Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why Can't I Find My Place in the Church?

I briefly mention this topic in the last post because it's been a major stumbling block on my quest to attend Mass more often to keep myself from becoming apathetic towards the Church. Again, I'm going to add the disclaimer that I may mention people (not by name, of course) but I'm not blaming them.

Since last year, I've been trying to attend more Latin Masses because it's where I feel more connected to God and more at peace. I'm fairly positive that if I counted, I'll see that I've been to more Extraordinary Form Masses than Ordinary Form Masses in the past year. I've been veiling (or, at the very least, keeping my head covered with berets and hats) for years. In fact, the last gift my father gave me (not counting the ultimate gift of his return to the Church the day before my 24th birthday) was a veil from Mexico... 8 years ago. I obviously started veiling before that so, you know, I'm not new at this. lol.

I love the reverence of the Latin Mass. I love that we all seem to be more focused on the Holy Sacrifice than in Ordinary Form Masses. I know some people's spiritual lives thrive more with the inclusion of the entire community during OF Masses (i.e. holding hands during the Lord's Prayer and the sign of peace) but it's not for me. I wasn't a fan even when I was a little girl. You can even ask my mom and she'll confirm it for you. I don't like how it seems to disrupt the focus (and purpose) of the Mass and it makes it easier for people to get distracted for the rest of the Mass. I've always loved focusing on what the priest was doing; on how he was celebrating Mass and feeling that I was a part of something greater than myself. This also started way before I even did my First Communion when I was 8. I love the significance of veiling and, on a more practical level, I love that the veil literally blocks all distractions within my peripheral vision and it helps me keep my eyes on the altar.

Latin Mass is the answer to my prayers... except that I still get lost during the Mass. lol. I have yet to buy myself a missal because they're expensive and I have a lot of expenses every week. L.A. is an expensive city to live in and we mostly live paycheck to paycheck so I have to save up for things that are not immediate necessities. I'm guessing that my being fluent in Spanish makes it a little easier to follow along but I still get hopelessly lost at times. Don't get me started on how I botch up Latin because my brain automatically switches to the Spanish pronunciation of letters and words. lol. I'm still getting used to it and I think I simply need to attend more Masses (and have a really, really patient person explain things to me) before I'm completely comfortable going to them.

Now, I'm not saying Ordinary Form Masses are terrible. It's what I grew up attending. I was baptized, made my First Communion, and was confirmed (in that order) in OF Masses. It's familiar and I can follow along because it's in a language I understand (for both English and Spanish Masses). I know many wonderful, holy priests who don't do Extraordinary Form Masses and their homilies are top notch. Still, overall, most OF Masses are not my cup of tea. I've been to some solemn OF Masses but there are always elements of this form that I'm not thrilled with. As I've mentioned, I'm not a fan of the hand-holding or the sign of peace. The music is... well, also not my cup of tea. I'm really sorry, music ministers, but once the guitar, bass, and/or drums get introduced, my focus and concentration are gone because it makes me feel like I'm at a concert or show rather than a Mass. Again, this is just what it seems to me. I know it helps other people but it distracts me more than it helps me personally. Don't even get me started on when they start projecting things on the sides of the altar or the clapping people do during Mass. To quote my beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment."

During my struggle with spiritual dryness/spiritual attacks, I noticed that I felt like I couldn't (and still can't) find "my place" with the Church... including with Masses. As you could probably deduce from this post, I prefer Latin Masses. However, not being able to follow doesn't help and sometimes I get really self-conscious asking someone for help because, well, I've had a bad experience with people who attend Latin Masses. I've gotten the "ugh, what a stupid question" vibe when questions do get asked and, let's be real, no one wants to feel like a total dunce. I've also gotten the "ugh, you're doing it wrong" vibe when I try to figure things out. Not everyone is like this, of course. I've met some really lovely people within the local Latin Mass community but I've yet to really get to know them well so I don't feel part of it. I obviously feel a greater sense of community at OF Masses. Not counting the judgmental looks when I've received when veiling, people tend to be more welcoming and, in my experience, are easier to get to know. That's one of the things I miss most of our former parish; knowing the people and being able to talk to them before and after Mass. I don't go to Mass to socialize, obviously, but it would be nice to know some of the people and know that you're surrounded by like-minded folks.

I love veiling and the Latin Mass - *gasp* too traditional! I prefer wearing skirts and dresses but I still like the comfort and, as someone who is active and grew up playing sports, like the coverage pants and shorts provide - *gasp* what an immodesty! Some people assume that I'm single because, like many of my Millennial peers, I like my independence and am too career oriented - *gasp* too modern! When they find out I'd prefer to be a stay-at-home mom and homeschool my future kids - *gasp* too traditional and anti-feminist to boot! I'm still single not because I want to be but because it seems to be God's will for me at the moment. It's not get started on my taste in music and films because it gets worse; I'm either too traditional/too much of a prude or too modern/liberal for that, too!

My point in all of this is that, despite the advantages and disadvantages of both, I feel like I haven't found my place in the Church. When you add the fact that I'm a single 32-year-old young woman with zero prospects (despite feeling calling to marriage) and that there seems to be no solid support system for us over-25 singles within either community, I feel like I'm on the outskirts of the Church. Why isn't there something for us singles who are in this stage of life because it's clearly not our time yet and not because we've actively chosen it? It would help us to have some sort of support.

I can't win, even though I really don't want to "win" anything. My goal is to get to heaven and help those God have placed in my life do the same thing. As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm very much a people person and feeling like I can't find a community to which I belong makes me feel dejected and, in turn, it makes it harder for me to nourish my spiritual life. Yes, I'm still very much an introvert but I'm also a social being (hence my saying that I'm a social introvert; it's an actual thing if you want to Google it if you don't believe me). I guess I just need to find that happy medium -- preferably a community that likes attending Latin Masses but won't judge me for occasionally wearing pants and shorts, liking the things I do, and that would be to pray for me (and other over-25 singles) as I wait for the next phase of my life to begin. Does such a community exist?

This post was just scratching the surface. There are so many layers that I didn't get into because we would be here all day. Again, I'm not blaming people for my feeling like I'm on the fringes of the Church and like I can't find a solid community in which I can feel like I belong. It's just my own thing that I have to work through this summer. It hasn't helped that I've spent the last 5 years (or longer if you count the years in which my anxiety was so bad that I couldn't leave the house) sick and that it's made it harder for me to try to socialize or get to Masses that don't make me cringe. We also don't live in a great neighborhood so I try to be home before it gets too dark and most of the socializing events happen late, especially after the 7 p.m. Latin Mass on Sundays. If there was a Latin Mass that both Mom and I could attend on Sundays that wasn't so late, it would be easier and perhaps I could find more likeminded people. Before you locals suggest it, no, we can't make it to the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Felipe or the noon Mass at St. Therese because Mom works on Sundays until after both Masses are over and all other Masses are too far for me to drive (I don't ever drive on the freeways).

If you're feeling particularly charitable today, please feel free to donate to the FSSP LA building fund so that they can get their parish quicker and more Latin Masses can be offered throughout the day. People like me, with limited transportation and other options, that love Latin Masses would appreciate it. The priests are fantastic and I have a feeling they'll help establish a great community that is very much needed in L.A.

Alright, that's it for now. It's already 97 degrees at 25 minutes to 1 p.m. and my hands and feet are already suffering from being in hottest part of our apartment (my home office is west-facing with no shade from anything). I hope those of you who will be in cities/towns over 85 degrees stay cool!

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


Friday, June 16, 2017

Why I (Nearly) Left the Church Recently

My Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Rosary bracelet.
This is something I'd been holding back on for weeks (that, probably, no one other than 2 people know about) but I think is now the right time to share: there was a point, last month, where I came very close to becoming completely apathetic towards the Church... or, at least, I felt like I was going to leave it. In fact, I was scared that I wouldn't be strong enough to resist the idea of leaving. Before I go into details, I'm going to say I am not blaming any people I will mention in this post. Yes, I'm hurt and it didn't help the situation but I do not blame them for nearly causing the apathy.

This past Lent was rough for me. I got sick (a bad cold after being subjected to freezing -- for L.A. standards -- temperatures in light layers). I accidentally had dairy when I went to Mexico and I spent the next month being physically debilitated because of it. I dealt with the last of the problems I had due to the anemia and everything else. I was racially profiled for the first time in my life. My spiritual life took a big hit, too. I was expecting it as both Advent and Lent are prime times for the enemy to mess with us. However, I wasn't expecting it to hit as intensely as it did.

I was hit with doubt and indecision about almost everything. I felt as if I no longer had any clarity about what God's will was for me and my life. In fact, I had zero plans for my life. I had tanked one of my courses in my SLP program which led to the decision to leave the program and look for a way to pay back my student loans.  I went 4 months without receiving the Eucharist. I tried to go to Mass but obstacles hit me left and right. The anemia and the accidental dairy ingested caused a terrible lightheadedness and physical fatigue that made it impossible for me to safely drive to Mass. Taxi cabs failed to pick me up and take me to Mass without explanation. Last month I experienced three consecutive weekends of what seemed to be physical manifestations of intense spiritual attacks that both holy water blessed this past Epiphany and the medal of St. Benedict helped shorten the effects of, immediately. I won't elaborate more on it beyond that. I will say that it was during those intense three weeks that the apathy threatened to take hold.

During that time, what my former spiritual director said to me (twice!) kept replaying in my mind: that there was no point in me being a Catholic because I stunk at being one. Well, that's what I interpreted. His actual words during our last spiritual direction meeting (in which he kicked me out of his office) were "what's the point?" (in my being Catholic). Direct quote; I wouldn't dare attribute false words to anyone, much less a priest. What was the point of me being a Catholic if I didn't attend Mass regularly? What was the point of me being Catholic if I struggled to concentrate during my time in prayer? What was the point in my being Catholic? These words swirled around in my mind when I tried praying, especially when it was the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I would want to quit praying, wanting to give up, but I powered through the rest of the prayers (with a little help from holy water).

As I've mentioned in the past, I joined a young adult group late last year but I haven't been to many meetings/get-togethers this year. Mostly, it's been because I've been physically unable to. There were also meetings I wasn't told about (that I had no idea were even going on) so I didn't go because I had no idea. They've been nice people... but I've also not felt welcomed. I feel absolutely horrible for saying that (and I promise I'll get to the point of sharing this soon) but it's true. As much as I like the group of people, I feel like I'm excluded from what they do. It's understandable; they've been more active in parish activities (the majority being part of the choir) and they see each other more but it still stinks to feel left out. The kicker was when I contacted one of the members and suggested that we try to help set-up a more frequent carpooling system to outings in which they charged for parking... and a suggestion she, herself, had pitched to the group for that specific outing. She told me to work it out myself because she was too busy to help me for a different Mass event I wasn't even talking about. I felt the heat rush to my face and my ears when I read her response. It had been her idea; I only suggested perhaps setting up something so that the carpooling could begin before the outing (it was going to start at Mass and then end up at a different location) since some of us (I'm not the only one) have transportation issues sometimes. I've seen people (in the group and from the parish in general) ask for rides, so it was a suggestion to help them out. I had a way to get to get to Mass and the outing; it wasn't even for me. Needless to say, between that response, another group member publicly embarrassing me for something I'd say in all seriousness at the last big (read: crowded) meeting I attended and feeling like I wasn't welcomed... I decided to no longer attend group meetings.

All of these things -- what my former spiritual director had said and my experience with the members of the young adult group -- and my inability to go to Mass all contributed to me feeling and thinking that perhaps my former spiritual director was right and that me praying, doing my best (and failing spectacularly when I began doubting myself, especially when it came to my ability to go to Mass regularly), and not finding my place in the Church meant I should throw in the towel. I had these strong thoughts and feelings for almost the entirety of May. Add me feeling as if I didn't know what I was going to do with my life and everything else I mentioned... I was in a bad place.

On a whim (I don't remember if it was inspired by a dream I had that featured him or if he just kept popping up in my mind), I decided to start a Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena on May 1st. I mentioned it to Mom and she also, quite suddenly and without giving it much thought, said she would pray it along with me. I got the novena prayers in Spanish from the Frassati Argentina group for Mom and we prayed for the same things: clarity about my career/vocation (small v) and my health. The spiritual attacks (or what I think were attacks) got worse when I did the novena... but I didn't stop. Though the thoughts persisted that I should leave, remembering Bl. PGF's life story kept me from pulling away. I use to remember his ardent love for the Church. I also remembered how both St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) had moments in which they felt God had abandoned them as well so I kept going. I think I only missed praying the Rosary once and that's because I fell asleep because I felt unwell. Other than that, I don't think I missed either morning or nighttime prayers. Bl. PGF remained in my thoughts (and my heart) as my birthday approached. Whenever I felt like giving up, I would remember him and I tried to fight through the apathy and disappointment.

As silly as it sounds, the moment that I feel was the turning point was when I received my lab results at my second hematologist appointment. To know that my prayers had been answered reduced me to a puddle of tears and gratitude at the hospital (where my hematology appointments occur). I had been slowly gaining weight in the past year but I didn't break past the 124-125 mark (I'm usually between 125 and 128 lbs) and it would occasionally dip back down... until I did the novena. My weight, as I mentioned before, has remained steady and is back to where it was prior to my health issues starting 5 years ago. It took years to get down to the source of my health problems (sans those that are causing low platelets). It was the moment where I went "I suffered through so much... but I can see that God didn't abandon me. He heard my prayers despite my not going to Mass and my failure... and Bl. PGF came through for me in a big way." A day or two after receiving the wonderful news that I was healthier than I had been in years, the rest of my prayers (that were part of my novena to Bl. PGF) were answered.

The weekend before my birthday I returned to confession and Mass for the first time in 2 months. I have not failed to go to either confession or Mass since. On my birthday I got word on something (career related) that I'd been praying about, literally within 5 minutes of my waking up. (side note: totally counting that as a birthday gift from God, lol). I now have a clear(er) path that I will be taking starting this autumn when the next phase begins. I also got inspiration for my third novel, which was scrapped and started over again for the third time but which has stuck. (second side note: I'm glad I started over; this new idea is so much better than the first two I had.)

I feel like myself again. I feel that great love I have towards the Church though I've still struggled with certain things like overindulgence and temptations in recent weeks. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, my new confessor suggested focusing on my spiritual life this summer which I've been doing. I want to get into my problem with my experience with Ordinary Form Masses vs Latin Masses (and the communities for both) but I'll save that for the next post. Let's just say that I had a big eye-opener regarding this and it's what I'll be working through this summer. For now, I'm just trying to keep my confession and Mass attendance more regular, I want to figure out what I could do to help my concentration problem during prayer time, and I want to kick the bad habits I developed/that returned while I went months without attending Mass. Baby steps... but happy that I didn't leave the Church and grateful for the intercession Bl. PGF helped with.

I bought myself a Rosary bracelet with a medal of Bl. PGF to wear and use (to pray until I get myself the complete Rosary) for my birthday as a reminder of why I'm a big Frassati fangirl. That's what this post's picture is of; the Rosary bracelet. It's already helped me focus when praying the Rosary despite being like twice my width of my wrist, lol.

And before any of you say anything: yes, I know that feelings can trip us up and that we shouldn't pay attention. I also know that even in our darkest moments, God is always there for us. I kept reminding myself of that when I was struggling... but it didn't always help. Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you, just like your heart can. The devil knows how to best kick us when we're already down. Don't you think he knows that the easiest way to get me down is to make me feel unloved and rejected? Hi, I'm an INFP and phlegmatic-sanguine over here; I'm a people person despite being an introvert. I say I'm a social introvert for that very reason -- I like people. Making me feel like I'm rejected by people I admired -- my spiritual director and members of the group which I so wanted to be a part of? He knew how to get to me... but God is greater than him and God knows that my stubbornness (when used for good), my optimism (which did waver for a while), and tenacity are some of my best strengths. He knew that Bl. PGF was the best way to pull me out of that abyss of spiritual dryness and doubt.

I'm sure there were countless prayers that I don't know about, which helped me get through all of this. To those who prayed for me during this time, I want to say a massive "Thank you!" To those who I personally know are struggling through the same thing or something similar, please know I add you into my prayers specifically by (full) name because I understand how difficult going through this is. If you're going through doubts about the Church or anything of the sort, please don't be afraid to talk to someone... or even ask others for prayers. I volunteer to pray and fast for you; just let me know privately. I don't want anyone to go through this... or worse.

Anyway, this -- sharing what happened to me -- had been on my heart since last night and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you. I'm not fully out of the danger area (are any of us?) but I'm in a much, much better place than I was last month. Bl. PGF's feast day is coming up early next month so I'll be reposting the novena prayers (they differ daily) every day on this blog later this month leading up to his feast day (July 4th). I didn't think it was possible but I've become a bigger fan of his (and my mother is a (new) massive fan now that she saw the big changes since we did the novena) and I'm full of gratitude for his intercession. As he would say, "verso l'alto!" ("towards the heights!")

It's getting hot in my home office (it's already in the low 90s and it's only 12:25 p.m.) so I'm going to end this blog post and go migrate to another part of the apartment before I have to go pick up Mom from work.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

When Taking Care of Yourself Becomes Overindulgence

Last night and this morning I was thinking about my third novel and I had the inspiration to share (on the blog) something I'm currently in the process of working through: learning how to take care myself in moderation.

For years, I battled anemia, fatigue, and being underweight. In fact, I recently hit my normal weight range which I haven't been within since I graduated as an undergrad, 5 years ago. Anemia is physically (and even mentally) debilitating. I was tired all of the time and had trouble concentrating or even doing the simplest things (like remembering that I had water boiling on the stove; thank goodness for a whistling kettle). I would fall asleep sitting down, in the middle of the day. I would want to take a nap within 2-3 hours of waking up... after 8-10 hours of sleep. I would often be found in bed, laying there most of the day because my body felt very heavy and it was exhausting simply sitting up. It wasn't laziness; my doctors all confirmed it was due to the anemia. I didn't have the physical (and mental) strength to function like a normal human being.

I tried to push myself and do things despite my physical weakness but that ended up backfiring and I spent more time in bed, trying to regain strength. When that happened, I knew I had to admit "defeat" and allow myself to do what my body wanted. If I felt tired, I would take a nap. If I felt I couldn't walk any longer, I'd sit until I felt well enough to continue. If I was hungry, I would eat. If I was thirsty... well, you get the idea. Whatever my physical needs were, I took them as cues from my body that that was what it needed. It was that (and taking the multivitamin that apparently boosted my iron and folate levels quite quickly) that helped me get healthy once again. Hooray for learning self-care!

I learned that it's important to take care of yourself -- something I was sadly lacking since I tended to put others' needed ahead of my own and this is something I've done since I was a child. I didn't think of what I needed or even wanted. I did what others needed. It's not a bad thing, but it can become a bad thing. I've been taken advantage of by those who saw that I was easily exploitable. It's something that I've had to learn to better manage; to learn to say "no" and not feel guilty about doing. Seeing that I was making myself sicker by not taking care of myself was a massive wake-up call and one that I'm grateful for since I know it'll be useful once I have a family of my own (someday, I pray). Now I have to learn the other side of taking care of yourself: doing things in moderation.

Before I get into that, a bit of background info for you new readers. I feel like I'm getting those selfish years I didn't get when I was younger. As those of you who've been long-time readers may recall from previous posts, I didn't have your typical adolescence or young adulthood. I helped take care of my parents when most of my peers were going out with friends. I didn't go parties. I didn't go out on dates (and I've yet to be taken out on a proper date. Seriously). I didn't even go to slumber parties. Sure, I regularly went to concerts between the ages of 18 and 20, but I always came home right after the shows. When I hung out with friends (in those years in which my father's cancer was in remission), I would come home early. Simply put, I was a responsible kid. I avoided drugs, alcohol, sleeping around, and every other vice you could possibly think of for someone who grew up in  L.A. My then "friends" used to tease me for being an "old lady" or a "prisoner" of my own home but that's just how I've always been. When I was in school, I focused on that and didn't go out. When my father's cancer returned (and eventually became terminal), I was even more homebound than normal After my father died, I focused on school until I graduated. Almost as soon as I graduated, I got sick and it's taken 5 years to get to the bottom of all the problems I ended up having.

Now, taking care of yourself isn't bad. I'm back to my pre-graduation normal weight. My health is the best it's been in several years. My anxiety is virtually non-existent these days. I have a (more or less) clear path on which I'll be traveling down on over the next year or so, if it continues to be God's will. I've placed myself in God's hands and it's been a wonderful thing. But... I'm getting slightly off-track now.  While doing what you need to do stay health is great, it can backfire which is what I'm dealing with right now.

As you could probably guess from the title, I'm currently trying to learn to do things in moderation because what worked for me while I was sick isn't what I need anymore. I can't oversleep anymore (and my body has actually ached on days when I sleep more than 8 hours). I can't eat more than I need to. And before you ask, I used to lack on appetite and had to force myself to eat some days... which is how I got into the habit of eating even when I didn't feel hungry. That and, for a long time, I couldn't take iron pills and I had to eat a lot of food just to get enough iron in my diet for the day to not make the anemia worse. I've gotten into the habit of doing much more for myself than most other people do and it's one that I know I will struggle to break out of.

I have the hardest time breaking habits, both good and bad. I have to re-train my body to be fine with 7-8 hours of sleep when I can get them (which, thankfully, is most days). I also have to get back into the habit of getting to sleep early and getting up early instead of going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 10-11 a.m. This will not be the easiest, especially since Mom's been on vacation since my birthday so I've gotten used to not getting up at 3-4 a.m. to help her get to work on time. I need to remind myself to listen to my stomach and to my body and stop whenever I feel myself getting full. I have to remind myself that the objective is to keep hunger away and not to make myself feel absolutely stuffed. Yes, I also know I won't ever have this luxury again... especially not once I get married and have a family of my own. That's why I say that I feel like I'm getting the selfish years I didn't have when I was younger; I only have myself (and my mom, to an extent) to worry about.

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, I have two more months off before I begin the next step in (what I believe to be) God's plans for me. I already have plans to work on my spiritual life (doing a big re-do/makeover of sorts) and I had my third novel to work on so it's not like I'll be sitting around the house, twiddling my thumbs. As soon as Mom heads back to work (this weekend), I get to reestablish my "housewife" routine of taking care of the house, running errands, and balancing the household budget by myself... on top of the plans I have for my novel and other things regarding my faith that will get me out of the house during the summer.

I will also try to go to confession more often because I know gluttony and an overconsumption of things are considered sins... and I'm tired of telling the priest I over-eat at least once during the week. *blush* If you haven't made the connection yet, the longer I went without going to Mass and confession, the easier it was for me to be selfish and greedy and allow myself to overindulge in sleep, food, and general laziness. I'm ashamed of myself for falling into this trap but it happened and now I'm holding myself accountable for all the dumb decisions I've made.

Please pray for me as I try to cultivate more temperance in my life. There are things I didn't mention in this post that will make things a little harder than usual for me when it comes to learning how to balance things, especially in the "ninja area" of my life that y'all know I don't like talking about on this blog. (*whispers* that means my "personal" life for those of you new to the blog. I'm notoriously private about my love life, y'all.)

Anyway, I think that's all for now. It's getting hot in my home office (we're nearing the triple digits this and next week in L.A.) and it's (unfortunately for me) the hottest room in the house so I want to escape this mini-oven before it gets hotter.

I hope you all are having a lovely week thus far!

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sometimes You Need to Start Over

Hello, everyone! I'm sorry for the nearly 2-week radio silence (the last blog post about the novel sale not included). I've been going through a sort of a life do-over in most areas of my life. It would be too much to share in a single post -- and there is a lot I'm not sure I want to share just yet -- but let's just say that I needed these past two weeks to sort through a lot of things. I will share two major things though: my Mass attendance has been on point (yes!) and, on the suggestion of my new confessor, I've decided to sort of start over with my spiritual life.

First, I've made it to Mass AND confession for three consecutive weekends. Insert celebratory gif here. lol. It's been very disconcerting to look back and see how easy it was for me to develop terrible habits that caused me to sin much easier when I wasn't going to Mass more than once every 2 months. I try to take side streets when I feel a bit lightheaded (which, unfortunately, is still going on almost daily despite anemia no longer being an issue)... or even look for the last local Mass for the day (which I did two weekends ago) when I don't think it's safe for me to drive. I'm crediting the Holy Spirit for this (and a major decision I made recently). Yay, Holy Spirit!!

Second, I started going to confession (regularly) with a new priest and it's helped me out a lot. He gave me the advice to focus on my spiritual life during this summer since I have a nice 3-month break (now 2 months left) before the next phase of my plans (which I made with the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercessions of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Joseph) begin. I told him what I was going through and he suggested I take the summer to work on my spiritual life. In many ways, I'll be starting over again because I think I got stuck in a cycle of prayer or a way of thinking that was spiritually stifling me. My relationship with God was breaking down and it made it easier for me to miss Mass (even with legitimate excuses), to commit stupid sins, and just lose myself.

I actually came very close to, basically, throwing away the last 10 years of work in my spiritual life that I had done since my reversion. I will one day reveal everything that happened but let's just say that it wasn't until Mom and I did the novena to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati that things changed for me and I was able to break out of that apathy and depression. I literally fell into a deep depression last month and it took me about three weeks to break out of it. Things picked up with my wonderful health news and then a had another huge boost on my birthday (May 30th). And to think that -- if I remember correctly either had a dream about Bl. PGF or if he just kept popping up in my life -- I decided to do the novena to Bl. PGF on a whim and my mom decided to join me. After seeing the almost immediate results of the novena, she's now a fellow Frassati fan.

This summer, my plans are basically to keep myself healthy, work on my spiritual life, and working on things that had fallen into disrepair during my months of spiritual dryness/attacks. I started with working on cultivating more patience in my life a couple of weeks ago and now I'm working on that as well cultivating temperance which became a big problem for me in recently weeks (I was overindulging in things; I'll hopefully write about this next). I guess we'll see just how I do with these things since I'm pretty sure I'll be sharing what happens on this new adventure. :)

Has anyone had to do something similar to this? Having to sort of start over or restructure your spiritual life? Please let me know if you have and what helped you.

Alright, I think that's it for now. I hope to write more often in the upcoming weeks but we shall see if I actually do it. I've been working on my third novel and I can spend hours writing chapter after chapter. My imagination has been churning out a lot of ideas that I'm liking for the plot so I tend to just focus on them before the ideas escape. Someone, please remind me not to neglect the blog while I work on the novel. Please. lol.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and a great start of the week!

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Free Copy of My First Novel?! Yep!

Photo credit: Danica Clark Photography.
Happy Pentecost, everyone!!

Just a quick blog post to let y'all know that the Kindle version of my first novel -- Will and Lina: When Two Worlds Collide -- will be a free book deal on Amazon on June 5-7. The Kindle version of the sequel, Will and Lina: London Calling, will be on sale for 99 cents June 7-10. I've been told that the books are quick reads so if you're looking to kickstart your summer reading, feel free to try them out.

Special author's note: I wrote the first novel in the early days of my reversion and the sequel years later... and I think you can tell. I grew up along with the characters in the novel so both of these novels have a special place in my heart. And if you're wondering, London Calling is my favorite of the two (for personal reasons).

If you've already read the novels and enjoyed them, thank you! If you read them and didn't like them... I'm really sorry! lol. If you end up reading them and have questions, please check out the following blog posts in which I answered FAQs or gave you some background info (and playlists!) of things mentioned in the novels.

  • Readers Want to Know: Will and Lina Q&A: Find out if Will is based on a real person (the most commonly asked question), if Lina is based on me (the second most commonly asked question), and other questions asked by readers.
  • Questions about the Will and Lina Series: Find out which characters are based on real people and which aren't.
  • Novel Playlists and Sequel News: Listen to the playlists I listened to when I wanted to get into a "character's headspace." edit: language/content warning (if you're sensitive to it) on some of the songs on the first Will playlist and Candace's playlist. You'll understand once you get to know the characters. 
  • "This is..." Novel Playlist: Spoiler alert, this playlist is mentioned in the first novel, WTWC.
Since my birthday was on Tuesday, I decided to give myself a writing break -- from the blogging world, from the third novel (which I'm seriously loving right now -- is that weird? That I'm loving what I'm writing?), and most everything else. I hope to return to the blogging and novel-writing world at some point this upcoming week. :)

I hope you are all having a lovely end of the weekend!

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Four Months Without the Eucharist

I know some of you have already seen the tweet and picture I uploaded yesterday on Twitter; about how I received the Eucharist for the first time in 4 months yesterday. I also know that if you read the tweet, you know that I had gone so long without it because I had a gluten-free diet for months. When I received my blood work results earlier this week and saw that (despite consuming gluten in the multivitamins I was taking), my bloodwork came back better than it has been in years, I knew I would be able to receive the Eucharist again.

We had a theory that perhaps gluten was causing some problems (which could still account for my lower than normal platelet count) but I made the decision (since I was given the "okay" by the doctor) to receive the Eucharist again for the first time in months; ever since gluten was taken off my diet months ago. I will still limit wheat consumption in general since I feel physically better (with more energy; less fatigued) and mentally sharper. The latest doctor (in the hematology clinic) said that it's normal for human beings to feel more fatigued after consuming wheat but we're so used to it that we don't notice the difference until after we limit our consumption of it. This is a personal choice of mine based on the doctor's recommendation that I continue to only eat what helps me feel healthier/better. There is one thing I will refuse to give up from now on... and that's the Eucharist.

Ask me how many times I've attended Mass since the new year began. 3-4 total. Ask me how many times I've received the Eucharist in that period. Once. I hated it. I cried at least once during Mass when I was unable to receive it. You don't know how much your soul longs for it until you're unable to receive it.

Yes, there are low-gluten hosts (gluten-free hosts are invalid). Yes, I tried attending Mass with the FSSP priests because they offer low-gluten hosts. I even planned on going to the local church supplies store and buying a box of low gluten hosts to keep for when I went to Mass locally during the week or weekend when I couldn't go to Mass with them (this was on the recommendation of an FSSP priest). Sadly, most of the attempts to go to Mass (or even confession) often didn't happen. Last weekend, I even drove a third of the way before I got so lightheaded that it was no longer safe for me to drive. My mom was in the car with me but, still, we both decided to turn back home... and, even then, I had to stop only three blocks from our apartment because I was too lightheaded to continue. I was angry and annoyed that it had happened because that's what happens when you go so long without Mass or the Eucharist.

I don't know about you guys but the longer I go without confession, Mass, and (especially) the Eucharist, the harder it is for me to fight temptations, to keep myself from committing sin, and to keep living a faithful life. Once I hit about week 4-5 without, at least, confession, things that shouldn't come out of my mouth tend to come out of my mouth, even if it's involuntary. It's easier for me to lose my temper. It's easier for me to make a lot of mistakes that could be more easily prevented by a constant reception of the Sacraments.

This time around I went 8-9 weeks without confession or Mass; 4 months without the Eucharist. I tried to go to Mass but things came up -- bodily aches and pains, lightheadedness and/or dizziness, rides that failed to show up to pick me up to take me to Mass, etc. My spiritual life was abysmal most of those weeks/months. I had some really good periods in which the spiritual dryness produced good fruit but it wouldn't last for very long. There were times when I didn't want to pray but still did. I even struggled with a bit of depression for the majority of this month. Only the novenas to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati earlier this month and the Holy Spirit (which I finished yesterday) helped me get through some of the rougher patches. The Holy Spirit novena, in particular, really helped me try to make sense of what I was going through and helped me focus on what seems to be God's will for me.

Don't take the ability to receive the Eucharist and the Sacraments for granted. I learned that the hard way. I was hit with a couple of situations in which my temper was tested and I did end up "losing it" twice. Those two times happened on my way to confession and Mass. The anger even made me get a little lightheaded but I decided to press on. I don't think that was a coincidence. Literally less than 10 seconds out the confessional, the same person said something that would've made me lose my temper once again but, thanks to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I was able to talk myself down immediately and then spent a good 15-20 minutes in Eucharistic Adoration as I prayed for charity and clarity and let that would-be anger melt away. What a difference the Sacrament made. As soon as I received the Eucharist, I felt like myself again -- temper intact, with the ability to let things slide like old times. (side note: I'm normally pretty mellow so me losing my temper like I had in the past two weeks was a bit unusual for me.)

On this Ascension Sunday (for those whose dioceses moved it to today from Thursday), I urge you all to keep going to confession, Mass, and to receive the Eucharist as often as you can. A priest once encouraged me to frequent them often as they will help a person stay on the path to holiness. While I'm not attending Mass today (we went to the Saturday Vigil Mass yesterday), I do hope to go at least twice during the week and make it a goal to attend daily Mass more often in hopes that it helps keep me on the right path.

One more thing (a quote) before I end this blog post:

"What does Jesus Christ do in the Eucharist?... If you are in difficulties and sorrows, He will comfort and relieve you. If you are sick, He will either cure you or give you strength to suffer so as to merit heaven… If the Devil, the world, and the flesh are making war upon you, He will give you the weapons with which to fight, to resist, and to win victory." - St. John Vianney

I hope you are all having a blessed Sunday and that you enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend.

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

(Foot-Tapping) I'm Not Impatient

(Note: this post is a continuation of yesterday's blog post.)

I'll admit normally a bit impatient when it comes to my health, financial, and academic/career issues. I'm patient with everyone else and their problems but I fail to do the same for me. Lately, I've been trying to practice more patience in all areas of my life, especially when it comes to taking care of myself. If I feel run down, I rest. If I feel sleepy, I nap. If I feel hungry (and it's close to lunch or dinner), I snack lightly. If I feel overwhelmed by something, I try to remind myself that it's not as important as I'm making it out to be. If I feel rushed/pressured to make a decision quickly, I remind myself that I'd rather take my time and "be late to the party" than do something that may be the opposite of what God wants for me. This last one has been the biggest temptation/struggle for me lately.

I like to have my ducks in a row. I like to have a clear path on how I'm supposed to move forward. I intensely dislike being stagnant. I like to have some sense of what the near future is holding for me. After I decided to take a break from studies (and I asked for an academic leave of absence instead of withdrawing completely), I immediately wanted to figure out what God wanted me to do. I drove myself a little crazy that first week because I wanted to figure things out ASAP. I was tempted to do a Holy Spirit novena right away but I held off until I felt it was the right time. Instead of jumping in, I took the first two weeks off and tried to relax. Tried is the key word. Not doing anything goes against my "need" to keep busy because I get bored easily. Still, I knew I needed the break and I tried not to feel guilty about not doing much.

I've looked into jobs to pay off my student loans. I've looked into other careers that I could do without an additional degree. I looked into shifting my focus back on my writing career. Along the way, none of those options have seemed like something I needed to explore. My focus had to be refocused once more on my health; on eating and sleeping well. I had to exercise a ton of patience with myself and, really, with God.

For about the past month or two, I've had no clarity on what God wants me to do. I've had zero plans for my life. I've been trying to go with the flow because I've learned that sometimes what we need is to have a lot of patience and a lot of trust. I was hit with a bit of depression earlier this month (though that's felt more like a spiritual attack than anything else) but I've still tried to keep myself focused on what I've felt God wants from me -- to take care of myself so that I can be ready for whatever is next in my life.

How is this tied to yesterday's good news? I've had to wait years to get good news about my health; 4-5 years to be exact. I've gotten so impatient at times -- especially when this particular cross has seemed too heavy for me to continue carrying it -- but I've kept praying and I've kept my sad attempts at trusting God always on my mind. Even Monday's hematology appointment had me exercising patience; they didn't call me into a room to get my results until an hour after my appointment time and then I had to wait another half an hour to get my hospital discharge papers after the doctor has seen me. I had waited years to get a hematology appointment. The hematologist kept cancelling my appointments until two doctors teamed up and pressured him into giving me the appointment. I waited months to get updated blood work results. I waited years to get my iron levels to where they are. A lot of waiting... and a lot of patience required.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out what God wants for me in the next couple of months. I've decided to take a break this summer since I haven't had a proper break from school for a couple of years. I will still work on the third novel and the memoir (when the woman whose life story I'm ghostwriting has the time to give me more material) to occupy my time and mind if only because I know that too much free time on my hands tends to get me into a lot of trouble.

There are some things that have come up as things I can potentially do this autumn that I'm discerning through a novena to the Holy Spirit (I'm on day 6 today). I will also soon read a book on the discernment of spirits to try to figure things out while I wait to find a spiritual director. I'm trying to take things slow and no jump into action without proper discernment. It goes against my natural impulse to get things done -- and get them sorted quickly -- but I know it's for the best to keep doing this.

Anyway, just wanted to share this because I know some of you may be in similar boats -- whether it's trying to figure out academic, health, financial, and/or relationship/vocation issues. I know it's so much easier to say "have patience" than to do it but it's better than driving yourself crazy and/or doing something you later regret. Having to wait stinks and it can seem like a waste of time. It's one of the hardest things to do in this world. I've done a number of things out of impatient impulse and I've suffered the consequences; I learned the hard way. Don't be an impulsive, impatient Emmy. ;)

Alright, I need to skedaddle. I have a couple of library books that I've been neglecting and I want to get them done before they're due. :)

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm in Shock. Is This Real Life?

I wanted to blog yesterday because I received good news but I had to wait to get actual details (which I officially received last night) so I'm blogging now.

You guys know how I've been anemic and folate deficient "officially" for about a year now? (side note: anemia has been a reoccurring issue for at least 2-3 years). You know how I had low calcium and white blood count levels last autumn? You know how poor my health has been, with my platelets lower than normal for years? All of that warranted a round of roughly 70 (seriously) different tests that were taken from 10 (yes, ten) vials of blood last Friday that was ordered by the hematologist after my first hematology appointment earlier this month. During the previous blood draw -- in early March -- I was still anemic and in a bad way. It has been a little over 2 months and I hadn't taken my "blood builder" multivitamin daily. I didn't think the results were going to be much improved. I'm sure God said, "Oh ye of little faith" at this point.

I went to my follow-up appointment yesterday. I was hoping for a slightly above normal number for my iron and folate levels (and everything else). The doctor (new to me) who saw me told me my labs were pretty good. My platelets are still a little low (at 129k; 141k is the lowest number within normal range) but everything else looked good to her. I didn't get specifics beyond that. I asked her if I was anemic. She looked at me like "ooh, giiiiirl,. you don't even know..." and informed me, with a little laugh, that I was no longer anemic. I asked her about the folate level. Again, slightly amused, she said that I was no longer folate deficient and it was most likely due to the multivitamin I was taking (that Hallie had recommended to me years ago but I hadn't taken -- because it has gluten in it -- until late March). I didn't get numbers. I was just told that I was in a good place and that I have to follow-up in late July since they want to see if my levels will finally stabilize with the multivitamin I'm taking.

I came out of the appointment ecstatic! I had remarked to Mom that I haven't been looking as pale lately though I'm still pretty fair skinned when I don't tan/burn in the sun. She reminded me that I've always been fair skinned so looking a little pale (from the anemia) was never too noticeable. However, the rosy cheeks I've had lately have been a clear indication that my health has returned to where it should be.

It wasn't until last night that I saw what the actual numbers were from my iron and folate levels were. My iron level went from 36 to 124 in a couple of months. My folate level went from a dismal 3.60 (>7.00 is the normal range) to 12.90. I was in shock. "Wait, whaaaat?!" I don't think my iron level has been over 50 in about 4-5 years. My folate level has never been over 3.70 (from the time they started checking it, at least). Is this real life?

I looked at the rest of my results. My white blood count is still a little low and I was slightly dehydrated when they drew blood but everything else looked good. My calcium and sodium levels were normal for the first time since last autumn as well. I wanted to cry happy tears. It's been years since I've been this healthy.

I'm grateful to God for this blessing of health. Furthermore, I'm grateful for the intercessions of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Joseph, and St. Catherine of Siena because my health has/had been intentions in novenas prayed for their intercessions. Mom's gotten into the habit of making sure she asks Bl. Pier Giorgio for his intercession for my health every morning. I'm grateful for their intercessions. I'm grateful that God has granted me this long-sought blessing of health. I'm grateful to everyone who prayed for me. I'm also grateful for one big gift God had granted me in all of this: the gift of patience. I'll touch on this topic tomorrow since it would make this post way too long to read in one sitting. I've already started writing the post so I'll just schedule it. ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to share this bit of good news with y'all. Thank you to those who've been praying for my health!! I greatly appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart! God willing, this is the start of the new normal for me.

That's it for now! I hope you are all having a lovely start of the week!

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Oh! Hi, 1000th Blog Post!

Hello and welcome to my 1,000th blog post.

"Whaaaat?" That was my reaction when I posted the last blog post and saw that it was the last one in the triple digits. I can't believe I've written a thousand posts in the span of 9 years and (almost) 5 months. Crazy! Honestly, I can't believe I've kept this blog this long. I thought I would keep it for a couple of months or no more than maybe 2 years, tops but, here I am... still writing.

Those who've been reading this blog since the beginning (or, at least, within the first year of its inception), have gone through so much growth with me. When I started this blog, I was involved with someone whom I still in keep in touch with on occasion but is no longer one of the most important people in my life. I haven't really talked about my personal life since and have vowed not to until there's a wedding looming.

You've read about my struggles as an undergraduate, as a graduate student, and now in my academic limbo state. You've read about what I suffered when I was at the CINO college (now university) -- how much the professors made me cry for having an orthodox and "traditional" view of Catholicism. You've read my indecision about what to study; where to study.

You've been with me through my father's final cancer diagnosis... through the last months of his life... through his reversion to the faith (his 24th birthday present to me) two months before his death... through his death and burial... and through that first year in which I was emotionally numb...

You've been with me through illnesses and financial difficulties... through my lowest points... through my car accident... through my bouts of spiritual dryness (which I am currently undergoing again)... the craziness that was most of my 20s (I started this blog when I was 22!) into my early 30s (I turn 32 at the end of this month)...

You've also seen me at my best. You've read the joy it was to graduate from college after years of putting it off to help take care of my father (or myself)... the first time I was published in a Catholic publication... when I started my freelance writing career... when my first (and second) novel was published... when I was accepted to all three of my top graduate program choices...

We're going on 9 and a half years of this adventure together. Some of you have been reading since the beginning. Some of you have joined later on. Some of you are still new to this blog. It doesn't matter when you started following, you're still a part of this journey with me.

I still don't understand why anyone would want to read what I have to write. I'm no one extraordinary. I'm actually quite boring. I'm just your average gal who decided, on Christmas Day 2007, to write about her life and her journey through learning about Catholicism. I'm still learning. I'm actually going through sort of re-reversion period right now. I promise to explain this, and thoroughly, at some point in the future because it's a long story.

I want to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for your prayers and support throughout the years/months/weeks/days. I've come to close to shutting down this blog but, somehow, someone always seems to message me and encourage me to keep going so I do.

I have a lot of really, really, really exciting things coming up in my life in the near future. I will give y'all clues: London. Writing. Career. Discernment. Vocation/Relationship. Reversion. Travel. Possibly another degree. Rediscovery. Faith. I will write about these things at some point; most likely as I'm about to embark on them or when I'm deep enough into it that I can talk about it.

Stick around because I'm apparently not done writing yet. I'm sorry. lol. Oh, the writer in me. ;)

That's it for now. I have a lot of things to do today but I wanted to take a little break to write this post.  My 1,000th post. Nope, it hasn't sunk in yet. lol.

Oh! Before I go, I was wondering if I could bother y'all for some prayers. As I've shared before, I've had pancytopenia (low red and white blood cells as well as low platelets) on-and-off for years and tomorrow I'll have 18 (!) vials of blood drawn for the most thorough blood work they've ever done on me. They're testing everything -- vitamins, minerals, complete CBC, bone marrow, clotting, lupus, and seemingly any and all tests to rule things out a blood disorder or the presence of antibodies in my system. Thankfully, I won't have to fast but it's still a lot of blood. I've been feeling a little more weak/fatigued than usual lately so I'm a little worried about all the vials that will be taken. I would greatly appreciate any prayers you can spare. I just don't pass out or have any complications from the blood draw. I also hope for good news with the results because I'm tired of always feeling tired because of the anemia. Thank you in advance!

Alright, I gotta go do errands and try to find some good carne asada because I need to really prepare for tomorrow. All the iron-rich foods! lol. ;)

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far!

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What St. Brigid of Kildare Reminded Me

What led to more than a week without a blog post? My old laptop finally biting the dust... the new laptop's graphics being so grainy and pixelated that I had to return it and get a new one (different brand and model) the next day... downloading the smallest amount of things necessary to get the new (new) laptop working... and then spending the next two days in bed. That's just scratching the surface but you get it. It's been a crazy week. lol.

Somewhere during that week I read and finished Three Irish Saints: A Guide to Finding Your Spiritual Style by Dr. Kevin Vost. (side note: I will always only link Goodreads for books; I won't try to sell you anything.) This won't be a typical book review because, honestly, I don't like reviewing books. I don't even do it on Goodreads unless I feel like I need to warn friends or I love it so much it needs to be recommended beyond the 5-star rating I give it. I will, however, share what I got out of it in case you're wondering what the end results may be.

Despite being a Hibernophile (definition: someone fond of Irish culture, history, language, and all things related to Ireland), I didn't know too much about any of the 3 saints that were featured in the book. I was aware of St. Kevin of Glendalough only because one of my oldest friends (who isn't even Catholic) went to visit Glendalough when she was still a student at St. Andrew's University and took a trip to the pilgrimage site. If it weren't for her pictures (which I think are still on Facebook... I should check; it's been nearly a decade), I wouldn't have heard much about him. I knew the very superficial basics on St. Patrick and St. Brigid of Kildare but, really, not enough. This book changed all of that.

Despite the fact that St. Brigid was my patron saint for the year about 2 years ago, I still was in the dark about her history. It wasn't until I read this book that she was a kindred spirit. As I read her life's story, I realized how much I had in common with her when I was a child... and it made me realize that I wanted to make some major changes in my life.

In a nutshell, she was very giving... to the point where even the Sisters in the order she founded would hide things from her so she wouldn't give them away and leave them all destitute. St. Brigid didn't care about that; she wanted to give the little she could in order to help others. Her heart ached when she saw someone in need and did what she could to make sure they go it. She even felt pity for a dog and gave choice bacon to him despite it being destined for the royal household she worked for. A couple of times I was reminded of how I used to do something similar when I was a child. No, I didn't give bacon to a dog in or out of a royal household. 

When I was a little girl, I remember how much my heart broke whenever we went to Mexico and I used to see little kids begging for money or trying to sell little things just to make enough money to help their families. One day, when I was about 8 or so, I saw two kids a few years younger than me, sitting on the sidewalk, dirty and underclothed. My dad had just purchased a bag of peanuts for me and when I saw them, I didn't hesitate to give it to them. The reason why this particular incident stands out for me was because I was promptly ridiculed by a close family member for it. They laughed quite derisively in my face, making me feel ashamed and embarrassed about what I had done. 

Imagine that you're an extremely sensitive child and that someone you love mocks you and then gets mad for something you wanted to do to help others. It's going to leave an impression (a negative one) on you. That happened almost 24 years ago and I still remember it... including the hurt feelings. From that time until my early 20s, this family member would get angry at me whenever I tried to help others in need, whether it be monetarily or otherwise. I would have to do things either behind their back or just simply walk by and have my heart break in the process, just to maintain the peace with this family member.

This family member is no longer physically in my life anymore so when I can help out, I do so without second thought. My mother has always encouraged it (she was another person who would be on the receiving end of this family member's anger when it came to being charitable) so I don't have to worry about doing anything when she's with me. Whether I help others often or not is between God and me... but I realized that I'm not doing as much as I would like to.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've grown more selfish in recent years, especially since Mom and I hit economic hardships since my father's passing and my health issues that have prevented me from working away from home. I'm a lot more careful with money because we've known what it has been like to go without food for a couple of days. It's a fear that's set in, especially after all the malnutrition has caused me the health issues I'm still trying to recover from. All the health issues I'm enduring now? All came from the lack of proper nutrition and poor diet I had as recent as 3 years ago. And cue my friends getting mad at me for not letting them know I was eating for days in 5... 4... 3...

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati has been on my mind and in my heart a lot in recent weeks. I mean, we all know he's my saint crush and all but he's been my constant heavenly buddy lately. I was even inspired to do a novena at the beginning of this month, which my mom joined me in. When I started looking back at his life, especially now that I'm looking into becoming a lay Dominican, one of the biggest things that has stuck out was how he used his wealth to help others. When he was a child, he even gave the shoes off of his feet to give to a little boy who didn't have any... and did it in a way that no one saw because he didn't want to get in trouble. There's another kindred spirit! 

I had been thinking about the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (which Bl. Pier Giorgio was a part of) ever since I saw them listed on a local parish's website. The parish is linked to the Dominicans and is where the lay Dominicans meet up once a month which makes sense. I've felt a bit overwhelmed with too many options for my future (only one of which appeals to me but brings no income to pay back my student loans). 

Through Bl. Pier Giorgio and now St. Brigid, perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to nudge me to make the commitment to help out with the SVdP while I find a job and while I continue to recover my health. It won't bring in any money but it would be a better use of my time than trying to figure out what to do in between writer's blocks. Helping those in need is something that's been close to my heart since childhood and I do have an awful lot of time on my hands these days. The ideas are coming into my mind, y'all...

Anyway, that's what I got out of the book and what St. Brigid has inspired me to do. The book has been on my reading list for years but I didn't get it from the library (it was on hold for a while) until recently. I sure am glad I was able to read it and now it's going to go on my list to purchase later on. I'm currently reading Saints Who Battled Satan: Seventeen Holy Warriors Who Can Teach You How to Fight the Good Fight and Vanquish Your Ancient Enemy by Dr. Paul Thigpen which is interesting thus far. Let's hope that brings good things as well.

I think that's it for now. Since I once again have a working laptop and I'm currently on the mend from what hit this weekend, I hope to blog for often. :D

I hope you've all been having a lovely start of the week!

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Poof! They're Gone... and I Feel Free

For the last couple of days, I had been slowly going through a number of bookmarks I've accumulated over the last couple of months. While I'm in school, I tend to bookmark all the articles from news sites and blogs that are delivered to my (email) inbox so that I can read them over the weekend or whenever I have free time. Sometimes I bookmark too many things that I want to read. Sometimes I really enjoy an article and want to save it for future reference so I keep them saved in a separate folder. I also bookmark things that I know I will later need, for school or work. I had things since about 2008-2009 marked... and, last night, they all disappeared. Just like that, poof! They're gone.

I didn't panic, at first. It had happened before and after a reinstall, things were back to normal. Not this time. I reinstalled and uninstalled Google Chrome a couple of times. I signed in (which I don't normally like doing; I try not to have too many things connected to my Google account), hoping that it would sync. I looked up solutions and tried everything I could find. I tried to restore from an earlier date (which brought its own problems... which many people have had with Windows 10). I looked up my saved data online (I use online backup storage). Nada. It was all gone. Cue the panic.

"What am I going to do?!" I asked myself in frustration. "I had links saved for the novel... for work... for the blog..." From 9:30 p.m. until nearly 1 a.m. last night and again from 4:45 a.m. through 10 a.m. this morning, I tried to come up with a solution. The only difference between last night and this morning was that I saw the disappearance of the bookmarks as a blessing... and perhaps a sign from St. Joseph.

"Why did you mention St. Joseph?" you may be wondering. Simple, this happened on the last day of my 30-day novena to St. Joseph in which the main petition was for clarity on my vocations (career and otherwise) and health. I had a ton of bookmarks for all three areas of my life; bookmarks that I was hoping to get to this week as I'm researching some things. Suddenly, I had no references to my ideas. I also didn't have the stress of having to go through months/years of saved links. I feel liberated and physically light. No, I have to start from zero...  just like I'm doing with my career in general.

It may be that my malfunctioning laptop (which I bought at the start of the program and started going haywire during finals week right before I dropped it), the disappearance of bookmarks (making me start from zero), having to leave the degree unfinished, and the focus on my health (with my first hematology appointment) all within the same week is pure coincidence. Either way, coincidence or not, it made one thing clear: I really am starting from zero in many areas of my life.

As I discussed in the previous blog post, I have no concrete (long term) plans right now. I have an idea of what I'm going to do in the near future -- working on a memoir, on my own third novel, and nurse myself back to health -- but I'm basically starting over with everything else. I left one degree. I picked up my chosen career post graduation (from my first BA) as I've felt called to do. I'm starting to discern becoming a lay Dominican (or Oblate of St. Benedict). Hello, clean slate. No bookmarks on things I had hoped would help me. No financial stability that an in-demand career path would've given me. No going back to any of the previous ideas I had (via saved articles). 

As I tried to add bookmarks to my reinstalled browser, I realized just how many links I had saved up but, ultimately, didn't use. I realized that while it meant that I would have to start a lot of my research over, the fact that I have to do it over again seems more like a fun adventure. Furthermore, losing the bookmarks (after the initial period of panic) made me realize how much it didn't matter to me. During last year's St. Andrew Christmas novena, I asked for the gift of being detached from worldly things that would not benefit my soul and this loss made me realize that I'm seeing the fruits of that novena, months after I made the petition.

Cue the moment of realization that this is just the latest in a string of instances in which I no longer care about certain things I once valued as important. Social media? I don't use it as much. Thinking about what people think of what I blog about? Not high on my list of worries. Fearing about what people would think about yet another (MA being the other) degree I abandoned, though due to circumstances beyond my control? Doesn't register. 

I feel free. I feel free from the pressures of things I once considered important but have come to see that they truly weren't. I feel free to pursue God's will for me without worries (though I've been facing some problems in my personal life due to it). I feel free to focus on what's important and let everything else disappear into the background. It's been a blessing.

I'm not going to lie, I'm glad I'm done with the St. Joseph novena because everything that can go wrong, went wrong during those last 30 days. At the same time, it was also a blessing. Through every hiccup, I've felt getting closer to where God wants me. I had a really, really hard week last week (to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if I was under back-to-back spiritual attacks) but now I can sit here, look back, and see that it was worth it. It sure didn't feel that way last week but, in retrospect, it was.

That's where I'm at right now. Well, mostly. I have other things for another post. ;) 

Oh! And if you're wondering which are the websites I ended up bookmarking again (that I use almost every day):
- Hotmail
- Gmail
- This blog
- Los Angeles Public Library (for eMedia)
- Kindle Manager (for eBooks borrowed from the library)
- Spoken Bride (no comment)

As I said, this laptop (my only laptop/PC) has been malfunctioning for the past week so we'll see how often I can blog until I get a new one. I'm actually trying to use it until it kicks the virtual bucket because I'm trying to make my savings last for as long as possible while I look for a job (that pays). Yes, I'm constantly saving/backing up my files online so that I don't lose anything important. Mama didn't raise no fool. ;)

And that's it for now. I got very little sleep last night 3 hours or so and an hour and a half-long nap this afternoon didn't help much so I may just go take another nap or do something to help keep me from falling asleep until it's time for bed. Maybe I'll have a dance party. Wait, can you have a dance party to Bud Powell, George Gershwin, and Charlie Parker...? (side note: totally grooving to Bud Powell's version of "A Night in Tunisia" as I type this.)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week!

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Have Zero Plans For My Life

I think some (okay, almost all) of the people in my life are utterly perplexed over my decision to not make any plans regarding my future. I have zero plans for my life. I have no clarity about what God wants me to do but not even that is making any big impact on me.

"So, wait, you don't have any plans?"

Beyond finishing the memoir and working on my third novel (two separate works), no. Before anyone panics, this isn't a cry for help nor anything of the sort. I'm not disappearing. I'm not depressed or having any thoughts that would condemn to automatic eternity in h-e-double hockey sticks. On the contrary; I can't remember the last time I felt this happy, this at peace, or this excited about the future. I've simply decided to let God have full control of my future. Complete control. I'm not planning anything long term. I know... it's weird for me not to have plans in place. It's a new territory for me.

Sure, I plan on looking for a job so I can pay back my student loans, but I don't have a specific field I'm looking at. I'm letting God take the reins in regards to what field I'll be working in. Yes, I do have plans to hang out with friends in the next week. Obviously, I have some writing to do. Besides that, no concrete plans. I don't even have birthday plans (which I love to plan for) and my birthday is coming up at the end of this month. Any plans I have are short term and no longer than 2 weeks in advance. These plans can also be changed as needed.

As I said in the last blog post, something happened between the 54-day Rosary novena I did last year and this past Lent that made me change in a profound way. I no longer care for this that I used to; things that made me shallow, vain, prideful, etc. As Easter approached, I knew that I wanted to surrender everything to God. If I had a religious vocation, this would've been easier for me to do -- to renounce the things that the world was offering me that were no longer bringing me joy or bringing me closer to God. Alas, I have no religious vocation. Recently, I even opened up myself to the possibility of becoming a consecrated laywoman but my desire for a family is too great.

I've known for years that this -- being a wife and mama -- is to be my future vocation. Again, since the Rosary novena, that desire has grown exponentially and my vocation in that area is the only thing that is perfectly clear to me. God is in control there as well, though I've had to ask St. Joseph and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for help to keep my heart safe from vultures in the past couple of months. No plans there either. Even if there are plans, y'all know I probably wouldn't talk/blog about them until like the day after my wedding, ninja-style. lol.

My former spiritual director advised me to wait until I was done with school to discern becoming a lay Dominican. The Oblates of the Order of St. Benedict have also appealed to me recently so I'll be looking into both of those. That reminds me... I should probably look into finding a solid spiritual director soon. Since I have no plans to return to academia in any capacity anytime soon, and since I have zero plans overall, it's a good time to start this discernment. A certain L.A. seminarian needs to get on my case about that. Ahem. lol.

I'm really enjoying my little domestic routine I fall into every time I'm not in school. I love pulling up Spotify on my laptop or iPod touch and singing and dancing along to the music as I clean the house. I actually love cleaning -- vacuuming, dusting, putting things in the proper place, washing dishes by hand, etc. Even there are only two of us living in this apartment, I still regularly clean the house and keep it organized. I do the grocery shopping. I'm the one who keeps track of all financial things. I take care of the car and I fix things that need to be fixed around the house (I'm very much my father's daughter). I even took apart the vacuum a couple of days ago to fix it. I split cooking duties with Mom but baking is my thing. It's my jam (no pun intended) -- I love the domestic life.

As you can see, I'm basically going with the flow. I'm open to anything God puts in my path. It's been working well for me except I can get bored at times (lol, oh, Emmy...). During these moments of boredom, I just grab a book and read, clean the house, or I try to catch up with friends. It's become clear that I need to take this time to get myself a little healthier so I'm simply playing it by ear. Where things will go, we shall see. Kind of exciting, huh? lol.

There's something intensely beautiful and liberating yet somewhat frightening about leaving everything up to God. It's frightening because you have no idea what He has in store for you. I have no idea what is coming up. I don't know if I'm going to endure more hardships or -- if there are some coming up -- if they'll be worse than what I've dealt with up until now. I don't know if I'm going to get a sudden break and things will start working out for me. I don't know when I'll get a job or pay off my student loans. I don't know when my dream of being a wife and mama will finally happen. I don't know anything except that I love God and I trust Him with my life. That is why I'm doing what I'm doing; that's the beautiful and liberating part.

That's my answer to people freaking out about the changes I've made lately. I'm happy and at peace. Have I said that enough for people will start believing me when I say it? lol. There's no need for any alarm. I'm in a good place across the board. Saying goodbye to certain social media accounts was good to do because now I don't sit around and just scroll through everything now that I have way too much free time. I have to use my creativity -- and remembering what needs to be done -- to fill my life. It's quite lovely.

I think that's it for now. Hopefully, this will be the last of these kinds of posts. I don't want to keep repeating myself but, apparently, I need to keep reassuring people I'm okay. I'm good. If I wasn't so camera shy, I'd post a picture of me giving you a thumbs up so... virtual thumbs up. Insert dorky grin here, too. lol.

Okay, I'm going to go get a snack and read. Maybe. I don't even know what I'm going to do for the rest of my day. ;)

I hope you are all doing well!

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Not a "Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200" Situation

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm officially done with my SLP program. No, this doesn't mean I'm graduating. It's complicated but not a "do not pass go; do not collect $200" situation. I'll try my best to explain. Cue "Done" by The Band Perry playing in the background.

Long story short: the program requires that I earn a B- or greater in my courses before I can move on. I will be stuck with a C+ (after failing my final exam last night; I needed an 80% to pass the class) for one course (B in the other) and thus I'm done. I can repeat the course for the third time like some of my other classmates will be doing but I've chosen not to for two big reasons. (side note: there is a lot of griping and speculation amongst those in the program about the changes that have been and will be implemented this summer. Let's just say that there are apparently many courses being repeated 2-3 times before a student can move on and/or graduate and this wasn't an issue when I began the program three years ago.)

First, I don't want to add to my student debt. I'm about $40-45k in debt for one completed Bachelor's, another nearly completed Bachelor's, and one year of a Master's degree. I'm almost done paying off the loans from my first BA (yay!) but I still need to pay off the rest and it's going to be a little hard because I haven't been able to work. As you guys know, I've been sick for a while and I've spent a lot of time at home, in bed or just sitting as much as I can, and I haven't been able to physically do much which rules out a lot of potential jobs. I've been wanting to work for a long time now because I hate debt. My parents taught me not to use credit cards or get myself something that I can't pay off right away but my education was always sort of the exception. The longer I go without a job, the more money I'll owe (especially with the interest rates from the graduate loans; holy cow!). Mom and I are in a good place, financially, right now but we don't know how much longer she'll be able to work because she's physically slowing down and we literally cannot afford for me to keep going in school without a job. I can't do both; I've tried and it's affected my health so it's not an option.

Second, and most importantly, I haven't felt called to continue down this SLP path for several weeks/months. In fact, I broke down and cried all afternoon, evening, and about 11:30 p.m. on Friday because I hated that I felt stuck doing this (due to responsibilities). Yes, I actually cried (on and off) for about 8 hours. It was bad but it was also good because it made me realize that I was doing something that I don't feel God is calling me to do because I was trying to please others and trying to take matters into my own hands.

It was during that emotionally taxing time that I had this beautiful yet painful revelation that I was crying because I knew I wasn't doing what I feel God is calling me to do. I do trust Him to lead me down the path He wants me to take, but I was still letting others (including the most important person in my life) influence what I was doing and then making an excuse that God would still provide because I was sacrificing a lot for the good of another. That was the whole reason why I kept going down this path; because I wanted others to benefit from what I was doing even though I knew, deep down, that this wasn't what I was meant to be doing and even though I was utterly miserable doing it. If you know me, you know this isn't new for me... and that it's something I feel God has been wanting me to address for a long time.

Over the last couple of days, I've been gaining a little more of the clarity that I've been praying for. I've realized that I need to, first and foremost, take a little break (perhaps the first half of the month of May) to take care of myself and my health. It's something that I've been working on (and have been seeing good results in recent days) but I feel like I need a little bit of time to fully immerse myself in prayer, fasting (in ways others than food), and recollection while I physically take care of myself. This also means more Mass (daily, if I can), more time in silence, and less outside noise. Also, more sleep (you should see the bags under my eyes right now), a healthier diet (I've been slipping in this area lately), and giving my mind a break from all the memorization craziness from the past 8 months.

Following this little break of maybe a week or two, I plan on writing full-time until I can find a job that I can do at home or one that allows me to be seated for the majority of it... at least while I continue to get healthier and recover from the health issues I've had lately. I do have a ghostwriting assignment (a memoir) that's been in the works for months that I can now fully devote myself and my time to. It's not too mentally taxing but it's enough of a challenge that will keep my mind occupied, which I like. I was wondering why St. Francis de Sales kept popping up in my life lately (especially since Lent) and I think this might be why. We'll see. ;)

I don't feel disappointed in this new development. It's weird but I felt elated when I saw the 52% exam grade last night. I felt relief... joy... a lot of excitement... and peace. I think I actually said "oh, good. Now I can do Your will, God" out loud. lol. I now have the excuse (because, yes, in my weird little head I needed an excuse to get people off my back) to pursue whatever God is calling me to do. I'm so excited! I've been praying the 30-day (day 23 today) St. Joseph novena and I did another novena for St. Catherine of Siena's feast day for this particular intention and I guess I received my answer. I know people will be disappointed in me. I know some will think I'm lazy or that I'm a quitter. Frankly, my dears, I don't give a darn.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm just so excited that I can finally focus on finding out what God wants me to do, to actually do it, and not have that obstacle anymore. I don't have any more excuses not to and it's incredibly liberating and a little daunting because I have no idea what's in store. I used to have a major problem with (and get anxiety attacks from) not knowing what's ahead. I used to (and, okay, still do -- on a smaller scale) love to plan things out exactly how I wanted them to go. Thankfully, now I plan but I also recognize that plans don't always go the way you want them to and that's okay. I'm getting better at going with the flow which is something I used to do very well when I was younger but became a control issue when anxiety hit in my mid teens. God's plans are better than my own. Also, is it weird that this is somehow feels like it's connected to the 54-day Rosary novena I did last year?

I have no idea how I'm going to pay off my student loans. I've been keeping my eye out on jobs that I can do from home -- i.e. freelance writing, managing a brand's social media accounts, etc. -- for weeks now but nothing yet. I have no doubt that God will help provide at some point. I'm not going to stress out (even though at least one person in my life is freaking out over this). If God provides food and shelter for animals, surely He will help me find a way to pay for my loans and for the basic necessities of life. I'm not above doing menial jobs if that's what He wants to do. I would be perfectly happy cleaning a church or doing something that is seen as lowly if I knew it was what He wanted me to do. Sure, I will continue pursuing my longtime dream of being a writer but if another path becomes clear for me, I'll pursue that instead. You and me, God... let's do this!

Alright, I think that's long enough. lol. I don't know when I'll be able to blog again. I've been experiencing problems with my laptop this past week (I almost wasn't able to do my exam last night because of these problems) and I don't know when it'll finally bite the dust. I'm trying very hard not to read into the symbolism of this situation; I bought the laptop specifically to start the SLP program three years ago and now it started to break down completely as I'm finishing my last semester in this program. I've had problems with this laptop since day one. I even had to return the laptop 3 times because they were all faulty. I see what you did there, coincidences... ;)

I hope you all have a lovely Sunday!

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