Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Year This Nerd Persevered and Finally Listened to God

I don't know why but I don't think I've ever seen as much growth as I made this year. I'm 32... shouldn't I have finished growing up? Apparently not. lol.

January: I started the year without making resolutions and I'm glad I didn't because it gave me a chance to be open to whatever changes God had in store for me. I revisited the faith of my childhood. It seems interesting that this happened while I was praying the Rosary because most of this year I struggled with my faith in a way that challenged me (in a good way!) and made mature my facing difficult situations that only God's love and mercy -- and my trust in Him -- could've helped me through. I came to terms with the fact that I prefer the Latin Mass even though some people apparently think it's snobbish to do so. Hey, I'm not knocking your preference; I'm only stating mine. ;) Something that I was grateful for -- and also set in motion some big changes in me this year: I admitted to myself that I had forgotten how to forgive they way I used to. Some people may say that I just stopped being a doormat but I say I became someone I didn't like very much and I'm still working on that, 11 months later.

February: I didn't know that what began shortly before Lent this year would be something that I struggled with for the rest of the year: feeling unworthy of being a Catholic and of God's mercy. Yeah, 2017 was quite possibly the hardest year, spiritually, for me and it just got harder as the time went on. Feeling restless in my faith wasn't the greatest feeling in the world but it forced me to tackle things head on. Oh, and I gave up social media (and talking... haha, that part didn't stick) for Lent. The giving up social media? Oh, did it (more on that in a bit).

March: Lent set off what would become a crazy year for me. Holy cow! I left the country for the first time since before my father passed away and I ended up in the E.R. only days later. St. Francis de Sales made the first of several random appearances in my life during this month, dropping some awesome truth bombs along the way. It inspired me but my body broke down so I couldn't do much with that zeal. Somehow, I managed to see the blessings even during that hard time. Oh yeah, and did you know that you can't dance during Lent? Oops, my bad!

April: Another roller coaster month for me. For the first time in my life, I was racially profiled which was not fun. I also came to terms with the fact that I don't really like social media all that much. On a brighter note, I enrolled in the Rosary Confraternity on Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's birthday and received confirmation of my enrollment for Easter. Whoo! should've listened to the signs I received in April regarding school but I didn't. I guess it didn't help that I had no clarity regarding God's will for me. Still, I should've trusted but I didn't.

May: I had zero plans for my life and it didn't feel right... then. Ask me how I feel now and it's a different story but then? Nope. Didn't like it. I should've taken things slower and had more patience but I didn't and it ended up being costly. Well, at least St. Brigid of Kildare reminded me of some of the good traits God has blessed me with. Better than nothing (and something I should've kept in mind that would've helped me months later). There were some good news in May though. I celebrated my 1000th blog post and I got the best health news in several years. Yay for small wins! Oh yeah, and I turned 32 at the end of the month. 'Sup? lol.

June: I struggled to figure out where to draw the line when it comes to self-care. Heck, I'm still learning. This was probably the hardest month, spiritually, for me as I admitted that I nearly left the Church the previous month. I couldn't find my place in the Church with rejections and some not so friendly experiences making it hard for me to not feel kicked while I was already down.

July: I revealed that I had been working on my third novel (the ending of which I just finished three days ago). In this post I said that I felt called to write and between this and St. Francis de Sales, I should've known something was up but it didn't click for me until December. I'm a slow sometimes. This was probably the biggest month for me in terms of what would be clarified at the end of the year, especially when I admitted to myself that I didn't feel called to the SLP path (though I didn't specifically state it at the time) and that I didn't want to make my life all about a career. Oh yes, and I took a dating break that lasted until about two weeks ago. Yes, I'm still single but at least now I'm positive I'm ready to move forward in that area of my life.

August: My dislike of Twitter came to the forefront this month but I didn't do anything about it quite yet. All I knew was that I wasn't too happy with the whole "Catholic Twitter" thing. St. Francis de Sales continued to stalk me at the most random times but I still didn't put two and two together. My health began to decline again, just in time for the start of the school year no less. I should've seen this as another sign but my stubbornness kept me blind. Of course, I didn't tell people I was back at school, though I did drop hints. I'm not quite sure why I didn't want to say anything at the moment but it should've been an obvious red flag.

September: This was the month in which I saw a ton of change and set the tone for the rest of the year. I celebrated my 32nd baptismal anniversary on the feast of St. Anna the Prophetess. I revealed in which way God humbled me... and it turned out to be in more than one way. I shared why I had stopped writing my third novel (at the time) and I even spoiled the novel plot... and, surprise!, talked about the inspiration behind the idea. I also finally decided to tell everyone that I had returned to school... and I should've done it sooner so that perhaps someone could've stopped me. lol.

October: I had emotional breakdowns every two or three weeks during the semester but I kept fighting it. Oh, Emmy... you should've listened to your gut feeling but, no, I kept on going and I explained why I kept going. St. Therese of Lisieux came up during this period of my life and I learned a lot of valuable things from it... and, in hindsight, I should've focused more on the whole "waiting for your vocation" instead of going forward in something that didn't feel right. The end of the month also saw the end of the "nerdwriter" era, deleting my decade-old Twitter account. By the way, yes, I know who ended up taking the username on Twitter. No, it's not me. And, in a big moment for me: I came to terms with my invisible chronic illnesses.

November: I continued to crawl my way out of the academic tunnel even though I'd felt (for months) that I wasn't called to the field. I broke down in tears more in a single semester than I had when I was at my CINO college alma mater (those 2 years). My body and spirit were being broken the further I continued to try to finish the second degree. Still, I found things to be grateful for. Thankfully, St. Giuseppe Moscati started popping up in my life prior to his feast day and that set in motion something that was long overdue. I started to put some of the puzzle pieces together when, during prayer time, I figured out that St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers, might have something to do with the vocation God had in mind for me. That's why I had to create a new Twitter account and why I've been active again.

December: My plans to wait, reflect, and slow down during Advent didn't start out too well but it's something I've decided to continue it into the new year because it's another puzzle piece that I've finally put together. St. Giuseppe Moscati interceded in a big way and now my new doctor's plan for me to really take it easy and take care of myself and my stress levels is in place for the next couple of months. In order to do this (and, really, after having no other option), I decided to quit the SLP field. I've felt an amazing peace regarding this decision despite others trying to pressure me into continuing this path. As I wrote two blog posts ago, I'm completely abandoning myself to His Divine Providence and I look forward to seeing the fruit of this in the upcoming year.

And that's it. The end of the year blog post recap. These are not ALL the posts I wrote this year -- officially the least amount of blog posts I've written in the decade that I've been blogging -- but those were some of the highlight.

How am I still standing? How did I not have panic attacks? How did I not have a complete breakdown? God pulled me through one of the hardest years I've ever had and it just comes to show that His love and His mercy are greater than any obstacle that one comes across.

Well, as a friend would say, I persevered and (as I say) I finally listened to God. Everything I went through led me to the breakthroughs that I had this month; the breakthroughs that I will continue to explore this upcoming year.

Thank you all sharing this year (either all of it or some of it) with me and I look forward to sharing the rest of my adventure with you in 2018.

Have a happy New Year, everyone! Stay safe and may God bless you all! :D

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy (Belated) 10 Year Anniversary, Blog!

Yes, I know. I'm 4 days late posting this. However, I spent last Saturday through this past Wednesday stuck in bed so, you know, I have a legitimate excuse to miss this blog's 10 year anniversary.

10 years... a decade... holy cow! When I started this blog, as a recently reverted 22-year-old, I didn't know what the journey back to the faith would entail or how even how long I would keep writing.

10 years ago, I decided to open up the blog because (at that time) there weren't any Catholic bloggers I identified with. Yes, there were blogs that inspired me but there was virtually nothing for young Catholics, let alone young Catholic women. There were certainly no Catholic blogs talking about things such as anxiety and depression (that's where the majority of my traffic came from; people searching for Catholicism and anxiety together). I was head over heels for someone at the time (though I've never publicly written about any relationships), my father was still alive (pre-final cancer diagnosis), and I was battling with a terrible sin that I've (thankfully) since kicked the habit of falling into.

10 years later, there are so many more talented writers and bloggers who are much more open about things than I am; bloggers who still inspire me. There's a Catholic blogger for every imaginable topic and niche. Obviously, I'm 10 years older (and loving it!). My father has been gone for a little over 8 years now. I'm no longer head over heels for the young man I was crazy over a decade ago (though we're on good terms when our paths cross).

Some things never change: I'm still trying to figure out my way on this adventurous journey we call life. I'm still trying to learn as much as I can about the faith. I still don't think I'll ever be too open about my relationships (yes, the joke that I will get married and have a child before anyone finds out is still around, 10 years later) but I will say that I'm in a good place about my (future) vocation. I'm happy. I'm getting healthier. I'm looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

I was going to write a sort of "best of"/"favorite blog posts" list but I knew it was going to be too hard. I've published 1,054 (this is post 1,055) posts in the past 10 years. Instead, let me share with you the most popular (non-novena) posts.

  1. St. Joseph of Cupertino is Awesome (Prayer Included!) - Published September 18, 2009
  2. CINO (Catholic in Name Only) and Double Majors - Published October 25, 2010
  3. St. Jude is the Reason I Reverted - Published October 28, 2010
  4. A Day with Anxiety: St. Dymphna, Pray For Us! - Published February 9, 2012
  5.  A Late Rebellion? - Published January 27, 2011
  6. Working with My Phlegmatic-Sanguine Personality - Published August 25, 2012
  7. Well, I'm Not Stopping - Published February 29, 2012
The other 3 (out of the top 10) were for novenas so I didn't include those.

To all the readers who've read this blog -- 586,059 times (!!!): Thank you! Thank you for stopping by and reading. Thank you for the words of encouragement, the prayers, the friendships (I've met some of my best friends through this blog), the love, the support. Some of you have been around since the beginning, some of you are new (hello!). The ups. The downs. You've all made this journey an enjoyable one and I look forward to sharing the rest of my journey with you. 

Here's to another 10 years (God willing!)!

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Real-Life Plot Twist That Made Me Abandon Myself to God

Yesterday, I received the news that I could apply to do my SLPA license/fieldwork hours without having finished my degree. It turns out that two of the universities in Southern California that offer the fieldwork works will accept students who do the basic SLP courses. Each school has their own requirements and I qualify for one; I took and passed all but two courses (the ones I would've done next semester) and they were enough for this university. I was told that I could apply to start in the spring quarter. Cue the beginning of "Bohemian Rhapsody." ("Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?...")

I was pleasantly shocked and I felt an immediate sense of urgency and pressure to get this ready NOW. The application is only open for a week in January and, if chosen, I would have to go for an in-person grade review and orientation. The quarter would start in late March and I would be qualified as an SLPA by June. But I needed to do things fast... fast... fast! Furthermore, the course and fees cost about $3,300 out of pocket, which I don't have. Cue the panic. How am I going to raise a mint in so little time? PANIC!

I kept thinking, "But I didn't pass. I don't feel called it this field. Did I just not feel called to finish the degree but continue down this field?" There was A LOT of brainstorming and a big push from various people to go and do! NOW! Imagine trying to work on getting rid of your people-pleasing ways yet feeling pushed and pulled to do something "for the greater good!" by so many people whom you love. That's what I felt yesterday.

For most of the day, I felt like people were rushing and pressuring me to go forward and get that spot (only 35 cohorts per quarter allowed)... and do it NOW! "Think about the money! Think about your financial situation! Think about your Mom!!" The pressure got so overwhelming that I felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I didn't know what to do. I was overwhelmed. I felt agitated... restless... anxious... pressured... I came close to snapping at people (which I hate doing; thankfully, I didn't), a sign that I was stressed beyond my personal limits. I felt like people were getting upset with me (they were certainly acting that way) for not wanting to continue down this path.

Towards the end of the day, I was emotionally drained and told my mother, "I feel depressed. I feel overwhelmed. I hate this pressure. I hate that people are pushing me to do this. I don't feel called to this; I haven't for months. I felt a huge sense of relief and peace when I decided to do something else. Now, this?" Then I said something that just randomly popped out of my mouth, without thought...

"I feel as if I'm turning my back on God; as I'm trying to take care of the situation myself instead of trusting Him to lead me to what He wants me to do." I'm calling this a Holy Spirit mic drop because I hadn't realized I was doing just that until I said it.

I remembered that both Fr. Jacques Philippe and St. Francis de Sales have mentioned that one feels that restlessness and agitation, it's not coming from God. After I said that I felt like I was abandoning my resolution to trust God and His plans for me, it clicked. It also took one of my best friends reminding me (and being the only person who was angry on my behalf about all the pressure I felt from others) that the stress of the career path always resulted in my decline in health; that no amount of money or career prestige was worth the cost of my own health.

I asked God forgiveness for my temporary lack of judgment. In a conversation with Him, I reminded myself that I've been praying the 54-day Rosary novena for weeks now (it ends on Sunday) and that the signs have pointed to me leaving behind the SLP/A field and trusting Him (and our Blessed Mother's intercession) when it comes to finding a job to pay back my student loans and helping Mom out with bills and groceries.

That immense anxiety and agitation I was feeling? It completely disappeared as if He had wiped it clean from my very being. I once again felt the strong resolution to trust Him completely and not worry about my financial situation; that He will provide one way or another. My mind was calm. I felt that wonderful serenity that I had lacked (which actually began with me having a nightmare involved the devil and me waking up with my heart racing) all day (into the nighttime) yesterday.

So, that's what I'm going to do... again. I'm not going to worry about the job situation. I am actively seeking (don't think that I'm just lazying around doing nothing). Even though I'm having a bad chronic fatigue day (a result of all the stress I endured yesterday), I'm still hoping and praying that God will provide when I'm ready.

If, in the future, God wants me to get my SLPA license, I have 5 years to do my fieldwork hours (as per the time limit the particular school has) before it's too late. But, right now, it's obvious (at least to me) that His plans include me doing something else and I just need to patiently wait to see what they are. Again, I'm not passively sitting around doing nothing; I'm trying to see which of the options I have (that is not SLPA related) is the one He wants me to take.

People will think I'm foolish for taking this approach but I'm okay with that. There will be people who think I'm throwing away financial security and "my talents and gifts" but I don't mind. There are people who dislike when others say that the Lord will provide but I hope God uses me and this situation to help others see that perhaps if we trust more in Him and His plans for us things will turn out for the best. Call it naive. Call it foolish. Call it the blind idealistic/optimistic part of me that is taking over.

I wholeheartedly and completely give up my fears and what others think and say and give myself entirely to God; to do His will in whichever way He calls me to do. 

As the Prayer of Abandonment to Divine Providence by St. Jane Frances de Chantal says,

"O sovereign goodness of the sovereign Providence of my God!
I abandon myself forever to Thy arms.
Whether gentle or severe,
lead me henceforth whither Thou wilt;
I will not regard the way through which Thou wilt have me pass,
but keep my eyes fixed upon Thee,
my God, who guidest me.
My soul finds no rest without the arms
and the bosom of this heavenly Providence,
my true Mother, my strength and my rampart.
Therefore I resolve with Thy Divine assistance,
O my Saviour,
to follow Thy desires and Thy ordinances,
without regarding or examining why Thou dost this rather than that;
but I will blindly follow Thee
according to Thy Divine will,
without seeking my own inclinations.
Hence I am determined to leave all to Thee,
taking no part therein save by keeping myself in peace in Thy arms,
desiring nothing except as Thou incitest me to desire,
to will, to wish.
I offer Thee this desire, O my God,
beseeching Thee to bless it;
I undertake all it includes,
relying on Thy goodness,
liberality, and mercy,
with entire confidence in Thee,
distrust of myself,
and knowledge of my infinite misery and infirmity.

There. I said it... and I commit myself to sharing this new part of my journey because I want you all to experience what things God can do when we give ourselves completely to Him. My world may be turned upside down and I may end up doing things I would've never imagined but that is the beauty of it. I trust Him completely.

Your will, God, not mine.

Monday, December 18, 2017

St. Giuseppe Moscati, The Random Saint Who Rescued Me

Have you heard of St. Giuseppe Moscati? I hadn't until a few weeks ago when he (like St. Francis de Sales) started popping up in my life at the most random times. The closer his November 16 feast day got, the more I saw articles and other things about him. On a whim, I decided to look him up... and I'm so happy I did.

For the tl;dr crowd: St. Giuseppe Moscati was a doctor and remained a (lay) bachelor his entire life. He was dedicated to serving the poor, even giving up his own money and possessions to ensure that his patients received the medication and treatment they needed. As someone who has been battling (now chronic) illnesses, his story really touched me. I also wondered why he started "following" me around like a certain patron saint of writers has done since this past Lent.

I received an Ignatius Press catalog in the mail but I immediately began putting it away (in the bin) because we're going through a financially difficult time and I didn't want the temptation of wanting to buy something when I knew I couldn't. I wasn't paying attention to the pages... until I reached on that had a movie about the life of St. Giuseppe. It was the only thing I noticed on that particular page. "Oh, there's a movie about his life?" Indeed, there is.

One of my closest friends lent me her Formed account so I decided to see if they had the movie. I mean, my curiosity was piqued by then. I needed to know more about this saint who would not stop popping up. As soon as I signed in, the movie popped up on the feed... but disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. It took a couple more seconds of searching until I found it. I hooked up my laptop to my TV and Mom and I watched the 3-hour series/movie. I laughed. I cried (a lot). I was inspired by his life for more reasons than one.

As we were watching the movie, one of the first things he encounters as a newly practicing doctor is looking at a patient's platelets. "Did he just say 'platelets'?!" I asked Mom. Did he just say something about the one condition that has had my doctor baffled for years? Yes. I immediately assigned him as my patron saint for health issues. This was before the chips hit the fan and both my health and my health provider problems exploded.

The Monday after we watched the movie, I had my last doctor appointment. My platelets had plummeted. My red blood count had gone down (making me slightly anemic once again). My protein dipped below normal for the first time ever. Things weren't looking good... but they weren't dangerous. However, that didn't stop the hematologist from (basically) pushing me to do iron infusions, ordering tests that I apparently didn't need, and trying to get me to agree to things I wasn't comfortable with. You know that women's intuition that can sometimes trip us up but that can also save us from getting deeper into trouble? Red flags were going off all around, not just for me but also for my mother.

We asked around. I had about 3-4 people say that there was no need for iron infusions, especially since my red blood count wasn't the lowest I'd ever had it. One of my mother's co-workers, a doctor, told my mother, "Don't let them do infusions on Emmy! They're going to hurt her! Get a second opinion." I did get a second opinion from a different doctor at my clinic... and she agreed that iron infusions were unnecessary, that the iron pills I was taking would be fine. I could go ahead and cancel the infusions. Literally 5 minutes after I left (after I double checked about canceling the appointments), I received a phone call. The hematologist insisted I do the infusions and the doctor sounded like her hands were tied. No... something was off. I could feel it. Intuition was strong, as were the opinions of others in the medical field who all agreed they were unnecessary.

I decided to switch doctors and hospitals for the first time in 11 years. I never got the same doctor (other than the wonderful doctor I had for 2 years who left in June) when I had appointments. They let things that should've been checked every year slide. I used to have to wait 2-3 months for doctor appointments. Even getting an urgent appointment took up to 2-3 weeks. They wouldn't listen to me... I just didn't have the greatest experience. My mother suggested I look into switching to the hospital where the ambulance had taken me after my car accident; which I didn't choose. There were other hospitals closer to home but they somehow chose to send me there. It was the same hospital where my father was initially diagnosed with colon cancer in 2002 and where he had a tumor removed. I called my health insurance to get the ball rolling. I didn't have a doctor in mind; I just wanted to go elsewhere.

On the first day of thanksgiving of the 54-day Rosary novena, I got the call from my health insurance. Of course, I could switch hospitals and doctors! It was right around the enrollment period so it was perfect timing. The hospital accepted my health insurance. The woman who assisted me asked me if I had a doctor in mind. I said, "No." She asked me if I had any preferences, male or female. Again, I said I didn't. She looked at which doctors were associated with the hospital that had openings. I began asked St. Giuseppe for his intercession as I waited on hold. I asked and pleaded that I got a doctor that would take care of like I hadn't over the past 11 years. The first doctor the woman came across didn't fit but the second one did. She asked me if the doctor (a woman whose surname I didn't know how to spell) was okay. I said that I wasn't picky (I wasn't) so we agreed on her. There were some changes done to ensure that I would be covered by this doctor, but none that would affect me. As soon as I could, I made an appointment to be seen with her. I felt a peace about my health that I had not felt in years.

Last Monday, on the 11th, I woke up feeling ready for the appointment. Before my appointment, my mother and I stopped at a church (where we used to go to confession) which is literally down the street (3-4 blocks or so) from my new doctor's office... which is also across the street from my new hospital. I knelt in front of the tabernacle and asked that the new doctor help me figure things out. My mom went to the parish office and asked to have the intention of thanksgiving to St. Giuseppe added to that Wednesday's morning Mass. We then went to the appointment and, wow, I was blown away. Is it too early to say that I love my new doctor? Because she's awesome!

I took my blood work results from the past year, platelets and red blood count results for the past 2 years. She looked at everything. She asked how my diet was. I honestly told her that I wasn't eating as well as I should have. I explained our financial situation -- that I hadn't had protein or enough to eat on some days. I explained my food allergies and intolerances. She asked me about my stress levels. I told her about my anxiety; about how I'd suffered from social anxiety as a teenager and how it morphed in PTSD as I got older and experienced some traumatic events. I told her about the palpitations that had started popping up again in November. I told her how stressful the program was. She didn't leave a single thing out.

She informed me something that none of the previous doctors had told me before -- because my platelets had never gotten into dangerous levels, she believed the real culprit was my poor diet and (surprise!) stress. Although lower than normal platelets has been an issue for years (since around the time of my father's last cancer diagnosis and consequential death), my overall health had initially declined after I began the SLP program in the summer of 2014 (I had to leave the program the first time around in November of that year because my health was poor) and then got worse after my car accident in 2015. The recent numbers (platelets and red blood count) had gone up to the best I'd had in years this past May when I thought I was done with the program for the second time... but began declining the closer I got to the start of this semester. I didn't put these things together until I saw her and she mentioned that stress will actually decrease platelet production. She advised me to walk for 30 minutes every day while I was in school because she knew how difficult my program was. Perhaps it was for the best that I didn't pass that final exam after all since I won't have to continue doing this stressful program.

Furthermore, my new doctor confirmed the red flags and women's intuition that had been set off by that overly persistent hematologist (who, by the way, had refused to see me for the first 6-7 years I'd had low platelets). Not only did I not need the iron infusions, they also completely botched up my Celiac test (so we still don't know if I have an intolerance or not). Furthermore, they dropped the ball (for the past 4 years) on keeping track of an enlarged thyroid lymph node I've had for years. I was displaying some possible low thyroid symptoms but they hadn't bothered checking my thyroid levels nor had they ordered another ultrasound to check its growth (it's benign, btw; I had it biopsied years before my father passed away).

"Don't worry about your health," my new doctor told me. "You're fine." I'm going to be okay. I look fine (I've had a naturally rosy tint in my cheeks for weeks now and I've back to my pre-health issues weight). My blood work from last month showed no signs of concern for anything. I don't need to go to a hematologist. She ordered a full lupus panel along with other blood work for next month because she wants to do things properly and wants to rule that out even though that hasn't been tested twice at my former hospital. She wasn't impressed with the "care" I had received before so she's going to make sure we get the proper results. She assured me that she would take care of me and that I would get better. I mean... c'mon! What a difference!

I'm happy. I'm at peace. I've felt like this is just the beginning of a new life for me since I made the decision to switch primary health providers, and that feeling only intensified after I came out of my first appointment. I have to go get my blood work done next month and I have my first thyroid ultrasound (in 4 years!) this upcoming Friday.

Thank you, St. Giuseppe Moscati, for your intercession. This is only the beginning of a brand new journey for me... and I'm glad to have you on my side and as my intercessor, as I begin this road to recovery. Thank you for saving me from the potential danger and/or troubles that the iron infusions (which could've resulted in an anaphylactic shock since I have so many allergies to medications and foods... which I wasn't informed about until after I had initially agreed to the infusions; after I'd been told that there were no possible side effects) could have brought.

I have yet to read the book on St. Giuseppe's life (we're on a strict "food, hygiene, and bills only" budget right now) but you can bet I'm going to the first chance I get. :)

Anyway, I've been wanting to share this with y'all for a while now but I was waiting to see how it all played out before I wrote anything. And now, you know!

Thank you all who've been praying for my health issues. My chronic fatigue has lessened in recent weeks. As I've already mentioned, I'm back to my pre-health issues weight and even had a rosy tint on my (fuller) cheeks. Props to St. Giuseppe Moscati... and the 54-day Rosary novena since my health has been one of the big intentions since I began it on All Saints' Day.

I hope you all have a lovely start to the week! :D

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

Friday, December 15, 2017

The End of This Journey

I didn't pass. I needed a 78% or better on the final exam to stay in the program. I passed my first two exams but the third final exam -- which had straight memorization and was cumulative of the entire semester -- sank me. I received a 63%. I studied for days. I spent hours on the notes... on highlighting important passages... going over everything on the study guide... creating flash cards. It didn't help one bit. It was the lowest exam grade I received in any of my 3 courses; worse than the exams I took when my mental fog was at its worst. I didn't understand how the grade wasn't higher. I knew the answers... but perhaps I didn't really know them.

Goodbye, SLP degree... I was only 2 short classes away from completing you. It's a tough pill to swallow. I worked hard. I'm up to my eyeballs in student loan debt with no career in the field I studied. I didn't fail the class either. I received a 78.5% as a final grade -- a C+ -- but the program has a B- or better policy.

Like I said, I worked hard. I pushed myself beyond my limits, especially when I was bed-ridden with chronic fatigue and the accompanying symptoms for days (even weeks) at a time. I did ace one course and I received a B- in the allegedly "second hardest" course of the program. I'm proud of that.

I'll be honest, I fear what people will say and think. "She was sick and she still risked it and got herself in all that student loan debt for nothing?" "Poor girl, she's so sick... she can't do anything..."

I don't want to be pitied... which is all I'm getting. I would love to have someone tell me, "Are you kidding me? You did well considering your circumstances! You should be proud of yourself!" Not one single person had said that to me... so I say it to myself.

I started the 54-day Rosary novena knowing this could happen -- that I could potentially not pass. I asked Mama Mary to intercede and help me pass... but only if it was God's will. If not, I asked her to help me find a job that I could do while in recovery from my health problems. I still have hope that this will turn out well.

I didn't cry when I found out I didn't pass. I actually felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. As some of you regular readers may recall, I've said (for months) that I didn't feel called to continue down the SLP path but that I would do it if it was God's will. I would break down in tears throughout the semester but I kept going because I wanted to show God that I trusted Him either way.

I'm not going to question God over the outcome. I know that this semester was all part of His plans for me. I don't know why they were but they were. When I felt broken down, not good enough (for anything), overwhelmed, and utterly defeated, I would release those emotions in the forms of tears and then I would wipe them away and I kept going. I would hit wall after wall, but my trust in God kept me going.

"Your will be done." I still say this aloud. I said it before I took my exam. I said it after I found out I wasn't going to continue in the program. As I kept reminding myself, if it was His will, I would've passed and continued. However, it doesn't seem to be so now it's time for me to move forward... as soon as I figure out what that direction is.

I thanked Mama Mary and the saints who interceded for me during the semester. I thank you all for your prayers. All the prayers said for me didn't go unanswered; I felt the courage and the strength to continue when I could've easily given up. I didn't give up and I went down swinging. I also thank Mama Mary for interceding since I did ask her to help me see whether God wanted me to continue down this path or not. I got my answer, right? :)

As my mom says, "Dios aprieta pero no ahorca." The rough translation is, "God squeezes but doesn't hang." Meaning, there will be rough times but you're not without hope; sort of like "When He closes one door, another opens."

I'm excited to see what He has in store for me. Surprisingly, not having any clarity is not making me nervous. The unknown -- especially when it comes to financial situations -- had always been panic attack-inducing in the past but that's not the case this time around. I'm actually happy and eager to go forward, even if it means starting from zero.

I'm very grateful that this all happened while it was still Advent season because it goes along with my plans to wait, reflect, and slow down to breathe. I'd been neglecting all my Advent reading for the past week and a half because of final exams. Now I get to spend the next week and couple of days getting back to what I wanted to do: partake in the Advent season. I did slow down and reflect during the past couple of weeks but not as much as I wanted. 

I'm going to take the next couple of weeks (2-3, maybe) to just enjoy the season. Advent and Christmastime are my favorite times of the year so I'm going to put everything behind me and focus on the now... and the reason for the season. 

This is the end of the SLP journey... but it's also the beginning of a brand new journey that is filling me with optimism, hope, and trust. I look forward to sharing what He has in store for me in the upcoming weeks. ;)

That's it for now. I just wanted to get this out of my system. I have many more posts in mind that I will be writing in the next couple of days. I'm going to be focusing on writing in the next couple of weeks (I knew St. Francis de Sales was randomly popping up in my life for a reason) and this blog will help me get back in the groove of that. :)

Again, thank you all for your prayers. Though the outcome wasn't what we had wished for, it got me through this semester in one piece -- health and sanity intact. :D

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent Plans: Waiting, Reflecting, and Slowing Down to Breathe

As you've noticed from my lack of interacting on social media (yes, I took down my Twitter account as soon as the giveaway was done) and sporadic blog posts over the last couple of weeks/months, it's been a hectic time in my life. A demanding course schedule, chronic health issues, and other issues in my personal life have kept me on a constant "go, go, go" pace.

With only a quiz, a group project, and my final exams left, this is the first time this semester I've felt like I have a little wiggle room to focus on something else beyond school work... and that reflection is really sad.

I hate that my schoolwork has taken precedence over most things, including my prayer life. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing a whole lot better than in recent years. I still make the time to pray every morning and every night. I've added the 54-day Rosary novena to my nighttime prayer time in the past couple of weeks and, as of the feast of St. Andrew, I'm now also doing the St. Andrew Christmas novena. I've chosen to go to confession, Mass, and even spending an hour in adoration when I've had exams and papers due that same night because I know that that time is more important (in the long run) than what grades I may get in my classes. Still, it's not enough.

While praying, I can't focus on what I'm reading (from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary) or what I'm praying (the Rosary) because my mind wanders back to whatever is troubling me that day. Things I have due for any of my classes, health issues... all insignificant things that rob me of that peace of mind that would come in handy while praying. That's why I'm grateful that Advent is (admittedly, conveniently) happening at a time when my life is slowing down.

I currently have the small luxury of not worrying so much about school or health issues because I'm trusting that God will guide me in those things, but I know it won't always be this way. Once this semester is over, I have the hardest course of the program to deal with next semester. And that's still contingent upon my passing a course with a B- or better in order to continue and (hopefully) graduate in early May of next year. Next week I have a doctor's appointment with a new doctor and an unknown future regarding my medical issues since I'm basically starting over.

After these things, I will be staring the great unknown in the face -- something that has caused many panic attacks in the past. I fear the unknown because I can't plan for it nor can I control it... and, again, that causes anxiety. How I will pay back my student loans, going forward with my vocation as a future wife and mother, dealing with all of life's ups and down... nothing can prepare me for anything that will rob me of that peace of mind, except the trust I have in the Lord and the hope that everything will work out for the best. That's what I want to cultivate this Advent season: waiting for the things that God has in store for me, reflecting on what truly matters, and slowing down to breathe when things get too overwhelming.

This Advent I really want to learn how to slow down and breath. It may sound silly but think about it. How many of you feel like you don't have the time to devote an hour -- or even half an hour -- to silence and prayer; to just be still in the presence of God (outside of Mass)? I was reading a lovely reflection by the lovely Maria von Trapp (yes, of Sound of Music fame) on one of my favorite blogs regarding Advent and how we fail to prepare ourselves for it because we've lost our sense of slowing down and looking at what's important. Slowly down and reflecting on what's important will help put me back on the right track... and it'll back the waiting period easier to bear.

I was having a conversation with my mother earlier today, about how our focus is mostly on things that will no matter at the end of our lives. We can't take the material things with us yet we crave to acquire as much of it as possible. Perhaps it's not the material but emotional or intellectual pursuits leave us wanting more; not getting fulfillment from them though we may try hard to obtain it. I don't want to continue to let those things get in the way of becoming a better version of myself; one that is in pursuit of Heaven and of an eternity spent with God.

Waiting... reflecting... and slowing down to breathe. Sounds easy enough but when you have an overanalytical mind like mine, it's now always easy.

I know this means I will have to spend more time in silence, which I've never been good at doing. I know that it means I will have to learn now to stress over grades or the future as much as I have (though this is something that God has been teaching me how to do in recent weeks so it's not exactly a new goal this season). I will also have to check in with myself and look at what is causing anxiety and/or what has taken over my mind that particular moment/day and reflect on whether or not it will ultimately matter in the long run, especially at the end of my life. Since this is the beginning of the new liturgical year, I thought this was the perfect time to start these goals and work on them throughout the rest of the liturgical year.

Beyond Advent wreaths (which we're not doing this year; first time in forever), Advent calendars, books on Advent reflections, etc.: what are you, dear reader, planning on doing for Advent? I would love to know. If you're too busy to do anything beyond the things I've just listed, there's absolutely NO shame in that. We all have our own lives and we approach things differently which is why I'm curious to know what you're doing for this season of joyful anticipation.

That's it for now. I want to take my own advice and get some things done so I can sit in silence for a little while. I feel like having a little conversation with God, even if it's one-sided (for now). :D

I hope you are all having a lovely start to the week and to the Advent season.

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 Magnificat Advent Companion App Giveaway Ends Tonight!

Just quick reminder that the Magnificat Advent companion app giveaway ends tonight at midnight PST! If you haven't already entered and would like, this is your last chance!

There was a glitch in the Rafflecopter widget. I don't know who entered for the iOS giveaway and for the Android giveaway so if you've already entered or will enter, please let me know so I know who to send what if they win.

Thank you in advance! :D

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Long (Detailed) Explanation and a Decision

This week has been... crazy. Forget the school stress (and the massive final project I had to turn in for the class from heck); I had a lot of big decisions to make regarding my health.

As many of you (who've been reading this blog for a while) now, I have had lower than normal platelets for years. We're talking a minimum of 8 years. It's never dipped under 100k (that we know of) which is the cut off for non-critical/emergency. For years, my doctors have fought with the hematologist to see me. For years, the hematologist canceled all my appointments saying I didn't have my numbers low enough to be seen by them. My doctor (whose residency was up in June and left) fought and fought until the hematologist agreed to see me starting in May.

For the past 6 months, it's been a whole lot of nothing; just "monitoring." My platelets had a steady decline in those 6 months, from around 123k to 105k. No explanation, other than a possible poor diet and not enough iron and protein in my diet. It's happened before. The hematologist ordered a bone marrow biopsy for next month, to rule out any bone marrow problems. Finally! It only took, what, 8+ years and a doctor who would not quit bugging him until he agreed to see me... and then another 6 months of my platelets falling. I knew it would hurt but I was determined to go with it because I want answers. It could be nothing; it could be that I have ITP and that there is no explanation for my platelets fluctuating. Still, I wanted everything ruled out. Now... the bone marrow biopsy isn't even happening. At least, not anytime soon.

Over the past week and a half, there was a lot of unraveling that happened with my doctors and the hematologist that forced me to make the tough decision to leave their care, go elsewhere, and start anew. Why would I do that, when I was so close to having the biopsy? Because I no longer trusted these doctors and if you can't trust them to take care of you and do what's in your best interest, you need to go elsewhere.

As I said, it started a week and a half ago. I went in to get my blood work results. My red blood count went down below normal for the first time in months, but the iron and everything else was normal, including my white blood count (which is rarely within normal range). My platelets also took that dip to 105k which prompted the bone marrow biopsy appointment. They were worried about my red blood count has dipped. I knew why it had dipped... but they weren't listening to me. That's when we started having problems.

I'll be completely honest with y'all: Mom and I struggle financially more often than I admit to anyone, my friends included. I don't talk about it because I don't want anyone's pity. I've gone to bed hungry (and did go to bed hungry) several days a week in recent and past months. No one except my mother knew this. I've cried out of hunger. This has been a reoccurring problem since my father passed away because the only source we have coming in is my mother's now that I have put freelance writing (which paid peanuts anyway) on hold to focus on finishing this SLP program I'm in. I max out my student loans so that we have a bit of money saved in case her paychecks aren't enough and we need to "borrow" from those loans. Guess what happens when I'm not in school. No extra student loan money, no extra money... more tightening of the belts.

In recent months, I wasn't eating well... and I went several days without having anything containing protein to eat. That's why my protein level dipped for the first time ever. That's why I think my red blood count dipped. I could have tortillas, rice, and potatoes... and nothing else that day, for several weeks. I would eat, yes. I would get "full" on some days but I wasn't eating a healthy diet. That will cause your body to stop producing what it needs to produce to keep you healthy. I also wasn't taking my iron pills for two reasons. First, with my acid reflux as bad as it had been in recent weeks, I wasn't able to swallow the large pills. Second, my bottle I had expired and I had to wait to buy a new bottle. But, once I did, I started taking them regularly. Unfortunately, that was only twice before my blood work was done so, you know, it wasn't going to show up right away.

Back to the doctor problems -- the hematologist wanted me to start iron infusions because my RBC was low. Having a history of medical and food allergies, I asked what the side effects could be. I was told "nothing; none. You'll just feel better right away." Furthermore, I was told that my iron levels were "never" normal and that it was crucial that I have done." I had to two options: iron pills and the iron infusions... except they ruled out the pills without consulting me first, saying that I haven't had success with them before. They pushed and pushed for me to have the infusions. I had a gut feeling that I shouldn't do them but they pushed so hard and made it seem like I had no other choice but to do that or else the hematologist could no longer want to see me... and would not even try to get to the bottom of my platelet issues. Reluctantly, I agreed because I felt I was forced to say yes.

After I left, the doctor caught up with me... "Oh, by the way... turns out there is a chance of an anaphylactic shock." I'm sorry, what? Didn't you just say there was NO chance of ANY side effect? Red flag. I went home and later that day I got my blood work results via the hospital's website. Surprise: my red blood count wasn't the lowest I've ever had it. Furthermore, they had also lied about my iron "never" being normal. All my iron panels except the red blood count were normal and have been normal for months. Red flag number 2.

I tried to get a second opinion so I went back this week. It was a different doctor but within the same hospital. This doctor told me that, with my history of allergic reactions, she wasn't sure why they wanted to do the infusions. She looked at my blood work results and said, "you're not even that anemic; just slightly! It's not a 'if you don't do this, you're going to die!' situation." She sent a message to the hematologist saying that I preferred to keep taking the iron pills that had worked for me in the past. I asked her if I could cancel my scheduled infusions. She said "yes". I double checked before I left. I felt relieved. I knew I didn't need the infusions. In fact, I had other folks who know about medicine (other doctors included) who agreed that infusions weren't necessary.

It wasn't even 5 minutes after I left that I received a call from the doctor. The hematologist insisted I do the infusions because they were worried that I would lose more blood and get worse. I didn't understand how that was possible. I had felt more energetic in the past month than I had in several months. The mental fog hasn't been much of an issue over the last couple of weeks, even when I was tired. Sure, I was oversleeping and the fatigue overwhelmed me some days, but I'm also under a ton of academic stress and I had a little thing called chronic fatigue. Feeling tired when I'm overwhelmed isn't new to me; it's happened even when I've been healthy (read: no anemia or other medical problems). I bet some of you feel tired when you're overly stressed out as well.

I called my mother and told her what happened. Before this appointment, we'd discussed my leaving if they were going to be difficult about it. I didn't think I would have the guts to go through with it. I also talked to my godson's mother (who is a dear friend) and I vented and ranted about it through FaceTime. She also suggested I leave the doctor and go elsewhere. Everyone I talked to that day encouraged me to leave. Everyone my mother talked to, including friends/co-workers (she works in a convalescent hospital so they know their stuff), said that I should go elsewhere. One particular friend/co-worker who is a doctor said, "Don't let her go through with the infusions! She doesn't need them. Go elsewhere for a second opinion."

In order to get a second opinion (with my particular insurance), I had to switch doctors and hospitals. I called my insurance company and asked if I could make the switch. Because of the enrollment period, I had to wait almost 24 hours before they confirmed that I could. It was done within minutes. I picked the hospital. It's the same one where my father had his operation when he was first diagnosed with cancer; the same one where the ambulance took me after my car accident two years ago. The woman who switched me over to that network asked me if I had a doctor in mind. I said I didn't. She could choose for me. It was a risky move but I just wanted to go elsewhere and so I would take whichever doctor was accepting new patients and was covered by my insurance.

I'm going to back up just a bit (before I go on) to tell you one more thing to make all of this make sense: I had St. Giuseppe Moscati pop up at the most random times over several weeks prior to his feast day. I would be doing one thing and his name or image would pop up. I received an Ignatius Press catalogue and while I was ripping into pieces to throw in the trash (because I can't afford anything right now and I didn't want the temptations), I somehow came across a DVD of his life in the catalogue... again, randomly not thinking anything about it except "this saint is stalking me. lol." Yes, I think "lol" sometimes. lol.

I finally looked him up. St. Giuseppe Moscati was a doctor. He remained a bachelor all his life and dedicated his life to helping the poor. Even if they didn't have money to pay for their treatments, he would give me the treatments... and money for food so they'd eat. He was an extraordinary man. The weekend before my last doctor's appointment, Mom and I watched the movie based on his life (thanks to a friend who let me borrow her account to watch the movie for free). It (the movie and his life's story) left both of us completely speechless. Oh, and what was one of the first things Dr. Moscati talked about in the movie? Platelets. Yep, it was a sign. lol.

Mom and I started praying, asking St. Giuseppe Moscati to please intercede for me. I left the doctor's office (prior to the call 5 minutes later) feeling at peace. That peace was replaced with anger and internal confusion and disturbance. Only minutes before I was informed I could make the switch to a different hospital and doctor, I had a nightmare in which the devil and I fought control over my body. I woke up with my heart racing, praying the St. Michael Archangel prayer. 5 minutes after I woke up, I received the call. While they checked to see if there were any doctors affiliated with the hospital I wanted to switch to, I kept praying to St. Giuseppe Moscati. "Please, let them find someone. Please, let them find someone, St. Giuseppe!"

I called my mother with the news after it was all said and done. She sighed in relief. The peace I had (which had settled in my heart immediately after I made the decision to leave my now former doctor) was still there. Yes, I would have to start the process over with a new doctor and a new hematologist (something that I had been informed before they made the switch) but I didn't care. I knew that God would help guide me. If the new doctor and hematologist say I should do the infusions, too, I'll do them. However, I want that second (well, more like 4-5th professional opinion at this point, lol) opinion with people who will regularly see me and will know my case.

I found out that my new doctor has an amazing reputation. Keep in mind that I didn't choose her and that she was chosen for me while I was invoking St. Giuseppe's intercession. Most of her former patients lament that they've had to leave her because of changes to their health insurances (different from mine) have made it impossible for them to continue seeing her. I still feel that peace and even hope that the change will be good for me and that she will be proactive in helping me get healthy once again. I'm actually going to make the appointment as soon as I finish this post; they're probably out to lunch until 1 p.m. which will be in 25 minutes from the time I'm writing time.

The doctors and hematologist didn't think I would leave. They thought I would go along with what they wanted, even when I had my reservations about it. The doctor I saw on Monday called me earlier this morning to inform me that the hematologist still wanted me to do iron infusions but, if I still didn't agree to them, I could take the iron pills. I didn't say anything except "thank you." The hematologist knows I left two days ago. They informed him that I canceled all my infusion appointments and even my follow-up appointment in late February with him. They knew I made the change to a new doctor/hospital.

As much as I wish I could say that I think they are worried about my well-being, I think it has more to do with the $$$ they're losing. They would've charged my insurance company a lot of money for the infusions (which apparently everyone believes was the reason why they practically forced me to do them) and now that money (plus whatever money they got every time they saw me) is gone. It's such a jaded way of looking at things (and it goes against my very nature to accept it as a possibility) but it seems like this is the case. For years, the hematologist refused to see me and now that I sought help elsewhere, they want to help me? No. Red flag, my friends.

Did I fail to mention that I never actually met the hematologist? They would send a new resident doctor each time I had an appointment with them. The same with my regular doctor until my beloved Dr. M (who left after her residency was up) said, "no, this is crazy. I'm going to request that you get assigned exclusively to me so I can help you." After she left, back on the "new doctor every appointment" rotation. I couldn't continue doing that. There was no consistency and stability I needed for my chronic health issues.

OH! I should also mention that the last blow-up with my former doctors happened on the last day of petition for the 54-day Rosary novena (where my platelets and health are one of the biggest intentions) and that I got my new doctor and hospital on the first day of Thanksgiving of the novena. Also, my new hospital is Catholic. Sure, let's call a coincidence. ;)

That's where I am right now. That happened over the last week and a half... when I had school stuff to go through. No one said doing the 54-day Rosary novena was easy but it's so worth it.

Right now, I'm focusing on taking my iron pills regularly and on staying as relaxed as I can about school. I have 4 quizzes due this upcoming Saturday. I have my portion of a group project due on the 5th. My final exams are happening between the 9th and the 15th of December. After that, a 3-week break. If I can miraculously pass all my courses (I need a 76% or higher on my final exam in one class to continue the program; for COMD 3400 if anyone is feeling charitable enough to pray for that score or higher on my behalf), I'll be headed for my final semester on January 8th.

I don't know when my next doctor's appointment will be but I will keep y'all updated on any developments. I know some of you have been praying unceasingly for my health and for school to go well for me. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough. In your charity, I ask you to keep praying for me, especially now that there has been a big change with my health providers and with my exams coming up.

I feel at peace. I spent an hour before the tabernacle last Tuesday (exactly one week before the switch was made) and asked for guidance and peace. I know God will continue to help me, especially now with Mama Mary (through the 54-day Rosary novena) and St. Giuseppe Moscati's interceding for me. I even feel at peace over my school situation. It doesn't mean that I will pass or that I won't. I think it just means that I'm learning to trust God more and that is the peace I'm feeling.

Anyway, I'm really sorry for the super long post but I wanted to get it out of my system... and give a shout out to St. Giuseppe Moscati who Mom and I are now counting as my patron in health-related matters. Look him up; he is incredibly inspiring!

I slept away the day yesterday (don't worry; it's nothing to be concerned about) so I'm going to try to catch up with things.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far! Oh, don't forget that the St. Andrew Christmas novena begins today! I'm linking you to one of my favorite websites since they have a lovely graphic of the novena that you can bookmark if you want to do it. :D

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Magnificat Advent 2017 Companion App Giveaway!

It's that time of the year again, folks. The current liturgical year is winding down and I start thinking to myself, "How on earth will I be able to celebrate/observe Advent this year?" With my crazy schedule these past 3 months, I haven't really had a chance to work on my own spiritual life beyond the daily prayers, confession, and Mass (yes, I'm going to Mass more often now that I'm getting the hang of working with, not against, my chronic illnesses). 

I hope that I can begin to rebuild my spiritual life and get myself on track this Advent. Thankfully, I only have 4 more quizzes (all due Saturday), my portion of a group project (which should be easy peasy), and my 3 final exams in 2 weeks so I shouldn't be too overwhelmed this Advent season. Please, God, help me not be overwhelmed. lol.

I'm grateful that the folks at Magnificat were very generous this year because this year I have twice the companion apps to give away. That's right. I have 4 app codes to give away this year, two for the iOS app and two for the Android app. I had only given away codes for the iOS app in previous years (I give them away for both Advent and Lent) and had been asked about the Android app in the past so I'm ecstatic to be able to give them away this year.

I have used this app in the past and it's been so great for me. I highly recommend it if you need something to help you during the Advent season, especially when you're busy.

Disclaimer: They are in no way, shape, or form paying me to say this. I am not employed by them. One of my best friends works for the company and they knew I had a blog so they very generously give me the app codes to give away. I don't even keep one of the codes for myself; I give them to you lovely readers and prefer to pay for an app for myself. It's that simple.

The rules for the entries are pretty straightforward: you can get up to 15 entries the first day and I believe the tweet option can be done once a day so you can get more 5 entries if you do it daily between today and Saturday at midnight, Pacific time.

I'm really sorry for the short time frame but I just got the codes yesterday and I had a pretty crazy day yesterday (which I hope to fill you all in on very soon) so I didn't have a chance to write this post until today.

Be sure you click on the proper giveaway. One is for the iOS app and the other is for the Android app. You can click on the arrows within the raffle app to find the one you want to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One more short piece of news: I will have my new Twitter handle up until the winners claim their apps and then I will deactivate it again. I had deactivated it for safety reasons and I have folks who are keeping an eye on things so no one try any funny business. I plan on using it further down the line, especially when the first novel and the other project I'm working on get published but there's no actual need for it at the moment... you know, beyond the giveaway. I will activate it at least once a month to keep the username but I won't be terribly active on it until I get a new book published and/or I graduate. Just a heads up. I can't afford to be distracted right now. ;)

That's it for now. You have until Saturday, December 2nd, 2017, at midnight PST, to enter!

I hope you are having a lovely start of the week!

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Is It Wrong to Find the Good in the Bad?

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. :)

So, this post had been sitting in my drafts inbox for months. Months. Like, mid-summer. I didn't have time to finish it... until now when I decided to give myself rare day off from studying and write three blog posts (the one posted on the day before Thanksgiving Day, the one posted on Thanksgiving Day, and this one). As you might've guessed from the title, this one is going to have a question for y'all at the end. ;)

I tend to look for the good in the bad. It's just how I am and have been since I was a little girl. Sometimes this can backfire as it exposes me to other dangers and it can make me miss a lot of red flags but, overall, it's been a good trait to have.

I have two guilty pleasure movies: Mona Lisa Smile and Gidget... and people wonder why, especially when they get to know me a little better.

Why do these choices surprise people? Because of the content in the movies.

Spoiler alert if you haven't seen either. In Mona Lisa Smile, we have a (relatively) young teacher, Dr. Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts), who goes to teach at conservative Wellesley College in the 1950s. She is a progressive in the land of conservatives trying to "enlighten" the "oppressed" young women at the college who favor a more traditional lifestyle. Dr. Watson and another student are all about not being tied down, sleeping with however you want to sleep with (even if that man is married or sleeping with his students), foregoing marriage because it'll only limit your potential... you know, pretty modern ideas which seem radical when placed in the 1950s.

So why do I like this movie? Well, besides the clothing and the music (big fan of 1940s-50s music and pop culture over here), what I love about this movie is that the character Joan Brandwyn (played by Julia Stiles) challenges Dr. Watson's presumptions and ideas. Joan is the brightest student in her class and Dr. Watson does everything she can to get Joan into law school... and away from a potential marriage. When Dr. Watson learns that Joan has eloped and gotten married to her boyfriend, you can see the disappointment on her face because Joan has "thrown everything away" by choosing to marry.

Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you, a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.

This is the scene that makes the entire movie worth watching (for me)... because I can relate to it, in a way. I often get told not to "waste my brain" and to dedicate myself and my life to a career instead of a marriage. Yet, I want the opposite. I want to dedicate myself to a family when the time comes. Family has always been important to me -- for more than a career could ever be. I wasn't raised this way (my mother always drilled it into me to focus on a career before I ever married) but it's what I've come to want for myself. I can look past the blatant (modern) feminist ideas and focus on this scene. Joan, who has the world at her feet, chooses to follow her dream... even if it puts her at odds with someone she respects.

By the way, there's a "What Mona Lisa Smile Character Are You?" quiz and I got Connie. I totally don't mind.

What's so bad about Gidget? Well, it depends on what you focus on. The guys have a beach party that's really meant to be an excuse for the young surfer bums to (in modern terms) hook-up with whoever they want, even trying to dissuade Gidget from going because she's too innocent and wholesome. Yes, lots of kissing and (tame, for our standards anyway) innuendos going on during the beach party. Gidget wants to make the guy she likes jealous by lying about being interested in someone else and then tells him she's going to a "beach shack" with the oldest of the beach bums (who looks old enough to be her young father) who only asked her for a ride to the shack with no other intention than getting some sleep which he can't with the guy fellas going wild. She actually manages to get the guy to ask her into the beach shack and tries to get him to make sure she's no longer "snow pure" but nothing comes of it.

So why do I like this movie? Again, besides the music and pop culture stuff (released in 1959), Gidget makes some pretty dumb ideas but she's still her own person and won't let anyone else influence her. Her friends get on her case about not "making it" (slang for, well, not waiting until marriage) even though she's "pushing 17." She talks to her mother about how she hates when guys want to get handsy when she just wants to be their friend... and even wonders if she's odd because she's not into that or being like most of her friends. She's a star student, she prefers to surf rather than go on a "manhunt" (look for the most eligible bachelors) with her friends, her wardrobe is more modest (even her bathing suits are tasteful compared to others'), and there's an innocence about her that resonates with me. Again, yes, she makes that dumb decision to go to the beach shack with the older beach bum but he actually stops her (after pretending he was into it to scare her off... it didn't) and tells her to go home. He actually protects her instead of taking advantage of the situation. Bravo, Kahuna!

Is it wrong to seek the good in the bad? To ignore what the overall message is for the little good that you find? I keep going back and forth on this... especially when it comes to these guilty pleasure movies. It's no secret that I'm pretty much a "prude" when it comes to sexual innuendos and scenes in films... which is what I think makes people wonder about these two guilty pleasure choices. The only explanations I can give are the ones I've just written -- I look beyond a couple of scenes and focus on the positive things I can get out of them.

Of course, there are some movies, books, and shows I will refuse to watch or read, no matter how much my friends rave about. If it contains a lot of "sexy times," has a lot of cussing, or has something I'm not entirely comfortable with, I will avoid it because I know that I'm just not into that kind of stuff. I will actually fast forward some of the Mona Lisa Smile scenes and just focus on the parts I like. I have a line that I will not cross because I know my weaknesses (e.g. a vivid, occasionally overactive imagination) and what I need to do to avoid adding to my list of stuff I need to take to the confessional.

Anyway, I would love to hear about whether you also try to find the good in the bad, not only in life but also in music, books, tv shows, and films? Do you simply avoid these types of films? Do you watch everything and not worry about these things? I would love to hear from you; no judgments if you have a differing opinion. :)

That's it for now.

I hope y'all have a lovely rest of the (long) Thanksgiving Day weekend!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude in Difficult Times

I know some of you might've gotten worried about what I wrote in yesterday's blog post but I promise you that I'll be okay. Writing is how I let things off my chest; it's a way for me to let go of the negative in the healthiest way possible (that doesn't involve crying). Yes, it was done on a public platform but I've always felt the need to be open and honest with everyone because not many people share their struggles... and sometimes we all need to know we're not alone. (side note: you won't believe the number of times I've gotten messages saying "I thought I was the only one who felt that way/went through that!")

Today, I'm going to give you the other side of my thought process because I always tend to look at things from every side of the problems. This is not a full list but it'll give you an idea of the silver linings I find in difficult moments like the ones I described in yesterday's post.

I'm grateful for a mother who never quits. We have our difficulties (as do all mother-daughter relationships), our different temperaments, and way different communication styles but Mom is like a Goonie... she never says die!

I'm grateful for my brothers who, as we get older, are more and more involved in my life. I didn't have that closeness with them growing up since I grew up as a virtual only child (they're all older half-siblings).

I'm grateful for friends who give me advice, support me, and help me in any way they can. Whether it be anxiety, health, or school-related stress... whether it's a guy problem... whether I'm just having an awful day, someone is always there to help pick me up again.

I'm grateful for the miracle of passing some of my exams and coursework, especially when I think I've tanked them. It's really weird but I've found that the more I study, the worse I do on exams. It's just something I recently realized.

I'm grateful for the insight about the less study time = better grade. Holy Spirit double whammy FTW!

I'm grateful for professors who understand my health problems and even send me encouraging words when I feel like giving up. I've never had such a supportive professor (who sends me motivating compliments) than the one I have this semester... for the second hardest course in the program.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to study, period. Sure, I'm up to my eyeballs in student loans but at least I have the chance to study. The same can't be said for others in different parts of the world.

I'm grateful for the doctor I had up until this past June. It was thanks to her that we figured out where part of my health problems came from and it helped me start my path back to recovery. Yes, I hit a major snag again this month but at least I know that she starts the ball rolling on this whole thing.

I'm grateful for answers. Even if it's not what I want to hear, getting answers is always a good thing because then you can try to figure out what to do next.

I'm grateful for you lovely readers who have kept reading this blog, even if I shut down my nearly 3,000+ follower Twitter account and only have 18 people following on the new Twitter account... even if I keep losing readers on the blog's FB page every week (and I have been)... even if you all decide to never read this blog again, your kind words and prayers have helped keep me going all these years.

I'm grateful to all the saints in Heaven who've interceded for me, especially this year.

Lastly (but most importantly), I'm grateful to God for literally everything, even the bad. I may feel like I'm drowning... broken... unloved/unlovable... weak... but it's during these times that I can feel closer to God than when I'm well. I may not always "feel" like I'm in a good place with Him but we all know the devil loves to try to trip you up when you're at your lowest and can do so by playing with your emotions. I know that, deep down, my love for Him will never fade... no matter how low I may feel. I know that He will make sure someone will always help me get back if I ever fall (as I did in my teens).

What are you all grateful for?

I hope all you lovely fellow Americans have a lovely Thanksgiving Day weekend!

Thanks for reading and God bless! :D

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.