words, words, words

the creative musings of a girl who cant write

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.

Pardon my language, but shit’s about to get real.

I’m feeling so much rage right now. I also want to curl up in a ball, hide under my bed, and cry. Better yet, I’d be on the next plane to Texas, and I’d never look back. Let me start from the beginning.

I guess the beginning is that my sister and I share a birth mother, but little else. Because of circumstances beyond our control, we grew up practically oblivious to each other. Our mother was not exactly fit to be a mother, per se. She abandoned us both, at separate times, with different family members.

My sister, Shannon, met me when I was a baby. I was too young to remember this, but there are photos of her holding a very chubby, crying baby Danielle. Eventually my family moved to Ohio from Texas, where I was born, and Shannon stayed with family in the south. When I was a pre-teen, my mom left me and my younger brother with my father, and I had no idea where Shannon was, who she was with, or what kind of person she was. I thought about her plenty over the years, but I didn’t know her. I hadn’t really seen her ever, because baby Danielle didn’t remember anything about our first meeting. I had photos, very outdated photos, and knew she had blue eyes and blonde hair–like our mom.

Fast forward to 2006. Myspace. I get a message saying, “Hey, this might be weird, but I think you’re my sister.” After that first line, I had no doubts that she was right. Shannon said she used to search for me and my brother, Carmen, on the Internet from time to time. She finally decided to try myspace, and lo-and-behold. Or whatever. I had a sister. She did, too.

She was raised by my grandfather’s wife’s daughter. Make sense? Doesn’t need to. She was living outside Tampa, Florida. Suddenly I had the chance to know this woman I should have been sharing my life with. It was a miracle.

We exchanged messages, but it wasn’t always easy. We were, after all, basically strangers. But still, I had the chance to know my sister–finally–after so many years of wondering.

In the summer of 2010, I flew to Florida and spent 4 days with her. It was amazing. We went to the beach, we took midnight swims in her friend’s pool, we ate and drank too much… It was the perfect vacation in so many ways. I left among promises to return, with the hopes that she’d get to come to Cleveland to visit.

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It wasn’t long after that that she moved back to Texas to be near her family. The prospect of a visit was even more exciting. I hadn’t been back to San Antonio since I left at an age too young to remember what I was leaving. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was in San Antonio. I had never had any contact with him, never met him.

Traveling to Texas wasn’t going to be easy. It was expensive. Taking time off from work was hard. I put it off, thinking I had all the time in the world.

Then Shannon was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Completely out of the blue.

A year and a half ago, the trip to Texas seemed so much more urgent. Of course, I also started a new job the same day she was diagnosed. Vacation time wasn’t going to be easy to come by. But finally, this February, I got to go.

We had a really great time. We went to the rodeo, saw the Alamo, and ate too much (less drinking this time around). I brought my boyfriend, Tony, and it was good. We stayed for about 4 days.

I got to meet my grandparents. My mom’s parents had divorced ages ago, so my grandfather and step-grandmother welcomed me into their home. They had cats and chickens, and a house in the country PawPaw built with his own hands. They took us out for steak for lunch. I don’t like steak, but there was something really special about ordering the same thing as my grandfather: steak, mashed potatoes and corn. We shared a love for corn and potatoes, even though we had never met.

I keep saying it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t. Again, these people were perfect strangers. But it was amazing and beautiful, and I feel like the planets must have aligned or something for things to have gone so well. My sister, while not pain-free, was in good enough health to spend time exploring the city of my birth with us. The whole trip made my soul happy.

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After I left Texas for the north, things turned south for Shannon. She’s been in the hospital almost ever since, with complication after complication keeping her there. Then, this weekend, the doctors tell her treatment isn’t working. They said she’d have 6-8 months.

I’m angry because she’s 33 years old and being told she possibly won’t live to see 34. This young, vibrant woman shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of pain. And I’m so mad that I didn’t get to spend more time with her. Maybe that’s selfish, but if one of us dies and we’ve only spent a total of about 8 days together, then I will be so mad.

I am probably in the anger stage of grief, but whatever. This sucks. I would give anything to be able to pack up my life and take it to Texas and spend whatever time Shannon has with her. Maybe that’s 6 months. Maybe she beats the odds and has a long and healthy life. I still would want to spend it with her.

I am mad that I spent so much time putting off a visit. This is probably the worst punishment I could be served. Grow up without a sister. Finally meet her. Cancer. What the fuck, universe?

There’s always hope that things could work out. Right now I’m just so sad and frustrated that I can’t do anything from so many miles away.

I want to be optimistic. I want to believe praying and wishing for a miracle will work. I want to believe she will beat the odds. I want to believe that the next time I see her won’t be at a funeral.

It’s hard. But I’m going to try.

Meanwhile, if anybody knows somebody who wants to pay all my bills so I can quit my job and go to Texas… you know where to find me.

Charles Ramsey captivated the Internet this week when he gave an interview outlining his role in the rescue of three women who had been held captive in Cleveland for the past 10 years.

Ramsey gave his account of what happened when Amanda Berry was able to get the attention of neighbors and escaped the house where she was held. After his apparently entertaining interview, he was lauded as a hero and the Internet went nuts meme-ifying, song-ifying and otherwise glorifying the man credited with rescuing Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Some say his efforts were heroic. Some say he is taking undue credit and that Angel Cordero, another man who does not speak English, was responsible for freeing the women. Others now say Ramsey’s the scumbag of the planet.

Wow, what a whirlwind of comments for just one man.

Here’s what we know about Charles Ramsey to be true:

  • He lives near the house where the three women had been held since the early 2000s and knew Ariel Castro, the suspect in the kidnappings, on what seems to be a fairly casual level.
  • He called 911 to report Amanda Berry’s escape from the house, and requested backup and aid for the woman.
  • He makes for an entertaining interview subject.
  • He was arrested on a number of charges, ranging from involvement with drugs to domestic abuse.

It’s that last one that is causing a stir.

I understand that a man who has been thrust into the public eye is going to be under more intense scrutiny now. What I really don’t understand is why we’re making a fuss about his prior arrests.

First: I don’t want to make excuses for Ramsey’s previous crimes. He committed them, was arrested, charged, and served jail time. These things will always be a part of his past, and he knows that they will probably continue to tarnish his reputation. I do not condone any of the activities related to his charges, and all I can do is hope that he doesn’t partake in such behavior in the future.

However, I really don’t care that he committed these crimes. I mean, as a normal person who doesn’t like drugs or abuse or crime in general, I do. It just has nothing to do with his role in the rescue of the women, and I don’t understand why the media or public need to know about any of it.

Sure, arrest history can be made public record. But his past activities have nothing to do with his role in helping free the women.

Of course, I don’t agree with calling him a hero or glorifying him. He did a great thing, and we should all be thankful. From what I’ve heard, he also wishes to donate money to the girls and their families, which is also very generous. We have no reason to be anything other than appreciative for his help.

What I think is that it should stop there.

A simple “Thank you, Charles Ramsey” really would suffice. Do we need shirts adorned with his face? No. Should we treat him with respect if we see him around town, and perhaps offer our thanks? Yes.

Why today’s culture has us fixated on people like this is beyond me. He helped the girls, he aided law enforcement, and he gave a statement to the media to inform the public of what was going on. After that, he should just return to being a private citizen and the rest of us should hope and pray the women receive justice for the crimes committed against them, and that they are able to somehow reconstruct normal lives after recovering from such a traumatic ordeal.

In-depth reporting about Ramsey’s “sordid past” are nothing but muckracking attempts meant to sensationalize a person who is currently in the spotlight. The media knows this man is popular, so they know stirring up conversation about him will increase their followers/web hits/viewers/readers. So thank you, Cleveland media*, for turning a private citizen into a spectacle.

Let’s just move on, folks. Nothing more to see here. Thank Ramsey for his help, and keep praying for justice and healing for the women.

*I’d also like to thank the media in Cleveland and on a broader level for the ridiculous crowding of these women as they are trying to recover. Crowding around their homes, shoving cameras at them in the hope of getting a statement, etc. It’s appalling.

When I was young, my dad used to make me watch Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Well, he didn’t actually *make* me do it. It was pretty much the one show he watched, and if I wanted to watch TV on Sundays nights, that was it.

The show started airing when I was 7, and I absolutely hated it. It was sooooooooo boooooring to my young brain. Frankly, looking back I realize now that the adult themes were probably of no interest to me, even though I was a pretty mature young kid. Adult drama was over my head, and I used to complain all the time to my dad that I wished we could watch ANYTHING else. I often sat there and read instead, probably Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps or Fear Street books.

Even though I liked the idea of superheros–especially if they were, let’s say, crime-fighting turtles or even power rangers (particularly the mighty morphin’ sort)–this incarnation of Superman was just above my head.

By the time the show ended in 1997, a fairly mature 7-year-old Danielle had aged into an even more mature 11-year-old Danielle. And, believe it or not, I had started actually liking my dad’s favorite TV show.

Maybe it was the consistent exposure that did it. Maybe I had grown so used to it, and had picked up on enough of the story that the habit of watching Clark Kent and Lois Lane duke it out with Lex Luthor became less daunting. Who knows.

26-year-old Danielle has another theory. I think my younger self had a crush on the Man of Steel.

Let’s face it: Dean Cain was quite a looker in that role. Tall, dark, handsome, charming… exactly how Superman should be. Any incarnation of the consumate superhero I saw after that just didn’t *fit* the role. Example: I caught Smallville when it debuted, but I just didn’t buy Tom Welling as the young Clark Kent. He didn’t have the same dark features. He struck me as more quiet and nerdy and “average” than anything. Which is fine for Clark Kent’s back story, I guess. Still. Even Clark in ‘New Adventures’ was a total smokeshow.

Related: What employee of that newspaper wouldn’t think Clark was a total babe? I find men in glasses to be extraordinarily sexy. Yeah, the early 90s version of Clark Kent had pretty dated glasses, sure. That’s no matter. If I were Lois Lane, I would have been instantly attracted to Clark before finding out he was Superman. But that’s just me.

Also related: Time has probably been kinder to Teri Hatcher than to Dean Cain. Although I’d venture to guess the latter has had less work done.

Also, also related: Henry Cavill in this summer’s expected “Man of Steel” film? *drool* He certainly fits my expectations better than Tom Welling ever could.

In my earlier years, my main celebrity crushes were on Devon Sawa, and both Joey and Matthew Lawrence. (I did a mean Joey-on-Blossomwoah” impression back in the day.) I didn’t really appreciate the hotness that was Dean Cain’s Superman until later. Naturally I was more likely to crush on stars that were slightly more age appropriate at the time. Did that mean I was completely oblivious to the sexy star of the series? Probably not. He just was too old to be fully on my radar while I was daydreaming about the human version of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

I guess it’s never too late to develop a childhood crush? Or remember one, anyway. Maybe one day I’ll suddenly discover I had the hots for another 90s sitcom star. You know, other than the usual suspects*.

*Rider Strong on Boy Meets World, Jonathan Taylor Thomas on Home Improvement, etc

Have you ever seen anything as gay as a beauty pageant?

Things like glitter and sequins, big hair, fabulous shoes, song and dance numbers, and over-the-top shows–dare I say pageantry–are about as gay as it gets, folks.

I’m not trying to be stereotypical. Or judgmental. I have several gay friends, so please no hate. I’m just sayin’: Pageants are pretty darn gay.

So why shouldn’t a transgender woman be allowed to participate?

Ok, I’ll back up. If you haven’t heard the story, Jenna Talackova was born Walter. Jenna says that she knew she was a girl by the time she was four years old. She eventually had gender reassignment surgery so that she could appear the way on the outside that she felt on the inside. The Canadian government recognizes her as female, without question.

Jenna was a contestant in the Miss Universe Pageant in Canada, but was disqualified because it was discovered that she was not born female. Later, Donald Trump and his Miss Universe Organization reversed a previous rule that barred Jenna from competing. She is now able to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant.

I am of the opinion that Jenna should be allowed to compete.

Jenna is heterosexual and has a boyfriend, whom she says is supportive of her situation. I do not mean to lump her in with homosexual people when I say pageants are “gay.” However, the acronym LGBT–which is commonly used to describe individuals identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender–would give me some liberty to include Jenna in this group. And my comment about pageants being gay was just humor, anyway, so relax.

The point is that of course Jenna is a woman. Legally, physically, emotionally… everything about her is female. Why shouldn’t she be able to participate in the pageant?

I’m glad Trump and his people agree (even though Donald posted this really weird thing about Jenna’s name on Twitter and this kinda rude thing about her lawyer). And I hope it paves the way for more women like Jenna to enter pageants, if that’s what they really want to do. (Some transgender women are against Jenna entering the pageant because they view it as demeaning, a common feminist viewpoint. Not what I’m trying to argue today.)

Good luck to Jenna in her run for the crown. I hope she receives nothing but support, but I know it will be a hard road for her. Not too many people understand what it means to be transgender. I pray that it doesn’t result in mean treatment of Jenna during her time in the pageant.

Following the nuptials of my dear friend Emily’s wedding (Hi, Emily!), I ended up with two of the bridesmaids’ bouquets. One of the other bridesmaids didn’t get hers, and somehow I brought home two. I was happy to, because I love having flowers around my home. One bouquet was place on my dinner table, the other in the corner of my dining room.

Soon enough, one needed to be rewatered. It had drained the water in its vase completely dry. The other, the one on the table, hadn’t come close. And now, merely a week and a half after the wedding, one is dead and the other is not.

This bouquet has not needed more water, or, apparently, anything else.

This poor bouquet drank all of its water, and has wilted beyond recognition.

My thumbs are most assuredly NOT green, so I can offer no botanical explanation for this affair.

So what’s the deal? Why has one bouquet flourished, and the other has withered away? Neither has received more sunlight than the other. Mr. Wilty up there was evidently thirstier, but did not survive after a refill of water.

I guess I’ll always be left wondering why my plant-rearing capabilities failed for one bouquet and not the other.

 

I survived all three days of the fruit flush. Here are my parting thoughts:

1. Drastic calorie restriction is incredibly uncomfortable. Even though I was eating regularly, I felt the result of consuming a little over half the calories I usually consume. I was hungry a lot, I was lethargic, and it took more willpower than I should probably admit.

2. Fruit is delicious. Eating so much of it made me want to continue eating healthy, as well.

3. I didn’t weigh myself, but I don’t think I lost any weight. Not that I was doing this flush to lose weight, but it made me wonder if the huge calorie restriction put me into starvation mode and my body started conserving every calorie I ate. Not that it’s a huge concern, but I thought about it.

4. My severely uncomfortable digestive symptoms definitely decreased. It was an immediate marked difference. I am not feeling perfect, and probably never will, but the difference is worth noting for sure.

5. Overall, I consider this a success. Maybe it wouldn’t be as hard the next time around, should I choose to repeat this.

This month I’m going to be completely vegetarian every day, instead of only on weekdays, as an experiment on how my stomach feels. I also am training for a 5k, so we’ll see how well I make the adjustment. I need to be better at getting up early to hit the gym before work. Wish me luck!

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