Monday, November 28, 2016

When You're Forced to Slow Down

Dear God,

Message received, loud and clear. I needed to slow down and take care of myself. I can still (unintentionally) get back on the "must work, work, work" train of thought that lets important things -- like getting proper hydration during the day -- slip to the side. Thank you for derailing my plans.


I spent most of last week sleeping and/or unable to leave the house. On Tuesday, which was St. Cecilia's feast day, I had planned on reposting my confirmation story and expand on how St. Cecilia has been an ever-present influence on my life without me realizing it until recently. (side note: I'll eventually post that story but I won't have the time to do it today.) I was also going to write about Advent beginning and a slew of other ideas I had. Then I woke up on Tuesday not feeling that great. I think I slept about 20-22 hours in total on Tuesday and Wednesday. I had to turn in a homework assignment late because I was just completely out of it on Tuesday, falling asleep when I wasn't dealing with feeling like crumbs. I was forced to slow down and rest. Then, when I started feeling better, I decided to take the long Thanksgiving Break off and do some serious self-care by letting my body get the rest it needed as well as eating and drinking as I should. Okay, I also watched the Gilmore Girls revival episodes (not a fan) and let my mind rest after pushing it to my limits over the last couple of weeks.

Could I have finished the last of my homework assignments during the long weekend? Sure. Though I didn't start feeling like myself again until yesterday (and it was still a sort of off day), I could've totally made myself do some of the work. Instead, I chose not to. Why? Because I wasn't sleeping quality sleep. Sure, I got 6-8 hours of sleep but they were usually broken up into naps of 3-4 hours per nap. I wasn't drinking enough water. I was eating well enough but I needed the other two components. I chose to give myself a break because I know that finals are coming up and I'll be completely useless for the exams if I burn myself out before they begin late next week.

I've made a lot of progress from a year ago. Last year I pushed myself too hard, especially after my car accident. I wanted to prove that I could do it all despite the obstacles. That's just how I've always been, especially when it comes to academia. I wanted to finish my first quarter of graduate school on a high note despite missing half the quarter due to the accident. I put homework and exam deadlines ahead of sleep, food, and (I'm ashamed to admit) even attending Mass one weekend. My priorities were messed up. I put importance on things that would, ultimately, not matter in the long run and was neglecting things that were more important. This semester was the first in which prayer, Mass, and health have gotten priority over deadlines. It's worked out well for me but it was so easy to slip back into my bad habits in the week leading up to my last exam, two weeks ago. After the exam, I was on that academic high (despite the bombed exam) and it was hard not to keep going. I didn't even notice it, to be honest. I just thought "Oh, cool. Second wind!!" Nope. I was going to eventually crash -- and probably before I took my last final -- and it took this to slow me down and rest. Again, thank you, God, for forcing me to slow down.

I love how this also coincided with the beginning of Advent. Though it's my favorite time of year (massive fan of Advent and Christmastime over here), I didn't really prepare this year. I bought a new Advent candle holder (Nativity scene center) to replace the wreath we had that fell apart. I pulled out my book of Advent and Christmas meditations using wisdom nuggets from Ven. Fulton Sheen. I came up with a list of New (Liturgical) Year Resolutions. (Side note: I already failed out of the gate because I was too lightheaded to drive to Mass by myself last night. I really need someone to find someone willing to come pick me up for Mass when I can't drive but am, at least, well enough to sit and be present at Mass.) That's about it. I've changed to Office 2 in The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I'm continuing the 54-day Rosary novena. I'm keeping my prayer schedule. One thing that I will be doing, that is a last minute addition, is adding more silence into my day.

I've never been a big fan of silence. The day my father died, I took solace in music. When I'm home alone, something is almost always playing in the background. I can't drive in the car without music. I can (and have) done long periods of silence but it's usually during Lent. I'm not sure if I don't want to be alone with my thoughts, if it's just something that I learned from my parents, or if it's something I've yet not figured out but I've never been comfortable with not having some type of noise, even if it's white noise. This season, I'm going to add to silence to my routine as part of my ongoing quest to let go and let God lead the way. I have a feeling it may be exactly what I need amidst the crazy that is coming up in the next 2-3 weeks. The silence will also help slow down my ever-racing brain ("gotta memorize these terms... gotta do this assignment...") and help me focus on what Advent is all about.

Anyway, just wanted to write so... hey, new blog post. ;) Now I'm going to do a couple more self-care things (get a bit more water in me and have dinner) and then get started on some of my last observation hours since hours 20-22 (out of 25; almost done!) are due tomorrow. They'll get done when they get done but I have time to do them tonight so why not? It'll be better than binge-watching more Netflix shows and movies (which I did enough of this weekend). Moderation, my dears. :)

I hope y'all had a great weekend and a lovely start of the Advent season. :D

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Complete Trust and Total Surrender?

Your eyes do not deceive you. It's another blog post... a week later. lol. Y'all know my excuse: coursework. I spent the entire week last week studying for a "do or die" exam. I spent about 12 hours seated in a chair in the kitchen, going over lecture videos and flash cards until it was time to sleep on some days. Other days I had other things going on so I didn't get nearly enough time to study. I even caught myself repeating some memorized terms while I was falling asleep or even waking up. I was in the zone. I even paid for my exam this time around (I couldn't get to see my regular proctor this past week). I took my exam on Saturday morning. I was confident while taking the exam. "Oh, I know this! And this! Yes, I'm going to pass...!" Half an hour later: 66%. My reaction was to be speechless after saying: "wait, I'm sorry... what?! 66%?! How's that possible? I knew this material!"

I spent an entire week focused on nothing (observation hours excluded) but studying. I took a break from social media for several days, only updating the Rosary novena dates via Twitter and FB for those who asked to be reminded. Texts went unanswered for hours at a time. I fell behind on emails. It didn't matter. I worked the hardest I've ever worked on any exam... and I didn't pass. Since it was a "do or die" exam, it meant I wasn't going to pass the class with the required B- needed to take three of the last courses prior to graduation.

I cried for a minute or two. I was disappointed. I put everything I had into this exam. I hadn't experienced any mental fog while studying for it. I ate well. I slept well. I kept my anxiety levels down for most days (side note: I had a weird 12 hours of continual anxiety and palpitations on Wednesday night into Thursday morning). There was literally nothing else I could do to pass this exam that wasn't cheating -- which will never be an option.

Though I was disappointed, I was also oddly at peace with everything. It wasn't the end of the world. It just meant that I had to change my plans again. I've been doing that most of my adult life. I'll have to retake this course next semester along with another (new) course and take the last three classes I was planning to take in the Spring during the Summer and/or Fall 2017 semesters. Instead of graduating next semester (Spring), it means I'll have to graduate either in the Summer or Fall 2017, only 3-7 months later than anticipated. Everything will be delayed for less than a year. Even if I wasn't getting a chance to continue this degree, I have options to keep moving forward.

I think it was appropriate that this happened the day before the feast of Christ the King. I was lovely to be reminded that when chips it the fan, it simply means that it wasn't the time for it yet. God has plans for me -- plans greater than I could ever imagine -- that I'm not going to fight it. I'm just going to adapt myself to whatever obstacles pop up. I'm so confident that this is the path God wants me to take right now that I don't mind the delay. It might be because I'm so used to it. I started college a year later than I should've despite graduating from high school a year and a half ahead of schedule. I graduate with my first degree 4-5 years later than I should've. I didn't move to England to finish my first degree, having to stay in L.A. My vocation has also been (obviously) delayed, for whatever reason. Christ is King. I have put my life in His hands and I trust that everything will happen when it's supposed to. Again, I will have to roll with the punches as they come but I'm confident that He is helping lead me down whatever path He wants me to take when He wants me to take it. I'm not going to worry about. That goes for everything -- health, school, career, vocation... every aspect of my life.

There has been a big change in me since I started the 54-day Rosary novena. A friend I've known for nearly a decade saw it in me when we went to a young adult group meeting two weekends ago. My mother has also noticed and commented on it (without knowing that my friend had also commented on it). I'm not quite sure what it is but, looking back at it, I can see what they're talking about. Maybe I've finally learned how to let go of what I can't control. Could it perhaps be a confidence / complete trust / total surrender in doing God's will? This wasn't even an intention for the novena but this novena is powerful. Even when things don't go well, amazing things happen. Perhaps this is one of the fruits of this novena. Who knows. We're only 21 days into it.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these thoughts with y'all. I should have more time to blog this week but, again, don't quote me on it. Finals start December 7th and go through December 16th but the last modules/sections opened today so I'm going to try to finish all the final assignments by Wednesday so I can a) have more time to study for finals and b) do it in smaller, more manageable chunks so that I'm not completely overwhelmed during finals week(s). I should have more blogging time if I do things this way. Fingers crossed! I'll definitely blog tomorrow because it's a very special feast day for me. Hint: it's in my name. ;)

Alright, I should go do some homework or something. ;) Oh, wait...! Congrats to Catherine and Kimberly who were the Magnificat Advent Companion winners! I've sent both of you the codes and I hope you enjoy the iOS apps this Advent season.

I hope y'all had a lovely weekend and enjoy this last week before Advent begins. :)

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Magnificat Advent Companion 2016 Giveaway!

Hello, everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates but... well, you know. It's the same ol' same ol'. My week consists of (mainly) schoolwork, exams, lectures, lab assignments, observation hours and then writing reports for those hours. Rinse and repeat. I have another month of this before I take my first two final exams but I'm getting closer to the finish line with my sanity intact which is all I ask for. lol.

I did get some socializing in yesterday when the young adult group met up for coffee/tea and muffins at a local coffee and ice cream place after Mass. It was my second Latin Mass in less than a week which was so good for my soul, literally and figuratively. I was the only gal who went to the meet-up but the priest and the fellas are all so nice, I didn't feel like the odd girl out. Since I grew up with my best guys being mostly guys, I felt comfortable talking about religion and politics with them. Yes, those are usually topics to avoid but we all seemed to be on the same page across the board so I thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so we spent chatting while enjoying our beverages (and muffins) of choice. This was the second meeting with the group (the first with two young men I hadn't met before) and I already feel comfortable to keep attending the meetings and events with them. :) I have a lot more thoughts I want to share when I'm not in a rush so I'm going to get straight to why I'm writing this post.

The lovely people at Magnificat have graciously given me two iOS app codes to give away to you lovely readers for Advent 2016, just like I did for Lent 2016. Though I could've taken one more myself, I decided to give both codes away since I will be purchasing either the app or the actual booklet. Since I know I'll be incredibly busy for the first 3 weeks of Advent with school (the last final is on December 16 unless I can finish them earlier), and I know that the Magnificat app worked so well for me during Lent, I'm going to use it again. No, Magnificat is not paying me to say these things nor am I employed by them. They just gave me the codes to give away. :) Again, this is an iOS app only, not the booklet.

To enter the giveaway, please enter through the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the blog post. The giveaway will run from today through next Sunday. I know Advent doesn't begin for another two weeks but I don't know how busy I'll be the week before Advent begins. Again, school is going to get crazier after this week and I want to get the codes to whoever wins them on time. :)

I will blog about my plans for Advent -- which is my favorite time of year -- soon. I have other blog posts in mind as well but I'll post them as I get the time to do it. :)

That's it for now. I have an exam to study for. I was planning on starting it on Friday and again yesterday but things happened so I have to start today if I want a decent chance at passing it. I need to pass it if I want to pass the class. Yes, it's one of those "do or die" exams before finals begin. It's the hardest course of the program so any prayers you can spare, in your charity, would be greatly appreciated.

I hope y'all had a lovely week despite the election and post-election craziness that has been happening. Just remember that prayer can move mountains. It's a cliché idiom for a reason, folks. ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Mass Adventures and Mournful Tears

Well, it finally happened. I made it Mass! Can you hear the angelic choir singing? I can. Oh wait, that was the choir at the High Mass I attended Sunday night. lol. I must admit that I so desperately wanted my first Mass back (from illness) to be a Latin Mass, specifically on All Saints' Day since it's one of my favorite feast days. For reasons I've already sort-of explained, it didn't happen on All Saints' Day but I did go Sunday. That itself was an adventure.

My poor mama got food poisoning earlier in the day and I wanted to cancel our scheduled trips to and from the local Latin Mass but she wouldn't let me. Even an hour before we had to leave, she was still feeling poorly. I was prepared to attend Mass closer to home (anything to get her to Mass; she won't go if I don't take her with me) but she said that she knew how much I wanted to attend a Latin Mass so she sacrificed her comfort for me.

We arrived at the church a few minutes before the Mass began and I got to meet a Twitter friend in person, which was lovely. I made it through the Mass despite the use of incense. Sure, I got a bit lightheaded towards the end but nothing I can't handle in small doses. The only thing I wasn't happy with was that I still can't kneel for long periods of time because I'm still in recovery mode. Still, that is something that I'll be working on and God knows what I can and can't do with where I am, physically.

We left the parish almost immediately after the Mass was over since the taxi had arrived early and they won't wait more than 5 minutes after your assigned time. On the way back home, we had a close encounter with a driver who decided they wanted to merge into our lane... while we were occupying it. I'm so grateful to our guardian angels and our fast thinking/acting taxi driver. Before we got home, a high-speed chase flew by us with about a good half dozen (if not more) police cars following the car. That was a first for this L.A. native; I'd only seen them on TV before Sunday. Needless to say, my poor mother arrived home shaking and very anxious. I think she was still nervous yesterday morning when I drove her to work. I'm pretty sure she won't go to the Sunday night Latin Mass with me until we have Daylight Saving Time again. lol. See? I told you it was an adventure.

I was still on a Mass high (first time receiving the Eucharist in almost two months!) on Monday when I received the terrible news that one of the kindest people I've ever met had passed away. As I mentioned a few weeks ago,, I was able to secure free exam proctoring at my CINO college alma mater. Being a distance education student at a university out of state, we have to get our exams proctored. Most proctors charge $20+ (average is about $40) per exam (or per hour) so I reached out to Ms. Michele Lewis (that was her name) to ask if either my alma mater had proctoring for former students or if she knew of someone who didn't charge an arm and a leg. She was "taking the semester off" for the Fall semester but she arranged it so that I could take my exams on campus free of charge (instead of charging $30 per exam), not only for the Fall semester but the entire school year, until my tentative graduation date in early May.

I went through my usual routine yesterday morning. I made breakfast, praying the Little Office before leaving, battled morning rush hour traffic, and went through my flashcards before taking my exam. Since I was to take my exam in Ms. Lewis' office, I decided to ask how she was doing. Immediately, I knew I was in for some surprising news but I wasn't expecting the worst. I was told "take your exam first and then we'll talk." After taking the exam, I was getting ready to leave when my current proctor asked me to follow her back into Ms. Lewis' office. She told me to sit down and then she dropped the bomb on me -- Ms. Lewis had passed away. I was shocked. I was expecting to hear that she'd left the school for another job but wasn't expecting this news. I tried to keep myself from tearing up but I couldn't hold it in. I left the office in a sort of daze and walked up the steep hill to the center of the campus where I found a bunch and try to catch my breath.

I had a few minutes to reflect on the news I'd been given before I had to come back home. I sat on the familiar bench I've used since my time as an undergrad and I teared up. I looked at the chapel on campus and at the beautiful statue of Mama Mary in front of the chapel, in the middle of the campus center. I remembered the Ms. Lewis' kindness. As an undergrad, she'd helped secure me extra time (which I never needed) and a quiet room to do my exams in when my anxiety was so bad that I couldn't concentrate in classrooms. When I had issues with the music professor who made me cry in her classroom (some of you may remember how poorly I was treated at my alma mater), she helped me sort things out. Before I graduated, she sat down with me and gave me post-graduation advice about what careers options that I still remember and keep in mind 4.5 years later. At graduation, she arranged it so that I could sit close to my family and to an exit in case I wanted to leave early (again, when my anxiety was so bad that feeling trapped in crowded places set off panic attacks). Her last act of kindness was getting me these exams proctored for free.

I'm still tear up when I think that she's gone but I'm grateful for everything she did. She was beloved by student, staff, and alumni for a good reason. I remember her being a kind, generous, and gentle soul who went above and beyond to help students succeed. Not just with me; fellow alumni friends have remarked about what a lovely woman she was. I remember what Fr. M said about the souls in purgatory at Sunday's Mass, about how important it is to pray for them. I will be sure to have a Mass said for her as well as pray for her whenever she comes to mind. Rest in peace, Ms. Michele Lewis. Thank you for being a rose in a bramble of thorns.

I didn't mean for this post to end on such a downer so I'll say this: while it's sad that she has passed, at least she's not suffering. It's the same consolation I have about my father's death -- it hurts that they're no longer here but they left behind beautiful memories that I'll always cherish; that have made me a better person. :)

Anyway, I need to go pick up my mom from work and then we're going to go vote so that's it for now. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far... or, as sane as possible. ;)

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Not a Complete Lost Cause?

Note to self (and everyone else): don't ever think I'll have time to blog during the semester because "free time" does not exist. How many weeks until winter break? 5? How months until graduation? 6? Cue "Little Emmy that Could" motivational slogans...

Oh, hi, everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts but, well, "free time" is the unicorn in my life right now. I had a rare two hours of free time a couple of days ago so I wrote a chapter and a half for NaNoWriMo but that's about it. Whatever free time I have in between observation hours, writing the reports for those hours, watching lecture videos, doing homework assignments, and preparing for tests (but not studying for them... never enough time) has been spent in prayer or making sure I'm eating and sleeping well. I'm not making the mistake of not eating and sleeping in order to get everything done like I did two years ago. I don't want to repeat that, especially since I'm still paying for it with my health. (quick side note to that: I've managed to maintain a healthy weight and have even regained two of the pounds I'd lost during the early part of the semester when I was going through all my health scares. I've also been eating and sleeping well.)

Anyway, I've had a couple of people ask me if I've been able to get to Mass since my last blog post and I'm happy to say that I was able to go for All Saints' Day (finally, a day of obligation for L.A.!)... but only for a couple of minutes. Long story short, my mother wasn't feeling well (chest pressure and palpitations) and I wasn't about to leave her home alone while I went to Mass, make her make the 15-mile trip to the local Latin Mass, nor have her miss Mass if she felt better later so I had to cancel our transportation and settled on going to Mass at the local parish. There were a few hiccups along the way and we ended up arriving little late to Mass. Not only that, the priest at this parish loves to use incense and, while I love the smell of it, it makes me much more lightheaded than I usually have been lately. I had to stand in the back for the majority of the time we were there and then I started feeling worse so we had to leave. I did try and we made it to the Mass but just not the entire Mass. Baby steps, right? Hopefully, tomorrow will be more successful.

What I have been getting better about is my prayer life. On All Saints' Day, we (many of you lovely blog readers, friends, and even my mama) started the 54-day Rosary novena which has been a huge blessing to far. Yes, we're only 5 days into it and I've had my fair share of not so great experiences in those 5 days but I've been able to focus on the Rosary meditations much better than I have in months. Also, is it just me or has this novena been going by way too fast? I feel like it's flying by. I don't know if it's because I have so much to do during the day (which leaves my novena prayer time for right before I go to bed), if it's because I'm used to the praying the Rosary daily, because I do novenas frequently, or a combination of all three. Maybe this novena was just what I needed to get back in the proper mind frame.

Even a year ago, while I was at JPCatholic, I was still in that "I need to get coursework done first!" mentality. I put essential things such as sleep, eating, and even prayer time before it. Now it's the opposite. I put more of an emphasis on self-care and prayer. I'm not stressing out as much on getting all the maximum points on my assignments and exams. My motto this semester has been: "if I pass, awesome... if not, oh well. I tried." That's not to say that I don't study (when I have the time and mental capacity for it) but I don't stress myself out like I used to. I keep reminding myself that I have other options in case I end up not being able to finish this degree for whatever reason. I already have one degree and other career options. I'm trusting God to pull off miracles if I come up short in my efforts (especially if they're beyond my control) but He wants me to take that particular path in life. So maybe I'm not a complete lost cause?
Even though I've come out meetings and the confessional feeling like I don't have what it takes to be a faithful Catholic (just one priest has made me feel that way, btw), even though I can't always make it to Mass, even though I'm still trying to remember that the state of my soul needs more attention than temporary things here on this earth -- coursework, I'm looking at you, and even though I can't always concentrate on some of my prayers (folate deficiency and anemia are mental fog beasts), maybe there's still hope for me. I've certainly felt that way since All Saints' Day. Again, not sure if it's the novena or everyone's prayers because I know I have a lot of people praying for me. Cue "Everything is Awesome" from the LEGO movie. lol.

Alright, that's it for now. I'm hoping to make it to confession in an hour so I should go eat and get ready. Please, oh, please... let me go to confession today! It's been 6 long weeks, the longest I've gone without going to confession in years. I'm usually a "week to 2 weeks" type of gal when it comes to this sacrament so I'm itching to go back. 

I won't have time to blog again until at least after Tuesday because I have an exam on Monday morning to study for and observation hours to do... and homework assignments due... and reports to write for the observation hours... and a research paper to write with a group... Yeah, can December 16 get here already? Thanks. ;)

I hope y'all are having a great weekend and have a lovely rest of weekend into next week. :D

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