NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

The Flu

This year has been super bad for getting the flu. More and more of my friends and relatives seem to have come down with it. Luckily I’ve avoided it so far, but because it seems to be everywhere I ended up reading an interesting article about it.

But before I get into what I learned from the article, you should know that I don’t get an annual flu shot. I know a lot of people who do get the shot and I know it’s recommended by doctors, but I still choose not to get one. I don’t really want to get in an argument with anyone about why you should or should not get a flu shot, but I have a few reasons why I choose not to get one and I thought I’d share them here. Plus the article I just read gave me one more reason to add to my list. So here are my reasons:

1. I don’t like shots. I know lots of them can be beneficial and I’m willing to get the necessary ones, but if I don’t have to get it, I’m okay with saying no.

2. The one year I tried to get some kind of flu prevention (it was a nose spray version instead of a shot) I actually got sick and it was miserable. Since then people have told me that the shot uses a dead virus not a live weakened one, so it wouldn’t be as bad. And that’s probably true, but still, my one experience wasn’t good and so it makes getting the shot sound worse to me.

3. I have a pretty good immune system already. I eat fruits and veggies, drink lots of water, try to exercise and use a lot of natural remedies. And I usually do not get the flu. So why get a shot for something I usually don’t get anyway?

4. After reading this article by Pamela A. Popper called “What to do if you get the Flu” where she talks about remedies to flu symptoms in addition to the flu shot, I learned that most people who do not get the flu shot also do not get the flu and the flu shot is not very effective in preventing the flu. The shot also contains several ingredients that could have harmful side effects.

So it just seems to me that getting the flu shot is not worth it. But whether you choose to get the flu shot or not, I hope you don’t get the flu this year. Stay healthy out there and keep washing your hands.

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A Poem

So I was struggling with what to write today and ended up looking through old assignments from college. I came across this old poem. I had started it, but never fully finished it. Or at least when I read it, some things just obviously needed to be changed. So I fixed it up a bit and now I’d like to share it with you.

Please enjoy!

Life’s River

It only flows one way; forward,
Always towards the sea of history
Sometimes it rushes
through rapids
You can barely
hang on
Other times it is stagnant,
Like the last day of school before summer begins
At times you can see the waterfall ahead
Even if you don’t see it, you feel the current
Pulling you towards the drop
You know it’s coming
But you cannot stop
The free fall
Where it all falls apart
But you have to keep going with the flow
Knowing you will lose control and come crashing down
It comes steadily closer no matter how much you fight the current
Sometimes you get trapped in the backflow
Keep reliving that moment,
Even though everything
Keeps moving toward the sea
But eventually
You will get there,
And join the lives of so many others
Rivers lost in the ocean of eternity

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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.

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The Greatest Showman

I just had the opportunity to see this new movie musical yesterday and I thought a movie review would be fun. First off, The Greatest Showman has awesome music. I happened to hear the soundtrack before seeing the movie and I was already hooked. These are very fun, catchy and beautiful songs and I loved getting to enjoy them within the movie plot. I did have a bit of trouble with the songs being integrated into the movie. I don’t know if the lip-sinking felt off, or it just didn’t seem natural to burst into song in some moments, but it just wasn’t as natural as I’ve seen in some other musical movies. So even though I loved the songs, something about watching them on screen, was just off. It may have been just me though. My sister didn’t notice anything odd about it. And I have to say the song with Zac Efron and Zendaya swinging through the air was just beautiful to watch.

Anyway, on to the plot. I didn’t really know what was going to happen in this film and I liked that, so I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But I can say that I was pleasantly surprised on the value of family this film gave off. Even though our main character gets distracted by all of the attention and fame he gets from his circus success, he ultimately values his family above all of that. In addition, the assortment of odd individuals that make up the circus also form a special bond and think of themselves as a family by the end of the movie. The love story between P T Barnum and his wife, and Philip and the acrobat was also quite touching.

In fact all of the characters in this movie were very realistic and the acting was fantastic. All in all the movie was a lot of fun to watch and very uplifting. And those catchy songs are still buzzing around my head too. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I hope you check it out before it goes out of theaters.

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Climbing Mountains and Looking Back

The past few weeks have been very busy for me, so inevitably, some things got pushed aside, like writing my weekly blog post. But I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I’ve gotten the chance to climb, or see, several great views from a mountain top in the past month. And it reminded me of something that happens throughout our lives.

When you start climbing a mountain, it’s hard to know how far it is to the top. You don’t know how long it will take, how steep it will get, or how many breaks you will need along the way. But as you get closer, you don’t want to turn back. You think of all the miles you’ve come so far, all the pristine views you’ve already seen, and you just want to see what it’s actually like on the top. And it helps when someone coming the other direction tells you it’s worth it, and encourages you to keep going.

Well I think life can be like that sometimes. We all go through seasons in life when everything is just hard, and sometimes you just feel like giving up. It may be illnesses, job loss, uncertainly, changes, inconveniences, or a number of other things. But it’s hard, no matter what it is and it can seem like there’s not a point to it all. But when you choose to trust Jesus, that He is working in all of the circumstances and He is taking you to a better place, you keep going. You persevere.

It may take weeks, or months or years. But one day you’ll get to look back on all that’s happened and see that God was doing something amazing. And even though it was hard and you felt like giving up, you can see that it was worth it. It’s like how it feels when you finally get to the top of a mountain. You can see some of the challenges you faced on the way up but you also get this amazing view that you couldn’t get from the bottom. And all those hours of climbing feel worth it.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a good opportunity to stop and try to look back. You may not feel like everything’s great and you are on the mountaintop. But it’s good to stop and think about where you are, and where you were when the year started. What have you seen God do in the past year? What are you grateful for?

I got to do a lot of traveling this past year, which I’m grateful for. I got to see literal mountaintops and spend time with friends and family. But I also went through some hardships. Life isn’t easy, and there are days that just suck. But those hardships showed me how God will take care of me and how He’s placed people in my life to help and encourage me. I know God was using those hard times to grow me and He has a purpose for them and for me. And I’m looking forward to where He’ll take me in the new year.

So anyway, here are a few pictures from my mountaintops from the past year. I hope they remind you to persevere and keep going today, trusting that God is going to get you where He wants you, and it will be worth it. Happy New Year!

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Star Wars The Last Jedi

My sister’s Rey Outfit

I haven’t done a movie review in awhile and honestly, it won’t take me as long as another story I’d like to share from my recent trip to Big Bend. And since it’s the holidays and everyone is in a rush, including me, I’m going for short and sweet.

Now I’m not a huge Star Wars Fan. I enjoy it, and I know a lot of things about it, thanks to my sister. But I’m not… how should I say this, over invested? Anyway, I think this makes it easier for me to enjoy the Star Wars movies, I’m not nit picky when it comes to these movies and I really enjoyed all of them, more or less when I first saw them. Looking back, movies like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were not that great. And actually I wasn’t too fond of Rogue One either, just because everyone died. But in general, I enjoy these movies, but I’m not so attached that I get mad if it isn’t as good as I was expecting.

So anyway, I really enjoyed The Force Awakens and I’ve been looking forward to The Last Jedi for a long time. So me and my sister went opening night to see the new movie. And I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It went well with the first movie in this newest trilogy and it was a good continuation of the story. I enjoyed seeing Rey and Finn and Poe develop more as characters and learn something more about themselves. Finn finally accepted being a Rebel, Poe learned to care more for people than just being a hero, and Rey learned that she didn’t have to find her family to have a place in the world. I also was happy with the direction Luke Skywalker’s character took. It seemed very realistic and he did bring his own sort of humor to the story.

There were also a lot of epic fight scenes and hilarious dialogue in the film that kept me engaged and enjoying the story. Poe’s opening quips with General Hux were particularly memorable as was Rey getting smacked by a plant when she was trying to feel the force. So if you enjoy a good action movie, with some spot on humor I think you’d enjoy this film. And if you liked The Force Awakens, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this movie too. But if you were really set on finding out who Rey’s parents were and didn’t like the direction the new films were taking, you might be disappointed. But I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the holidays and take some time to be with family and friends and remember that relationships are more important than presents. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Snow Day

Growing up in central Texas means you rarely have a snow day. And even when we get a snow day, it’s usually because of ice, not snow. In face what passes for snow is usually sleet, tiny round balls of ice that don’t stick together to make anything. It can be pretty to look at, but, well it’s not snow.

But last night we got a huge surprise. It wasn’t even freezing and snow started to fall from the sky. And this wasn’t sleet, this was flaky soft snow, some of it clumping together into extra big flakes. And it didn’t stop, it just kept falling and then started to accumulate on the ground and the cars. Anything hitting pavement just melted, but it was amazing to be in the middle of an actual snow storm and see it gathering on the trees and cars and grass. I can’t remember this ever happening before in my life.

I know some people live where it snows all the time, but for this Texas girl, last night and today were something special and something I want to praise God for. It was such a blessing for me to see His handiwork in the snow and laugh with joy as I tossed snowballs at family members and opened my mouth to catch a flake on my tongue. It is a special time that I don’t want to forget. So here are a few pictures from my snow adventure. I hope you enjoy them and take time to praise God for the little blessings He gives you today.

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Coco versus The Book of Life

I got to see Coco over the weekend and I really enjoyed it but it couldn’t help but remind me of the Book of Life. Since these two movies have so much in common, I thought it would be fun to compare them. So in case you haven’t seen these films and want some context, here are two previews:

So let’s start off with their similarities. In both films, the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead and remembering your ancestors is a big part of the story. And both films show dead relatives coming back to visit on the Day of the Dead and involve the protagonist getting to see the dead’s world and then coming back to the real one. There is also a large emphasis on music and our protagonist in both films wants to be a musician even though his family is against it. These movies are also both geared towards younger audiences because they are family films and are animated.

Now let’s look at some of their differences. First off, the animation style is very different. Most of the Book of Life is told as if the characters are puppets and so their proportions reflect this and they can look a little goofy. It works in the story, but I tend to enjoy the more realistic style of Pixar’s animation in Coco. Pixar has a way of just making beautiful scenes in their movies and this happens again in Coco.

Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the scene where Coco first sees the Land of the Dead is quite breathtaking. But these two films, though based on the same mythology, take a bit of a different twist on what this afterlife is like. In Book of Life, the Land of the Remembered is where people go when they are remembered and it is a colorful place ruled by the benevolent La Muerte. Whereas the Land of the Forgotten is ruled by the less lovable Xibalba. However these rulers are not mentioned at all in Coco, and it’s world seems more based on reality with many similarities to our own world. Also, when someone is forgotten, they simply disappear from the land of the dead. It is even suggested that everyone will eventually be forgotten which is heartbreaking.

There is also a big difference in how these two stories play out. Book of Life revolves around a romance and a love triangle which makes sense with our older main character Manolo. In the end he proves to his family and Xibulba that he doesn’t have to kill the bull to win but instead he can use his music to win and show love. In essence he is proving his family wrong. I love the story, but I really like how Coco takes this a step further.

Miguel in Coco is much younger than Manolo and is not interested in romantic love. Instead he wants to pursue his passion for music and become a musician. But his family has a deep hate of music and he ends up running away to pursue his dream. Miguel does get to prove his family wrong in the plot, and show that music is not bad and as his family, they should support him. But he also learns a lesson; that family is more important than music, and chasing after a dream at the cost of family is not worth it. I really like that everyone learns a lesson in this film and I think it brings more depth to the movie.

The music in both of these movies is very good. Book of Life uses a lot more popular music with a Mexican twist in addition to a couple of original songs while Coco has exclusively new music written for it’s story. I don’t know if I could choose one soundtrack over the other, but it is fun to hear new songs from Coco.

And the last thing I’ll say, is that while both movies have their twists and turns, and both have well written stories, I think Coco is more surprising than Book of Life. It’s pretty easy to guess where the love triangle is headed in Book of Life’s story and even though there are obstacles along the way, it’s easy to guess the ultimate outcome. Coco, however, has several unexpected twists that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet. So I’ll just say I think Coco did a better job at doing the unexpected. But since Book of Life came out first, they might win on originality.

In any case, both of these movies are very enjoyable and I hope you get to see them sometime soon. Though I don’t believe in this version of the afterlife and I’m glad that my happiness is not dependent on someone else remembering me, I did enjoy the stories these two films tell.

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An Unthankful Thanksgiving

I was perusing through some old short stores I’d written several years ago and I came across one that happened at Thanksgiving. It reminded me that it’s just as easy to find things to be thankful for as it is to find things to complain about. You can ruin your own vacation by complaining or you can find joy even if the midst of hardship by being thankful. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have enjoyed that trip if I’d practiced gratitude. I hope this year you focus on the things you’re grateful for and enjoy the blessings God’s given you and don’t get stuck focusing on what’s wrong or hard.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the story!

Thanksgiving Cruise

I think it’s a bit ironic that the only cruise I’ve ever been on was set during the week of Thanksgiving. However, this is one of the trips that I can remember a lot of unthankfulness. But it did teach me a lesson. And it is one trip I’ll never forget.

We started our cruise from Galveston, TX. We should have been very thankful that we didn’t have to fly all the way to Florida to get on a cruise, but unfortunately, we were late getting to the ship, and this caused some bad attitudes.

“If only we would have left when I said we should,” Dad grumbled as he parked the car.

We hurried to unload our many suitcases and glanced up thankfully at the tall ship. At least we weren’t being left behind… yet.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” my younger sister Alicia said with a whine, “I’ve been holding it for fifteen minutes.”

“Just a little longer,” Mom assured her. “We’ll go sign in and I’m sure they have a bathroom somewhere.”

“Come on already,” my younger brother Jonny said with frustration. “I don’t want the ship to leave without us.”

I agreed with Jonny and started following him towards the wharf, with my wheeled suitcase in tow. We soon found the check-in area, and I was a bit relieved to find out that we weren’t the only family that had gotten there late. But there were some consequences. As Dad signed papers, I stared up at the ship’s deck high above us, and spotted groups of passengers clumped together in formation at the lifeboats. They were undergoing a mandatory safety training, and we were missing it.

“You’ll have to do the late training this evening,” the check in person said.

I shook my head; of course it would be my family that missed the safety training. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to experience a Titanic like adventure, but I still wanted to be prepared in case some kind of emergency happened. Now, while everyone else was having fun, we’d have to stand like a bunch of idiots out on the deck and do our safety training, basically singling ourselves out as the irresponsible ones. But it could be worse, at least we didn’t have to do it alone, there were several other families who were late too.

As our trip got underway, I found myself spending a lot of time in our cabin, a tiny room with two bunk beds, and a TV. We watched a lot of old cartoons that I hadn’t even known had existed. There was Adam Ant, and Mighty Mouse, and the Spiderman movie was played continually on one channel.

“Uh, I wish they played some better cartoons,” I whined. “Like Scooby Doo. There’s nothing good on these channels.”

“I’m bored of TV,” Jonny joined in.

“Yeah, I’m so bored.” I knew complaining about being bored was kind of dumb: I was staying in the room watching the same cartoons over and over instead of getting out on the ship. But I didn’t want to make any effort; I just wanted to be entertained. Thus the unthankfulness epidemic grew. Every little thing there was to complain about somehow got mentioned.

“Uh, I wish that stupid rule about not swimming in the adult pool never existed,” I complained.

“Yeah, that current is so fun to play in, and it’s not as crowded as the kid pool,” Jonny added.

“And we’re all good swimmers, it’s not like we need a life guard or an adult to watch us, we can take care of ourselves,” I added.

“You know what I’m sick of?” Alicia asked.

I turned my head lazily to face her, “What?”

“Those lady fingers that they put in all the desserts, they taste disgusting and I’m so tired of having to pull them out of everything.”

“Speaking of food,” Jonny added. “Did you know they ran out of free ice cream in the lounge today? Talk about disappointing.”

This kind of talk would go on and on, and what did we do; sit and watch more boring TV.

Thankfully, this was not the case every day. On the days we were stopped at an island or foreign country, there were chances to explore, and get off the boat. But complaining fests still crept upon us. The worst stop was in Cozumel, Mexico. For some reason, everyone found something to complain about that day, and even though we were all a part of doing something very enjoyable, we focused in on the parts that didn’t meet our expectations.

I climbed into the taxi after Dad had finally flagged down a taxi van that was big enough for our whole family. It had been a long day. We had split up this time with Mom and me going to a ranch to ride horses, and the Dad taking the other kids to the beach. “So what did y’all do?” I asked Alicia.

“Well the boys went swimming and climbed a big blow up iceberg, but it was too far out for me, so Dad stayed with me on the beach. It’s no fun being small. The iceberg looked like fun.”

“Yeah it was,” Jonny said. “But you got to go on the bounce trampoline and do flips.”

“But you got to do both,” Alicia whined. “I wish I could have gone with you Lydia. I would have rather ridden horses.”

“Well it wasn’t too exciting. I was separated from Mom for most of the ride. My horse wouldn’t go at all, even when I kicked like the guide said, he wouldn’t listen. He just walked when the horses in front of him walked. I really wanted to gallop with the others, but when I tried, the horse was still really slow.”

“So you didn’t have fun?” Alicia asked.

“No, it was fun. There was a cool show they did for us where this rider danced with his horse. And we saw a lot of ruins on the trail ride… they looked fake to me though.

“Well I’m starving,” my older brother Brain said. “I can’t wait to get back to the ship. Dad didn’t want to pay for any of the food at the beach. He said it was too expensive.”

Just then we pulled up to the curb. I glanced out the window at the ocean in the distance; there was our cruise ship, still as a sunken log. “Good timing then,” I said. “Let’s go eat.”

We jumped out of the van, ready to get back to our temporary home aboard the ship, but as we started moving towards the ship, a yell disrupted the evening air.

I turned back to see Dad yelling at our Taxi driver, saying something about the amount was wrong and that it shouldn’t be that expensive to drive three miles. I kept walking, hoping the other vacationers returning to the ship didn’t think we were part of the same family. I hated this day, not only had the horse ride been quite disappointing, but now my Dad was having a breakdown about money for the whole world to see. At that moment, it seemed like I was on the worst vacation ever.

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Thankful

Me and my Mom

This month always reminds me that I should be more thankful and not take things for granted. But I am particularly thankful this year because my family has been going through some hardships recently and the response from my family in Christ has been so amazing.

So to start the story, back in October, the 23rd to be exact, my mother woke up with very bad back pain that was shooting down her right leg. She has experienced something like this before, and thought as long as she went to the chiropractor, everything would be fine. So she went, and used all her normal tricks to relieve the pain, but it didn’t go away, it just kept getting worse and worse.

The next day the pain was bad enough that she couldn’t drive and it was torture to walk. So we borrowed my grandma’s walker and I drove and then wheeled her to another chiropractor appointment. He ordered an x-ray and MRI scan since the pain was still not going away. We got the x-ray but had to wait a few days for the MRI.

The next day was probably one of the hardest days of my life. I woke up to a phone call from my mom. She was ‘sleeping’ downstairs in our living room, since going up the stairs was too painful. She hadn’t slept and she was in the worst pain I’d ever seen: crying, screaming, and breathing like what a woman does when she’s in labor. She said she couldn’t take the pain anymore so we were going to the doctor’s office so they could give her something for the pain. She didn’t even want the walker or a jacket because it was cold outside, she just wanted to go. So I drove her to the doctor and we ended up using a wheelchair, since she couldn’t walk without crying. They gave her shots and a prescription for the pain. And finally, after she got the pain pills, she was able to get some relief.

The next days were a whirlwind of more appointments and prescriptions and finding out from the MRI that she had a herniated disk that was pressing down on the nerve. Adding this to the normal routine of caring for my grandma, working for my Dad, driving my sister to her appointments, and serving at church and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed.

But God is faithful and my church family is amazing. First, one of my friends at my small group offered to bring a meal. Then one of my oldest friends called to check on me and let me just talk and cry and see her cute baby on the phone screen. Then as time progressed, more and more people said they were praying for me and my family and checked to see how we were doing. One family even set up a Care Calendar for our church to bring us meals.

It was a little weird for me to be the recipient of help, because I’m usually the one giving it, but it made me realize just how blessed I am to have so many friends and brothers and sisters in Christ who care. So I am thankful for all of them today. And I’m happy to report that my mom is making progress. The injections, and chiropractic treatments are slowly helping. She can now walk for short distances and today she drove a car for the first time since all this started.

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