Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Magnificat Advent 2017 Companion App Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Is It Wrong to Find the Good in the Bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's it for now.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude in Difficult Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you all grateful for?

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

Thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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

Dear God,

Please help me... I'm drowning.

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

I feel restless and stuck...

I'm impatient and angry...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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