20 Years of Jonathan Larson

20 years ago today, a masterpiece premiered on Broadway.

Jonathan Larson’s musical RENT was a revelation, it shook up the world in the same ways that Hamilton is taking the world by storm now. It spoke to the trials of the age in a way that the generation of the 90s’ could relate to. Set in the end of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s’ as the decade concludes, RENT follows a group of starving artists and performers as they attempt to make their way, love each other, and somehow, find a way to love themselves.  Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.53.57 PM

The main characters are hugely important, as are all main characters, but they are offset by a huge ensemble of talented individuals as well.

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The story of RENT is just as much about the ensemble, who play a variety of roles including the homeless, and the parents of various main characters, as it is about the city itself.  The set is sparse, depicting anything from Mark and Roger’s apartment, to the streets of NYC, to the performance space where Maureen hosts her protest. Any set changes are made by the cast carrying something onstage, and the band is onstage as well, hidden in the corner, rocking out through most of the show.

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RENT focuses mostly on these guys:

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Mark and Roger. Roger is a former band frontman and Guitarist. He’s been in withdrawal for a year preceding the events of the musical, “His girlfriend April left a note, saying ‘We’ve got AIDS’ before slitting her wrists in the bathroom..” He’s a recovered drug addict, and afraid of finding love again, in his mind, he’s just going to die anyway, so why connect?  Mark is a filmmaker, having decided to just film his friends and see what comes of it, most of the story is narrated by him, an outsider, who is inside the group.  The first lines of the musical are spoken by Mark (The quirky redhead on the left 🙂 )

“We begin on Christmas Eve with me, Mark, and my roommate, Roger. We
live in an industrial loft on the corner of 11th street and Avenue B, the top
floor of what was once a music publishing factory. Old rock ‘n’ roll posters
hang on the walls. They have Roger’s picture advertising gigs at CBGB’s and
the Pyramid Club. We have an illegal wood burning stove; its exhaust pipe
crawls up to a skylight. All of our electrical appliances are plugged into one
thick extension cord which snakes its way out a window. Outside, a small tent
city has sprung up in the lot next to our building. Inside, we are freezing
because we have no heat.”

This exposition is probably the largest block of spoken word in the musical. The rest of the story is told through song and a few scattered pieces of dialect. RENT is what is called a Rock Opera, and is a modern (in 1996) take on the classical opera “La Boheme”, which is a depiction of the bohemians living in Paris.

Mark and Roger are fighting with this guy:

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Benny, (played in the original cast by the devilishly handsome and charming Taye Diggs) who used to be their roommate. However, he abandoned the Bohemian life to, as Maureen so eloquently puts it during her protest later in the musical, “Live as a lapdog to a wealthy daughter of the revolution.” In reality, he married Allison Grey of the “Westport Greys,” but the picture of him as a lapdog is much funnier, and certainly accurate, as he ends up agreeing to his father-in-law’s every whim. He’s trying to realize the dream of a film/music production company in the lot next door to Mark and Roger’s building, but he has to suck up to Mr. Grey to make it happen. He threatens to evict the entire building if they don’t pay their rent, after promising Mark and Roger they could stay free of charge.

Also in the building is Mimi:

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Attractive, charismatic, sexy, a dancer at the Cat Scratch Club, and an addict. She lives just below Mark and Roger, she dated Benny for a while there after he and Allison got married…her moral compass isn’t always pointing in the right direction, but part of that is due to her constant searching for belonging, she’s a roamer, she longs for love, but has AIDS and is afraid like Roger to get too close to someone, at the same time, she gets far too close too quickly, resulting in disastrous remission when he has to break away. She’s a classic dual character, afraid and confidant all at the same time. She falls for Roger and spends most the musical trying hard to make him open up to her, when he finally does, she blows it, and everything spirals downhill.

Maureen and Joanne are characters with big personalities:

Maureen and Joanne

Maureen is Mark’s Ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him to be with Joanne, who is a lawyer and polar opposite to Maureen’s flamboyant performer personality. The two are constantly fighting, mostly about Maureen’s crazy living style and outrageous behavior. Joanne begins feeling like an outsider in the group, but eventually comes into her own and joins in their wild activities and little family.

Then there’s Collins and Angel:

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Collins is a former professor at NYU,  I think that Mark’s introduction does him justice better than I ever could: “Enter Tom Collins, computer genius, teacher, vagabond anarchist, who ran naked through the Parthenon…” He shows up towards the beginning of the musical, he gets mugged on his way to Mark and Roger’s flat, and is picked up by Angel.

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Angel gets two pictures because of how important she is. Angel is a drag queen, one of the many flamboyant and out of this world characters floating around Alphabet City. She’s more than that though; Angel is the glue that holds the RENT family together. She is kind, and witty, and protective; she does everything in her power to keep them going, even though she has AIDS and is slowly dying. Angel is this depiction of God’s goodness on earth. Sure, she’s living a life full of sin by Biblical standards and teachings, but Jesus didn’t hang out with the “Holier Than Thou” crowd, Jesus was out there hanging with the Tax Collectors, Fishermen, and the sinners of the world. Angel does the same, this good person, kind, loving, and very real doesn’t choose to shun this small family, instead she comes in with the motto “Today for you, tomorrow for me.” Angel spends the musical putting everyone before herself…so much so, that without her, the family falls apart completely…

So, I’ve told you about the characters, and explained at least a little bit of the plot (probably too much actually) but I haven’t told you about the genius behind it. This guy:

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This is Jonathan Larson, he doesn’t look like much, but the guy was a genius. He saw these people on the streets, and he looked at “La Boheme” and he saw love, and grace, and kindness, and anger, and pain, and he infused it into a story that people of all generations can relate to. I love the phrase on the poster in the picture “A  work-in-progress of a rock opera by Jonathan Larson.” Larson never got to see RENT become a hit. The night before the show’s Broadway premiere, Larson died of an Aortic Aneurysm, so if you think about it, RENT which was still in it’s previews, was never a fully completed process. What you see when you watch the taped performance of the show, or see a live production, or if you were very lucky and saw it while it was still on Broadway, you are seeing Larson’s original vision; the unfinished and raw material that took a generation by storm.

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On the outside RENT looks like a gritty, bitter, drug and sex filled Broadway musical about people whining about money and how they’re dying. On the inside though, it’s so much more. It’s a depiction of love, and honor, and care for each other. It shows us how to live with freedom, to “Forget Regret” and live every day as if it is the last day that we’ll ever live. There really is “no day but today” for many people out there, but as exhausting as living in this mentality is, it’s also freeing.

Forget Regret has special meaning to me.

I regret a lot, be it little things, or bigger things, I’m the kind of person who will say something and regret it late at night as it plays out in my head. I lived for a long time, in shame, anger, and guilt, whether I had reason to or not. RENT helped draw me out of that. It pulled me up by the bootstraps and immersed me in a world where I was watching people deal with the exact same problem, in different aspects of their life. Then, they were handed a Christ figure ( in the literary sense of the term, I’m in no means implying that Jesus was a cross-dresser) and through relationship with Angel (by the way, name is an obvious plot point, her name is Angel, she’s basically the groups guardian angel…but I digress) they learn to love themselves and each other.

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I got this the day after I turned 18. The minute I could, I went to the tattoo parlor and got Jonathan Larson’s words permanently etched into my skin. This seems a bit drastic to some people, when I tell them it’s in reference to a musical I get some funny glances, but at the end of the day, it means something to me, and that’s all the matters. The numbers at the bottom spell “Angel” by the way, in case you were wondering. This for me is a constant reminder that your past, is your past, what you said or did yesterday, it doesn’t matter. It may effect, or shape who you are, but every encounter does. If you regret what you do, you’re regretting this wonderful, beautiful life that God gave you. So, when i look at my tattoo, on a daily basis, it reminds me, not only of a musical that I love, but of God’s unfailing forgiveness, his peace, and the joy that I have in knowing that he doesn’t regret me, so I shouldn’t regret myself.

So thank you Jonathan Larson, for 20 years of joy, tears, and music. Thank you for teaching me what it means to live fully. Thank you for writing something that inspires me to be better. Thank you, so much, you will not be forgotten, and your masterpiece will be a part of my heart forever.

Love to all, as always,

Mae

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Letter to my Little Sister

Dear Kate,

You are beautiful, you are strong. You annoy the HELL out of me, but you’re my beautiful courageous little sister and I love you.

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You have a HUGE personality, one that constantly gets me an “Oh my GOSH! Your little sister is SO CUTE!” Which usually gets the “If you lived with her she wouldn’t be so cute” response from me. The truth is that I’m jealous of your carefree attitude towards life, the things that make you cry are so trivial and your innocence is makes me wish I could return to age four.

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You’re imagination is ten times the size of any other kid I know, don’t lose that. Ever.

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Even though you constantly drive me batty, with your incessant interruptions and constant noise making, I can’t help loving you.

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You’re my little sister, someone that I had hoped and prayed for for a very long time before you were born. Maybe you contradict me every few sentences. Maybe you make it hard for me to have a serious conversation with anyone because you HAVE to have your say. None of that matters, as you would say after we’ve had a fight, “Sisters forever! Right Mae?” Yeah Kate, you’re right, you’re gonna grow up, and there’s probably gonna be some times when we hate each other, but at the end of the day, we’re gonna stick together, because you’re right.

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Sisters Forever…

Some questions…

So I didn’t know what to blog about…then I found this website:

http://www.kludgymom.com/idea-bank/

It’s a bunch of writing prompts/questions to get you writing! So I’m going to answer some of them. Some might have short answers, some might be long. Others might be a picture that pertains to the question. Who knows what I’ll come up with?

Ok, question number one:

251.  ….and it landed me in the ER… Explain a time you ended up in the ER, what was the end result? Did you ever do whatever “it” was again!?!

When I was about six I was trying to untie my tennis shoes. I didn’t realize that they had been double knotted and pulled really hard on one of the laces. It came untied, but the aglet hit me in the left eye. We went to the ER and it turned out that the aglet had scratched my eye…no permanent damage but not the most comfortable thing in the world.. That was the only time I had gone to the ER (for myself at least) until recently. A month or so ago I was spinning one of those kiddie playground balls on my finger, (one of those soft ones, not like a dodge ball or anything, I was in a toddler nursery) and it bounced off and hit me in the same eye as before! (I know what you’re thinking, “Gosh Mae, how clumsy can you be?” Trust me, I can be WAY clumsier than that) I thought I was okay, my eye watered for a while, it looked and felt like I’d just displaced some blood vessels, it’d be all better in a few hours. Well in about an hour, I started having blurred vision in that eye…we ended up in the ER again. For the same eye as the last time…Moral of this? Mae is ridiculously clumsy when it comes to having things around her face.

  Question number two:

261.   What historical period in time do you wish you were born ?

This one’s EASY! The early 1900s! The clothing alone is enough to make me wish I was born then! I also wouldn’t mind the Regency. Once again the clothes are fabulous, but also the manners of the time. I would be VERY happy in the Regency.

452.  One of my irrational phobias is…

Fire. I have an intense and irrational fear of fire. This probably comes from the times that my Grandma told me stories about fire accidents. For instance: When she was in the hospital after getting her appendix out (or the time she was recovering from eye surgery, can’t remember which) there was a girl in the bed/room next to her who was REALLY badly burned. She was burned because she had been playing with sparklers (I guess it was the 4th of July..) and her cotton dress had gone up in flames. Then there was another time when we were walking on a nature trail and we saw a woman who had burn scars all over her body and Grandma said something to the effect of “That’s what happens when you get too close to the fire and are messing around.” Then she went on to tell me about a friend who had fallen into a campfire… Did I mention that all this happened when I was around four-six? Of course, I don’t blame Grandma for my fear of fire. I was the kind of kid who liked to know “Why” I shouldn’t do things. I was also very quickly and easily frightened and irrational… Not a great mix…Which probably explains some of my other issues…So Grandma if you’re reading this, I don’t blame you! I blame my overactive imagination and irrational way of looking at anything that might be dangerous.

616.   When I feel frustrated I….

Go into a spiral of doom and hide from everyone until my freak out has passed. Also I clean my room and rant at thin air. (Don’t judge me! Can you honestly say that you’ve NEVER said things to yourself that you would NEVER EVER say to the person you’re angry with?)

238.   You have $10 in your pocket and have to eat for 2 days (you can’t return home to eat from the cupboards) how will you survive?

Taco Bell. One thing of the value menu every meal. That and public drinking fountains.

546.   Would you be friends with you?

Um, yeah! I’m awesome! (You know, in a slightly crazy way)

  Well, that’s it for today! Hope you enjoyed this!

Love to all, As Always,

Mae

Stuff and things

I’m rubbish at math. And by rubbish I mean that most of the time it looks like this:

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I’m sure I’m not the ONLY person in the world who has trouble with math, but it does make some aspects of my life harder. For instance, I have to take the ACT this June. I’m good in all of the subjects except…you guessed it. Math. So I’m working with a tutor every Wednesday. My tutor is a Bio/Chem major who likes sports… While the Bio/Chem part comes in handy for math tutelage, we have very little in common. So, at the end of the session when we run to the cafe for a free coffee, we have nothing to talk about and sit there in awkward silence until one of us thinks of something to say… I’m a pretty social person, so this is hard for me. 

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On another note, today is dress rehearsal #2 for Les Mis. We made it all the way through the show last night! YAY! And most of us got to go home before midnight! This was completely unexpected. Anyway, seeing everyone in costume was great! Some of the scenes made a lot more sense when the costumes (and all of the props) were added. Tonight should go more smoothly and we should be done even sooner than last night. (Knock on wood)

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I’ve also begun to notice the extreme amount of superstition in the Theater community a lot more than I used to. For instance, people are constantly saying things, then knocking on the wood of the stage. (Hence the “Knock on wood” above) The other thing is that everyone believes that Civic is haunted. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in the power of suggestion. So when you’re constantly hearing that the Peanut Gallery, or the backstage  area, or the flies are haunted, being there late at night can cause you to start seeing things that aren’t there. I learned a long time ago not to let that kind of suggestion get to me. I have two extremes, either I won’t care about the stories and they won’t bother me. Or I’ll let them get into my head and send me into what I call THE SPIRAL OF DOOM!

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This usually ends with me crying in a corner and hiding from everyone…Why is a spiral of doom? Because I spiral out of control and end up in a hole I can’t climb out of by myself. I associate that with spirals, not sure why. I just do.

So. Yeah. Another fun adventure into my brain!

Love to all, As always,

Mae

Oh my goodness…

I. Am. Exhausted. I say that a lot, but I’ve never meant it as much as I do today. Part of this is because I’ve been working hard on Les Mis, and I just have to say: “Kudos to all the crew members out there who have made this job look effortless.” Because it’s not. I wasn’t expecting it to be, don’t get me wrong, I knew it was going to be hard work and I was looking forward to it! I still am, and am enjoying it immensely! I just haven’t been this tired maybe ever…It doesn’t help that last night I slept on and off…I don’t think I slept for more than half an hour maybe an hour in maybe a few segments…All well dreaming in between about scene changes.

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So my go to activity when I don’t have crew until later? Listen to K-pop.

I mean honestly, who can feel tired when listening to stuff like this:

And beside that…the guys are all GORGEOUS! Especially Taemin. He’s the guy with the red hair extensions. he starts singing around 0:53. 

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I mean honestly, he’s REALLY cute! And he’s only twenty! I mean seriously, twenty! He’s an amazing dancer and singer…only difficulty is that he lives in Korea, and also there’s the fact that according to his contract, he’s not allowed to date…but a girl can dream! Right?

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So I guess the point of this post is to say: Watching hot Korean guys dance is the best way to combat tiredness? Well maybe not, but a Monster Energy Drink later will help too. If I can convince my mother to let me get one…Which is WAY easier said than done…

Love to all, as always,

Mae

YaF

So, the title of this post is probably a word that you’ve never heard before. YaF stands for Youth at Fifth. This is my Youth Group.

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This picture is from a few years back, but it will give you an idea of how large our group is.

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This is our AMAZING youth leader Christian. (As the Doctor would say “Bow Ties are cool!”) He’s quirky, fun and hilarious, but most of all he cares about each and every one of us in the group. He is more than willing to listen to prayer requests, concerns or funny stories that we might have. He is an amazing person and the first leader of a youth group that I have truly trusted (even when I have NO IDEA what’s coming next or happening at any given time.)

Christian also has a tendency to come up with games that enjoy immensely and are completely terrified of…like this one…

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This is me… I’m wrapped in saran wrap and covered in shaving cream…I’m a human snow person! This was a few years ago, my first year in YaF, somehow I managed not to get a bunch of shaving cream in my hair…still not sure how, but there you go… By the way, our team won!

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Then there’s moments like this…

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And this…

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And the there’s also the fact that Christian has mastered the art of taking embarrassing pictures of me…

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And by embarrassing, I mean things like this…

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I’m in the background…just, you know, dying…

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All the weird games and embarrassing pictures aside, we go on some amazing adventures. The first year I was in YaF we went to Kissimmee Florida. The week that we were there was spent volunteering at Give Kids The World. (Check out http://www.gktw.org/) GKTW is a non-profit organization that partners with Make a Wish Foundation. They give kids (with terminal or life threatening illnesses)and their families a week in the GKTW village. They get a villa all to themselves as well as access to the attractions at the village, such as…

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The hand carved Belgian Carousel,

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The Gingerbread House, which is the dining hall, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The Castle of miracles, this is one of my favorite places in the village. Inside is the home of the Star Fairy. When kids come to GKTW one of the first things they do is come to the Castle. When they arrive they write their name on a small gold star, which is then put into a box and the kids watch as the star fairy carries the star up to her tower. The next day the kids are able to come back and find their star somewhere on the wall or ceiling. They recently built another room in the castle to accommodate all the stars, here’s a glimpse of what it looks like…

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Also inside the castle is the pillow tree,

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(Sorry for the bad pic…my camera hates me…) Here the kids can design a pillow! The tree shakes and makes noises, there are buttons and levers to push and pull, and the pillow is made in seconds! Did I mention that there’s also a wishing well that sounds like it’s eating the coins you throw in? No? Well there is! There’s also a slide that is small but tons of fun to ride down…

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Yeah…just like that…

There’s also a tree outside, that snores constantly, His name is Ol’ Elmer…

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It would be fun to sit next to him and read, if it weren’t for the fact that I am VERY easily distracted…

So, did I mention that the families that come to GKTW get all of this for free? And that every attraction/building is wheelchair accessible?! Not only that, but the families get tickets to the attractions in Orlando! Most of all, the volunteers at GKTW make it a priority to “Never say no” to the kids who visit the village. As long as what they want isn’t dangerous, the volunteers will do their absolute best to make sure the kids get what they’ve asked for.

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As Winston Churchill once said (this is on a mosaic in the village) “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.” I think this applies to our youth group and to the rest of the world too. Whether we’re in Florida, Trinidad, Colorado, New Orleans or even home in Grand Rapids, we’re constantly volunteering and showing God’s love through our actions. I think that’s what I love best about this youth group. In the youth groups I’ve been a part of in the past, if we went on a trip, it was for our own enjoyment only. Maybe we’d learn some Bible verses or hear a Christian speaker give their testimony, but it was mostly about bettering our relationship with Christ. Don’t get me wrong that’s great! But, at YaF we’re bettering our relationship with Christ through showing His love to others, as well as building relationships with other Christians of our own age. We accept anyone, and make them feel at home. I’ve never felt like I belong the way I belong at YaF. We’re weird and quirky, but we’re also relatable and when we go into a place, you can bet we’re going to include everyone and have a great time! There’s nothing like a YaF trip or meeting. We learn things about each other that we never would have known otherwise.

I’ll be very sad when my time as a YaFer is finished, but once a YaFer always a YaFer and you can bet I’ll be back for a visit every once in a while! I plan to make the most of the year I have left before Graduation. We’re going back to Florida this year, and I can’t wait to be back in a position to minister to those kids just by smiling and helping them have a GREAT time! The best way to minister to someone is to be their friend. That is what I’ve learned from YaF, and the fact that I learn something new every week and that every trip is a new and exciting chance to minister makes me so proud to be a member of the YaFer family. So thank you to Christian and to all of the leaders, I’ve learned so much from you, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Love to all, as always,

Mae

A Truly Special Introduction

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This is my half-sister Kaelee

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She’s totally crazy…(That’s her boyfriend by the way!)

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Not only is she beautiful on the outside, she’s a beautiful soul…

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She’s about ten months younger than I am, but that doesn’t matter.

I haven’t known her for long, but already I know that she is beautiful inside and outside. Most of all she is a devoted and caring friend, one of the few that I have. So Kaelee, on your (SWEET) sixteenth birthday I have a bit of a gift for you…it’s not much, but I think you’ll like it…

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First of all…

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The gentlemanly, gorgeous and roguishly handsome Tom Hiddleston…

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Who is more than willing to stand up and fight dragons for you…(with a little help from me of course :D)

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Benedict Cumberbatch, looking dashing as usual…

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And attempting to figure out what makes you so AMAZING!! (I assured him that it’s just the amazingness of you…that and being related to me!) 😉

And lastly…

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One VERY interesting picture of David Tennant…

Happy Birthday little sis! You’re amazing and I can’t wait to know you more! (Even than I already do!) You’re a beautiful soul, and forget anyone who thinks otherwise! It’s your birthday, knock ’em dead girlie! I love you!

Love to all, as always,

Mae