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"People Must Really Need the Prayers..."


This was the thought that popped up in my mind when my hematologist said he wasn't able to get the hip bone part of the bone marrow biopsy the first time. I knew that there would most likely be something that had to "go wrong" since I had so many people asking me to offer up my procedure and the pain up for their prayer intentions. I knew when the prayer requests reached the triple digits on Twitter that I would be in for it so I had mentally prepared myself for it. Still, I kept internally asking St. Giuseppe Moscati to guide the hematologist's hands so there wouldn't be a third try.

For those of you know who have gotten one of these biopsies done before, you know this part is the most painful. Ignorance is bliss (for me) when it comes to these procedures so I didn't even look into what would be involved but, oh, I knew that part of my hip bone was (basically) drilled out during this part. I felt the pain down into my leg. Thankfully, it wasn't excruciating.

I'll admit, I had cried prior to the procedure out of nerves but I was amazingly calm throughout it. I think it was because I knew I was covered in prayers due to the (mind-boggling!) 1k+ people who said they would be praying for me via social media. I woke up that morning and it literally felt as I was completely wrapped up in prayer. I don't know how else to describe it except that it felt like I had a heavy blanket of peace covering every inch of my body.

I tried praying the Rosary during the procedure but my mind went blank during the Second Glorious Mystery (I pray the traditional order and it's the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays). Instead, I ended up focusing on keeping my breathing even and offering up any pain and uncomfortable moments. Oh, and on keeping my body as relaxed as possible to make it easier for the hematologist to get what he needed. It wasn't easy because you want to tense up your muscles.

I drove myself home afterward... and it was not fun. They did the biopsy on my right side which, of course, means I had to use my right leg -- the leg used on the car pedals. The 4-5 mile drive included a lot of teary-eyed "ouch" moments. Walking up the stairs to my second-story apartment brought a couple more tense moments.

The rest of the day was spent trying to find ways of sitting, laying down, standing, and doing other things that wouldn't aggravate the pain. I was sure my mother was going to tie me down to a chair at one point because I kept getting up to do things I normally would. I'm quite active during the day (out of habit) so it was hard for me not to be a "wiggle worm." lol. It doesn't sound so bad but, oh man, there were a ton more tears before the day was over. I couldn't walk or even sit; I mostly had to lay on my left side but that quickly got old when my entire left side became painful and then numb from having all of my weight on it.

Trying to work was hard. I couldn't balance my laptop on my lap or place it in any position that didn't hurt me. I tried standing up to write it but I was too lightheaded and feeling drained to last longer than a minute. Finally, a bit after midnight last night, I gave up and had to send my editor a message telling him that I was sorry but that this week's assignment would be a day late. I couldn't transfer my work (which I ended up starting on my iPod touch as I lay in bed) from email to the website.

Sleeping was a new adventure. Despite having an adjustable bed, I couldn't find a position in which I was comfortable enough to sleep. An hour (and more exhaustion-induced tears) later -- 12 hours after the biopsy -- I was somehow able to flip myself onto my stomach and I passed out for about 11 hours. Yep, I was that tired.

Today has been a new adventurous day. The pain is worse, in a way. I can move a little easier but the tenderness makes the pain more acute. As I write this, I'm in a very uncomfortable position with my the head of my adjustable bed lifted up as much as possible. My back hurts and part of my left side is numb (again) from all the weight on it but I just thank God that I can move and stand more than yesterday.

I'm just going to keep looking at the crucifix in my room and try to unite my pain with His. Yesterday, the first time I was able to get in bed post-biopsy, I looked at it and I realized that I had never loved Him as much as I did at that moment. Though I can never compare my little pain to his immense pain, I can at least try to understand -- in my fragile human way -- what He endured for the sake of humanity.

So, that's what the journey of a bone marrow biopsy has been. I'm obviously still in recovery mode and will be for a couple more days. I will get my biopsy results on June 5th so please keep that in your prayers. I've resigned myself to getting whatever results may come from it; I just want them to figure out what's been making me sick for so long.

I will continue to pray for those who've asked for prayers. Thank you all so much for all your prayers, love, and support!

God bless you all!


I'm Tired. I'm Angry. I Will No Longer Be Ashamed.


I know; I've gone weeks without updating. I have a good reason... which I wasn't going to blog about but I've reached the point where anger has taken over so now I feel like I have to speak out on this.

I stopped writing because I've been sick. Really sick. I know that, in the past, I've shared my health journey because some of you felt you could relate to it and no one else was talking about. A few months ago, someone I really admired and looked up to -- who shall be unnamed -- shamed me into not only staying quiet about it but also into deleting all my past posts about my health. Seriously, try to search for the posts; they're gone.

I won't go into details but let's just say that after our conversation, I felt ashamed for sharing my health journey -- which strongly ties into my spiritual journey. I felt like I was just asking for attention, even though I've never liked any attention and I thought that sharing my experience would help at least one other person who thought they were the only one struggling.

We live in a society that only posts "Instagram-worthy" pictures; who present perfect lives that seem unattainable and are envy-inducing. I wanted to be real and share the good that God has brought out in the middle of the bad. But, no. I was doing it for attention and, furthermore, "who's going to want someone who is always talking about her poor health? No guy will."  Ouch. Twist the knife a bit more because it didn't quite hurt the first time.

I've reached the point where I'm angry. I'm angry at myself for letting the person get to me. I'm angry that this has affected me in a much bigger way than I had wished. I'm angry that I've had to keep quiet and, basically, lie (by omitting what was really going on) to those closest to me.

No, I'm not okay. I was doing really, really well for a while and then, suddenly, my health took a massive nose dive. I haven't been okay for weeks. After a week of back-to-back bad news, I'm tired of having to plaster a smile and act like nothing's wrong. I'm tired, literally and figuratively. I have no energy left to keep up the facade.

There is beauty in suffering. I feel closest to God when my health is as bad as it is now. When I'm at my weakest -- mentally, physically, and emotionally -- is when I see the most spiritual growth. God has blessed me with my crosses (in the form of health issues and the loneliness that comes from being perpetually single and desiring a family) which have made me the woman I am now.

Do you know who I was before I got sick? I was a proud and vain girl. I hated who I was. Being sick has helped me rid of those terrible characteristics I always had growing up. I'm not fully where I want to be in terms of that -- I still have moments of pride and vanity -- but God has mercifully humbled me and continues to do so through these illnesses. If good things come out of my health struggles, I welcome them. I thank God for keeping me from a path that would've strayed me further from Heaven.

And, about the guy thing, you know what? If God wants me to remain single and always have that longing for a husband and children, I will offer it up for those who suffer. If I, as the person who shamed me into staying quiet said, end up single for the rest of my life because no man will want to help me carry my crosses, I know one man who will -- Jesus Christ. He didn't carry His cross and give up His life for nothing. I will just focus on my love for Him and unite my suffering to His. If there is a man, brave enough to accept me as I am, it will be a tremendous blessing but I am resigned to either outcome. It's about doing God's will, not my own.

So, no, I will no longer feel ashamed for sharing my faith journey and my health journey. If I want to ask prayers because I'm having a bone marrow biopsy on the 22nd (which I am; this is why I'm doing a double novena to Our Lady of Montserrat and St. Giuseppe Moscati, beginning today)... because my liver isn't functioning as it should... because my body is destroying my platelets and red blood count without any scientific explanation (which has my hematologist stumped)... because other things in my blood work came back abnormal... because I've been struggling with the depression that comes with everything I've gone through lately, I will.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest because I've been carrying it around for literally months and I was tired of it. I'm sorry for the rant but I just had to say it. Maybe now I will also be able to recover a bit better; not having to feel so alone and feeling like I should be quiet because no one cares about me or what's going on with me. Yes, I've felt that way for months.

Oh, and if you're wondering what this means in regards to my oblate retreat next month: I don't know. I got cleared by the hematologist to fly but not my primary physician. I should know (hopefully) tomorrow whether she also gives me the okay to go. In the meantime, I'm going to try to rest as much as I can, eat and sleep well, stay hydrated, walk for a minimum of an hour despite the fatigue (doctor's orders because my heart needs it), and keep my stress levels as low as possible so that my body can try to recover before the trip. I still plan on going, even if I have to find the additional funds to be able to afford a roomette on Amtrak if I cannot take a plane. If my doctor says I can't go, even on the train, I will refund anyone who wants their money back (from the GoFundMe fundraiser).

Anyway, now that I've given y'all an update and an explanation for my silence, I think I'm going to go take a nap. I've been feeling very exhausted -- I can't sleep enough hours in the day -- and I need to rest. I will gladly offer some of this up for anyone who could use the prayers.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!


I Don't Think God Could Make It Any Clearer...

My brand new Rosary and magnet.
Sometimes God leaves you speechless... and today was one of those days for me.

It all started when a fellow parishioner offered to take our prayers with her on her European Marian pilgrimage during Lent. I asked her to pray for two specific intentions, one of them being my vocation (big v). As I had a particularly (spiritually) arid Lent (which I hope to blog about soon), I knew I needed all the prayers I could get. She told me she would pray for me and I told her I would pray for her and her trip as well. We didn't know each other but I knew I could trust her with my intentions.

Fast forward to this week. She reached out to me a couple of days ago to let me know that she prayed for me at Lourdes, Fatima, and Montserrat. Not only that, but she had also brought something for me. I didn't know what it was but we agreed to meet up during one of the daily Masses. After daily Mass (my happy place, be-tee-dubs) this afternoon, she looked for me, nearly missing me because I didn't know what she looked like and she wasn't too sure what I looked like. Eventually, we found each other and she handed me the gifts: a magnet and a Rosary from Montserrat.

Now, I had never heard of Our Lady of Montserrat before. I'd heard the name of Montserrat because it's the first name of a professor at my alma mater but I didn't know much about Our Lady's connection. The lovely woman who prayed for me informed me that it was hard to get to the town/shrine; that it was up in the mountains. She also explained that when she saw the Rosary, she immediately thought of me; that "Our Lady sent it" to me.  Yes, straight quote. She bought it for me. I could feel tears welling up so I asked her if I could give her a hug, buying myself some time to not let the waterworks spring up in my eyes.

When I got home, I decided to look up the story of Our Lady of Montserrat... and I was immediately blown away. Many saints have made a pilgrimage to her shrine, including St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Francis Borgia, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Joseph Calasanctius, St. Anthony Mary Claret, and St. Ignatius of Loyola. In fact, it's said that St. Ignatius apparently laid down his sword and began his mission right after visiting the image; that he began writing his Spiritual Exercises shortly after his visit.

There are a number of things that I felt were a connection:

First, Our Lady of Montserrat is located in Catalonia, Spain... a.k.a. the Motherland; I'm of Spanish descent. In fact, I believe my mother's maiden surname is of Catalan origin. 

Second, next to the shrine is a hospital and an infirmary -- which goes with my second intention (my health).

Third, the fact that St. Ignatius of Loyola began his vocation after visiting the Shrine; I had asked for prayers for clarity on my vocation.

Fourth, the shrine is run by -- get ready for it -- Benedictine monks! They've been in charge of the shrine for centuries.

I don't think any of that is a coincidence, especially the latter points. I don't think God could make it any clearer for me. Out of all the places the lovely woman visited, it was at Montserrat where she felt that pull to get me the Rosary -- not knowing my discernment on becoming a Benedictine oblate. 

I don't know what it means regarding my health or the other part of my (big v) vocation. I don't know if this means we'll get answers as to why I've had chronically low platelets for the past decade or why my red blood count is stubbornly on the low side as well. I don't know if I will end up married or single, but I do know that the Benedictine oblate life is for me. I'm just happy that it looks like God has not only heard my prayers but is also helping me along the way. As I've always said, I'm prepared to do whatever His will is... and it looks like I may be on the right track.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it was just too mind-blowing for me not to share... and I love sharing my faith journey with y'all. :)

I hope you are all having a lovely Octave week of Easter! :D 

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


How to Make Capirotada for Good Friday (Recipe)

(Originally posted on EpicPew, March 30, 2018.)

When my late father was alive, he used to make a delicious dessert called capirotada. I never realized the significance of it or its ties to the Lenten season until after he passed away. While this traditional Mexican dish is served throughout Lent, it’s most appropriate to on Good Friday. “Why?” you may ask. Because each of the ingredients is symbolic of what we commemorate on Good Friday.

Capirotada reminds us of Christ’s suffering on the cross. The cloves used in the recipe reminds us of the nails used to crucify Christ on the cross and the cinnamon sticks represent the cross. The syrup is symbolic of the precious blood and the melted cheese reminds us of the Holy Shroud used to cover his body when taken down from the cross.

While there are many different recipes floating out on the internet, I found out that closely resembles the one my own father used.

Here is the recipe (taken from Mexican In My Kitchen) you can use to make for yourself:

Ingredients


  • 12 Ounces About 1 1/4 cup of piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons of melted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 16 slices 1/3” thick of Bolillo (French bread)
  • 3/4 cup of Cotija Cheese
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanut
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes

Instructions

Preheat oven at 350F. In a medium-size pot place the Piloncillo, cinnamon stick, cloves, and water. Place in the stove and melt in medium heat. ( If you have a hard time cutting the piloncillo for the amount needed, place it in your microwave for intervals of 30 seconds until it is softened enough to cut. Be careful while removing it out of the microwave since it gets extremely hot.)

Mix the melted butter with the oil and brush over the slices of bread. Place in a baking tray and bake 8 minutes and then turn over to bake 5 more minutes. The bread should have a deep golden color.
Start assembling the slices of bread in a round ovenproof dish. With the help of a ladle slowly pour syrup over the bread making sure the bread absorbs the syrup, do not let it go to the bottom of the dish in order to have enough syrup to moist all the bread pieces. Better yet dip the bread into the syrup to get an even moist crumb.

Top the first layer of bread with cheese, raisins, and peanut or any other fruit or nuts you would like to add according to the suggestions given above or your own.

Place another layer or bread and continue the process as in step 4.

Pour the remaining syrup over the last layer of bread and top with the cheese, raisins, and peanut. Dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter cut in small cubes. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes until the top crust is golden and the lower layers are moist. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe Notes
some variations to this recipe:
• Fruits are also found in some recipes, the most common are fried plantain, bananas and apples.
• Prunes, cranberries, or other dried fruit are also used instead of the raisins, even shredded coconut.
• The same applies to the peanuts, any other nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts are used.
• Other cheeses used as a substitute are Mexican Manchego, Monterrey Jack, and Mild White Cheddar and even parmesan mixed with Mexican Queso Fresco.

My Benedictine Journey: From the Beginning to the GoFundMe Fundraiser


This past Saturday I opened up a GoFundMe account to help raise the Oblate novitiate trip funds. I exhausted all other options and had a number of people suggest fundraising the trip that way so I thought, "Why not?" Before I opened it, though, I did the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena in honor of his birthday. It ended on Friday and I opened up the account on his birthday, Saturday the 6th. I prayed, "If it's God's will for me and if it will enrich my spiritual life, please intercede and help me raise the funds."

I was at peace when I opened the account. "Even if I only get $300, it'll be a big help," I kept telling myself. Counting what I have in savings, I thought I'd need roughly $800 more, which was the goal I set. GoFundMe suggested I ask for $1,000 but I didn't want to take advantage of others' generosities. I knew $800 would be what I needed. Yes, GoFundMe took a small chunk out of the donations (yes, they charge you a percentage so I won't get the full $800) but I didn't want to be greedy. Never in my wildest dreams did I think those $800 would be raised in only 11 hours! I thought it was going to take a couple of weeks, to be honest. I even took this screenshot when I got home (after getting an email that the trip was funded) to preserve that memory.


I remain speechless and incredibly grateful to everyone who donated and prayed for me. I had complete strangers donate... something I'm still trying to wrap my head around. I teared up... and I still want to tear up as I write this.

Some of the kind people who donated don't know my Benedictine Oblate journey (or me, at all) so I thought I'd share it. I'll try to keep it short and sweet because y'all know I have a tendency to write a little too much. lol. The longer version of the explanation on how I settled on the Benedictines can be read here: Becoming Benedictine.

As I wrote on the GoFundMe (side note: I keep typing "GodFundMe," lol) page, this journey began 4-5 years ago. I had initially been attracted to the Dominicans and the Carmelites. My (then) spiritual director thought the Dominicans would be a good fit for my academically-inclined nature but, as the time went on, he encouraged me to reconsider the Benedictines; he saw what I didn't -- that they were going to be the perfect fit for me. As advised, I waited until I finished school to really discern joining a third order as a laywoman since I have no religious vocation (*le sigh*). 

When I heard about the earthquake in Norcia in late 2016, something stirred up in me. I still can't explain it but it felt very personal to me -- like it had deeply affected me even though I didn't have any ties to them. So, when I put my novels up for sale that winter, I donated all my royalties (and a little more from me) to their efforts to rebuild their lives in Norcia. I felt like my heart belonged to that little town, not knowing that, 2 years later I would reach out to them about possibly becoming an Oblate attached to their monastery.

During Lent 2018, after reading the Rule of St. Benedict and The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, I dug deeper into learning as much as I could about the Benedictine spirituality. The more I learned,  the more at home I felt. Then I had an American Benedictine Oblate reach out to me about helping her connect with a Spanish author; an Oblate attached to Norcia. I took it as a sign to move forward with it -- starting my Oblate journey.

I began sending inquiries to monasteries that accepted distance oblates since the Benedictine monastery in the L.A. Archdiocese was not the right fit for me. I reached out to the Monks of Norcia and the ones at Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. I heard from Clear Creek first (and more often) but there were too many obstacles over several months that made it clear that it wouldn't work out.

I had to wait to hear from Norcia but it was well worth it in the end. I would go several weeks and/or months between emails but I never gave up hope. I had already implemented part of what is required of an Oblate into my daily life (e.g. Divine Office, Lectio Divina, etc.). While I got impatient at times, I still trusted that God would help guide me. If He was making me wait, it was for a reason. Perhaps I needed to be 100% sure that this is what I wanted. Maybe I needed to work on my patience. Perhaps I needed to make the changes necessary to prove to myself that I could handle what is asked of an Oblate. 

Then I received the news that I would be able to begin my novitiate over the summer and I was overjoyed! Then I was a little worried, "How am I going to pay for this trip?" I asked around and no one had any other suggestions except to create a GoFundMe account. I waited until the end of the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati novena to make it and, well, we know the results from it! I even laughed (with tears in my eyes) and said, "Bl. Pier Giorgio, aren't I supposed to give you a gift, not the other way around?" I also thought to myself, "If I needed a clear sign that this was God's will for me, there's absolutely no doubt now!"

As I've said before, I've never felt more at peace about any decision in my life as I do about becoming a Benedictine oblate attached to the monastery at Norcia. This is where I feel like my heart is at; this is where my spiritual home will be at.

I still laugh about all the little seeds that were planted and all the little coincidences (or were they?) along the way; things I didn't notice until much later. 

All the St. Benedict dreams I've had for over a decade. Seriously, you can read some of the dreams I shared by searching "St. Benedict" in the blog's search feature on the upper left-hand corner.

The fact that my father was born the day after St. Benedict's traditional feast day (March 21st) and the fact that he died the day of his new feast day (July 11th). It almost seems like St. Benedict was meant to become my spiritual father. 

The way my former spiritual director redirected me to the Benedictines (more than once), a full 3 years before I seriously reconsidered them. 

I'm sure the fact that everything seems to move forward during Lent (like it has for the past two Lenten seasons) also means something I haven't figured out yet. Perhaps it's a metaphor for leaving my old life behind and having to sacrifice some of the creature comforts and selfish habits to begin this new life; one in which God will be even more present and at the center of my life.

Oh! And some quick answers to questions I've been asked about being a Benedictine oblate:

1) Yes, it's fine for women to attach themselves as Oblates to an all-male monastery such as Norcia because we won't be living with them. The monasteries become our spiritual homes and we're considering part of their community but we live out in the world. If we're able to, we'll make an annual trip to see them and reconnect with our spiritual home. In the case of Norcia, we American Oblates have the option of making an annual retreat in the States when the Oblate director visits since an annual trip to Italy isn't always possible.

2) No, it doesn't mean I'm becoming a religious sister. I'll remain a laywoman, living in the world but not of this world. I will live my life according to the Holy Rule, spending most of my time in prayer, studying/reading Scripture, and working in whatever field God wants me in. Since I'm not married nor do I have children -- and I'm still trying to recuperate from my recent health relapse -- my work is freelance writing and helping my other keep our household clean. I will also make hospitality and serving others a big part of my life, especially at my parish. In fact, once I have a little more energy and physical strength, I will be serving others in various ways during my free time (which I have a lot of).

I don't know whether I'll eventually marry or remain single but it won't be affected (or vice versa) by my being an Oblate. On the contrary, I believe it will enrich whichever vocation God has in store for me. If I'm meant to be a wife and mother someday, being an Oblate will prepare me to become less selfish, more giving/serving, and to not be afraid of the hard work that comes with the vocation. Likewise, if I'm meant to be single, I'll be prepared to work hard to support myself, to step outside of my own selfishness by serving others in need, and to pray for and offer up as much as I can for not only my spiritual home but all of the Church in general.

Here's a brief explanation about third orders (including what is required of Oblates) by Elizabeth Scalia for those still wondering about it.

Anyway, I just wanted to say a massive "thank you!" to everyone who donated and prayed for me. Since this summer's trip has already been funded, I can now begin to save up (little by little) for next year's trip when I will (God willing) be making my final Act of Oblation and become an official/full-fledged Oblate. Prayers that I find more work for that trip would be greatly appreciated. I have a little over a year to save up so here's hoping! 

Again, thank you for everything. I'm so eternally grateful to those of you who donated, prayed and shared the link. Thank you to my Heavenly friends, St. Frances of Rome, St. Benedict, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati for all the intercessions and the prayers. Also, seriously, someone please canonize Bl. Pier Giorgio already! lol. 

I will keep y'all in the loop as I make progress in my Benedictine journey but, for now, that's all.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend and have a wonderful week!

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

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