Sunday, December 31, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August: My dislike of Twitter came to the forefront this month but I didn't do anything about it quite yet. All I knew was that I wasn't too happy with the whole "Catholic Twitter" thing. St. Francis de Sales continued to stalk me at the most random times but I still didn't put two and two together. Of course, I didn't tell people I was back at school, though I did drop hints. I'm not quite sure why I didn't want to say anything at the moment but it should've been an obvious red flag.

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

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

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

December: My plans to wait, reflect, and slow down during Advent didn't start out too well but it's something I've decided to continue it into the new year because it's another puzzle piece that I've finally put together. I decided to quit the SLP field. I've felt an amazing peace regarding this decision despite others trying to pressure me into continuing this path. As I wrote two blog posts ago, I'm completely abandoning myself to His Divine Providence and I look forward to seeing the fruit of this in the upcoming year.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy (Belated) 10 Year Anniversary, Blog!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, that's what I'm going to do... again. I'm not going to worry about the job situation. I am actively seeking (don't think that I'm just lazying around doing nothing). I'm still hoping and praying that God will provide when I'm ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your will, God, not mine.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The End of This Journey

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

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

Like I said, I worked hard. I pushed myself beyond my limits. I did ace one course and I received a B- in the allegedly "second hardest" course of the program. I'm proud of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 Magnificat Advent Companion App Giveaway Ends Tonight!

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

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

Thank you in advance! :D

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Magnificat Advent 2017 Companion App Giveaway!

It's that time of the year again, folks. The current liturgical year is winding down and I start thinking to myself, "How on earth will I be able to celebrate/observe Advent this year?" With my crazy schedule these past 3 months, I haven't really had a chance to work on my own spiritual life beyond the daily prayers, confession, and Mass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Is It Wrong to Find the Good in the Bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's it for now.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude in Difficult Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you all grateful for?

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

Thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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

Dear God,

Please help me... I'm drowning.

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

I feel restless and stuck...

I'm impatient and angry...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 54-Day Rosary Novena Begins Tomorrow!!

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

The End of the "Nerdwriter" Era

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

"Yes, I did."

"I'm fine."

"It was a long time coming."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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