A day in the life

The simple tale of a 20-something in Ohio


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Random thoughts in Houston

  • Every once in a while, like when I turn a corner and an elevator opens right when I need one, I find little things that reaffirm that I am in the right place at the right time. I am where I am meant to be. I have to keep telling myself that.
  • I hate cancer.
  • Sharing a hotel room with two other women over a long period of time is difficult. I’m always hot, they’re always cold. There’s one shower and one mirror. Etc.
  • When you have to look at illness every day, it is easy to cry. Everywhere I look I see people fighting cancer with various degrees of success. The young children who are undergoing treatment are the most heartbreaking.
  • There was a cat abandoned at this hotel that I have been feeding, and he brightens my day. He’s so friendly and loves people and attention. I named him Mr. Boots. He helps me fight my homesickness and makes me homesick at the same time.
  • Mr. BootsI miss my own bed, my own apartment, my boyfriend, my family, my cat, having a normal routine, work, etc.
  • I hate cancer.
  • I will never be able to eat Mexican food in Ohio after this. Nothing compares. I’ll probably still go to Barrio, though.
  • Did I mention I hate cancer?


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Texas Transformation

Imagine waking up in the morning and throwing some scraps of bread outside for the chickens. Four outdoor cats follow you around, ready for their food. A scorpion is hiding in the kitchen sink, and you blast him with hot water to send him down the drain.

Just a typical morning for my grandparents in rural Texas. I got to see this first-hand on Wednesday.

A week ago today I got a phone call from my grandfather that lead to me arranging for leave at work and buying the first ticket out of Cleveland. I’ve spent the past few days hanging out at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston with my sister. Hopefully we’ll be able to move her closer to family in San Antonio in the coming days. I’ve been holed up in an Extended Stay hotel in Houston as family comes and goes from San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

My life has changed drastically in these past few days.

If you’re reading this, you might know that my sister has been fighting cancer for the past two years. She had come to MD Anderson for a promising drug trail, but treatment was derailed when she needed surgeries and had extended recovery times. Right now we’re in a holding pattern.

The weird thing is, even though this is a time of high stress and worry as I watch her sleep and hope for a miracle, I’m finding that it all has been a very strange and unexpected blessing in disguise.

I haven’t spent much time with my grandparents, and the time with them was very fulfilling. My grandfather and I sat around discussing politics, fixing to save all the world’s problems. I’ve been eating the best Mexican food you’ll ever find. Other members of my family have come to share meaningful conversation, as well as our fill of laughs. I have extended the network of people who care about me, and who I get to care about, so much. I feel my life changing because of the way these people continue to touch my heart.

Miracles happen every day. And while I sit here and hope one touches my sister’s life, I am reflecting on the ones that have been changing my life.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. But I can’t help but believe that this has been the catalyst for my own transformation.


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Hard truth: “Blurred Lines” is not the problem. We are the problem.

This isn’t one of those “omg Gen X/Y/Z/Millenials are literally the WORST!” blog posts.

Although, it kinda is.

I told myself I wasn’t going to jump any deeper into the “Blurred Lines” debate, but this is starting to get pretty ridiculous, y’all.

Look, I completely understand the side of women who were raped feeling uncomfortable. Being raped is one of the worst, most traumatic and awful things that can happen to someone. You don’t just “get over it” and move on easily. The struggle some women face is incredibly real and daunting.

What I don’t understand is how it’s suddenly become the responsibility of the rest of the world to coddle people.

Is “coddle” a harsh word? Yeah, it probably is.

Let’s backtrack.

A couple (very brave, might I add) women wrote this letter to The Post at Ohio University explaining that the song “Blurred Lines” includes lyrics that trigger their memories (and PTSD) from when they were raped. “I know you want it” has before been said to be a common phrase some men have used when violating women. I believe it. I won’t deny that is probably said by too many men taking advantage of a woman.

First of all, kudos to those women for being strong enough to publicly admit what happened to them and to tackle a terrible situation head-on. However, I am very concerned for them. If they believe hearing a musical rendition–sans any “triggering” lyrics–of a song is going to cause some extreme post-rape PTSD flashbacks, how do they even go grocery shopping?

I imagine that these women attending Ohio University must run up against he song constantly. It probably plays in every bar and restaurant, at several off-campus stores, at parties, in dorms… I don’t think I’ve been able to escape that song, and I pretty much only hear music in my car and over the speakers at Heinen’s.

My point is that if a person who can’t handle hearing an instrumental arrangement to a song they know has lyrics that remind them of being raped without having an anxiety attack–they need serious help.

I’m not trying to be mean. I encourage any woman (or man) who has been raped to SEEK HELP. There is nothing shameful about speaking with a therapist. It is something that absolutely needs to be done. Expecting the rest of the world to stop and fix itself so that you can make it through the day is simply unreasonable.

Bad things happen. I wish they didn’t. People are damaged and scarred and struggle. If I could flip a switch that would stop rape and murder and lying and everything bad, I would. Wouldn’t you?

But, since we can’t, I don’t understand why we should be expected to make sure people who are struggling never have to face reality outside of a happy protective bubble they need while they heal.

The world is really hard, and the sooner we all accept that and seek the right support system to cope with that, the better.

Now, what does this have to do with Gen X/Y/Z/Millenials? Well, sometimes I feel like people “my age” really do expect the rest of the world to bend to meet their wants.

When I was in college, I met people who had no idea how to do laundry or make a packet of instant oatmeal. As a 27-year-old, I know people whose parents bought their car and still make all the insurance payments for them. Every day I am faced with surprise of meeting people who have degrees and jobs and absolutely no sense of independence. It boggles my mind.

We are a generation filled with people who read buzzfeed lists with gifs that prove that we’re getting “soooo old” because we go to bed early when we have to work in the morning. It’s like we all feel shocked that we’re growing up and have more responsibilities and we feel the need to share it with the world because this is so unique to us. Honestly, I have no idea what the big deal is.

Growing up is kind of the whole point of things. Our parents don’t have and raise us so they can pay our car insurance for us until we’re 35. We’re supposed to move out, get jobs, start our own families and do things for ourselves. Our parents all seemed to do it without constantly sharing meaningful blog posts that just TOTALLY speak to them right now, you guys. Our parents, and their parents, and even their parents, all  purchased insurance and did laundry and cooked themselves a well-balanced dinner long before we did, and often at a younger age than we are. Hell, by the time my dad was my age, he had a child in the first grade.

Yet here we are. Instead of learning how to cope with the big, scary world, and handling the responsibilities that come with being adults, we’re whining on the Internet about how much it sucks to pay bills. Because we’re the first generation that ever had to learn personal financial responsibility, apparently.

Why? Is this a direct result of social media? Is it because we all feel like we have a voice and it should be heard that we spend so much time and energy complaining when we should just be doing?

Is it because our parents spoiled us and tried to protect us from everything when we were young that we have no idea how to protect ourselves?

Am I too hard on people because I expect them to be mature adults who can handle themselves and learn how to cope in the world? If I am, that makes me very sad, because I feel like “growing up” was something we should have all been planning on doing. It’s not like I’m shocked that I’m 27. It logically followed that I’d become this age given enough time. Getting older is quite preferred to the alternative (death, obviously).

Anyway, I just don’t see why things like lyrics in popular music and doing household chores have become such major sources of anxiety for us.

The world is full of things we don’t like, and it is our responsibility to learn how to deal with them.

I’m sorry women have been raped. I’m sorry popular culture glorifies sex (and alcohol and drugs, etc.) to an extent that we often feel surrounded by negative imagery that could have harmful effects on society. I wish I had a solution. Until then, the only thing we can do is to face the reality that the world does not behave the way we want it to and learn how to cope with that gruesome reality.


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My open letter regarding The Ohio University Marching 110 and “Blurred Lines”

Below is the letter I wrote to Dr. Ryan Lombardi regarding his decision to ask the Marching 110 to “reconsider” their choice to include “Blurred Lines” in their halftime show last Saturday.

I want to preface this by saying that it is intentionally as positive and flattering as possible. I did not want to be the guy who says “DR. SUK ROCKS AND YOU SUCK.” Frankly, nothing can be achieved by acting like that. All I wanted was to express my concerns in a civilized and adult manner, and try to encourage POSITIVE debate.

I also chose not to discuss my personal interpretations of “Blurred Lines,” because I do not believe it’s relevant. I will go on record as saying that I don’t believe playing a song about any subject constitutes endorsement of any behavior. The Marching 110 wants people to do a few things: Come to sporting events, cheer on the Bobcats, enjoy the show, maybe dance or sing along, and basically just have fun. Playing “Light Up” every day doesn’t mean they want everybody to go get high. Therefore I will firmly state that playing “Blurred Lines” doesn’t mean they support any sort of “rape culture” that some believe the song suggests.

I do feel this is an excellent opportunity to foster discussion on important topics such as the way pop culture portrays sex and certainly the censorship of student organizations at my alma mater. I am beyond disappointed that the Marching 110 was censored, and even more disappointed that Ohio University officials felt the need to undermine the good judgement of an excellent educator. Dr. Suk has my respect, and I stand by his decisions and song selections. I also understand that Dr. Lombardi has a tough job and is unable to please everybody.

I am looking forward to continued conversation and debate about this. Let’s keep it as civil as possible, so that we can move forward and affect positive change.

 

 

Dr. Lombardi,

My name is Danielle Capriato, and I am a 2008 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and former member of the Marching 110. I am writing in regard to the performance of the song “Blurred Lines” by the Marching 110.

I am sure I am not the first, nor will I be the last, current or former Marching 110 member to write to you regarding your role in determining the band’s song selection for their performance last weekend. The decision to change the performance of “Blurred Lines” has been controversial in the university and alumni communities, and for good reason.

First I would like to say that I understand the role the Marching 110 plays at Ohio University. The band is probably the biggest and best ambassador the university has, and what they do should be taken into careful consideration. Representing Ohio University is an important task, and it is one I believe Dr. Richard Suk and the Marching 110 have always held with highest regard.

The interpretation of the lyrics in “Blurred Lines” has brought up many issues about the way our culture portrays sex. These are incredibly important conversations to have, especially at a college among young adults who are most likely to be directly affected by the issues at hand. I support the university’s decision to encourage these conversations and allow members of the student body to express their opinions and foster debate. What concerns me is the way Dr. Suk’s judgment as director was seemingly questioned.

Dr. Suk is an amazing educator. He teaches his students to be “better than the best ever” every year, a motto that encourages hard work and dedication, and has members of the band striving for success every day. His relationships with his students and attitude in the group have fostered a true spirit of loyalty, friendship and even family. I challenge you to find another group on campus that has such an incredible relationship with their instructor and such determined loyalty to what they do and the university they represent.

I am disappointed that this fantastic educator who is tasked with molding the members of the Marching 110 into such fine representatives of Ohio University has had his judgment questioned so as to force his hand in changing a rehearsed performance on such short notice. It is sad to think that you have honored him with the responsibility of leading the Marching 110, but still found it necessary to override his leadership.

In his years as director of the Marching 110, Dr. Suk has done nothing but foster a spirit of excellence and strive to teach the students in the band how to best embody the true spirit of Ohio University. He expects nothing but the best from his students on and off the field. I find it hard to believe that he would ever approve a song selection he thought would be inappropriate or would be directly insulting to any person or group of people. Considering all he has done to turn the Marching 110 into a class-act, I fully stand behind his decisions with regard to running the band and the songs he selects for them to perform.

I am a very proud alumna of Ohio University. My loyalty to Ohio runs deep, but so does my loyalty to the Marching 110 and to Dr. Suk. I’m sure you will find many other Marching 110 alumni who feel as deeply loyal as I, who will also agree with my disappointment.

I respect the work that you do, Dr. Lombardi, and I understand that it is impossible to please everyone in a situation such as this. I cannot find fault with your decision to address students’ concerns with Dr. Suk. It shows that you are involved and concerned with the happiness of members of the student body, which is something I can appreciate. I am proud to see that university leadership is willing to listen to students and take action as they see fit to address their concerns. However, this does not stop me from feeling obligated to share my own disappointment in the resolution that was reached.

I have concerns about the potential precedent this sets for the censorship of student organizations. I hope that as similar situations arise in the future that the university administration continues to seek resolutions that do not infringe upon the creativity and expression of students while also respecting the concerns of the community. As a journalism student, I spent a good amount of time studying topics in ethics, including censorship, and I understand that these cases are certainly not cut-and-dry. Ohio University is an outstanding institution of higher learning, and I believe the bright minds that choose to study there can only continue to grow when able to participate in discussions of this nature.

I’d like to conclude by saying that I appreciate the support the university consistently gives the Marching 110 and Dr. Suk. I also appreciate the careful consideration given to protecting the reputation of the Marching 110 and Ohio University. I respect the factors that were considered when discussing the performance of “Blurred Lines.” I simply want to offer my support of Dr. Suk as a leader and express full confidence in his judgment–a confidence I believe the entire Ohio University community has every reason to share.

I am also sharing this letter with Dr. Suk, whom I gladly count among the friends I made in my four years at Ohio University, so that he is aware of my continuing support for his excellent work and my admiration of him as an educator. I look forward to returning this year for Homecoming, to spend time on the campus I love, in the community that shaped me into the person I am today, and with hundreds of my friends and family in the Marching 110.

Kind regards (And Go Bobcats!),

Danielle Capriato


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Sundays

It’s warm in Grandma’s kitchen.

A small plastic fan on the counter does little to circulate air or cool the room. It doesn’t help that a pot of sauce has been on the back right burner of the stove for hours before my arrival. The smell is mouth-watering. I can almost taste tomatoes now.

Grandma tries to extricate herself from the cushy red couch in the living room to greet us. That couch is so fluffy that the little lady has a difficult time escaping the clutch of its cushions. Her hair is dark and curly, showing signs of a recent trip to the salon; there’s no flat spot in the back from where she rests her head on the couch while she reads her western books during the day. Her outfit screams of summer, bright yellow and turquoise. Her nails are painted pink, and you can see the spots she messes up because her vision is poor.

My uncle Dino sits in the leather recliner, watching true crime stories; a retired business man tries to kill his wife, a woman finds out her husband is a serial rapist, a new mother smothers her newborn.

My first stop is the fridge for a can of Ginger Ale and string cheese. The smell of the sauce is making me hungry, but I can be patient. Fresh Italian bread from Alesci’s also waits. I take a piece, Tony takes a piece, and the day of overindulgence has officially begun.

Dad and Carmen arrive. Dad wears a light blue work shirt, white undershirt, and thick khaki work pants. He looks good in blue, the lighter hue bringing contrast to his dark, sun-worn skin. He fills a bowl with meatballs, sausage and sauce. Carmen wants a toasted cheese sandwich, and Grandma starts melting butter in a pan. That smell is enticing, too. I think about stealing a bite of his sandwich, but it’s surprisingly easy to resist.

Eventually the water is boiling, and two pounds of rigatoni are in the pot. The extra pound is added because Tony is with us today. Grandma knows how my boyfriend eats. His appetite fits in here. Dad and Dino talk about work.

It’s slightly cooler in the living room, where a tiny window air conditioner and stand-up fan tag-team to beat the heat. More crime shows, conversation, and waiting.

The bowl of meat is on the table, and Carmen is picking at it. I get him a meatball, cut it up for him, and hand him a spoon; it’s easier for him this way. Finally, pasta is done. There’s a lot; it won’t last.

At the table, we talk politics. The governor, the budget, abortion. I’m impassioned. Tony’s quiet; he knows he and my family probably won’t agree on much. We all fill ourselves on rigatoni. After a heaping pile of pasta, I finish up with a meatball and hardboiled egg smothered in romano cheese and sauce. Tony has seconds, probably thirds, maybe more. It’s delicious, unbeatable. I’m full, but I’ll eat more anyway.

We’re lethargic from the heat and our bellies full of carbs. Dino disappears, probably upstairs to nap. Carmen nods off in the recliner. Dad parks on one end of the red monster to doze. Tony is struggling to stay awake at the table. Grandma and I chat about my cat.

I show her photos, and she needs her reading glasses to see them. Her hands sometimes miss when I hand her my phone; she’s blind in one eye. She worries about passing her eye test to renew her driver’s license this fall. I worry, too.

Grandma has an ice cream cake for my birthday. She drove to Dairy Queen for it on Saturday. She said she grabbed one first that the employee told her was “for a man.” This one has designs in red and pink, reminiscent of Valentine’s Day. We wait for it to thaw before digging in. She knows I love the crunchy stuff in the middle. Dad remembers the time he ate an entire ice cream cake in his sleep and got sick the next day. Tony and I have seconds.

We retire to the living room to watch a special on two high school athletes from Cleveland. Tony had the remote, so it’s sports. If dad had it, it would be poorly made science fiction movies. Grandma is mad they don’t get STO to watch the Indians. Carmen is still napping.

After a while, it’s time to leave. I’m still full and drowsy and am not excited about making the drive from Bedford to Lakewood. A nap is in my future.

I can’t wait to do it again next week.


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Random memories of my birth

When I was born, they called me cone-head.

My mom’s water broke early. Or, depending on your perspective, I was born late. However you look at it, I went a long time without water, and the doctors had to put a needle in my head to hydrate me. They taped a styrofoam cup over the needle, so I wouldn’t roll over and injure myself. Thus, I was a cone-head.

Obviously I was present at my birth, but I don’t remember much of what transpired. I only remember the stories that were told to me about the whole event. The stories, I think, make it seem like a pretty interesting day. It was probably one of the more interesting events in my life, so I like to hear–and tell–it.

As tends to happen after nine months of pregnancy, my mom’s water broke, and she and my dad went to the hospital. I don’t recall the exact number of hours that transpired between the water breaking and my birth, but it was a lot. Poor baby Jennifer was dehydrating.

Yes, baby Jennifer. Up until I was born, my parents had decided to name me Jennifer. They told friends, family, everyone that I was going to be Jennifer. We still have a few random cards that were sent wishing my parents and baby Jennifer good health.

Apparently my mom wasn’t dilating enough to start pushing for a while. I guess they weren’t too concerned because the stories I’ve heard make no mention of emergency procedures leading up to my eventual evacuation from the womb. At one point, the doctor went to check how dilated my mom was, after hours of labor, and probably agony.

I was crowning.

This is where the story gets really dramatic and fun, especially when my dad tells it.

The doctor, in shock, said I was coming. Nobody was expecting it. Labor had lasted so long, my mom wasn’t dilated enough to start pushing, but there was my head.

The doctor only had one glove on. He announced my imminent arrival, put his gloved hand under my head, and threw his other naked hand behind him. The nurse struggled to put a glove on his waving hand in time to catch me as I forced my way into the world.

They made it just in time.

As the nurse slipped the latex glove onto the doctor’s hand, he reached down and pulled my gooey, naked body out.

My dad looked at the clock. 12:01 a.m. July 7, 1986. “Oh shit, it’s a girl.”

He was half in shock that I was, in fact, a baby girl, and that he had dreamed my entire birth. His “Oh shit” was complete deja vu. Or so he says. He said he immediately looked at the clock when I was born to validate that it was reality, and not a dream. His baby girl was alive, covered in goo, screaming and kicking and breathing and slightly dehydrated. And she wasn’t a Jennifer. She didn’t look like a Jennifer. She looked like Danielle.

I was Danielle.

An interesting twist to the story of my birth, since I was there and don’t remember much, was how I was attracted to the doctor that birthed me.

Well, I wasn’t attracted to him, exactly.

There was this old Lenscrafters commercial with various people in different styles of glasses. Toward the end of the commercial was a man, probably in his 40s or so, with a short-shaved hair cut, getting in the back of a limo. Whenever I saw the commercial, I was drawn to this guy. It wasn’t a sexual attraction or anything. He was handsome enough, with a friendly smile, but it wasn’t about that. He just… caught my eye. I pointed it out to my dad one day, and he stopped what he was doing.

“That man looks exactly like the doctor that delivered you.”

Maybe part of me remembers the man who, in a moment’s notice, brought me into the world one gloved hand at a time.


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Answers to some awkward questions

Ever since my last post, I’ve been getting such an amazing outpouring of support. To those of you who have reached out with kind words, offers of assistance, and more, I offer my sincerest thanks. It warms my heart to know that so many people are willing to help my sister so much–most of you have never even met her!

Sharing the story of my family, and how Shannon and I entered each other’s lives, can sometimes be intense. Some people feel awkward asking questions, and worry that I’ll be upset by the subject. Here’s some relief: I’m not.

People have asked me many times if I miss my mom, if I’m mad at her, if I hate her, what I would say to her. My feelings have changed wildly over the past few years, but I’ll say this: I don’t feel bad or awkward about answering those questions. Not at all.

It’s hard to miss my mom when I had such little time with her, really. Sometimes I don’t remember her much. My parents divorced when I was 8 or 9. In the third grade, I used to spend a week at her house, a week at my dad’s, on and on until eventually I was living with just my dad. I was young, but even then I believe I knew it was best. My dad retained my childhood home, I was going to the same school, I didn’t have to keep moving around. I was also closer to my dad. He likes to share stories of how when I was very young, I’d climb all over him when he got home. I think we were meant to be friends. It’s easy to see we had a unique bond from early in life. He is my best friend, something I’m honored to say. When I was 10, my mom called from the road; she had started driving a truck across the country. I told her I was going to start learning the saxophone in school. I never heard from her again after that.

For a while I think I was mad at my mom for leaving us. I think I thought I was supposed to be mad. Truth be told, I know without a doubt that being with my dad was the absolute best situation for me and my younger brother. Anger was a feeling that never lasted. Same with hate. People seemed to make me think I was supposed to hate the woman who was ok with packing up and leaving behind her children without looking back. Maybe I should. Really, I’m mature enough to understand that she was not the best person to raise me and Carmen.  It was best for her, and us, to have the clean break. I’m completely ok with it–thankful, in fact, to have had the life I’ve been blessed to have.

What would I say to her now? I’m not sure. I hope that she’s well, and that she’s able to be at peace with the life she’s made for herself. I guess that’s all I’d have to say. “Be well, make peace. I have.” My father brought up contacting her about my sister’s struggle, but I’m not even sure what to say. If she ever searches for this blog, maybe she’ll see for herself and decide if she should do anything. I guess to end, I’d tell her that Shannon is very sick, but it’s up to her if she wants to connect with her other daughter.

So yeah, I’ve had my fair share of lemons in life, I guess. But the thing is: I really, really like lemonade. Things weren’t always perfect for me growing up–of course they weren’t! I have no complaints. I’m here. I’ve made it this far. I’m determined to keep thriving. To beat the odds.

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