The Magic of Disney with Autism

There’s something about Disney and fairy tales that still appeals to kids today. You might have heard some news stories on your feed about young children with autism having fun with Disney characters at the theme parks.

The most well-known story that’s been circulating around the news feeds is how Snow White comforted a young autistic boy named Jack Jack. Jack Jack and his family frequently go to the theme parks and his mother, Amanda, has documented their trips on her YouTube channel. In her other videos, you can see Jack Jack opening up to many more Disney characters.

Even Cinderella’s stepsisters get in on the fun. Recently, Jack Jack (the same boy who fell in love with Snow White) found a second love in Cinderella’s stepsisters. The most recent video shows him proposing to Drizella and Anastasia. Amanda says that they’re very hilarious and I think Jack Jack likes them for their humor.

Of course, Jack Jack isn’t the only one. Snow White has been shown comforting two other boys with autism who were in the middle of a meltdown. And about a year or so ago, a young girl with autism mistook a bride for Cinderella and got to go to Disney World after the news story went viral. Modern audiences, who often criticize Snow White and Cinderella, will probably wonder why those two princesses appealed to these children with autism.

Personally, I have a theory. Snow White may not be a princess that appeals to the typical feminist, at least not at first. But look at the story: She escapes from a life of abuse and finds a safer place to live with people who genuinely like her. The reason I think she appeals to children with autism is because of how Snow White handles the dwarves. Even though they’re little men, they still act like children with exaggerated personalities. And keep in mind that one of the dwarves, Dopey, is nonverbal. If you want to know more about the appeal of the classic Disney princesses, I recommend reading Faith Moore’s Saving Cinderella.

But Disney doesn’t just appeal to children with autism. There’s a documentary currently on Amazon Prime called Life, Animated, which centers on the life of a young man named Owen whose special interest centers on all things Disney. He’s able to recall scenes from the various Disney animated movies. However, for him, he doesn’t connect to the princesses, but to the “sidekick” characters such as Timon, Iago, Sebastian. The documentary centers on Owen as he starts living on his own, adjusting to the world of adulthood.

It honestly doesn’t surprise me that Disney Princesses and sidekicks appeal to people on the autism spectrum. As Life, Animated stated, they have exaggerated expressions and emotions, but the stories and characters still tie to things in the real world. I’m really looking forward to the Disney + streaming service because it will include some of the classic Disney movies. My biggest hope is that these classic movies can gain a wider audience.

Gratitude In the Moment

We’ve all heard how important the practice of gratitude is when it comes to our emotional health. It’s easy to feel grateful when everything feels good and we’ve all made an effort to count our blessings at one point or another. But here’s a perspective of gratitude I don’t think you’ve heard before: Choosing to be grateful in the present. Not just think about the food you have or the clothes that you wear, but gratitude for whatever you’re experiencing right here, right now, even when things don’t go according to plan.

I know it’s sounds a lot easier said than done, especially if you’re going through something you don’t want to wish on anyone else. But how often do we think about the past and what we want to change? How often do we think about the uncertainty of the future? There’s so much in this world that’s outside of our control. Gratitude in the moment puts us right in the present.

You could see it as an extension of mindfulness, being more aware of what’s around you. It can be something as small as being grateful for the weather or the smell of a nearby flower or the sound of the birds. If you’re in a city, pay attention to the architecture of the buildings or whatever catches your eye. These are all things to be grateful for.

One other benefit of being grateful in the moment and mindful of our present surroundings is that, ideally, it compels us to put down our phones and actually pay attention. In spite of everything going on in the world, I sincerely believe we are lucky to be alive right now. I’m not saying the world is perfect, but I think being grateful for where we are right now can help us detach from the endless cycle of online debates and news of things that are out of our control.

Being grateful in the moment is a small drop in the bucket in terms of taking care of ourselves emotionally. Try practicing it today and see if it makes any difference. Put aside all regrets of the past and anxieties of the future. Be here now.

Lover: A Track By Track Review

Everything is Taylor Swift and nothing hurts. This was literally the album I have been waiting for. And I LOVE IT! Taylor’s sixth album, reputation, did grow on me over time. However, Lover ranks up there with 1989 as my favorite album so far!

Time to go into a deep dive, track by track review. Every song will be ranked on a scale of 1-13, 13 being the best.

  1. I Forgot That You Existed: This picks up right where reputation leaves off. Any Swiftie worth their salt knows who this song is about, but I won’t name names cuz Taylor doesn’t! I related to this song as soon as I heard the chorus. It reminds me of that time in my life when I finally let go and forgave the people who put me in a bad state of anxiety for years. I was waiting YEARS for this song! But Taylor is so right. Forgiveness can sometimes be indifference. And I LOVE IT! Favorite lyric: “I forgot that you existed/It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.” 12/13
  2. Cruel Summer: This song is a definitely a bop that takes you to Bridge City. Definitely a summer love track with the beat. Think “Blank Space” meets reputation at the beach. It describes falling in love in spite of dealing with hard times. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor makes this a single as she has been dropping the title of this song as an Easter Egg in a few places. Definitely like the song, but LOVE the bridge because it captures Drunk Taylor in love! Favorite lyrics: “I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you…And I screamed for whatever it’s worth/’I love you.’ Ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?” 10/13
  3. Lover: Can I slow dance with someone to this song, please? This is such a beautiful 60’s style doo-wop ballad. I can easily see people dancing to this at a wedding or at prom. And the music video captures the story of the album as a whole. Love is shown as imperfect, but it’s still beautiful and worth fighting for. Side note: Can we just appreciate that Taylor FINALLY has someone she can celebrate her birthday and Christmas with? Favorite Lyric: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand?/With every guitar string scar on my hand.” 12/13
  4. The Man: THE SHADE OF THIS SONG! This is definitely a feminist anthem. As harsh as the lyrics sound, I have seen this kind of double standard. Nobody blinks an eye at say, John Mayer or Adam Levine when it comes to their love lives and writing songs about their exes, but Taylor Swift’s dating life has been scrutinized and questioned. I also think this puts the whole Scooter Braun deal in a new light, too. If Taylor was a man, I don’t think Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta would shortchange her. Favorite Lyrics: “They’d say I hustled, put in the work/They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve” 12/13
  5. The Archer: This is one of my personal favorites. I loved this song as soon as I heard it. For me, it captures how I feel when I deal with anxiety and how I try to ground myself down. Favorite lyric: “Help me hold onto you.” 13/13
  6. I Think He Knows: Another 60’s style summer love bop. I swear this could be sung by a girl group, especially with the chorus. Postmodern Jukebox, GET ON IT! I can literally dance and skip down the street to this song! (Incidentally, this picture from her Vogue photo shoot comes to mind.) Favorite Lyric: “He got my heartbeat/Skipping down 16th Avenue”13/13
  7. Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince: Imagine if “You Belong With Me” transitioned into “Dear John,” blends with “I Know Places, and “Wildest Dreams” and meets the beat of “So It Goes.” The girl in the dress cries the whole way home and finds love in the midst of the scary times of 2016. Basically, this song captures Taylor’s past six albums in four minutes and I LOVE IT. Can there be a music video for this song, please? Favorite lyric: “The whole school is rolling fake dice
    You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes” 13/13
  8. Paper Rings: A throwback to Grease’s “You’re The One That I Want.” I could dance all night to this song. Incidentally, this song personally makes me think of the main characters of one of my WIPs. Yes, this is another 60’s summer love BOP with lots of awesome little details that takes you to Bridge City again. Favorite lyric: “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this.”
  9. Cornelia Street: This sounds like a sequel to “Delicate” and there’s evidence that ties Delicate to this song. It also has Red vibes with verses that remind me of “State of Grace,” “Holy Ground,” and the autumn aesthetic. Favorite Lyrics: “And baby, I get mystified by how this city screams your name/And baby, I’m so terrified of if you ever walk away/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again.” 12/13
  10. Death By A Thousand Cuts: This is a classic case of lyrical dissonance (sad lyrics, happy beat) a la “The Story of Us.” According to what I gathered, Taylor was inspired by the Netflix film Someone Great. Unfortunately, I never watched that movie. I can see Taylor going crazy on the piano with this, though. I definitely like it, but it’s not one I particularly relate to and I know for sure that it’s not where Taylor is now. Favorite lyric: “You said it was a great love, one for the ages
    But if the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” 10/13
  11. London Boy: Do I care if this is probably inaccurate to actual London geography? NOPE! Because all I can think of is a British guy I have a crush on with killer cheekbones and how much this reminds me of said hot British man with his blonde Slayer. SPUFFY FANS LISTEN TO THIS STAT! Favorite Lyrics: “He likes my American smile, like a child when our eyes meet/Darling, I fancy you.” 12/13
  12. Soon You’ll Get Better: This tearjerking track throws everyone back to the Fearless era and talks about Andrea Swift’s battle with cancer and Taylor’s fears of possibly losing her mother. The thing is, though, this can apply to dealing with any loved one who’s battling a disease or even losing them. Favorite lyrics: “And I hate to make this all about me/But who am I supposed to talk to?/What am I supposed to do/If there’s no you?” 11/13
  13. False God: Sorry, Taylor, but this is a track I’m skipping. Tying in religious imagery with sex or making your relationship your idol always turns me off, personally. I understand why some people would like this song cuz it kinda throws back to “Don’t Blame Me.” It sounds nice, but the lyrics unfortunately rub me the wrong way. Lyrics I liked: “Hell is when I fight with you/But we can patch it up good/Make confessions and we’re begging for forgiveness.” 5/13
  14. You Need to Calm Down: Taylor’s most blatantly political song aside from “The Man.” Taylor covers a lot of different stuff people deal with in this song and I definitely like the music video. Seriously wish people could stop saying Taylor is anti-Christian, though. Yes, she swings left and she includes anti-gay protestors in the music video here. I don’t agree with all of her politics, but did we just forget that Westboro Baptist Church exists? Favorite Lyrics: “I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ’bout somebody else is no fun/And snakes and stones never broke my bones” 10/13
  15. Afterglow: Taylor hinted in her “Lover” music video that this song ties into “King of My Heart.” And I can hear the connection. This is a relationship making-up song. What comes to mind for me is Spike and Buffy towards the latter end of Season 6 and all of Season 7. This song points out that relationships can fall apart and that Taylor can own up to her mistakes. Favorite lyrics: “I’m the one who burned us down/But it’s not what I meant/I’m sorry that I hurt you.” 11/13
  16. ME!: I loved Taylor’s first single as soon as I watched the video! The aesthetic alone was just beautiful. And I love that it’s an anthem to loving yourself as you are. Favorite Lyric: “I’m the only one of me. Baby, that’s the fun of me.” 12/13
  17. It’s Nice to Have A Friend. Is it just me or does the music sound Chinese/Japanese? I know that steel drums are used, but the song just gives me shojo light novel anime vibes. It’s the most innocent song on the album. No lyrics stand out to me in particular, though. I like it, but I don’t love it. 7/13.
  18. Daylight. As soon as Taylor shared an Instagram picture with the caption: “Step into the daylight and let go,” I knew I would love whatever song the lyrics came from and I was right. This is the song I relate to the most on here. The chorus and the outro are the best parts and, arguably, the most important thing Taylor ever wrote, IMHO. 13/13.

I wanna be defined by the things that I love
Not the things I hate
Not the things that I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of
Not the things that haunt me in the middle of the night
I, I just think that
You are what you love

Cells at Work and the Body of Christ

A popular anime/manga series that swept the internet recently, Cells At Work is basically if Osmosis Jones (and/or Ozzy and Drix for those who remember that show) got an anime upgrade and was written by someone with some serious med school education. The anime has become so popular that fans feel inspired to at least try and take care of their health. Not to mention that the characters were used in a recent ad for blood donation in Japan.

Some fans wonder what kind of world the Cells at Work really is because of how the cells are created and the unusual way that the show portrays diseases such as cancer. The world of Cells at Work is, to quote a video from YouTube “rigidly utilitarian” and some people comment that it borders on a dystopia.

Pump the brakes, otakus. Keep in mind a few things:

1) This show’s characters represent the human body, which functions differently from Western society as a whole.

2) The manga writer/illustrator is Japanese. Sociologically speaking, the Japanese (and Eastern society as a whole) tend to emphasize the collective needs over the individual. (For an example of the cultural difference, watch Crazy Rich Asians.)

3) The best way to reconcile this view is looking at the body of Christ and the Catholic view on how God’s will and mankind’s free will can work together.

“For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,  so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another”- Romans 12:5

(There’s also a really long passage from 1 Corinthians 12, but I’ll use the verses as I go along.)

To start with, all the cells in Cells at Work were created with a purpose. It ties into the verse in the first part of 1 Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts. Every person on Earth, as crazy as this sounds, was given a purpose even before they were born. The cells in this anime were just created knowing their function from early childhood. Sometimes, such in the case of Red Blood Cell aka AE 3803, it takes people a while to do well with their gifts.

AE 3803’s character arc centers on her navigating her way through the body. She gets lost all the time and runs into her share of trouble. Thankfully, she usually has people who help and in one episode, she does manage to make it through the circulatory system all on her own (for the most part). And even though she can be a bit easily distracted, she really came through on the cancer 2-parter when she realizes that something is very wrong and alerts the entire immune system team.

1 Corinthians 12: 22 applies to the adorable platelets (“the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary…”) who seem small and vulnerable, especially since they look like kids and in real life have short lifespans. However, these platelets are very important in repairing the body, healing scrapes and cuts and probably whatever interior damage the body takes. Not to mention, they provide a breath of relief and are adored by a good portion of the fanbase. (They also make a great case for platelet donation.)

One thing fans of the series overlook is that the major characters have a personality and free will to a certain extent. After all, White Blood Cell (aka U-1146) chooses to be friends with AE 3803 even though Killer T Cell discourages the idea. Killer T, however, has his own insecurities, as he has this combative friendship with Helper T cell and a belligerent relationship with NK Cell. Poor Killer T needs to watch his salt intake.

So if all the cells (and by extension all humans) are created with a purpose, how does that explain cancer and the other diseases that harm the body? The nature of sin. Due to original sin, our bodies aren’t created perfectly, so we will be vulnerable to sin from outside forces, just like how the body can be vulnerable to diseases.

Cancer, however, comes from our own bodies. And in the show, the cancer cell was portrayed with a somewhat sympathetic past.

In my opinion, cancer cells represent people who are corrupted by a sin within themselves. In Doctor Ed Hope’s words, cancer is essentially a cellular psychopath. It’s true that there are people who feel like they were born wrong or feel like a mistake and they have to realize that they were created to be good. Unfortunately, due to the nature of sin, some people choose to basically corrupt and destroy the people and the world around them. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.”

The only way to deal with sin is to fight it and cut it at its root. This is why the scene where the entire body comes together to fight the growing cancer is one of my favorite moments in the whole show. And while the cancer cell may have some sympathetic moments, it crosses the line by trying to destroy the body. In the manga, Cancer Cell makes a scary comeback and even manipulates a Negotiator T Cell into protecting him, taking advantage of an actual blind spot.

If you or someone you know has suffered or even died from cancer, don’t see the Cancer Cell as a symbol of your despair. Cancer is one of those things in this world that doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to understand the nature of evil. We just know it when we see it and all we can do is fight it.

So if you’re into anything relating to the medical field or want a nice anime that’s relatively lighthearted and has some surprisingly deep meanings, check out Cells At Work on vrv or wait for the English dub via Aniplex. And yes, the English dub cast is singing the theme!

Shazam: The Die Hard of the DCEU– A Movie Review

I’m only a casual fan of superhero movies in general, especially the DC movie lineup. I wasn’t really familiar with the character of Shazam beyond snippets of the superhero in shows like Young Justice. So it came as a surprise to me that not only was this movie entertaining and a breath of fresh air compared to the preceding DCEU movies, it had heart and a theme that many Catholics are familiar with: the importance of family and the battle of sin versus virtue.

Also, I’m calling it now: Even though this movie takes a lot of cues from Tom Hanks’s Big, I can already see this movie becoming the Die Hard of the DCEU: An action-packed, somewhat family friendly movie that people will watch as part of their Christmas movie marathon alongside Gremlins and Home Alone.

There’s gonna be spoilers from here on out, so if you just want my two cents, I will say that I highly recommend families see this movie. Just keep in mind that kids younger than, say, 10, might pick up on the bad language and have nightmares for weeks. The director has a background in horror movies and it really shows at times. You have been warned!

Yes, this movie does take place during the Christmas season, which calls into mind the main theme of family. Billy Batson’s main goal throughout the movie is finding his birth mother after the two of them got separated at a carnival. At the same time, he cuts himself off from really connecting with any foster family, including the group home he gets placed into. He would rather look out for number one because to him, as long as he has his mom, he won’t need anything else.

The foster family is awesome, even if I kinda wish they had more screen time so that the bond Billy develops is more believable. The main sibling that Billy connects with is Freddie, the genre-savvy superhero fanboy with a disability. He walks with a modern day crutch a la Tiny Tim. The good news is that he’s not a fragile flower the way Tiny Tim was. Instead, he helps Billy out with figuring out all the Shazam powers.

In the villain corner, we have Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. A lot of critics are saying that his character is unfortunately lacking in depth and I will agree that he doesn’t get any parallel journey the way, say, Killmonger did in Black Panther or even a personal connection with Billy other than knowing the power-granting wizard. However, Dr. Sivana does act as a foil to Billy in a thematic sense. Billy is given the powers of Shazam because he has a pure heart underneath his standoffish demeanor. Also, while Shazam is seen as a hero for the people, Dr. Sivana is literally possessed by the Seven Deadly Sins.

I mentioned before that the director’s background in horror films is alluded to in the movie. The Seven Deadly Sin demons are mostly where it shows. Even though these monsters are CGI and don’t get a lot of screentime, their grotesque, gargoyle-like appearances are the stuff of nightmares.

One thing that gets pointed out towards the third act of the movie is that Dr. Sivana’s primary demon, the one he never lets out, is Envy. Dr. Sivana’s envy is more than just a green-eyed monster. He hates the success of his abusive father and the fact that Billy got the wizard’s powers and seeks their ruin.

The “lively virtue” that combats envy (according to Catholic tradition) is kindness. Billy doesn’t start out as being a kind person all the time. But he’s kind when the situation calls for it, when it matters most. Also, Billy is surrounded by kindness in the form of his foster family. The foster parents unconditionally love him. They’ll discipline him for acting out, but at the same time, they always give him a seat at the dinner table. The siblings also help Billy find his mom.

It only makes sense that the way these demons are defeated is through Billy and his foster siblings. My favorite part of the movie was when Billy shared the wizard’s powers with his family because he trusts them enough to know they can help him fight. It was an awesome sight to see Freddy, Mary, Eugene, and Darla do battle with all the Seven Deadly Sins.

By the end of the movie, kindness wins over envy and Billy finally finds a sense of belonging that he used to push away. It cannot be any more “Christmas” than that aside from having a Nativity play!

14 Reasons Why You Should Watch Signed, Sealed, Delivered

 

signedsealeddelivered04

I’ve talked about this show on my blog before a bit, but for those who are new, Signed, Sealed, Delivered started out as a series on Hallmark Channel before becoming a series of movies on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I fell in love with this series back when it came out in 2014, but I’ve lost touch due to the network jump because cable is expensive and it’s unfortunately not free to stream anywhere.

There are a few times in the year when I really crave the cheesy Hallmark channel stuff. Two of these occasions are the Christmas season and Valentine’s Day. So, with Valentine’s Day coming up this week and in anticipation for whatever new installments this series gets this year, I want to talk about 14 reasons why you should start binging Signed, Sealed, Delivered for your romantic comedy fix.

 

Reason #1: This is a genuinely family-friendly series.

I honestly feel like I can recommend this show to anyone who’s willing to give it a chance. The premise is high-concept, but it’s also something anyone can relate to: a group of people who make sure that everyone can communicate what they really want to say to each other. Everyone can relate to the struggle of figuring out what to say or the many, many ways that we can misunderstand each other. And yet, when we finally get the words out, there’s a feeling of relief.

Some of the stories revolve around getting a sense of closure to things while others center on forgiveness, which are all things we have to learn. The plots of every episode and movie are all things we can relate to. As someone who’s inundated with commercials about shows centering on soap opera drama and “first world problems,” Signed, Sealed, Delivered is much easier to follow and really makes you believe in the characters and the things they go through, which leads me to reason number 2.

 

Reason #2: The Characters

The main characters (Oliver, Shane, Rita, and Norman) are all quirky in their own way, but never in a way that comes off as annoying. Instead, they’re all endearing and sweet and you really feel for them. Oliver is a man who likes to cling onto the past and doesn’t like technology, but he’s also someone who’s compassionate. He’s a man of integrity without having any toxicity. In short, he is a genuine gentleman who has problems spitting out how he feels verbally. It’s quite a contrast from Eric Maibus’s more famous role in Ugly Betty.

Shane is the skeptical tech-lover who really helps the group in finding the things they need in order to get the job done. However, she has a lot of emotional baggage and hates the idea of being vulnerable. I can relate to Shane’s fears of falling in love. After being abandoned by her father and having a relationship with a man who constantly kept secrets from her, it’s no wonder she is thrown off guard when she has to work with people who are authentic, honest, and just a bit quirky.

Rita reminds me a lot of myself. She’s a shy, awkward, bookish woman who has photographic memory and is a hopeless romantic at heart. She’s also drop-dead gorgeous, but prefers rocking the librarian look with an owl motif. There was a subplot in the series of her writing an extremely long romance novel and she pours herself into it in a way a lot of amateur writers can relate to. She also gets into the world of beauty pageants and it’s clear that her heart is what really makes her beautiful.

It’s no wonder that Norman Dorman, another quirky postal worker, is head over heels for her. Norman was a foster child who loves collecting stamps, knows the history of almost everything, and has a lot of cousins who often contribute to the plot of the episode or movie. Norman is still trying to figure out his life and his identity along with his relationship with Rita. I love how he makes friends with almost everyone and how easily people open up to him. In spite of his awkwardness, he’s a genuine, honest soul.

 

Reason #3: The Show is Political Without Taking Sides

I have watched way too many shows that talk about their political beliefs with all the subtlety of an Ayn Rand novel. It’s my personal belief that when it comes to politics, fiction needs to be a lot more subtle and make people ask questions instead of just telling the audience what they should believe in. Signed, Sealed, Delivered takes a different approach by talking about issues we can pretty much all agree with. I’m very certain that both sides of the aisle can relate to making sure all our soldiers are taken care of and adjust to getting home from war in the best way possible. The show emphasizes a lot of things on a personal level, which makes the politics a lot more believable because we can empathize with all the characters.

 

Reason #4: The Morals are Clear Without Being Preachy

A long, long time ago, I remember watching Touched by an Angel back when they syndicated the show. It was by no means a perfect show, but I still liked it a lot. One criticism that the show got, though, was, well, how preachy it was. Similar to the politics, Signed, Sealed, Delivered helps us understand the morals of every episode and movie without feeling heavy handed because they show the morals through an emotional story arc or experiences that feel relatable.

Since the main characters’ job is to basically deliver mail that, for one reason or another, didn’t get to its destination in time, one thing we learn throughout the show and the movies is that timing is a funny thing. Whatever mistakes we make in the past can be repaired if given the right thought and consideration.

One of my favorite examples is from the episode “Dark Of Night” which teaches about the importance of forgiveness. The POstables stop a man from going to extreme means for the sake of revenge, saving three lives in the process. The moment is intense, but what happens afterwards is a huge sigh of relief and leads to the team earning the highest honor: The Dark of Night Award. The morals play out in a way that makes us really hope for the best outcome possible.

 

Reason #5: The Uplifting Mood

Even though a lot of drama happens in this series, there’s usually a happy ending and these endings always feel earned. Every ending progresses the character arc for the main characters in some way. They’re always moving forward in their lives, but in a way that feels natural. Sure there are some cliffhanger endings, but they never feel as frustrating because there’s still that hope that everything will work out for the best.

In a world where it seems like some people are just waiting for the apocalypse to happen, Signed Sealed Delivered reminds us what authentic hope looks like in a scene where Norman talks to his grandmother about a dark time in his life:
“When I finally gave up, I laid down on the ground, and that’s when I saw it… a sliver of light. I hadn’t noticed it before. That’s when I knew everything was gonna be okay… I like coming down here. It reminds me that, no matter how dark it gets, light will always find a way in.” 

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)

 

Reason #6: The Wonderful Guest Stars

Not only do we get cameos from former Touched by an Angel cast members Della Reese and Valerie Bertinelli, but we also have guest stars from Broadway and classic television. Valerie Harper, for example, is the enthusiastic supervisor who pursues her dream of being in theater. Carol Burnett is perfectly cast as Norman’s grandmother. Happy Days actress Marion Ross and Melrose Place actor Rob Estes guest star in the Christmas special. Fans of the M.A.S.H. spinoff Trapper John, M.D. will recognize Gregory Harrison in later SSD movies in a very surprising, but wonderful role.

I’m pretty sure the #POstables community can name many more awesome guest stars, but it’s definitely fun to watch just to see who might pop in.

 

Reason #7: The #POstables community

To quote Melinda May from Agents of SHIELD, the #POstables on Twitter and Facebook are a small, but active fanbase, especially when you consider that it doesn’t get much hype compared to When Calls The Heart or The Good Witch. When I got back into the series during Christmastime last year, I tweeted about it and my Twitter notifications blew up like crazy! Everyone is loving and supportive of each other and they helped me catch up on everything I missed.

On top of that, the cast of Signed, Sealed, Delivered interacts with the fandom on Twitter. I mentioned Crystal Lowe (who plays Rita) on one of my Tweets and she liked it! I can literally only name one or two other fandoms where the celebs really notice their fans like this.

 

Reason #8: The Music

Aside from the title song from Stevie Wonder, this series used to have a wonderful theme song:

 

Most fans will instantly recall Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” as the background music for Shane and Oliver’s dance in the series. The YouTube channel Alameda and Downing has collected the score from every episode and movie in this series. The music always fits whatever is going on.

 

Reason #9: It Pays Attention To The Little Things

Before I watched this series, I had no idea that there was a National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. This show makes me want to see that place for myself. And that’s only one example of how this show makes small things feel important. One episode centers on getting a child’s letter to his grandmother and it sounds so silly, but that letter becomes important in the context of an ongoing investigation and a criminal who’s still at large.

In all honesty, the whole premise of the show is about paying attention to the little things. This show makes everything from a book of collectible stamps to a bottle of Yoo-Hoo feel important. And the characters aren’t flashy or cosmopolitan, but they still feel as real to us as our actual postal workers.

 

Reason #10: It Inspires Old-Fashioned Letter Writing

This series is honestly made for the Hallmark brand because it emphasizes the importance and beauty of written communication. Letters or lack thereof can become a legacy. (Just ask anyone who’s frustrated at the fact that Jane Austen’s sister burned a lot of her letters or listen to “Burn” from Hamilton sometime.) The written word is a powerful thing, as any author would know, and these words on paper cause so many things to happen and for some reason, words that are actually written feel more important and personal than text messages and emails.

Have I mentioned that I am just ecstatic that there will be more movies to come this year?

 

Reason #11: The Realism of the Relationships

Communication issues in relationships is a common theme in Signed Sealed Delivered. And as contrived as some of the misunderstandings can be, I think we can all relate to the problems our POstables have when it comes to communicating with each other. Real relationships take a lot of work and even though I don’t agree with the show’s stance on “one true love” and “soul mates,” I do believe in the importance of setting boundaries and being clear on where you stand.

Shane, Oliver, Norman, and Rita all have problems with communicating and their struggle to make sure everyone understands each other is honestly one of the most believable things about this show. (It’s also one I relate to because I have autism and communication is very important to me.)

 

Reason #12: Respecting the Dignity of Every Person

One episode that stands out to me is “The Future Me,” which features two young actors who have Down Syndrome. Even though the characters are teens who are almost adults, it’s a real struggle for their parents to get their heads around the idea that they want to marry. But thankfully, these two young adults get their happy ending because it’s clear that they can take care of themselves and each other. They see each other as people, even with the extra chromosomes.

Norman connects with all sorts of people throughout the series, such as an old woman who bequeathed him her stamp collection and in the movie Truth Be Told, he connects with a young girl named Phoebe, who gets bullied because she’s still waiting on her military mother. He gives Phoebe advice on how to deal with the bullies and helps her get a sense of closure. The best part is that these people don’t see Norman as a “weirdo” like some might label him to be.

It’s true that these characters may come off as weird to some, but every character feels like a genuine real person, at least to me. Even the slightly ditzy postal worker Hazel and the very grandiose, flamboyant Ramon. And I love that everyone is treated with the respect and dignity every human being should be given.

 

Reason #13: How They Define Themselves

Oliver, Shane, Norman, and Rita all struggle with identity issues to some extent. They all have family issues, but have also created a “found family” unit with each other. Without spoiling the series or the movies, they all learn that they can find stability in knowing who they are and value those who love them as they are. What they do is important and the stuff they do is important, but we wouldn’t love them if they were any different. Who they are as people matters.

 

Reason #14: The Bigger Picture

Much like Touched By An AngelSigned Sealed Delivered reminds us that we put our faith in things we don’t see all the time and that for some reason, even when we receive something that was a day or five years “late,” the timing is somehow still perfect. Even if you’re not someone who believes in God, there’s this intangible factor in the show that really makes you believe that everything happens for a reason and that there are stranger things between heaven and earth that are beyond what we can comprehend.

Summer of Health and Fitness: Week 5

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 Fall seven times and stand up eight-Japanese Proverb

It isn’t easy sticking to a diet and exercise plan. I’ve been doing this for over a month now, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve had a few bad days. Instead of giving up, though, I just kept sticking to my diet, trying to eat better and exercise more than I did the previous day.

Let’s say that, like me, you go out to dinner with your family. You eat handful after handful of tortillas (or breadsticks) and all of a sudden, you’re over your calorie limit for the day. First of all, don’t panic. If you’re anxious because you went over recently, take a deep breath.

You’re not gonna cancel out those calories in one day. As I’ve stated before, don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Just go into your normal workout and see if you can push yourself a little more than usual. Dance for 45 minutes. Do some strength training. The calories will burn out.

As far as eating goes, don’t skip breakfast, even if you ate a lot the previous day. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Get your protein in. Just skip the snacking for the day and eat a lighter lunch and dinner.

Trust me when I say that as long as you stick to your diet and exercise plan, the bad days will balance out with the good ones. Having this lifestyle will take work, but it’s going to be worth it.

This perspective of perseverance has also applied to my life as a writer. I’ve learned that when you’re in the midst of revising your novel, you are essentially turning coal into diamonds or purifying silver. You are taking a load of crap, putting a lot of pressure and heat on it, and working hard to achieve a worthwhile result.

Don’t give up! You can do this!

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 2

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The previous week was definitely a challenge for me, as I had to change my exercising strategy. My feet were not up for running at all. Whenever I did a jumping exercise, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot.

I still made an effort to exercise everyday, in spite of the soreness in my legs. Simone de la Rue’s workout videos have some modified low impact moves that still get the job done. Check out this 25 minute cardio dance workout video and see how well you do.

4th of July was another test for my diet/exercise as I ate some pretty carb-heavy meals (hashbrowns for breakfast and sushi for lunch). I also snacked a lot, so I decided to eat corn for dinner so that I could have room for a nice s’more at the end of the day.

The only time I went over my calorie intake was a couple days ago when I had dinner at Whataburger. But here’s a tip: If you’re going to eat fast food, order small portions. Before I started this diet, I used to eat two large fries at Whataburger, which would add up to over 1000 calories. On Sunday, I ate a junior Whataburger with pickles and ketchup and had a small fry with water. It’s a huge difference, trust me on that.

I haven’t lost any weight since two weeks ago, but my waist to hip ratio has gone down. On top of that, some of my clothes are starting to feel big on me. What I’m doing is making a difference on my body. It’s just gonna take some patience.

Aside from patience, however, one virtue that I felt was prominent this past week was prudence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every good circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.

You won’t always be in control of where you go to eat things. You can’t always eat at home or bring food with you. It’s prudent to figure out your best option and not worry if you go over your calorie limit for one day. Just remember to work it all off the next day.

Prudence also applies to exercising. Listen to your body and don’t push it so hard that you feel pain. The best workouts are the ones that make you sweat without hitting a nerve or end with you hitting the floor.

I also had to apply the virtue of prudence in terms of some negative emotions I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people starting out on a new health and fitness habit, I made the mistake of comparing myself to someone who was a lot more fit and attractive than I will ever, ever be. I was jealous of this person beyond what’s rational or sensible.

The best thing I had to do was not give into the feelings or blast them out in the internet for all to see. I wrote in my journal. I confided in trustworthy friends. I focused on myself. And then I let it all go. It’s a process, obviously, but one I feel will help my emotional well-being.

If you’re starting out on a new health and fitness routine, don’t compare yourself to the model you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated or a fitness magazine. Focus on your own personal goals and be realistic.

It’s going to take time to lose weight or lower your cholesterol or whatever you want to do. The best thing you can do is just stick to what you have planned, no matter how you feel, and take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically. Keep a journal about everything you feel. Find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Trust me when I say that having the right mentality will make diet and exercising a lot easier.

 

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 1

 

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A couple weeks ago, I bought a bathing suit. This has been the first time since college that I ever wore one.

Like a lot of women this time of year, I checked my weight and measured my waist-to-hip ratio. I was 150 lbs and I’ve been 150 lbs for a while. I’m 5’3″ so the weight I’ve been carrying isn’t a healthy one because I don’t work out.

For the past week, I decided to get myself down to a healthier weight, using the Samsung Health app. I also decided on making changes to what I eat everyday.

Disclaimer: I have food allergies. I’m allergic to a lot of things, namely dairy, eggs, and nuts. I can’t drink protein shakes or eat granola bars. Please keep these things in mind and consider your own diet.

Like my fellow millenials, I am a fan of avocados. Thanks to Alton Brown, I’ve learned that I can use avocados in place of eggs. So yes, I’ve eaten avocado toast. I also made bagel avocado sandwiches and used avocado when making salads.

As far as adding exercise goes, I use the Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout app, which lets you customize your own workout. I also exercised along to Simone de la Rue’s videos on YouTube. I made a playlist. Check them out!

I also tried running. Emphasis on tried. While my first day of walk/running was successful (running for 30 seconds, walking for 90 seconds), I forgot to stretch and as such developed some pain in the arches of my feet and my ankles. When I tried running for a second time, it was more of a struggle. However, I’m not gonna give up after one bad day of running. I just don’t think I’ll be running any marathons anytime soon.

Question time: What’s the difference between pain and soreness? Answer: Pain is sharp. It feels like needles poking your brain. If you ever feel pain when exercising, STOP or SLOW DOWN. Soreness, on the other hand, is more spread out. Your muscles are being put to use. Imagine pizza dough that’s rising and spreading out. That’s how your muscles feel when you exercise.

There are three things I learned from my first week.

  1. It’s all a matter of balance. Don’t put so much worry into counting calories or exercising to excess. You know what kinds of foods are healthy. Eat more salads and drink more water, cut out soda and junk food, and pay attention to serving and portion size. Use your health app as a guideline and not a strict regimen. Drink plenty of water and vegetable juice. Coffee and tea are allowed, but keep the sugar and cream to a minimum.
  2. Listen to your body. I recommend one hour of light to moderate exercise maximum per day. You don’t even have to exercise for one hour straight. You can start your morning with a good stretch and then go out for a walk after work later on. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion and if you feel hungry even after drinking water, snack on something, but keep the portions small. It will all balance out.
  3. Indulge wisely. I don’t recommend eating out everyday or buying potato chips, as much as I love them. Most restaurants serve large portions and a lot of snacks from the grocery store don’t package according to serving size. However, if you’re like me and you’re still craving a soft pretzel or a burger, Do your research on the nutritional information behind your favorite restaurants and snacks. See if you can make healthier versions at home. If you have to eat out or indulge on snacks, read Eat This, Not That. There’s one version that gives nutritional information on the stuff you buy at the supermarket and one that gives information on restaruant food.

So what has been my progress?  In one week, I have lost three pounds. I did go over my daily calorie limit on Saturday, but I didn’t exercise much, either. Yesterday, I learned that even something as simple as walking around a grocery store can make a difference in balancing your calorie intake.

I will update on my progress every week, checking my weight and waist-to-hip ratio once a week. I recommend that you limit how often you check your weight. Don’t obsess over the numbers on a scale or the number of calories you ate. You may not lose as much weight or lose more, depending on your current lifestyle and metabolism. It’s all a matter of balance.

From a Catholic perspective, I see this as being an example of practicing the virtue of temperance.

According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion. “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” (Sirach 18:30) – CCC 1809

I honestly think that the reason I haven’t been obsessing over every calorie and pound is because I offered up my new diet and exercise plan in prayer. By the grace of God, I am keeping my focus on staying healthy.

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need a gym membership to live a healthy lifestyle. You also don’t need to do heavy lifting or run fast. I hope that this new blog series will inspire you to live a healthier life this summer and I hope that we will all continue a healthier lifestyle even after summer is over.

The Declassified Convention Survival Guide

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I love going to conventions. I don’t get to go as often as I used to in college, but this year, I got to go to Comicpalooza again!

Since there will be many conventions happening all around the country this summer, here are some tips for making the most out of your con experience.

  1. Plan ahead. If you’re 100% certain that you’re gonna go to this convention, book your tickets ASAP. Take advantage of early bird prices or special offers. You don’t even have to go for all three days. Pick one day. Trust me, it will be more than enough. It also helps to know the schedule, too.
  2. Have a really good costume. You don’t have to know how to sew in order to make an amazing cosplay. My Mantis cosplay is made from stuff I have in my closet. The only things I actually made were the sleeves (which I knitted) and the headband antennae.
  3. Find good parking/transportation. If you can’t book a hotel close to the convention, find a good parking space that’s within walking distance.
  4. Get there early. Lines for getting your pass, autographs, and the big Q&As are long. Get a program as soon as you get there and figure out which events are most important for you.
  5. Keep Captain Cold’s words in mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ReF-nlrQAY. The best of plans will inevitably fall apart, so don’t panic if you miss out on the big Q&A or can’t afford a picture with your favorite celebrity. You’re at the con to have fun!
  6. Remember to eat and drink! With all the events going on, it’s important to make time for a little snack and water break. If you have food allergies like me, bring a snack or figure out what places nearby will have something you can eat.
  7. Splurge wisely. It is REALLY tempting to blow all your money on everything you see, but if you’re on a budget like me, it’s better to splurge on one big thing than spending your money on tshirts. Photo ops are my best recommendation. A picture is worth a lot, at least to me. It may not sell on eBay, but that’s not really the point.

Overall, I had a fun time at Comicpalooza. Check out my photos on my Instagram: