Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My #CNMC15 Experience

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Catholic New Media Conference Celebration took place in Atlanta. This was my second CNMC, having attended my first in 2013 in Boston. Admittedly, I didn’t socialize or network much at my first CNMC, opting instead to hang out with the Catholic Weekend folks and missing most of the breakout sessions. This time, I vowed I was going to be a bit more social and interact more with others, as well as attend all the sessions.

Socializing does not come easy for me. I am very much an introvert, and I have to force myself to interact with others. What made it easier for me as far as the CNMC is concerned is that I’ve interacted with most of those I saw on social media, so meeting these people for me was like saying hello to old friends I haven’t seen for a while. It was a nice feeling.

My attendance at this year’s CNMC almost didn’t happen. Most of my family lives in San Diego, California. My nephew, Richie, graduated high school on June 2, and my other nephew, Jacob, was promoted from middle school to high school on June 3. Richie, who plays the trumpet with the San Diego Youth Symphony Orchestra, was going to play a concert with the SDYS the evening of June 6. And the CNMC was scheduled to begin early in the morning of June 7 on the other side of the country in Atlanta, Georgia. I was texting with Fr. Darryl Millette in late December about this, and wouldn’t you know it: he managed to find an overnight (“red-eye”) flight that would leave San Diego late enough for me to be able to attend Richie’s recital and get me to Atlanta early enough to be at the opening events of the 2015 CNMC. Without knowing what the agenda was, I went ahead and booked my airtickets that would include an extended layover in Atlanta. And I was glad I did that!

After rushing from Copley Symphony Hall to the car parked in a lot a 10 minute walk away, and despite a long cargo train holding up traffic on the way to the airport, I managed to make it to the gate shortly before my flight started boarding. A little over three hours after the plane took off, the wheels touched down in Atlanta more than 20 minutes early, which gave me 2.5 hours of time before the start of the CNMC. It was great seeing Marika; we had breakfast at the airport before we headed over to the Georgia International Convention Center.

Despite feeling like I was hit by a Mack truck, thanks to lack of sleep, it was great to see friends I had met at the previous CNMC, as well as to meet new friends I knew through social media but hadn’t met in person until then. And thanks to social media interactions, it didn’t feel like I was meeting a group of strangers. It felt like I was seeing old friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling; it was a similar kind of feeling I had when I met people in person for the first time in Boston but who I known and considered good/close friends for years through social media.

The talks were all very good, and I include in that very good group Fr. Cory’s excellent homily that he delivered at the Mass that morning. (He also used Eucharistic Prayer I, which is not heard very often at Masses in my area, so the Liturgy geek in me was silently cheering.) On a whim, I had set up a Tagboard the previous Friday with the hashtag #CNMC15, thinking that there would be a lot of people live-tweeting the talks and other social events, just like at the Boston CNMC. So I spent a lot of time live-tweeting all the talks. (By the way, if you want to hear all the talks, head over to the SQPN Store to order the CNMC 2015 Virtual Ticket. It’s a great deal at only US$49.00.) I was taking pictures and networking during the Mastermind Masterclasses (and Mac Barron had recorded his hilarious Catholic Mom video during this time), and doing my usual behind-the-scenes work during the live recording of Catholic Weekend with the full panel and special guest, Fr. Dave Dwyer of Busted Halo. And, of course, despite his not being able to be physically with us, Fr. Roderick recorded a most inspiring video keynote talk that included photo and video retrospectives of the last ten years of Catholic New Media. I’m sure that the information taken from these talks, as well as the inspiration and information exchanged during the Mastermind Masterclasses will bear fruit in the way of new collaborations, new projects, new blogs, new podcasts, new books… the possibilities are endless! (We’ve already heard some of that, thanks to Allison Gingras’ show, A Seeking Heart, when she spoke with Tiffany Walsh, JonMarc Grodi, and Maria Johnson as they summed up their CNMC experiences. Also: Pat Gohn’s Pick of the Week from Catholic Weekend episode 275 mentioned some podcasts that were inspired by past CNMCs, and I also add Daniel Smrokowski’s Special Chronicles podcast and Joanne Mercier’s Monday Morning Catholic to that list.)

Despite my very long day (and not having had much sleep since waking up at 8:30 am PDT the day before), I still felt like I had a lot of energy as I chatted with James and Ryan before meeting up with 14 other people (including Allison, Jennifer, Seth, Stephanie, Dee, Lisa and her family, and the very charming Sarah P., amongst others) for dinner at the airport. There were several people I hadn’t met before amongst that large group of people, but by the time we finished dinner, it felt like we were all good friends who were feeling sad that we were all going to leave each other, in a couple of cases, later that evening, and in most cases, the next morning or afternoon.

I’ve heard of the “post-CNMC blues” phenomenon, but I hadn’t experienced it until I went to Boston in 2013 and now Atlanta in 2015. It really is a thing: I really miss those I’ve met! I hope to meet you all again sometime in the future, whether it be at another CNMC or elsewhere.

In the meantime, I’ll continue my BTS thing with Catholic Weekend for as long as they’ll have me, and I’ll hopefully start blogging a little bit more regularly on this blog.

P.S.: I figured out how to put a Google Photos slideshow on this blog, but unfortunately, it requires Flash, so it will probably not be visible on mobile devices. But for what it's worth, it's there. I didn't take many pictures, and I may decide to add a few more pictures borrowed from friends in the future.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What the Water Challenge Did for Me

This is a quick sketch of a water drop I made.
On a whim, I participated in a 21-day water challenge that was organized by Cindy Rainne. The reason why I decided to do it: I knew I wasn’t drinking enough water, and my friend, Eric, was strongly encouraging me to try to increase my water intake. Scanning through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed my friend, Rachel, started a water challenge in which she would try to drink a certain amount of water that she set as her daily goal and take a selfie with her water bottle when she reached the goal. I thought it was a good idea: use social media as a way to keep yourself accountable to ensure you reached your daily goals. The usual rule of thumb is to drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water daily, which totals 64 oz. or 1.89 L. I also heard another rule of thumb that says one should take half one’s body weight in ounces every day. So if you weigh 150 lbs, you would drink 75 oz. of water daily. So I set my goal to be between 3 – 3.5 L daily. (My water bottles speak metric and measuring in liters would be so much easier for me than having to deal with ounces.)

So I started drinking water and posting the results on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #WaterChallenge. (I later added the hashtag #RainneWaterChallenge since there were many other water challenges going on at the time.) When I first started posting pictures, I received messages and phone calls from some of my friends, who expressed concern about my water intake. They warned me that it was possible to suffer consequences from excessive water intake. This is true, but considering that my goal doesn’t come close to half my body weight in ounces, I figured if I spaced out my water intake, it would not be a problem for me. I would not try to take 3 L of water in one sitting. I don’t think that’s even physically possible… at least, not for me. (There was the well-publicized case of the woman who passed away thanks to a radio promotion where one would drink a heap of water in order to win a Nintendo Wii, but that seems to be an extreme case.)

It was difficult for me to drink all that water. At first, I found myself going to the bathroom more often than was comfortable. (All that water has to go somewhere, right?) Also, we had a few uncomfortably hot days in Durham, NC, so I was sweating a heap the hotter the temperatures got. I eventually became used to drinking that much water. Having a nice countertop water cooler in the office helped remind me that I needed to take water. I also tried the strategy of drinking 0.5 L of water before I ate my meals.

The effects that I noticed straight away: I was eating much less than I would have done. During the month of May, the Filipino community in central North Carolina gets together for Fatima prayers and food and feasting afterward. The water-starved me would eat a heap until I could eat no more; it’s not often I get the chance to have the Filipino fiesta foods, and the desserts… oh, the desserts! But drinking 0.5 L or more of water before eating helped cut down on the amount of food I took. I didn’t feel the need to go back for seconds, and even though there were nice temptations like Brazo de Mercedes, sapin-sapin, leche flan, kutsinta, pitsi-pitsi, palitao, ube cake, and mocha cake, etc., I managed to control the amount of sweets I took. I never had much of a sweet tooth to begin with, and the increased water intake helped contribute to less sweet intake.

I used to take a lot of flavoured sparkling water. Since starting this water challenge, I started drinking more still water, and now I drink more still water than I do sparkling water.

Another couple of positive effects: I used to cough a lot, and it’s not because I caught a cold or have allergies. I noticed that whenever I was very thirsty, I would cough. The thirstier I was, the more I’d cough. It also affected my singing as well: it didn’t come as easily as it did to me in the past, and my voice felt more "rough." Increasing my water intake eliminated the coughing, and singing is coming more easily to me with my voice sounding more smooth, less cracking, now that I’m keeping myself better hydrated.

Now that the weather has become unbearably hot, I’m finding that I need to keep up the water intake; otherwise, I would feel hot and uncomfortable. Taking in the water helps me feel a little cooler. Sure, I might be sweating a lot because of the hot weather, but at least the water loss isn’t so bad since I’m replacing whatever I’ve lost by taking more water.

Even though the 21-day water challenge is over, I’m still managing to take at least 3 L of water a day. It has become a habit for me that if I’m behind on my water intake, I’m feeling it a bit more keenly, and that reminds me that I need to drink more. I have my two water bottles with me at all times, and they’re always filled with water. Even when I was travelling, I was still able to keep up the water intake. Take empty water bottles through security and then find some water filling stations once you reach the gates. It’s a great way to ensure you’re keeping up your water intake, and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a bottle of water in the airport shops.

With awesome filling stations like this, it pays to take your empty water bottles through security! Picture taken at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

I’d like to thank Cindy for organizing the challenge and to Eric and Rachel for the inspiration and the encouragement. Oh, and I won a contest for being the most consistent poster. Increasing water intake does, indeed, yield great rewards. :)