Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ladies, Don't Romanticize Your Celebrity Crushes

I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to blog until I finished studying... and I still have a lot of studying to do for tomorrow and Saturday's exams. I was going to wait until this weekend to blog (and I do have a few posts in mind) but then I read this article about why Harry Styles would be the "best boyfriend" the writer will never have and I had to write this because I feel very strongly about this topic.

This was the reason why I wanted to finish and publish the third novel. The fantasy world that so many young women (and some young men) live in because of their crushes on celebrities is seriously unhealthy. Social media has made it worse because it's now easier than ever to get in touch with someone famous that you like. Ladies, I'm so sorry to burst your bubble but who we usually see on interviews, tv shows, movies, on stage, etc... that's usually either a completely different persona or just one small part of who that person is. I'm going to admit that I know this firsthand because the last guy I dated is also an actor.

My ex-boyfriend presented (to the public) someone who was completely different than who he was in private. His fans thought (and possibly still think) he was this very sweet, humble, Christian guy... and I got someone who was emotionally and mentally manipulative and somewhat abusive. This was a guy who, while I accompanied him to a conference in which he made a "celebrity" appearance, thought it was funny to say "hey, look at this picture" and show me a pornographic shot (think Playboy-style) of a naked woman. I obviously looked away right away and I was sick to my stomach over the photo... but he thought it was just hilarious to defile my eyes and my mind. After we broke up and I cut him out of my life, he spread so many lies about me and he hacked into my emails and accounts to try to ruin me and my reputation. Now you see why my friends and I joke about his needing an exorcism?

The fangirls generally don't see how dangerous and how destructive some of the lifestyle choices their favorite celebrities make... or they choose not to care because of the crush. The drinking, the drugs, the sleeping around, the excess, etc. They do so many things that lead these people astray and they do these things behind closed doors because they don't want to alienate their fanbase. These girls buy into this myth that their celebrity crush is clean-cut and wholesome... or they see part of how they truly are and they glorify these dangerous actions. "This is the new Millennium..." "It's his/her life..." "Who are you to judge?" "Who cares what he/she is doing; he/she is hot..." I've seen and heard it all... and have seen them then try to emulate their crushes' actions because they want to be liked by them. Our culture is very used to Kardashian-style openness that doesn't hide very much from their fanbase... but there's still a lot that people don't see. These people have publicists and things they don't want you to know or see. Of course, just like with every profession/career out there, there are exceptions to the rule (and I still have acquaintances within the biz)... but, sadly, there are not enough good people who are honest and moral in the entertainment biz.

As someone who became a teenager in the late 90s/early 00s boy-band boom (I was a teenager between 1998 and 2004), I totally get celebrity crushes. I still get "celebrity crushes" like once every 4-5 years or so which feels weird now because I'm 32. lol. It's different for me because I usually "crush" on the talent and not so much on the person because of what I've lived through. Tom Hiddleston? A talented guy who can really act. Before Hiddleston it was James McAvoy; same reasons -- talented but it ended there. I think if I had to pick someone right now, I'd say my current "celebrity crush" might be Danny O'Donoghue from The Script because that man can write a great song... but the crush starts and ends there... and I'm still selective of which songs I buy and I wait for clean version of songs because I like my songs innuendo and cuss-free. lol.

I truly believe this is not just a celebrity crush thing. I think, sadly, many women romanticize their crushes (whether they're famous or the boy-next-door) and they project their own thoughts and feelings about them onto the person. I've lived through that myself; very few of us are immune to it. But I think it's gotten worse with the younger generation. They have this romanticized idea of what love is supposed to be like... how relationships are meant to play out... what an "ideal" boyfriend is supposed to be like, etc. All of that greatly distorts what true love is and it sets them up for heartache and unrealistic expectations.

I wish I could get more into this topic because it's one I feel strongly about but let's just say that I feel like we should do what we can to help any person who might be falling into this trap. If you yourself fall into their category, please don't think I'm attacking you. I'm just trying to help open your eyes to the reality. You do yourself, the person you're crushing, and your future spouse a disservice by living in a fantasy world. Yes, real life can be much harder and less predictable than fantasy-land... but it's also so much more beautiful and fulfilling than whatever fantasy your imagination can come up with. Not to mention, if you fall into lustful fantasies about your crushes, you need to get to the confessional asap. Slippery slope, y'all.

Okay, I think that's all I'm going to say for now. I've already spent too much time writing this (as quickly as I could) instead of studying. I just needed to get this off my chest.

Anyway, I hope you're all doing well and I hope to write again this weekend... if I can get Saturday's exam completed early.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why I Decided to Share This Decision With You

I wasn't going to do it. I was going to wait until I was finished to drop the big surprise on everyone. On this blog, I've talked about a "new chapter" and a new long-time project but very few (we're talking probably a handful of) people knew what I was talking about it. Then last week happened and God made me see that I'd made my decision to not say anything partly out of fear of failing horribly and partly due to pride. What a prideful moment I would've had in telling y'all that I (God willing) finished something this big. However, I could feel God telling me, "Share it. You could use the prayers. No lady is an island." So, here it goes...

I returned to Utah State to finish my second Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education late last month. It was not a decision I made on a whim nor one that I took lightly. As some of you may remember, I felt like I had no clarity about what I was meant to do with my life at that time. When I made the decision to take a leave of absence in early May, I thought I was done. I thought I wasn't going to return to finish the degree... yet something in me didn't want me to leave the school completely. I asked for some time off while I figured things out. I didn't want to burden myself with more student loans and I had a slew of other reasons to not continue... except that I had one good reason to continue: it seems to be what God is calling me to do.

I actually took nearly an entire month to be sure that it was what God was calling me to do. I did a couple of novenas but the one that really gave me a huge result was the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena Mom and I made for both my health and my clarity of mind since both were answered within a week of each other.

It started with getting those amazing health results towards the end of May. Then I had this big "Eureka!" moment during which I felt like God opened my eyes. I was honest with myself about what I wanted; what I felt called to do. It was when I honestly said (and told some of my closest friends) that I felt like my future will be me focusing on my family and not so much a career that I figured everything else out. In order to do what I feel called to do, I need to pay off my student loans... and what better way to do that than with a career that is in demand, especially for someone who is fluent in both English and Spanish? Not only that, I will learn to work with children, with whom I don't have a lot of experience with since most of my friends have moved away and I don't get a lot of time with my nieces and/or nephews.

I forgot who said it -- possibly St. Francis de Sales or Bl. PGF -- but I remember reading a saint's own words about how sometimes we need to do what feels like a chore in order to be able to get to what we feel called to do. St. Therese of Lisieux had to wait a while before she could enter the convent. Other saints have had to do other things before they were able to begin fulfilling their vocations. I am no saint (though I aspire to be one someday) but knowing that those much holier than I have had to wait and have had to do work they didn't want to do (and offer it up along the way) in order to achieve their goal made me want to push forward.

I'm not going to pretend that my career path was chosen solely out of selflessness because that would be dishonest. Don't get me wrong, I actually like this career path. I initially chose it because I wanted to help children with speech impediments and it's still a big reason why I'm going forward. I enjoy giving the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation (probably my favorite thing to do in the assessment process). The big kid in me loves being able to incorporate play (like, actual boardgames and toys) into therapy sessions that help a child learn how to speak more clearly. I loved my little group of 3 to 5-year-old little guys when I did some of my observation hours at a private practice. However, I also know that the (current) biggest motivator is being able to pay off my student loans. It may make me sound terrible but that's the honest answer. I love the path God has me on now... but I'm working on something greater than a career.

I still believe that God is calling me to be a wife and mother someday. It is still a dream of mine to educate my future children at home if it's God's will. I don't feel like I'm called to make speech-language pathology a long-term career (I feel like God has other plans in store for me in the future; plans that involve writing and/or being a speaker) so I won't be pursuing a Master's in this field. Once I finish this degree and do my state-mandated hours for my license, I'm calling time on my academic career. I do, however, feel like this is where God wants me right now so I'm just going to go forward and see what else God has in store for me in the future.

I wasn't lying when I said this was a new chapter for me. It is a new chapter since I'm doing things much differently this time around. I'm not ashamed to say that I have disability accommodations due to my PTSD. These accommodations allow me to get extra time on my exams so that I don't have a panic attack and blank out during exams. Oh, yes, that's been happening since I started the program 3 years ago; the little time we're given during exams trigger the fight or flight response in me. The memories of teachers (yes, teachers) and fellow students harassing me in front of everyone will always be in the back of my mind when I start feeling anxious/trapped in something school-related so the extra time allows me to take a moment to breathe and relax so I can continue taking the exam without worrying about not finishing it on time. I already witnessed how helpful it was when I did my first big exam this past weekend. I didn't do as well as I would've liked but, considering how poorly I felt (I had slept almost all day the day before and the day of the exam), I'm grateful for the grade I received and for the extra time which helped me focus on the big essay portion of the exam which was worth the most points.

Yes, I'm re-taking a class for the third time (y'all should see how many of us are repeating this one particular course) and that's humbling but that's okay. I needed to be humbled after how proud I was of my past academic successes. Perhaps that's why I also felt called to share this with y'all; to make sure I didn't fall back into that pride... and because, yes, I will need all the prayers I can get this and next semester.

This semester I'm taking three courses: the second and third hardest courses in the program (the hardest course is scheduled for the Spring semester) along with another one. I'm already incredibly overwhelmed by the amount of work and the amount of memorization I've had to do in the first couple of weeks. It didn't help that I was out of it for three straight days -- the entire weekend -- when I had my first big exam which made it difficult to recall the lectures I'd watched and the notes I'd taken. This is going to be a tough road -- one that I hope to finish (with a completed degree) in late April-early May (depending on when my final exams are scheduled).

As I told God before my exam on Friday night, I won't insult Him by asking Him to perform miracles if I don't put the effort to study myself. I'm not going to say "Oh, please let me pass... even if I don't study." No. That's why I've accepted my 64% on my first exam. I wasn't able to study as I would've liked, partly due to procrastination and some distractions but also because I've been sick. However, I do have the motivation to do and finish well now that I've gotten that score. It was the thing that kicked started my motivation because I had practically none for the first 2-3 weeks of the semester.

I know what I'm capable of (when I'm healthy) so I'm going to try to take care of myself and study as much as I can. This is where prayer comes in. I was somehow able to focus on the essay despite feeling as crummy as I did and I did so much better than I was anticipating. I know it was all God (thanks to the intercession of the Holy Spirit and St. Jude) because I actually felt alert that hour it took me to finish the exam. After that? Back to sleeping all day. In fact, I've still not recovered. I've still been sleeping all day (or barely sleeping like last night) and I have another big exam this weekend and 5 quizzes so, you know, back to praying that my health cooperates with me for this upcoming Friday's big exam/quiz bonanza... and the two big exams I have next week.

If it's His will that I finish this degree, I will. If not, I won't. St. Francis de Sales has been popping up in my life a lot in recent months and, despite not continuing with the third novel, I still have the ghostwriting gig (which, thankfully, the woman whose life story I'm writing is telling me to do when I have free time from schoolwork). I think more writing is in my future but, for now, my focus is on this degree and whatever comes from it.

So, there you have it. This is the big secret I was carrying around with me that I'd alluded to these past couple of months. In your charity, I ask you to please keep me in your prayers. Like I said, my health decided to mess around with me again (and it just began going down again only two weeks before the semester began after an unusually healthy summer -- lightheadedness and dizziness excluded) and this may just be my toughest semester (coursework and exam wise) of this program.

I may not write again until I get caught up with my studying and exams (I completely lost the first 3 weeks). After the 30th of this month, my coursework schedule should slow down a bit but I probably won't blog more than once or twice more before then. We'll see what God has in store for me.

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Third Novel Plot and Dating Break Revelations

Since I'm not publishing the novel, I'm going to give you ALL the spoilers. Keep in mind: this is a bare bones summary and my target demographic is young women between the ages of 16 and 24.

Isabella ("Izzy") Sonora visits her best friend, Zoe Walker, in London post-college graduate in hopes to figure out what she wants to do -- work or go to grad school. Izzy and Zoe met freshman year of college before Zoe (an actress) booked a role that catapulted her to fame abroad. When Izzy arrives in London, she sees that Zoe is living with her actor boyfriend, Rodrigo (professionally known as "Rory") Dominguez. Izzy informs Zoe that 1) Zoe never told her that she'd been living with Rory, and 2) that she should've known that Izzy would be uncomfortable in that situation because of her faith and beliefs. Cue big fight that doesn't quite get fully resolved. Despite this, the girls make up and Izzy gets a small taste of what life in the limelight is like (from the outside; going to premieres and events with Zoe).

Rory (who was working on his popular TV show abroad for the first 2 months of Izzy's visit) returns to London. Rory is kind and thoughtful, even going as far as limiting PDA so that Izzy feels more comfortable. Rory discovers that Izzy sings and plays the guitar. After some convincing, he gets her to agree to do some covers on his YouTube channel with the condition that no one finds out her true identity. Rory has literally millions of followers on his social media accounts and Izzy wishes to remain anonymous. They change her name and they film her from different angles, keeping fans guessing throughout the 7 videos they make over the span of 3 months.

Subplot: Izzy meets Grace Mitchell, another famous actress (more so than Zoe and Rory) who becomes like a big sister to Izzy. Grace doesn't buy into the fame game. She doesn't even have a way for fans to contact her via social media though she's always friendly when she meets them in person. Izzy gets both perspectives of the entertainment business: selling yourself/your brand to become more famous (Zoe and Rory) vs. doing things for the love of the craft and eschewing the superficial side (Grace).

Eventually, Izzy finds herself emotionally attached to Rory despite her best efforts not to be. All the time spent together, all the things they've shared, leaves her confused. Grace takes her away to Bath for a week to get her mind straightened out since it's Izzy's last month of vacation. When Izzy returns to London, she finds an enraged (and clearly drunk) Zoe in denial over her breakup with Rory, who moved out and returned back to work while Izzy was away. Zoe kicks Izzy out of her flat, no explanation given. Grace takes Izzy to stay at her home with her new husband, Ben. Izzy sees what a solid, stable relationship looks like, a breath of fresh air after seeing the impassioned and volatile relationship that Zoe and Rory had.

Someone leaks Izzy's identity as "Lily" (her YouTube alias) to the press. Furthermore, this person blames her for the Zoe-Rory breakup. Rory informs Izzy that it was Zoe who leaked the info and started the rumors because she thought that they were seeing each other behind her back. A "friend" of Zoe's told her she frequently saw Izzy and Rory "meeting outside a church." What the "friend" didn't know (but the readers knew all along) was that Rory had helped Izzy sneak off to Mass for months because Zoe used to fake serious illnesses and did everything she could to keep Izzy from going to Mass. Zoe is seriously anti-religion (which was a surprise to Izzy; Zoe had always been supportive up until Izzy wasn't happy with the Zoe-Rory living arrangement) while Rory is agnostic but he respects Izzy's beliefs. In the end, Zoe is exposed and all the things she did to sink Izzy and Rory's reputations backfire quite spectacularly.

The rest of the novel (which I didn't get a chance to flesh out) would've dealt with Izzy having to make big two decisions. First, she had to figure out whether she wanted to attend graduate school in England (University of Bath), do an internship with a photographer friend of Grace's (who, surprise, was going to be Will from the Will and Lina series), or accept Rory's manager's proposal to sign as an artist to start her own music career (she was not interested in acting).

The second big decision was Rory. He confessed his feelings for her and even wanted to move to L.A. to be with her. Izzy would end up rejecting him. He had a lot of faults that she couldn't overlook; that she knew he couldn't/wouldn't give up especially in the areas of lust, sloth, and gluttony. (side note: Zoe and Rory were going to embody the 7 deadly sins between them while Izzy Grace would exhibit the 7 capital virtues throughout the novel; Zoe was the mirror opposite of Grace, Rory of Izzy).

Keep the plot in mind as I now tell you what really happened to me and how this led to my dating break...

There exist a real-life Zoe and Rory and their lives are very similar to their fictional counterparts. That's all I will say. Unfortunately, like Izzy, I also ended up developing feelings for real-life Rory. That's what got me in trouble from January through July of this year. I used to say "Oh, he's like a brother to me," but I realized that wasn't true. An emotional attachment that had developed and it affected me in ways I didn't realize until it was too late. You'd think a 31/32-year-old would know better but, oh, that's when the devil likes to mess things up; when you let your guard down and think you'll be fine. Don't let your guard down and keep God in the center of everything, even things you think you've got under control.

I never approve but I became desensitized to real-life Zoe and Rory's living together. It wasn't until the end that real-life Zoe was crassly open about things that should be left between two (married) people that I snapped out of it. I somehow didn't realize real-life Rory's problem with giving into excess and a number of other things that slowly pulled me away from the faith. I was sucked in by the kindness, the laughter, the fun, and other (superficial) good things that unintentionally made me overlook what put me in danger. I began to have doubts. I began to think that perhaps this was the right path before because I was a terrible Catholic. Oh, sweet, dumb Emmy. Thankfully, God was with me throughout it all so I didn't fall away completely... but, boy, it was a close call at one point.

Another way God has humbled me lately: I'm not as strong (spiritually or emotionally) as I thought I was. I realized that through this experience. I'm not as smart as I thought. I'm not immune to making really dumb decisions and overlooking red flags. I also don't know the faith as well as I would like, which is pushing me more into the lay Dominican path.

Because real-life Zoe and Rory were a big part of my daily life, it was hard for me to gently remove myself from their lives. I made a point to not see them or see what they were up to. Communication ceased. I blocked them from private social media accounts. I erased all virtual traces I could from my laptop and connected devices. Unfortunately, they'll still pop up unexpectedly but I know how to get myself out of those situations.

After that happened, I was shaken up... and inspired to work on my relationship with God. I knew that I needed to work on myself and my anemic spiritual life before I could go forward in any future vocation discernment. I've known my vocation is being a wife and mother (someday) but I cannot build a solid family on a rocky, unstable foundation (especially with my spiritual life in tatters) so my self-imposed dating break began. I actually considered discerning becoming a consecrated single for a couple of weeks recently before I was reminded of the peace and certainty I've felt discerning the marriage vocation.

The novel was me (mainly) working through the feelings and making sense of everything. I began to write the novel around May-June when I was slowly getting out of months worth of me being confused over my situation with real-life Rory. It was when I started writing things out that I was able to work through it all. The feelings that once existed for real-life Rory are no longer there. In fact, I can't even look at him without feeling repulsed. My spiritual life is back on track though it's going to take a while for me to get to where I was.

And, there you have it. The novel plot and the story behind the inspiration for it. I had hoped to inspire young(er) women to look at their relationships, their friendships, and their faith carefully so that they wouldn't fall into the same trap I did but I'm now seeing that perhaps an honest blog post would work better.

Also, to any young blog reader who gets a bit starry-eyed and dreams of a life like those of celebrities: please be careful. Things aren't what they seem. I'm a bit cynical when it comes to the biz because I've grown up around it and I've seen what it does to people... and I claim temporary insanity from December of last year to July of this year for thinking I could return without it affect me or my faith. I walked away from all of that when I was 20 and (despite the massive temptations to go back and work as a screenwriter last year and this year) choosing to stay away from it is what is best for me on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical level.

By the way, this all connected to my St. Andrew Christmas novena and 54-day Rosary novena intentions from Advent last year because I asked God to help me reject worldly, superficial things that would hurt my soul... which came from last year's temptation to chuck it all away and return to my pre-reversion career path. What I didn't anticipate was that I was going to be tested in a way that all the worldly, superficial things were going to be presented in a neat, pretty package with sparkles and would blind me and make my anemic faith even more fragile for months. I'm incredibly grateful to God for opening my eyes because I was in a terrible place. I know that I had to go through all of this to be able to grow in my relationship with him.

That is the whole truth behind the novel inspiration, the dating break (though part two of this is coming soon), and why it's best that the novel doesn't see the light of day. It took all of this to get me to where I am now and I'm truly grateful for all the prayers and support from friends who knew what was going on and prayers from those who didn't know what was going on but could sense that I was going through a hard time. I'm still working on my relationship with God so everything else will have to wait.

That's it for now. I actually wrote this on the night of the 6th because I want to dedicate all of the 7th and 8th to finishing what is due on the 8th so, you know, if you leave my comments I won't see them until the thing is turned in. Just a heads up. :)

I hope you are all doing well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why I'm No Longer Writing the Third Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

God Has Humbled This Proud, Conceited, Vain Girl

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

I was an extraordinarily active kid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

'Tis My Second Birthday: Baptism Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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