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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! :)

A Lenten Beginning: Sacrifices, Laments, and a Humble Plan

As I write this, I'm sitting cross-legged on my bed, awaiting the EWTN app on my Roku to turn on so that Mom and I can watch the "live" (read: rebroadcast from earlier) Mass from Rome in a couple of minutes. Since Mom is much more comfortable with the Spanish language, we're going to watch it on the EWTN en Español feed. As you can guess by this action, we were unable to get to Mass today.

We knew that we weren't going to be able to go to the 7 a.m. or noon-time Masses because of the heavy rain predicted for those times but I had hope for the 7 p.m. Mass. Sadly, due to the rain (it apparently hasn't stopped raining all day) and the flooding in the streets, we're going to be stuck at our apartment until possibly Friday. Insert sad panda face here. Thankfully, we stocked up on food and other possible necessities in anticipation of the rain and street flooding so we'll be fine stuck inside for a couple of days.

I really, really wanted to get to confession and Mass today. I wanted those ashes on my forehead. I wanted to start Lent "right." I'm currently fighting back tears from the disappointment and the frustration of it all. I know it's silly but I cannot shake off the feeling that I'm not starting Lent the proper way. Or, at the very least, the way I wanted it to start. It's bad enough that I cannot fast nor abstain from meat. I feel like this penitential season is easier for me than everyone else and it makes me feel like I'm a terrible Catholic as a result. I'm constantly reminded of how my daily life is compromised of continuous sacrifices and penances but it still doesn't seem like enough.

My (once again) vitamin D-deficiency-induced chronic fatigue makes me sacrifice my social life and having a "normal" work life outside the home. It also requires me to swallow my pride and ask for help when I cannot do something myself; something hard for someone as independent and (once) active as I am. I also think that I end up sacrificing my want of a husband and family because these things aren't exactly guy magnets. On the contrary, they scare guys away.

I know my life isn't "easy" but I'm so used to it that I don't even consider it hard. This is because I have the luxury of being able to work from home and thus sleep as much as my body requires it. I have a roof over my head and we've been able to create a household budget to be able to afford the food that helps keep me fed and as healthy as possible. I've chosen to help my mother with the household expenses through whatever freelance writing work I can get. I help take care of her when she needs it but I don't have other responsibilities beyond that. I'm so very fortunate in many ways others aren't.

Sure, I can't go on vacation or buy any material things that I may want. If I want something, I have to work hard and save up for it for months if it requires money. Even then, I think long and hard about whether I truly need it instead of just wanting it. If I don't need it, I end up giving it up for something that is necessary. But I see this all as a part of being an adult; of putting needs ahead of wants.

I guess this is something I have to work on this Lenten season -- being okay with my limitations and letting go of all the things I want to do (or think I need to do).

Humility is my chosen word this Lent; my chosen virtue to work on to combat that wounded pride that my independent and egotistical nature struggles with when I have to admit "defeat"; to admit that I can't do what I want to and do what I can. Lord knows how much this proud gal needs to be humbled and I'm hoping God grants me the graces necessary to become and stay humble. I hope all of this will make me be more open to His plans and will for my life; that it will make me more worthy of an eternity in Heaven.

I feel like this plan -- to cultivate humility -- was set in motion when I did the 54-day Rosary novena late last year when I asked to become more like our Blessed Mother. In a providential twist, she and St. Therese -- another beautiful model of humility -- became my co-patronesses for the year; my models who have also been my constant companions over the last couple of months. I didn't know why both kept popping up in my life so much but now it's starting to make sense. So, that is what I'm going to do -- look at their lives, learn from them, and work on emulating them this season and beyond. There is also something else -- or, I should say, someone else through a specific devotion -- that I will focus on during Lent that will hopefully help with my focus but it deserve its own blog post so stay tuned for that.

Does anyone else have any particular goals they're working on during Lent?

Anyway, this is it for now. I have some Lenten reflections to get to before it gets any later in the day.

I hope you're all having a good start to the Lenten season.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!