Sunday, February 28, 2016

Ladies, I Need Your Help

Before I get into what I need help with (and I really do), let me tell you what inspired my current dilemma.

I was in a grumpy mood this entire weekend (side note: car related) so, knowing that I had to distract myself when I'm a grump, I threw myself into a new project: Emmy's Wardrobe Overhaul. This is where I've entered new territory because I've never been particularly into clothes. Gentlemen, I'm not sure this post will interest you but feel free to read if you're curious.

Basically, last year I decided that I needed an overhaul of my wardrobe because a) my clothes are getting worn out from the years of use, c) I've lost a lot of weight in recent months and I'm having a hard time regaining it (read: pants keep falling down), and c) my style has changed over the years. Some of the blouses I have I've had (and still use) a decade later. I take good care of my clothes (I am my mother's daughter; she's worked in laundry for 40+ years) so they last a long time. Sadly, because it's been years since I've purchased clothes, I need to replace almost everything. Last time I bought pants? Um... 2-3 years ago at the most recent. Shirts? About the time length of time. Sweaters? Um... I want to say more than 5 years ago. Dress? Graduation, 2012. Yeah, seriously. The skinny jeans debate continues internally but I think I've figured out my current style... and it's expensive.

What my wardrobe used to be made up of: a lot of pieces from Forever 21 (prior to my finding out their shady dealings with their workers), Target, some Ann Taylor Loft, and a bunch of random stuff from random stores. Before that it was a lot of Wet Seal, Forever 21, Anchor Blue, Abercrombie, Pacsun, etc.

My style over the decades: I was a full on tomboy in my teens so there was a lots of sporty attire. My early 20s were a mix of sporty and casual. Mid 20s brought on girlier with casual. Late 20s were girly but clean and at 30 I'm a mix of "romantic and soft" but "classic and clean cut." Yes, I might've taken a quiz or five to figure it out. lol.

What I wish my wardrobe would consist of (a.k.a. what my current style is): Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Modcloth, J. Crew, Banana Republic, etc. If the Duchess of Cambridge wears it, I'll most likely want it, too. lol. Luckily H&M is within my sad budget but still... siiiiigh. A lot of what I like is in the Ralph Lauren price range. One dress that I really liked? $230. Ouch.

There is one big question that came up: is pricey clothing worth it? I'm Miss Frugal. I'll occasionally splurge if something is worth the $ but will more often look for a bargain or talk myself out of buying it all together. Since my clothes do last so long, I've been toying with the idea of doing a capsule wardrobe with higher end clothing. Part of me is like "yes! That Ralph Lauren top / dress / skirt would go well with so many things over the years" and the other part of me is in the "but it's so expensive!" It kind of feels almost sinful to spend so much money on clothes.

Ladies, help me out here: what do you think about splurging for a wardrobe that you plan on using over the years? I'm not into trends. I know what works for me. I don't care about not being "in season." I know what clothes I like, what colors work best with my weird light olive tone (it's considered "cool" which means a lot of jewel tones), and what my body shape (more pear shaped normally, a bit lanky right now) is. I know my body will most likely change whenever I have children but since that seems so far away (no fella anywhere near being a candidate), I don't have to worry about that anytime soon.

The other issue is the weight gain. My goal is around 125 because that's been my average from my teens to my mid-late 20s, not counting the last couple of years of health issues. I'm about 112-113 right now which is too small for my nearly 5'8" frame. Yeah, the stress from late last year really affected me. Should I buy a size up for the anticipated weight gain, wait a couple of months to see the progress, or stop making excuses to buy what I need now? I think I may buy a couple of inexpensive pants and skirts while I wait to see where my weight ends up but what about the rest? I need you ladies to talk me through this because I'm still fairly new to the caring about my wardrobe thing. lol.

If anyone else has any other stores or brands that you can recommend that are more budget conscience (read: good quality but under the triple digits), please let me know! I would splurge on a coat but paying over $200 for a dress seems like way too much to me. Tips? Advice? Offer to take me shopping (I do live in L.A. so the options aren't limited)? Talk me to me. ;)

Anyway, it's 1:44 a.m. right now so I'm going to finish this post and then try to get some sleep. I say "try" because I've slept almost all day for the past 3 days (yay stomach bug and stress combo) so I'm not exactly tired. My sleeping schedule is out of whack again. Oh well. Still planning on getting 5 hours of sleep to get it back on track. ;)

I hope y'all had/continue having a great weekend!

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

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dating Myself

No, not dating myself in the "using outdated slang" sense though that's always a fun way to make oneself feel old amongst pre-teens. Seriously, ask any of my nieces and nephews under 11 "who let the dogs out?" or tell them to "raise the roof" and they'll look at you with a perplexed expression.

In the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, I began seeing articles about how a single people should act, what they should do, and how they could "tolerate" or even "survive" the holiday. The term "Singles Awareness Day" bugs me, plain and simple. I guess I'm just not bitter about being single and I'm going to tell you why.

I'm not saying it's easy being single. I'm a 30 year-old single lady; there are always comments, especially when people learn how old I am. Do you know how often I get told that if I don't have kids anytime soon, chances that I won't be able to "bounce back" or that the baby will be born with a number of "defects" increases? Do you know how often the fact that I'm single gets thrown in my face? Do you know how often I have to hear my mom lament (though in a jokingly way; there's still truth behind it) about not having grandchildren to friends, family, and even strangers? Let me just put it this way: if I had a dollar for every time I've heard these comments since my mid-20s, I would quite possibly be able to pay off all my student loans -- for all three degrees I've studied for (Religious Studies B.A., Communicative Disorders & Deaf Education B.S., and Biblical Theology M.A.) When Catholic folks find out I'm single, some even push me to become a nun, despite my telling them it's not my vocation. I just smile and say I'm not my vocation but we all know I can get very tired of hearing that as well

The single life as a Catholic seems a little more difficult sometimes. Like everyone who takes their faith and their relationship with God seriously, I have my fears regarding my future vocation. Some of those fears are a little silly, some are understandable, but all are very real to me. Though I'm fiercely independent, I still go through periods in which the loneliness has hit pretty hard. I think what's really helped me out has been learning to entrust my loneliness to God and my discernment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Ever since I've done that, I have viewed this period of singlehood differently. Again, it doesn't mean it's easy; I've just learned how readjust how I view this season of life. I think that's why I'm not a bitter single on Valentine's Day.

I love love but I'm a romantic realist. I know what's real and what's fantasy. I love my Hallmark Channel chick flicks (especially the Christmas ones!) and romantic gestures but I know that real life is not like that. I've seen the ups and downs my friends have gone through with their spouses. I know getting married is not going to solve any loneliness I may occasionally feel. I don't expect any man to make me "feel complete" because I know only God can fill that role. I'm sort of a little ball of contradictions when it comes to this. I know enough about how I view love, romance, and my future vocation to know that my priorities are in the right place. My former spiritual director made sure I understood things. And while this is all great, there was one thing I was missing: knowing myself better.

I can do all those personality tests to find out what kind of person I am. I'm an INFP, a phlegmatic-sanguine (or a phlegmatic-melancholic, depending on the test), my love language is quality time, etc. However, this doesn't really do much to help me in terms of vocation. I think that's why I decided a little while ago (don't ask me how long; I don't keep track of these things) to "date" myself; to figure out what I can bring to a relationship or what I need to work on. I've already learned about a lot about myself -- a lot of things I either didn't want to acknowledge or accept or things I didn't know.

I've been looking at my relationships -- my relationship with my mom, my brother, and my friends (both male and female). I've noticed what makes me happy, what makes me grumpy, what my boundaries are, what I must do when I'm upset, and what will motivate me. I know that I need to communicate the fact that I'm upset when I'm in a funk because I tend to withdraw. I've learned that I need to tell those I love that I'm feeling grumpy so I can get a little bit of space to cool down. I also know that I thrive around people but that that introverted side of me still need to recharge after being around others for a couple of hours.

Last year I made my first attempts (in a long time) to actually be more active in my vocation discernment. Yes, this is a fancy way of saying that I tried my hand at dating. The experiences taught me about what I look for in a potential spouse. I've learned that I love open communication and hate leaving things unresolved. I'm surprisingly patient and open to criticism when it's done with love and no one is defensive or aggressive. While I love having my own space, I love spending quality time with the other person.While I don't like being teased too much (I'm usually Little Miss Serious Business), some people to tend to draw out the more silly and playful side of me that not many people get to see. I also learned that I don't like "online dating" websites so don't expect to see me on Catholic Match anytime soon. 

The best thing that I learned about "dating myself" is that I'm at a place in my life where I'm finally comfortable in my own skin and with my ever-growing relationship with God. I'm happy with who I am, even with the quirks and the flaws I need to learn to manage better. I'm comfortable enough to be open about them and not be ashamed for not being "perfect." I've finally figured out how I thrive and what sinks me not only in life and in my relationships but with God as well. I've learned that my heart is His until He says "alright, this man will help you grow closer to Me" and there is something absolutely beautiful about that. I've also learned that I'm never going to be done getting to know myself because, as all human beings, I'm still growing and changing. Things I liked and didn't like in my teens and 20s aren't the same now that I've entered my 30s.

Yes, things are terribly slow on the vocation (big V) front but He knows why. I know, I know... single ladies over the age of 25 (and especially in their late 20s to early-mid 30s) hate when people say that everything will happen in God's timing but I firmly believe that. Every single thing I've gone through as in some way, shape, or form helped prepare me for my life with my future husband. All I can do now is to continue praying for him and working on my relationship with God. I'm not going to dwell on being single or trying too hard to find someone but I will keep learning about myself and how to be a better version of myself for when the day comes. Now if he could only stop being such a guy and pull over and ask for directions because he's obviously lost on the highway of love... lol. ;)

I highly recommend that you lovely single ladies (and gentlemen!) get to know yourselves (even if it's stuff you don't want to acknowledge) while you wait. Don't dwell on the fact that you're single. There's so much you can do in the meantime. Learn what your gifts are, what makes you shine, what drains you, what you don't like. Take up a hobby. Do something you like, bonus points if it helps someone else. Work on your relationship with God. Learn how you thrive in relationships of all kinds, not just exclusively romantic in nature. Entrust your loneliness to God. Smile. If it's your vocation, it will happen. Take comfort in knowing that, even if the waiting time can be incredibly frustrating at times. :)

Anyway, just my two cents on this matter. Sorry I didn't post it earlier but, as I wrote yesterday, I had a couple of off days that delayed when this got published. :) And now I'm off to... I have no idea. I'm probably reading or taking a nap or watching something since I'm writing this a day in advance. ;)

I hope y'all are doing well!

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Learning Limits: Grad School Edition

Did you ever go through a wonderfully humbling experience that helped your relationship with God followed by a couple of stormy days in which everything seemed to go to heck? If so, welcome to my past week. After the wonderful spiritual highs that came with the start of Lent, I hit a rough couple of days that I actually feel grateful for having. I'm one of those "weird" optimistic people who tries to look for the silver lining in every situation so, of course, it's story time. ;)

Last week I found out that I had to switch from a full-time schedule to a half-time timetable at JP Catholic. It isn't because I can't handle the usual load of classes; it was because there would be one quarter that not even this "academic superwoman" could've handled. Long story short: because I have to re-take one course (in which I received a C) and do the courses of this past Winter quarter that I took off, I fell a bit behind schedule. If I had stayed on the same track, I would've had to do 5 courses in a 10-week span next Winter. That would've been nearly impossible for me to do, especially with how intense just 2-3 courses can be. I prayed about it (and asked friends on FB to pray for me), talked to my mom, and talked to a couple of lovely folks of JP Catholic and I decided that it was best for me to do half-time instead. Since JP Catholic is a small school and courses are available at specific times of year, it made sense to do an extra year and no go overboard loading myself with all the missed classes in a single quarter.

It's hard for me to "accept defeat" in the academic field but this doesn't really feel like a defeat. I know that while I'm fully capable of handling 3 courses at a time but 5 is too many. That's just the reality of it. My academic pride has a tendency to make me take on too much. Pride has already done too much damage. Staying on last quarter when I had more than enough to deal with post-accident? Yep, learned my limits then. That's why I took this to prayer. Pride and fear (of a financial nature) were at work and I didn't want to make any decisions based on either of those two emotions.

I've done so much progress in these past 2 months that I've taken off. I've been able to learn how to take better care of myself... which means learning that I often jump into doing too much too quickly and messing up any progress I've made. I don't want to do that this time around. This degree and these courses are way too valuable to rush through. I'm not taking these courses for my own personal enrichment; I'm taking them for my career / vocation. If this is the path God wants me to take (and it certainly seems that way), I'm going to do things properly. 

Surprisingly, everything worked itself out within 3 hours. I feel at peace about the decisions made. It's going to take me an extra academic school year to finish but maybe there's a reason for it. Yes, I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" people. (quick side note: I won't apologize for it.) Maybe God has something else in store for me between now and graduation (tentatively scheduled for September 2018). Maybe this is God's way of reminding me that I need to take things slow; He knows that I tend to take on too many things at one time because that idol of busyness is hard (but not impossible) to uproot. Maybe there are other lessons I need to learn before I'm ready to teach or do whatever He has planned for me after graduation -- lessons that will take time. Either way, I'm ready for whatever He has in store for me.

All of this that I went through was during my spiritual high. I felt closer to Him during this time... and then came a couple of days of grumpiness, apathy, and spiritual dryness followed. I was able to keep in mind that it was the Lenten season and we're bound to experience some spiritual dryness (at varying degrees) during it instead of dwelling on things. I'm giving credit to Holy Spirit and the angels (shout out to the Chaplet of St. Michael) for helping me out because I was in a bad place. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I felt slightly betrayed by some people. I got annoyed whenever Mom told me that things happened for a reason and that I had to trust Him. Of course, I agreed with her and I knew she was right but them feelings were still there and they were strong. I seem to have gotten out of that funk but I'm still going to remain vigilant. 

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm going to try to finish the other blog post and schedule it for tomorrow since I know Friday will be my day off of social media and I have a feeling my Saturday and Sunday may be busy. :)

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Following the Pope's Trip to Mexico as a Mexican American

I'm currently sitting crisscross (applesauce) in front of the TV in my living room as mom and I watch the meeting between Pope Francis and youth in Michoacan, Mexico. Dancers are dancing the typical dances native to Michoacan. While I'm not from Michoacan, part of my family (the maternal side) is. My heart sings with joy and pride knowing that the first Latin American pope is in the land of my ancestors.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't feel very Mexican. I was born, raised, and still live in Los Angeles. I identify myself as American. My mother jokes that she's more American than Mexican as well because she's lived here longer than she did in Mexico. We both seem to be more "modern" than how my more "old fashioned" father was. Though I've identified more closely to the American culture I've still gotten some of the Mexican culture infused into my daily life because my parents made sure I knew my roots. I think that's why I've been so riveted to our TV, following the Holy Father's journey.

I haven't been to Mexico in several years but some of my fondest memories from my childhood happened in Mexico, especially at churches in Mexico. I shared one of those memories during my second blog post (ever). On December 26, 2007, I wrote:

"I was actually very lucky to have visited him (Santo Niño de Atocha; the original statue) when I was about 11 years old (give or take a year or two). The church looks very humble which makes it even more stunning. I went with my parents and my paternal grandmother (may God rest her soul) to Fresnillo and Plateros as part of our vacation. I was happy but very tired because of the bus ride to and from Fresnillo. My grandmother, who was one of the most amazing women I've ever known, lived in a town a few hours from Fresnillo but she still made the trip with us. Unfortunately, I don't remember much of the trip because it's been about 12 years since the trip but I do remember feeling very excited and happy... and I still have the items my grandmother bought for us while we were there. I hope to go back to Fresnillo some day soon. I'll be the first to admit that I don't like going to Mexico because I always seem to get food poisoning or some sort of stomach virus when I'm out there (the foods are quite different from the ones in the U.S.) but I'd be willing to have a tummy ache or two if it meant seeing the Santo Niño again..."

8+ years later, it's still true. I would still love to go back and visit the Santo Niño de Atocha. I would love to go back and visit the church of St. Michael (Iglesia de San Miguel) in Miguel Auza, Zacatecas where my father and many generations of my paternal family was baptized and married. I would love to revisit the Cathedral of Zacatecas which I don't remember very well but my mom told me we've visited before.

My paternal grandmother -- the one whom I mentioned in that post -- is the one who took me to church with her when I went to Mexico. Well, my grandmother and my Aunt Lola. They both veiled (actually, I'm sure my Aunt Lola still does) and showed me the beauty of covering your head as a sign of love and respect for the Lord. It might not be for everyone but I can't imagine not veiling for Mass nor whenever I'm in front of the tabernacle or in adoration. As someone who has loved the Church since I was a little lady but had lapsed Catholic parents, I am incredibly grateful to my Abuelita and my Aunt Lola for sharing the beautiful Catholic heritage that runs in the family.

Watching Pope Francis in the land of my maternal grandparents (they're from Michoacan) makes me long to explore Mexican churches and cathedrals. Unfortunately, like many other Mexicans (especially those of us who were born and raised here), hearing about the violence and criminal activity makes us not want to go visit. It's a shame, really. I can still remember the beautiful architecture in the various churches we visited. I remember being absolutely enamoured by how the churches looked on the inside. I think I even left quite reluctantly a couple of times. lol.

Catholicism in Mexico has had its ups and downs throughout the centuries. Did anyone watch For Greater Glory? The Cristeros War was harsh. From what I've researched and learned, it seems like my paternal family got a good chunk of that craziness in their towns in Zacatecas and Durango. I think that's why I've hit a wall in my family tree search on that side of the family (stuck in the early 1800s) -- the anti-Catholic government had church records burned in the times of my grandparents. Despite all of that, the Catholic Church has still managed to thrive. Unfortunately, I believe that the rich and beautiful history of the Church in Mexico has been lost because of how hard younger generations tries to modernize the country.

Plain and simple, I fear that Mexico is losing its Catholic roots at a rapid pace. This is what I believe based on what I've seen from my own family and friends who still live in Mexico. Too many things of this world are given importance over God and the faith. It's sad because, as I said, there's such a beautiful history there. Just look at the story of how Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. I get goosebumps just thinking about it and not just because Our Lady of Guadalupe has been a big part of my life since I was a little lady.

As I watch the encounter between Pope Francis and Mexican youth come to an end, it's my sincerest hope that his visit to Mexico will light the fires in the hearts of Mexican youth (and, really, Mexicans of all ages) to grow closer to God instead of turning away from Him. I've cried more than once during his Holiness' trip because I've seen the outpouring love the country has shown him. Keep it up, paisanos! Don't let that fire die down!

Anyway, I'm just rambling at this point. I'm going to enjoy the rest of this broadcast on EWTN en Español.

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far. :D

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

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day; Giveaway Winner!

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all! I normally don't like to post on Sundays but I wanted to wish y'all a lovely day today. It doesn't matter if you're married, in a relationship, religious, or single, you are loved by Him and that's all we need, really. :D

I'm currently watching the 2009 version of Emma (starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller) which is my favorite Austen adaptation, at least at the moment. I'm having myself a Janeite marathon because I refuse to be a bitter single today. No, I'm a happy single gal so I will continue to celebrate the day. :) I will have a proper post on this topic soon-ish. I want to say tomorrow but I think mom and I are going to have our weekly "treat yo'self" day tomorrow so sometime before Wednesday, I hope. :D

Anyway, I also wanted to say a big "thank you" to all who entered the 2016 Magnificat Lenten Companion giveaway. I ended up getting more entries than I anticipated, which was great! Thank you for sharing and retweeting! The winner is Stephanie Z.! Congrats, Steph! I've already emailed you the details on how to receive your app! :D

Gentle reminder that I'm off Twitter through the rest of Lent, Sundays included, so please don't get upset with me if I don't reply to your tweets or DMs. What can I say? I need to do it cold turkey for it to work for me.  :)

Have a lovely rest of day, everyone!

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Too Busy for Self-Care

Raise your hand if you feel the need to always be doing something; to always have something going on. *raises both hands.* This past week has been crazy busy for me. How busy? It had gotten to the point where I wasn't taking good care of myself. I was not sleeping well, nor getting enough water, nor eating enough calories into my diet (which is a huge "no no" for someone trying to gain or maintain weight).

Do you remember my blog post from this past Tuesday in which I wrote that I wasn't ready for Lent because I didn't get to finish everything I wanted to do before it began? Remember that long list of things I "had" to do? Guess what: I didn't need to do all of them at once. No, I just decided to overwhelm myself, unconsciously. When a good friend asked me what I would be giving up for Lent and I provided the shorten version of my actual list, he straight up told me it was too much. I'm grateful for our friendship because he's one of the few people who will tell me things I need to hear, just like this example. I had taken on too much for Lent; I just didn't notice it because I have this really terrible habit of feeling like I need to stay busy.

I stick by what I wrote about self-care this past summer. I still think we've made an idol out of being busy. Sadly, I found myself stumbling back into that habit of neglecting myself because I had too much going on. When I noticed that I was extremely fatigued and mentally sluggish last night, I remembered that I hadn't had more than 8 ounces of water to drink... and it was after 10 p.m. Oops. After I drank 16 ounces of that lovely H2O I was revived. My mental clarity sharpened and the fatigue diminished. I also didn't eat well yesterday (or the previous day). Sigh. Thankfully I've recognized that I had fallen back into this old, terrible habit this week (I'm sure if has to do with it being the first week of Lent) so I can work on it. It's only been a couple of days (not a full week). I'm not a lost cause yet. lol.

I had a really busy day planned for Thursday, to the point where I was slightly overwhelmed by the time crunch. I had an appointment in the morning, then I was going to run errands, and do x, y, z. Then Amazon decided to have a package arrive days earlier than expected so I had to rearrange some things. As I got home to wait for a package from Amazon to arrive, I noticed that someone had sent me flowers. The same friend who pointed out that I had taken on too many things for Lent had sent bouquet of a dozen beautiful yellow roses. I literally stopped what I was doing to appreciate them. In all honestly, I actually forgot what I had to do for about an hour or so because I was so enamoured with the flowers. (side note: I just really like flowers, okay?) Oops. lol.

Likewise, I had another really busy day planned yesterday. I wasn't going to leave the house for more than maybe half an hour or so but it was all overwhelming busywork that I decide to get done in a single day. Thankfully a seminarian friend who I hadn't seen in a while dropped by and it forced me to rearrange to-do list for the day. Sure, I got the apartment cleaned as planned but everything else that could be done another day (read: not important) was pushed back. To Amazon, James, and Andrew: thank you all for unintentionally forcing me to slow my roll for at least two days. lol. Don't you love it when God does that?

I'm glad that I was forced to see what I was unintentionally doing to myself: cramming things that could be done over weeks into a couple of days and neglecting to take better care of myself. Oh! and taking on too much for Lent. I'm going to simplify my Lenten goals a bit. I know which ones I really do need to work on (i.e. using less social media) and which I can work on after Lent.

I'm going to try to remind myself that I had a good routine going before I decided to busy myself again. I cannot afford to not get back into that routine, especially when I specifically set this time to take care of myself before I head back to grad school. I'm going to continue to read books, relax, eat well, sleep well, and simply take care of myself. It seems like a lot because I wrote it out as a list but isn't. It's just basic things to help me (and, really, any/all human beings) function.

I just wanted to write this because I'm sure this is part of my Lenten journey this year. It certainly feels like it. :)

Alright, it's actually almost 11:30 p.m. the day before this is scheduled to be posted and I want to get my nighttime prayers in before I zonk out. I've been so physically tired lately that I know I'm going to need at least 8 hours of sleep tonight. No, I'm not going to feel guilty if I sleep in a bit; it's a necessity, especially after the 5-6 hour sleep days I've had most week.

I hope y'all have a good weekend! Don't forget to enter the Magnificat Lenten Companion giveaway. It ends tomorrow at noon EST. ;)

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Win a 2016 Magnificat Lenten Companion!

Yes, that is my actual face. lol. #AshTag
Hello, my dears. I hope your Ash Wednesday went well. I had a pretty packed day. A city inspector came to check our bathroom (which has remained gutted/undone since about October 19) and, presumably, put the pressure on the owners to get it done. Yeah, we need that bathroom, y'all. After that, I went to mom's work before we headed to Mass. We actually got there a bit early and something unexpected happened; something I still can't wrap my mind around.

We got to our parish about 20-25 minutes before Mass was scheduled to begin. That was done purposely because we have to rely on that public transportation system we have until we get our car returned. (side note: mechanic said later today. Fingers crossed!) We thought we'd just sit in the back and wait but we found that they were doing a short prayer and distributing ashes before the Mass began. We heard them do the Confiteor in Spanish as we walked towards the back doors and walked into the church while the Spanish-speaking priest did the blessing of the ashes in Spanish. We were going to sit when he began to ask if anyone could read the blessing in English. Everyone looked around and I found myself saying "I'll do it, Fr." Who am I and what have I done with Emmy? lol. Anyway, since I was just reaching the pew when I said it, I didn't have time to put things down. I ended up walking up with my tote bag and book.

I would be lying if I said my heart wasn't pounding as I read the prayer. I was trying to breathe properly while I read it and tried to focus on the fact that I was doing it for a greater good. I hate public speaking... with a passion. When I gave the valedictorian-style speech at my high school graduation, I shook. I hate the attention. It's extremely unlike me to volunteer to do anything, especially without thinking about it first. In fact, I honestly don't know what came over me. I didn't think about it. I just found myself saying "It'll do it, Fr." surprising myself in the process. Still, I read it without making a mistake (another miracle) and then headed back to my seat. Miracles do happen! lol.

Mass was great. I've never been to a proper bilingual Mass before but I enjoyed it, probably because I understood both languages without problem. Thanks for insisting that I be raised bilingual, Mom and Dad! After Mass we got our ashes and then we came back home. Did I finish everything I said I needed to finish before Lent? Nope. Two things are left over from my list as I type this out (it's currently Ash Wednesday; scheduling this post since I have stuff to do tomorrow as well). I'll get to them before I go to bed. They're not Lenten deal breakers. ;)

Anyway, when I got home I saw that the lovely folks at Magnificat got in contact with me about giving away one of their 2016 Lenten Companion apps for iPhone / iPod touch / iPad. I had actually put "look into Magnificat Lenten Companion" on my to-do list earlier this week so it worked out perfectly.

If you're wondering what it is, let me tell you. I have it downloaded on my iPod touch (since it goes everywhere with me), in my Lenten folder on the home page. The Lenten Companion has Morning, Evening, and Night prayers as well as Mass readings and Lenten meditations for every day of Lent. Other Lenten features include Chants for Lent and Easter, the Stations of the Cross, Prayers for Various Vocations, and much more. Sound like something you'd be interested in? Here's your chance to win a copy! Just scroll down to the bottom of the post and enter! Again, this is for the app, not the physical copy of it.

"But, wait, Lent already began!" you may be saying. True, but you can still use it for the rest of the days of Lent. Like I said, I was just contacted on Ash Wednesday or else I would've done it sooner. I also would've posted this yesterday except I fasted from social media all together and I didn't want to make this contest unfair by giving some people an additional day to enter so I waited to post this when it could be posted everywhere at the same time.

The contest will be over in a relatively short time (noon EST on Valentine's Day) because I didn't want some of y'all to go too far into Lent without having a chance to win this! If you don't win, I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy. No, no one is paying me to say this. As someone who has been super busy lately, I appreciate that this app is something I can take with me. I do have free time on the way to and from destinations and this is just perfect for a sort of mini retreat moment on the go. :)

Anyway, I still have a ton of stuff to do so I'm going to try to get that done.

I hope y'all had a great start to Lent!

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

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wait... Lent Begins Tomorrow?!?!

I have a long list of things I still have to do in preparation for tomorrow so please forgive any typos or grammatical errors since I'm rushing through this post. Simply put: I didn't have enough time to prepare for the start of Lent. Or, I should say, I had lousy time management skills in the weeks leading up to Lent because I guess I assumed I had time. Nope. So now I'm rushing to get everything done before tomorrow.

So far today I've: attended morning Mass, gone to confession, had my weekly "treat yo'self" brunch with mom, gone to get more / new foods for me to try, ran quick errands, booked one of two reservations needed for tomorrow (public transportation service), etc.

I still need: to set up this blog on Bloglovin' so that it'll post the links to Twitter (since I'm giving it up during Lent), to book the second reservation (which I've tried to do twice already), finish cleaning my bedroom, finish cleaning my bookcase (yes, two different rooms), vacuum and dust the living room, answer emails, make sure I have all my Lenten goals written down, and a whole list of other things. I need to make sure I eat, drink plenty of water (it's 85 degrees Fahrenheit in my part of L.A.... yes, it's still early February here), shower, and pray sometime before bed, as well. 

Between spending a good chunk of my day in downtown L.A. followed by grocery shopping, and cleaning out my book cave yesterday and then all I listed (so far) today, I haven't had much time to rest. I'm so very tired. I've gotten up at 5:30 a.m. each day and have gotten to sleep around 11:30 p.m. - 12:20 a.m. both nights. Add the walking (so much walking!) and bus and train rides... you can imagine how exhausted I am right now. Did I mention I still have a couple of more things to do tomorrow? Yep. Contemplating leaving that off until this weekend since I'm already spent from everything in the past two days. What can I say? This introvert has gotten too much stimulation in the past two days. 

Anyway, I just to de-stress a bit but letting all my nervous energy out through writing this post. That and I need to test the Bloglovin' feed to make sure it posts! If you're wondering what I'm (still) planning on doing this Lent, here's the post that I wrote recently. I'll more than likely blog tomorrow since there's a lot I do want to talk about regarding Lent but don't currently have the time to do it.

For those of you who will be off social media this Lent, God bless you all and may your Lent be fruitful. If you'd still like to read blog posts, you can subscribe by email (nifty widget on the right side; not mobile accessible, sorry), like this blog's Facebook Page, subscribe through Bloglovin', access through Twitter (for those not abstaining from it), check me out on Awestruck, follow my author's page/feed on Goodreads, or just send me a message and I'll add you to a list I'll personally email when a new post is up. No, I won't do smoke signals. Sorry about that! ;)

I hope y'all are enjoying your pancakes or whatever it is that you're all feasting on. Since neither mom and I are fasting (mom due to her age and me due to health), we're not doing the whole "stuff your face with pancakes" thing. Or we may just eat pancakes tonight because brinner is just awesome. We'll see. ;)

That's it for now. As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Gifts from God?

This morning started out like any other morning on which I have errands to run. I tapped the "snooze" button on my iPod touch twice. "Oh, I can get ready in under 10 minutes," I reasoned. (side note: one of my guy friends can attest to this -- I made him keep track the last time we hung out just so I can say "yeah, well, Jose can tell you it's true." lol.) I got ready, grabbed reusable grocery bags (because they charge for plastic AND paper bags in CA), and headed out the door. I got into the van (I have access to a transportation service that allows me to reserve a ride where I need to go a day ahead of time) and I heard someone talking about prayer on the radio. "Hmm... talk radio? Christian radio?"

Drivers having Christian radio stations during the rides isn't new for me. It's usually the Hispanic drivers and it's usually a branch of Protestant Christianity. I kept listening to the listener talking about the Pledge of Allegiance being a form of prayer. Then the host of the program started talking. "Wait... I know that voice..." I said to myself. "Is that Patrick Madrid?" I asked the driver. Surprised by my question, he said it was. That sprung a conversation that made me think a lot about my faith and my role in the Church.

I told the driver that I was a Catholic blogger and he became excited. Seriously, stoked. He said that it was great that I shared my gift with others, especially other youth. It became clear that he thought I was much younger than I actually am. I get this a lot, especially when I don't wear makeup (which is about 98% of the time). He told me that he used to be a confirmation teacher before he began driving for the company. He shared how difficult it was to teach confirmation because a lot of young people are apathetic to the faith. Not only do they feel forced to be there, their parents are just as bad. "I'm glad there are people like you who are sharing your faith," he said to me. "We need more young people to help evangelize youth." That reminded me why I felt a great pull towards doing youth ministry.

Long story short, over the last couple of years I've had a lot of younger (teens into early 20s) Catholics spring up conversations with me over a myriad of topics. I've also had random adults open up to me but it's mostly youth who do this, both in person and online. I guess they just see me and they go "hmm, maybe she'll understand." Maybe it's because I look so young or maybe there's something about that I don't see but makes other people feel comfortable divulging big things they want to talk about. Either way, I've felt like the Holy Spirit has used me to help (to the best of my abilities) these young people... which sent me down this path of wanting to work with youth.

I thought about this -- about how this weekend I'm getting introduced to the kids at my parish and how I will have to overcome a fear (getting home a bit late on a Sunday night; I live in a shady neighborhood) to go to these meetings. I thought about all the young Catholics who've felt safe enough to open up to me over the years. Though I don't feel particularly wise, I always ask the Holy Spirit to help me figure out what to say to them. I thought about how many private messages I've gotten about certain blog posts, filled with gratitude about opening up about certain topics. I've never really seen writing as my gift (I didn't become an English major for a reason, lol) nor have I considered youth opening up to me as a gift... but maybe I should. Not in the "oh, I'm so great. Boom! Look what I can do!" way but more "wow, okay, God gave this to me to share with others; to bring others closer to Him."

I, of course, can't do it by myself. The Holy Spirit needs to help guide me because I feel clueless more than half the time. lol. The internal monologue goes something like this: "What am I doing? Are You sure I'm not seriously underqualified? I feel underqualified. Alright... if it's what You want..."

Alright, God... You have my attention. You got my attention through a fellow Catholic who was listening to Patrick before I even stepped inside the van. He said things that both humbled me in the best way (which I'm keeping to myself) and lit the fire within me. As my beloved Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati used to say, "Verso l'alto!"

Anyway, I just wanted to share these thoughts that have been bouncing around in my mind since this morning. I have to go get lunch started since mom will be home soon.

I hope y'all are having a great weekend thus far! :D

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why I'm Throwing Away My Meg Cabot Books

Once upon a time, a 16 year-old Emmy went to see The Princess Diaries on the big screen. Though she never dreamed about being a princess (no, she grew up a tomboy and dreamed about playing soccer), she loved the story. So she started reading and collecting the novels written by Meg Cabot. She was away from the Church, educated in liberal Los Angeles public schools, and was never properly catechized so she read the books focusing on the love story between Mia and Michael. 

When the author (Meg Cabot) got a website and started giving advice to young women when she (Emmy) was 19 and 20, she thought it was great. She continued to read the books even after her reversion. She felt she had invested enough time to see where the series ended. So she got to the last book in the series at age 29... and felt like she had wasted her valuable time. 

At 30, when the Great Book Purge began, she remembered those words a close friend said to her the last time she considered throwing the books away: "But you have the complete series! Don't you want to pass them along to your daughters when they grow up?" The answer this time was a big fat "NO!" So she decided to write a blog post about this topic and here she is now.

Can I stop speaking in third person? Phew! lol. But, really, all of that is true. I did watch the movie based on the series and I did love it. In fact, I still occasionally watch it and its sequel which is nothing like the book. Disney made the films so of course it's a lot cleaner than the books. However, as much as I loved the books as a teenager into my early 20s, I can't say the same anymore.

I've been re-reading the books in the series because I decided to throw them away. No, I'm not even donating them. They're going in the trash bin. The reason I decided to re-read them was because I honestly forgot how the series began. I thought "well, maybe I could keep a book or two for my future daughters" but after going through the first 5 of the 10 (the 11th book is the first and only adult book in the series and it was pretty explicit), I've decided to stop reading them because they just keep on getting worse and worse. My friend's words keep replaying in my mind: "But you have the complete series! Don't you want to pass them along to your daughters when they grew up?" The answer still is: NO!

If you haven't read the series and are wondering if I'd recommend them, well, you can guess what the answer is. If you want to know why, please keep reading. If you're a fan of the series and are having an issue with my objections -- or are planning on reading the series for yourself and don't want any spoilers -- please stop reading because I'm about to give away major spoilers and, yes, I'm going to say why I don't like them.

Re-reading the books from a Catholic point of view, especially as an older person (I don't know if 30 is still considered young adult despite looking and feeling younger than my years), I just couldn't stop objecting to the topics in the series. The deeper I got into the series, the more disturbed I became. 

Mia loves to obsess over her love interests. "Well, all teenage girls do that," you may argue. Not like Mia. She bemoans how her first crush mentioned doesn't sexually harass her. When he turns out to be a cad, she moves onto someone else and then obsesses over him... for the rest of the series. Sure, she dates other guys since they do break up before getting back and staying together, but it's almost always just about Michael. You know how Twilight's Bella Swan is obsessed over Edward "I Spark, I Brood" Cullen? Almost that bad. It's just not a healthy way to look at romance. It's more about how she feels and what would make her (and her hormones) happy. Sure, her friends do try to snap her out of it in their own ways, but Mia's so consumed in her love/lust for Michael that it takes a while for her to see that there's more to life than lusting over your crush/boyfriend.

Morality is seen as subjective. Mia lies. A lot. She only wants to stop lying "or think of better lies" whenever she gets in trouble due to them. And sometimes lies get you out of things you don't want to deal with so, yay lying! Sex is also seen as something you just do. They do touch upon how it seems to a more emotional thing for women than men but that's about it. Mia obsesses about getting to second (then third... etc) base with Michael. Some relationships do seem healthier in terms of the give and take (and not just physically) but, overall, I wouldn't recommend any young women looking to the series for love advice.  
Religion is frequently looked down upon. There's a chapel and Sunday services mentioned in fourth book but it never states what religion she is. She only says that she gets caught writing her obsessing thoughts about Michael in her journal during a service. God's name is misused a whole lot.

I could go on and on about on my objections to the book but you get the gist... and I only got through half the series before calling it quits. The thing is, this is not the only series of Meg's that I have... and will be throwing away. 

The Mediator series is about a high school girl, Suz, who is a -- you guessed it! -- mediator. That is, she can see and talk to ghosts. She helps them "cross over" to the "other side" and there's a lot of scary scrapes she gets into in the process. Sure, there's a priest mentioned in the series -- another mediator who helps ghost cross over -- who is the principal at the Catholic high school where Suz attends but the theology is all wonky. I actually got rid of the sole book I owned of the series (though I read the entire thing thanks to the LAPL) after my reversion because of how uncomfortable they made me felt. Forget the paranormal stuff (there's some real sinister stuff in the books) and the wonky theology (which, in all honesty, I don't remember much of). Suz gets into a relationship with a male ghost who lives in her old room (yep) and some chapters can get pretty steamy for a human-ghost relationship. This gets steamier after (spoiler alert) her hunky ghost boyfriend somehow becomes a flesh and blood human being after being dead for several centuries. Seriously. Um, pass.

Other books includes: a girl saving the president's son from being assassinated, a typical HS girl who helps an actor, a book on how to be popular, etc etc. Hate to say it but I'd rather my future pre-teen and teen daughters not get any ideas from them.

The only book I'm keeping of Meg's (without much objection) is Avalon High. I love this book. Not only does it appeal to my Medieval/Arthurian legend geek side (oh yes, that side exists) but it's something I would have no problem passing along to a future daughter of mine. The heroine is a typical teenager so there are some whiny moments but she's a lot more balanced and closer to the Hermione Granger-type heroines in YA literature. Sure, I would have to explain to my future girls that reincarnation is not a real thing (the book talks about how King Arthur and other figures in the legend are reincarnated time and time again) but I'd focus on some of the other lessons (selflessness, courage, etc.) in the novel.

I'm not saying Meg Cabot is a bad writer. I've actually enjoyed reading her books... but it's the content that I cannot keep. She herself is a nice lady. I met her a couple of years ago (actually, over a decade ago) and she was so encouraging (she even wrote me a letter afterwards) that I appreciate her as someone who is positive with others. 

I'm not a massive fan of the advice she gives her readers, that's for sure. Besides her books, she kept (keeps?) a blog in which she once told a girl that sleeping with guys was fine because it was like trying on a pair of pants -- she had to find one that fit before committing to it. Who wants their teenage daughter to receive that type of advice? I sure don't!

If you like her books and don't have any objections to them, that's totally up to you. I'm not going to judge you for it. However, for me and my "prude" ways, I'd rather not keep anything like that on my bookshelves. Yes, I spent a lot of money completing the series... but that doesn't seem to matter anymore. And, okay, I will keep just ONE of the Princess Diaries books in the spare bookcase in my book cave but that's only because a good friend of mine went through a lot of trouble sending it from Scotland while she was studying at St. Andrews'. They used to release the books in the UK before the U.S. so she sent me a copy before it came out here. However, I won't read it and will only keep it as a reminder of my friendship with her (going on 12-13 years now). 

I posed this question earlier on Twitter but would love to hear from those of you not on Twitter: for those of you who consider yourselves more on the "traddie" side of Catholicism, what are your opinions of paranormal YA novels? Like the ones I described by Meg Cabot, the Mediator series? Would you let your kids read it? Would you have any objections to them? 

Also, for those of you who have read the Princess Diaries series novels, would you recommend them to a future generation? Not looking to debate anyone, just genuinely curious is all :)

Anyway, I'm going to go indulge in some more non-Catholic books (the list is long) since I have only a week before Lent (and my Catholic books only marathon) begins. :D

I hope y'all have had a great week thus far. :D

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting Youth Ministry

I took this photo after getting fingerprinted.
I had this fun blog post planned for this weekend in which I was going to let everyone in on a little secret that's been months in the making: I'm getting involved in youth ministry. I had it all planned: a new blog post yesterday detailing how my first meeting with the kids went and more details on what I was going to do. However, because the mechanic still refuses to answer his phone or even call me back when he says he will, I missed what should've been my first official meeting with the kids.

Yes, the mechanic still has my car. Yes, I was originally supposed to get it on the 24th of December... then the 2nd of January... then the 11th of January... then the 18th of January... then January 23rd... then the 28th of January. Yes, it's now the 1st of February and I am still car-less. Note to self: do NOT return to this mechanic ever again. He comes up with many excuses as to why my car is not ready on time and I call him (an average of 5 times per day) he fails to answer or texts me that he'll call me back later but never does. Sigh. Offering it up... offering it up...

Anyway, I'm really excited about working in youth ministry. It's something I've felt called to do for a long time now and not even warnings about how my idealism might get shocked when I see the behind the scenes stuff deterred me. My former SD set the wheels in motion late last summer but, due to everything that happened, I couldn't get started until last month.

Last week I went to get fingerprinted at a local parish as is customary for anyone working or volunteering with youth in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. I'm also already scheduled to attend a meeting/session for the VIRTUS program later this month. Gotta keep the kids safe! Basically, I'm getting all my stuff together now so that I can get the ball rolling before I return to school.

I'm not sure how I'm going to balance school with this but if there's one thing I've learned while spending less time online it's been that I have a lot of free time. Well, I have a lot of free time right now. I spend my day reading when I'm not cleaning, washing, or cooking. I've already read 15 out of the planned 24 books on my yearly Goodreads challenge. It takes me an average of 2 days to finish a book; less if I have absolutely nothing to do that day. Even if I wasn't reading for fun, it's been clear that I have a lot of free time once I cut back on social media. I could actually stay on track with my weekly assignments for school now that I've been learning how to better manage my time.

At least, that's what I keep hoping; that I'm finally kicking my social media addiction to the curve (little by little) and that I will have more free time to be able to balance school, household work (I clean, wash, cook, balance checkbook, etc), and youth ministry. I'm starting slow. First I got a schedule down for keeping the house running. Now I'm adding youth ministry to the mix. In April I'll be adding school. I also have a big writing project coming up but that will thankfully hold on the spring. Slow and steady wins the race... which has not always been my motto because I have a tendency to want to do everything at once... and fast.

Sadly, this blog post is just a boring intro into what I hope to officially do next Sunday. I'm still really excited about working with the teenagers (who occasionally think I'm one of them, apparently, lol) but I'm a little bummed that my first day meeting the kids was postponed due to lack of transportation. :( No, I didn't even make it to Mass because it was pouring rain and the cold, windy weather (with how fragile my health has been in previous months) wouldn't have been a great idea for walking or even taking the bus and then walking from the bus stop to our parish. No, we don't know anyone who lives around here who would've taken us either. We don't even know who to ask to help us on a grocery run. Yeah, sad panda all around.

If any of you work or have worked in youth ministry, do you have any advice for me? Any stories, good or bad? I want to go into this as prepared as possible. ;)

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm going to keep calling the mechanic until the dude picks up... though the last call he switched me off to voicemail right away. Sigh. I want to go to Mass tomorrow for the feast of Candlemas so you can bet I'm going to keep bugging the guy until I get to talk to him.

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

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