Friday, November 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The 54-Day Rosary Novena Begins Tomorrow!!

The 54-day Rosary novena begins tomorrow. I'm so happy new people are joining in this year! This is just a friendly reminder that if you want to join in and want me to send you daily reminders -- either by email or tagging you on a daily novena post on the blog's Facebook page, you need to let me know today or ASAP so I can add you to the list.

Since the novena begins tomorrow, here are some tips and notes for y'all who have never done it before.

  • There are two versions of it, one includes the Luminous mysteries and the other has the traditional mysteries. You are free to choose whichever you like. I had done the version with the Luminous mysteries the first couple of times I did it but I went the traditional route last year.
  • Find a way to keep track of what mysteries you have to do for the day. I will be letting those of you who want reminders know which day we're on, but not what mystery to do because some people will do the "original" version and the others will add the Luminous mysteries.
  • If I'm not reminding you, please find a system that works in reminding you. I'm personally using my Wunderlist app to remind me of the day... which, in turn, will help me remind y'all. I made a calendar for my mom last year so she would just cross out the day we were on as soon as she completed the Rosary.
  • If you have a tendency to space out on intentions from time to time (*points to self*), you can write them down on a Post-It next to your screen if you're using the website I've always used or you can print out the prayers/novena and write them down somewhere to remember. If you have a booklet you're using, you can write it down on a scrap of paper or an index card and place it in your booklet.
  • Be sure to carve out time in your day to do this novena... and don't do it last minute. This novena takes a bit longer than the normal Rosary because of the additional prayers. It personally takes me about 20-25 minutes but that's because I'm used to it. It took my mother, who did not pray the Rosary regularly, 30-40 minutes. You'll soon get in the groove and it won't take you as long to complete it.
  • Don't let the length of the daily Rosary novena OR how long this novena in general (the 54 days) intimidate you. I know it seems daunting at first but it will fly by quickly before you know it.
  • Please feel free to share any big intentions on the blog's FB page if you feel inclined. Also, please pray for others' intention if you wish to. This is not an obligation.
  • If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. If something isn't making sense (and some things didn't make sense to me when I first did it), please let me know. I would be more than happy to help you out in any way I can. :)
And that's it for today. I have two exams to study for as well as a slew of other things I need to do before it gets any later in the day since Mom and I have planned to shut ourselves up for the evening/night. We're not big on Halloween (e.g. we watch Elf today instead) and we live in a somewhat dodgy neighborhood so, for safety reasons, we choose not to give out candy either. 

I hope y'all have a lovely day and week. If you're going out tonight, please be safe. Oh! And, please, don't forget that tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation. There. Now you can't say you didn't know. You're welcome. ;) 

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Coming to Terms with (Invisible) Chronic Illnesses

I was a very active person before chronic fatigue hit.

I played a slew of sports growing up. I used to race against the boys to see who was the fastest in the fifth grade. I was always one of the few girls who loved co-ed PE because the girls usually didn't want to play sports and I loved them. Basketball, soccer, handball, track and field, tennis, volleyball... I loved it all. I was one of the 2-3 girls who dared to play flag football with the guys during my freshman (and only) year of (public) high school. It was so much fun!

I also grew up with a love of dance. Ballroom, Mexican folkloric dance, hip-hop, swing, tango, etc. I did drill team and cheerleading when I was in public school, too. I still have a great love for dance and have been known to dance instead of walk at home and even in grocery store aisles... and I don't even notice until it's too late. lol.

When I was at my CINO college alma mater, I used to love walking down and up a steep hill on campus that connected the lower floors of the Humanities building to the center of the campus... and then up the stone steps up to the chapel. (side note: for those of you who don't know where I attended undergrad, the campus is on top of a local mountain range so it was all hills, some very steep). Sometimes, when I had a couple of hours to kill in between classes, I would head to the campus gym and walk on the treadmill.

Up until about a year and some months ago, I had energy that my friends would jokingly say I should bottle up and sell. Sometime during summer 2016, I became a lot more tired than usual. By the time March of this year rolled along, I started struggling with simply staying awake while sitting. Even after 10+ hours of sleep, I just can't keep fatigue at bay for long. I try to avoid things with wheat/gluten (which makes things worse for me) but it doesn't always help and some days the fatigue is so intense that I can't do what I need to do... and it's frustrating.

This past weekend, I had two exams. I chose to do one on a day that my mind was sharper than usual and that I didn't feel tired. I had this "you know what? I didn't study that much for it but I feel so good... let's do it!" I passed the exam in a shockingly high grade (at least a high grade for this class which is despised by most people who take it). Shout out to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati and St. Jude for helping a girl out on that exam!

I ended up taking the second exam on the day it was due because a hard wave of fatigue hit between the first exam and the second. I put it off until the last day because I know that my mental fog is terrible when I'm extremely tired. I studied all day of the exam. I knew the material in the morning... but as I got more tired, I struggled to remember what I had read only minutes before. When I was taking the exam, I knew I wouldn't pass.

I struggled to comprehend what the questions were. I had to re-read some of them 2-3 times before my brain understood what the question was. That's how bad my mental fog was. Everything I studied (and I'd watched the lecture videos a minimum of 3 times and had gone over the material several times on different occasions) flew out of my mind. I was left struggling to not only stay awake during the exam but also try to remember what I'd studied. I received a 66%. Ouch. To say I was frustrated and upset would be an understatement.

I hate not being able to do simple things such as cooking for myself. Yes, you read that right; I can't even cook for myself on days when my fatigue is particularly bad and I feel like my legs are jelly and/or I'm falling asleep standing up. I hate not being able to clean the house as I was used to. I hate not being able to study properly because I'll fall asleep. Yesterday, I fell asleep twice while wearing my contact lenses because my body felt too heavy to walk then 7 steps from my bed to the bathroom... and I couldn't fight the tiredness.

Last month, a doctor I saw (I've had a rotation doctors while I was assigned to a new one after my doctor left in June) added chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) to the list of reasons why I couldn't do something I was asked to (I had to have a doctor sign to confirm my physical inability for it). My next round of bloodwork is next month (in exactly 3 weeks, actually) and if they see that everything is still within normal range, they'll most likely add CFS to my medical record (they require a minimum of 6 months with symptoms and no medical explanation for it). We're still hoping for a positive gluten test (which would explain the fatigue, mental fog, and low platelets) but if nothing comes up, it's going to go the CFS route. If there is no medical explanation for this fatigue and it's CFS, it's going to be a hard pill to swallow as there's no cure for CFS.

Last week was Invisible Illness Week, bringing awareness to illnesses you can't see but are present. I have three confirmed invisible illnesses: (chronic) PTSD, thrombocytopenia (low platelets), and food allergies. If CFS gets officially added to my medical record, it'll be four. I know, I'm a lucky gal. lol. It didn't take long for me to accept my PTSD because it became an answer to the depression, anxiety, and other symptoms I've experienced since I was 15. Through cognitive-behavioral therapy, we were able to get to the root causes of the PTSD and the symptoms have gotten so much better in recent years with panic attacks becoming increasingly rare.  Food allergies, well, no one can predict those. Thankfully, the allergies and tolerances have not been life-threatening or severe so I just have to be careful with what I eat. We don't know the cause for thrombocytopenia though we're currently hoping that perhaps it's the result of a gluten intolerance. This one has been harder to come to terms with because there can be no possible cause for it (it randomly appears in some people) and not knowing the cause or how long the symptoms will last is scary. If I have to add CFS to the list of things I'm physically enduring that have no explanation, it's going to take a lot for me to try to be okay with it.

Before you start on a "you have to trust God" lecture, let me just say that I know. I know... but it's still hard because it's potentially life-changing and that'll feed into my PTSD. It's so easy for someone to say that I have to trust God when they have no idea how hard it is not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Again, I know this and I do work hard towards this but it takes time because my weak human mind needs the time to adjust to big changes.

In my quest to try to accept things and trust God, I try to find the silver linings. Thanks to my PTSD, I avoided a life that could've put my soul into a lot of danger (Hollywood is not the best environment for anyone wanting to avoid sin). Also, thanks to the PTSD, I was able to spend more time with my father during the last years of his life. I was England-bound for college but my anxiety kept me at home and it helped me be able to help my father when his cancer returned and became terminal. Having thrombocytopenia and (formerly) anemia helped me learn how to better take care of myself and learn that self-care is important because I had the habit of running on empty and neglecting myself. Having food allergies has helped me discern what I put into my body and has helped me learn to get creative with what I eat (applesauce instead of eggs for pancakes, anyone?) So far, CFS is helping me learn that it's okay to be reliant on others for help (challenging my super independent "I can do everything myself; I don't need help" mentality) as well as understanding what it means to truly trust God.

There are two things that I continue to struggle with (that I'm working on) and both involve my future.

Sometimes I find myself wondering if I'll have the energy/stamina/health to have children. I've always wanted a family and children. Some of my earliest memories have been of me announcing that I wanted to be a mama (and this pre-dates me saying I wanted to be a nun) or caring for my dolls. I'm a "mama bear" to my friends. That desire to be a wife and mother has become a longing that I struggle with on some days. On days when my fatigue is particularly bad and my body feels like lead, that little seed of doubt that I'll be able to become a mother and/or do a good job grows. That leads to the second thing I struggle with...

More often than I care to admit, I wonder if I'll ever find someone who will accept me as I am -- with chronic illnesses and all. I've had my fair share of guys disappearing as soon as they find out the medical crosses I'm carrying. Some guys get spooked off by the food allergies which is the least problematic of what I deal with. Sometimes I think that I won't find someone because these things are not easy to deal with. I hate to say it but I don't know many people who would want to deal with someone else's problems on top of their own (my own friends not included in this statement). I wonder if I should just get used to the idea of being on my own... and wonder how I'll be able to pull it off when I want to work but my body is not cooperating with me. I fear that perhaps I won't find someone who can't look past what I can't do to look at what I can do and what I can offer.

Deep down, I know God will help take care of me. I know He will either give me the resources and/or graces necessary to do what I need to do. Every time I feel like giving up (because I fail an exam due to my mental fog) and I begin to question whether I'm cut out for this career path, I'll somehow miraculously pass the next exam or I'll do well on an assignment that keeps my grades afloat. I know that if this is the career path God wants me to take, He will help me get through this program (graduation is scheduled for May 4th of next year) and will help me figure out how to balance whatever physical issues I'm dealing and a proper job. I know that God will make sure I prepare myself well enough to be the best wife and mother I can be to my future husband and children if that's my vocation (which I've discerned long enough to feel 99.9% sure that I'm called to). Still, those moments of doubts do appear from time to time and it's when I know I have to step it up in my prayer life.

The 54-day Rosary novena is coming up in a couple of days and I know what two of my intentions will be: for my health (that we either find the causes for what I'm going through or that I can figure out how to manage the symptoms so that I can keep moving forward) and for my vocation (small v; that I pass my courses and graduate next year or that God helps me find a job that I can do while dealing with my chronic fatigue so that I can pay back my student loans if being an SLPA is not what He wants me to do).

I'm sorry for the downer vibe in this post but I don't really see posts like this out in the blogosphere (including the Catholic world) so I wanted to write it in case anyone is in a similar boat. Also, this part of my own journey and part of my life I felt like I should share so I wrote it all out.

Alright, well, I guess that's it for now. I'm having a terrible mental fog/fatigue/body feels like lead day but I think I can still manage to get some groundwork done for when I'm ready to start memorizing terms for next weeks exams (2 exams and 4 quizzes due next weekend) so I'm going to try to do that. :) Oh, and please let me know if you want in on next week's 54-day Rosary novena either by commenting on the blog post for it or by leaving me a message/comment on the blog's FB page.

I hope y'all had a lovely week and have a great weekend! :)

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Want to Join in on This Year's 54 Day Rosary Novena?

My apologies for the long gap between blog posts but I had a crazy week last week with two exams, a quiz, and a big assignment. I have an easier week this week (it's lecture/reading week; next week is exam week once again) so... new blog posts this week! I have 3 posts in the drafts box and two other ideas that I will also get to this week. I won't post them all this week but I will schedule some for next week so there's stuff going up even when I'm trying not to drown in speech-pathology and audiology terms, facts, and procedures.

This post is going to be a quick one since I'm having a decent non-mental fog day (which are becoming increasingly rare; thanks, chronic fatigue...) and I want to get some studying done while I can.

As some of you may remember, last year we had a surprisingly large (well, large for this blog) number of people who joined in on the 54-day Rosary novena. I had a list of people I emailed, tweeted, and tagged (in FB) every day with reminders about which day we were on for those 54 days. I don't know about everyone else, but I had some amazing results almost immediately after the novena... and both Mom and I are still seeing results nearly a year later. The novena has been truly changing for us and I know it's been the same for others.

Of course, I'm going to throw a word of caution: this novena is not for everyone. Some people (including myself; I've done this novena several times over the years) have experienced a continuous Murphy's Law streak during the entirety of the novena. If someone can go wrong, it will go wrong. Not everyone experiences it (Mom didn't and I only had one thing go wrong throughout the novena last year). I've known people who've done the novena with us over the years and they've only seen the good that the novena brings. Still, I have also heard of people who've abandoned the novena because they've gotten overwhelmed with the bad they've encountered. However, in my experience, the good always outweighs the bad (in hindsight) and if you have a huge intention that you really feel stuck on, I would highly recommend doing this novena. Please don't let what I've just said scare you off; I'm only informing you that this novena can really test someone so that you're prepared if you want in. Keep frequenting the Sacraments and you should be fine. ;)

Having said that (and potentially scared some of you who've never done this novena before, lol; sorry!), I'm wondering if anyone of you would like to join us this year. Again, we're starting on November 1st (All Saints' Day) and we're ending on Christmas Eve, which is the recommended time of year to do this novena. Yes, it's exactly 54 days (Sundays included) between All Saints' Day and Christmas Eve. Amazing, right? ;) I obviously can't tweet reminders this year but I would happily tag anyone who wants to join in on this blog's Facebook page or even email you if you think you'll need daily reminders. I certainly don't mind.

I already posted this invitation a couple of weeks ago on the FB page -- and we've got a couple of people who will be joining in -- but now I'm blogging it for those of you who are not on FB (neither following this blog's page nor on that site at all). If you would like me to email you reminders, please let me know where to email you reminders. I'm really sorry, Twitter folks, but I've already explained why I needed to close down my @nerdwriter account in the last blog post.

Anyway, please let me know by All Hallow's Eve (next Tuesday) so we can all start together next Wednesday. :)

I hope y'all are having a lovely start of your week and that you had a great weekend! :D

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