Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Dear God, Please Help Me... I'm Drowning.

Dear God,

Please help me... I'm drowning.

I've overwhelmed with school. No matter how many days and hours I study, no matter how well I prepare, I come up short. Sometimes it's because so many things come up at once -- things out of m control -- that I don't have enough time to study. Sometimes it's because my mental fog is so intense that I can't remember what I've studied. It will take a miracle for me to pass two of my classes at this point in time.

Please help me... I'm drowning.

My body is broken and it keeps breaking down even more. On Monday I was told that I was anemic once again. Slightly anemic, but anemic nonetheless. I know what caused it. I know what I need to get my red blood count back to normal. They told me to do an iron I.V. but what they didn't tell me were how serious the side effects were until they pushed me to agree to it. Then the doctor said, "Oh, you may have an anaphylaxic reaction." After she said there were no side effects. She wouldn't even let me consider the option to take iron pills like I had in the past. Other opinions say I should be fine with oral iron pills since my numbers are not low enough for concern. I don't know what to do.

Please help me... I'm drowning.

My platelets plummeted again to the second lowest I've ever had them. I was told they need to do a bone marrow biopsy which I was able to push off until after finals were done. It's going to hurt. I'm going to be in a lot of pain. I hope it will bring answers to why my platelets have been dropping over the last couple of years, and especially the last couple of months.

Please help me... I'm drowning.

My faith has taken another beating lately. Just when I think I'm okay, something happens and an intense inner battle begins. I don't know what to do to make it better. I try to go to Mass and then something happens, preventing me from going for weeks at a time. Physical pain. Chronic fatigue that makes it hard for me to even stay seated at times. Extreme physical and mental exhaustion that makes it unsafe for me to drive. The stress-related anxiety that makes me so lightheaded that, again, makes it unsafe for me to drive. No one to drive me to Mass. The longer I go without confession and Mass, the harder it is for me to fight the darkness that keeps threatening me.

Please help me... I'm drowning.

I feel restless and stuck...

I'm impatient and angry...

I'm weak and in desperate need of help that I don't see coming my way...

I trust in You but some days it's hard to feel that way when I have so many other things going wrong. On Monday I even wondered if my faith was strong enough to withstand everything that's been thrown my way this month. I know that's a rash thing to think in a moment of weakness but I don't think I ever felt as low as I did in that moment.

It's not that I don't trust You; it's that my human emotions can overwhelm me. It's my sensitive nature; it's what I've been fighting to overcome in recent months... and it's a Rosary novena intention I've been praying for the past 22 days. Thankfully, I know the moments will pass. I know that once I get it out of my system and cry to release those emotions, I will realize that I do trust You. I'm just a weak human being.

I know that in my weakness You make me strong. I know that in the darkness, You are there with me. I know that even when I feel unworthy and undeserving of Your love, You still love me.

I have no doubt that You put the verse Matthew 6:25 into my mind when I spent some time in front of the tabernacle, praying and sitting in silence. I was praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy -- during that 3 o'clock hour -- and the phrase "Matthew 6:25" popped into my head as clear as day. I couldn't remember what verse that was so I looked it up...

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life..."

I got the message loud and clear... but I still need help because I still have moments where I feel like I'm drowning... and there's no one else to help me.

Your will be done. I say it every time I get overwhelmed with school. I repeat it to myself every time I feel like quitting (especially after yet another academic set back) but I continue listening to the lecture videos and/or doing the assigned work because I feel like it's Your will and there's nothing more that I want than to do just that; do Your will, not mine.

On this day, the 19th anniversary of my confirmation, I ask for one gift from You: to send me help.

Whether it be in the form of a peer support system...

Whether it be in the form of charitable prayers from those who feel moved to say a prayer for me...

Whether it be from a priest or someone who can help guide me and help me regain my spiritual health...

Whether it be an inner peace that can only come from You, I ask for a little help.

I want a little fresh air to fill my lungs after feeling like I've been underwater for so long.

I know You will hear my plea and that, in Your mercy, You will do what I need. I will keep my eyes and my heart open for that moment.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Is This What You Meant, God (via St. Francis de Sales)?

St. Francis de Sales has been popping up in my life at the most (seemingly) random times of my life during the past year. It's usually when I'm questioning a lot of things, career-wise. It's happened, once again, while doing the 54-day Rosary novena.

It's no secret that two of my intentions are that I either graduate from the program I'm in (which I feel called to do despite hating it) and work in this field OR that God shows me what He wants me to do if it isn't the SLP route. Either way, I just want to do His will... while paying back my student loans. It's the only debt I have (besides paying off my laptop) and I want it gone.

In an ideal world, I would be a writer -- either of novels, as a ghostwriter (which I have experience in), or for Catholic publications. I just want to write. I want that to be my work... but I haven't had the best luck trying to break into it because I'm not as aggressive as other people in trying to land work. I don't like using my connections to get jobs. I want to get them on my own merit and talents.

When I asked God to show me my gifts a couple of weeks ago, I was and wasn't surprised to see that writing came up. I wasn't because I've always had better success communicating through the written word than verbally. I was because, like I said, I haven't had much success in the writing world over the last couple of years. Still, I've felt pulled back to write... and to make a better effort to make it happen, career-wise.

Last month, a friend asked me if I was doing NaNoWriMo this year and I, on a whim, decided I was going to. Yes, I have a full load of schoolwork and everything else but I need the creative outlet that writing offers. I've only had two nights since November 1st to work on a third novel but I've already made a decent amount of progress in those 2 days. 

I'm going to start over... in a sense. Since I let my @nerdwriter Twitter account go the 30 days without activating it, it's gone. It can't be reactivated and I can't gain all those followers again. That doesn't bother me. In fact, it makes things better because I have the chance to have a fresh start as a writer. The nerdwriter era had to come to an end and I don't regret doing it. I opened up a new public account and am going to be using @MelissaCeciliaG as my new handle since that's what I use professionally. Warning: If I come to realize that this was a rash decision, I have absolutely no qualms about shutting the account down. I can do without Twitter... if I'm not writing. For now, it's a necessity. 

Why did I start over again last night? Because, as I prayed day 9 of the 54-day Rosary novena, I felt like I was having a mental dialogue with God that went something like this:

"Use your gifts."
Me: But I'd have to start over again.
"Is this your passion?"
Me: Yes.
"Then start over again. Don't let anyone or anything extinguish your gifts."
Me: But...
"Don't let anyone dampen your light; your fire."

I felt such a motivation and a sort of push to get back into things... with some modifications. I already know what and what doesn't work for me in terms of Twitter because I still have that love-but-mostly hate relationship with the site. Taking a cue from one of my favorite non-fiction writers, author Jennifer L. Scott, I'm going to be using the account to post things that are associated with what's going on with me as a writer. And, okay, I'm also going to share the odd tweet and/or article that I find amusing that I would like to share but I won't be as active as I once was. 

There's one more thing that is a big change for me: I'm 98% sure I'm going to make the transition from New Adult fiction writer to a non-fiction writer. I already have two projects (one of which isn't even mine; I'm ghostwriting someone's memoirs) lined up for the end of the year. When I felt the push from God to try my hand at writing again, it became clear to me that I do better as a non-fiction writer. I literally went "Ohhh...!!!" aloud when I came to that realization a couple of days ago. lol. I don't know why but writing about things that happen in real life (i.e. these blog posts, past articles I've written for various publications and companies) makes more sense to me. Sure, I have a ton of stories bouncing around in my mind, but I think I connect better with readers when I can just be myself, warts and all. I still may write the occasional YA/NA novel (my third novel is one I feel compelled to write/publish) but my focus will be different this time around. 

Now we come back to St. Francis de Sales... I've been wondering all year if this was why he kept popping up in my life whenever I questioned my career choices. I kept thinking to myself, "does this mean I should give writing another shot?" He is the patron saint of writers... but he's also the patron saint against deafness which falls in the speech-language pathology field. I'm currently studying for speech-pathology AND audiology as part of my second Bachelor's program so I've been learning more about the deaf community this semester. I have more audiology courses next semester so, you know, I won't be surprised if he continues popping up in my life through graduation.

Could it be possible that God wants me to work in both fields? It is a possible option, after all. After I finish my degree (if I can pass my courses this and next semester), I plan on doing my license hours so I can get my SLPA license. There will be a lot of free time in between graduation and when the license hours will be completed since the local programs will begin in September and end in November... if I can get into the cohort that begins in Fall 2018. If I don't, I'll have to apply for the Spring 2019 cohorts (which end in April) and see if I can get into them. In the meantime, I'll need to do something (work-wise) to begin paying back my student loans. With how physically debilitating my chronic fatigue syndrome can be, I can't think of a better potential job than writing. Is this what you meant, God (via St. Francis de Sales)?

I've been saying (for weeks/months) that I don't feel like I'm meant to keep my focus solely on the speech-language pathology field, even going as far as saying that I didn't see myself doing it long term. Could it possible that it was because I had to figure out that I was meant to do both? I guess I'll just have to wait for more clarity from God. For now, I'm going to continue to try to work as hard as I can in my coursework and exams... and try to get the third novel completed and published. I probably won't get the novel finished until sometime next year but, at least, I'll have a way to reward myself for doing well on my exams (for every passed exam, a full day of just writing and no studying).

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter. I can't guarantee I'll check it daily or as often as before but now I'll be able to keep in touch with some of y'all with whom I'd lost touch when I closed down the @nerdwriter account. 

That's it for now. I have an exam to study for and an assignment to complete... and then more writing to do. Whoo! :D

I hope y'all have had a lovely week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Hate This... But I'll Do it For You, God.

Have you ever hated doing something so much but you knew/felt like it was God's will for you so you just pushed through it, tears and all? That's where I am right now.

I seem to have an emotional breakdown every 2-3 weeks while I'm studying. I get tired of working hard and not have it go well. It's usually due to lack of concentration and mental fog... or lack to time to study properly. There is one class that usually brings out the tears: the notorious (and universally despised amongst my coursemates) second hardest course of the program.

Wait, second hardest?! you may be asking. Yes, this isn't even the hardest course. That one is waiting for me next semester. Send paper bags to Melissa Cecilia at... lol.

I would be lying if I said that I wish I could quit. I mean, I can quit -- no one is forcing me to stay in this program -- but I've chosen not to quit because this seems to be what God has in store for me. Every time I feel like I won't pass an exam... like I didn't have enough time... like I don't have it in me to continue, God shows me otherwise.

I miraculously passed both of my exams this past weekend. For Saturday's class, I literally only had that day to study because of some circumstances beyond my control (I ended up in the emergency room for crazy palpitations which I had for three days in a row last week) and I had my highest exam grade of the semester. I knew Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (whose picture I keep on my desk) interceded for me because I had zero confidence going into the exam.

I'm sure I will want to quit again before the semester is over and/or before graduation, if I make it through this and next semester. This program has really tested me in many ways... but I think that's why God wants me to keep going. Even if I end up doing something else after graduation, pushing through my self-doubt, beyond my comfort level, and willingly pushing myself through all of this while sick and dealing with a number of other things is doing me a lot of good.

For one thing, this is helping me practice trusting God more. It's far easier to say that you trust God than to actually do it, especially when things look bleak. I keep reminding myself, "if this is what God wants from me, He will make sure I can accomplish what needs to be done to keep going forward." As I've said, He's shown me (more than once) that this is the path He wants me to take so I do it. I may take a couple of minutes to cry and complain about how much I hate this program but, once it's out of my system, I wipe away the tears and continue watching the lecture videos or doing the assignment that has caused the latest round of frustration.

For another thing, God is showing me that I'm much stronger than I think I am... but it's all done with His help. I know I haven't been able to overcome some of the more depressing and frustrating moments of the semester without His help. I can't do anything worth doing without His help. On days when my chronic fatigue and lightheadedness is terrible, I know He gives me the fortitude and the graces to continue. Do I deserve them? I may not think so but He gives them to me anyway (yes, I know it's because He loves me) and for that I am grateful.

You know, I feel very spoiled in the area of hardships. Not counting the medical issues I've had in my adult years and the loss of my father eight years ago, I've been a very fortunate gal who hasn't had the hardships others have had. Yes, I've experienced a lot of things that I'm not sharing, but either my optimistic nature has made me focus on the silver linings of these situations and that's diminished the severity of them or I truly haven't been tested like others have. Either way, I feel like this is really testing me in ways I haven't known before and it's helping to shape me into a (God willing) better version of myself. I feel like this is preparing better for my vocations (career and the big-V vocation) which is always a blessing.

Has anyone ever been through something similar? Finding yourself in an overwhelming situation that you could potentially get yourself out of but choosing to see it through because you knew/felt like it was God's will for you to continue until the end? How did you persevere?

Those are my thoughts for now. I have a chance to do lecture videos and do an exam for a course a week early so I'm going to try to do that... as soon as I catch up on the days worth of emails that have accumulated in my inbox. I'm behind on emails, NaNoWriMo (yes, I'm participating; no, it's not something a sane person would do), and a couple of things that have been neglected in the past couple of days in favor of studying for exams.

I hope y'all had a great weekend and have been having a great week thus far.

If you're doing the 54-day Rosary novena along with us, let me know how it's going thus far. My apologies for the inability to tag y'all in the FB page; apparently Facebook changed some things since last year and I'm unable to tag most of you, unlike last year. Keep going! We're already a week into it. ;)

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 54-Day Rosary Novena Begins Tomorrow!!

The 54-day Rosary novena begins tomorrow. I'm so happy new people are joining in this year! This is just a friendly reminder that if you want to join in and want me to send you daily reminders -- either by email or tagging you on a daily novena post on the blog's Facebook page, you need to let me know today or ASAP so I can add you to the list.

Since the novena begins tomorrow, here are some tips and notes for y'all who have never done it before.

  • There are two versions of it, one includes the Luminous mysteries and the other has the traditional mysteries. You are free to choose whichever you like. I had done the version with the Luminous mysteries the first couple of times I did it but I went the traditional route last year.
  • Find a way to keep track of what mysteries you have to do for the day. I will be letting those of you who want reminders know which day we're on, but not what mystery to do because some people will do the "original" version and the others will add the Luminous mysteries.
  • If I'm not reminding you, please find a system that works in reminding you. I'm personally using my Wunderlist app to remind me of the day... which, in turn, will help me remind y'all. I made a calendar for my mom last year so she would just cross out the day we were on as soon as she completed the Rosary.
  • If you have a tendency to space out on intentions from time to time (*points to self*), you can write them down on a Post-It next to your screen if you're using the website I've always used or you can print out the prayers/novena and write them down somewhere to remember. If you have a booklet you're using, you can write it down on a scrap of paper or an index card and place it in your booklet.
  • Be sure to carve out time in your day to do this novena... and don't do it last minute. This novena takes a bit longer than the normal Rosary because of the additional prayers. It personally takes me about 20-25 minutes but that's because I'm used to it. It took my mother, who did not pray the Rosary regularly, 30-40 minutes. You'll soon get in the groove and it won't take you as long to complete it.
  • Don't let the length of the daily Rosary novena OR how long this novena in general (the 54 days) intimidate you. I know it seems daunting at first but it will fly by quickly before you know it.
  • Please feel free to share any big intentions on the blog's FB page if you feel inclined. Also, please pray for others' intention if you wish to. This is not an obligation.
  • If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. If something isn't making sense (and some things didn't make sense to me when I first did it), please let me know. I would be more than happy to help you out in any way I can. :)
And that's it for today. I have two exams to study for as well as a slew of other things I need to do before it gets any later in the day since Mom and I have planned to shut ourselves up for the evening/night. We're not big on Halloween (e.g. we watch Elf today instead) and we live in a somewhat dodgy neighborhood so, for safety reasons, we choose not to give out candy either. 

I hope y'all have a lovely day and week. If you're going out tonight, please be safe. Oh! And, please, don't forget that tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation. There. Now you can't say you didn't know. You're welcome. ;) 

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Coming to Terms with (Invisible) Chronic Illnesses

I was a very active person before chronic fatigue hit.

I played a slew of sports growing up. I used to race against the boys to see who was the fastest in the fifth grade. I was always one of the few girls who loved co-ed PE because the girls usually didn't want to play sports and I loved them. Basketball, soccer, handball, track and field, tennis, volleyball... I loved it all. I was one of the 2-3 girls who dared to play flag football with the guys during my freshman (and only) year of (public) high school. It was so much fun!

I also grew up with a love of dance. Ballroom, Mexican folkloric dance, hip-hop, swing, tango, etc. I did drill team and cheerleading when I was in public school, too. I still have a great love for dance and have been known to dance instead of walk at home and even in grocery store aisles... and I don't even notice until it's too late. lol.

When I was at my CINO college alma mater, I used to love walking down and up a steep hill on campus that connected the lower floors of the Humanities building to the center of the campus... and then up the stone steps up to the chapel. (side note: for those of you who don't know where I attended undergrad, the campus is on top of a local mountain range so it was all hills, some very steep). Sometimes, when I had a couple of hours to kill in between classes, I would head to the campus gym and walk on the treadmill.

Up until about a year and some months ago, I had energy that my friends would jokingly say I should bottle up and sell. Sometime during summer 2016, I became a lot more tired than usual. By the time March of this year rolled along, I started struggling with simply staying awake while sitting. Even after 10+ hours of sleep, I just can't keep fatigue at bay for long. I try to avoid things with wheat/gluten (which makes things worse for me) but it doesn't always help and some days the fatigue is so intense that I can't do what I need to do... and it's frustrating.

This past weekend, I had two exams. I chose to do one on a day that my mind was sharper than usual and that I didn't feel tired. I had this "you know what? I didn't study that much for it but I feel so good... let's do it!" I passed the exam in a shockingly high grade (at least a high grade for this class which is despised by most people who take it). Shout out to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Jude for helping a girl out on that exam!

I ended up taking the second exam on the day it was due because a hard wave of fatigue hit between the first exam and the second. I put it off until the last day because I know that my mental fog is terrible when I'm extremely tired. I studied all day of the exam. I knew the material in the morning... but as I got more tired, I struggled to remember what I had read only minutes before. When I was taking the exam, I knew I wouldn't pass.

I struggled to comprehend what the questions were. I had to re-read some of them 2-3 times before my brain understood what the question was. That's how bad my mental fog was. Everything I studied (and I'd watched the lecture videos a minimum of 3 times and had gone over the material several times on different occasions) flew out of my mind. I was left struggling to not only stay awake during the exam but also try to remember what I'd studied. I received a 66%. Ouch. To say I was frustrated and upset would be an understatement.

I hate not being able to do simple things such as cooking for myself. Yes, you read that right; I can't even cook for myself on days when my fatigue is particularly bad and I feel like my legs are jelly and/or I'm falling asleep standing up. I hate not being able to clean the house as I was used to. I hate not being able to study properly because I'll fall asleep. Yesterday, I fell asleep twice while wearing my contact lenses because my body felt too heavy to walk then 7 steps from my bed to the bathroom... and I couldn't fight the tiredness.

Last month, a doctor I saw (I've had a rotation doctors while I was assigned to a new one after my doctor left in June) added chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to the list of reasons why I couldn't do something I was asked to (I had to have a doctor sign to confirm my physical inability for it). My next round of bloodwork is next month (in exactly 3 weeks, actually) and if they see that everything is still within normal range, they'll most likely add CFS to my medical record (they require a minimum of 6 months with symptoms and no medical explanation for it). We're still hoping for a positive gluten test (which would explain the fatigue, mental fog, and low platelets) but if nothing comes up, it's going to go the CFS route. If there is no medical explanation for this fatigue and it's CFS, it's going to be a hard pill to swallow as there's no cure for CFS.

Last week was Invisible Illness Week, bringing awareness to illnesses you can't see but are present. I have three confirmed invisible illnesses: (chronic) PTSD, thrombocytopenia (low platelets), and food allergies. If CFS gets officially added to my medical record, it'll be four. I know, I'm a lucky gal. lol. It didn't take long for me to accept my PTSD because it became an answer to the depression, anxiety, and other symptoms I've experienced since I was 15. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy, we were able to get to the root causes of the PTSD and the symptoms have gotten so much better in recent years with panic attacks becoming increasingly rare.  Food allergies, well, no one can predict those. Thankfully, the allergies and tolerances have not been life-threatening or severe so I just have to be careful with what I eat. We don't know the cause for thrombocytopenia though we're currently hoping that perhaps it's the result of a gluten intolerance. This one has been harder to come to terms with because there can be no possible cause for it (it randomly appears in some people) and not knowing the cause or how long the symptoms will last is scary. If I have to add CFS to the list of things I'm physically enduring that have no explanation, it's going to take a lot for me to try to be okay with it.

Before you start on a "you have to trust God" lecture, let me just say that I know. I know... but it's still hard because it's potentially life-changing and that'll feed into my PTSD. It's so easy for someone to say that I have to trust God when they have no idea how hard it is not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Again, I know this and I do work hard towards this but it takes time because my weak human mind needs the time to adjust to big changes.

In my quest to try to accept things and trust God, I try to find the silver linings. Thanks to my PTSD, I avoided a life that could've put my soul into a lot of danger (Hollywood is not the best environment for anyone wanting to avoid sin). Also, thanks to the PTSD, I was able to spend more time with my father during the last years of his life. I was England-bound for college but my anxiety kept me at home and it helped me be able to help my father when his cancer returned and became terminal. Having thrombocytopenia and (formerly) anemia helped me learn how to better take care of myself and learn that self-care is important because I had the habit of running on empty and neglecting myself. Having food allergies has helped me discern what I put into my body and has helped me learn to get creative with what I eat (applesauce instead of eggs for pancakes, anyone?) So far, CFS is helping me learn that it's okay to be reliant on others for help (challenging my super independent "I can do everything myself; I don't need help" mentality) as well as understanding what it means to truly trust God.

There are two things that I continue to struggle with (that I'm working on) and both involve my future.

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I'll have the energy/stamina/health to have children. I've always wanted a family and children. Some of my earliest memories have been of me announcing that I wanted to be a mama (and this pre-dates me saying I wanted to be a nun) or caring for my dolls. I'm a "mama bear" to my friends. That desire to be a wife and mother has become a longing that I struggle with on some days. On days when my fatigue is particularly bad and my body feels like lead, that little seed of doubt that I'll be able to become a mother and/or do a good job grows. That leads to the second thing I struggle with...

More often than I care to admit, I wonder if I'll ever find someone who will accept me as I am -- with chronic illnesses and all. I've had my fair share of guys disappearing as soon as they find out the medical crosses I'm carrying. Some guys get spooked off by the food allergies which is the least problematic of what I deal with. Sometimes I think that I won't find someone because these things are not easy to deal with. I hate to say it but I don't know many people who would want to deal with someone else's problems on top of their own (my own friends not included in this statement). I wonder if I should just get used to the idea of being on my own... and wonder how I'll be able to pull it off when I want to work but my body is not cooperating with me. I fear that perhaps I won't find someone who can't look past what I can't do to look at what I can do and what I can offer.

Deep down, I know God will help take care of me. I know He will either give me the resources and/or graces necessary to do what I need to do. Every time I feel like giving up (because I fail an exam due to my mental fog) and I begin to question whether I'm cut out for this career path, I'll somehow miraculously pass the next exam or I'll do well on an assignment that keeps my grades afloat. I know that if this is the career path God wants me to take, He will help me get through this program (graduation is scheduled for May 4th of next year) and will help me figure out how to balance whatever physical issues I'm dealing and a proper job. I know that God will make sure I prepare myself well enough to be the best wife and mother I can be to my future husband and children if that's my vocation (which I've discerned long enough to feel 99.9% sure that I'm called to). Still, those moments of doubts do appear from time to time and it's when I know I have to step it up in my prayer life.

The 54-day Rosary novena is coming up in a couple of days and I know what two of my intentions will be: for my health (that we either find the causes for what I'm going through or that I can figure out how to manage the symptoms so that I can keep moving forward) and for my vocation (small v; that I pass my courses and graduate next year or that God helps me find a job that I can do while dealing with my chronic fatigue so that I can pay back my student loans if being an SLPA is not what He wants me to do).

I'm sorry for the downer vibe in this post but I don't really see posts like this out in the blogosphere (including the Catholic world) so I wanted to write it in case anyone is in a similar boat. Also, this part of my own journey and part of my life I felt like I should share so I wrote it all out.

Alright, well, I guess that's it for now. I'm having a terrible mental fog/fatigue/body feels like lead day but I think I can still manage to get some groundwork done for when I'm ready to start memorizing terms for next weeks exams (2 exams and 4 quizzes due next weekend) so I'm going to try to do that. :) Oh, and please let me know if you want in on next week's 54-day Rosary novena either by commenting on the blog post for it or by leaving me a message/comment on the blog's FB page.

I hope y'all had a lovely week and have a great weekend! :)

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Want to Join in on This Year's 54 Day Rosary Novena?

My apologies for the long gap between blog posts but I had a crazy week last week with two exams, a quiz, and a big assignment. I have an easier week this week (it's lecture/reading week; next week is exam week once again) so... new blog posts this week! I have 3 posts in the drafts box and two other ideas that I will also get to this week. I won't post them all this week but I will schedule some for next week so there's stuff going up even when I'm trying not to drown in speech-pathology and audiology terms, facts, and procedures.

This post is going to be a quick one since I'm having a decent non-mental fog day (which are becoming increasingly rare; thanks, chronic fatigue...) and I want to get some studying done while I can.

As some of you may remember, last year we had a surprisingly large (well, large for this blog) number of people who joined in on the 54-day Rosary novena. I had a list of people I emailed, tweeted, and tagged (in FB) every day with reminders about which day we were on for those 54 days. I don't know about everyone else, but I had some amazing results almost immediately after the novena... and both Mom and I are still seeing results nearly a year later. The novena has been truly changing for us and I know it's been the same for others.

Of course, I'm going to throw a word of caution: this novena is not for everyone. Some people (including myself; I've done this novena several times over the years) have experienced a continuous Murphy's Law streak during the entirety of the novena. If someone can go wrong, it will go wrong. Not everyone experiences it (Mom didn't and I only had one thing go wrong throughout the novena last year). I've known people who've done the novena with us over the years and they've only seen the good that the novena brings. Still, I have also heard of people who've abandoned the novena because they've gotten overwhelmed with the bad they've encountered. However, in my experience, the good always outweighs the bad (in hindsight) and if you have a huge intention that you really feel stuck on, I would highly recommend doing this novena. Please don't let what I've just said scare you off; I'm only informing you that this novena can really test someone so that you're prepared if you want in. Keep frequenting the Sacraments and you should be fine. ;)

Having said that (and potentially scared some of you who've never done this novena before, lol; sorry!), I'm wondering if anyone of you would like to join us this year. Again, we're starting on November 1st (All Saints' Day) and we're ending on Christmas Eve, which is the recommended time of year to do this novena. Yes, it's exactly 54 days (Sundays included) between All Saints' Day and Christmas Eve. Amazing, right? ;) I obviously can't tweet reminders this year but I would happily tag anyone who wants to join in on this blog's Facebook page or even email you if you think you'll need daily reminders. I certainly don't mind.

I already posted this invitation a couple of weeks ago on the FB page -- and we've got a couple of people who will be joining in -- but now I'm blogging it for those of you who are not on FB (neither following this blog's page nor on that site at all). If you would like me to email you reminders, please let me know where to email you reminders. I'm really sorry, Twitter folks, but I've already explained why I needed to close down my @nerdwriter account in the last blog post.

Anyway, please let me know by All Hallow's Eve (next Tuesday) so we can all start together next Wednesday. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of your week and that you had a great weekend! :D

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

The End of the "Nerdwriter" Era

(Happy 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun! This is the third of the three-part series I started last weekend.)

"Yes, I did."

"I'm fine."

"It was a long time coming."

These are a few of the responses I gave to those who asked about my (now defunct) @nerdwriter Twitter account in the first couple of hours and days after I deleted it. What, you didn't know? You hadn't noticed? That's what I had hoped and expected.

Most of you know I have a serious love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter. Just search "social media" on this blog's search button and you'll see plenty of posts on it. For months, I'd been considering deleting the account due to several reasons, all negative. As I said in the last blog post, I've been praying to become more detached of worldly things (which I firmly believe was why I was tempted with returning to my former life earlier this year; lots of superficiality in the entertainment business) since the 54-day Rosary novena last year. I've made some strides in that area but I decided to ask once more, during the St. Therese novena. I wasn't sure why the intention came to mind (at the time) but it did so I went with it. I had no clue that it would lead me to delete my nearly decade-long Twitter account.

I opened up my Twitter account in January 2008. I never changed the username. I rarely changed the avatar/picture. I became known as the "nerdwriter" before Evan (the famous "nerdwriter" from YouTube) did since I've had "nerdwriter" as my username in various places since my reversion in 2006. It became part of my identity. I met so many wonderful people through Twitter. I hope that I used it to spread some goodness out into the world during those 9+ years that I had it. Lots of prayer requests... lots of love and support during difficult times... and lots of good conversations.

All but one person have asked me "why?" Why did I do it? I would vaguely reply that there were so many reasons but it all boils down to it being the best option for me; one that became clear last week. Here comes the most humbling part (for me) of this post: giving you the real reasons why I deleted the account.

I was becoming vain about the account. "Look at all my followers!" "Look at all those 'favorites' and retweets!" I would try to think of witty things to tweet to get more retweets; to try to keep up with the (far more) clever folks on Twitter. If I thought something was clever and no one (or a handful of people) liked it, I'd be bummed out. While I tried to stay on the site to try to help spread good, my vanity was flattered more than was healthy... especially when I had some compliments that were (perhaps) more harmful than helpful for me. This was just the tip of the iceberg of all the negativity that social media has brought into my life so, you know, "If your hand or your foot should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire." (Mt 18:8)

Jealousy reared its ugly head. I would get constant reminders that other writers (some of who've been blogging or on social media less time than me) were getting so much success while I could barely find freelance work outside the Catholic world. I tried to not be competitive about it but the constant reminders (which were also good because it humbled me) fed into my own doubts of being good enough. The devil knows how to attack, especially when it comes to your self-esteem. I'm so happy for those who have success... but it makes me sad that I've been at this for longer with no/little success. See why this is problematic? The comparison to others (whether I did it on my own or whether it was shoved into my face by others) is so unhealthy and it made me not think about the gifts that God has given me. What ingratitude jealousy was bringing out in me.

Anger seeped out into my offline life. You can't talk about social media without mentioning disagreements and anger. How people treated each other -- what they said about others -- made me angry. What people said about Catholics (and even the infighting on Catholic Twitter) upset me. Arguments I wasn't initially a part of but was dragged into ticked me off. Comments about how I'm this and that... how I fail to do this and that... They hurt. Look, I'm human. Negative comments affect me, probably more than others because I'm admittedly a very sensitive person. At first, they used to make me cry because they hurt. Then, somewhere along the way, sadness became anger that lasted for only a short while. That developed into unhealthy anger that lasted all day and affected how I interacted with my mom, friends, and neighbors offline (read: grumpy, irritable Emmy for the rest of the day). Those who've known me for years know this is me at my worst; Twitter brought out the worst in me.

It became an addiction that took over my life. I tried moderation but I couldn't do it. I thought I could do it but I obviously couldn't. I would take breaks (during Lent or whenever I felt I needed a break) but I would still log in because it was a compulsion. I thought I was immune to FOMO (fear of missing out) -- and I did have good stretches in which it wasn't an issue -- but ultimately, it was too much for me. I used the excuse that it was the way I socialized when I couldn't leave the house... which is nearly every day. What an excuse to keep the addiction alive, eh? I would check Twitter multiple times a day, even if I didn't post anything. I woke up and immediately checked Twitter. When I had a study break, I would procrastinate on Twitter until it was too late (and I was too tired) to continue studying. I would check Twitter twice "just in case" before I went to bed. Step away from the Twitter, Emmy!

I failed to love others and be as charitable as I should have been. This isn't just a problem for me; it's a problem that nearly (if not) all of us face when we use social media, especially on a platform as massive and divisive as Twitter. There was a lot of criticism (even if it's just done internally), a lot of griping; complaining about things others said that bothered me. Because I'm so perfect, you know. /sarcasm. Basically, I was doing a lousy job of loving my neighbor. I don't want to keep adding to that list when I go to the confessional. It's personally much easier for me to be more patient and give others the benefit of the doubt away from Twitter.

Of course, deleting the account wasn't easy, even in spite of knowing that it was bad for me. I didn't want to delete the account because I had developed an unhealthy attachment to my nerdwriter "brand." I was worried someone would take over my username once they knew it was available and get me in trouble. I was worried that people would stop reading this blog because they weren't getting linked updates. I was worried that my friends would forget about me, dooming me to further social isolation that would send me into depression. Stupid, silly fears, I (now) know.

I reached the point where I thought, "How about worrying about the stuff that mattered?" "How about taking another step towards repairing my relationship with God by cutting off what was being harmful to my soul?" "How about recognizing what my faults are (instead of criticizing or judging others) in order to work on my interior life?" (Mt 7:1-5, anyone?) It was at this point where I knew Twitter was history... and that I needed to delete it. That's why one of my last tweets was asking for prayers to find the courage to do something that was hard but necessary.

The first person I told of my plans to delete Twitter was my mother. Of course, she supported me because she was a firsthand witness to how much Twitter affected me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I waited a while before I broke it to the friends who know me the best. I was planning on waiting until November 1st to delete my account until a trusted friend (who is a seminarian) suggested I do it right then and there. No announcement, just deletion. I thought about it and it made sense to me. It would keep me from having my ego stroked by people who might tell me they would miss me or might try to convince me to stay. I did tell a couple of people (in private) whom I trusted but, overall, nearly no one knew I was going to do it. Then, I did it. Odds are, you probably didn't even notice until now because I'm writing about it.

Deleting Twitter was predictable (yet surprisingly) freeing. Remember how I mentioned that I wanted to become detached from worldly things? This was one of the biggest culprits; one of those things that kept me attached to many earthly and superficial things and feelings. I was too attached to how people thought of me. I was too attached to my "brand." I had become too attached the addiction... to the things that fed my egoism... to being "known" (even though, let's me real, I wasn't really "known.")

I thought about Sr. Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart (formerly known as Channing Dale) who gave up her podcast and social media accounts to enter the Discalced Carmelites Nuns in Elysburg, PA a couple of years ago. She wished to be forgotten in the world but I haven't been able to because she was the first person who I knew (even if it was through social media) who wanted to give everything up for God. I still pray for her every single night and I know that she prays for me.

I thought about Br. Joseph of the Holy Family (formerly known as Mike Gannon) who, like his best friend, Sr. Mary Magdalene, gave up his accounts when he entered the Discalced Carmelites Friars of Holy Hill in Wisconsin. He briefly returned to the world of social media but gave up his accounts once again in recent months. He, like Sr. Mary Magdalene and other religious, have an immensely fulfilling life without the need of social media. (side note: I've had the immense privilege of counting him as a pen pal for a couple of years so I, at least, have that as a way to keep in touch with this great young man.)

I thought about three very inspiring women (one who I have the honor of calling one fo my best friend) who are three of the most social media-detached people I have the pleasure of knowing. One of them doesn't have a Twitter account (nor has she ever had one) and the other two rarely use it. They do have Instagram and Facebook accounts but their posts aren't frivolous and, while all three are very different, they both inspire me to grow closer to God. They share the beauty God has blessed us with, both in pictures and in words. Two are wives and mothers, one is a fellow single gal. One is known in Catholic social media circles while the other two aren't. I actually told my bestie (who hasn't tweeted in several weeks) and she was happy with my decision because, as she said, stepping away from Twitter makes her feel a lot better and helps remind her to live the life God wills for her without comparing herself to others. Amen, my sister (in Christ)!

When I asked God to help me become more detached to the world, I meant it... and, to this day, I still mean it. I want to do good, even if it goes unnoticed. Like Sr. Mary Magdalene and my friend who doesn't have Twitter, I want to live my life with simple honesty (and occasionally hidden from the world) and glorify God with my efforts. Like Br. Joseph and my friend with Twitter, I want to occasionally be out in the world and do some good for His greater glory. Like my bestie, I want to do God's will and if that means stepping away from social media than I must do that.

The best way I could think of "resetting" my interior life -- to remember just how unimportant I am and to eliminate those things which could continue leading me astray -- was to delete Twitter. THAT is ultimately why I deleted the @nerdwriter account; it became just another obstacle that kept me from growing in my relationship with God and that kept me from living a life worthy of Heaven. I'm sure there are other reasons that I can't see right now, but when I made the decision I had the feeling that when I looked at it, in hindsight, I would see that it was for the best.

It's been less than a week since I've written (and added) to this blog post (wrote most of it on the 7th but added to it on the 11th) but you can already see the immediate change. I just asked my mother and she confirmed that I'm less stressed, less irritable, and a lot more calmed and relaxed. She said, "you can just see it on your face/in your being." I think that, alone, is worth losing my username and that part of my identity.

I became "nerdwriter" upon my reversion to the faith, 11 years ago. As of now, I only have "nerdwriter" as a username on and Goodreads because I can't change it on those sites. Otherwise, the username will never be used by me on any other social media platform. I don't plan on ever having a "public" Twitter account, especially not at the capacity I once had it. I will keep this blog's FB page open because I love interacting with y'all and you can always leave me comments on here; I'm not fully cutting myself off from y'all! I do have "catholicnerdwriter" as my username and as part of the title of this blog because I'm still Catholic, I'm still a massive nerd, and I'm still going to write; I'm just retiring the username from social media.

As I start this new chapter in my life -- which I hope means that I'm maturing in both my personal life and in my faith -- the "nerdwriter" chapter has officially closed. It's the end of that era... and I couldn't be more excited to see what the future holds! I look forward to seeing the fruits of this decision and (mostly) seeing what God has in store for me, in all areas of my life.

That's it for now. I hope some of you aren't too upset with me; I made sure everyone had a way of contacting me if they needed to. I will try to blog more often, especially now with one less (massive) time waster in my life. Back to the basics... even if no one ever reads this blog again. lol. :)

I hope you had a lovely work-week and have found a way to celebrate today's wonderful anniversary! :D

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

St. Therese Has Been Schooling Me

(This is the second post of the three-part series I started last weekend.)

I wanted to do something special for St. Therese of Lisieux's feast day last week but, sadly, things did not go as planned. I didn't go to Trader Joes to get some roses (the blog post picture is from a couple of years ago). I did not make any delicious French food. I was not able to watch Therese. The only thing that I was able to do was the novena and that was because Pray More Novena sent me the daily prayers/reminders every day. Little did I know that that novena would bring on a couple of changes... including one big one that was a long time coming.

St. Therese, like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Francis de Sales, has been randomly popping up in my life lately. She and Bl. PGF were my patrons during my time at my CINO college alma mater so it seemed appropriate that she should once again pop up during my (hopefully) last academic year of this degree/program. When I started the novena, I had no particular intentions. On the first day, I winged it. I asked for her intercession on a couple of things including vocation patience (something we single gals in our 30s occasionally struggle with), motivation in school, and for help from my mom's physical pain.

The three big ones were:

  • that I become less selfish and more selfless
  • that I learn how to be more detached from earthly things
  • and that I do and see the joy in the little things as she did. 
I'll get to these intentions a little later in the blog post since you're probably wondering how St. Therese schooled me this past week. No, it was not a clickbait title; she really did show me a lot of things that I need to work on.

In the past, I've received the compliment that I've reminded people of St. Therese. To be honest, I usually don't believe these kind words but I thank those who say them to me nonetheless. It wasn't until this past week that I wondered if they saw something I did see... and not necessarily in a good way.

Most of us think of St. Therese as being selfless, gentle, meek, child-like, innocent, and deeply pious. That's how I thought about her for the longest time. A lot of people (a surprising amount of people from what I've seen on Twitter) have an intense dislike of St. Therese because of her "flowery words" and "saccharine personality" rubs people the wrong way. I guess I kind of see that but I tend to sort of lean towards that myself (trust me, these blog posts could be a lot worse, lol) so I think of her as a kindred spirit.

I'm willing to bet that many people either don't know or (most likely) forget that St. Therese went through periods of depression and was extremely sensitive. She suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and was scrupulous as a result. When she was a child, she threw epic temper tantrums, she had a lot of "excessive self-love" (as she describes it in Story of a Soul), and as a spoiled, selfish child. A question to those who've known me for years and have seen me at my worst: does that remind you of anyone? Yeah...

Like St. Therese, I've always been sensitive. We now have the term "highly sensitive person (HSP)" which my own childhood doctor. My system is just more sensitive to things, emotional and physical stimuli such as foods and medications. (I've even written a blog post on this topic). I express intense joy, anger, and heartache in tears. I've battled with depression and anxiety (on and off) for years, though it has lessened in recent years. I've definitely struggled with falling into scrupulosity if I'm not careful and don't constantly remind myself that God's love and mercy are greater than my sins; it's something I've been trying to work through for years. According to my mother, I also threw my fair share of tantrums (though she says it's because I was brought up as an only child).

I wasn't materially spoiled... but I was spoiled in other ways. My parents asked me not to work while I was in school so I could focus solely on that (and this was prior to my health issues). I've never had to pay for rent or anything like that though I do financially contribute as much as I can when I have an income. My mother, as much as she means well, will shoo me away from the kitchen (she will literally, yet gently, push me out of the way and take utensils out of my hand at times) and cook my food when she's home (and not in physical pain).

The sad thing is that I didn't realize these things until recently... around the time that St. Therese started reappearing in my life. Like I said in last Saturday's blog post, struggling with schoolwork is something that (still) challenges my academic pride and vanity. My breakdown two weeks-ish ago had nothing to do with that but it certainly didn't help to be reminded of how things once came much easier to me. I've recently been trying to work on things that have made my ego much larger than was healthy... and which will part of tomorrow's blog post. Let's just say that the St. Therese novena and having her presence in my life have been helping.

Like I said earlier in this post, I just asked for whatever came to mind when I started the novena. I'm sure the Holy Spirit was behind that because I've come to realize, a week and some days later, that it was exactly what I needed. I've actually been praying to become more detached from worldly things since I did the 54-day Rosary novena last year but I thought St. Therese would be another good intercessor for this particular intention. Obviously, she did not disappoint. lol.

It's still too early to see any noticeable results when it comes to my petitions but I have been trying to get better at these in little ways that I can do. I made a massive step towards getting better at the second big intention one... but you'll have to wait until the next blog post for more on that because this post is already too long. ;)

Before I wrap up this post I just want to say that I'm grateful that God continues to use saintly examples, like St. Therese, to help us become better versions than ourselves. While I don't anticipate ever being compared to St. Therese again (especially not when it comes in the form of a compliment because I'm nowhere near as awesome as she was), I'm also grateful to those who've helped me see that I have a kindred spirit in her... and that she can serve as a wonderful reminder of how much a person can change for the better once we place all of our love and trust in God.

I hope to have the third (and last) part up on Friday. I've actually written this the afternoon (into the evening) of the 7th. As I write this, I don't know if it'll be scheduled ahead of time (like this one has been) or if I'll just write it on Friday but that is the goal and I hope I can pull it off. :)

May God continue giving y'all a lovely week (or may He grant you a better week than you've had thus far).

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Breakdown That Led to a Breakthrough

This is the first of a (planned) three-part series that I hope to post over the course of the next week.

September 28, 2017. That's the day I had my first school-related breakdown this semester. Say it with me, "Well, that was fast!" It took exactly one month before I felt so stressed and overwhelmed that I broke down in tears. I cried because I hated how I felt: yes, stressed and overwhelmed, but also forced and trapped to finish the academic program I'm currently in. I tried not to question things -- to not dwell on the feelings -- but it was hard. I placed my forehead on my laptop (on my desk) and I cried.

Almost immediately, Our Blessed Mother popped into my mind. I imagined that she was there, being there for me during that emotionally draining time. I somehow started imagining Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (my chosen patron for this degree) kneeling down next to me, on my right, with an expression on his face that was trying to comfort me; as if he was telling me that everything was going to be alright. Then I thought about my Guardian Angel, also beside me, bringing comfort.

Somehow, the images of Mama Mary, Bl. PGF, and my Guardian Angel (thank you, healthy imagination God has blessed me with) gave me the strength and courage to push through the rest of the lecture videos -- 2+ hours worth of videos -- that I was trying to finish when the breakdown happened. I no longer felt overwhelmed. Instead, I felt a peace and consolation I could've even imagine when the tears began. Furthermore, I felt (deep down) that this was truly the path God wanted me to take. I let that peace and consolation wash over me as I kept repeating, "This is what God wants me to do. I can do this."

A quote by St. John Bosco popped up one of my social media feeds during this time, "When tempted, invoke your Angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped! Ignore the devil don't be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your Guardian Angel." With the feast of the Archangels coming up the following day, I felt like God was telling me what to do in situations like that -- feeling overwhelmed and stuck doing something I didn't want to do even if I knew it needed to be done.

That breakdown was what led to the breakthrough that has led me on my current path. As I said in the beginning of this post, this is the first part of a three-part series so all I'm going to focus on in this post is the fact that it took me breaking down to realize that I was probably doing the right thing... and gave me the courage to push forward.

I've somehow managed to gain the motivation to do well and work through all the academic obstacles that have come my way. As I shared in a previous post, schoolwork had always been easy for me... to the point where my pride and vanity were greatly affected by it. Having to repeat a class for a third time, not having things come as easily for me, dealing with random health issues (stomach problems, fatigue, physical pain, etc) while trying to study and/or do exams -- all of these things were beating me down in the first month of the semester.

I wasn't doing well on my exams because of the intense mental fog I've experienced on and off (mostly on, on a daily basis) wasn't helping. I would study for hours on end and yet I couldn't remember what I was studying. My highest grade in an exam (in my classes) has been a 78% up until now. It's hard. It discourages me.

I was studying for two back-to-back exams when I had my breakdown so I understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling... yet God reminded me that this is part of His plans for me (or so I'm interpreting it this way after receiving signs over this summer). I remind myself that God will give me the fortitude and graces to continue because I am doing His will. If He wants me to do something else, I know He will make it known to me. For now, I have to keep reapplying the war paint and keep moving forward, even when I feel like I did on September 28. Thankfully, now I know that I have some amazing Heavenly allies who will intercede for me during my darkest moments.

Anyway, that's it for now. I hope to have parts 2 and 3 posted between Monday and Friday of next week. I have to figure out when I can write and post (or possibly schedule) them. I will give two hints: St. Therese for part 2 and social media for part 3. :)

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and are currently enjoying your weekend!

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ladies, Don't Romanticize Your Celebrity Crushes

I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to blog until I finished studying... and I still have a lot of studying to do for tomorrow and Saturday's exams. I was going to wait until this weekend to blog (and I do have a few posts in mind) but then I read this article about why Harry Styles would be the "best boyfriend" the writer will never have and I had to write this because I feel very strongly about this topic.

This was the reason why I wanted to finish and publish the third novel. The fantasy world that so many young women (and some young men) live in because of their crushes on celebrities is seriously unhealthy. Social media has made it worse because it's now easier than ever to get in touch with someone famous that you like. Ladies, I'm so sorry to burst your bubble but who we usually see on interviews, tv shows, movies, on stage, etc... that's usually either a completely different persona or just one small part of who that person is. I'm going to admit that I know this firsthand because the last guy I dated is also an actor.

My ex-boyfriend presented (to the public) someone who was completely different than who he was in private. His fans thought (and possibly still think) he was this very sweet, humble, Christian guy... and I got someone who was emotionally and mentally manipulative and somewhat abusive. This was a guy who, while I accompanied him to a conference in which he made a "celebrity" appearance, thought it was funny to say "hey, look at this picture" and show me a pornographic shot (think Playboy-style) of a naked woman. I obviously looked away right away and I was sick to my stomach over the photo... but he thought it was just hilarious to defile my eyes and my mind. After we broke up and I cut him out of my life, he spread so many lies about me and he hacked into my emails and accounts to try to ruin me and my reputation. Now you see why my friends and I joke about his needing an exorcism?

The fangirls generally don't see how dangerous and how destructive some of the lifestyle choices their favorite celebrities make... or they choose not to care because of the crush. The drinking, the drugs, the sleeping around, the excess, etc. They do so many things that lead these people astray and they do these things behind closed doors because they don't want to alienate their fanbase. These girls buy into this myth that their celebrity crush is clean-cut and wholesome... or they see part of how they truly are and they glorify these dangerous actions. "This is the new Millennium..." "It's his/her life..." "Who are you to judge?" "Who cares what he/she is doing; he/she is hot..." I've seen and heard it all... and have seen them then try to emulate their crushes' actions because they want to be liked by them. Our culture is very used to Kardashian-style openness that doesn't hide very much from their fanbase... but there's still a lot that people don't see. These people have publicists and things they don't want you to know or see. Of course, just like with every profession/career out there, there are exceptions to the rule (and I still have acquaintances within the biz)... but, sadly, there are not enough good people who are honest and moral in the entertainment biz.

As someone who became a teenager in the late 90s/early 00s boy-band boom (I was a teenager between 1998 and 2004), I totally get celebrity crushes. I still get "celebrity crushes" like once every 4-5 years or so which feels weird now because I'm 32. lol. It's different for me because I usually "crush" on the talent and not so much on the person because of what I've lived through. Tom Hiddleston? A talented guy who can really act. Before Hiddleston it was James McAvoy; same reasons -- talented but it ended there. I think if I had to pick someone right now, I'd say my current "celebrity crush" might be Danny O'Donoghue from The Script because that man can write a great song... but the crush starts and ends there... and I'm still selective of which songs I buy and I wait for clean version of songs because I like my songs innuendo and cuss-free. lol.

I truly believe this is not just a celebrity crush thing. I think, sadly, many women romanticize their crushes (whether they're famous or the boy-next-door) and they project their own thoughts and feelings about them onto the person. I've lived through that myself; very few of us are immune to it. But I think it's gotten worse with the younger generation. They have this romanticized idea of what love is supposed to be like... how relationships are meant to play out... what an "ideal" boyfriend is supposed to be like, etc. All of that greatly distorts what true love is and it sets them up for heartache and unrealistic expectations.

I wish I could get more into this topic because it's one I feel strongly about but let's just say that I feel like we should do what we can to help any person who might be falling into this trap. If you yourself fall into their category, please don't think I'm attacking you. I'm just trying to help open your eyes to the reality. You do yourself, the person you're crushing, and your future spouse a disservice by living in a fantasy world. Yes, real life can be much harder and less predictable than fantasy-land... but it's also so much more beautiful and fulfilling than whatever fantasy your imagination can come up with. Not to mention, if you fall into lustful fantasies about your crushes, you need to get to the confessional asap. Slippery slope, y'all.

Okay, I think that's all I'm going to say for now. I've already spent too much time writing this (as quickly as I could) instead of studying. I just needed to get this off my chest.

Anyway, I hope you're all doing well and I hope to write again this weekend... if I can get Saturday's exam completed early.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why I Decided to Share This Decision With You

I wasn't going to do it. I was going to wait until I was finished to drop the big surprise on everyone. On this blog, I've talked about a "new chapter" and a new long-time project but very few (we're talking probably a handful of) people knew what I was talking about it. Then last week happened and God made me see that I'd made my decision to not say anything partly out of fear of failing horribly and partly due to pride. What a prideful moment I would've had in telling y'all that I (God willing) finished something this big. However, I could feel God telling me, "Share it. You could use the prayers. No lady is an island." So, here it goes...

I returned to Utah State to finish my second Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education late last month. It was not a decision I made on a whim nor one that I took lightly. As some of you may remember, I felt like I had no clarity about what I was meant to do with my life at that time. When I made the decision to take a leave of absence in early May, I thought I was done. I thought I wasn't going to return to finish the degree... yet something in me didn't want me to leave the school completely. I asked for some time off while I figured things out. I didn't want to burden myself with more student loans and I had a slew of other reasons to not continue... except that I had one good reason to continue: it seems to be what God is calling me to do.

I actually took nearly an entire month to be sure that it was what God was calling me to do. I did a couple of novenas but the one that really gave me a huge result was the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena Mom and I made for both my health and my clarity of mind since both were answered within a week of each other.

It started with getting those amazing health results towards the end of May. Then I had this big "Eureka!" moment during which I felt like God opened my eyes. I was honest with myself about what I wanted; what I felt called to do. It was when I honestly said (and told some of my closest friends) that I felt like my future will be me focusing on my family and not so much a career that I figured everything else out. In order to do what I feel called to do, I need to pay off my student loans... and what better way to do that than with a career that is in demand, especially for someone who is fluent in both English and Spanish? Not only that, I will learn to work with children, with whom I don't have a lot of experience with since most of my friends have moved away and I don't get a lot of time with my nieces and/or nephews.

I forgot who said it -- possibly St. Francis de Sales or Bl. PGF -- but I remember reading a saint's own words about how sometimes we need to do what feels like a chore in order to be able to get to what we feel called to do. St. Therese of Lisieux had to wait a while before she could enter the convent. Other saints have had to do other things before they were able to begin fulfilling their vocations. I am no saint (though I aspire to be one someday) but knowing that those much holier than I have had to wait and have had to do work they didn't want to do (and offer it up along the way) in order to achieve their goal made me want to push forward.

I'm not going to pretend that my career path was chosen solely out of selflessness because that would be dishonest. Don't get me wrong, I actually like this career path. I initially chose it because I wanted to help children with speech impediments and it's still a big reason why I'm going forward. I enjoy giving the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (probably my favorite thing to do in the assessment process). The big kid in me loves being able to incorporate play (like, actual boardgames and toys) into therapy sessions that help a child learn how to speak more clearly. I loved my little group of 3 to 5-year-old little guys when I did some of my observation hours at a private practice. However, I also know that the (current) biggest motivator is being able to pay off my student loans. It may make me sound terrible but that's the honest answer. I love the path God has me on now... but I'm working on something greater than a career.

I still believe that God is calling me to be a wife and mother someday. It is still a dream of mine to educate my future children at home if it's God's will. I don't feel like I'm called to make speech-language pathology a long-term career (I feel like God has other plans in store for me in the future; plans that involve writing and/or being a speaker) so I won't be pursuing a Master's in this field. Once I finish this degree and do my state-mandated hours for my license, I'm calling time on my academic career. I do, however, feel like this is where God wants me right now so I'm just going to go forward and see what else God has in store for me in the future.

I wasn't lying when I said this was a new chapter for me. It is a new chapter since I'm doing things much differently this time around. I'm not ashamed to say that I have disability accommodations due to my PTSD. These accommodations allow me to get extra time on my exams so that I don't have a panic attack and blank out during exams. Oh, yes, that's been happening since I started the program 3 years ago; the little time we're given during exams trigger the fight or flight response in me. The memories of teachers (yes, teachers) and fellow students harassing me in front of everyone will always be in the back of my mind when I start feeling anxious/trapped in something school-related so the extra time allows me to take a moment to breathe and relax so I can continue taking the exam without worrying about not finishing it on time. I already witnessed how helpful it was when I did my first big exam this past weekend. I didn't do as well as I would've liked but, considering how poorly I felt (I had slept almost all day the day before and the day of the exam), I'm grateful for the grade I received and for the extra time which helped me focus on the big essay portion of the exam which was worth the most points.

Yes, I'm re-taking a class for the third time (y'all should see how many of us are repeating this one particular course) and that's humbling but that's okay. I needed to be humbled after how proud I was of my past academic successes. Perhaps that's why I also felt called to share this with y'all; to make sure I didn't fall back into that pride... and because, yes, I will need all the prayers I can get this and next semester.

This semester I'm taking three courses: the second and third hardest courses in the program (the hardest course is scheduled for the Spring semester) along with another one. I'm already incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work and the amount of memorization I've had to do in the first couple of weeks. It didn't help that I was out of it for three straight days -- the entire weekend -- when I had my first big exam which made it difficult to recall the lectures I'd watched and the notes I'd taken. This is going to be a tough road -- one that I hope to finish (with a completed degree) in late April-early May (depending on when my final exams are scheduled).

As I told God before my exam on Friday night, I won't insult Him by asking Him to perform miracles if I don't put the effort to study myself. I'm not going to say "Oh, please let me pass... even if I don't study." No. That's why I've accepted my 64% on my first exam. I wasn't able to study as I would've liked, partly due to procrastination and some distractions but also because I've been sick. However, I do have the motivation to do and finish well now that I've gotten that score. It was the thing that kicked started my motivation because I had practically none for the first 2-3 weeks of the semester.

I know what I'm capable of (when I'm healthy) so I'm going to try to take care of myself and study as much as I can. This is where prayer comes in. I was somehow able to focus on the essay despite feeling as crummy as I did and I did so much better than I was anticipating. I know it was all God (thanks to the intercession of the Holy Spirit and St. Jude) because I actually felt alert that hour it took me to finish the exam. After that? Back to sleeping all day. In fact, I've still not recovered. I've still been sleeping all day (or barely sleeping like last night) and I have another big exam this weekend and 5 quizzes so, you know, back to praying that my health cooperates with me for this upcoming Friday's big exam/quiz bonanza... and the two big exams I have next week.

If it's His will that I finish this degree, I will. If not, I won't. St. Francis de Sales has been popping up in my life a lot in recent months and, despite not continuing with the third novel, I still have the ghostwriting gig (which, thankfully, the woman whose life story I'm writing is telling me to do when I have free time from schoolwork). I think more writing is in my future but, for now, my focus is on this degree and whatever comes from it.

So, there you have it. This is the big secret I was carrying around with me that I'd alluded to these past couple of months. In your charity, I ask you to please keep me in your prayers. Like I said, my health decided to mess around with me again (and it just began going down again only two weeks before the semester began after an unusually healthy summer -- lightheadedness and dizziness excluded) and this may just be my toughest semester (coursework and exam wise) of this program.

I may not write again until I get caught up with my studying and exams (I completely lost the first 3 weeks). After the 30th of this month, my coursework schedule should slow down a bit but I probably won't blog more than once or twice more before then. We'll see what God has in store for me.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and have a great week. :)

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Third Novel Plot and Dating Break Revelations

Since I'm not publishing the novel, I'm going to give you ALL the spoilers. Keep in mind: this is a bare bones summary and my target demographic is young women between the ages of 16 and 24.

Isabella ("Izzy") Sonora visits her best friend, Zoe Walker, in London post-college graduate in hopes to figure out what she wants to do -- work or go to grad school. Izzy and Zoe met freshman year of college before Zoe (an actress) booked a role that catapulted her to fame abroad. When Izzy arrives in London, she sees that Zoe is living with her actor boyfriend, Rodrigo (professionally known as "Rory") Dominguez. Izzy informs Zoe that 1) Zoe never told her that she'd been living with Rory, and 2) that she should've known that Izzy would be uncomfortable in that situation because of her faith and beliefs. Cue big fight that doesn't quite get fully resolved. Despite this, the girls make up and Izzy gets a small taste of what life in the limelight is like (from the outside; going to premieres and events with Zoe).

Rory (who was working on his popular TV show abroad for the first 2 months of Izzy's visit) returns to London. Rory is kind and thoughtful, even going as far as limiting PDA so that Izzy feels more comfortable. Rory discovers that Izzy sings and plays the guitar. After some convincing, he gets her to agree to do some covers on his YouTube channel with the condition that no one finds out her true identity. Rory has literally millions of followers on his social media accounts and Izzy wishes to remain anonymous. They change her name and they film her from different angles, keeping fans guessing throughout the 7 videos they make over the span of 3 months.

Subplot: Izzy meets Grace Mitchell, another famous actress (more so than Zoe and Rory) who becomes like a big sister to Izzy. Grace doesn't buy into the fame game. She doesn't even have a way for fans to contact her via social media though she's always friendly when she meets them in person. Izzy gets both perspectives of the entertainment business: selling yourself/your brand to become more famous (Zoe and Rory) vs. doing things for the love of the craft and eschewing the superficial side (Grace).

Eventually, Izzy finds herself emotionally attached to Rory despite her best efforts not to be. All the time spent together, all the things they've shared, leaves her confused. Grace takes her away to Bath for a week to get her mind straightened out since it's Izzy's last month of vacation. When Izzy returns to London, she finds an enraged (and clearly drunk) Zoe in denial over her breakup with Rory, who moved out and returned back to work while Izzy was away. Zoe kicks Izzy out of her flat, no explanation given. Grace takes Izzy to stay at her home with her new husband, Ben. Izzy sees what a solid, stable relationship looks like, a breath of fresh air after seeing the impassioned and volatile relationship that Zoe and Rory had.

Someone leaks Izzy's identity as "Lily" (her YouTube alias) to the press. Furthermore, this person blames her for the Zoe-Rory breakup. Rory informs Izzy that it was Zoe who leaked the info and started the rumors because she thought that they were seeing each other behind her back. A "friend" of Zoe's told her she frequently saw Izzy and Rory "meeting outside a church." What the "friend" didn't know (but the readers knew all along) was that Rory had helped Izzy sneak off to Mass for months because Zoe used to fake serious illnesses and did everything she could to keep Izzy from going to Mass. Zoe is seriously anti-religion (which was a surprise to Izzy; Zoe had always been supportive up until Izzy wasn't happy with the Zoe-Rory living arrangement) while Rory is agnostic but he respects Izzy's beliefs. In the end, Zoe is exposed and all the things she did to sink Izzy and Rory's reputations backfire quite spectacularly.

The rest of the novel (which I didn't get a chance to flesh out) would've dealt with Izzy having to make big two decisions. First, she had to figure out whether she wanted to attend graduate school in England (University of Bath), do an internship with a photographer friend of Grace's (who, surprise, was going to be Will from the Will and Lina series), or accept Rory's manager's proposal to sign as an artist to start her own music career (she was not interested in acting).

The second big decision was Rory. He confessed his feelings for her and even wanted to move to L.A. to be with her. Izzy would end up rejecting him. He had a lot of faults that she couldn't overlook; that she knew he couldn't/wouldn't give up especially in the areas of lust, sloth, and gluttony. (side note: Zoe and Rory were going to embody the 7 deadly sins between them while Izzy Grace would exhibit the 7 capital virtues throughout the novel; Zoe was the mirror opposite of Grace, Rory of Izzy).

Keep the plot in mind as I now tell you what really happened to me and how this led to my dating break...

There exist a real-life Zoe and Rory and their lives are very similar to their fictional counterparts. That's all I will say. Unfortunately, like Izzy, I also ended up developing feelings for real-life Rory. That's what got me in trouble from January through July of this year. I used to say "Oh, he's like a brother to me," but I realized that wasn't true. An emotional attachment that had developed and it affected me in ways I didn't realize until it was too late. You'd think a 31/32-year-old would know better but, oh, that's when the devil likes to mess things up; when you let your guard down and think you'll be fine. Don't let your guard down and keep God in the center of everything, even things you think you've got under control.

I never approve but I became desensitized to real-life Zoe and Rory's living together. It wasn't until the end that real-life Zoe was crassly open about things that should be left between two (married) people that I snapped out of it. I somehow didn't realize real-life Rory's problem with giving into excess and a number of other things that slowly pulled me away from the faith. I was sucked in by the kindness, the laughter, the fun, and other (superficial) good things that unintentionally made me overlook what put me in danger. I began to have doubts. I began to think that perhaps this was the right path before because I was a terrible Catholic. Oh, sweet, dumb Emmy. Thankfully, God was with me throughout it all so I didn't fall away completely... but, boy, it was a close call at one point.

Another way God has humbled me lately: I'm not as strong (spiritually or emotionally) as I thought I was. I realized that through this experience. I'm not as smart as I thought. I'm not immune to making really dumb decisions and overlooking red flags. I also don't know the faith as well as I would like, which is pushing me more into the lay Dominican path.

Because real-life Zoe and Rory were a big part of my daily life, it was hard for me to gently remove myself from their lives. I made a point to not see them or see what they were up to. Communication ceased. I blocked them from private social media accounts. I erased all virtual traces I could from my laptop and connected devices. Unfortunately, they'll still pop up unexpectedly but I know how to get myself out of those situations.

After that happened, I was shaken up... and inspired to work on my relationship with God. I knew that I needed to work on myself and my anemic spiritual life before I could go forward in any future vocation discernment. I've known my vocation is being a wife and mother (someday) but I cannot build a solid family on a rocky, unstable foundation (especially with my spiritual life in tatters) so my self-imposed dating break began. I actually considered discerning becoming a consecrated single for a couple of weeks recently before I was reminded of the peace and certainty I've felt discerning the marriage vocation.

The novel was me (mainly) working through the feelings and making sense of everything. I began to write the novel around May-June when I was slowly getting out of months worth of me being confused over my situation with real-life Rory. It was when I started writing things out that I was able to work through it all. The feelings that once existed for real-life Rory are no longer there. In fact, I can't even look at him without feeling repulsed. My spiritual life is back on track though it's going to take a while for me to get to where I was.

And, there you have it. The novel plot and the story behind the inspiration for it. I had hoped to inspire young(er) women to look at their relationships, their friendships, and their faith carefully so that they wouldn't fall into the same trap I did but I'm now seeing that perhaps an honest blog post would work better.

Also, to any young blog reader who gets a bit starry-eyed and dreams of a life like those of celebrities: please be careful. Things aren't what they seem. I'm a bit cynical when it comes to the biz because I've grown up around it and I've seen what it does to people... and I claim temporary insanity from December of last year to July of this year for thinking I could return without it affect me or my faith. I walked away from all of that when I was 20 and (despite the massive temptations to go back and work as a screenwriter last year and this year) choosing to stay away from it is what is best for me on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical level.

By the way, this all connected to my St. Andrew Christmas novena and 54-day Rosary novena intentions from Advent last year because I asked God to help me reject worldly, superficial things that would hurt my soul... which came from last year's temptation to chuck it all away and return to my pre-reversion career path. What I didn't anticipate was that I was going to be tested in a way that all the worldly, superficial things were going to be presented in a neat, pretty package with sparkles and would blind me and make my anemic faith even more fragile for months. I'm incredibly grateful to God for opening my eyes because I was in a terrible place. I know that I had to go through all of this to be able to grow in my relationship with him.

That is the whole truth behind the novel inspiration, the dating break (though part two of this is coming soon), and why it's best that the novel doesn't see the light of day. It took all of this to get me to where I am now and I'm truly grateful for all the prayers and support from friends who knew what was going on and prayers from those who didn't know what was going on but could sense that I was going through a hard time. I'm still working on my relationship with God so everything else will have to wait.

That's it for now. I actually wrote this on the night of the 6th because I want to dedicate all of the 7th and 8th to finishing what is due on the 8th so, you know, if you leave my comments I won't see them until the thing is turned in. Just a heads up. :)

I hope you are all doing well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!