Thursday, March 30, 2017

Obsessed with Youth and Beauty?

Although my birthday is still (exactly) 2 months away, I've been thinking about what I want to do to celebrate... and, apparently, it's weird to see because I shouldn't be excited. Because I'm turning 32. Because that means I'm, like, super old. The horror! lol.

I've always enjoyed celebrating my birthday even though I have a track record of absolutely terrible birthday celebrations. The only good ones (that I can remember) have been 18, 20, 24, and 25. Seriously, that's it.

I went on a spontaneous lunch date with a guy I liked when I was 18. (side note: he's been the only Mormon I've ever dated. That itself is a whole 'nother story.) He didn't even know it was my birthday because I hadn't mentioned it but, boy, he was a gentleman. Oh, and we also went to Disneyland around that time.

I celebrated 20 at Disneyland with my (then) two best friends, one of whom is still one of my best friends to this day. It was the first time I'd ever stayed at Disneyland late enough to enjoy the fireworks (save for grad night). It was magical. A few days later we (the gals and a couple of my best guy friends) met up at my favorite diner where we took over the back room and had a blast.

 A day before my 24th birthday, my father gave me the best birthday present when he returned to the Church after being away for over 40 years. Nothing has topped it as the best birthday present ever, except, you know, my mom giving me life.

25 was my first birthday without my father (who died nearly a month and a half after I'd turned 24) and I had so many friends and neighbors who came over for a potluck birthday. Our apartment was bursting at the seams with so many lovely people. I'm sure I had some pretty awesome birthday parties as a kid but I don't remember that far back. Other than that, I have the worsting time.

It doesn't help that my birthday usually lands around Memorial Day (if not on Memorial Day) and right around the time everyone goes away for the summer. Trying to organize something is always a nightmare for this social introvert. I kind of want to do another potluck-type thing, like I did for my 25th birthday. A very casual, chill thing with some friends, maybe some of my brothers (if they're in the area; I never know with them), and neighbors. Quality time is my love language so, you know, that would be the best gift; having my friends here for my birthday. I've yet to solidify -- or even commit to -- the plans but, at the moment, I'm thinking I may just do that.

Anyway, the point of this not to talk about my birthday but about how a lot of people think it's weird that I actually enjoy getting older. I don't know if it's because I was blessed with good genes or because I don't quite understand the obsession with staying young.

I will admit that I have my moments where I go "I actually feel old right now" but those are very rare. Most of the time I'm a sort of bouncy (yes, I did just use that adjective to describe myself) nerd, trying to get through this great adventure that we call life. The only times I look at my age in comparison to how old someone else is is when a (much) young(er) man decides he's interested and I have to say "you, do know I'm *insert number of years* older than you, right?" No, I haven't robbed cradle; I'm simply stating that younger guys dig me. lol. Other than that, age is not an issue with me.

Perhaps it's because my mother taught me to be proud of my age; proud of who I am. She's turning 63 this year (and doesn't care who knows; she'll tell you) and has more energy than I do! lol. She looks like she's about a decade younger as well. She embraces her age and who she is. It's been a wonderfully empowering thing to witness growing up (and continuing to 'grow up'). She doesn't see age as an unfair life sentence like many people do. She isn't rushing out to buy the latest beauty product to make her look younger. She does like to look nice and likes to take care of herself but not to the point of vanity; more like respecting the body God has given you and taking care of it to the best of your ability.

Ever since I've hit my 30s (so, since May 30, 2015, lol), I've noticed the growing trend of "I'm in my 30s now! Noooo! I'm old! I'm haggard! No man will want me!" That and the ads have become increasingly annoying, featuring younger and younger looking women touting the miracle of whatever facial cream will make them 10 years younger. There's so much emphasis on youth and beauty. I honestly don't get it. Is it one of those "the grass is always greener on the other side" deals?

Well, no. I take that back. It's quite clear that it's society's fault for pushing youth and beauty as the ultimate things that we women should strive for. Going back to the ads, how many can you count during a commercial break? In magazines (oy, women's magazines are the worst!)? And how often do we fall for that lie that our self-worth and happiness are contingent upon how young and pretty we look? Lies, my friends. Of course, they're going to push these products (many of which don't work or will only work for a limited time)! They're companies who want to make money off of your insecurities! They have marketing teams who do research and go for the things that make us so insecure, which, (unfortunately) for women has become getting older and not looking like you're just out of high school or college.

There's beauty in growing older. I firmly believe that every wrinkle and line that appears is a story about growing in wisdom and that itself is beautiful. My mother works in a convalescent hospital so I'm used to seeing older women who light up when you visit them; always ready to tell you a story. Have you ever sat with an older stranger and been completely absorbed in their stories of things they've lived that you'll never experience yourself? That is a thing of beauty. Women who are "old and wrinkled" who've cared for others -- whether biological or adopted children or simply other people -- are beautiful. Women who've renounced the world and have devoted their lives to praying for others and doing God's will in cloistered convents are beautiful. Women who've become mothers... consecrated virgins... religious sisters... all beautiful. You men who are dedicated fathers, brothers, priests, monks also get a shout out for bringing beauty to this world in your own ways.

I know some people will say "well, yeah, you look like you're in your early 20s. Of course, it's not a big deal to you." Yes, I do look younger than I am but, in the past year or two, I've noticed that I'm finally losing some of that "baby face" and I'm starting to look closer to my age... and that's totally fine. In fact, it's been great to see as I look back on pictures I've taken over the past couple of years. I can tell you that I've embraced the crow's feet that are popping around my eyes because they tell others that I've had many good laughs, some that have ended in tears from laughing so hard. That means I've had a lot of joy in my life, even in the middle of all the crummy things I've dealt with. Same goes for the laugh lines around my mouth. I actually think they complement my dimples. ;) Yes, that was said half-jokingly, half-seriously. lol.

We, women, need to remind ourselves that our beauty comes from within. No, it's not a bad thing to want to look nice and to take care of ourselves. That's, as I said earlier, simply respecting and wanting to honor the bodies God has given us. It's not bad to want to look nice for our significant others. I like dressing up and looking nice as well. I'm pretty laid back (read: low maintenance) most of the time but I do like putting an effort for special occasions (and Mass). That doesn't mean that I'm doing it to fluff my ego or vanity.

Ladies, when you see a friend (or even a stranger) doing something that emphasizes their inner beauty, say so. Gentlemen, do the same. Don't allow society to tell you that your self-worth depends on how pretty you look. Don't like age dictate what you can and can't do (within reason... that was for you in the peanut gallery. You know who you are. lol). I've seen/heard older gentlemen in their 70s-90s talking about beautiful their wives are... women who, by society's standards, are way past their prime and whose wrinkles are an indication that they are "worthless." I've even heard one particular gentleman talk about how his wife (both in their 80s) was more beautiful now than when she was in her 20s! We need to build each other up, not to the point of vanity but to the point where we can ignore the ridiculous societal norms of what youth and beauty are.

Ultimately, none of this is going to matter. Looks aren't everything. Some people look incredible and have hearts as black as night. Some people look (as our society would put it) homely and have amazing hearts full of love and joy. Have you ever met someone who wasn't conventionally beautiful but their personalities made them even more beautiful? Case in point, y'all. Yes, yes... it's cliché to say that what matters is on the inside but, um, hi, it's a cliché for a reason. When we're done with our journey on this earth, I'm pretty sure God is not going to care about what we looked like but will care how we lived my life and how we served others. Celebrate your birthdays, no matter what the number is! Enjoy life and don't worry about others think of you.

I'm going to leave y'all with this:

"Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)

And now that I've written that, I'm going to try to finish my research paper. It's due tomorrow but I think I can turn it in tonight. After this, I have a big exam coming up next week so I may not blog again until next week. We shall see. :D

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far. Friday of freedom is almost here! We can do it! lol.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Heart is Bursting with Joy!

"Oh no," I sighed as I looked at my mom. "I'm starting to feel sick... and the physical pains are worsening. My back and my legs are starting to hurt and cramp up."
"Do you want us to stay home?" she asked.
"No. I'll just take generic Tylenol and an extra water bottle in case I need them. We have to go..."

That's how our trip to a local parish for Mass and confession began. Two months was enough... I needed to go to Mass and confession. I've been feeling physically off for most of this past week -- falling asleep often and having weird physical pains -- but I was determined to go. After reading The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher and starting Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales this week, I felt even more courage than usual to, at least, attempt the drive.

"Let's try for confession and we'll stay for Mass if I feel okay," I told Mom.

We got in line half an hour later than usual and there a couple of people in front of us. The priest was running late and we would only have half an hour before confession time ended. I thought there wouldn't be enough time for all of us to get into the confessional, especially since we were last in line. "It's okay," I reminded myself. "At least I'm here and I'm trying."

As we waited for the priest to show up, the youngest daughter of the woman in front of us (in line) came to my pew (we all sat in pews while we waited) and gave me the biggest smile. She was maybe 2 years old. She would go back to her Mom and would wander around the church with a sibling trailing after her but she came back to my pew with the biggest smile a couple more times before her family left. There was something reflecting from her little face that struck me. It was a sense of overwhelming joy. I even thought to myself "it's almost as I'm seeing God's happiness through her little face; as if He were showing me that He's happy that I'm here."

Since I had a long list of things to confess -- things I had somehow remembered from my years away from the Church; big things that I don't think I ever confessed but needed to from when I was 18-20 years old -- I had everyone in line go before me. Though I knew there was a chance I wouldn't go in but I didn't want them to miss out because of the time I might be in the confessional.

I obviously won't say what I confessed nor what the priest said but let's just say that I wept. I cried because I felt the weight and the shame of my sins and then I cried thinking about God's love and mercy and how I had been forgiven, unworthy as I may be. The priest said something things that I could've easily imagined God saying to me through Him. Fear would be defeated and replaced by courage and trust, both gifts from God.

Though it wasn't our preferred Latin Mass, we still stayed for the Saturday Vigil Mass in case we can't make it to Latin Mass tomorrow. Yes, I'm going to try to go to that Mass as well. Oh, what a gift of tears I was given; I couldn't stop myself from tearing up during Mass. In the middle of the tears, I had an interesting observation and thought pop into my mind. As I looked up at the crucifix at the altar, I noticed how pale crucified Christ looked in comparison to all the other saint statues around the parish. The thought "He looks just like me; pale and weak. Yet it is through our weakness that we find strength" came into my mind, completely unprompted, and it surprised me. It's something I will ponder the rest of this weekend.

Though I wasn't able to receive the Eucharist (the last time I tried a regular gluten host, I was in physical pain for about a week or two; I have to wait to go to Latin Mass where they give low-gluten hosts for Celiacs), I made an act of spiritual communion in the pew while Mom went to receive the Eucharist. Cue more tears. lol.

My heart is bursting with joy! I'm grateful for the chance to go to confession and Mass. I'm grateful for the friends who prayed that I would go to Mass... and prayed that I would make it through both this evening. I'm grateful for the gift of courage that I was given, despite being in actual physical pain as we were leaving the house. I'm grateful that I felt well enough to make it through both confession and Mass, though I felt a bit off in line and then broke out in a sweat that made me feel like I was weak and being slightly suffocated prior to receiving absolution for my sins.

I don't think I'll ever be able to attend Mass or confession the same again. In a weird way, I'm grateful that I didn't go to Mass or confession for those two months because it made me appreciate the beauty of the sacrament and Mass in a way that I had forgotten. I'll never take either of them for granted again.

Anyway, that's it for now. I have a couple more lecture videos and some reviewing to do before I attempt this week's exam. The exam is due on Tuesday but I hope to do it either tonight or tomorrow night so I can finish my research paper (which due on Friday) on time as well. :)

I hope you all have a blessed Laetare Sunday tomorrow (or today if you're in Europe or read this on Sunday). :)

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Remembering an Inspiring Professor

Before I get into this post, I wanted to say that, yes, I know the blog post from earlier this week wasn't posted to either Facebook or Twitter. The applets were down. If you want to read it please click here: Belated Revelations.

I am currently cleaning out the inbox of an email account I've had since I was in high school (we're talking circa 2001-2002; yes, I'm that old, lol). I've gone through emails from 2003 through 2009, the last only two weeks after my father's death. The email I opened was of one of my favorite professors I ever had. The email was a response to my letting him know that I was going to take him for an online course (which was still customary at West Los Angeles College in 2009).

He replied: "Wow, I knew that I knew your name!!!!!!!!!!!! This is an entirely online class so we won't see each other, or you won't have to put up with my jokes!!!!!! Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about this course as we take it online!!!! See you online soon.
Mr. Habel."

He was my professor for two English courses during my freshman year of college at Santa Monica College (in 2004-2005) and, years later (Fall 2009), I took him for an Interpersonal Communications course at West Los Angeles College. I took easy "filler"/elective courses at community college during the 2009-2010 school year because my father had died only a month prior to the start of the Fall semester and I didn't want to start my (now) alma mater and possibly waste $40k (that was the tuition and fees cost per year when I was an undergrad) not knowing if I would have the mental and emotional capacity to get through the entire school year since my father's death had just happened. Thankfully, I was able to make it through the entire school year (arguably my favorite of my entire academic career because of the courses I took) in one piece and with my highest GPA ever.

When I was signing up for courses, I saw that Mr. Habel was teaching a speech course at WLAC. I'd loved his English classes so it was a no-brainer to take it. Even though the English classes started at 6:30 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly), Mr. Habel was always so kind to us (there were maybe 10 of us total) and he was one of the most encouraging and optimistic professors I've been blessed to have. His class wasn't hard nor was the material tedious; he chose the right material to challenge us without making it seem like it was a challenge. He truly cared that we all succeeded and never in a condescending way.

Opening up that email brought back all those lovely memories of his courses and what a great professor he was. I decided to look him up -- to see if he was still teaching -- when I encountered news I wasn't expecting: Mr. Lowell Habel had passed away on May 27, 2015, only 3 days before my 30th birthday. I teared up. In fact, I'm still tearing up as I type this out. It's been almost 2 years since his passing but the news is fresh to me.

I'm going to take this opportunity to not only say what a great human being he was but also to remind everyone how little acts can change and inspire us for the best. Mr. Habel cared deeply for his students. I saw it in the three semesters I was his student. He was kind, funny (oh, those jokes...), and he tried to help us with things that were even outside of the material/course he was teaching. 12+ years after I took my first course with him, his optimism and encouragement still resonate with me. I wonder if he knew how many students he helped. Most of us begin college worried about doing well and he was the professor who helped make that transition easier for me. In fact, he made me feel like I was competent enough to not only do well and succeed in college but beyond, whatever career path I would choose.

I'm about to pray the Rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy (it's the 3 o'clock hour, as I type this, in L.A.). I will remember him in my prayers and will also make sure that I try to honor his memory by being encouraging to others like he had been to all of us.

Rest in peace, Mr. Habel... and thank you for everything.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Belated Revelations

After our last young adult meeting last month, my friend Joe, another group member (whom I'll call E), and I were on our way to drop off E at his house. Since it was a bit of a drive, I took the time to share with E how I still don't drive long distances because of the car accident I had on October 13, 2015. With my lightheadedness, I don't want to risk driving long distances by myself especially at night. I showed him pictures of the accident (which I had on my iPod touch) and we talked about how it seemed to trigger events that eventually made us leave our (then) home parish and switch to where we currently attend Mass. He said something that has stayed with me, a month later, and which I think I've finally figured out: "what do you think was the message from God from that accident?" (I'm paraphrasing.)

To be honest, I never meditated on it. I had the car accident, thought my guardian angel had really helped me out (which was also the same thought E had without me saying anything) and was grateful that it hadn't been worse. When E asked me what message I thought God was trying to get across, I drew a blank. 

"I don't know," I admitted. "I never really thought about it."

"Well, maybe you should. I think God was trying to tell you something. I don't think these things happen; things happen for a reason and perhaps He was trying to say something. Otherwise, it was just an accident that you learned nothing from," he stated. Again, I'm paraphrasing but that was the gist of it and probably the closest I can get to his actual wording.

It stuck with me, especially since we talked about the coincidences. I had the car accident right after I'd gotten out of spiritual direction with my (now former) spiritual director. It happened on the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. That was also the night that I first got into contact with an FSSP priests who came over the follow day (for a blessing) and who we still see (he even came to bless our home this past Epiphany). The following month, my spiritual director kicked me out of his office and that set into motion us leaving that parish and following the FSSP priest to his (temporary) parish. (side note: everyone who knows the full story has come to the same conclusion of why I was kicked out of my former SD's office on their own but since none of us know for sure, I won't discuss it.) That led to me re-evaluating things, me joining the young adult group I'm in, and has had an overall positive change in both of our (Mom's and my) lives. There was something that seemed to be missing from that puzzle but it took E's question for me to try to figure it out... and I think I have. 

It has dawned on me that I have gotten a much-needed second chance to make things right. I had the same thought when I went to the last doctor's appointment: "you're getting a second chance." See, I had reached a plateau in my spiritual direction before my accident. I felt as if I wasn't getting much out of them anymore. Furthermore, while my SD expressed his justified dissatisfaction with me for missing Mass or my prayer time in order to do coursework on a tight deadline (yeah, that was a massive problem I had when I was in grad school; one of which I have since worked on and fixed), it wasn't the massive ear pulling I needed. I feel like the car accident was that; an ear pulling and a sort of wake-up call that I've belatedly realized.

Yes, it's been almost a year and a half since the car accident. Yes, I've wasted so much time trying to figure things out. However, I'm very grateful to E for having me meditate on all of these things. Remember when I wrote about my body being weak but my heart being on fire? I think part of why I felt that way was because of this revelation. Today's health scare (I thought I was having a heart attack at the grocery store; we guessed that it was a combination of acid reflux and a bad panic attack -- my first in a long time -- that hit at the same time) just drove the point home even more: I have gotten a second chance and I need to make the most of it... which, really, is a wonderful message during Lent.

How many times did saints mess up and, still, they were forgiven, they amended their lives, and are now spending eternity with God in Heaven? God's mercy is greater than our sins... no matter how bad they are. I know (as seen through Scripture) that He wants us to repent and return to Him. Luke 15:11-32, anyone? I was able to fix my terrible priorities (now Mass comes before any exam or coursework I may have that weekend). I think I've figured out the path (for both big and little v vocations) God wants me to take and have made a lot of progress in them. Now to reorder and fix a couple more things in my life, especially when it comes to facing my fears. I've started work on that but it's still going to be a massive uphill battle for me since it's going to mean undoing years of bad habits and negative thoughts. What a better way to spend my Lent (and the weeks leading up to the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima) than to work on my relationship with God and making the most of my second chance?

Before I end this blog post, I have one more thing to share: in case you're wondering, no Mass again this past weekend. We wanted to try for Saturday but I got sick and then Sunday was a mess as well. That's officially 8 Sundays without Mass (though I have attended Mass at least twice -- during the week -- in the past 8 weeks). Still, I'm going to try again and I'll fight through the lightheadedness and other obstacles to the best of my abilities. We have a plan for this week and the weekend and any prayers you can offer up so that we can get to confession and Mass would be greatly appreciated.

Alright, that's enough for today. I have more to share but they're different topics so I'll just break them into different posts. I'm taking it easy today since I've had a busy couple of days so I may write more blog posts now and schedule for later in the week. I have a big exam this weekend, a research paper due next week, and another huge exam the week after that so I'm going to try to blog when I can and schedule them so that there aren't big gaps in between blog posts. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of the week! :D

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"But, Emmy... it's Lent!" Oops?

*sings along to some of my favorite songs.*

"Emmy, you can't do that! It's Lent!"

*dances around the living room or bedroom as a form of exercise."

"You can't do that, either! It's Lent!"


I've been feeling really great the last 2-3 days so I've been singing and dancing... and twirling around in skirts and dresses since it's been summer-weather hot lately. I have a little more color in my cheeks (hello, rosy-hue I've missed) and I've been able to dance and have hour-long walks without problems. I think it's been the combo of whatever was working against me wearing off as well as the change in my diet and exercise regime. I even woke up 2 hours earlier than usual yesterday and today... on my own. I was feeling gratitude for the upswing and then... "But, Emmy... it's Lent!"

Yes, I know it's Lent. Yes, I know it's a penitential season. Um, hi. Have you read my blog posts since Lent has begun? I'm very well aware what this season is about. Still, I didn't really think that I couldn't feel happy about the change in things. I didn't know that my form of exercise (usually dancing, walking, or hiking; mostly dancing and walking when I can't get to a local mountain range) was prohibited because it was Lent. I didn't know I wasn't allowed to sing. Oops?

I usually field these questions on social media because it's the way to get quicker and more responses but I'm abstaining from social media so here's my question for those who may know more about it than I do: are singing and dancing not allowed during Lent?

Like I said, I'm aware that this is a season of penance and thinking about Christ's suffering and death. I've been praying the Sorrowful Mysteries every day except Sundays during Lent. I've been watching the daily Mass on EWTN or, at least, reading the daily readings and meditating on them. I know there shouldn't be much celebrating but... I didn't know I had to be only quiet and solemn the 40 days of Lent. If I've been doing something I shouldn't be doing, someone please correct me.

Anyway, I just wanted to put this question out there. Someone, please, let me know if that's just a scrupulous POV or if I really need to tone down my singing and dancing. I get why it's not the best idea but I also wonder if it's taking it too far. In fact, I keep thinking about this meme:

Just, help a sister out. OH! And, for the friends who've emailed me and texted me with concern after reading the latest blog posts, you can FaceTime me or ask for proof that I'm not as sick as you might think. I'll be okay. No worries, my dears. :D
<3 p="">
And now back to working on my research paper. ;)

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

When Frustrations Make You Overlook Blessings

I'm taking a break from working on my research paper on childhood stuttering (speech-language pathology students represent!) because, as I was working on the paper, I was hit with two thoughts that seem to be connected: 1) feeling frustrated when your plans don't materialize and 2) overlooking your blessing and forgetting to be grateful for what you have.

As I stated in my last blog post, despite any physical limitations I might've had lately (which seem to have been caused by an accidental dairy-ingestion), I've been wanting to do a lot more than what I've been able to do in recent weeks/months. Being unable to help out in the soup kitchen -- which I heard was an amazing experience -- and having other efforts to do more thwarted this weekend simply increased that desire and it's made me feel a little restless.

On Saturday night, I booked a trip with a local transportation system (which both Mom and I are a part of) that would take us to Mass. After the doctor confirmed that the persistent lightheadedness is due to the anemia, I knew it would be something that will derail any plans to drive to Mass in the afternoon/evening until my iron levels get better.

I want to go to Mass. I need to go to Mass. I was excited that I had a ride to Mass. That way, even if I got a bit lightheaded, I would be okay. I wouldn't be driving and thus I wouldn't be putting myself, my mother, or other people out on the street in danger. I got dressed up (and made an extra effort to look nice because I was so excited). We went outside in the 90+ degree heat to wait for our ride that was scheduled at 5:12 p.m.

When 5:30 p.m. came and there was still no ride, I called them to find out what time they would get there. "I'm sorry," the dispatcher said. "It looks like your taxi won't be able to make it." I was gutted. I walked back up the stairs to my apartment and slumped down on my chair in my book cave. I thought I was finally going to go to Mass. I was excited. I had planned it all out. I even booked the trip almost 2 hours before Mass began in case there was some delay. I didn't forsee this coming. Needless to say, we marked our 7th weekend without attending Mass.

That seems to be the theme lately: having the desire to do something and not getting anywhere. Exhibit A: Saturday's planned outing with the young adult group but having to pull out because I felt physically weak. Exhibit B: Sunday's plan to go to Mass but still missing Mass due to lack of transportation. Exhibit C: getting only 24 hours to study instead of the full 3 weeks I should've gotten prior to my last exam. There are more examples but I'm not going into them. The more I want to do, the less I can do. All aboard the S.S. Failboat, destination: Frustration Island.

With the recent trend of being a living example of Murphy's law, I decided to try to finish my research paper which is actually not due until the end of the month. Yes, I'm starting early because I'm not going to take chances. As I got more and more into the paper, I got hit with the sudden realization that I've been failing to be grateful for what I do have.

Sure, my health isn't the greatest right now... but it is improving as seen in the last round of blood work. I've been within a healthy weight range (after being underweight following my car accident and trying to do too much at the same time) for the past year without any problems. I currently weigh more or less the same I weighed a decade ago which is my normal adult weight. Now that I've turned my book cave into a home office (which just means I added a desk to the room), I've been able to study and really focus when I need to. I've somehow managed to do really well in my last three exams despite the lack of study time. I received my car (after the mechanic spent months trying to get it running safely after my car accident) a year ago and I've had no major problems with either the car or anxiety while driving. Speaking of anxiety: has anyone seen my anxiety? I haven't had a full-blown panic attack or anything of the sort for a long time.

How easy it is to get caught up in what we want and how much easier it is to forget to thank God for what we have. I have an amazing mom who will support me in whatever I decide to do. I have awesome older brothers who will do what they can for me, even if they're in other states and/or countries. I have an amazing group of friends (who are like family to me) who are there for me no matter what, even at late/early hours of the day. I have a bright future, career-wise. I've been able to fulfill a dream of getting published. I'm able to rest as much as I need to with my only worries being getting my coursework completed on time and keeping this household running (i.e. paying bills, keeping the house clean, running errands, keeping the 'fridge stocked, etc.).

I think I'm beginning to realize why God has delayed everything for me. The key word is "think." If I had a family (children), it would've made it harder for me to recover as much as I have to date. I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had until now. That's not to say I don't still wish I had a fella to share my life with or that I don't wish to have a family someday, but I'm starting to see why -- and feel grateful for -- the delay.

I spent my late teens through early 20s helping take care of my dad (until his death) and then I pretty much took over and helped keep my mom from the crippling depression that following his death. I put others before myself and I failed to learn to take care of myself. I didn't start learning to do that until my mid-late 20s. Heck, I'm still learning how to do that now, shedding bad habits in the process. I didn't have the typical selfish college years. I feel like I'm now getting a chance to be "selfish" by being able to simply take care of myself and enjoy a little bit of "freedom" before the next phase of my life. There's still a couple of things I need to break the habit of doing and other things that I need to learn to be the best version of myself.

I'm going to bookmark this post for when I'm feeling restless... or when someone is on my case about still being single (which is about to start because my birthday is coming up in May and it's usually when people begin with the comments). Most of the time, I can understand that I can't do everything I want when I want. For the times that I get impatient and my inner Grumpy Cat wants to come out, I'm going to re-read this.

All in God's time. Such a cliché saying for a reason, folks. Despite wanting to do a, b, c, d, and e, I know that things will fall into place when He thinks it's the right time for me. Who knows, maybe the lack of Mass attendance is going to fan the flames in my heart to evangelize (despite my dislike of public speaking and/or engaging in conversations that may result in arguments) or do something that will make me grow closer in my relationship with God. Yes, my optimism is showing. ;)

Anyway, just random thoughts I needed to get out of my head so that I can go back and focus on my research paper. :)

I hope y'all are having a good start of the week! :D

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

My Body Feels Weak but My Heart is on Fire

Oh, Lent 2017... you're throwing me some massive curveballs I wasn't anticipating. As I mentioned in the last post, on Thursday I went to my follow-up appointment with my doctor following Tuesday's E.R. visit. A new plan was put in place in hopes to better my iron absorption. Ask me if I've been able to get myself to more than one store to try to find either a ferrous gluconate or another iron pill that I can try. Nope. Ask me if this is intentional or because of time management issues? The answer is "nope!" Now that I'm trying to be even more gung-ho about finding other iron alternatives, I have something new (yet old) that's popped up. It's called extreme fatigue lethargy and it stinks.

Since about Wednesday-Thursday, I've felt a lot more run down than usual. I'm sleeping longer and later. I'm randomly falling asleep during the day. I would've blamed my anemia except for the fact that I've had my hemoglobin and iron levels much lower in the past (and they're actually not too bad; I'm only "slightly" anemic) and have still been able to retain enough energy to do what I need to do. No, this is something else. I have a few theories.

The first theory is the stress and all the non-stop busyness that has popped up in the last couple of days. I went from being sick (which a doctor warned me against) to traveling (and getting only 2 hours of sleep the first day) before I was able to full recovery. I also tried to fast on Ash Wednesday and I abstained from meat and, well, fasting and I aren't friends. That and I needed the iron. Yeah, I know, poor thinking on my part.

The second theory is that I ended up accidentally ingesting enough dairy to make me sick when the waitress messed up my order when we were in Tijuana last weekend; the waitress simply scraped off the cheese they had added to my plate (after I told her I was allergic) and didn't bother checking under my grilled chicken or fries where I later found cheese, after accidentally eating a bit of it. This feeling of intense fatigue and lethargy is typical (for me) when I have dairy and is the reason why they took it out of my diet over a decade ago.

My third theory is that it's just been way too hot lately (what is "winter" in March?) and, since we just replaced our central air filter and have been able to turn on the AC today, I've simply overheated during the day the last couple of days.

Right now, I'm going with a combo of all the above though I'm guessing number #2 (accidental dairy consumption) has been the biggest culprit for the additional tiredness. Either way, I've had to change and/or cancel my plans and it's made me a bit grumpy... and very happy.

I was set to help out at a soup kitchen with my fellow young adult group members this morning but I had a feeling I wasn't going to be able to stay on my feet or do anything too productive in the 4 hours we were scheduled to by there. I ended up emailing the group's organizer that I had to cancel. It's a good thing I did because Mom said I looked terrible this morning (before I passed out and slept for another 3 hours due to the exhaustion).

Since I nixed the plans to drive into Hollywood for the community service we were doing, I thought I was going to be okay enough to drive to a local parish for morning confessions. Nope. As I said, Mom said I looked terrible in the morning so we put it off until the afternoon. What happened this afternoon? I started feeling shaky and weak about half an hour before we had to leave. We ended up missing confession and I've not yet recovered enough to attend Saturday Vigil Mass. We'll try again tomorrow.

I normally don't have a bunch of these different health issues come at me all at once. The cold I had two weeks ago was followed by the week-long intense molar pain. That ended up in my jaw for two days and neither the dentist nor the doctor could figure out the cause for it. Now I'm experiencing extreme fatigue and lethargy? What gives? Oh yes, it's Lent and all of this started the weekend before Lent began. No, I'm not blaming Lent... exactly. It's just an interesting coincidence.

I truly believe that I'm going through all of this for a reason I've yet to figure out. Of course, I also have theories (when do I not? lol) about why I've been going through all of this... and most are making me happy. Right now, I'm going with the theory that God is going to prepare me for something good. Whenever I get hit with a bunch of things at once -- whether they are all health-related, school-related, finance-related, etc. -- I end up learning something extremely valuable that also helps me grow in my spiritual life.

Before all of this began, I was feeling pretty stagnant in my spiritual life. After an amazing Advent (with those wonderful 54-day Rosary novena results) and Christmastide, I felt like I had outgrown where I was; like I needed to step things up in both spiritual life and in my life in general. Not only was I feeling like that, the combination of fear and lack of trust were also wrecking havoc on my interior life. I was restless and I felt unworthy of His mercy but I was too afraid to do anything about it.

As weird as it sounds, since this past Thursday -- especially after beginning Roses Among Thorns by St. Francis de Sales -- I feel like I'm starting to break through that. I have such a great desire to attend confession and Mass. I was looking forward to stepping away from my selfishness and doing something for someone else. Needless to say, it's bumming me out more than usual that I missed out on two chances today due to circumstances beyond my control. (P.S. if any of my offline friends are reading this and will be in my area -- and want to help a sister out -- having the option of someone offering to drive me to Mass might help me get there for once. Just saying.)

There's a great joy and hope that I haven't felt for several weeks, maybe even since Advent ended. I feel like something in me has been woken up, that fire has been lit, *insert another cliché here*, and like I'm going to go through another massive change throughout this season. Not only that, I feel like doing a lot of good for others. I'm not sure how with what I have on my plate, but I want to do something that will make a difference in at least one person's life this Lent. Of course, I may just feel like that and nothing may end up happening (remember that feelings can trip you up sometimes) but, I don't know, that hope is there. My optimistic side is clinging onto that feeling like a life preserver.

Perhaps I have to go through all of this now to appreciate what is to come. God only knows. What I do know is that these little bits of hope and joy are giving me the courage to face my fears, a big way, too, and the strength to endure all the physical symptoms I've felt lately. To quote my favorite (soon-to-be) saint, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, "verso l'alto." I may not physically feel energized but, oh, my heart and my spirit feel on fire. ;) (side note: before two of you seminarian friends -- you know who you are -- make the joke, yes, I'm sure it's not heartburn I'm experiencing, thankyouverymuch. ;D)

Anyway, I still have to finish cleaning the apartment (I took a break while I recovered from feeling a bit shaky and weak) so I'll go try to do that now that I feel a bit better.

I hope y'all are having a lovely weekend thus far. :)

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

When St. Francis de Sales Drops Truth Bombs

Before I begin, I just wanted to say that, yes, I know the last two blog posts weren't posted on the Facebook page. I went to IFTTT to fix it and this post should be posted as soon as I publish it. If you're only following me via the FB page, the last thing posts were about my inability to start Lent "right" and about a trip to the E.R. You know, fun stuff. ;)

Today, I went to a follow-up doctor's appointment because of the E.R. visit two days ago. It was mostly good, though I did get some much-needed ear pulling for not taking the multivitamin like I should've. Mea culpa. I've set up an alarm so I won't forget because I do tend to forget to take these supplements. I mean, I even forget to drink enough water some days because I'm sometimes way too busy. (side note: yes, I downloaded an app to remind me of my water intake as well.) I have another appointment coming up in a month and we hope to see some good blood work results since we're changing my iron and folate supplements so the two that should be easier on my stomach.

While I was waiting to see the doctor, I began reading Roses Among Thorns by St. Francis de Sales. It has been sitting on my bookshelf, collecting dust, for years so I decided to read it for Lent. As you may know from two posts ago, I hadn't gotten a chance to slow down enough to get started on it. I only made it through the first couple of pages at the doctor's office but, man, St. Francis de Sales dropped a bunch of heavy truth bombs on me.

You know how they say that things happen when you need them most; how sometimes a letter doesn't arrive until God thinks you need what's written the most? That's how I feel about this book. I'm sure I hadn't read it until now because I needed to "hear" these things now. It honestly felt like I was getting another ear-pull, a hug, and some courage for the one thing I have to really work on: confronting my fears.

I'm not sure if my adventurous/courageous side left after my father died or if it's a result of me experiencing too much in a short amount of time but, somewhere down the line, I got a little too cautious... to the point where I developed a lot of fears. This is coming from the girl who, despite anxiety, agreed to get on the craziest, scariest rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain with a bunch of people I had just met that day (we had one mutual friend) a week after 9/11 happened. This is from the girl who wanted to drive (but couldn't because of the wrecked car) the day after she got in her car accident, a year and a half ago. This is coming from the girl who nearly left California to study in England as an undergrad, knowing no one in the area.

I highlighted a lot of things in only 19 pages of the short book. The reoccurring theme (which I'm sure is different for other people reading the book) has been that I have to face my fears in a big way. That's not to say that I'm going to do anything crazy but there's a lot that's been holding me back in recent months because of fears. This is something that I need to do on my own (with God, of course) and for myself; no one can do anything but pray that I have the courage to pull it off.

St. Francis de Sales writes that "... before bringing peace to a place, he (Jesus, Prince of Peace) first brings war (cf. Matt. 10:34-36) by dividing the heart and soul from its most dear, familiar, and ordinary affections," how "... it is when we are suffering interiorly that God rips off the last bits of skin of the old man in order to renew us..." Since I've been enduring an intense inner battle regarding fears and of letting go so that I better follow God's will for me, this really hit close to home. I think that we sometimes forget that we must suffer in order to eventually receive whatever grace/gift God wants to give us. The suffering can be for purification reasons or simply to help us better appreciate and take care of the gifts coming our way. In my case, I think it might be all of the above.

At the moment I'm vacillating between feeling like I have a bit of valor a la St. Joan of Arc (whose feast day is on my birthday) and wondering if I actually have the courage to confront my fears. I guess only time will tell but, if I keep getting bombarded by these truth nuggets, I think a lot of good things will come out of this Lenten season. You bet I'm going to review this book as soon as I finish it.

Anyway, this was something I felt like sharing today. Can you tell that I'm on spring break (aka freedom (!!!) from coursework) and that I have an insatiable urge to write, especially when I can't get on social media? lol. I miss you, social media... but this is good for me. It's not you; it's me. ;)

I hope y'all have had a lovely week thus far. :D

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

... Then I Ended Up in the E.R....

On Monday afternoon -- after I wrote the last blog post -- my toothaches (yes, it became plural) were so terrible that I asked to be squeezed in by a local dentist to get checked out in the case of an infection. I went in and he couldn't find anything wrong. No infection. Nothing stuck in between the teeth. No cavities. There was nothing from a dental POV that could cause such a pain. I left the office with only the suggestion to brush and floss as I have been doing. The pain has come and gone since, with the last two days giving me some of the worst pain.

Yesterday, I woke up feeling fine but the pain came back with a vengeance while Mom and I were out running errands. The pain was so excruciating that my lightheadedness got worse. While in line to pay for something, I sudden felt like I couldn't breathe. I had had a tightening of chest since I had woken up. Between the pain, the lightheadedness, and everything else, it was decided that I need to go to the E.R. in just case it was something else.

At the E.R. they did the standard tests -- EKG, blood work, chest x-ray. They checked my vital signs and oxygen intake; everything was good. My white blood count (which was abysmal) was almost twice as high as the last time they checked. It was within normal range though on the low end because I had a cold virus a week ago. My platelets took a slight dip but were still within normal range. I gained a bit of weight and continue to be within my normal range, though they had to double check because the nurse who took my vitals when I first arrived had said I had lost 20 lbs; that was obviously an error. The only two not-so-great things that came back from my blood work were that my sodium was just slightly low only .01 under normal range) and I'm still slightly anemic (though the iron and red blood count are higher than they were in October). The doctor mentioned some possible wheezing (though we can't hear anything) but said that there was nothing of concern that she could see. I mentioned the pain that I was getting but said she didn't want to give me any antibiotics (for a possible sinus infection) because I had no fever.

I got home, satisfied that it was going to be okay. Oh sweet, optimistic Emmy. Wrong! I didn't go to sleep until nearly 3:30 a.m. because the horrendous pain returned, as did the feeling like I couldn't breathe. The pain went away for an hour before it returned again and I lost more sleep. While trying to stay as calm as possible despite my tiredness, I went back and put the pieces of the puzzle together -- I've felt like I can't breathe only when the pain is so bad that I feel like crying. Also, the pain is usually accompanied by pressure in the back of the right side eye (which tears up), up to that same side of my sinus cavity. Ah, it's sinus pain. All of this pain is because of my sinus is being a jerk. Awesome.

Nothing is helping too much and I'm limited when it comes to what pain medication I can take because of my platelets. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning to see if they can help prescribe something a bit stronger that I can tolerate and not have to worry about my platelets being lowered in the process. Right now I'm limited to Tylenol as both Aleve and Tylenol lower platelets... and OTC Tylenol sometimes isn't strong enough for intense pain. Hopefully, I can get more relief tomorrow since I'm tired of losing sleep from the pain, which randomly pops up throughout the day (and, now, night).

I've been trying to offer up the pain for the souls in purgatory and for friends whom could benefit from it. I try to pray through the pain. Last night, while praying the Sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary, I thought to meditate on the pain that Christ endured and think about how my pain is nothing compared to what He endured. Still, the pain gets so bad that (at times) I can only selfishly focus on it and how much I wish I had relief. In a way, it's good that I'm going through this now because it brings my focus back on Lent and His passion. It makes me think about how my fears are selfish and how I lack trust in Him when I fail to do something because of them. It makes me feel guilty that I haven't attended Mass; just an hour (or so) per week to give thanks for all the good things in my life. It also puts a lot of things into perspective, which is good during this liturgical season.

I'm grateful that this is happening during Spring Break, after my last big exam, and before my schedule gets crazy busy again. I'm grateful that, despite not getting pain relief at the hospital last night (I didn't have the pain so bad while I was there), I still got the good news that some areas of my health had improved... and even got tips from both the nurse and the doctor regarding a number of things that will help me get healthier quicker and for longer periods of time; some I hadn't heard from my regular doctor. I'm also incredibly grateful to my friends who've prayed for me and who've been patient with my "I'm in so much pain! This stinks!" texts. I'm a baby when it comes to being in pain when it exceeds my (pretty high) pain tolerance level.

I guess this Lent's theme is shaping up to be on focusing on Christ's pain and what that means to me... and what I can do to improve myself. This sinus pain began (very tolerable) on Ash Wednesday and has increased as the days have passed, especially since Sunday. AnneMarie's comment (on the last blog post) about learning to be flexible with my Lenten plans is something I shall have to keep in mind. Whilst I had my own plans for what I wanted this Lent to be, God seems to have other plans for me... and I'm perfectly willing to follow the path He wants me to take.

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a less adventurous Lent than I've been having thus far. Seriously, it's only been a week in and I've already dealt with more things (several of which I'm keeping private) in these past 8 days when I did all of 2016. I can feel my jaw (on my right side) becoming more sore -- it's been sore since I woke up late this morning and have had a bit of trouble eating -- and the tooth pain is starting again so I'm going to watch the season finale of PBS's Victoria while I try to take it easy.

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

Unplanned Craziness

Lent has not been easy... and we're only 5 days into it (not counting Sunday).

On Ash Wednesday I was hit with something that had me in bed all day and didn't let me get out of the house until Friday. That means I didn't get ashes... nor did I attend Mass or go to confession. I also hadn't planned on eating chicken on Fridays but my diet is so restricted (I felt terrible on Thursday after unintentionally fasting and getting no protein that day) and I've been sick so I had no choice. I had been looking forward to doing it all "right" but, well, we can't always plan these things to work out in our favor.

From Saturday through Sunday, I traveled. Mom and I went down to San Diego and crossed the border into Tijuana on Saturday. The reason for this was because I had some dental work to be done. We have a family friend who is a dentist and when she heard how much they were charging me (out of pocket) Stateside, she told me to go down and she'd take care of it for me. It turns out I didn't even need one of the root canals the dentists here were pushing... and, really, there was a lot that I thought I needed but didn't actually need. In fact, I didn't even get a single root canal done; she just repaired the chipped molar and did other things that dentists here didn't want to do but were necessary because of how fragile my health has been. (Those were her own words; they were putting me at a greater risk for refusing to fill a big cavity and the chipped molar.) It took us nearly 2 hours just to cross the border (by car) back into the States on Saturday night and then we slept for a couple of hours before we had to get up to get the train back to L.A.

What was supposed to be a day trip turned out to be a 2-day trip because we didn't want to get home after 1 a.m. on Sunday. Two women by themselves, in our part of the county? Um, no, thank you. I'm grateful for Amtrak because I only slept 2 hours on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. Being able to sleep on the train was lovely, even if my neck was hating me at the end of both trips. Also, because of the change of plans, we ended up missing Mass yesterday. We arrived home around 10 a.m. but I crashed after I ate breakfast. I hadn't eaten well on Saturday (and only had about half of the daily recommended water intake) so my body (still recovering from the cold and what hit on Wednesday) needed to crash. Even for evening Mass, I wasn't sure if I would've been okay to drive with my slight lightheadedness and my new toothache (which lasted about 36 hours). I kept drifting in and out of sleep for most of yesterday. I think I may need all of this week for my body and mind to recover. It's an INFP and/or HSP thing, I'm sure.

In between all of that crazy, I failed to pray the Saturday morning prayers in the Little Office and the chaplet of the Divine Mercy before the day ended. I actually fell asleep while praying the last decade of the Rosary on Saturday night. I've also failed to do any of the meditations in my Blessed is She prayer journal... and doing any reading in either Introduction to the Devout Life or Roses Among Thorns, both by St. Francis de Sales.

I've done okay with staying off social media, with the exception being yesterday when I had to log into Facebook to change my password because someone else had logged into it and on Saturday afternoon when I logged into Instagram just to get that location stamp stating that I was at the U.S.-Mexico International Border. I didn't check anything else; I simply changed the password for FB and logged out of Instagram once I had the location stamp on it. I do miss social media, especially Instagram, but I've been able to do a lot without getting lost in the scrolling.

As for giving up talking, it's been hit and miss. I hope that it'll be better now that I'm on Spring Break (early, I know) and the craziness of the trip and having to study for this past weekend's exam (I passed despite only studying for less than a day!) has passed. We do have something special planned this weekend (our young adult group is doing something lovely for Lent) and I know that these people all inspire me to be more mindful of what I say so it'll be good for me.

Do any of you have a hard time getting back on track when your plans get super derailed like mine did over the past couple of days? If so, any tips on what could help get it back on track? I've been struggling with studying (seriously, I had only 1 day to study and memorize for Saturday's exam over the course of 3 weeks due to a number of things that popped up) and now I'm struggling with simply taking some time to pray during the day. Hopefully, I can figure out something during this week of "vacation"... though I don't know how much I'll actually rest because the end of the week is looking crazy busy again. Honestly, sometimes I think God is saying "No, you're still doing too much. Slow down and take care of yourself" when I get this busy.

Anyway, I should get going. I'm still feeling a bit lightheaded (not sure if it's lack of fluids, too much sleep, or an effect from Saturday's dinner when they accidentally added cheese to my plate... after I had explained that I was allergic) and I want to rest for a little while in hopes that I'm well enough to go pick up Mom from work a little later.

I hope y'all are having a good Lent thus far!

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