Wednesday, October 19, 2016

54-day Rosary Novena: Who Wants to Join?

I've been thinking of doing the 54-day Rosary novena for several weeks now. With everything that's been going on with me (health-wise) and everything going on with Mom at her work (read: mental and emotional abuse), I thought it was time to do this novena. I've had the "everything that can go wrong, will go wrong" experience the last 3-4 times I've done the novena so I've always thought twice about doing it again. The last time we did it wasn't as bad possibly because we had a large number of people doing it, including a priest.

I kept going back and forth on doing it until I read the article that Tiffany wrote on Catholic Mom about the benefits of doing this novena to prepare for Advent. That's when I took it as a sign to do it. I'd read somewhere (I can't remember exactly where) that it was a good idea to start the novena on All Saints' Day ending on Christmas Eve since it was exactly 54 days.

Over a week ago, I posted a message on this blog's Facebook Page, asking if anyone else would be interested in doing the novena as well. I was not expecting more than one or two responses but was glad to see so many people wanting to participate in it. :) I then posted the link on Twitter and more people jumped on board.

This is an open invitation to anyone who wants to join in praying this novena. You can pray it for any intention you may have or you can ask others for their intentions if you don't have a big one yourself. You can do this novena using either the original format or the modified version which includes the Luminous Mysteries. I've only done it using the Luminous Mysteries in previous novenas but I may try the original format this time around. This website has both versions so you can choose which version you'd like to do.

"I'm interested in doing it but I'm terrible at remembering novenas days..." you may be saying to yourself. That is no problem. If you need a reminder, I will happily send it to your way. Just let me know which way you'd prefer to be contacted (getting tagged on a Twitter tweet, through the Facebook page, or via an email) and I'll send the daily reminder. I'll include what day we're on for both original and modified versions of the novena so you don't have to worry about getting the days mixed up.

For those who have heard horror stories about what can and has happened during the novena ("everything that can go wrong, will go wrong"), I want to reassure you that it doesn't happen to everyone. Yes, I've experienced it myself for each novena but other people who've prayed the novena with me have had no negative experiences. I can also attest that the rewards greatly outweigh any incidents that may happen during the novena. This is a very powerful novena and I highly recommend it if you have big, heavy intentions. Trust God, pray the St. Michael Archangel prayer, and try not to think about anything but the graces you may receive during the novena. :)

Again, the novena begins on November 1st and ends on December 24th. If you're interested in doing the novena please let me know (or remind me again) before October 31st so I can keep track of the people partaking in it on my prayer journal. If you want to bail on the novena at some point for whatever reason, don't worry about it; just let me know so I won't send you reminders. :)

Alright... so, who's in?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Welcomed Distraction

Yesterday I went on an outing/field trip with a group of like-minded young Catholics. (side note: when I say "young" I mean 18-36 year-olds.) It was the first time I've ever been able to make it to such an outing since my plans to be involved with youth ministry at my current parish never came to fruition no matter what I did or how hard I tried. I was very excited about this meet-up because I knew that I could geek out on Catholic things and I wouldn't have anyone give me a funny look over it.

Before I go on about why this outing was just what I needed, I want to share what happened the day before. On Friday I had received some unpleasant health news. My red blood count had lowered. My white blood count had completely tanked, most likely due to the stress I've been under as well as the low folate level. Speaking of that, my folate level has gotten worse. My calcium and iron levels are the same, though on the low side. I've gained back 2 of the 6 pounds I'd lost due to the stress from school and health issues. My kidneys are in good shape now and my platelets have gone up as well so not all was bad. Still, I was upset at how low the other levels were. I talked to some friends that night and got my thoughts sorted out before I was able to feel okay about my situation. I know that my mother's prayers also helped; she told me she prayed for me after she saw how sad I'd gotten over my blood work results. I briefly considered backing out on the outing for Saturday but I'm glad I didn't because it helped me forget about my problems for a couple of hours.

I admit that I was nervous as I drove to our meeting place (the San Fernando Mission) because I knew no one in the group. I hadn't known that this group even existed until earlier this month because I'm not an active member of this particular parish. After I heard about it and the events they planned, I was interested and decided to become a member. My heart raced and it actually got up to about 124 (according to my FitBit) at one point -- most likely from the nerves -- while I was with the group. Thankfully everyone was great and after some initial awkwardness, I was able to relax and talk to them as I would with friends. As the time passed by and I got more comfortable with them, my heart rate went down a bit and I was able to enjoy the outing.

We walked around the Mission as a group of 6 -- which later became a group of 9 -- with the group often splitting into smaller groups. The weather was perfect and the group members were so lovely and welcoming, making it a thoroughly enjoyable day. We visited the Bob Hope Garden (where Bob Hope and his wife, Dolores, are buried). A couple of us loved seeing the old (think 1500s-1700s) books. I was actually excited to have other people excited to see these books besides myself. lol. We saw two quinceaƱeras (sweet 15) arrive at the main chapel and I was glad to share my knowledge of them since I was the only Hispanic in the group (until the priest that accompanied the group arrived).

After we walked around, exploring the Mission, the priest who was meeting up with us arrived. We were supposed to have the Latin Mass celebrated at a smaller chapel on the grounds (one I've never been to) but that ended up being quashed (long story) so instead we all prayed the Rosary together. At that point, the group got a little bigger. Those who didn't have Rosary beads with them were able to borrow them from others. All of us gals wore our chapel veils. Everyone knelt, though, admittedly, I didn't last too long before I had to sit because I've been known to feel faint if I kneel for a long period of time when I'm not 100% healthy and I didn't want to ruin anyone's time at the Mission. It was a beautiful and peaceful experience. Before the priest left and the group broke up for the day, we prayed the Angelus which was a first for me; I've never prayed the Angelus before.

I must've looked happy after the outing because my mom had a huge grin and agreed to go to the Latin Mass at the parish where the young adult group is based. Since Mom and I like our Masses solemn, it makes sense for us to go to the Latin Mass. Not only that, I was thinking that maybe this has been in God's plans for us for a while now.

We've had a couple of incidents at our current parish -- with both parishioners and a priest -- that have made us feel either unwelcome, unnerved, or like it's no longer the right fit for us. Over the past year (almost to the day), things have been unraveling and both Mom and I have agreed that it's time for us to move on to a different parish. Our current parish has been our "home" for nearly 4 and a half years. We have wonderful memories but I feel like God may be pointing us elsewhere. We're going to try the new parish and see if it's the right fit for us. We shall see. :)

Anyway, this is my contribution for the week. I've been wanting to write more lately (and I have something to share that has been discussed on the Facebook Page for this blog) but time management has not been my strong suit this past week. I only have time to write this today -- Sunday -- because I take my "day of rest" seriously. Otherwise, I would be studying and/or doing homework right now. So much homework. Hopefully, things will slow down after this week's next round of exams and I can begin to write more often. Fingers crossed.

To those who've continued to pray for me, thank you! I've felt more at peace lately and I know it's been your prayers that have helped. My health may not be at 100% (and has gotten slightly worse since last month) but I know that between your prayers, my own efforts, and God's will, something good will come out of all of this. :D

I hope y'all had a lovely weekend!

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

Holding Mama Mary's Hand

If you're following me on social media then you might've already seen me asking for prayers over the weekend. I had a lovely week -- made lovelier by good news from the doctor -- but things started to fall apart on Saturday. For once, I'm keeping the exact details to myself; only a few close friends know the full extent of what's going. Let's just say that it's a mix of a new health (heart related) worry for me, seeing things happening to Mom that are beyond her control and completely unjust, and a number of other things that created the perfect storm of intense anxiety.

I literally could not sit still for more than 4 seconds most of Saturday evening and night. I would sit down and immediately bolt up and pace the length of my apartment. That's how intense the anxiety was. You'd think that I'd eventually calm down enough to sleep it off, right? Big fat "nope." Our new next-door neighbors decided to throw a party on Saturday night that lasted until the wee hours on Sunday morning. After they calmed down, I was still so wound up that I just couldn't fall asleep. Having to get up at 4 a.m. that morning was a massive pain after sleeping very little. While my anxiety got a bit better during the day, I still couldn't fall asleep last night and, again, slept very little.

I've tried taking naps yesterday and today but it hasn't gone smoothly. During the first hour or two of the attempted naps, I've kept waking up (and sitting up) suddenly just as I was drifting off to sleep. I knew I had things to do both yesterday and today but I simply couldn't stay sleep, no matter how exhausted I've felt. Finally, I remembered the words that one of my best friends said to me when I told him what was going on and what my fears were: "Clutch our Mother's hand." I got the idea of holding Rosary beads in my hand as I tried to rest and both times that I've done it I've been able to drift to sleep and rest for at least an hour.

Has anyone been in a similar situation in which their minds and/or their hearts were troubled with something and nothing was helping ease the worry? I pray the Rosary on a daily basis but I sometimes don't feel at peace as quickly as I'd like. I'm not sure if holding the Rosary beads helps me drift off to sleep because, psychologically, it's a sort of security blanket during times of trials or if it's because Mama Mary is there with me, helping ease my anxiety. I'd like to think it's the latter. All I know is that imagining that Mama Mary is, in a way, holding my hand while I feel helpless and alone (when I'm physically alone) is very soothing. I've often wrapped Rosary beads around my hand when I've had horrific anxiety attacks but this is the first time I've held them to help me fall asleep.

By the way, please don't say "don't worry!" or "trust in the Lord" because, as well-meaning as they may be, I really don't want to hear those words. It makes me feel like a complete failure when my anxiety gets so bad that I can't stop worrying. I do try but sometimes it gets overwhelming. I ask God for help and I do trust Him but sometimes the mind is weak, especially when it's sleep deprived and can't think rationally.

Anyway, this was a quick blog post to share this in hopes that this may help someone else in a similar situation. If you can't pray the entire Rosary or even a decade, I highly recommend holding a strand of Rosary beads and praying any way you can. Even if it's as simple as "Lord, have mercy on me" or "Blessed Mother, pray for me" -- prayers don't have to be fancy as long as they come from the heart.

I should go eat something... and study. I really hope my anxiety (and the issue that is causing my anxiety) get better soon because I have two exams coming up next week and I really need to concentrate. Ain't nobody got time for your shenanigans, anxiety!

To those who've prayed and continue praying for me: thank you! I know that it's due to all your prayers that I haven't had a full-blown panic attack because this situation is intense and I would've already had a major attack by now.

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

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

Friday, October 7, 2016

MuteMath and My Official Reversion: Our 10-Year Anniversary

Yes, I'm totally procrastinating right now... though I'm using this as my excuse to do my weekly writing for the Revolution of Love link-up. ;) Yes, I should be doing the homework assignment due tonight, which is the Weiss Intelligibility Test on a child. Yes, I've technically already completed it but I need to go over it and make sure it's done properly. Yes, it's been almost a full week since my last post. Mea culpa to it all. ;)

I wanted to write this quick blog post because I had a sudden urge to listen to MuteMath's self-titled/debut album this afternoon, specifically the song "Chaos." As I was driving, listening to the song, I remembered how this album is intrinsically linked to my official reversion a decade ago. I don't remember the official date of my official reversion. The seeds were planted June 2006 but I didn't fully commit to returning to the Church until the last week of September 2006. I want to say it was between September 24th and 26th. Those dates are sticking out in my mind but I'm not sure on what specific date I made things "official." This album, MuteMath, was released on September 26, 2006. See why I say they're linked? I actually listened to "Chaos" and loved the song before I listened to the entire album. I couldn't understand why the lyrics hit so close to home at the time -- I was still trying to figure out my thoughts and feelings -- but there was a reason why the song was sticking out.

Here's a sample of the lyrics to "Chaos":
I know you stay true when my world is false
Everything around's breaking down to chaos
I always see you when my sight is lost
Everything around's breaking down to chaos

It's hard to trust anyone again
After all the let downs I've been through
Haunted by what I've been through
Air still trapped while I still can't breathe
And I'm screaming out
Give me hope somehow
And I know, yeah I know, yeah


What I later found out was that MuteMath -- though they don't label themselves as a Christian band and will say they're not one -- is composed of musicians who just happen to be Christian. When I learned this, and went back and really listened to the lyrics, I saw why this album was the perfect companion to my reversion; the songs can easily be interpreted in terms of one's relationship with God and our faith.

When I wrote the blog post about why I stopped making plans -- serendipitously posted on September 24th, which may be the exact date of my official reversion -- the song "Control" came to mind, especially the following lyrics:

 "Move me up through the darkest clouds
'Til I've lost in the sun every shadow of doubt
There is no better find than to find myself with you
In a fog you are all I see
I'm inviting you closer with each time I breathe
Surrender has somehow become so beautiful..."

Paul, the singer/writer, said the song was: "... my 4-minute sprint to get as far away as I can from everything that compels me to maintain control. My very nature wants me to play life as though it's a chess match against circumstances. Always thinking 20 moves ahead can be exhausting. This song is nothing short of an urgent prayer to find rest."

I've actually never seen this band perform live -- something always happens to prevent me from going to one of their L.A. shows -- but I've still loved their music and this album hasn't left my CD player (I didn't get an mp3 player until I was 23, Christmas of 2008) and then iPod touch since I purchased it. That's 10 years of beautiful memories attached to certain songs; different songs evoke different memories and different phases of my first 2 years of reversion.

I found that someone uploaded the entire album up on YouTube. It's been up for over a year and hasn't been taken down so I'm assuming it's okay to post/share it. If not, I'll take it down. Either way, I'm going to share it because it played such a huge part of my reversion.

Happy (belated) 10th anniversary MuteMath! Thank you for the wonderful memories and for always reminding me of the lovely journey I've been on since my official reversion.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Yes, THAT Topic Again -- Social Media vs Me

Before I begin I just want to wish y'all a happy St. Therese of Lisieux feast day! Yes, it's late but it's still October 1st in Los Angeles. ;)

I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed, listening to MuteMath's self-titled album which has been a permanent fixture on my CD player (seriously, I didn't have an mp3 player until I was 23) -- and then iPod touch -- since I first purchased it a decade ago. This album reminds of the Fall of 2006 (into Winter 2007) when my reversion truly took hold. Late September 2006. I can't believe it's been a decade! Sometimes it doesn't feel like it's been that long yet it does in some ways. I've learned a lot in the past decade but I know there's still so much more that I need to learn. So many great memories of that time, many of which inspired some of the things that I wrote about in the first Will and Lina novel.

No, I'm not going to sit here and take a trip down memory... though I'm very tempted to because early 2005 through mid-2007 were arguably my favorite years thus far. No, I'm going to resist that urge and, instead, I'm going to write whatever pops into my mind. This could be slightly dangerous but sometimes I just like to write to see what's on my mind. Here it goes...

Tonight I was reflecting on how much I stink at trying to limit my time on social media. Horrendous. It was a sort of (but not really) resolution earlier this year. I may need to go to a social media addicts group meeting or something. I go through periods in which I'm really good at it and then something happens and it throws me off. That something is usually an illness that forces me back on social media because it's where I can get things off my chest. Bottling up what I'm thinking is bad business for me -- it's what triggers some anxiety attacks when I do too much of it -- but I also overshare a lot. Sure, you can argue that I share a lot but I'm very careful about what I share so you only get a teeny tiny view of my offline life, but I've been thinking that I need to make yet another attempt to cut back on that.

I get bored so I tweet. I don't have another human being to interact with for most of my day so I check social media or text a friend. Sometimes I'll get wrapped up in coursework, a movie, a book, or some other activity but my fallback is always social media. It's not even a FOMO issue since, honestly, I don't really check Twitter that much. I tweet and/or reply to a tweet. I read the 15 or so tweets at the top of my timeline and then I move on. It's not a bad cycle but it's also a waste of my time.

No, I didn't say that interacting with friends is a waste of my time. I say it's a waste of time because I eventually end up falling into the vicious black hole cycle of clicking through links... or Instagram pictures that lead to other pictures... or YouTube videos that lead to more videos. I actually caught myself saying "well, what can I search now?" after going through my usual round and finding things quiet. When I couldn't figure out what else I could do, I simply shut down my laptop... a bit disappointed. I've, at least, disciplined myself to avoid certain websites and previous habits that would've kept me online longer but the fact that I was disappointed that I couldn't find another thing to distract me was a bad sign. Houston, we have a problem.

I would love to say that the books I checked out from the library last month are being read but they're not. I had to renew them because the due date was looming and I haven't made a big dent in them. I've been going through some anxiety and health issues so I'm constantly looking for distractions. It's not bad to distract myself during these times -- it helps me from getting a full-blown panic attack or helps me be able to nip the symptoms in the bud -- but I keep distracting myself beyond the anxiety attacks that want to pop up. Procrastination / senioritis is real. I think I'm filling my world with too much noise because I don't want the inside noise (the worries, the stress, etc) to win. Does that make sense?

I'm going to try to cut the outside noise again. It's not going to be comfortable for me since I've once again gotten used to the noise but it's necessary. My concentration is shot and I can't blame feeling tired or even my health; I'm simply too overloaded with noise. It's probably not going to last long (it never does) but I'm going to do this as many times as necessary. Habits take 8 weeks to stick so I'll keep starting over every time I fail.

I can do it. I've been able to do it before, even for weeks at a time. I've done my research and my plans have worked in the past. I've decided to add an hour of "Emmy" time per day. This means that for an hour I have the option of playing my guitar and singing, reading a non-academic book, writing in my journal (yes, I have one offline), or spending an hour in adoration if I can make the drive to one of the parishes that have daily adoration. There are more things I can do but you get the gist. The only thing I cannot do in my "Emmy" hour is have a screen in front of me. No screens, not even the Kindle screen.

I've been communicating with friends offline more often lately which ought to help curve the social media usage. The fact that the temperatures will begin to get cooler will also help me get outdoors more, even if that simply means an hour (or two) at the local library for some peace and quiet. I may even go study at my alma mater since I feel so at peace on campus. Our homecoming weekend is coming up and we alumni are greatly encouraged to visit that entire week for festivities so I have an excuse. I know, I'm surprised by that last statement, too. lol.

Alright, well, my Emmy hour for the day is coming up so I should skedaddle. That's such a fun word  -- skedaddle -- that I'm going to try to use more often. No, not procrastinating; just an amusing thought since I'm pretty much writing what I'm thinking, right?

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

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