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Live Colorfully – Am I My Sister’s Keeper? #MyReelMoment

Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment

top c/o| jacket c/o| sunglasses| heels| bag (similar)| jeans| necklace c/o

“To live colorfully is to carry yourself with vibrancy and warmth, and to share it in your own unique way. Speak in shades of silver and ink, paint blues with a brush or a song. The pages of your life remain black and white only if you let them. Fill them in with whatever colors you choose, and maybe every once in a while, let someone else color outside the lines.”

When a friend of mine asked if I could write about the ReelAbilities Film Festival happening in Houston, I immediately said yes. Growing up with a sister with disabilities I knew the importance of an organization like this in helping raise awareness about people with disabilities, and to eliminate barriers to accessibility in all aspects of life. But when she asked me to share #MyReelMoment how a disability or mental health issue has impacted the life of you or a person you know, I didn’t know how emotional it would be for me to share my story until now. This post is in no way shape or form sponsored, but I want to share this story because this is a big part of me, a big reason why I am the person I am today, and why I stand up for protecting the basic rights for all, not just in our country but those who are facing persecution today. I am my sister’s keeper. This is #MyReelMoment.

Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment

My sister has Sturge-Weber syndrome which is a “rare neurological disorder present at birth marked by a distinctive port-wine stain on the forehead, scalp, or around the eye.” It causes developmental delays, cognitive impairment, seizures , weakness on one side of the body, paralysis. “ But when we were little my sister, my brother, and I were fortunate to have a family that surrounded us with so much love, and never once made us feel any different from one another. I never realized my sister’s disability until we got into school. It was there I realized how different we all were.

When we went to school my sister struggled, unlike my brother and I who were immediately categorized in the “Gifted and Talented”  program, school came easy to us. I would remember the long nights my mom and dad would try to help my sister through her school work, sometimes ending in frustration for my mom, who believed if you worked hard enough you can overcome any obstacle. My parents didn’t believe in special treatment. They wanted my sister to go to school and have as much as a normal childhood as my brother and I. But it was hard going to school when you were the only one with the physical birth defect, and unfortunately people can be harsh when they are presented with the “unknown” or something different from themselves. I grew up always weary of people’s comments and stares. It would make me so frustrated when people would make unintentional hurtful comments and yet I couldn’t do anything about it, because my parents always taught us to be the better person. You know that saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words would never hurt me?” Wish that was true but unfortunately words do have affect, and people will always remember how you made them feel.

As I grew up I realized more and more my responsibility to look after my older sister. My mom would always tell me how fortunate my brother and I were to be smart, to have all the opportunities in the world, and that when we became successful to always look after our sister. It was such a big responsibility growing up as a child, and sometimes I rebelled against it. I just wanted to be like everyone else who didn’t have to worry about those things. But from such a young age I knew my responsibility. I am my sister’s keeper. My biggest fear growing up would be that we would be separated, and that I couldn’t do anything about it. I would have nightmares growing up of us running away from bad guys and losing my sister. Up until high school, I never slept in my own room, afraid I would wake up to see my sister gone. I would always find my way into her room at night. Even to this day when I come over to visit, Jayden and I always find a way to squeeze ourselves in my sister’s bed with her.

Our family is very fortunate that we have not needed any outside assistance, that my sister has graduated high school on her own terms and has found a job she  loves working with my Aunt. I am thankful for my parents for working hard to provide those opportunities for us. I am thankful for my mom, an immigrant, a single mom, who made the sacrifice to leave the life she knew in the Philippines, her family and friends, to marry my dad so we could have a better life in America. I am thankful for my dad for adopting us and loving us as we are his own flesh and blood, and for his sacrifices to make sure my sister had the best care. I am thankful for God who kept my family together safe so I never had to live my childhood nightmare. Unfortunately that is not the case for everyone in this world. Unfortunately there are many cases where children with disabilities are separated from their family, sometimes left to fend for themselves. We are fortunate here in the U.S. that we have programs to help those with disabilities however it is far from perfect. Thankfully we have organizations like ReelAbilities Houston who:

  • Increase awareness about people with disabilities
  • Change perception and remove stigma surrounding people with disabilities
  • Eliminate barriers to accessibility in all aspects of life: arts and culture, education, and employment
  • Collaboration across arts disciplines, organizations, communities
  • Arts and inclusion education that will inspire the next generation of artists, audiences, future leaders, and employers

I highly encourage you to go out and attend this free event from February 13th to the 23rd (view event schedule here). To immerse yourself in the culture, to meet people who continue to overcome adversity, to open your hearts and minds to those different from you and live colorfully. I hope you realize that no matter how different we are, we are all the same under God’s eye. We are all His children, no matter where we come from, who deserve the same respect, humility, and right to life as the next person. Each of us is a color to this beautiful painting we call life.
Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMomentLive Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment
Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMomentLive Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMomentLive Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMomentLive Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment

SHOP THIS LOOK:

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. #MyReelMoment  Unfortunately not everyone will have these experiences to help shape them to be more open minded and caring of those who are different from us. It is unfortunate people will choose only to live in their own little bubble, concerned with only what is directly effecting them. However your story doesn’t have to be black and white. You have the right to choose to live colorfully. To choose to step outside the lines of your comfort zone, to get to know someone different from you, to travel some where you have never been, to help some one less fortunate, and to open your doors and to open your heart. We are all our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We cannot flourish in a society with closed minds and closed hearts because fear resides there. So I leave you with this quote as it resonates with what is going on today.

“I am called to be my brother’s . . . my neighbor’s . . . even my enemy’s keeper. God invites us to love, stand up for, and kneel down in humility to serve others in our lives. And that call challenges us to step out of tight-knit circles of loved ones and out of our comfortable routines to see life through the lens of the kingdom.” – Kelli B. Trujillo

P.S. This is one of my favorite pictures of my sister Jesseliz and my little man Jayden. I am thankful for her in so many ways. Jayden is lucky to have her for an Aunt, to have someone who loves him unconditionally, and who is a living example that you can overcome any obstacle life throws your way. I am forever grateful to be blessed with a sister like her. She has always looked out for me from day one, and she is the best big sister I could ask for. She is my keeper.

Live Colorfully - Am I My Sister's Keeper? #MyReelMoment

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31 Comments

  • Reply Britt

    I LOVE this post, Dawn. You are such a beautiful person, inside an out, and you inspire me to be better. The love your sister has for Jayden is so clear and precious!!!

    January 31, 2017 at 11:15 pm
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much Brittany! You seriously have the kindest soul!?

      February 1, 2017 at 2:02 am
  • Reply completelycasey

    This is such a beautiful post. Your family sounds so amazing, supportive, and close. I am glad to know more about you!

    February 1, 2017 at 1:35 am
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much for reading! So glad to share my journey with you!?

      February 1, 2017 at 2:20 am
  • Reply Ashley Peavey

    Loved this post Dawn! I used to teach special education, so raising awareness to disabilities of all kinds is close to my heart ❤️

    February 1, 2017 at 2:00 am
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much for reading Ashley! I am so glad this resonated with you.???

      February 1, 2017 at 2:21 am
  • Reply My Mayne Wardrobe

    This was a wonderful post Dawn. I am an occupational therapist and work with special needs students in the school, so this post really touched my heart. It it is wonderful to read how supportive and big advocates you all were for your sister. It’s great you are raising awareness for special disabilities as you mentioned in your post still does have a big stigma today. Thank you for sharing.
    http://www.mymaynewardrobe.com

    February 1, 2017 at 3:12 am
  • Reply bcanfield1

    This was such a beautiful story. I absolutely loved reading it and admire you for sharing!

    February 1, 2017 at 5:16 am
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much Brittany!?

      February 2, 2017 at 1:06 am
  • Reply Laura B

    This is such a beautiful post and for such a beautiful cause!

    February 1, 2017 at 4:35 pm
  • Reply Meghan

    You have a such a beautiful heart Dawn. Thank you so much for sharing your story about your sister and raising the awareness of her story. It must be difficult when you were growing up but you managed to overcome and take care of her and the love you have for your family is amazing.

    February 1, 2017 at 5:13 pm
  • Reply Life With Emily

    Such a sweet, heartfelt post! P.S. love the wall!

    February 1, 2017 at 6:09 pm
  • Reply xo beverlyBev

    This was such an amazing post. I can imagine how hard it can be being so young and with such a huge responsibility. However, I love how you always looked out for your sister and did not turn that into a burden. Very inspiring and thank you for raising awareness.

    February 1, 2017 at 6:43 pm
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much for the kind words!?

      February 2, 2017 at 1:06 am
  • Reply Annette Dattilo

    Your post is beautiful Dawn. So proud of you for sharing your story. It will touch so many lives. As a mom with a son born with Down Syndrome it was so wonderful to hear from a siblings perspective. As parents we always hope and pray that our children will always feel loved no matter the special circumstances they may be faced with in life. Your parents did an amazing job raising you and your siblings. Your sister is beautiful and so blessed to have you as a sister. xo

    February 1, 2017 at 8:20 pm
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you so much Annette! I honestly believe we are closer and stronger as a family because of it. Your children will surprise you everyday the love they had for one another.?

      February 2, 2017 at 1:06 am
  • Reply lifeofaministermom

    This is a beautiful post Dawn. Thank you for sharing your heart and your amazing sister with us!

    February 1, 2017 at 8:46 pm
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you sweet friend!?

      February 2, 2017 at 1:07 am
  • Reply Ashley

    This post is incredibly touching! You are such an amazing person, Dawn and I loved reading about your sister. It sounds like you and your sister are very lucky to have each other!

    February 2, 2017 at 1:04 am
  • Reply Maggie

    What a beautiful post! I’m so glad you shared it and that I got to know more about you and your family! You are all so lucky to have one another!

    Maggie
    http://www.polishedclosets.com

    February 2, 2017 at 2:33 am
  • Reply Angela Amores

    Dawn thank you for sharing this. It was really nice to get to know you better through this blog post. I really loved reading it!! You and your family are good people. I’m so glad y’all embrace her the way you do. She sounds like a pretty special big sister.
    Angela

    February 2, 2017 at 4:59 am
  • Reply KeriAnn

    You have a beautiful testimony. Love your photo of your sister & little one – precious. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    February 2, 2017 at 5:03 am
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you KeriAnn!?

      February 2, 2017 at 11:31 pm
  • Reply Amber Starr

    Thanks so much for sharing this post Dawn. I too have a sister with disabilities (seizures, wheelchair bound, development abilities similar to a one year old) and it always has weighed heavily on me to protect and care for her. As she getss older, it makes me nervous for the care she’ll need as she gets older. I’m so thankful for organizations like the one that you shared.

    February 2, 2017 at 1:40 pm
    • Reply dawnpdarnell

      Thank you Amber for the kind words and for taking the time to read. I know you and your sister are lucky to have each other!?

      February 2, 2017 at 11:31 pm
  • Reply UrbanBlonde

    Love the ruffle top & such a fun wall! Love this look gorgeous girl!

    xO, Steph
    http://www.UrbanBlonde.com

    February 2, 2017 at 3:45 pm
  • Reply Stephanie // A Sparkle Factor

    What a beautiful post! You are so gorgeous, inside and out. Your sister is so blessed to have you. And… totally love the outfit and this shoot. That top! xo

    February 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm
  • Reply Nina L

    How fun is that wall?! And I love that top! I also love that you shared your story, your sister is lucky to have such a wonderful family!

    Xo, Nina
    Law of Fashion Blog

    February 2, 2017 at 9:27 pm
  • Reply Mollie

    Wow what an amazing story (and adorable look!)!! Thank you so much for sharing this personal post with us. Your sister is lucky to have such a loving and supportive family!

    xx Mollie

    February 3, 2017 at 2:27 am
  • Reply Ashley J.

    This is so incredibly personal and touching. You have a knack for sharing the totally unexpected in a way that is always so beautiful in its message of unity, and that is such a gift!

    February 3, 2017 at 6:34 am
  • Reply The Most Instagrammable Brunch Spots in Houston | Dawn P. Darnell

    […] Located in the heart of Montrose Common Bond is always busy with its great coffee, desserts, and breads. The only bad thing about this place is trying to figure out what you what from the menu, because honestly if you have a sweet tooth like me, well then you want it all. Across the street are the famous retail shops and colorful mural walls like the one I took in this post. […]

    February 27, 2017 at 9:04 am
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