Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane

I'm currently a year away from celebrating 10 years since my return to the Catholic Church. Well, I count two different months: June 2006 and September 2006. In June the seeds were planted but I didn't fully embrace my reversion until September. I usually count June 2006 as the start date because it's when I began praying and really researching things. Over the weekend I was hit with a major trip down memory lane courtesy of the bands I used to listen to and it got me thinking about how much I've grown in the past (almost) decade.

2005 was arguably my favorite year. It started with an early 20th birthday trip to Disneyland with my (then) two best friends. We stayed until closing, around 11 p.m. if memory serves me right. Then followed a birthday dinner (on my actual birthday) at my favorite restaurant with my friends. We ended taking up a good portion of the back of the restaurant, that's how many had shown up. My friends were amazing. Everyone was supportive and always there for me.

I was loving college (I was attending Santa Monica College then) even though I went through about a half dozen majors. I loved the location because it meant that we could (and did) head to the beach in between classes.

I had been offered a contract with an agency that would've marked the beginning of my career in the "biz" shortly after my 20th birthday.

I was carefree. I lived for concerts. Those who worked at the Roxy and the Troubadour in West Hollywood knew me by name, that's how often I went to concerts. Random "mini road trips" around the city in which my friends and I would drive around the city, just to be out, and eating out was the norm.

I went out with my guy friends a lot. They were not defined as dates but I went out to movies, concerts, to lunch and/or dinner with them (which is the only reason why I'm not completely awkward around guys, lol.) My life seemed idyllic... but a lot of things were missing.

Things began unravelling shortly after I turned down the contract with the agency. The reasons why I turned it down were because a) I wasn't comfortable with the kinds of things I would be sent out for and 2) there was something deep down that didn't sit well with me. I walked away and didn't look back.

Then my so-called friends began turning on me. I accept partial blame here. I was immature and handled things poorly. I hate to admit it but I was dishonest with them. I should've cut them out of my life instead of testing their loyalty (towards the end of those friendships) when I suspected that they were spreading private information about me amongst them. Again, I was immature and made terrible decisions. The girls did everything they could to mentally and socially destroy me when they found out that I'd lied to them. If you've read the first Will and Lina novel you'll get this reference: what Candace did to Lina was nowhere near as bad as what these girls did to me. I deserved it... even if they took it too far. If you've ever wondered why I loathe lying so much, why I will own up to things that most people would deny, and/or why I'd rather take whatever bad consequences will result from my words and actions, now you know.

I still had the guys on my side... for a while, at least. It was at a time when a lot of my guy friends had their first apartments, living away from home. One guy friend tried to get me to his apartment, using the "we'll just hang out... by the way, I think you're attractive" compliment. Uh-huh. "Hang out." Another guy friend flirted and painted lovely pictures of trips to Paris because he had the means to do so and wanted to share those experiences with me. One guy friend bluntly told me that he thought I was cute and wanted to sleep with me but that he didn't want a relationship with me. He even offered to pay a cab for me to get home afterwards. Needless to say, I turned down all those "lovely" offers and my friendships with them ended.

Everything began to take a toll on my health. The stress from the bullying -- the mental abuse I received from these girls was insane -- got to be too much for me. At first the doctors couldn't figure it out. They run tests. Physically, I was healthy. We later figured it was all anxiety related. Then I began to pray to St. Jude, the patron of difficult/hopeless cases. Things began to change.

First, I had to cut communication off with everyone. My eyes were opened up and I saw that almost all of my friendships were extremely toxic. Snip, snip. From that pre-conversion time of my life only 4 friends are still in my life. Three gals and one guy. To this day they remain some of my best friends. One of them was a fellow target of the vicious rumors and lies of the girls that were once my friends. There was no actual reason why she should've been a target either. They just didn't like her so they spread rumors and lies. Cue a Mean Girls reference about Girl World. In a way, that friendship began because I began distancing myself from the girls and knew this girl was a kindred spirit. 12-11 years of friendship later, we're on opposite sides of political and social issues but we're still there for each other when it matters.

During the period of recovery and renewal between June and September 2006, I reevaluated most things in my life. I began learning about the religion of my childhood. I began to try to get rid of lot of bad habits. I had acquired quite a few of those in my years away from the Church so some of them took a couple of years to get rid of completely. I saw that the emptiness I felt was being fulfilled as I grew closer to God. I began to attend Mass, which I hadn't done between the ages of 13 and 21. I went to confession for the first time in almost a decade. I began to feel like my true, authentic self.

This past weekend I tweeted:

I made a lot of bad decisions as a teenager (really, who didn't?) but there are a few I'm happy that I was able to avoid. I avoided drinking myself stupid, doing drugs, sleeping around, and all your basic/cliché "I grew up in L.A." stuff. I still haven't touched anything alcoholic but now that has to do with my not wanting to have it alter my anxiety levels; doctor's orders. I still absolutely no desire to do drugs. My future husband will know that I've always chosen to wait for him, even when I had the opportunities to "get it over with" and didn't even think about sex from a religious point of view. I got rid of habits that were harmful to my soul but were seen as normal in my lost years. I became a better version of myself... even though I still think there's room for improvement. lol. For this I'm grateful.

I'm not here to say "look at me, all better/perfect now" or to shame anyone who might've gone further than I did. I'm so far from being perfect and, really, my Guardian Angel must've worked overtime to keep me on a good path. That's the only explanation I have because I was surrounded by some much temptation. I still make mistakes to this day and I'll continue to make them. I wanted to share this for two reasons.

First, I know I get a lot of young readers who are still in college and/or still in their teens. A lot of these readers may do things that they believe will forever brand/label them. They believe that because they've "messed up," that there is no hope for them. Please know that there is always hope to "start over" again. The Sacrament of Reconciliation exists for a reason. Our fallen human nature and our past does not define who we are or what we're capable of. Do I need to suggest you read St. Augustine's Confessions if you don't believe me? Because, seriously, read it if you think there's no hope for you. God's mercy and love is greater than anything you may say or do.

Second, I'm just so full of gratitude towards God. I know you guys are probably tired of hearing (or reading, in this case) me talk about trusting God. It's been the major theme in my life these last couple of months and this weekend's blast from the past just showed me what is possible through Him. I didn't trust Him then because I didn't know how to. I didn't think it was possible. I didn't consider myself religious. Still, He had greater plans for me than I had for myself. He knew what I was capable of and He guided me to where I am now. Again, I still have a lot to learn and some habits (the occasional impatience while driving... yeah...) to work on but that's okay. God will continue to guide me and I hope that by learning to better trust Him, He can do more for others through me.

And that is the longest post I've written in a while. Sorry! lol.

I still have the entire apartment to vacuum and help clean so I should go do that while there's still sunlight. ;)

I hope everyone has had a great start of week. :D

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's That Time Again...

It's been a long time since I've done one of these. I think I'm averaging one every 2-3 years. Anyway, here are 10 facts you might've not known about me.

1. I was big into science as a kid... especially astronomy and dinosaurs. Going to the Griffith Observatory still reminds me of the first time I went and how stoked I was about learning about the planets. I also loved building models of dinosaur skeletons. I have to admit, I knew I had to save the article about the new director of the Vatican Observatory when I read it because I'm still interested in astronomy. Yeah, I wasn't kidding when I said I have nerd tendencies. lol.

2. I have a tendency to be "late to the party." I was one of the last people in my class to get a computer. I didn't have a cell phone until I was 19. I didn't get an iPod until I was 22-33. I didn't start driving / get my license until I was 25. I'm obviously not getting married nor having any children "young" (under 30) either. *shrugs* It is what it is. lol.

3. I've worn glasses since I was 6 years old but very few friends (especially those who met me after I turned 16) have ever seen me wear them. The reason for this is because I prefer contacts, especially when I know I'm going to be active (think hiking, running, playing a sport, etc.) or driving. Unless you catch me at home during one of my "introvert days," you probably will never see me wear them... at least not outside of pictures.

4. This one is for the ladies: I can't wear lipstick or, really, a lot of make-up. I have an odd skin tone that can range from being light and a bit pale (think more of the pink/yellow undertones) in the winter months to very much olive tone in the summer. I've never successfully found a lipstick that works for my complexion. Same goes for eyeshadow and foundation/power. It suits me just fine; I think I'm too low maintenance for a whole makeup routine anyway. lol.

5. I've "renounced my claim" to all Jane Austen heroes, including Henry Tilney and George Knightley. lol. I also came to realize I'm more of an Anne Shirley than I am a Jane Bennet / Anne Elliot. I still love Austen novels and one of my best friends still calls me Jane (after Jane Bennet) but I'm more likely to re-read the Anne books. This may or may not also mean I now pray for a Gilbert Blythe-type to make me swoon. I'm only half serious. lol.

6. I don't put much stock into those personality / temperament tests as I used to. Though I still get mostly INFP on the Myers-Briggs tests, I've gotten INTP or INFJ as well. As for the Four Temperaments tests, I can get either Phlegmatic-Sanguine or Phlegmatic-Melancholic. I think I'm a little too "outgoing" and silly for the Melancholic one. lol. Either I'm changing (which shouldn't influence the results; these tests are based on personality traits from birth) or the tests and traits are getting tweaked. Either way, I'm going to go with the first results: INFP and Phlegmatic-Sanguine because those sound the most like me.

7. I grew up being very superstitious because my dad was uber superstitious. In recent years I've been trying to make myself do things I was superstitious about. I'm now "fearless" about doing things I once considered bad luck... meaning I'll do it, unless trying it will land me in the hospital or in jail. lol.

8. For an introvert and someone who can easily get embarrassed, I definitely have my "homegirl no care" moments. Examples: I sing and dance in the aisles of stores, I sing and dance in my car, um... let's just say I sing and/or dance in a lot of places because I forget people are watching/listening to me.

9. I did the whole cheerleading/dancing/drill team thing up until freshman/sophomore year of high school. I've just always loved dancing and, really, I did whatever I could to avoid regular P.E. lol. It ended when 1) I had to choose between academics and drill team (I chose academics) and 2) then they gave us a cap with how many dance classes would count towards P.E. credits. If you're wondering, I've always been an introvert so I wasn't one of the girls everyone knew. I still did my own thing. Again, I did it to avoid regular P.E. lol.

10. One more for the "but you're an introvert" file: I did the whole choir / singing thing from childhood into my teens. I just liked doing it. As I got older I began gravitating more towards instruments (piano and guitar). Now: good luck hearing me sing and/or play an instrument. lol. I took the Anne Shirley route and went from being very talkative as a child to being a lot more reserved as I got older.

That's it. Now you know stuff you probably didn't care about about me. lol. ;)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes

This is a screencap of a status update from exactly one year ago on my private Facebook account.

I was in my second semester of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education at Utah State. Though I definitely enjoyed the program (even when I was uber stressed out), the desire to start my Theology MA courses was strong. Still, I was in the program and thought of ways to finish the Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) degrees because it was what I felt pressured to do.

Yes, I wanted to do speech pathology because I loved the fact that I was helping others. I loved working with kids (and they seemed to like me when I did tests/screenings on them.) The fact that SLPs and SLPAs (assistants) are in high demand in L.A. -- especially those of us who are bilingual -- and that it would help our (mom and my) financial worries was a bonus. Still, it wasn't for me. I tried. I fought hard. My friends rooted me on. Maybe a little too hard.

Whenever I brought up the fact that my heart wasn't fully in the SLP program and that I felt the intense pull to do my Theology MA, I was reminded of financial stresses. I had so many people try to dissuade me from the Theology path. "There is no money in it." "It's hard to find jobs (that aren't teaching) in the field." Sometimes I would cry just thinking about how much pressure I felt to finish the program and start working... and to forget about the Theology MA.

We all know what happened. I failed. I got sick. It took me about 6 months just to get out of the underweight category for my weight/height. It took another 2-3 months to get rid of the anemia. Why? I overworked myself. I let the outside pressure blind me. I'm not blaming others. I made my own decisions. I know friends tried to root me on because they know how financially stressed mom and I have been since dad's death. With how much we pay for rent (ridiculously high in this city), bills, etc... we can get really stressed out. Friends just tried to use that to motivate me. They meant went. However, I should've listened to my heart which was leading me down the path I'm currently on.

This past year has been about learning to trust God. I still get the same talking points from friends. "The field is hard to get into." I know. "You won't earn much." That's okay. "You will probably end up teaching." Well, it's a good thing I have years worth of experience as a tutor and a teacher's aide so I know I can handle it. With my anxiety no longer being an obstacle, I've already taken the first steps to get involved in teaching and working in youth ministry.

I've prayed about my vocation (small v) long enough to know when I'm blinded by fear (which is also a lack of trust in God). While I know that getting a Theology MA won't bring as many employment opportunities as an SLP MS would, I'm doing something that I feel that God wants me to do. That's enough for me. He will provide. I still think I had to fail in order to humble myself from the years worth of academic pride that I had accumulated. I'm okay with that. It's helped me grow as a person.

The more "On This Day" updates I get from Facebook, the more certain I am that I made the right decision in the end. It was right for me to let go of my academic pride and to take care of myself -- something which was hard but that I learned was necessary. God has been providing for mom and I in little ways (seriously, how are my novels still selling when I don't actively advertise them?) and I know He will continue to do the same after I finish this program.

I know these "serious" blog posts haven't been popular but, you know what, it's my blog. Yes, I do see everything as a learning experience; as another opportunity to learn to know and love God. Yes, I share these experiences because (for me personally) I know how someone's experience can help inspire/motivate someone who may be in the same boat. I'm sorry if people don't want to read them but it's just who I am and these are my thoughts and for that I won't apologize. :) This blog has always been titled Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer because it's what I share in my life. :)

Anyway, just something I wanted to share my experience about learning to trust because I've seen friends in similar situations that I was a year ago. Trust God and let go of outside influences. Thank everyone for their support (even when it feels like they're trying to steer you in a different direction) but remember that He is the one who will lead you down the exact path you're meant to be on. :)

That's it from me for now. I rented Cinderella (which I never saw in theaters) and Little Boy (which I did watch in theaters) from Redbox and I want to get to them tonight. :D

I hope y'all have a great rest of week. :D

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

Guys: Cool it with the "Friend Zone"

Very few things get me fired but somehow the Verily article on Why Guys Hate Being Stuck in the Friend Zone really irked me.

Dear Isaac Huss,

I appreciate your perspective on the "friend zone." I'm sure it was meant to help other guys who feel stuck in their friendships/relationships with gals -- as well as to help us gals understand what a guy thinks about it -- but there were a few issues I had with your article. It may be your choice of words but, man, I'm not particularly happy with the article.

1) "Ladies, let me tell you something about the friend zone: it's real." Mr. Huss, let me tell you a little something about the girls and the "friend zone": we know. Although you write that you asked some of your girl friends about it and that it seems to be mostly a guy issue, it's not. Trust me on that. It's a human issue. Guys AND girls both have had feelings for others that have not been reciprocated. I think the only difference is that we gals don't complain about being stuck in the "friend zone." We may not like it but we understand that sometimes a great friendship will only be a great friendship. Does it stink? Yes. Unfortunately, that's just a part of the process of getting older and testing the dating waters.

2) "Paul had had enough. He sought out help from—who else—his dad. Good ol’ pops gave him simple advice: Kiss her. If she goes for it, you’re in; if not, at least you know." See, I have issue with this because I'm not the type to kiss easily. Do you know how long it's been since I've seriously kissed someone (who was not a family member or a baby)? I was 17. You read that right. It's been 13 years since I last seriously kissed a guy because I've chosen to not give them away so freely. I know it's common to just "go for it" but you have to take into consideration whether or not a girl wants to be kissed because, shocker, how the girl feels should also be a factor in this equation. And if you want to continue a friendship with her, even after she says she's not interested, that kiss is going to make things super awkward.

3) "To put it simply, when a woman relegates a man to the friend zone, she is saying, “You’re not sexually attractive.”" "She’s saying, “I am into you, I think you’re great, I can’t imagine my life without you, but I just can’t stand the thought of you touching me.”" WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I've had guy friends express interest in me when I haven't reciprocated those feelings. It wasn't because I wasn't attracted to them. In fact, in one of those cases, I really was (he was exactly my "type")... but I knew that we wouldn't have worked out in a capacity beyond friendship. I'm the kind of person who does two things when she's interested in a fella: a) I take it to prayer and b) I try to see past the feelings and the superficiality. I know this may be an uncommon practice but it's how I've managed to dodge some bullets in the past. Surprise, a gal who doesn't reject a guy on looks. I know, I'm a unicorn.

Oh, Mr. Huss. I really appreciate a fella's perspective on the friend zone. I really do. It showed us gals -- who are often baffled by the words and actions of men -- that you guys have the same insecurities that we do. Seriously, thank you for this... but perhaps next time you can consider that not everyone is the same and that every case is different.

My advice for guys: if you like a gal, tell her. I'll offer the same advice to gals, if you like a guy, let him know. I'm notoriously shy and awkward when it comes to guys but even I have had to speak up (though, in my case, the last time I did this was so that I could move on because I knew it wouldn't move beyond friendship). Worst case scenario: she doesn't like you and you can continue being friends. It may be a little awkward at first but, trust me, it gets better. I'm talking from experience. The last guys who expressed interest (as well as the guy whom I expressed interest in and it wasn't reciprocated)? Still some of my best friends. In fact, I helped two of them with engagement plans to their now fiancees. Seriously. Girls and guys can just be friends. Shocker, I know.

One more thing to consider for those who are tired of being in the "friend zone": ever consider that being stuck in friendship mode with someone means that someone who will be (romantically) better for you is yet to come? Think about it. You may not think another girl is better for you but that's because you might not have met her yet. Just food for thought.

So, guys, can you please cool it with the griping about being stuck in the friend zone? We know. We go through it as well. Being nice to someone doesn't mean you're entitled to reciprocated feelings. This advice goes to both guys and gals.

Alright, rant over. lol. See what an article makes me do? Two blog posts in a single day. ;)

I hope y'all are doing well! :D

Trusting God with St. Therese Book Review

When I decided to try Kindle Unlimited, I looked for good Catholic books to read during my last month of vacation. Starting grad school at the end of this month, I wanted "easy" reads (so nothing too heavy) and thought that Trusting God with St. Therese by Connie Rossini sounded like it would be a good fit. I imagine it wouldn't be too heavy and that I would be able to breeze through it. Boy, was I wrong.

I'll be perfectly honest with you, this book made me uncomfortable... in the best way. Why did it make me uncomfortable? Because it made me look at certain parts of my life (especially spiritual) that I don't like thinking about. I was reading a chapter that touched on death on the day my mother's birthday rolled around and I sat up that night, tearing up about the prospect of my mother dying. I know it's part of life and it will eventually happen but I don't like thinking about it. However, despite the reluctance I felt reading some chapters, it was good for me because it really emphasized how important it is to trust God in all circumstances of life.

I highlighted a lot of things in this book. A LOT. I'm going to take some of these highlights to spiritual direction with me tomorrow because I feel like they'll help me in my spiritual slump. That spiritual dryness I talked about two months ago? It still comes and goes. Thankfully, this book reminded that even great saints, like St. Therese and Bl. Mother Teresa, go through periods of spiritual dryness and that all I have to do it trust God, even when I don't understand what's going on.

Throughout this book I had moments where I said "I've felt/feel/have experienced that!" Connie is so candid about her own experiences (shared in order for us to better understand each chapter's theme) that I felt like someone who understood me and what I went through was talking to. It was a sort of "I've been there and I've been able to come out of it in one piece thanks to God's mercy and grace" pep talk one would get from an older family member / friend.

The book covers every big topic you could think of tackling in your own personal life -- forgiveness, resignation, suffering, love, loss, etc. The two that stuck out the most for me were forgiveness and, of course, lack of trust. As I've been doing for the last couple of years (with the help of my spiritual director), I saw that there were more things that I needed to undo and unlearn from both my childhood and the years following my father's death.

I'll be the first to admit that I picked up a couple of bad habits that have taken time to slowly get out of my system. This book reminded me that occasionally failing didn't mean that I was a hopeless case. Instead I need to focus on God's love and mercy instead of my failure. I need to take the focus off of myself and place it back on God.

I felt closer to St. Therese as well. I connected with her on a different level because I finally felt like she and I are kindred spirits. I've always gravitated towards her and her Little Way but I never understood why. I usually get the sugarcoated version of her life but Connie talked about a side of St. Therese that made her seem more human. Like St. Therese, I was a sensitive child who cried easily whenever someone criticized me. Like St. Therese, I occasionally struggle with scruples, worried that I'm offending God during my moments of weakness instead of remembering His infinite love and mercy. These are just some of the examples that made St. Therese feel more like a sister than a heavenly friend.

Would I recommend this book to everyone? Yes! It doesn't matter if you aren't drawn to the Carmelite spirituality. I myself have been going back and forth between Carmelite and Dominican third orders for years. Even if I do end up going down the Dominican route (or ultimately discern that joining a third order is not part of God's will for me), this is one book that I will want to re-read every couple of years. I don't know Connie (though I think she may be following me on Twitter; have I mentioned how slow I am to follow people back?). She didn't ask me to review her book. While I did get this book free via Kindle Unlimited, I will definitely be purchasing a hard copy for my personal library, it's that good.

And I think that's all I can say without spoiling the book completely. ;)

I'm currently on a two week vacation but I also have some reading and study questions to get through so I should try to get some of that done... after I do some housework and other things. What's a "vacation"? lol.

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

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

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget 9/11

Originally posted 9/11/11.

"Everyone who was alive or affected by the tragedy of 9/11 has their own personal story. My story is not one that is of importance but I still feel like sharing it because I am still affected by it, 10 years later.

On September 11, 2001 I was a 16 year-old who was going through some changes of her own. I had actually started independent study and moved away from traditional public school due to my anxiety which had begun to affect me the year before. Since I did my work at home, I woke up from a nightmarish dream that I have only shared with a handful of people. I knew something was wrong. Everything felt different; tense even. I walked into the living room and saw my older sister, who had been visiting us from Virginia, pacing the room in sheer panic. My little nephew, Alexander, who was a year old, knew that something was wrong and looked at my sister with worry. That's when I looked at the t.v. and saw that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first I thought it might've been an accident... until I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I stood there in shock and I still remember thinking, in that moment, "all innocence is gone. Nothing will ever be the same again."

My sister sat down and tried to control herself while my dad tried to keep us calm. I looked at Alexander who looked like he wanted to cry from the desperation he saw on his mother's face and I sat down next to him, on the floor, and tried to distract him. I sang little songs and tried to look as happy as I could for his sake but inside I felt like crying. I would occasionally look up at the TV and see if there was anything else being reported. We got news that a plane hit the Pentagon and my sister nearly lost it. My brother-in-law worked not far from it and my sister desperately tried to get in contact with him. She couldn't get through but my dad gave her reassuring words that my brother-in-law would be fine. I looked back at Alex and I started to make silly faces whenever he could stop looking at my sister. I glanced up and saw the first tower collapse.

"Oh God, no. Please, no" was what I remember saying. I watched with tears in my eyes, as I watched. I hurried to my room so Alex wouldn't see me upset and tried to composed myself so I could get back to him. Though I was worried and afraid, my priority that day became my nephew and, as I reasoned it then, keeping him a happy child while he was young enough not to understand what had happened. I wanted him to enjoy his childhood for as long as possible because I knew things would never be the same. After a couple of minutes I returned and sat down next to Alex. I watched the second tower collapse in disbelief but at that point I was so overwhelmed that I was numb. I couldn't cry. I couldn't register everything that had just happened. I focused on Alex and his sweet little smiling face. My sister finally got a hold of her husband and we all relaxed a little bit. My sister was due to fly back to Virginia but she had to stay a few days which was fine with us. We did not want her traveling back so soon though she was desperate to return to her husband and my niece Wendy who were both back in Virginia.

After the initial shock wore off and the feelings of anger and hurt began to subside, I remember being happily surprised by the kindness of strangers. For a few weeks, if not months, I remember how we all felt united. The attack had impacted us all, whether we knew someone who was killed or directly affected by the hijackings or not. At my mother's work, we held candlelight vigil a week after the events. We stood outside as the stars were starting to show and I saw that we were not the only ones. There were people on other streets doing the same; waving the flags and holding up signs of hope. As the cars passed by, we heard honks and cheers in solidarity. This one painful day seemed to bring out the best in people and I remember that it was that way for several months. My father bought two plastic American flags to put on his cars and I could remember the pride I felt.

The following months and years reflected how much we were all affected. My childhood sweetheart enlisted in the Navy two years later when we turned 18 as did my high school boyfriend (though he went into the Army). My friend Heather went into the Marines right after graduation and my best friend growing up, Rudy, was set on going into the Marines as well.

Reflecting on the events, and watching the coverage on T.V., has made me very emotional today. I actually just read about Fr. Mychal Judge yesterday and I was dissolved into a puddle of tears. I have my moments where I can't seem to stop crying, especially when I see or hear the families of those who perished. It hurts me deeply, almost as if I were a part of their family. In one sense, I am. In other moments I am grateful to those who risked their lives and am once again reminded of the hope that has and will always remain in the wake of tragedy. I am reminded of two quotes Anne Frank wrote in her diary: "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." and "I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains."

May God be with the families of those killed as well as those who remember what happened that day. May God bless us all. May we never forget, never lose hope, and may we never see something like it ever again."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dear Mama Mary...

Please do not use without permission.
Dear Mama Mary,

Happy birthday! I thank God for giving you to us... and for your "yes" that blessed the whole world. Your "yes" -- which I meditate on every Monday and Saturday during the first Joyful Mystery -- has helped me learn how to say "yes" to many things, including learning how to better trust God.

Just as you said "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word," I have been trying to do the same with my life. Instead of worrying about having some control over my future -- whether it be finances, career, vocation, etc -- I've learned to say "Lord, I am your child; I will do whatever you need me to do." This has been a hard lesson for me. The fear of unknown has been the greatest source of anxiety for me over the years... but I just have to remember that your faith and trust in Him gave us the greatest gift and I regain that confidence.

This summer you've held my hand through everything I've been through. From a month of hospital trips and doctor's appointments to recent intentions (which you know of), I have always felt your tenderness calming my nerves. I've grown to have a deep love for your Immaculate Heart, a devotion I had never felt particularly drawn to but one I now cannot do without. I cannot go through my day without wearing my Miraculous Medal (which I had wanted for several years but only recently got a temporary one). You've helped me draw my thoughts back to Christ and His infinite love and mercy.

Lately you've done something I would've never anticipated: you opened my heart as well as my eyes. You've helped me see my past errors that had held me back in terms of my vocation discernment. I was blinded for so long but a recent revelation (which I am attributing to the novena I did in honor of your birth) helped me see that I needed to let go of certain ideas. Furthermore, you helped me dodge a bullet before anything came out of it (which is why I started the novena in the first place; for clarity on the situation). I have a better understanding of myself and what's truly in my heart and for that I thank you. I'm sure the loneliness I felt earlier this summer will be easier to bear while I wait.

I've never felt closer to you than I have this summer. I am grateful for everything I endured because it helped me get to where I am. I look forward to consecrating myself to you later this year, my first time doing do. It's long overdue but it's better than I arrived a little late than never.

Thank you, Mama Mary, for everything you've done for me, my family, my friends, and, really, the entire world.

With a heart full of love,
your daughter,

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Nothing But Gratitude

Can I just say how grateful I am for the people who are currently in my life? Last night I had a major breakthrough on an issue that had been plaguing me for the last couple of days. I didn't even know it had been an issue until 2-3 days ago. This problem had made me feel incredibly restless, lonely (and not just in a romantic sense; in a platonic one as well), and I was just not in a good place. That writer's block I talked about on Twitter? That stemmed from the restlessness. At one point, all I wanted to do was cry because I was so stressed out. Then, as the song goes, I got by with a little help from my friends.

The issue in question is something I've been praying for clarity on. In fact, today I'm on day 7 of this particular novena (I have two going on at the same time). What the problem is has to remain vague but let's just say that it was something that I had to address and was something that had built up over the last 4 years or so. Because it had built up over time, when it fell apart, I was incredibly disappointed and I found myself at a loss on how to proceed. Enter: restlessness with just a small dash of loneliness. I firmly believe it was thanks to Mama Mary's prayers, as well as the love and support from the ladies in the Blessed is She (Southwest Region) community, I had that breakthrough that led me to the state I am in now: a state of peace, understanding, and gratitude.

I've always felt sort of like a little, lone duck in a massive pond. I grew up by myself (with my parents, of course). I did most of my high school years by myself (through an independent charter school; only went into to do exams two hours per week). I will be doing most of my graduate degree on my own (save for a couple of lectures and events on campus). Most of my friends have moved away from L.A. (or even CA). I'm home alone for a good portion of my day. All that builds up. Usually, I'm okay with it. In fact, I'm used to it. Hello, I'm an introvert. Some days are really hard. When you're going through something big, that loneliness is glaringly obvious.

These past two days I was reminded that there are still great people around, even when no one in your immediate circle of friends is available. God has blessed me with a wonderful support system. Even people who I barely know offered up prayers and support over the week. I think we (or at the very least, I) sometimes forget to be thankful for those around us. We get caught up in our own problems, in our own feelings, and we forget to say a big "thank you" to everyone in our lives. So, please, let me take this moment to say a big "Thank you!" to everyone.

If you're reading this blog post, thank you. If you follow me or have interacted with me on any social media site, thank you. If you've prayed for me, thank you. To my close friends, thank you. To my acquaintances, thank you. To the virtual strangers with big hearts, thank you. Even if you've never interacted with me and this is your first time reading this blog, thank you. You might've not done anything directly for me but I believe that everyone has planted many seeds of goodness throughout the world that eventually cause others to do the same. That chain just multiplies and eventually it reaches a person whom you don't know that has been in need. Thank you.

Anyway, just a little something I felt like writing. :)

Alright, I've got to go stand in line for the confessional because they only have an hour of confessions at this particular parish and if you're late, you're out of luck.

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Priest Dreams and Screenplays

I'm taking a break from working on my third novel (which I'm really excited about) but still want to write so...  hello, new blog post. ;)

Two days ago I had an intense dream which I will now share because apparently some people like to read about my crazy dreams. I haven't really shared one in a while but I still have awesome saint dreams every once in a while. No saints in this dream but it did involve clergy and it took place in a church. Having had this dream the night/morning of my baptism anniversary, I got a kick out of it... and also wanted to talk to a priest as soon as I woke up. lol.

It started in a church which I believe was supposed to be the cathedral in downtown L.A.... but it wasn't the current cathedral. It actually looked like the original cathedral, St. Vibiana's Cathedral (you can see a picture of it here). My mom and I had gone to the noon-time Mass. Archbishop Gomez, Bishop-elects Barron, Brennan (who will be a part of my neck of the L.A. woods), and O'Connell were there with other priests. Yes, there are many priests concelebrating the Mass... and, no, I'm not sure why.

As Abp. Gomez began consecrating the host, with the rest of the clergy around the altar, a pack of wolves entered the side door, snarling at the laity in the pews. Most of us (myself included) began inching closer to the center of the aisles, prepared to run... but some people stayed behind, paralyzed by fear. One of the person who couldn't move was my mother. As much as I tried to get her to move, she wouldn't, so I worked up as much courage as I could and began to slowly walk back to where she was at.

Abp. Gomez and the other priests began making a human barrier around the altar, trying to protect it; a few priests stepping down and starting to close off any access to where the laity had run off. The wolves backed off, angry at them, but still tried to find a way around them. Still having my mother on my mind, I took my tote bag (yes, I usually use a tote bag) and began swinging it around (a total "come at me, bro" moment), in preparation for the wolves... but they never came. Since they were too busy trying to find ways through the priest -- the altar and laity being what they sought -- I figured I stepped up and linked my arm with a priest's in an attempt to prevent the wolves from advancing.

Slowly, the wolves began to back away and out of the church... except for one, who was really angry. Abp. Gomez and the three new bishop-elects stepped closed to it and it began to slither around like a snake. At that point, it was the only wolf still there. It was eventually surrounded by all four as Abp. Gomez threw holy water on it, never looking away from it. The wolf began to evaporate... though it left its skin behind; just the insides of the wolf had evaporated. At some point I had also gotten myself a small vial of holy water to keep in case I saw wolves in the future.

I woke up freaked out a bit. I also wanted to go to confession... which makes sense since I didn't go this past weekend. It took some time for me to realize that it was a dream and that I wasn't in immediate danger. In case you're wondering, no, the symbolism wasn't lost on me... nor the fact that it happened on the day of my 30th baptismal anniversary.

Dreams like this -- while I try not to read into them -- just remind me that my imagination is something else. Once (and if I had the time, I would go back and search it in the early blog posts) a priest told me that my dreams were better than the movies... which then reminded me of something that my spiritual director said to me last month. He asked if I had considered working in the entertainment industry to help the efforts to, basically, produce good content as opposed to Magic Mike movies (yes, we used this movie as an example in our chat).

My school, JP Catholic, has a great filmmaking program. I had a brief flirtation with "the biz" in my teens (long story short: I walked away from signing a contract with an agency when I was 20, a year before my reversion). My mind definitely works in a way that, as I write the story, I can envision as if it were a film. I have friends who are actors and/or screenwriters (hard to not to have at least one acquaintance in the industry when you live in L.A.)... yet I'm fairly certain that it's not a path I'd like to explore again. Still, it's something to think about.

Anyway, this was all just something to share because I wanted to keep writing and, hey, why not? lol.

Alright, I've spent enough time away from working on the novel. I really want to get at least 5000 words written for the day before I call it a night so this is it from me for now.

I hope y'all have a great rest of the work week. :D

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's My Second Birthday: Baptism Anniversary!

Today is a special day for me: it's my baptismal anniversary... a.k.a my second birthday. 30 years ago today, my parents and godparents drove to Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles (Our Lady Queen of the Angels) at Olvera Street, one of the oldest parts of the city of Los Angeles, to have me baptized. I was a 3 month-old bundle of chubb and smiles.

Mom says I was very pleased with myself for splashing the poor priest, who I think is still there, 30 years later. There were smiles and giggles. I apparently didn't cry at all. Maybe I splashed the priest because I was too excited about being baptized? I don't know, I was 3 months old. lol. I'm pretty sure mom still has my little outfit stored somewhere... 'cause, you know, memories of my second birthday are important.

Being stuck (ha!) in L.A. allows me to visit the church whenever I'm in the downtown area. I usually go with my mom or by myself. I've only been to visit with a friend once, a friend who ended up entering seminary last year. I think there is (or was) an indulgence attached to visiting the place of our baptism. I don't actually go to receive the indulgence; I go because, despite my not remembering my baptism, it is the place where I became a member of the Catholic Church. It is the place where my parents helped get this beautiful journey get started.

I'm not planning anything big today, despite it being a big milestone "birthday," because I've been so preoccupied with other things. On the way home from the hospital this morning (it was my penultimate appointment for wound care), I stopped by my home parish and sat in silence for a couple of minutes. I did my morning prayers, my prayers for day three of two novenas, and thanked God for the past 30 years. I asked Him to bless me with (at least) another 30 years so that I can do great things for Him and the Church.

This month also marks my official reversion to the Church which occurred in 2006. The seeds of curiosity were planted in the summer of 2006 but I didn't have that "official" moment until sometime during September. Since I don't remember the exact date, I'm counting today as the unofficial day since it is the first of the month. So happy 9th reversion anniversary to me, too. ;)

As I wrote on my personal FB profile last night, "Welcome, September. You've given me so many wonderful memories -- my official reversion in 2006, many first days of school, mom's birthday (and Mama Mary's birthday), friends' birthdays, so many wonderful starts of autumn, etc. I can't wait to see what you have in store for me this year."