January 5: A time you don’t want to forget

I seriously thought about writing about one of the pilgrimages from the last couple of years, but I feel like I’ll be beating that topic to death 5 days into the new year. So we’ll talk about college.

Just as with many others, my time working on my undergrad degree coincided with my formative years as an adult; I was finally learning how to live by myself and how to start functioning as a “grown up” even though I saw myself as far from it. Most of the people that I knew before or at the beginning of college will probably say that if you put me back then and me now next to each other – although while not completely polar opposite – there would be a start contrast between the two.

I look at my time in undergrad at UT in two phases: my UCC phase and my nursing school phase. While there was some overlap, I largely kept the two separate. Not necessarily intentionally, but mostly because by the time I was really established in nursing school, most of my closest UCC friends had graduated and moved on.

My UCC phase started more or less within the week of me arriving at UT. One of my closest friends from our youth group in Baytown had been insisting that I come and join every organization under the sun. In addition, my roommate situation was not working out for me which drove me to spend the majority of my time at the UCC. I grew into my faith, taking a more active role in it through many of the organizations there. St. Ignatius proved to be a worthy Confirmation saint as the patron saint of retreats since I was either going on or staffing multiple retreats every semester. I met and became close to people that I consider my family even long after we’ve all gone our own ways.

And it was these people that taught me many valuable lessons about my own self. They taught me that I was worth more than how useful I was to people; that it was okay to say no; that while service to others is commendable, it was just as important for me to fill my own glass so to speak. And even though I thought I knew enough life skills to get by, they showed me even more. And these were also the people that supported me when I decided to change majors and go into nursing, that comforted me when I was so anxious and stressed out about getting accepted into the program, and that celebrated with me when I did. And they’re the ones that prepared me for what came next: the nursing school phase.

Nursing school was largely me starting to take my academics more seriously because I finally found something that I was passionate about again. And I found a new support group that accepted me for who I was, which was especially important because this was the time when I came out of the closet. Because of the foundation laid in the first few years of college, I was able to accept a part of myself (with the help of one of my best friends), and finally tell others. Which became an anticlimactic process because most of them greeted me with some variation of, “Yeah we knew. Good job. You’re finally caught up with the rest of us.” With each person’s acceptance, I gained more and more strength and confidence in my own self.

Of course, not all of college was this inspirational, my life is finally coming together stuff. I had the typical college party phase too, but thankfully in the safety of people that took care of each other. But while my life was a mess at times, undergrad was the start of me learning how to organize my chaos into something that works for me, and I would not be where I am today without it.



January 4: Something that you’re looking forward to

Well, this is a bit of a repeat, isn’t it? I guess I’ll delve a little deeper into something I’d already mentioned earlier. So one of my goals for the year is to spend my 30th birthday doing the Camino Ignaciano. It’s similar to the Camino de Santiago but instead follows the path of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who is of great importance to me as the saint I chose for Confirmation. I plan to start at the beginning of November and aim to end by my birthday on the 20th. But this is the part that’s going to require some research, so I’m going to have to see if that’s even feasible and if I need to start earlier.

In any case, it will start in Loyola (or Loiola as it is spelled locally) and end at Montserrat. Most pilgrims will be heading the opposite direction west towards Santiago de Compostela along the Camino de Santiago. However, St. Ignatius headed east towards the port cities to get him to the Holy Land.

It will be a rigorous journey in a country whose language I am only moderately familiar with, but I hope to glean many lessons and experiences from this trip that will enrich me spiritually, mentally, and physically.

10 Words

January 3: Describe your day in ten words

An early start cleaning and relaxing to recover from work.

Short and sweet. I’m liking these prompts. But yeah, I had a nice day to relax considering I worked six of the last seven days. Thankfully, work hasn’t been terrible because despite New Year’s having the reputation as being one of the most horrendous holidays to work in the ER, the sub-freezing temperatures seemed to keep a good chunk of our traffic at home. Although the flu is running rampant this year. PSA: Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and take other precautions to prevent spreading the flu because this year, because people both with and without the vaccine are getting hit. Even my co-workers are starting to drop like flies.


January 2: Three goals for this month

Day 2 of my daily journal prompt…In my last entry, I listed six goals I would like to accomplish by the end of the year. But to accomplish those goals, I have to have monthly, weekly, and even daily milestones to keep myself on track. So here are three of my goals for January 2018:

  • For the six goals I want to accomplish, create a timeline with weekly goals and scheduled monthly re-evaluations. The things I am planning for the year are all things I want badly, but take a lot of planning and work to get there. My goal by January 31st is to have a timeline set for each of the six goals I mentioned in the last entry, and create timelines as new goals arise.
  • Create a spreadsheet outlining my spending habits from 2017, and creating a budget for my expenses for 2018. Between travel, debt, bills, and the potential expenses to be incurred with the goals I want to accomplish, on top of my desire to have a significant amount allocated for my savings account, I need to be much more careful with what I do with my money.
  • De-clutter and reorganize my house so that everything has a home and lives there. I have all these Pinterest aspirations without the time, energy, and sometimes motivation to put things in place. But if I don’t do this now, then I never will. Paper clutter, tchotchkes that I don’t even use…all of that needs to go. If I can sell it, then Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp it is. If I have to trash it, then so be it. But I’m not trying to keep up with all this mess anymore. Plus, with the fact that I have someone that comes and cleans my house once a month, I would like them to be able to do all rooms instead of having to shamefully hide all my mess in my office and make it off limits.

New Year, New Me…Or Something Like That

I’ve been terrible, especially as of late, about taking time for myself to actually kind of sit and get myself organized, regroup, and gather my thoughts. How do I know? Because everything for me has been so scattered, and I’ve found myself haphazardly tasking with no plan for the day, much less my life. I decided to start doing a daily journal entry to hopefully force myself to take a moment to slow down and take myself out of the crazy, even for a few moments. I found some prompts on Pinterest (surprise) that seemed like they’d be good. So here goes.

January 1: What are you most looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to getting my life together and hopefully embarking on a new chapter. I’ve got multiple goals set for this year, and I hope to commit to them so they don’t become lofty, unattainable New Year’s resolutions. For one, I hope to increase the amount of travel I do. I’ve got a friend’s wedding in Hawaii in the summer and then I’m planning on spending my 30th birthday month doing the Camino Ignaciano in Spain. I hope to do some smaller trips in between, but that’s all highly dependent on budget.

Although speaking of the Camino, that brings me to my next goal of being more conscious of my health and fitness. With planning to effectively walk across Spain, I’m going to need to train. I’ve had a membership for ClassPass for 2 months and have yet to use it, and the membership to the rec center in my neighborhood since the summer that I’ve only used twice, so I’m hoping to increase my activity to not only drop weight, but improve my endurance and stave off any impending health problems.

The third goal is to be more wise with my money. I’ve attempted multiple times to create a budget, which has basically been collecting information on past expenses and then forgetting to create a plan to actually adhere to. So at the top of my list is actually making this happen, so that I can budget for the travel and other expenses.

My fourth goal is to initiate the process of applying to a grad school program by the end of the year. I’ve been working for five years now (which is insane to me), and I’m starting to feel burnt out and restless, so it’s time for a change. While I’m not entirely sure I want to leave the ER setting altogether, I need a different main hustle. So nursing informatics is my next target.

My fifth goal is to finish all of the projects I’ve started or wanted to start. I’ve got this whole craft closet and home office full of things that I’ve half-started and multiple Pinterest boards with projects I have yet to start, and none of them do any good if I don’t bring them to completion. Even if they don’t work, at least I could say that I tried.

My sixth and final goal is to create a plan. I have all these goals that have the potential to just be hopes and dreams instead of reality. But if I want them to happen, I need to create specific milestones and deadlines. If I learned nothing from nursing care plans in college, it’s that a good goal must be measurable and specific.

So that’s what I most look forward to for 2018. Not a specific event in particular, but to the idea that I’m going to start valuing my own body, career, and time much more highly than I have been.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Happy Feast of St. Ignatius! Today’s the feast day of my confirmation saint, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

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A statue depicting the wounding of St. Ignatius of Loyola outside his home

A little backstory on him. So he was born Iñigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491 in Loyola, a small village Azpeita in northern Spain. He gained acclaim as a soldier and was climbing in status until 1521, when a cannonball took out his legs while defending Pamplona against the French. One leg was broken, but the other was severely mangled. Multiple surgeries (without anesthetics) were performed to save his life and maybe legs, but with how he was deteriorating, no one was optimistic about his survival, much less recovery. But on the feasts of St. Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve, but the mangled leg was still deformed and the broken leg was shorter than the other. He had the deformity removed and tied a cannonball to the other leg and let it hang to attempt to stretch the other leg out for hours on end. Again, analgesia wasn’t really a thing back then, so none of this felt great…but he was determined. While spending months convalescing, he was bored and wanted something to read. He was hoping for stories of knights, valor, battle, but instead got the lives of Christ and the saints. The room of his convalescence then became the room of his conversion, with those stores filling him with the fire to serve God and His people. During his prayer, he would be filled with a sense of peace, reaffirming his decision. He even laid down his military garments in front of an image of the Black Madonna at the Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat and began practicing spiritual exercises in a cave in Manresa.

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A replica of the original home in Loyola

Now that was all well and good, but considering Mass and all educated communication was done in Latin (which he knew nothing of), he had to start somewhere. And that somewhere was a 30-year-old Ignatius in a Latin class with a bunch of 10-year-olds. He advanced in his education in Alcala and Salamanca until earning his master’s degree at the College of Saint Barbe of the University of Paris at age 44. While there, he roomed with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier, who began to follow Ignatius and his spiritual exercises. The group traveled to Rome to present themselves as a religious order to the Pope and serve him since their dreams of traveling to the Holy Land were impeded by a conflict between the Turks and Venetians. Pope Paul III approved them as an official religious order in 1540 and Ignatius was elected the first leader of the Society of Jesus. Those who opposed them called them “Jesuits,” but with all the good work they were doing, the name was no longer seen as derogatory.

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The Church of the Gesu in Rome

The Society of Jesus is known for educating the youth because of their advocacy of using reason and logic to persuade others and fight heresy. The Jesuits were responsible for a large percentage of the work in stopping the spread of the Protestant Reformation. At the time of his death on July 31, 1556, the order had 35 schools…that number has grown significantly since then.

He was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1609 and canonized in 1622. His patronage includes the Society of Jesus, soldiers, educators and education.

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A Father’s Day blessing by Fr. Roger during our pilgrimage especially fitting since my father was the one that introduced me to St. Ignatius of Loyola

My dad was the one that introduced me to St. Ignatius back as a high school freshman when I had to pick a saint for Confirmation. As an awkward teenager whose friends were going with the more popular saints, I was not as eager with my father’s choice for me (and resented that fact that he didn’t let me pick my own since “adulthood in the Catholic Church” is kind of the shtick of Confirmation). My dad guided me that direction because academic success was extremely important to me. But little did I know how much St. Ignatius would return to me time and time again in multiple forms.

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The Life of Christ on display in St. Ignatius’ home in Loyola

The first time I made a real personal connection was back in college. On top of returning to my home parish to help out with high school retreats, I was heavily involved in Longhorn Awakening and STRONG. The former is a large biannual retreat hosted at the University Catholic Center and the latter is a team that hosts retreats for youth groups in the Diocese of Austin that otherwise would not have the opportunity. It was getting to the point where I was averaging a retreat a month. I was even pushed by my friends into a leadership role in Awakening because I was so involved that I could almost literally run it in my sleep. A few years into college, I learned who the patron saint of retreats was…St. Ignatius, the founder of the Spiritual Exercises himself.

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Under this tree was where I did the majority of my meditations during the silent retreats

Speaking of retreats, I had one of my most powerful spiritual experiences during an adaptation of the Spiritual Exercises at a Jesuit retreat site in Lake Dallas. A few college friends had gone on a silent retreat over Memorial Day weekend that was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Divided over four years, each retreat would be one week of the month-long exercises, and with each return, you would progress through. During these, I found the courage to begin to accept my homosexuality and began to let go of my subliminal self-loathing. During my meditations there, I truly experienced the concept of spiritual consolation, that sense of peace that St. Ignatius himself experienced during his conversion.

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The bedazzled statue of St. Ignatius that’s revealed daily at 5:00pm in the Church of the Gesu

During our pilgrimage to Italy last year, we visited many sites across the country, including Assisi where St. Francis (my brother’s Confirmation saint) rests. We had planned to extend our trip for a few days in Rome after the completion of the pilgrimage, so we scheduled a side trip to Nettuno to visit St. Maria Goretti’s tomb since she was Marissa’s patron saint. But as far as I knew, St. Ignatius was Spanish, so I didn’t figure I was going to get much on my end in this regard. However, I forgot that the Jesuits were founded in Rome. While on the tour bus, our guide pointed out the Church of the Gesu, stating that St. Ignatius laid there. We added that to our personal itinerary, and we went to visit around 5:00pm at our guide’s suggestion. In comparison to the St. Francis and St. Maria Goretti, St. Ignatius’ tomb was much more ornate and elaborate. And at 5:00pm, a presentation began that ended with the painting dropping from behind his tomb to reveal a bedazzled statue of St. Ignatius while all of the lights lit up the church like it was Easter. My brother and Marissa both looked at me like, “of course your saint would be the bougie one.” The apartment that St. Ignatius lived and died in was next door to the church, so we got to go through that as well.

Then this year, during our Marian pilgrimage, we happened to be driving through

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The Chapel of Conversion

northern Spain to get to Lourdes. My mother had told the priest in an unrelated conversation about how my patron saint is St. Ignatius, and apparently his eyes lit up at the opportunity for another pit stop and added Loyola to the itinerary. The basilica was impressive, but the tour of the home of St. Ignatius was the most powerful experience I had on the trip. We got to enter the rooms where he lived and prayed, the room where he was born, and most significantly the room where he convalesced and converted. The room, now turned into the Chapel of Conversion, was where we held our daily mass on that day of the trip. But I was filled with awe and emotion to know that I was walking the very same floors within the very same walls looking at the very same beams that were present when the fire was lit in St. Ignatius to change from military to clergy.

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The stained glass window at the Montserrat retreat center in Lake Dallas depicting St. Ignatius laying down his sword and shield in front of the Black Madonna

It’s funny that I was considering doing the newer Camino Ignaciano next year leading up to my 30th birthday just because the travel bug had bit hard and that I’ve also been more heavily considering grad school in Nursing Informatics to both advance my education and give myself a change of pace from the craziness of the ER. Until doing some quick research to review the life of St. Ignatius while writing this post, I hadn’t realized that his conversion happened at the age of 30 as well. While the changes I’m looking to make in my own life are much different than his, the parallel is amusing to me. It looks like my dad had me pegged much more accurately than any of us could have known.



So here I am posting from the bathtub of our hotel in Burgos because it has been hot, AC’s aren’t great out here and I’ve been out in the sun all day. To be fair, it’s only in the high 80’s, low 90’s, so basically it doesn’t hold a candle to summer in Texas, but I’m used to only having to endure that in the walk from my house to the car. Haha

In any case, I semi-figured out my electronic device situation, so look for updates later tonight. I may or may not get to upload pictures though depending on my computer’s battery life and if my mom is using her charger because mine blew out two cities ago. Like straight up sparks and everything. I was so mad. But c’est la vie. I’m here for a pilgrimage so if I don’t have the extra luxuries, so be it.

Anyway, time to shower so I can make it down to dinner.