Browsing News Entries

Opposing Views: Ethical Clothing, Femininity, the Environment, and Catholicism

All the time away from social media and reading books (lots and lots of books; 26 so far this year -- as of this post -- according to my Goodreads' Reading Challenge tracker) has given me time to think. Really think. There were a lot of things that had been rattling around in my head for months (possibly a year) but it hasn't been until now that I've been able to sort through them. And you know what? I've come to the frustrating conclusion that I've let too much of "the world's" voice dictate what I believe and/or want to do. Furthermore, it's not just "the world" but also the Catholic world on social media that has had an influence on me... possibly a terrible one.

I love you all but, golly, it seems like one can't express ourselves and our ideas without someone jumping down our throats because of an opposing idea/belief. I see it most clearly when it comes to three certain areas: preferences in entertainment (which I wrote about recently), preferences in Mass, and how we view the world and our contribution to making it better. I won't touch on the first two but that last one is what this post is about. This is something I've been wanting to write for a long time, too.

A few months (a year?) ago, I became interested in ethical clothing and "slow fashion" after watching The True Cost on Netflix. (quick side note: Guys, don't tune me out yet. I promise this post isn't about only clothes in a "girly" fashion. Pun unintended.) The documentary was recommended by Claire of Finding Philothea and it's changed my worldview... and my shopping habits.

Now, I was never been big on fashion. I grew up a tomboy so I was all jeans and tees for a long time. As I've gotten older and I've gotten more in tune with my preferences (spoiler alert: I actually love wearing skirts and dresses way more than pants; I wore pants as a sign of rebellion in my youth -- long story), the more I've been wanting to slowly revamp my style. Of course, there are unlimited choices and the trends change a lot. Thankfully, I've always been pretty "old fashioned" in my fashion preferences (the "lost years" of pants only notwithstanding) so the trends don't affect me.

Around the time I started looking into purchasing more skirts and dresses to replace my jeans (which I cannot wait to get rid of), there were four factors that started to change my POV.

First, I re-read the Madame Chic books by Jennifer L. Scott, who is currently my favorite nonfiction author and whose Daily Connoisseur vlogs on YouTube are one of my favorite ways to have a little "me" time during an otherwise crazy day.

Second, I started attending the Latin Mass exclusively. This meant following the tradition of ladies wearing skirts and dresses and veiling for Mass. I was already veiling for years before I attended my first Latin Mass -- in fact, my father's last physical gift to me was a veil he got for me in Mexico a couple of months before his death -- but I didn't really start investing in skirts until I began attending our local FSSP parish. And that led to...

Third, I started looking into and really studying what the Church's views on femininity were as opposed to what everyone says. Yes, I wanted to draw my own conclusions, even if they were "wrong" or "antiquated" by other peoples' standards and views. I started by reading Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond and went from there. I still have more things to get through but, wow, loving my research into this area so far.

Finally, fourth, I started following Claire and Emily (of Little Fossi Way) on Instagram because I could see a kindred spirit in them. They posted things that I could relate to; their tastes -- as well as Jennifer's -- are quite similar to mine. Again, I saw that Claire had posted something about The True Cost so I decided to watch it and, wow, mind blown!

I began researching ethical clothing because I felt like I could no longer purchase mass-produced clothing items sold everywhere. I started reading books that Claire would recommend and as well as check out clothing sites that she and Emily would suggest. I started seeing the differences between cheaply made clothing and those that are worth investing in. I also became interested in sewing my own clothes and I do plan on doing it... as soon as I can save up for a sewing machine (which is my second top priority, after saving up enough for my oblate trip this summer).

Buying ethical clothing is not cheap because you're essentially paying for clothing made by the hands (with the helping of sewing machines and needles) of workers who are not only ethically treated but also paid well. Also, I started looking for clothing companies that don't impact the environment in a way that mass manufacturers do. (I'll get to this point in a second.) While it's going to take a long time for me to build up my wardrobe -- I'm only replacing things as they get worn out due to budget constraints -- it's something I've become very interested in.

I took everything -- what I was learning, what the Church taught, and what others' opinions were -- and I got overwhelmed. Mostly, I would encounter the strangest opposing views.

I got applauded for embracing my own femininity (not easy after years of being a tomboy; I do have 5 older brothers, after all) though that came with controversy. Anything that was deemed "too girly" was attacked. I like pink and girly things?! I have no problem expressing my maternal side?! How dare I?! My clothing changes were also welcomed by the more "traditional" minded but, boy, the "don't be stupid! pants are fine!" folks sure had an issue with my own personal preference to transition to mostly skirts and dresses. (side note: sweats are a lifesaver at 4 a.m. on winter days when this lady, whose body begins to physically hurt and shut down in the cold, has to drive her mom to work.) I won't get further into this topic (for now) but you get the gist.

It was cool that I wanted to make my own clothes or even buy ethical fashion, but even the slightest hint of the word "ethical" or "environment" would send people in the Catholic world on long rants about how that's a "hippy" view that is incompatible with Church teachings. (spoiler alert: it's not.)

It was especially evident when I would say that I was starting to live a "greener" life, eschewing chemicals for the sake of my health (and I have noticed major improvements) and doing my little bit to keep this beautiful world God has given us from being polluted. I even had a friend say that he purposely turned on all the lights on Earth Hour and used styrofoam and other things that were frowned upon by environmentalists in order to "stick it to them." Yes, he's Catholic as well.

There are some in Catholic circles that have a "If Pope Francis champions it, I'll do the opposite" mentality. Since Pope Francis is big on the environment, other people will trash him and his efforts to keep our planet clean because they don't like his words and beliefs on other areas of the faith (e.g. his vagueness in words, his actions, etc). Look, I'm not a massive fan of what he says or does either, but he's still the pope so I do respect him as the vicar of Christ. I'm not going to rebel against everything he says only because he and I don't see eye-to-eye on many other things. On the environment front, I think we may have more in common than I do with other Catholics.

All of this boils down to: I don't understand why there's so much animosity when people express their own views and beliefs. 

I don't feel right about buying clothing from companies that exploit their workers and harm the environment. I also don't feel right about being wasteful or contributing to the destruction of this beautiful earth that God has given us to take care of, but that doesn't make me a "tree-hugging hippie" or a "liberal lemming."

I don't feel like jeans and most other forms of pants fit my own personal preferences any longer but that doesn't mean I'm going to look down on any woman who does.

I keep finding myself gravitating towards what has traditionally been seen as being characteristically feminine -- e.g. being a stay-at-home mom versus being a working mom; cultivating the "womanly arts" of sewing, baking, and being a homemaker -- but that doesn't mean that, like the pants issue, I will look down on others who preferences are different from mine.

I also don't think I should have to apologize for any of these things. And, in fact, I'm not.  If you want to accuse me of "drinking the Kool-Aid," of "being backward," and/or "being wrong," that's fine. This Lenten season I've been learning to let go of what others think of me. Instead, I think about what God may say to me at the end of my life.

Do I want to stand in front of Him and have Him say to me, "You knew that workers were exploited yet you still continued to contribute to the continuation of this..." or  "You didn't listen to your own conscience and you dismissed what you thought would best please Me in order to fit in with and be liked by others"? A big, fat "No!"

So, I'm going to take what I've learned (and what I'll continue to learn), what I feel is the right thing for me to do, and I'll do it. Even if I get ridiculed... even if people stop following me on social media or stop reading these blogs... even if I lose most of my friends because they think there's something wrong with me. I'd rather feel as if I'm doing the right thing in God's eyes. Sure, I will be seeking spiritual advice from our parish priest (whom I like to consult on big issues because the man is wise) just to make sure I'm on the right path but, other than that, I'll take my "opposing views" and stick with them.

Anyway, just something I've been wanting to say for a long time but never had the guts to write until now.

That's it for now. I want to get back to the book I'm currently reading, The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown before I reply to a dear friend's snail mail letter. Oh yes, correspondence is occasionally "old school" with friends this Lent. ;)

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far.

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

Growing in Trust: My Theresian and Marian Lenten Lessons

“Are you crying because you want to do God’s will or you want God to do your will?”

That's what St. Frances of Rome's confessor asked her when she objected to getting married and asked God to please help her become a nun instead. This is also a phrase that has often popped up in my mind this Lenten season. Don't worry, I won't repeat what I wrote about my impatience and will versus God's will. Instead, I'm going to share something I keep "learning" this Lenten season with a little help from both of my co-patronesses for the year: Our Blessed Mother and St. Therese.

I've been having a very Theresian Lenten season. She's been popping up in my life so much since late last year that I've taken to learning as much as I can about her life this season. I started with the same Lenten book I've been using for the past (nearly) decade, A Lenten Journey with Jesus and St. Therese of Lisieux by Fr. John F. Russell, O. Carm. Then I moved onto A Family of Saints: The Martins of Lisieux‐Saints Thérèse, Louis, and Zélie by Stephane-Joseph Piat (side note: major family goals!) and My Sister, St. Therese by Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (a.k.a. Celine Martin).

The more I read, the more I find a kindred spirit in St. Therese... and then more confidence I feel about being myself and expressing my faith in a way that people may ridicule but that would, at least, be authentic. The "flowery" language, the childlike way of looking at things -- I understand it. I feel it deep down... way down because I've tried to bury it because others made fun of me for it. It wasn't until recently that I've allowed myself to be more open about it; even if I end up getting ridiculed for my "innocence."

Another thing I've been learning is in growing in my trust in God. St. Therese had such a beautiful trust in Him as did my model of what true womanhood is: Our Blessed Mother. Mama Mary's fiat is the ultimate example of trust in God. She knew that she would suffer but she still consented to do God's will and only being a "handmaiden of the Lord." That's what I want and hope to eventually go myself to without letting any fears or worries get to me.

Last week I began the 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. It's been such a blessing because it's allowed me to dive deeper in what's become my theme for this Lenten season: growing in trust of Him through the examples of both Mama Mary and St. Therese. I know that it was no fluke that somehow both became co-patronesses of the year for me. I also believe that it's no coincidence that I found out which monastery God seems to want me to attach myself as a Benedictine Oblate during this season when I'm so deeply immersed in all of this learning and growth.

Today, I was reminiscing about how many times I've cried to God about what I want without thinking that His will for me might be different. Of course, we can't change His mind but He can also grant us what we keep bugging Him about -- something I've also learned the hard way in the past. I would've avoided a lot of heartaches, stress, and dumb decisions if I had just listened to God's clear signs instead of asking Him to grant me what I wanted; things He allowed me to experience so that I could finally "get" that His plans for me are so much better than my own.

Exactly one week ago today, I learned where I would be headed in a couple of months to begin my Benedictine oblate novitiate. I still don't know how I'm going to pay for it -- I have not figured out any new fundraising ideas nor have I had any new work leads and I only have about a fourth of my goal saved up -- but I'm trusting God to provide a way if it's His will that I go forward with this. Yes, I'm putting what I've been learning this season into practice.

I've already resigned myself to the possibility that I won't be able to begin my Oblate novitiate this upcoming summer and that I will have to delay it for a couple of months -- until the end of the year -- if I can't raise the money in time to put down the retreat deposit and then book my flight. I've never felt more certain or at peace with any decision in my life as I am of not only becoming a Benedictine oblate but also knowing that this particular monastery is the one that He seems to want to be as my spiritual home. But the timeline remains up in the air. The finances are a bit stressful, as is the thought of having to take a plane (flying and I don't mix... at all!) but all my trust is in God.

I feel like this is just the first of many "tests" I will be facing in the next couple of months; experiences that will help me see if I'm growing in my trust of God or if I'm still holding onto my fears and letting them dictate what I do (or don't do). I don't know why but I feel like I'm going to be tested in my trust of God and of doing His will in every area of my life that I've been stagnant in for so long (especially my vocation). I know I'm usually quiet about that area of my life but let's just say that I think I have an inkling that I might know what's going to happen in that area of my life... and that I'm going to have to not only wait a little while longer but that I'll have to be incredibly patient and selfless. I have a feeling I'll become an Oblate before I go forward with my "big v" vocation. Again, just an inkling I've been having for a couple of weeks now; one that I'm surprisingly at peace with.

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself so I'll just leave it at that.

How is everyone else's Lenten season going? Anyone seeing any fruits?

I hope your start of the week has been going well!

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

Does Anyone Have Any Oblate Trip Fundraising Ideas?

It's official! I know where I will begin my Oblate novitiate in a couple of months! I'm so very excited!! I had done the St. Benedict novena for his first feast day of the year (March 21st) which ended less than a week ago for this very intention -- a clear sign to where God wanted me if it was His will that I become an Oblate. I also talked to a trusted priest -- who had given me much needed advice -- exactly one week ago. I have no doubt that it was the combo of the prayers of St. Frances of Rome (did a novena to her earlier this month), St. Benedict, our parish priest, my friends (who've been praying for me during the months I've been waiting to hear from the places where I had sent my inquiries) and from you lovely blog readers who might've said a prayer for me following the March 21st post about my impatience and my will vs God's will.

For months, I had been waiting to hear back from the Benedictine monastery where I hope to attach myself to. All that time spent waiting and praying helped me be sure that it was where God wanted me, not where I wanted to go for whatever convenient or selfish reason. There was another monastery I thought I would end up at but, for several reasons, it didn't work out. In hindsight, it was best for me because I think it could've potentially harmed my spiritual life more than helped it.

Now I have the exciting yet partially stressful task of planning the trip to the retreat where I will officially begin my novitiate. I'm excited about it for obvious reasons. This is something I've been praying and waiting for for over a year when I officially began sending inquiries to monasteries. As I've begun to incorporate the Benedictine spirituality and Rule into my life, I've seen so much more peace and purpose in my life. I can see how I'm growing, spirituality, though I never notice it until much later. As excited as I am, I have one big problem: I don't have the savings to make the trip.

As many of you know, it's just my mother and I and has been this way since my father passed away almost 10 years ago. With my health not being the best in recent years, work has been hard to come by since I can currently only work from home. I've had a slight relapse over the winter months (which makes sense; I have a severe vitamin D deficiency I've yet to recover from and it's been mostly rainy and/or cloudy this past winter) which has made even freelance writing difficult. Roughly 85% of my paychecks go towards helping my mother out with keeping the household financially afloat and 13% goes towards my student loan payments. If we have anything left over at the end of the month, it goes towards my savings but it's rare when I can put part of it into savings. Also, after a particularly disastrous financial month this month, my savings also took a hit so I'm left with enough for just one way to the retreat destination.

That's where I need your help: I need help figuring out fundraising ideas. If any of you know of someone who needs a writer, a proofreader, or anything I can do from home, please let me know! In the spirit of the Benedictines, I would like to work for what I earn. Transcribing is too time consuming and doing VIPkid would not work with my own fatigue since I never know when the fatigue will overwhelm me into slumber.

I've had people suggest a GoFundMe but I have nothing other than prayers to offer as a "thank you." I also have my mother's voice in my head, drilling into me (as a child) that I need to work hard for what I want; that I shouldn't take advantage of people by asking for help, even financially. It may be bordering on a pride thing but it's something that I've heard so much over the past 33 years of my life so I feel guilty even thinking about setting up an account.

Right now, I need to save up for the round-trip fare (I have a terrible fear of flying, especially if I'm going by myself, so I'll be looking up both train and flight fares), the $ I'll spend on food during the trip, for the actual retreat, and the car rental fee/Lyft costs when I arrive at my destination. I don't want to say when the trip is or where I'm headed for privacy issues but I do plan on blogging the experience after it happens. I'm also withholding which monastery I'll become a novice with from public knowledge for now, again, due to safety and privacy issues. Once the time of the trip comes, I'll share as many details as I can give. :)

So, does anyone have any ideas or know of anyone who needs a writer or proofreader? Please send me any leads you may have!

Alright, well, that's it for now. I'm going to go try to figure out Amtrak (and flight, gulp) fares and crunch some numbers.

I hope you're all having a lovely start of the week!

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

Hearing God's Wisdom Through Others

I've been feeling pretty terrible the last two days. I'm fairly certain it's something I had to eat but the symptoms are kind of weird so I've had a couple of people suggest spiritual attacks. I started the Undoer of Knots novena yesterday so, who knows, it may just be that. Either way, even though I've felt plum awful -- especially this morning when it was so bad I actually reached out to friends to pray for me -- I've been grateful for this experience because it's led me to have amazing moments of clarity through the words of my friends.

I know I've talked about my best friend in the past but just in passing. God has blessed me with such a kindhearted bestie; a young woman who has the gentlest soul of anyone I've ever met. Ever meet someone who makes you want to be the best and holiest version of yourself; someone who believes that you're better than you think you are? She's that for me. If anyone is destined for sainthood, it's her.

Sometimes we go weeks without touching base because we're currently on two different continents and the time difference in a killer. However, God has blessed me with the opportunity to talk to her quite a bit the last couple of days and has, in turn, brought much-needed clarity on things I've been struggling with in recent weeks.

Due to the personal nature of them (and y'all know I don't like to talk about my most private life) and out of respect for her, I can't say what we talked about. However, I can say that I'm sure that the Holy Spirit used her to get me to open my eyes to things I was either blind to or in denial of. It's not the first time it's happened -- nor do I believe it will be the last time. And, to think, if it hadn't gotten very sick at 4-5 a.m., I would've missed out on being able to have a long conversation with her during the little free time she had!

She hasn't been the only one that I'm sure God has used recently to help me. Two other friends (whom I also consider some of my best friends) also helped me see that there were things holding me back from growing as a person and in my spiritual life; things that incited the feelings of intense fear. It wasn't until I talked to them (all 3) that I felt like God was telling me, "Do not be afraid. I will take care of you and I will help guide you."

I didn't write this post to brag about the amazing friends I have -- although, my goodness, I am completely unworthy of such friendships! The point of this blog was a gentle reminder to listen to others carefully. It's so easy to dismiss someone's advice or conversation, thinking they have no right to get involved in your time or, worse, think you know better than they do. It's that pride that pops up and can make you miss so many helpful things.

Of course, not all advice will be good. I've received more terrible advice than good. I think that's what occasionally causes me to let words go in through one ear and come out the other. That and pride. Still, I think some of us are so used to getting advice that isn't edifying that we tune out the good; that we fail to listen to God's voice through those who know us best.

I guess this is my public "thank you" to both my wonderful friends and, most of all, to God. During this time when I felt the most vulnerable (and I do feel it most when I'm so sick that I wonder if a trip to urgent care is in the cards for me), He was able to speak to me through those whose advice I most trust and value. Now I'm going to take what was said to me and put it into practice.

Anyway, just a little something I wanted to share. Oh, and please say a prayer for me if you can. Whether it's just a really, really bad case of indigestion and/or whether they're spiritual attacks, I could really use the smallest prayer if you can spare it. God reward you!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Impatience and My Plans vs God's Plans

Happy traditional feast of St. Benedict! I finished the novena for his intercession last night... but I won't tell you what I asked for until a bit later. ;)

Obviously, this "daily blogging" thing isn't going to work out this Lent. Boo! I really wanted to do it but God seems to have other plans for me, a theme that has been recurring for me these past 2 weeks. Well, longer than that but it's been more obvious lately. I make plans and God seems to have other plans for me... and that's perfectly fine.

I have plans to do all my work early in the week... other (slightly more important) things pop up, causing me to not write a single thing until the due date. Thankfully, I know what I'm going to write; I just need to find the time to write and submit the posts.

I have plans to blog... I end up not even touching my laptop for a couple of days due to all the things that pop up. Thankfully, I don't think anyone actually minds so I'm good.

I have plans to attend Mass on Monday afternoon... and I end up going to Mass Tuesday evening. Not that I minded; I ended up going on St. Joseph's feast day with good friends!

I plan to go to the library to return a book on Sts. Louis, Zelie, and Therese... and I'm met with lightning and thunder, forcing me back home until the following day. Yes, I paid the fine for being a day late, too. It ended up working out for me since I got to read more of the book.

I plan on getting a certain ingredient for something I'm craving... and I can't find it anywhere. Oh well. I ended up getting something else with more iron and other vitamins and will probably be better for me in the long run.

All of these are good reminders that my plans are never as good as God's plans for me. I've seen it before, several times. The most dramatic was me not being able to attend university in England as was planned, not knowing that my father would be diagnosed with cancer for a second time... and not knowing he would pass away from it.

Another costly example was me feeling that God was calling me down a certain career path and me, very obstinately, saying, "But God, I/my family needs X, Y, Z and I can't see how going down that path is going to help so I'm going to do A and/or B." I'm literally paying for that terrible mistake (read: student loans).

I'm currently struggling with having patience and trusting God in two areas of my life: where I am to become a Benedictine oblate and with the pangs of loneliness.

I've been discerning becoming a Benedictine oblate for over a year now and it's not really going anywhere. It's very frustrating, especially since I've never been more certain that this is what I'm meant to do. I talked to a priest I very much trust on the feast of St. Joseph (of all days!) and he agreed that it would be best for me to attach myself to a more traditional Benedictine monastery. That meant I had to discard the possibility of discerning with the monastery within the  L.A. archdiocese... and keep waiting to hear from one of the monasteries I've reached out to in the past year. One is within the U.S. and two are abroad. That means traveling... but I just don't know where I'm headed. It's hard to stay stagnant when you're sure of something...

... which is also how I've been feeling about my (large v) vocation. I'm the first to joke about being single and to admit that I'm actually pretty content being single but it's changed a bit recently. I'm sure it's because it's Lent but I've been feeling that pang of loneliness quite intensely these past two weeks. I feel like I'm stuck and I can't move forward no matter how much I try (and, trust me, I've tried despite my dislike of dating). I know it's all about God's timing but my human nature is feeling the ache and it's been weighing heavily on my heart, especially today. I'm sure reading about the lives of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin this week didn't help very much. Not that I blame them -- they gave me major "relationship goals" -- but it's so hard to see (or read about) those who've been able to grow, spiritually, thanks to their taking their vocations seriously.

Is anyone else feeling the impatience of waiting for whatever God has in store for you more acutely during Lent? It doesn't even have to be a discernment to a third order or waiting for your future spouse. It can be waiting for a job promotion, for a child, or news on something important to you. If so, let me know (you don't have to tell me what it's you're waiting for) and I'll add you to my prayers list.

Anyway, just a quick little blog about my struggles so far this Lent. It seems like it's going to quite the "Lent-y Lent," doesn't it? lol. Oh! And please don't send me a cliche "trust God" and "all in His own timing" comment because 1) yes, I know, 2) I'm trying, very, very hard and 3) it actually makes me feel worse, not better.

I hope you're all having a lovely week thus far!

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

Getting Ridiculed for Innocence

We're having lovely spring-early summer weather so I'm sitting on the couch in the living room with the front door open. I can see the beautiful, cloudless blue sky as well as the lush green grass that is growing in our front lawn. I opened the windows to let the breeze and the sunshine in after weeks of cold and rain. "Sweet William (and Lily at the Valley)" by Nat King Cole is playing as I watch butterflies fly through the sky.

Ladies and gentlemen, this moment is complete bliss for me... and, thankfully, I'm not missing it by being on social media or on my cell phone. Insert dreamy sigh here. I'm SO ready for the official beginning of my favorite season (Spring!) next week. :D

Anyway, that's not why I'm blogging today. I'm blogging to comment on an article I read on the "Value of Innocence" on Verily's website. Trust me, how I started this blog is connected to this article...

The article got me thinking about how much I myself value it... and how I'm ridiculed for it. In fact, the more I read, the more I nodded and felt like the writer was a kindred spirit.

Those who know me know that I hate cussing/cursing. I see no need for it. There are so many other words in the English language that will do a better job at expressing negative emotions. When I stub my toe or get a painful injection, I tend to say, "Oh, son of a biscuit!" or "Oh, you flipping burger muncher..." Seriously, I've made many nurses and doctors laugh with my exclamations.

I prefer to keep what I watch, listen to, and read as "squeaky clean" as possible. I know I'm an adult and therefore can watch intimate/racy scenes in shows and movies but I don't like to. In fact, I will sometimes double check with friends who've watched something before I have to make sure it's something I would be comfortable watching. Even then, it takes me a while to "get" certain things said in films.

e.g. I can't watch a one-time favorite Gene Kelly movie, On the Town, because it took me a while to figure out what they were talking about. Yes, I'm serious. Just take a look at my favorite movie: Roman Holiday. I adore it and I prefer movies made before the 1960s because they tend to be a little cleaner than what's popular now.

Same with music lyrics. I tend to not listen to most modern songs for the same reason; there are so much profanity and crass remarks that make me uncomfortable. Also, my mind is so innocent (yes, I'm calling it for what it is) that I don't get the innuendos until much, much later on. At that point, I simply blush and am no longer able to listen to the song.

Now, before I go on, I'm going to say: this is all according to my preferences. I'm not saying you're a bad or sinful person if you have no issues with these things. I'm saying I have issues with them and I don't feel comfortable with them and that's why I will avoid them. Okay? Because I've had people rip into me for stating my preferences on social media before.

And what about that? I'm truly puzzled as to why my preferences bother people so much. If I state that I don't see the point to cussing or why I prefer not to see certain things, why do people feel the need to justify why they do it when I'm clearly talking about myself and not them?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard the words "prude," "Amish," "innocent" (in a hypercritical tone, accompanied with a stink face), "old-fashioned" and "holier-than-thou" thrown my way. I've been mocked and teased for my innocence. And, yes, I'll keep using that word because -- as the writer in the article wrote -- I'm going to try to do my part in trying to get people to stop using the word in a derogatory manner.

Look, I know it's "weird" for a 33-year-old woman to tend to like things that are considered innocent but I do. I'm not going to apologize for it, either. I know it seems like I'm doing it just to be counter-cultural or, even worse, to appear like I'm holier than others but it's just how I've always been. Seriously, ask anyone who has known me for over a decade and they'll confirm this fact. These are my preferences (have I stressed that enough?) and this is the kind of life I want to lead. Again, I'm truly puzzled as to why people get offended by my choices but it's something I encounter way more often than y'all would guess.

Anyone else in the same boat? If so, just know that you're not alone. We may seemingly be in the minority but we exist.

Kindred spirits, don't let anyone make you feel bad for your choices. Don't apologize when others aren't comfortable with your preferences.

Anyway, just something I wanted to share while I had the chance since I'm having a nice, leisurely day today. I'm about to go plan for tomorrow -- St. Patrick's Day -- since I'm serious Hibernophile. I'm so excited that the day finally landed on a Sunday during Lent since we get "mini-Easters" on Sundays during Lent. I don't know when it'll happen again so I'm going to make the most out of it!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

When the Unexpected Happens

"You didn't blog for three days!" True.

"You were supposed to." Did I make it part of my Lenten penance? Yes. Am I going to beat myself over the fact that I went a couple of days without blogging? No.

Why? Because life happens.

Did I anticipate my mother getting injured and being at the hospital for more hours than we had anticipated on Tuesday? No. (side note: she'll be okay; she just has to allow herself time to rest as much as possible and it'll take a couple of weeks for her injury to mend. Please say a prayer for her since she's super active... and she still has to work despite her injury.)

Did I think that all of that -- and another hiccup that didn't let me sleep until 5 a.m. the next morning, thus leaving me more fatigued -- was going to make me fall behind on things that were more important than blogging or some of my other self-imposed Lenten penances? No.

Did I need yesterday to recover (read: get 11 hours of much-needed sleep), catching up on things I'd fallen behind on, and then unwind from the events of the previous days? Absolutely.

Life happens. This is why I'm trying to not let a schedule or routine box me in; because life happens and then I feel the (self-imposed) pressure to do what I planned for myself. This is something that is hard for me to let go of.

I like routines. I like to plan things in advance. When something happens and things don't go according to plan, I have a tendency to get frustrated and anxious about squeezing what I have written down in my planner into the little time I have left. Type-A problem? Most likely. But I'm trying to change.

I wasn't always this way. I think this started when I started suffering from panic attacks and social anxiety. My need for control over something -- anything! -- manifested itself in my planning things and carrying them out, no matter what. Since I felt out of control when I had the panic attacks, I clung to what I could control. While -- thanks be to God! -- I no longer have panic attacks (or, at the very least, very rarely), the habit has stuck around.

This happened at a time when I didn't trust in God... or even think about Him. It was at a time when I was away from the Church and was years away from reverting. It became a terrible habit that I still struggle to let go.

This is one of my Lenten penances -- letting go. Cue the Frozen song that seemingly everyone hates. lol. Seriously, though, it's not easy. It's years of a terrible habit that reminds me that I've yet to master the art of letting God have complete control of my life; to remind myself that I have no control over... and if I do have control over something, things can always change and that's okay.

When the unexpected happens, I'm learning to adapt to it... something I once was moderately good at doing. I'm learning to not make so many plans but to also be prepared for anything that may happen. It's an interesting balance -- being prepared but not having a backup plan... and a plan to the back-up plan.

Do I want to trust God more? Yes! Of course! Will it be easy with this terrible habit? No. But, then again, nothing worth doing is easy, right? There will always be obstacles on this journey to Heaven. This is where I put my money where my mouth is and trust God to send me the graces necessary to overcome this habit.

Do any of you struggle with this problem? Has anyone overcome it? If so, please feel free to send me your tips.

Anyway, these are my thoughts for the day... and an explanation for why I was M.I.A. from blogging for a couple of days.

Now, unto the articles that I have due today and this week (one of which I'm late on).

I hope your first week of Lenten has gone better than mine. ;)

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

A Week Without Social Media: Coming to Terms With My Insignificance

Just a quick note before I begin: I've decided to modify my blogging days during Lent. I'll be blogging every day, Mondays through Fridays, with the weekend off to catch up on anything left over from the week (e.g. emails). That way I don't burn myself out writing, too.

I know some of you are wondering how it's been now that I've gone a full week without social media. Has it been hard? Has it been easy? Did I crack yet? Was I able to go through with my plans to avoid social media on Sundays as well? Y'all... it's only been a week! lol. Having said that, I've had some interesting insights that may change the way I use social media from now on.

In all honesty, it's been an adjustment I've needed to get used to but it's far easier than I had anticipated. I've been using Facebook since 2004, when it was called The Facebook and you needed a college/university email to join the site (Santa Monica College alum over here). Before that, I used Myspace from their early days (2003) until about my reversion in 2006. I've been an active Twitter user since January 2008, with only a couple of months off in late 2017.

Social media has been a part of my life for my entire adult life -- nearly 16 years and counting. I was 18 years in 2003 when Myspace began. I was 19 when I joined Facebook in 2004. I joined Twitter as a 22-year-old. Basically, my late teens into early 30s have been spent using social media to communicate with others... and meet new friends. Still, it wasn't until perhaps my early to mid-20s when "Catholic Twitter" began that the addiction took hold.

I'm not blaming Catholic Twitter for my social media addiction. Enough research has been made to present us the cold, hard facts that social media and smartphone developers have purposely "brain hacked" us into becoming addicted to both. I have books I can recommend if you want to read for yourself but a quick Google search will bring up some of the articles for those who don't want or have the time to read long books on the subject.

I have so many fond memories of the OG Catholic Twitter members and of Matthew Warner compiling a list of all of few "openly Catholic" accounts on Twitter. So many of us met offline. Some of my now-best friends were people I met in those early days. Some of these people met, fell in love, and married thanks to early Catholic Twitter days. As the years passed, so many of the "OG" members have abandoned the platform because of all the drama. For those of us who were around in the early days (2008-2010), we know how much different it was then; how we miss the "golden age of Catholic Twitter."

Being away from social media this week, I was surprised at how, well, comfortable I felt without it. It was like going back home. It's sort of like when you revisit somewhere or something you used to love as a child and you have all those wonderful memories of it flooding back to you. That's how it feels.

In fact, I had this moment while praying the Rosary when these words flowed out of mind and heart. I wrote them down on a piece of paper on Saturday night because I felt they were important for me to remember later on.
"This break without social media, as well as the regular blogging, reminds me of my early reversion days; how hungry I was for the faith and for being "all in" in my relationship with God. Becoming an urban hermit is giving me a renewal of faith I haven't felt in a long time. I've been on Twitter since January '08; 11 years. I may keep my acccount as is (now) long after Lent, maybe checking my messages and replies 1-2 times a month."
It's amazing. This no social media and regular blogging has reminded me of my early reversion days (circa 2006 - 2008). In those days, I went by Miss CNW (Catholic Nerd Writer) and was anonymous. I wrote about my experience returning to the Faith after being away from the Church from ages 13 through 21. As I wrote in the note to myself, I had a real hunger to completely devote myself to learning as much as I could about the faith. Since I was anonymous online, I didn't have this immense pressure (which, admittedly, I put on myself) to be this "perfect Catholic." It was just me and this new, exciting journey in which I devoted myself to rebuilding my relationship with God.

Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of that. I became more preoccupied with doing things "the right way" because I wanted to live up to people's (or my own) unrealistic expectations of what I was supposed to be like or how I was supposed to behave. Y'all may know what I mean: you try to present the positive aspects while covering the ugly. I've written the good and bad but the ego and the "likes" on social media definitely affected how I used social media as well as what I blogged about.

(Side note: If you ever wondered what life was pre-social media addiction, my first novel, Will and Lina: When Two Worlds Collide, is loosely based on what my adventures were like... minus a Will. Also, the sequel, Will and Lina: London Calling, is more fiction than truth. And, no, I get no commission -- aside from royalty payments -- if you click on those links and order either books. Just normal links to novels.)

Taking a break from social media and regularly blogging has been a much-needed breath of fresh air for me. It has renewed that fire in my soul to detach myself from the world, reform my prideful ways, and devote myself to God as much as possible without becoming a religious sister (not my vocation).

Of course, I can never recreate what my early reversion days were like. I will never be that wide-eyed, unjaded 21-22-year-old who had a lot of learning to do. I'm now a 33-year-old young woman who knows more about the beauty and glory of the Church but still have so much left to learn. Since I began my blog, I've graduated from college... I've gone after two more degrees... I've suffered personal highs and lows... I've lost my father to cancer. All of that has changed who I am, but perhaps not as drastically as what social media has done to me.

I honestly don't want to return to social media... though I know I have to keep using it for work. I may just check my messages once a week or twice a month but I can't imagine ever going back. I think both the influence of my best friend (who logs into social once every couple of months and just to check any mentions) and the Holy Spirit opening my eyes have gotten me to this place. Of course, I know the "danger" of that is that people will stop following my accounts because, "Well, if she's not going to read my tweets or interact with me, why should I keep following her?" However -- and I don't mean to be rude or disrespectful -- I don't care.

I don't care if I lose followers on social media. The "likes" and "retweets" will no longer have any sway with me. Frankly, my pride would be wounded... and that would be completely wonderful because it would remind me that I'm nobody important or special. I'm just an ordinary young woman who likes to write. That's it.

My life is nothing extraordinary. In fact, it's absolutely dull. I completely appreciate that you, lovely readers, take time out of your days to read my ramblings but I feel like I don't have much to offer that is unique. There are so many other writers who are better than I am; who have better content to offer.

I recognize that God has given me a gift for writing and words because I've had people telling me that... but I don't want to get caught up in thinking about it. If I do, that's when pride creeps in and it spoils the gift God has given me. And, no, I'm not saying this as a way to fish for compliments. It's just how I feel.

So, how am I feeling a week into my "no social media" Lenten penance? Wonderful! It feels like I've been freed from being a slave to it. It has been, without a doubt, the best decision that I've made in recent months. I won't go back to using social media as I used to. I don't want the egoism, the drama, or the poor decisions made using social media. The penance part is all interior -- reminding myself of my unworthiness and insignificance in the world because, let's be honest, the numbers go to our heads... or, at the very least, they did to me.

We'll see how things go next week because this week begins the second phase of my social media and smartphone "break-up." Wish me luck. ;)

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

As always, thank you so much for reading!

The Big Bullseye On My Back

Have I ever told you guys that a very well-known apologist once told me that I have a giant bullseye on my back? True story. I won't get into specific detail but this came up when he asked me what I did for a living. I told him I wrote for Catholic publications and was a published author. Digging a bit deeper, I told him that I started writing young adult/new adult novels because I was sick and tired of the smut contained in the novels aimed for these demographics.

His response? "You have a giant bullseye on your back. The devil is going to keep attacking you because you're doing something that undermines what he's trying to do." (By the way, I'm paraphrasing him since I'm terrible at word-for-word recollections.) Add the fact that I attend solely Latin Masses (and the devil hates Latin, be-tee-dubs) and, well, I am a walking bullseye for spiritual attacks. I'm sure the devil loves it when I can't attend Mass for that same reason.

As many of you long-time readers know, the third novel has been one neverending roller coaster ride. I started it during the summer of 2017 and have had to put it on the backburner for months at a time because things always come up. Not only that, something always happens when I write. If I work on the novel one night, something will go wrong the next day... almost without fail. That's partially what led this apologist to say these words to me.

I had planned on publishing the novel in December but that obviously didn't happen. Then I aimed for Valentine's Day. Nope, that didn't happen either. Every time I try to finish editing it to publish it -- or get feedback on it -- nothing ever happens because of x, y, and z.

This Lent, I want to really work on this thing and get it done. My hope is to have the novel published shortly after Easter Sunday. I know what happens every time I attempt to move forward but I cannot live in fear. I need to read/pray Psalm 91 (or Psalm 90 if you're a fellow Douay-Rheims Bible reader) and keep the holy water near. If things happen, they happen. As the apologist suggested, I need to frequent the sacraments and ignore whatever gets thrown my way. I cannot be afraid of suffering a little, especially since I've felt pulled to write/publish this novel for nearly 2 years now. I don't think  the novel is anything special or extraordinary but, golly, someone/something does not want me to finish it for whatever reason.

Why share this today? Because Fridays are my busy writing day today. I usually have my EpicPew articles due today and I sometimes also have other freelance work due today. I've already submitted my EP article (hint: it combines pop culture, cinema, and deadly sins) and now I have the rest of tonight and/or all of tomorrow to work on the novel.

Say a prayer for me. If I usually get these obstacles thrown my way during Ordinary Time, I can't even imagine what things may be like during Lent.

That's all I'm sharing today. It's getting late and I still haven't had dinner... and it's Compline time, so, you know, I need to go do both of those things.

I hope y'all were able to get some Friday Lenten traditions (e.g. Stations of the Cross) done today! I had a full day with lots of driving so I'm hoping to do that next Friday. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Prayer Interruptions

Okay, so, I'm definitely going to be doing these blog posts at random times when I know I have time instead of a set time every day. Let's see how this experiment goes...

You know what I've noticed lately? That people automatically assume that you're doing something not prayer-related if they see you using your iPod touch or smartphone. I keep getting interrupted when doing the Liturgy of the Hours because I use the BrevMeum app. I guess people assume I'm wasting time on something else and that it's okay for them to interrupt whatever I'm looking at. (side note: I'm not even going to comment on how I rude I think this is in general.) I mean, it's understandable to assume that I may be wasting time on something trivial; a lot of people use for their tablets and/or smartphones for things other than prayer. However, some of us do use them for such purposes. 

I really want to get the Monastic Diurnal (as recommended for Benedictine oblates) so that I can get something physical to hold -- that isn't on a screen -- to do the LOTH but it's not cheap. Yes, I know I can get it on Amazon for a lower price. However, in recent weeks I've decided to buy directly from monasteries, convents, and authentically Catholic websites as the money goes straight to them instead of a giant corporation who may be donating some of the money to Planned Parenthood or another questionable place. Yes, that's why I linked the Monastic Diurnal to Clear Creek Abbey, home to awesome Benedictine monks.

Also, I don't know about anyone else but it becomes really hard for me to concentrate on my prayer once again after I get interrupted midway through the prayer. I simply cannot get back into that laser-focus concentration on what I'm reading/praying... and then I get annoyed at the person/interruption. I know they usually don't mean to do it but it's an annoyance I need to work on. Does anyone have a similar problem? Has anyone been able to overcome this problem? Please let me know any tips you may have!

Not much to report on today, beyond the things I talked about...

Wait, no... one cool thing: I received a message about how I have become a founding member to an amazing apostolate started at my home parish. I don't know if I'm able to talk about it but it's something that, as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to join in. I'll try to see if I can mention if -- I'll ask the person who started the apostolate -- and write about it in a future post. Let's just say that it involves prayer and that I will never know the end results until I (God willing) get to Heaven.

Okay, now I have nothing else to add. lol. The social media fast is going okay. I still don't miss it at all... although Facebook is starting to send me all these emails about how I'm missing out on *this person's* post or *that person's* video. Sorry, Facebook, but this girl is not experiencing any FOMO. Twitter's emails have also begun but they feel less needy. The only issue I'm having is that I still occasionally (accidentally) type in Twitter or Facebook and am greeted by the home page, asking for my username and password before I realize what I've done. "Old habits die hard" indeed!

My phone doesn't get used very much these days. I have it on "Do Not Disturb" or completely off most of the time. To be quite honest, only 3 people have been added to my "favorites" list so that their calls and/or messages can get through... and one of them is my mother. I wasn't kidding when I said I was going to become somewhat of an urban hermit this Lent. Also, I can't believe the battery lasts me all day, especially since it's not getting drained by the Instagram app (my time-waster of choice) or checking social media. I'm still a couple of days from the official "break-up" with it but this trial separation is going well. For now. lol.

Prayer is going well... except for the whole interruption and having to continue later when I can focus again. I added the same St. Therese book I've used for Lent is about 2009-2010 on a whim yesterday. I figured that since she's playing such a big part in my Lenten plans this year, I might as well go for it.

I know Lent has only just begun but, I am curious, has anyone had to remind themselves (more than once) to stop and not fall back into whatever it is that you've given up for Lent? If you're also on social media fast, are you missing it yet?

Alright, it's 6 p.m. I just prayed the Angelus and now I'm going to go pray Vespers in both the MeumBrev app and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yes, I pray both during the day.

I hope you all have a lovely day!

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