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!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why I'm No Longer Writing the Third Novel

One of the clues I gave a small group of friends on what my novel was about back in June.
First, I just wanted to say a big "thank you!" to all of you for your kind words (in public and private) regarding the blog post I wrote last night (God Humbled This Proud, Conceited, Vain Girl). I honestly wasn't expecting many people to read it since I wrote it and posted it so late. I woke up to some very lovely messages and it brightened my morning despite the lack of sleep.

As I wrote yesterday, I didn't post this blog post yesterday because I had last night's blog post topic on my mind. In my heart, I felt like it was the right time to write and publish it... even if it meant that I would get little to no readers as the East Coast, where most of my readers reside, was already asleep by then. God does love to surprise us, doesn't He?

I won't make this post very long because there is going to be a (sort-of) part two and three in which I will discuss what the messages/theme of the novel were and why I was inspired to write it. However, after much consideration, I decided not to continue it... or, at least, not to publish it.

A couple of days ago, I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. (after writing for hours) editing and fleshing out the story a bit more since the basics were all written out through the ending. I went to sleep feeling so happy that I'd broken through the writer's block and that the novel finally felt right; that God had finally given me the right words to say. When I went to work the next afternoon, I was met with a surprise: everything I had written, edited, and worked on was gone.

I have this tendency to save every couple of minutes so that I don't lose anything. I'm a writer; it's a habit for the sake of one's sanity. I also backup all my files online just to be safe. Before I went into full-blown panic mode, I went to recover all the unsaved documents... and everything but the novel was there. I went through all my documents -- through all my files on my laptop -- and found nothing. I asked Microsoft for help but I was informed that since I don't save my documents on their own online cloud, my work was lost.

I would be lying if I said I didn't cry. I did. I apparently had the most heartbreakingly sad cry I'd had in years that my mom left the room so she wouldn't hear me. I was gutted. I had worked so hard and to lose everything just hurt... especially since I felt like I was finally going to be done with it.

For weeks, I'd wanted to finish the novel because it was inspired by what I went through this summer and earlier this year; what caused me to have an intense spiritual dryness I'd never experienced before and what nearly caused me to nearly leave the Faith. Having to write things out was making me relive things, which wasn't all bad. I was able to work through a lot of things and it helped me get my spiritual life back in order. However, in the last couple of weeks, it was doing a lot of interior damage. Sure, my spiritual life was getting better but other parts in my interior life were suffering. That's why I tried to work through it as fast as possible; I just wanted to be done with it. Furthermore, every time something associated with the novel came up, I would get inexplicably ill. Think anxiety symptoms and then some.

I talked to one of my best friends and my mother about it and we all came to the same conclusion -- it seemed like a sign that I shouldn't continue writing it. As I thought about it more, and especially during my time of prayer, I realized that the novel didn't feel right anymore. I still want to get the messages out there... but perhaps I should come clean in the form of blog posts instead of fiction based on real-life events. As much as I love writing fiction (and I do plan on continuing some day), it seems like writing on this blog -- sharing the good and the bad that happens in my life -- bears the most fruit... so that's what I'm going to do.

I hope to write about the novel themes (and perhaps even share a bit of what I wrote in the novel through this blog) in the next couple of days. I have two big things due on the 8th and the 15th so I don't know how much I'll write between now and then. I shall try to get them written soon if I can get my work done on time. Please say a prayer for me regarding these two things (the first two of several in the next couple of months), especially since I'm a week behind schedule and it's a lot of work. I have two novenas going on at the same time -- one to St. Jude and one of the Holy Spirit -- because these are big, important things I cannot afford to mess up. Prayers, please: that I do well on them and that my health cooperates.

Anyway, I offer my apologies to those who were looking forward to the novel. I do hope to write another in the future but it looks like this one won't see the light of day anytime soon... especially not after I write the blog posts. Y'all will see what I mean.

And, now, I'm off to work on the thing that's due on Friday because I have like less than 2 days to complete it. *runs*

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

God Has Humbled This Proud, Conceited, Vain Girl

(side note: I had this post/topic prepared before I decided to write about why I've given up writing my third novel so it will be published first; the novel news will hopefully be posted tomorrow.)

I was an extraordinarily active kid.

I was/still am a dancer. I took Mexican folkloric dance, swing, ballroom dance, waltzing, and drill team/cheerleading from elementary school through my freshman year of high school. To this day, you'll see me dancing in my apartment (well, only if I feel comfortable enough being the massive goofball that I am around you), dancing in the car, and sometimes in the aisles of the groceries stores when I forget that people can see me.

I was a tomboy who loved playing sports. I ran track, played handball, tetherball, and even baseball when the boys let me. I still remember being the only girl who would dare race against the boys to see who was the fastest in the 5th grade. In junior high, I mostly drill team until I had to choose between honors classes and drill team... and I chose the honor classes. After that, I played soccer, still ran track, and played basketball in my co-ed P.E. class. In high school (and I only went to public HS for a year and a half), I did dance for an entire year and then did a semester of co-ed P.E. I was one of the only two girls in the class who dared to play flag (American) football, basketball, soccer, and softball.

I also had my academic accomplishments. In elementary school, I was one of the chosen speakers of my elementary school graduation. In junior high, I tested into a more academically demanding track and had to choose between dance/popularity and academics. My parents drilled the importance of an education so it was a no-brainer for me. As a high school freshman, I (along with 4 other classmates) tested out of high school English so we took college-level elective courses with some seniors because they didn't have any English courses I could take. I developed severe social anxiety due to the bullying and mental abuse I received from both classmates and teachers so I lost an entire of school. They thought I was going to graduate when I was 19-20 through a charter school. I surprised them by graduating a year and a half early and I even gave the valedictorian/student speech at my high school graduation.

My health began to slowly decline shortly before I turned 18. Anxiety physically debilitated me and I'm sure my father's cancer diagnosis didn't help. I developed anemia for the first time when I was 18 and I was severely underweight from the anti-anxiety medications they'd given me. I recovered for a while but not before anxiety became worse... as did my health. I, who had no allergies as a child, suddenly couldn't eat or drink anything with dairy at 19. At 20, the egg allergy developed. I, who rarely missed school due to illness, became more and more sick... and there wasn't (at the time) an explanation. I returned to the Church in the midst of the uncertainty. The doctors then figured out that my (we now know) PTSD and social anxiety was the cause.

My academic career was terrible. I had to repeat a couple of courses because my health would sometimes affect things. Somehow, I was able to have lucky breaks and, despite illness and my father's death, I was finally able to graduate with my first Bachelor's degree. Quite a few years later than anticipated (I should've graduated around 2007-2008) in 2012.

I was okay for a couple of years but eventually, things began to decline again. When I was about 24, shortly after my father passed away, was the first time they noticed my platelets were lower than normal but no one bothered to check things out. It wasn't until I was 30 that they became more interested in getting to the root cause of my health problems, platelets included. At the time I'm writing this, I'm still a medical mystery to them since they can't figure out the cause (re: low platelets).

As many of y'all know, I overdid it and burnt myself out in mid-late 2014 when I did my first and second semester of my SLP degree... to the point where my health took the biggest hit. It took me until earlier this year to get my iron levels to the point where I was no longer anemic. After two semesters in grad school and a terrible car accident in late 2015, it took me a couple more months to recover my weight (I was underweight for about 2-3 years).

Things seem to be on the upswing and then... something brings me back down. Low platelets. Anemia. Anxiety. Academic failure. It's taken me several years to appreciate everything... and it's just now that I accept everything as being a part of God's will instead of trying to do things on my own, to the point where my pride makes me make terrible decisions.

I've recently realized that God has humbled me because it's been the best thing that could've happened. I was way too overconfident (read: conceited, proud, and vain) about... everything.

I was the girl who was always one of the top students. The girl who received academic honors. The girl who gave the speech at her HS graduation. The girl whose British Literature professor (during her freshman year of college) encouraged her to apply to Oxford University.

I was the girl who could whoop boys at a bunch of sports. I ran and hit faster than many of them. I wasn't afraid of getting hurt, bruised, or dirty.

I was the girl who was offered a contract with a major agency (that would've radically changed my life) when she was 20.

I was the girl who, at 19, was teased about being the first amongst her friends to marry because of the luck she had with the fellas.

I'm now the girl who (people assume) is always sick. I'm the girl who has to be careful during cold/flu season because she can't get a flu shot (egg allergy) and whose white blood count is rarely within normal levels (read: low immunity against viruses). I'm the girl who can't be in the heat too long because she has lower than normal blood pressure. I'm the girl who has to be careful not to cut herself because the low platelets could potentially make her bleed more than normal. I'm the girl who has to be careful about what she consumes because of the food and medication allergies.

I'm the girl who sometimes doesn't have the physical energy/stamina to even sit up or open her eyes on her most physically debilitating days. I'm the girl who gets winded simply bending down and standing back up. I'm the girl who can spend days lightheaded or dizzy in bed. I'm the girl who wishes she could dance more but doesn't have the energy to do so.

I'm the girl who constantly fails in the academic arena because sometimes her health is so poor that mental fog is ever-present, making it difficult for her to concentrate in lectures and/or remember what she studied for exams. I'm the girl who abandoned her second Bachelor's degree... then a Master of Arts degree... and then the second Bachelor's degree again.

I'm the girl who is seen as being a stereotypically lazy Millennial who just lays around the house, doing nothing. I'm the girl who wishes she could work to pay off her student loans but who can't because of her health. I'm the girl who wishes she could financially provide for her mother so that her mother could retire; this girl wants to take care of her mother.

I'm the girl who is currently working on something that she hopes to one day share with you all but, for now, let's say I'm working towards something that I hope will make my mom (and my father, wherever he is) proud. I'm the girl who, despite the want to do well on this thing she's working on, is having a lot of problems accomplishing the basic tasks because she constantly falls asleep and experiences too much mental fog to complete anything she begins.

I'm the girl with terrible luck with fellas (though, perhaps, still has excellent taste because 3 crushes from the past 8 years have ended up in seminary) and, at 32, is one of the last of her friends to marry.

I'm the girl who still has her moments of pride and vanity... but who God is humbling in a way that makes the girl cry tears of joy because (after much prayer in which asked to be cured has now seen that) it's the way He shows His love for her. It may sound weird but I feel like God continues to humble me in order that I may join Him in Heaven one day... which is my ultimate goal.

I'm the girl who has learned that it's okay to ask others for help... to be okay looking foolish... to be who she is, deep down, without worrying about how others perceive her or if others will like her.

I'm the girl who has learned that all the worldly accomplishments, all the riches, all the "luck", all that she experienced as a girl and a young woman aren't important. Doing God's will and choosing to accept the suffering that I need to endure is more important.

And, finally, I'm the girl who hopes God uses to get "through" to others who feel alone... unloved... hopeless... like failures... everything she herself feels at times. I pray to God that I may say the right words or do the right works; to help others during their own low moments. Even if I don't ever know about it and even if it's just one person during my lifetime, I hope I do good. I hope I do my part, through my weaknesses and failures, for His greater glory.

Some of you may say that it will be foolish of me to say this but: I really do hope God does continue to humble me to the point where my pride and vanity is as nonexistent in my being as possible. God has already helped me see how much this "mighty" gal has fallen... and I wouldn't have it any other way. I know that I will continue to be seen as dumb, weak, too sensitive, a failure, etc. and I welcome it. I would rather be seen as being an insignificant than being at risk of having my pride and vanity return to the levels they were at when I was healthy and had too many options in life.

I'm going to leave y'all with this quote from the saint whose feast day we celebrate today (it's still Tuesday in Los Angeles):

“We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, ‘I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.” - St. Teresa of Calcutta

Friday, September 1, 2017

'Tis My Second Birthday: Baptism Anniversary

I took both of these pictures, thank you very much. ;)
Many, many moons ago (don't do the math, lol), a wee little lass named Melissa was baptized at a church named Nuestra SeƱora Reina de Los Angeles (Our Lady Queen of the Angels) across the street from historic Olvera Street in downtown L.A. According to her mother, this wee 3-month-old bundle of chubbiness and smiles did not cry like the other babes. Oh, no. She laughed her baby tush off as she splashed the priest with water... just as her older brother had, nearly 13 years earlier. All sins were washed away and this little lass began a lifelong commitment to the Catholic faith. Sure, she stumbled later on (in her teens) but she eventually returned to the Church she was baptized in and now celebrates that beautiful day.

And if you're new to this blog and are wondering who Melissa is, it's me. That's my actual first name. Emmy is my nickname. It was the name Mom wanted to give me before Dad vetoed it and named me himself. I ended up using it to maintain my anonymity in the early blogging days and it stuck. Longtime blog readers, friends, and even professors still call me Emmy despite (almost) everyone knowing my real name. To quote one of my best friends, "you're more of an Emmy than a Melissa." Thanks? *shrugs*

This year, it landed on a First Friday so Mom and I took an early morning trek to the local parish for Eucharistic Adoration. Unfortunately, it was already 93 degrees at 9 a.m. so we didn't spend as much time in Adoration as I had wanted. If the weather would've cooperated, I would've probably made the trip to the church of my baptism since it's a couple of minutes away but knowing me and my unfortunate tendency to get sick and/or nearly faint due to the heat (and humidity, yuck), I thought it was best to just stay locally. I wish I could spend all day in Adoration but, you know, the weather doesn't cooperate with me. Oh well. I'll find ways to spend more time in prayer today, even if it's just in the silence of my room.

I'm wondering, does anyone else celebrate their baptism anniversary? And, if so, what do you do for it? I've heard some people ask for blessings at Mass, they celebrate with a white cake, they light their baptism candle, etc. I don't want to turn on the oven in this blistering heat to make a cake but I went to church. I'm trying to keep myself from eating meat on Fridays but I made an exception today because of my baptism anniversary. Gotta celebrate somehow, right? Yay, red meat! Sorry, PETA and other vegetarians.

Oh! Here's a fun fact I learned today: my baptism anniversary falls on the feast day of St. Anna the Prophetess and St. Vibiana. For those you who need a refresher on who St. Anna the Prophetess is: she was at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:36-38). I mean, how flipping cool is that coincidence?! Also, St. Vibiana is the patroness of the city of Los Angeles. (FYI, local blog readers: her relics (which I've often visited) are in the mausoleum of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles.) I was born in the month of Mary (May)... baptized (and reverted) during another month of Mary (September; Our Lady of Sorrows) in Los Angeles... and my baptism anniversary on the feast of the woman who was present at the presentation of Our Lord and on the feast of the patroness of Los Angeles. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. lol.

Anyway, just wanted to share this and also get some baptism anniversary ideas from y'all for next year (or my future kiddos). :)

I hope you all had a lovely week and have a great weekend! :D

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

A New Chapter and a Low Tech Experiment

Today I embarked on a new chapter in my life... and I'm already stressed out. Yay. lol. Within 5 minutes of waking up, I had to make a big decision that would affect this new chapter. I literally jumped out of bed and ran to get my laptop and made the changes that needed to be made before getting back to the person who was awaiting my decision. Oops, there went my plans to start my day without technology. But, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Let's rewind to this weekend. Knowing that my vacation and leisure time was officially over, I started thinking of possible changes to help me tackle a big problem: my dismal attention span and concentration skills. During a little break, I did something I normally don't do: I went on YouTube to see what I could find to pass some time. Yes, I know, I know, it's a time-sucking black hole... but I needed something to help de-stress me for a couple of minutes. A video by Jordan Taylor (of Blimey Cow) popped up and I thought "hmm, this one sounds interesting." This was that video:

As I watched it I kept nodding and saying "Yes, Jordan. Me, too! Yes. This!"

You guys know I struggle with moderation when it comes to technology. The addiction is real. I've seriously curved my social media usage from where it was last year but I still have a lot to work on. After watching this video, I made the decision to take a page out of Jordan's book and disconnect even more.

I can definitely go a long time without looking at my phone. If I'm busy enough or if I'm interested enough in something that it captures all my attention, my phone can be lost for days and I wouldn't know it. In fact, I have accidentally misplaced my phone and gone hours (and even a couple of days) where I don't even notice until I need it for something (a phone call) more than once. Once, my phone ended up in Dad's old car when my brother took it up to his house an hour north and I didn't even get it back until like a day or two later... and it wasn't missed. lol. How about last week when some of you (whom I communicate with offline) waited up to a week for me to respond to text messages? Um, oops. Sorry! Sadly, this isn't always the case and when I get bored, I glue myself to whatever I can to pass the time.

I'm going to need a lot of mental concentration on this new chapter. A lot. Way more than I'm currently capable of because I instinctively reach for my phone and/or iPod touch or jump from one website to another on the laptop about every 3 minutes or so. I don't have diagnosed ADD or ADHD but my attention span is like that of Dug's from Up! ("Squirrel!"). It never used to be this bad but it's gotten to the point where I think this may be contributing to the lightheadedness I've been experiencing lately.

My phone is now banned from my bedroom and office. It's going to stay in the living room unless I'm going out. When I go out, it stays in my bag or pocket unless I need it. I'm going to turn "do not disturb" on when I'm working and the only person who will be able to reach me (excluded from the "do not disturb" list) is my mother when she's working and needs something urgently. (side note: cell phone usage is banned at the hospital where she works so she only calls when it's unavoidable).

I have not had any social media apps on my phone (save for Instagram) for almost 2 years now but I'm still logged in via the mobile browser. I'm going to log out of those and I will try very, very hard not to log in until all my work is done for the day if I'm out or not until I get back on my laptop for a break when I'm home.

What does this mean for those trying to reach me ASAP? Please don't hate me but it's going to have to wait until I have my breaks... and I'm not going to check during every single break either. Unless you've told me ahead of time that you're going to need me at a specific time (and/or place), nothing will be checked until I'm done. I have to eat and do normal human things that will help me function properly so I will check emails and messages during that time... but only for like 5 minutes... after I'm done eating.

This week I'm using Infomagical to help me work on bettering my focus. Have I mentioned that I really need my full focus on what I'm working on? Because I do. I wouldn't have made such drastic (for me) decisions if I knew I could balance the two. Today's challenge is doing one thing at a time. It's proving to be a lot harder than I thought (say hello to the former champion of the multitaskers) but I need to do this. Even as I type this out, no music is playing in the background. I'm going to do one thing at a time -- giving all my focus and attention to it -- until it becomes a habit. After I type this up, I'm going to see what I can make myself to eat (so hungry; didn't have the time to eat lunch, it's been so hectic today). When I do it, I'm going to focus only on that. No music. No TV. No phone.

When I'm home, I'm going to use a physical clue (just not sure what yet) for Mom to know when I'm busy and absolutely cannot be disturbed (unless it's an emergency) when I'm in my office. I love my mom but she's well known for interrupting at the most inopportune times... though not intentionally. For those whom I talk to online throughout the day, I'll let you guys know what system I'm going to implement to let you guys know when I have a chance to chat.

I wish I could take a break from my laptop for days but, sadly, nearly all of my work will require the use of it. I'll have to figure out how to do what needs to be done on it without getting too much temptation to log in to social media, to check my emails, or put Pandora on (now that I've kissed Spotify goodbye).

I've already replaced my Wunderlist app with a physical planner to use every day. I'm going to get on Amazon later (after I finish what I need to do; electricity went out for a while earlier today so I'm waiting for peak hours to end) and find an analog clock to use instead of my iPod touch for my alarm. I already know I will have a lot of short music breaks in my future because, if today is any indication of what I'm going to be dealing with, I'm going to need to de-stress as much and often as possible to maintain my sanity. I have other low tech changes I'll do but I'll save that for another day.

Not sure how often I'll blog in the next week or two (while I get used to the new routine for the new adventure and the low tech experiment) but at least y'all will know why! Of course, you guys know that I will continue praying for y'all during this time (especially those of you in Texas).

OH! If you're wondering what the new adventure/chapter is... if you already know, you know. Very few people know what I'm talking about and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will know once I've completed it. This is something I'm very excited to do (answer to my small-v vocation prayers) but I also want to surprise people so... mums the word for now. Don't worry, I'll fill you guys in... when I can. ;)

Anyway, just wanted to write this so that someone can hold me accountable to my new plans. It won't be easy but goodness knows I need to do this.

And now, to eat because I'm mighty hungry.

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Do You See the Reflection of the Lord When You Look at Me?"

I have very vivid dreams. Those of you who've been reading this blog for years know that since I've shared quite a few over the years. Some are saint dreams. Some are dreams in which I talk to our Blessed Mother. In one, our Blessed Mother lifted me up (like a child) to hug her Son who was hanging on the Cross. I even had one about the end of the world. (Seriously, just search "dreams" on the blog and they'll come up.) The one I had this morning wasn't much different except that it's stayed with me.

Long story short, I was hearing a popular Catholic speaker giving their speech about... I don't remember what. All I remember was that, while I agreed with them on the subject, I was struck at how there was something wanting about the discourse. At the end (and before I woke up), I remember that I looked at them and said something along the lines of "... but do you see the reflection of the Lord when you look at me?"

The words were clearer when I woke up a couple of hours ago but the message has stayed with me: "Do you see the reflection of the Lord when you look at me?" It made me think about my own actions since I cannot speak for those who are more visible in the Catholic world.

I've been very blessed to meet a lot of great Catholic folks through this blog and social media, some offline. I've also been blessed to have been given the support by other well-known Catholics to make a little blip on the radar as a writer. I'm still a little nobody in the Catholic world (which works out for me because I'm a private person and because I don't have a thick enough skin to evangelize like others do) but I've been thinking about how my words and actions might reflect on others with whom I interact with on a daily/regular basis.

When I speak to them, do they see the reflection of the Lord? Can they notice His love and mercy... or do they see something else; something that makes them think I'm another religious hypocrite who says one thing and then does another? Do you ever think about that; about how you may be coming across to others who encounter you? I rarely did but I think I will make a conscious effort to be more mindful of my thoughts and my words.

I'm sure this dream was prompted by my reading of the Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and (especially) How to be Happy, How to be Holy by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan. How to Be Happy... has been blowing my mind in terms of how I pray and how I think about the faith in general so I'm not surprised I had the dream I had.

Anyway, just some random thoughts I wanted to share with y'all. :)

I hope y'all are having a great week thus far. 

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Should Be Angry But I'm Grateful

Before I start: happy feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary! I love focusing on this (Mama Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth) when doing the Glorious mysteries and I will do this extra mystery when I pray my Rosary tonight. Also, happy belated feast of Our Lady of Knock (which was yesterday). I did remember and I wanted to mention it on social media yesterday (Hibernophile in the house!) but I had so much going on that I didn't get the chance.

I've been incredibly overwhelmed in the past week. It's been a rollercoaster of wonderful moments and of low moments that could have become very discouraging but ended up bringing me closer to God. It would be too much to cover in a single post so here's the biggest part of it.

Last Saturday, I went to urgent care for my dizziness since I spent 3 consecutive days dizzier than I was used to. It was supposed to be quick trip since it takes forever and a day to get an appointment with my regular doctor but because of my history of low platelets (and considering that I'd had a lot of headaches over the past month), they wheeled me (I was so dizzy I couldn't walk properly) to the emergency room.

There, doctors first looked at my platelets and iron levels since those could easily be culprits of the dizziness and lightheadedness I've experienced for weeks. My platelets had taken another dip down but were still over the 100k level and it wasn't the lowest I've ever had them so they didn't think it was the cause. Since I had no other worrying symptoms, they discharged me.

Yesterday I had my (now) regular hematology appointment. It was a new doctor. I had low blood pressure yesterday (which can explain the constant lightheadedness) but she explained that my records show that it's normal for me to have low (but not dangerously low) blood pressure; that she herself has them around the same levels. I received the news that my iron and hemoglobin levels (and, basically, everything) were steady and I've been anemia-free for a couple of months now... but the fact that the platelets dipped for the 2-3 time this year wasn't sitting well with her.

They can't figure out why my platelets have been low for years. For a while, they considered that it was due to my folate and iron levels but those seem to have stayed within the normal range (I get the exact numbers in half an hour of when I'm writing them) so they ruled those out. I don't get sick often (as in colds or the flu; I can go years without a cold). I've never had surgery. I don't bleed easily or much when I get cuts or even when I go to the dentist. I continue to be a medical mystery to them for now... but that may change.

The doctor saw how exhausted I was yesterday; you just had to look at my face. You can't fake the fatigue I was feeling. 1) I'm not an actress (my face would easily give me away if I were lying) and 2) my conscience would eat at me if I had lied about that. I told her about when the fatigue hits the hardest, including after the consumption of wheat. She asked me to list all the symptoms I get when I eat wheat. She asked me if I had the same reaction with other carbohydrates (rice, tortillas, etc) and when I said I didn't, she zeroed in on gluten as a possible cause for my lowered platelets.

You know how I've blogged about gluten/celiac blood tests coming back negative in the past? Guess what... the doctors had either lied or they were overruled in the past because it had never been done! I had several doctors say that they were going to test it but they never did. I'm not sure if it was because they were resident doctors and their supervisors overruled the decisions, if the hospital didn't want to administer it until I saw a hematologist and my platelets continued to lower, or if I was simply lied to because they thought I was a hypochondriac with a history of anxiety but, whatever the reason was, it was never administered. They did do other autoimmune tests that came back negative (which is what I think they told was negative when I asked) but never for celiac.

I should be angry about it. I've been telling them for years that I've had a suspicion that my health issues (namely, the platelets) might've been caused by gluten. I noticed that my platelets went up when I went on an entirely gluten-free diet (and I even abstained from receiving the Eucharist for 6-months at one point) and how they go down when I reintroduced wheat into my diet. For whatever reason, nothing was done... until now. Again, I should be angry but I'm not.

I'm grateful that a doctor finally got past whatever loops had to be jumped to get me the tissue transglutaminase IgA test. I'm grateful that God gave me the strength and the courage to drive to the hospital (despite being as fatigued and lightheaded as I felt). I'm hopeful (and, honestly, also a little fearful) that this test may give us the answers we (Mom and I) have been waiting literally years for.

Having a positive celiac intolerance result would mean tweaking my diet even more which scares me in the sense that it would restrict my already restricted diet (can't have dairy, eggs, spinach, and some fish). It will also mean being more pro-active about my spiritual life because I would need to talk to the priests where I usually attend Mass about receiving a low-gluten host which is Vatican approved and which many people with celiac have been able to receive without a problem.

I've been praying about my health for years... since I was an undergrad at the CINO college when I first became aware of my platelets being lower than normal. I've resigned myself to enduring all the health issues for as long as necessary as long as it was God's will. I know that I'm going through all of this for a reason unbeknownst to me but which will be for the benefit of my soul.

At the same time, I've prayed that I get healthy so that I can live out what I believe to be my vocation in a manner that would not be burdensome on anyone else. Even if it takes longer (at least 3 months since I won't get my results for this test until November 20th), I know that it's all part of God's greater plans for me and I just need to accept that with as much patience, grace, and courage as needed... which I know God will give me.

I have so much more to say but I think this is enough for this post. The other isn't health-related so I'll save that for tomorrow or the next day, whenever I am able to. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone for their continued prayers. I know that it's because of them that I haven't defaulted into the worried, panic-attack stricken gal I once used to be. :)

I hope y'all are having a great start of the week thus far!

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Lent of St. Michael Begins Tomorrow

© Pedro A. Guerrero (aka my big brother).
Has anyone heard of the Lent of St. Michael which begins tomorrow (on the Assumption) and ends of the feast of St. Michael Archangel? I hadn't until today when a long-time online friend (who inspires major mama and vocation goals) said she was going to partake in it. As I am a very curious person, I asked her what it was about and she sent me this link.

For the tl;dr crowd: the gist is that this devotion was started by St. Francis of Assisi since he had a special devotion to both Our Lady and St. Michael Archangel. Since there are 40 days (excluding Sundays) between the feast of the Assumption and Sr. Michael's feast, it became like a second Lent. Just like the regular Lenten time, you pray and fast, only this time you do it in honor of Our Lady and St. Michael. During this time you "... are made mindful of the facts of our own resurrection on the Last Day and also of our subsequent Judgment" since St. Michael will be the one who will awaken the dead on the Last Day (Judgment Day).

As I am personally going through some confusing times and am trying to get my spiritual life back on track, I think this will be good for me. I don't know what I'm going to "fast" from quite yet but I still have a couple of hours to think about it. With the state of this country (and, really, the world in general) perhaps some of you will also be interested in partaking in this.

Anyway, just a heads up for y'all. Please let me know if you're going to do it as well. It wouldn't hurt, especially if you feel as if you need a "second chance" like I do.

I have less than two weeks to finish my novel and I still have to flesh it out a bit so... back to work!

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

Will the "Catholic Twitter" Comments Please Stop?

As some of you (who are following me on Twitter) know, I decided to take a break from that social media website earlier this week. It's not the first time I've done it and it'll most likely not be the last. Right now, I can't see myself returning for a couple of weeks because 1) I have a deadline coming up and 2) I'm starting a new chapter in my vocation (career) so I gotta focus on that. Okay, real talk: I wouldn't have taken the break even with what's coming up if I hadn't grown tired of all the bickering and the "Catholic Twitter" drama that's been going on for weeks.

Admittedly, I don't log into Twitter as often as I have in the past but the little that I did experience in the last few weeks made me want to shut down my account and forget about ever visiting the site again. I wanted to keep up the use of saint quotes and more positive tweets but I just became too overwhelmed... especially when people started using "Catholic Twitter" as a collective noun to lump all Catholics together instead of addressing a small group of individuals who just happen to be Catholic.

News flash: not all those who are Catholic believe the same thing nor do they use and/or express themselves on social media the same. It's a disservice to those who do positive things on the website to be lumped together with the mischief-makers. Using "Catholic Twitter" when you're talking about a tiny number of people isn't nice. Yes, there are some people who love to ruffle feathers and add fuel to the fire but not everyone is like that. Can we please stop these "Catholic Twitter" comments? Don't lump everyone together. If you have a problem with what someone (or a group of people) said, why not address them personally?

Furthermore, it seems like we can no longer express our opinions without someone being offended... even within our little Catholic "bubble." Subtweets, shade... whatever you want to call it -- it all divides us. What happened to the days of disagreeing and being able to talk about our differences of opinions without it becoming a big argument? I remember those days. I remember the days when the biggest problem within "Catholic Twitter" was the big flirt-fests in which we couldn't chat without flirting happening. (Those who've been around since around mid-2008 know what I'm talking about). Now? You simply can't say anything without offending someone. I'm sure that even this blog post is going to offend at least one person because they're going to think I'm talking about them specifically. (hint: I'm not. Don't give anyone a reason to make a "You're so Vain" parody.)

I honestly feel like Twitter (as a whole, not just our little Catholic bubble) has hit rock bottom and I rarely feel joy when interacting with folks on that site. Even if I'm on there for a couple of minutes, I log out feeling angry, hurt, annoyed, and/or incredibly uncharitable. Yes, politics and the state of the country/society have contributed to it... but some of us aren't helping matters. You'd think that, after seeing everything that's been going on, more people would want to contribute to trying to make the site a friendlier, less-stressful place where we could chat with friends... but it's been the opposite.

To those who have the patience and thick skin to continue doing their good works -- sharing saint quotes and other gems that inspire people to learn more about the beauty of our Church: thank you! We need you to keep up the good fight that some of us can't deal with for whatever personal reason. (side note: as previously stated a couple of blog posts ago, I'm personally too sensitive to negativity and I feel physically and emotionally drained when I or someone I know gets attacked for no reason so I avoid those situations.)

To those who contribute to the drama: I will continue praying for you. You're all adults. You know what you're doing. You know Who is going to hold you accountable for your actions after all is said and done. Oh, did you forget that we -- every single one of us -- are all going be held accountable for everything we did in this lifetime? This is your friendly reminder.

I know I have a ton of really dumb stuff that I've already done in my lifetime (thus far); I don't want to add to it, which is why I'm going to avoid whatever will add to it. For now, Twitter is one of those things. As I said, I can't get on it without being uncharitable (even if it's only in my head; God will still know those) which lead to my decision for the break. Perhaps I can return to Twitter in a month's time and things will be better. However, as I continue to work on my relationship with God and try to cultivate a healthier spiritual and interior life, I'm currently not strong enough to log in and let the comments not affect me.

I will continue praying for all of you -- I literally do say "please bless everyone who follows me on social media" when I do my nighttime prayers -- and I hope to return to a Twitter with healthier communication habits.

This blog's Facebook page is still a good place to stay in touch if you ever want to pass along a link or something fun that you think I may enjoy. You can also post any prayers requests on that page or the Frassati Prayer Community page; I check both every day.

Anyway, that's it for now. I've said my piece (and hope that it leads to people considering peace). As I said in my tweet that told every one of my break: please be kind to one another. There's already so much chaos and fighting; we don't need us Catholics to get even more divided on things that don't matter.

And, now, if you'll excuse me, I have a novel I need to continue working on.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Friday, August 4, 2017

St. Francis de Sales is Setting Me Straight

Did you ever start something but didn't finish it until much later than you anticipated which, in hindsight, was perfect timing? Have you ever wanted to send someone something -- a letter or a gift -- but didn't get around to sending it until days or weeks later, not knowing that they were struggling with something and that your gift arrived when they most needed it? That's what I'm experiencing with Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

I started reading it during Lent but didn't make it past page 44 for some reason. After I decided to give myself time to work on my relationship with God, I started rereading it and it feels like he's talking directly to me. So far, in the first 20 pages, he's touched on exactly what I recently went through and what I need to work on now.

St. Francis de Sales talks about giving up sinful ways, but how it's much easier to have the intention to give it than giving it up along with the affection for the sin, which tempts us and makes it easier for us to fall back into that particular sin.

"... there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their sinful affections; that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin;-- they formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot'a wife as she fled from Sodom."

When I read this (pages 16-17 on my Kindle edition), I had this "aha! This is the first thing I need to work on" moment. Yep. You got me, St. Francis. I'm ashamed to admit it but that's exactly what happened in over the course of a year (July 2016 through last month) when a group I recently detached myself from became part of my social life and I began having second thoughts and (a bit of) regret over having given up the lifestyle I had from my teen years up to when I was 20, only a year before I reverted to the faith.

I knew that these people live in a way and do a lot of what is contrary to Church teachings but they presented everything in this attractive little package -- and they were all so nice despite what they did -- and I found it very hard to resist the temptation. I mean, I did -- which I'm sure was all the Holy Spirit and saints interceding for me -- but it did a lot of damage to my relationship with God because this all happened right after I cut toxic friendships out of my life and was in a vulnerable place. Needless to say, that led to my struggling with the faith and, well, if you've been reading this blog over the last couple of weeks, you know the rest.

"... If you seek to lead a devout life, you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeebled your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion."

I read this and I immediately went "... I have to give up *insert social media platform,* don't I?" It wouldn't be impossible but it would be hard for me because it's been helpful on my quest to repair my relationship with God. Still, there was a lot of temptation to slip up so I had to do something slightly drastic that I normally wouldn't do: I blocked everyone and whoever was associated with them to avoid seeing any of their updates on my feed. I unfollowed the core group of people weeks ago but weak little me used to say "Oh, that's a new picture that popped up on my feed... it'll just be a quick peek to see how they're doing." Some days were easier than others on this front. Some days my self-control is great. Other days (most days, let's be honest here), I'm too weak. That's why I knew I had to block everyone.

I hate blocking people on social media (I feel like rude doing it and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings) but I actually went ahead and spent quite some time going on a blocking spree. I know they won't notice but I've already noticed the big difference for me. My feed is quieter and I feel less stressed out. Most importantly, I don't get distracted or tempted to "check in" on anyone... because I can't. I've done all I can to make sure that temptation won't be there.

I can't allow myself to hate these people (I think I'm incapable of it, anyway) and I will pray for them. What was that quote (also by St. Francis de Sales) that I shared on the blog's FB page? "Love your neighbor with a great, charitable love, but befriend only those with whom you can be mutually supportive in virtue." It may sound harsh to some people but it's important to be careful about who you surround yourself with because they can either help lead you to Heaven... or help lead you astray. Learn from my mistakes, y'all -- especially you younger readers.

I feel like a terrible person for the blocking and everything I just wrote but I have to be honest with myself and know what needs to change in order for me to get back on the right track. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my struggle with the faith took the biggest hit when I started feeling like I didn't have what I took to remain a faithful Catholic but being surrounded by the folks I was introduced to last summer only caused more problems.

I'm not blaming them because they didn't do it on purpose but having them in my life didn't help. I had to retreat a little, get back into more frequent contact with friends who are good for me (who challenge and inspire me and my faith), and now I'm making sure that I don't fall back into all of that mess. It will all make more sense once the third novel is out because I'm taking a lot of what I went through in the last year and incorporating it into the third novel. That's all I'm saying.

Earlier today I went to Adoration (First Fridays FTW!) and I just sat there and asked God to help me through whatever else I'm going to have to face in order to better my relationship with Him. I didn't want to leave Adoration (I rarely do when I'm there) but I had to because I knew I have a number of things to do that I couldn't put off. It was in that moment that I knew that I'm on the right track once again. I know a couple of local Adoration chapels that are opened either perpetual or, at least, are open during most of the day so I think I'm going to visit Jesus more frequently, and even take Introduction to the Devout Life with me.

I look forward to seeing what else St. Francis de Sales has in store for me. I know he'll help set me straight and that it'll be quite beneficial for me. Also, I'm sure that between him and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (who've been my tag-team patron saints this year; they came out of nowhere, lol), I'm going to grow a lot in my spiritual life over the next couple of months. Who has two thumbs and is uber excited about that? This gal!

Alright, that's enough stalling. I have a couple more things to do -- including work on the novel -- so I should skedaddle and get to it.

I hope you all had a lovely week and that you have a blessed weekend. :D

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rethinking Twitter

I almost quit Twitter over the weekend. For several weeks, I went back and forth about deleting it altogether. I thought about what might happen if I did. I would lose years worth of online friendships (I'll officially be on Twitter for a decade this upcoming January) with whom I correspond mostly on Twitter.

On a more superficial level, I would lose "my brand." Though there are two of us online who are known as "nerdwriter" (myself and wildly popular YouTuber Evan Puschak; he's added the "The/Thee" before nerdwriter) and sometimes people confuse the two -- you know, both young adults living in Los Angeles with similar usernames -- but I cover stuff that Evan doesn't. I don't have anywhere near the number of followers he has (holy cow, dude, lol) but my username has somehow stuck around in Catholic circles and it's helped me in career-related things. I actually considered giving Evan the username so that he could keep it simple (just nerdwriter) while I could've started over but it didn't feel right.

I thought about "squatting" the username -- keeping it, closing it up, and deleting all tweets -- but I don't know what Twitter's rules are or if they will change them in the future, taking the username from me. I thought about deleting it and not caring if someone else took it... then I really stressed over that potential decision. My fear is that someone would snatch it up, pretend they were me, and then try to ruin my reputation with it. No, I'm not paranoid. It's happened to me before. Spoiler alert. Highlight between asterisks if you've read the first novel or want to be spoiled. *What David tells Will that Candace did to Lina was what I went through. My usernames were hacked and things were sent out by an ex of mine to try to ruin my reputation -- which then former friends (who were the inspirations for Candace) later used to further try to ruin my reputation -- during the days when Myspace was king.*

Sometimes I think to myself, "what if I just delete everything but the blog? I always feel weird promoting my posts and/or my novels anyway." I think about some of the women I look up to and see how they've given up their social media accounts, their blogs, etc. and how they live perfectly content. I think about how I've covered a lot of my life over the nearly 10 years (a decade this upcoming Christmas Day) I've been writing and how people are probably tired of reading a (basically) public journal of some random gal from Los Angeles who reverted to the faith and has, in recent months, struggled with the faith.

I became very upset over some Twitter drama I was dragged into (I don't know why I was dragged into it since I keep myself far away from it... and the conversation had nothing to do with me in the first place) and I let y'all know what I thought about the whole thing. (For those who missed them, the tweets are found here, here, here, here, and here). As I said in the last tweet, I didn't do it for attention or for people to tell me that I should stay. I said it because I was genuinely upset and I hoped that it would make people think twice before pulling me into their arguments. A lot of really lovely people tried to keep me on the site, giving me such lovely compliments that I don't deserve but made me feel warm and fuzzy nonetheless. Still, it was something that had been on my mind for a long time so I knew I needed to think and pray about it.

In the end, I decided to stay... because something someone said stuck with me: "Small stones make ripples. And God's message is rarely called a small stone." (Shout out to Franco Walls for the tweet!) I thought about it and I could almost hear God saying "you can keep doing little things in an effort to combat some of the bad." I may not do anything except take a couple of seconds from people's days to remind them of something good -- of God or the goal of getting to Heaven through a saint quote -- but, at least, it wouldn't be contributing to the uber toxic environment we all encounter on the site these days. So that's what I've decided to do.

I want to keep posting saint quotes and sharing links to great articles to remind people of the Truth. It may annoy some people and it may not do anything at all -- perhaps it'll only be beneficial for me -- but it feels like the right thing to do. I'm a "mediator" by default and sticking around makes the most sense to me, even when I'm really annoyed with HS-level drama.

It also means I'm going to have to seriously push myself out of my "run away from toxic folks online" comfort zone. That doesn't mean I'm going to tolerate what happened over the weekend (I'm going to be using those mute and block buttons more freely) but it does mean staying put. Of course, if I have nothing good to contribute, I'm going to stay quiet but I'll make an effort to add some better content to the site.

Perhaps, in the future, it may change again (especially if it becomes problematic for me on a deeper level). I am a private person (trust me, you guys don't know everything I go through) and I like time to recharge after being overwhelmed by the negativity so I may one day delete everything. For now, I'm going to try to do a little good and hope it's enough.

Anyway, that's it. I'm starting my big project later this month and have to finish my third novel before then (3.5 more weeks) so I need to go work on that. The novel, that is. We're in the triple digits, folks, so it hopefully won't be long now. :D

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

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Taking a Dating Break... While Single

The past two weeks have been a bit odd. My "letter" to Catholic writers (and, really, to Catholics on social media in general) was not well received... and that was before the whole dancing priest controversy and Catholic Twitter stepping up the fights on that platform. I'm not going to comment on that because it's been discussed (or argued... strongly) by almost everyone. I'm just going to sip my tea and stand by what I've said, both on the blog and on Twitter. Instead, I'm going to post a sort of (unintentional) part two to my last post on thoughts regarding my vocation.

As I posted in the previous post, my private life has been a doozy lately. The last 7 months have been the hardest (in this department) in my adult life thus far. From confusing feelings about one person who unintentionally pulled me away from God and all that I know is good and true to dealing with new revelations about my vocation that have caused me to step outside my comfort zone, there hasn't been a dull moment for me.

If I told you that the last time I had a serious boyfriend was when I was 17, would you believe me? It's true. I've gone on dates since but nothing serious. I didn't have the time... nor was I in a good place for a while. My late teens and 20s were a busy time for me on all levels. I had to help take care of Dad (who was initially diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after I turned 17). I reverted to the Faith when I was 21. I had to finish my first undergraduate degree while juggling Dad's cancer and my anxiety problems. My father passed away and then I spent a year emotionally numb. I went through a slew of health problems and had to learn how to deal with the severe anxiety and panic attacks that once assailed me. I had to figure out my vocation. I had to learn how to take better care of myself (after neglecting to do so... which resulted in some of my health problems; which, thankfully, have now been taken care of). Just recently, I figured out my career/(small v) vocation and it's now systems go on that as well.

After I went through a sort-of identity crisis that lasted nearly a year (and only just ended in recent weeks), I saw that I've gotten clarity on all areas of my life... especially my (big v) vocation. I've already talked about that in the previous post but what I didn't mention is that once I felt more secure about what my vocation is, I also knew that I had to take a break because I've grown up a lot (spiritually and emotionally) since I last dated someone... and I need to figure out what works and what no longer does.

I'm not starting there though. I'm not going to see what areas I have to focus on when it comes to relationships. No, I'm going to strip that down further and go down to the true source of love -- God. I need to be in a place where I can be okay -- whatever my state in life is -- with only God's love. I wish I could say that I'm there right now but that would be a lie. I still crave that love from another person and I know that I can't jump into that without further cultivating my love for God.

I'm currently too lazy to go back and link all the older posts (I'm writing this on 3 hours of sleep... way early in the morning) but I know I've previously written about the fact that I know that only God's love can fully fulfill me and that gigantic void in my life. I stand by that. I know that is the truth... but my heart has to catch up to my brain in this instance. I'm not relying on feelings to tell me when that moment comes; I will know that I'm ready when I'm able to not be so easily swayed away from God and the Truth.

The recent young man in my life showed me that I'm not ready for a relationship anytime soon because my spiritual life isn't strong enough. My still-anemic spiritual life is just now catching up my physical (I was physically anemic for a couple of years as well) wellness. That's why I'm taking a dating break... and it hasn't been easy because I've had more guys show interest recently. No, this isn't me going "ooh, look, I've still got it; guys still like me..." It's more me saying "the timing is both terrible... and wonderful." Terrible because some have been promising but wonderful because it's been a sort of test for me in which I've had to stop and remind myself that I'm not ready quite yet.

So, what are my plans during this dating break?

  • Going to daily Mass. 
  • Going to adoration more frequently (recent Notting Hill inspired tweet, anyone?). 
  • Taking up Bible study at home since I can't physically attend the meetings at local parishes. Thanks for all the recommendations on Twitter, y'all!
  • Reading more books (finishing St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life and starting St. Teresa of Avila's The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection). 
  • Limiting my time on social media... and the internet in general because the negativity out there is harshing my mellow. 
  • Focusing on a big test (that will last only a couple of months, God willing) that will further my small-v vocation.
  • Continuing to improve my self-care so that I don't get physically sick again.
I'm not going to kick all men away during this time... but I'm also going to make it clear that I'm not in a place in which I can offer more than friendship. (side note: having no current crushes or interests really helps my ability to "friendzone" all males, lol.) God may surprise me and bring a great guy into my life between now and whenever I will be ready to begin dating again, but right now my focus is on my relationship with Him and on my own interior life. 

I cannot build a relationship (or a family) on a faulty foundation. My future fella and I deserve better than that. I cannot possibly help lead anyone to Heaven in my current state. I'm still having trouble getting to Mass as often as I'd like which is the first thing that needs to be worked on. 

Do any of my fellow single folks (women AND men) feel like perhaps they also need to work on your relationship with God? Better question: do some of you know that you need to take a dating break to work on your relationship with God but are reluctant to do so because you don't like being alone? You don't have to tell me, but be honest with yourself. If so, please know that I'll be praying for you. We're all in the same boat, y'all!

Anyway, these are my thoughts on the whole thing. I'm not sure how coherent they will be because, as I said earlier, I'm barely functioning on 3 hours of sleep. I have a theory as to why I've had insomnia the past 2 days but I won't be sure until I do something about it. And, actually, I think I'm finally ready to attempt a nap so I'll stop here.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend! Avoid fighting on social media, get thee to the confessional, attend Mass, and stay holy, my friends. :)

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