum.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lessons from St. Joseph

Originally posted on March 19, 2015 with some new thoughts added.

I took this picture of the sculpture of St. Joseph and the child Jesus at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels here in L.A. :)

Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His feast day this year is of particular importance to me because it's the first one I can honestly say that -- despite years of being elusive to me -- I can thank him for coming through for me (through his intercession) in a big way.

As you've read in the title, I've had a hard time really understanding St. Joseph in the past. Every time I thought about learning as much as I could about him (which isn't too much since very little is known about him and his life), I'd get sidetracked and/or another saint would come to mind. This was the same pattern I had for years, until doubt came to mind and I began to understand St. Joseph a bit more.

I don't remember exactly what I was questioning at the time (odds are that it was either about my vocation or my career path) but I remember feeling unsettled by the indecision and doubt I had. "Who is the patron saint against doubt?" St. Joseph, of course. That set off my curiosity on St. Joseph once again... and my journey to understanding him a little better.

There's not much known about St. Joseph but what is known about him speaks volumes. He was the holy spouse of our Blessed Mother and the adoptive father of Jesus, a role that couldn't have been filled by just anyone. I'm sure there are a number of incredibly qualities (unknown to man) that St. Joseph possessed to have been chosen as the man worthy of protecting both Mama Mary and a young Jesus. That got me thinking about my own future spouse. I don't know who he will be but I pray for him. I ask St. Joseph to intercede, not only to help me find a good, holy husband who will bring me and our future children closer to God, but to help him become a man who is willing to do God's will and to love Him more than he loves anyone or anything else, myself included.

Everyone has had or will have doubts in their lives. Life is so uncertain that it's unavoidable. The biggest thing I've learned from St. Joseph is to let go. He was put in a situation in which indecision and doubt was present but he knew that he had to trust in God while protecting his family. How many men (or women) can say that; that they're put in situations that seem impossible yet they surrender that fear and indecision and trust in God's guidance? It's becoming more and more rare these days. You know how I've been trying to do just this (learning to let go of things) for months? I think I've finally gotten to where I need to be in terms of simply trusting God to guide me down the path he wants me to go on.

These past couple of weeks (starting a few weeks before Lent), I've felt like God has been leading me down an unexpected (and way overdue, due to my past fear and stubbornness) path but I completely trust Him. From applying to a new grad school and considering a new career path (with a Master's in Theology still in the cards, hence the application to another orthodox Catholic university) to moving forward with my vocation (after being stuck for quite some time), something exciting is happening but I'm not going to try to figure things out. I'm going to let God be my guide. No impatience, no fear, no doubts... just trust, hope, faith, and lots of prayer.

So, to sum it all up, I would like to thank St. Joseph for all he's taught me this year... and for the prayers (some of which I didn't mention) that he's helped me with. I only scratched the surface in this post but I'm trying to keep my blog posts relatively short so this is all you're getting this time around. ;)


Even though this was originally posted last year, it all still holds true. I've been learning (it's still an ongoing process) to let go and let God take over. I still think about St. Joseph and his complete trust in Him. While I don't have doubts about my vocation (the part of the discernment that I can do by myself has been done; now to wait for the fella), what grad school to attend (so happy at JP Catholic), or career (I hope to be able to share something about this in the next couple of weeks), life is still unpredictable. I know I won't always know where things are headed. I can pray about them and hope for the best and trust that no matter what, God will always be by my side to help me navigate through it.

Anyway, I have a library eBook due in like 2 hours or so so I'm going to go finish reading that. :)

I hope y'all have a lovely weekend! :D

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Temper and Turning the Other Cheek

As I was meditating on today's third Sorrowful Mystery (the Crowning with Thorns) I thought about how there is one change over the years that I'm not happy with: how I've lost the ability to turn the other cheek when others attack me. I thought about how Jesus was mocked and spat on and yet he did nothing in return. What an admirable trait, one that I wish to restore in my life.

I don't know when it happened but sometime in the past couple of years I've become quick to respond and let my temper take over when I feel attacked. I don't like it. At all. I never used to be like this. I used to be better at holding my tongue, of being able to internalize it before I acted on it. I don't know if the change came as a result of my father's death (after the initial mourning period), of cognitive-behavioral therapy that wasn't properly taught to me, or if my time at my CINO college alma mater brought it out. Maybe it was a combination of all three, who knows. All I know is that during this Lenten season I've noticed this negative aspect in myself, that I didn't like it, and that I want to try to be more mindful of how I react, like I used.

I'm not saying I want to go back to the exact same way it was because I used to internalized it (read: bottle it up) and it made my anxiety and panic attacks worse. I don't want that. What I need to do is to find a balance between internalizing it and speaking out. When I say "speaking out" I mean defending myself against unjust words... and even then, I need to learn to try to look for cues on whether it's even worth speaking out against or if it'll make the situation worse.

I wanted to read Overcoming Sinful Anger by Fr. T. Morrow for Lent because I've noticed that I've become more irritable in general ever since my father died and I want to change that. Since I ended up focusing on unplugging and quieting the world (because a lot of things I ended up taking to the confessional came as a result of the (way too much) time I was spending online), I didn't get a chance to read it but God still opened my eyes and my heart about starting this change during the remaining days of Lent.

I started cognitive-behavioral therapy three weeks ago for some linger anxiety issues and I hope it will help; this is one of the things I'm going to work on in my short-term program. Since my therapist seems to be Buddhist (and has suggested I do yoga and meditation which is not compatible to the Catholic faith; the stretches are okay but the spiritual component obviously isn't), I'm going to have to tweak some things from therapy such as using Gregorian chant when I need to clear my mind when I'm mentally overwhelmed.

I'm sharing this for two reasons. First, because I know this is a problem that many people have. How many of us wish we could just turn the other cheek when someone verbally bashes us? You know, after the initial anger dies down. I miss having that ability. I know I'm capable of it... I just lost that part of myself somewhere down the line. The second reason is because I'm wondering how many people saw what they needed to work on in their lives during Lent but, for whatever reason, thought to themselves "oh, this isn't a problem..."

It's very hard to accept that there's some things that we need to work on, especially when they're bad habits or a negative aspect of ourselves that we've tried to deny. Do you think I liked admitting that I've had a temper problem in recent years? No, I did not. I tried to justify or excuse my actions but I just can't anymore. "I'm just defending myself" and "oh, but I cool off after a few minutes" (which is true; I just need to be left alone to cool down for a little while) only goes so far. I think I'd rather turn the other cheek and learn to deal with how to process what was said or done to me without letting it affect my sensitive side as much as it has in the past; dealing with those words and actions in a healthier manner. It's not going to be easy (even when meditating on the cruel things Jesus endured towards the end of his life) because in the heat of the moment I only think about how upset or hurt I am. Still, I know it's something that needs to change. God has already shown me that it's possible, I simply need to work on it.

Anyway, that's it for now. Sorry for the ongoing gaps between posts; I've been busier (with important things) lately and haven't had the concentration (due to the stress) or the time (poor time management at times) to either write or even read the books I have from the library. That crazy, folks! I think I may have something up for St. Joseph's feast day tomorrow since he is my patron saint for the year. We'll see. ;)

I hope y'all have had a wonderful week and that you have a lovely weekend.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Unplugging and Quieting the World, Part Two

Hello and welcome back to the show. I'm your host. :-P If you haven't read part one, you can check it out here. :)

Now, where was I...? Oh yes, unplugging from technology. First, I want to say that there's nothing wrong with being plugged in. Technology is great and can do a lot of good. However, some of us (yes, myself included) sometimes use it because we're bored or because we've become addicted. It's our go-to when we find ourselves not wanting silence. Let's face it, many of us just don't like silence and it's quite easy to get online and/or get distracted. 

I've personally experienced all I've written. I get bored easily if I have nothing stimulating my mind but the internet doesn't always provide stimulating content that will allow me to grow very much. It's more mind-numbing distractions than anything else. Sometimes we need a break from the chaos and the distractions online are great for that... but I think most of us tend to use it a bit too much. 

Do you older Millennials (and those over 35) remember what we used to do as kids when we got bored? I mean, besides watch TV? We used to draw, paint, write, play sports, go outside, etc. We had hobbies. We had more fulfilling friendships. Our creativity helped entertain us. I'm not saying that we should completely reject technology in favor of more simple things but why not try to find a balance so our life isn't just online?

Social media is wonderful to stay informed and keep in touch with others but it gives us a false sense of being connected to others. I could scroll down a friend's Facebook profile or Twitter feed and think I know what's going on with them but very few of us show every side of ourselves online. I know I'm personally guilty of trying to show only the positive side out of fear of what others may think of me. In a way, it's like, as one of my favorite vloggers recently said, we're performing. 

I'll be honest with y'all: I don't like who I am or how I feel when I'm online too much. Every time I take breaks from social media and/or from turning on my laptop and/or iPod touch, I feel a lot better. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and I can be who I am. Why? Because I feel constrained online. There's too much noise. There's too much negativity. It drains me spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and eventually physically. 

Sometimes I just want to share something that makes me feel good... and then it's met with negative comments or snide remarks. I know I'm sensitive and I'm trying to let everything roll off of me but sometimes it's just too much. When that happens, I get defensive when other comments are made, whether they are good or not, because I automatically feel as if I'm being attacked. I don't like that I get defensive online and that it remains with me offline for a while. I don't like the uncharitable comments it produces, on- and offline. Basically, I don't like how what happens online influences me offline. 

I remember life right before technology took over. It was right before I got my very first computer as a freshman in high school. I was one of the last in my class to get a computer (I had used a typewriter to do my homework up until then). With the introduction of email (one of the first emails I got was a former classmate telling me to kill myself) and then AIM (AOL instant messenger), the problems started. The anxiety -- which began my freshman year of high school -- got worse.

There's a lot of negativity online and I don't want to be a part of it. That's why staying offline as much as possible has appealed to me. God has opened my eyes and shown me that I've thrived better offline but that, in moderation, I can use social media and what is offered online to enrich my life. 

Without social media, I would've never met some of my best friends offline. Without social media and the internet, I don't think I would've gotten the courage to leave the terrible path I was on before my reversion. Without online resources, I wouldn't be learning as much as I can about Catholicism... nor would I be doing my Master's degree at an orthodox Catholic University. Without social media and websites, I wouldn't hear about the good, lovely stories that exist which I don't hear much of since the news tends to favor biased, disastrous, and fear-inducing stories.

So what does this all mean for me? It means keeping Twitter as is post-Lent with the occasional logging in to check DMs and share the odd link or random but positive tweet. I like how I have Facebook set up at the moment so I'm going to keep it as it -- choosing to check it only a couple of times per week. The blog stays as is, though I hope to write more often now that I am getting the time to do so. Everything I wrote yesterday -- the new rules for screen time -- will become the new norm. When I get bored, I'm going to try reading a book or doing something with limited technology. I don't expect it to be easy but nothing that is worthwhile is easy.  I've heard that it takes about 8 weeks for something to become a habit so I'll remind myself when I slip and/or feel discouraged.

One more thing before I end this post: does anyone remember how, a few months ago, I said that I had an issue with silence? How I hated silence and how I felt like I needed Gregorian chant to pray at times because of how much I couldn't stand the silence? I'm happy to report that this is no longer an issue. Since I've given up music on Tuesdays and Fridays during Lent (which I may keep after Lent), I've learned to be okay without music and/or noise in general. Listening to the birds singing, to the clock ticking, to the outside noise while everything is still indoors has been absolutely lovely. 

Side note: admitted, I failed the "no music" thing yesterday (Friday) when Mom started watching The Quebe Sisters and then Andrea Bocelli on PBS stations last night. I could've gotten up and walked out of the room but I didn't because I wanted to listen to the music and I made weakling excuses to stay. lol. But, in a way, it helped me remember that I'm doing this because I want to have more time in prayer and because I want to be more mindful about what I listen to. I still got my prayer time and the music I was listening to wasn't objectionable in content (at least, not that I was aware of) so it was failure with a valuable lesson. :)

Anyway, what I've just written is what works for me and this is not me shaming any of you for anything. If you disagree, that's okay.  If more time online works for you, keep at it but please be careful about what is shared. If something I've written makes you realize you need to make some changes, credit God for the transformation in me that has allowed me to help you since none of this could've been possible without His guidance. 

That's all from me for today. It's still early in the day so I want to get Casa Emmy cleaned, dishes washed, and my conscience examined before Mom gets off from work. I'm actually looking forward to all of this because I quite enjoy housekeeping. A lot. Anti-tradition feminists would hate me. lol. 

I hope y'all have a lovely rest of weekend! :D

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

Friday, March 11, 2016

Unplugging and Quieting the World, Part One

If you just heard a little happy "woop!" that was me for I have the next 24 hours in the house, without having to go/drive somewhere. Hooray! Yes, I know I was desperate to get my car back but I've spent the last week catching up on all the errands that we couldn't get to without the car. As someone who gets very tired with too much continuous stimulation, I'm exhausted but very happy that everything has been taken care of and I now have time to unwind and blog. :)

As most of you who follow me on Twitter and regularly read the blog know I decided to limit my time on social media for Lent. Even though Lent is not over just yet, I've already seen the fruits of this decision and it's prompted me to want to continue it beyond the Lenten season.

I am officially off Twitter until Easter Sunday. I take Tuesdays and Fridays off of my private Facebook account as well as I'm offering it up for a personal reason. I make sure I logout of the website and apps the night before in case I click the app (out of habit) which I do at least 2-3 times a day. The less time I spend on social media, the less I see the need to be on it all day every day. I'm sure it's the combinations of the loss of FOMO (fear of missing out) and, most importantly, God changing what matters most to me and what's in my heart.

I used to use the excuse that all my friends moved away and that I needed to be on social media so I wouldn't miss out on their lives. Over the Lenten season my perspective on that has changed a bit. I've decided to make more of an effort to stay in touch with those whose friendship I value most. Some of those people will be getting updated snail mail letters from me (even if they haven't replied to my last letter), others will be getting emails and/or phone calls, and those closest (in distance) will be getting lunch invites. There's a reason why I've chosen to do this: I've become aware of how much relationships (whether they be familiar, platonic, or romantic) greatly suffer from us being so plugged into everything.

I've only read about 20% of Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk by Sherry Turkle (it was on loan from the library; I'm on the waiting list to renew and finish it) but I've agreed with the author; we don't know how to communicate with others without the use of technology. Our times with our families isn't really quality time because there's always a screen or two (or more) present. Relationships suffer due to it. When I noticed that, indeed, I was too plugged in and that I value those in my life, I decided to make some "radical" changes.

I downgraded my internet speed to a one that would still be good for streaming on Roku and for my classes (lecture videos). Since I'm the only person who uses the internet in this household, we don't need all those high-speed options that the cable company offers. When the TV is on (whether it be a movie or Roku), the laptop, cell phone, and iPod are to be ignored. When one of the other screens is on, the others are off.

I also have a new screen-free rule when I'm with others. No screens unless I get a message, a phone call, or need to look up something while we're out... and if I'm in the middle of something and I'm not expecting a message or call, it gets ignored until I'm done talking to the other person. When eating, there's no screens at the table and no calls or texts get answered until we're done eating. 

I found out when the peak hours for the LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) are so I purposely don't charge any electronics (nor do I use much electricity) during those hours. It's not just to save money (and we've already seen that it's worked in a couple of weeks), but it also keeps me from being tempted to stay plugged in. If the laptop, iPod, and/or phone get drained, they'll stay that way until peak hours are over. Then things get charged. That's also why I bit the bullet and purchased a Kindle; because they don't get drained as easily as the Kindle app on my iPod touch. 

I've only done this for a couple of weeks but I've already noticed a huge difference. As mentioned, it's been kinder on our wallet. Not only that, my relationships offline are getting stronger and communication is flowing better. I've noticed an internal change as well but I'll wait to see what the rest of the Lenten season brings before I share those changes with everyone. ;)

Oh, did I mention that I've also decided to keep my phone silent unless I'm awaiting for a phone call? Yes, I've also done that. Quieting the world has done me a world of good. Not being plugged in, even when I'm out and feeling bored or in constant need (false need, by the way) of being entertained, has been great. I've enjoyed noticing things I haven't before. I've enjoyed having more time to pray and to build on my relationship with the Lord. 

There is more I want to write but I'll wait for part two because this post is already quite long for short attention spans and, let's be honest, the more plugged in we are, the worse our attention spans are. Yes, mine included. Yes, this is also a hint at what I'll write about in part two. :) I may write it later today and schedule it for tomorrow or Sunday. We shall see. :D

Anyway, I'm off to have a late lunch with Mom since she's back home from work. I hope y'all are having a lovely day and have had a great week thus far. :D

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

Monday, March 7, 2016

Cars and Death

Hey everyone! Sorry for the absence in blogging. I took a couple of days off for myself and then life got super hectic and I just didn't have time to write until today. However, I'm back. I'm going to break what I want to share into two separate posts because I have a lot that's been going on and it would be overkill for one single post. First the good and the bad which are both sort of connected.

First, to quote Missy Elliott: ♪ beep beep, who's got the keys to the Jeep? Vrooooom... ♪ I got my car back on Friday evening. Hooray! I want to thank everyone who donated to the GoFundMe fundraiser Alli set up for me in October. It (and donations we got offline) helped pay for almost all of the expenses to get my car running again. It's not 100%, obviously. We had some major communication issues with the mechanic and the car looks good for how bad it was after the accident. There are a few things that can be overlooked. First. he didn't paint it as we assumed he would so some of the paint is peeling in the back. Also, the car is making a noise, the alarm and the electrical stuff isn't working properly (which my next-door neighbor offered to try to fix for me; the alarm at least) nor is the driver's side signal light working (which I'm going to fix by myself). It's a new type of headache but a lot of it is stuff won't make a huge impact on the driving so we're okay.

I think having a car with peeling paint and not working 100% is good for me because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I need to let go of not having things be "perfect" as well as learning to not stress over things that aren't really important. The sound the car is making is apparently nothing to be worried about, it's just annoying as heck. I'm going to see if someone can help with that because the sound bugs me. I don't like calling attention to myself and that noise is certainly loud enough that people notice. I already reached out to the mechanic about getting it properly fixed but that's apparently not going to happen. He's ignoring my calls again and so we're going to look elsewhere.

The important thing is that I have my car back, it works, and I only had about 15 seconds of anxiety when I first started driving. I think a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I'm driving as if I didn't have an accident. Yes, I was a little jumpy yesterday because I'm not used to the craziness of L.A. drivers after nearly 5 months of not driving but I'll get used to that so it's all good. :D

On Friday, before we got our car back, we (Mom and I) went to the optometrist to get new glasses for both of us. What we weren't prepared for was the news that awaited us. We were expecting to see our optometrist / family friend but we found out she was killed in a car accident by someone who ran the red light in July of last year. It sounded a lot like my accident except I was lucky to escape with a couple of bumps and bruises.

Dr. Julie Kang-Kim (that was her name) was one of those salt of the earth kind of people. She was so lovely and supportive after my dad died. She was there for both Mom and I. One of her employees even went to the burial the day of his funeral; it's like a family. They've watched me literally grow up over the years since I've been going there since I was like 7 years old. It was a beautiful friendship with her, not just business. We went to lunch with her and we caught up on our lives when we saw each other. She was such a lovely, gentle, and caring person so hearing about her death was a huge blow for us. Mom cried but I held it in because of my eye exam. I know I sent out an Instagram post about it but if you could please say a prayer for her soul and her loved ones, I'd be so grateful.

I think the news of her accident before I received my car back as well as what I went through has made Mom (and big bro) a little nervous about me driving. It's understandable. Last year was a bit crazy in terms of accidents and bad things happening but I think we have to look at those things as lessons. As I told my mom, I think it was good for me because the accident made me slow down and learn to take better care of myself. It also made us more grateful for what we have. We also grew closer to God, which is always a blessing.

It seems oddly appropriate that we're going through this now, during Lent, because it reminds us about how death is a part of life. It's not a topic that one loves to think about (and, to be honest, death does scare me) but it's a chance to remind ourselves about how death is not the end. If one wants to spend eternity in Heaven, one must strive to live a holy life. It's not easy and we all slip from time to time but Lent reminds us of God's infinite mercy. Yesterday's Gospel reminded us of that: we may fail and come back repentant but God will always welcome back with open arms. Going to confession and receiving the Eucharist frequently can help us get a little closer to our goal of getting into Heaven. We never know when our time on this earth is up for it's important to keep working towards a holy life.

Anyway, sorry to end this on such a downer (with hope!) but we've been getting thunderstorms today and they're supposed to start again in a couple of minutes (according to the Weather Channel app) so I'm going to end this blog here. Also, the other topic I want to write about is longer than this update and I don't want to write a book just yet. ;)

I hope y'all have been doing well and are having a great start of week!

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