Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pretty Pain-Final and Rethought

The end of my story was ready to go weeks ago. I thought I knew how it would end. I was wrong and it left me reeling.

I was wrong:

Something Tony likes it when I say and I probably don’t say enough. The final third of my story involved two surgeries, overdoses from several narcotics and the inability to see for a week and a half. It involved a blessing, the failure to follow promptings in regards to said blessing and thus the consequence of lost eyesight until the drug I was not supposed to take was out of my system. It involved me going to Denver to live for almost three months with my son and mother and going through extensive physical therapies and rehabilitation. It involved being able to have a second child against all odds and being able to hold her. It involved me being able to tell you that I know what the people of King Benjamin knew and that my prayer was indeed answered. All of that is true.

Mid-October Tony was approached by a headhunter and a trip to Miami and three interviews later we awaited an offer. The process was arduous and nerve wracking. I did not want to leave my family, friends, and ward. I didn’t want to leave my son’s school, his friends, or the new temple. The whole step of the way I felt like I was going to be saying goodbye. I had an epiphany when I realized that the new temple that was announced over conference was in the district we would be moving to. I looked up my condition and the largest facility that works with TOS patients in the rehabilitation that I need was only mere minutes from the company Tony was awaiting an offer from. It seemed like more than mere coincidence. I emailed my people I worked with in Denver and they had received their training from the man who started the facility in Miami. They told me that if I got this opportunity to go there, that it would be wonderful for my recovery.

Meanwhile at home, things were breaking down…literally. The garage door, the swamp cooler, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, a leak in the basement, my car, Tony’s jeep, a leak in the ceiling and we joked that it seemed like all things were pointing to this move since it seemed like a lot was happening to us right now. We joked about it a lot. The day came that we were waiting for them to fax the offer over and instead the call came from the headhunter. The woman who was runner up had a friend who knew the president of the company personally and he talked the president into changing his mind. It was she who received the offer.

We were stunned. That’s business and that’s life. But it was our life.
I didn’t understand why the facility that seemed tailor made for me had been RIGHT there.
I felt selfish.
I felt confused. It seemed right and we hadn’t gone looking for it, it had found us.
I realized that I have a lot to learn.
I realized that He knows the desires of my heart.
He knows what I need. He knows where I need to be. He knows what I am capable of even when I don’t believe it myself.

A couple of days after this happened I was kneeling in front of my dryer folding clothes. As I knelt I began to pray. First thoughts out of my mouth: “I’m sorry for being bad.” (Can you believe I said this?) I am ashamed to admit it now.
Overwhelming feeling: That I am NOT bad. That I am HIS daughter and that HE loves me. I changed my thought process.
“Please increase my faith,” I said.

The thing about it is this: It’s His will, not mine and sometimes things just happen. Who knows why? Our family has been incredibly blessed. Service has been rendered to us that enlarges my soul.

I am happy. I am finding peace. I am learning that life is not just to be endured and especially at this Christmas season when miracles truly do occur. If I could only convey how much my loved ones mean to me. I am grateful that we are staying because the people who surround me are priceless to me. My son, upon finding out we were staying was jumping up and down with excitement. He would be loathe to leave the friends he holds dear.

The ending to my story is not what I thought. But it hasn’t ended yet. It never really will, that’s the great thing. I never want it to. I cannot imagine not learning anything more, not experiencing growth. Yah, growing hurts, sometimes like hell, but at the end of the day it makes me rely on Him and I rejoice in that. He is the author, but He lets me write it down. Sometimes I write word by word, not even realizing where the comma goes (pretty much true of all my writing) When I go back and read it somehow it all flows. I have to erase a lot, I find myself repeating the same antidotes, I occasionally take poetic license, but I can’t put my pencil down. He knows what my story will be and we write it together…every day.

We here at The Benjamin Bunch wish you a beautiful Christmas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretty Pain-volume 2

Just a note before I begin this second part: I hesitated in sharing this story, because in NO WAY am I trying to illicit sympathy or say woe is me. I have felt like I needed to share what happened to me in the hopes that it might help someone as well as documenting a journey in which I did not walk alone. And I glory in that. I am not a victim nor am I a hero. Like all of us, I have been extremely blessed and have a story to tell. Thank you for your comments. They were beautiful.

One day I was the last patient in yet another doctor's office. Another promise of healing crumbled, though in this instance this benevolent man gave my money back to me. He had tried everything he knew. At the end of our session, he took out his business card. He wrote T.O.S (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) on it and handed it to me. "I think this is what you have."

He was the first to give it a name. I researched the condition on the internet and felt like I was finally coming home. I read a girl's story who was younger than I was. Her journey was remarkable and she had traveled to Denver for treatment. I did more research and Colorado was home to a brilliant surgeon who primarily did vascular surgery, but took thoracic patients as well. I did extensive research on his training, his facility, his patient testimonials, and booked a flight.

Within two minutes he had diagnosed me. He gave me a 3D CAT scan that was powerful enough to show the extra ribs as well as the fact that my sternum was rotated forward 25 degrees. He said that he had not seen an injury like that except in football players at the bottom of a dog pile. I assured him that I didn't play football, but I began to realize how badly I had been hurt.

He did a series of tests and warned me that the surgery I would undergo would be arduous and that he could not recommend it unless I had undergone every other treatment option available. At the time, I had never had surgery, with the exception of getting my wisdom teeth out. I was an all natural gal fond of reflexology and the health food store. I had stopped taking any type of narcotic long before because it wasn't touching the pain and I wanted to be lucid and present in my own life.

I flew home and for the next few weeks with my official diagnosis in hand, I saw more doctors, the head of the Utah PT Association, another chiropractor where I went through a torturous procedure that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I was so frustrated. I didn't want to have surgery. I didn't want to have major surgery where they would go up under my arm and cut out not my little extra cervical rib, but the first thoracic rib and that the chance of nicking a nerve and giving me permanent nerve damage was great. It was a long, risky and delicate procedure and I didn't want to have to endure it. Even having been in pain that long and wishing for relief, I was afraid.

During all this time, I was praying to know if I needed this surgery. I had no idea that one of the symptoms of my condition was that my nerves would misfire and warmth would spread throughout my entire body. I would have pins and needles, my heart would also feel warm and fluttery and I would feel comforted. On the day I realized that part of my condition were these symptoms that mimicked how I always felt the Spirit, I.WAS.LOW. I can’t tell you how useless I felt. I questioned how I would ever know if I was receiving divine guidance again. If I would know the difference. I knew that I needed to receive my inspiration differently than I had been, or worse yet, thought I had been receiving.

It was a turning point for me. I knew I had to understand how I would receive future promptings. I knew I could not lean on old ways because those ways may or may not be working. It was a scary place for me to be and I learned something. No matter the intensity of physical pain, spiritual anguish is so much worse.

I prayed late into the night with Tony by my side. Finally, I was given my answer. I was able to feel the spirit in a way I had never experienced before and it eclipsed the former ways I had always felt it.

One could argue that my prayers were not answered because my pain was not taken away. However, at this point I was no longer praying that it would be taken away. I found this excerpt of a poem entitled "At Journey's End" by Elaine Christensen that sums up nicely how I was feeling:

"Now we kneel here...grateful for every unanswered plea that proved us

Faith is the mountain that does not flee,

The water that does not part,

The rock that won't turn into bread-

Instead, marks our dead."

I became a bit obsessed about looking into a mirror. I know it sounds prideful. I was checking my collarbones. I couldn’t see one of them anymore. I worried that the broken body I had witnessed in the 3D CAT scan was apparent when others viewed me. I tried not to think of myself as damaged, but I admit I struggled with loving my own body.

I was at the temple during this time and in the session was a lovely young woman sitting in the row in front of me. She could have been a model and I found myself wishing I could look like her, be like her. Writing this now, I sound so ungrateful, but I was having such a hard time coming to terms with pain, with my present circumstances and I longed to think of myself as some lovely creature, not the wounded soul I felt I was.

After the session, I was in the foyer waiting for Tony to come out. I looked up to see the same woman I had taken notice of and she shyly approached me. She told me she had observed me in the session and wanted me to know how beautiful she thought I was.

I was stunned and could not do much more than thank her. But as we regarded each other, I began to weep. It was a miraculous moment and a tender mercy of the Lord. I have never forgotten it. And there have been numerous times I have needed to draw upon that reminder.

Finally, I knew it was enough. Tony and I called all our family and friends and they joined us in a fast.

And we flew back to Denver.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pretty Pain-volume 1

In 2002 I was reading the Book of Mormon on King Benjamin's dissertation to his people. When he was through "they all cried with on voice saying: Yea we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the spirit of the Lord omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

I wanted to feel the way they did.

I didn't yet understand what that 'mighty change' was and I wanted it more than anything. I got on my knees and I pled, I begged to feel as they did, to truly be converted. I didn't understand what this journey would entail, perhaps I thought a feeling would come over me or I could wake up the next day changed. I had no idea what was in store, but I have never regretted praying for this gift on that day.

Within 2 days I had fallen down a flight of stairs. I would unknowingly go to an unlicensed massage therapist who would hurt me terribly and set in motion a condition that lay dormant and that I didn't even realize I had.
I was born with two extra cervical ribs and because of that there is very limited space in my brachial plexus which causes my arteries and nerves to become impinged. It is called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

I will not attempt to describe in too much detail how it feels, but mine was severe enough that it felt as if someone was sticking icepicks into my shoulder, back ,arms, neck, head and face. And it never went away. I stopped sleeping, I began dropping things so had to stop holding my 18 month old son. He would take a stool and climb into my lap and I would silently weep, but never so he could see. I never wanted my baby to know how much I hurt. Everyone else would keep their distance because the slightest touch would be agony.

I went to neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists. No one knew what was wrong and several told me it was in my head and to go get 'help'. Xrays and MRIs showed nothing. I thought maybe I was crazy. I received so many blessings that my baby would lay his hands on my head and bless me and the experience gave him an empathy that I cannot regret that he carries.

I pled for the pain to go away. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for a year. That's how long it took to get a diagnosis. I would visualize myself literally taking the Lord's hand and holding it for comfort. He was the only source of relief. My nerves misfired all the time, I would have unbidden pins and needles, my extremities would go numb and I wondered who this creature was that my body had become. My spirit yearned for release from this physical prison.

During this time I was called to teach Relief Society to the women of our church. I couldn't understand this call. I could barely move. Other people cleaned my home and cared for my son and the Lord wanted me to stand in front of all these other women for forty minutes? What could I possibly teach them? What was I except the one others pitied?

I accepted the calling. I sat in my chair and I immersed myself in the scriptures, in great books of gospel doctrine and I learned. I continued to pray for deliverance and then my prayers began to change. I went through the classic stages of grief though I hadn't lost a loved one, I'd lost myself.
The first Sunday I would teach approached and I prayed that somehow by my diligence I could be healed of this phantom malady that racked my body. The day dawned and I stood in front of the sea of faces and the pain left me...I opened my mouth and was filled with sweet relief. I taught the lesson and testified and the words were not my own. I had a profound witness that God loved me and I had a powerful love for these women I would teach.

I said "Amen" and sat down and immediately I came to myself again and the pain chained itself back to my body. I would go through the same process every month I taught. You can imagine how I looked forward to that temporary respite. How I truly sought to obtain the word so in that moment I could truly declare what he would have me declare. How this 'weakness' became the catalyst for the opportunity to walk with HIM.

The scripture in Ephesians by the apostle Paul took on a poignant personal meaning for me:

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh , the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

to be continued...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Life Guard

I just answered the door. My husband sent me flowers. On the card reads,

'Everything's going to be alright, rock-a-bye.'

I wish I could explain what my heart did when I read this...

This is the man who holds my fear, my sorrows, my pain so no one else has to perish under the weight.

And it has to be hell...

I know he wonders where his fun-loving, gregarious sweetheart goes and where the walking bundle of nerves wrapped up in scraps-of-scary comes from.
We tread water together sometimes, waterlogged with life and all too often it is I who must be rescued, but he can't pull me to safety because I'm holding him down, my arms flailing and legs kicking and he swallows too much water.
Still, he keeps his arm around me and drags me to the shore.
He lays there in the sand safe for a moment and I gaze at his form pummeled and bruised by the endless waves.

Sometimes he needs rescuing too.

And we plead to the Benevolent Soul who loves us perfectly. Plead for the Atonement to bind up our wounds and to hold us when we are incapable of holding each other and we plead endlessly for we fall back into the deep water ad nauseam. And HE saves both of us...

That being said, as an answer to the lovely lyrics of Shawn Mullins my sweetheart penned, I invoke the stylings of John and Paul (there is a controversy as to their true collaboration on this song):
'Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more'

Monday, September 21, 2009

"This is MY mom!"

Yesterday morning I had procured all the necessary books off the library shelves: Disney Princesses, Tinkerbell, A Princess and Her Horse, The Princess and the Pea, and Rapunzel. The munchkin and I sat at a small table in even smaller chairs and I read the tales to her two-year-old heart's content.

A boy, not much older than this daughter of mine, hoisted himself into a chair beside us and laid his offerings on the table: Marvel Superheros. He sat and listened to all the tales politely, though they were clearly not his forte'. He would interject facts such as "Have you seen this movie?" pointing to Wolverine, and "I like this movie," indicating The Incredible Hulk.

And all the while the clock continued it's circular cycle until an hour had passed and no one had come to claim this precious boy. It was time to leave and I was beginning to wonder if I needed to find his caregiver and who that could be who would abandon him with books they were not reading to him and answers they were withholding from his endless questions.

I held my little girl's hand and the boy toddled beside us and I must admit my feisty daughter scowled at him and said, "This is MY mom!" The little boy fell out of step with us and I ran off chasing down my long haired thundercloud as she stormed around the library.

As I approached the front desk, I saw him again. Growing tired, he was laying beside the checkout. A woman was walking toward the computers and he got up and stood beside her. She did not look at him, she did not speak to him, and he did not mention Wolverine and The Incredible Hulk to her. The last hour of his life was unknown to her and I admit I wanted to shake her as I walked by and shout, "WAKE UP!!"

I wish I had read a non princess story. I wish I had read him his Wolverine book or that he had said to my offspring, "This is MY mom!", but he didn't. He just looked at me and I clung to my girl, grateful that she is grateful (or at least possessive) that I am her mother.

I learned a valuable lesson. I am not just a mother when my two kids are with me. I am a mother in whatever circumstance I find myself in. As a woman, I have been blessed with compassion and empathy, but there are so many times I am guarded and careful. I've never regretted being too kind and in the moment I had an opportunity to mother a child who needed some time.

I'm hoping that someone somewhere is reading that little one a story. And I hope it's his mother...

And now for something completely different:

I was invited by my friend Melissa to play a blog game kind of like the old slumber party game “Telephone.”
One blogger starts a story and passes it on. Each blogger adds a part. It should be interesting to see where it goes.
So here it is:
A Writer-Mama’s Tale –
The Seduction of Vintage Grapes

Even the crickets had rested their legs when she sat back in her chair and sighed with a final sip of vintage grapes. Darkness swallowed……..

the sob that threatened to tear from throat as she watched her only child drive away. What did he know about the world outside of….

our small town. Was he ready for what laid ahead of him? Her lip quivered as she thought back to the days when….

Jason toddled behind his father through the vineyards and copied his every movement. Mark was young and full of hope and desire then. His face…..

,now lined from time and stress, still shined with pride for their son. As Jason's car drove away, they…

embraced as the breeze, pregnant with the scent of ripe grapes, swirled around them. Their eyes remained transfixed on the car until....

Mark cleared the emotional phlegm from his throat and held his faded blue goblet aloft. “Here’s to new beginnings.” Her first instinct was…

You can click on any of the sentences above to go to the author's original post then head on over to Mindi's blog on Wednesday to see what happens next!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The breeze catches my skin as I gaze at your retreating form

Your back is a scrawny gazelle

The t-shirt clings like a doey hide

Your legs pump the pedals with all the intensity of my maternal heart

You aren’t moving very fast.

Over asphalt refuse and destination’s allure

Your red bicycle carries you from my person

And my organs weep

I can feel my soul, my purpose

Clatter, shatter, dare to hope.

I am only a silhouette in a lonely doorway

You are riding away from me

It is what I long for you to do

What I spend my time preparing you to do

And I miss you before I say goodbye.

I miss you as I halt, stiff and unnerved in the glare of your horizon eyes

Your toffee face slightly melted in the red tired sun

Reflecting the particles of hair that I long to brush aside

Tufts of which salute me when I’m the mom I should be

And flip me off when I am less than I know I could be.

Your cheeks shift over the black bicycle seat

You dangle your foot until your momentum is stifled

Your hat hides your face as you look over your shoulder at me

The mere mortal who gave you birth

“Tell my sister I love her.”

I attempt to form a word

My brain unable to render my tongue muscles useful

So overcome am I

But my arm escapes its jailer

Finally free of inept uncertainty it waves at you.

And you unsullied, unburdened continue on

Further and further past the scarlet octagon

That flashes the word I so often mutter

And which I long to cry out at this moment

But I won’t.

I can no longer see you

Though my heart is still holding on to yours like a hand

Fingers entwined and I glimpse the future

The curb where you will exit stage right for two years

Where every respiration will conjure your reality to my remembrance.

You are the embodiment of my divinity

You are the bearer of my guilt

The reminder of my potential

You are the reason that mothers and sons are wrapped up together in knots

Twiny, impossible, frayed, woven, intricate.

You slay me and I die over and over again

Into the inferno that is motherhood

A searing heat which burns out all that is unnecessary, impure

And you my son rake aside the carnage and cradle what is left:

My soul.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Poo Post- First Thoughts

Potty training's a messy endeavor. There's a lot of naked 'bum'ness and doing one's business becomes the highlight of the day. "YAY! Poo poo in the potty!" I've started to sing this to myself, truthfully.
Life comes full circle: We begin in diapers, we end in diapers and in between those times we just try to excrete with a locked door and a mere five minutes of peace. No one claps for me when I get that...but they should.
Truly the highlight to potty training is teaching our children that there's nothing more rewarding than a 'job' well done...ahem.
But in the transition time between diapers and cloth there's a few other perks as well:
The extra coinage that will jangle in our purses.
The diaper bag being put out to pasture.
The retirement of hogtying and holding down the child as we maneuver wipes with delicate aversion.
Yes my friends, this is a poo post. My daughter is on her way and has been using the potty for the past three days...mostly. So remember, life's not just about what happens to you, it's about what you leave behind.

Just remember to flush it when it's appropriate.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cheap Therapy

So I took a sabbatical from my blog.

I thought that by pulling myself back and re prioritizing my life I would find everything I was seeking. I immersed myself in Isaiah, I wrote less, I still didn't eat sugar, cheese, and I was trying to do everything just so, being who I thought I should be, being who I thought He would have me be.
And you know, so much has been better. I feel a lot of peace, but here's the thing: I haven't been happy. I've forgotten how and in all my restylization (did you miss my made-up words?), I forgot that somewhere in all this crazy life, there needs to be room for joy. And you know what brings me joy???? Writing this blog. I need this outlet to express my giant "YAWP" to the world (okay maybe 10 people)
My name is Rachel Benjamin and I am not going to hide; I'm not going to be someone I'm not anymore. I'm not going to share my second or third thoughts, but my first thoughts. I'm not going to place my value on how many followers I have, or comments, or if some of my posts are crap and some might be...I know...
I'm not perfect, I am fantastically flawed. I beat myself up severely for every weakness I perceive in myself while holding the rest of the world up on the pedestals I have carved for them.
Do you know what I am going to do tomorrow? I am going to my darling friend Lyndy's (I owe you one, my friend) and we are going to sing at the top of our lungs and I am going to write and write and I am going to follow and embrace the light inside of me and be who I am...do you know how healing it is for me to finally say this? I have been terrified my entire life that if I'm not the person everyone else needs me to be, I will end up alone. It is my deepest fear. I am afraid of being alone...wow, I admitted it.. I'm not though. There are so many people in my life who I adore.

So here I am. I've missed you all terribly. I'm back in the saddle...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love To You All

The Benjamin Bunch will be on hiatus. Thank you for your friendship and loyalty. I apologize for my lack of posts and not visiting all your wonderful blogs for awhile. I feel an urgency to be fully present in my life...and these guys ROCK my world.

please know how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I will return when I can.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Throw Down With Mother Nature

Now that summer's here, I thought I would share with you my love of nature. There's so many natural wonders to name, but for the sake of time I've narrowed them down to only three of my ABSOLUTE favorites:
1-Ants who want to be my roommates: Look, you might as well know now ants, if you come inquiring about a lease, I WILL kill you. I have a thing about killing roommates who steal my food and crawl over my things. I couldn't kill difficult roommates up at Ricks because of the whole honor code, but it's the real world now ants and you are so dead. Oh, and the toddler who feeds you every meal? Well, she will still feed you because she can't seem to help dropping a truck load of crumbs under her chair, but she will probably kill you anyway too when she picks you up and loves you a little too hard. Either way, get your affairs in order at the anthill...NOW.
2-Weeds: Sure, the snow on the ground six months or more out of the year does get old, I admit it. But at least it provides a nice white, generally gray covering that hides the green disease the engulfs the yard. So bring me your tired...husband, your poor...man's weed killer, your huddled...kids blowing dandelion seeds faster than you can possibly remove them, and you've joined the yard maintenance game that the Benjamin bunch loses each and every year. Oh, we've won a few battles, but have yet to even show up to the war. And there's a little Benedict Arnold of the ground covering fight who thinks the morning glory in the lawn is pwetty. Crap, now it's only 3 to 17 billion and 1...traitorous toddler.
3-Snails: Ok, I admit here is a creature I feel sorry for. They are painfully slow, their shell provides an inadequate protection, and they are in need of some serious personal hygeine tips as they trail this embarrassing ooze wherever they go. But when I open the door and they are on my porch, the steps, the garage door, the kids' playthings, and are eating my garden, I have to think that they are getting the last laugh. And they multiply; the term breeding like rabbits seriously underestimated the power of two willing, albeit slow slime balls. Are they male? Are they female? Who cares. Where there were 2 yesterday, there are 73 today and I personally can't squish them, pour salt on them (barbaric I will never do this EVER), or drown them. Wait! My husband, giver that he is, has found the solution. He will drown them, but before you cry in outrage know this; they will go down happy.
Apparently, he tells me that they really love a good brewsky and will throw themselves into the alcohol and drink themselves into oblivion. Who knew that snails were just waiting around hoping for the next kegger.

Party at my house...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sitting On A Rock Will Get You Noticed

I have been away for a week at a writing conference. It will take me a while to fully process the experience. There are layers that I must peel away like an onion and that will make my eyes sting as I prepare to slice through them. The experience changed me, as I needed to be changed.

On Thursday I met with the most distinguished man of the literary world that I will ever meet. It was as if I knelt at his feet; my offering of twenty pages stained with innocent ink, and hope littered in its white spaces. The chair he offered me was broken; a single cheek hung precariously off the one safe edge, my dignity struggled on the other.

He gazed at me through midnight transition lenses. Were his eyes making the glass darker or were his glasses turning his almond orbs into tiny spotlights revealing my absolute ineptness? Inept: That was the word he used to describe my story; or was it my writing, perhaps it was the author of it. He spoke to me as if it pained him; like the tin man grinding his un-oiled jaw, he was able to squeak only, “Drivel, folksy, backwoods.”

I felt the tears as they crawled up my organs, gaining momentum from all the emotional exercise I give them. I set my own jaw, knowing in this one heart beat of my life that I would not let the king of self-importance see my spirit leaking. I asked him a couple of questions: What did he think of the brother’s voice? He paused and for a split second his jelly-donut face oozed a cream-filled doubt. I asked him about my main character’s age and muteness, and he himself suddenly could not speak. If I could have moved my wooden hand, I would have slapped my forehead: He had not read beyond the first page-and-a-half.

He admitted it and told me he thought there was no market for my story and that he wasn’t sure anyone would understand it anyway. To make up for this slight, he picked apart my lack of a comma and a poor word choice until I understood my proper place once more: I was nobody. I understood it very well and a drawer shut in my mind. My story was placed inside and covered with a linen cloth.

I stood up when I had had enough; oh, and when he told me that he would only answer any questions that were related to what he had just discussed with me. There were none…only the barbed ones slicing through the sinew of my soul. I offered him my hand and thanked him for his ten minutes of time; twenty minutes less than we had set aside.

I left him in his unbroken chair.

My feet carried me away in a strange town. The tears marched their armies down my face until my lack of tissue was a problem. The bathroom was beside where he still sat. I unabashedly used my arm; it was a very ‘backwoods’ thing for me to do, maybe even a little ‘folksy.’ I decided not to tread too far from the afternoon session of the conference. My two sweet friends were saving me a seat inside; a seat I wasn’t planning to fill.

I chose a rather secluded bench and sat down, resting my aching pride. An elderly couple approached me and asked if they could have the seat. I obliged and stood outside the building my friends were in, until a camera man who was filming the conference set up his tripod right where I was standing. I found an unassuming rock and I did the only thing I knew: I wrote furiously in my notebook. I looked up and the camera was facing me.

I flinched. “Oh, am I in your way, AGAIN?”

The camera guy smiled, “Oh no. I’ve actually been filming you, if that’s okay. You are the epitome of what this conference is about.”

What irony. The conference, which hires the man, who breaks my heart, which causes me to write my sorrow, which prompts a person to be inspired, and include my moment in said conference’s video.

I opened that drawer in my head and took the story back out again, and I placed his words inside that drawer instead. And now I keep going; grateful for the experience, hungry to prove myself. And in my liberal use of the movie Pretty Woman:

Big Shot Editor: Yes, can I help you mere peasant person?
Rachel: I was here a few years back, you wouldn't read my story.
Big Shot Editor: Well, I never...
Rachel: Your literary journal prides itself on finding the best stories?
Big Shot Editor: Of course.
Rachel: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go write now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Which I Ramble...

A sad fact: Since I’ve stopped eating sugar, I’ve been less funny…Apparently, my humor had everything to do with high fructose corn syrup. The whole grain lifestyle has crimped my ability to come up with a good one liner. Oh, I still try, but my delivery falls flatter than a plain cardboard rice cake. I coped with my life through food…I then transferred over to the internet…things were getting crazy, I could zone out and let it all go in front of the little glowing box of other people’s wonderful lives. I could discuss reading books, without reading all that many. I could read about writing and write about writing and not really write. In fact, I could talk about living, without really living.

I realized today, that I didn’t have anything to say. I didn’t have anything to add to the conversation. Now I’m not depressed and the fact that I have been without a car for the last few weeks could be narrowing my perception of the world, but the truth is I need a change. My short story is finally finished. I am preparing to spend a week away with my fabulous writing buds to bask in the writers’ life. The hubby informed me when we were just throwing the idea of me getting away for awhile, that I HAD to take this opportunity. I know it won’t be easy for him, but he hasn’t blinked.

You see, his eyes have been wide open before. I watched our wedding video the other day with Ceci. I even wore my veil for her if you want to know the truth. She loved the whole thing (except for the part where it was time to feed each other cake and I didn’t even aim for his mouth…who knew that frosting affected contact lenses…seriously?) Well, the violence of it frightened her and then his rebuttal right into my eyes and the licking of the frosting off the faces (yes, an elderly woman left our reception in disgust.) And you know what??? We loved every minute of that moment, because that is so US.

If I could have glimpsed into the future and seen the nights spent in agony, the hospital visits, the surgeries, the deafening silence of fear, the job losses, the food appearing at our doorways, the collapsing upon the ground in seeming defeat, the miracles, the angels, the babies that we were overwhelmed to be the parents of, the glimpses of eternity in the mundane moments, the whisperings of so much more, the beauty that comes from suffering, the chipping away of that couple who had the world by the hands and was dancing with it and each other and who the world tries to crush, but we are still dancing…together.

Still not funny, I know…but it’s in there, even if the frosting has long left my tear ducts.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Letter To My Children

Cup cakes are in the oven and Conner and CC are playing. Conner took the blanket from his sister; my feisty, headstrong, fiery daughter is shouting, “I don’t want it! I don’t want it!” Oh CC, you will cry that all throughout your life. There is much we don’t want. Much that hurts, much that we wish could be gone, much that causes us to want to stop and weep and not take that step forward…that step into the dark…off the precipice…into the unknown.

I promise you my sweet son and daughter, that you will never be left comfortless, that you are never alone in this life. Your Savior, your Lord, your King will take you by the hand and guide you through every.single.day. You must ask, you must seek, you must be strong, for the winds will howl and pain and sorrow come to all. In this life however, you will also experience profound joy and there is only ONE source…only HE.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


If will alone was a super power, I'd be a comic book hero.

I visualized myself winning a writing competition; the first one I've ever entered. I was notified that I was a finalist and didn't exhale it seemed for a good five minutes. I could feel my character breathing out her history. I thought my story had legs and could run marathons. It must have sauntered casually to that finish line however, and others crossed it first, and second, and third...

My left hand is the conduit through with communication must steadily flow and somehow the space between my brain and said hand loses something in the translation, because I can very rarely SPEAK effectively. I'm married to a National debate champion and the mother to two offspring who talk circles around me, straight from the womb.

And yet, with paper and pen I'm alive and I can pretend...I can pretend I won. That I won the contest and that I walked up on a stage. That there was a microphone so imposing that it made me cross my bleary eyes which blocked the courteous clip clapping of the crowd that came to hear me read my words, my soul. That my children could see their mother achieve something, anything so that they too may know that they can hurdle their Everest.

I picture myself reading, nervous, tremulous diction and damp underarms, but lit up like Christmas morning. My best clothes, straightened hair, unshed tears, a hidden heart resurrected; crazy glued together and soaring into another time...another place...another life.

I WILL do what I dream to do because there is no choice. I was born to speak, though one has to read in order to hear what I'm really needing, yearning, crying to tell them. Someday I will succeed...and until then my left hand will not stop dog paddling through this ocean of words I need to flood my empty pages with.

Because I have a story to tell.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Let Her Eat Cake

A daily conversation:

7:30 AM "What's for dinner?"

"It's breakfast time now CC."

8 AM "I want cake!"

"No CC, we can't have cake right now. How about cereal?"

"NO! I want ketchup and a 'poon."

9 AM (after a full breakfast of banana, strawberries, blueberries and Kix)

"What's for dinner?"

"We just ate CC!"

10AM "I want a nack!" (usually crackers)

11AM more crackers...

noon "What's for dinner?" (include a pb&j, apple pieces, string cheese and anything else she can think of)

RIGHT AFTER THIS..."I want a nack!"

"AHHH no it's naptime now"

3,4,5pm more of the same (in which she snacks on raisins, yogurt, fruit snacks, raviolis, anything I can think of and yes, even candy if I'm desperate...which I usually am)

5pm dinner time

6&7PM "I want dinner!!" followed by a glass of milk and a final snack and bedtime...

So I ask you? Is it boredom, is it an emotional attachment to food at age 2? Is it a toddler's cries for her mother's attention through food, is it a tapeworm, or does she simply like to see the nervous twitch I've developed whenever I hear the words "dinner" or "nack" in which I close my eyes while holding my head and weeping followed by a gnashing of teeth??????

But, I digress from the real reason for this post:

Friday was my baby's birthday. The girl with the flash and sparkle, the Himalayan personality. Who gets the joke, who will say "now that's funny!" after SHE says something. Who loves adventure, who sings herself to sleep and awake, and sings herself into the spotlight. Who has a lioness temper with a dollop of grizzly bear, and who will cry at the very sight of human suffering of any kind. Whose eyes illuminate the canvas of her soul...and she's a masterpiece.

I adore you, Cecilia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Peter Pan Am I

I never wanted to grow up.

I was not the child who yearned to be a teenager or the teenager who dreamed of adulthood. I was the child who thought I would always be a child. The teenager who didn’t know WHAT had happened to me and missed childhood. The adult who didn’t understand how 21 turned into 22 so quickly. I will be the 80 year old who calls my friends and says “Hey girls.”

Now just for the record, I LOVE being a wife and mother. I just still find it hard to believe that I am THE wife and mother. I still look in the mirror and can’t fathom who this grown up is staring back at me.

I relate extremely well to children and yes, even teenagers too (though sometimes I am terrified :) I guess it makes sense if I still think I’m one of them. No, it’s not like I’m trying to relive the “glory days” of high school. Far from it. I moved around so much growing up, I wonder if I just scattered the ashes of my childhood onto too many places. Every new move forced me to grow up just a little faster. New girl better fit in quickly if she wants to survive. Be one of us, be who we want you to be or you’ll be all alone. Part of me had to perish with every step into every new school. I didn’t have the sense of self to save my drowning soul.

The funny thing is, all the reinventing helped me to get along with almost anyone wherever I am. It has served me well and I’m grateful for how my experiences stretched me. I tell you this, because Monday is my birthday…And I feel 21.

I’m okay with that.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Little of This, A Little of That

My brother,who takes any picture that looks fantastic on this blog, and his wife are moving to Missouri for school. We will sure miss them, but are excited for them too. :) It reminds me of living in Virginia 15 min. outside of D.C. right after Tony and I were married. We LOVED it! Even though I had to work two jobs to keep us afloat, and the people whose basement we rented were going through a bitter and LOUD divorce at the time. Oh, and the guys who parked their van behind mine in two different parking lots and tried to sell me some cool stereo equipment. I loved all the trees, and the rolling hills, and the people, and the history. I loved visiting D.C. when ever we could and soaking it all in. I was truly out of my comfort zone, and it was an adventure. I will never forget it. So Dave and Beth, even though my pictures on this blog will suffer greatly, I have a feeling that this will be an experience you guys will never forget :)

My daughter has had a cold since 2009 started. RSV, two double ear infections, and now just an EVERLASTING runny nose. What can I do? I give her 2 multivitamins a day, vitamin C, acidopholus...any ideas? We've taken her to the Dr. multiple times and she's been on antibiotics for the infections and Dimetapp for the cold, but I don't want her on that forever. Could it be her two year molars coming in? Poor girl, I feel so bad for her... It couldn't be because she does this...or this...right? :)

My dad turns 65 on Monday. He got called to jury duty and has to report...on Monday. Happy Birthday DAD :)

I'm an all or nothing type of gal. I will either eat my weight in cheese or shun it altogether. The amount of time I was spending on the computer was bothering me. I would get 'sucked in' every time I walked into the kitchen (where our computer is) so to combat the problem, I would just turn it off. When I would turn it back on however, I would have emails piled up and blogs to read and I would still end up online for too long. Then there's the Good Reads factor. I could spend half my life on that site. So, after a lot of thought and some significant soul searching, I have come to a conclusion: M-F I will set the timer. 60 min. online a day. Weekends off. Yesterday, was my first official 'hour.' Never has an hour flew by so fast!! I end up having to write out a list I need to do for today. Luckily, I write out my posts longhand, so that cuts out on time, but I couldn't believe how fast it went. I may not get to your blogs everyday, but I will do my best to reach everyone's blogs every week.

PS- I'm shouting out my cute bloggy buddy Devri. I totally missed her contest, but she is so talented and makes the most adorable tutus and headbands. She's sick right now, so feel better soon Devri!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In The Leafy Treetops...

As we teeter here on the very edge of a long awaited season, I am reminded of an annual phenomenon. Every beautiful spring morning, I am gently awakened by a sound that's so natural and pure that I truly feel as if I am one with nature. That sound my friends, is the birds outside my bedroom window.
I suppose at some point, it must begin with one sustained note, but by the time I drift into consciousness there's a tweetanacle choir. You see, I do love birds. Yes, I am a bird enthusiast. These birds however, have an agenda. There's a birdie brawl in my tree, a "rumble" if you will.
There are no winners in this sad tale. The two opposing gangs of ferocious fowl shout out threatenings that would shock and dismay you. Now bear in mind, these are authentic calls:




So as we approach my favorite season of the year, my darling son brings home his bird feeder he

made from cub scouts and desires to place in the tree of tiny tweeting terrorists.

Did you hear that my flighty feathered fugitives? Free breakfast served at 6AM!

And don't tweet with your mouth full...

PS-haven't posted forever, but shouting out my super talented friend Kerri. Check out her beautiful delicious looking handmade soaps @ www.messesandmudpies.com

Friday, February 27, 2009

Why I Write

This post is inspired by something my wonderful and quite perceptive new friend Christie shared with me and I recognized the truth of it right away. Thanks Christie!

"I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl...but I didn't want to be a writer I wanted to be an actress. I didn't realize then that it's the same impulse. It's make-believe. It's performance."
Joan Didion quoted by Betsy Lerner in The Forest for the Trees

My earliest memories occurred on stage. I danced atop the ledge of our fireplace, the xylophone mallet as my microphone. I always had the lead in the elementary school productions and had my own performance troupe on hand to promote our plays to unsuspecting, and only occasionally, willing neighbors. In the sixth grade, I began a series of acting classes. Living in Southern California, there was an ever present undercurrent of budding talent and I happily obliged.

Then, horror of horrors, puberty struck. My acting partner inquired as to what the red things all over my face were and my modeling instructor informed me that I had the right height, but I was too painstakingly thin. I began to laugh through my auditions and my confidence was kidnapped by a cruel self doubt…and I stopped. No high school musicals, no college dramas, but I did participate in Road Shows. Remember those? I miss them. Perhaps there was some safety in a church sponsored production for me.

And all the while, I wrote. More precisely, I released. The shine I had dreamed of making on stage was unleashed in the twinkle of my soul I left on the page. I found there was beauty there. It is the reason I write. I am a performer at heart, albeit an imperfect one. That is my life and my truth. I write as a means to perform and I perform to have something to write about after all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and Rachel B Eats Celery

You are going to get ranting and raving Rachel today, I’m afraid. Once upon a time, I worked in a medical billing office. I know EOB’s (explanation of benefits), CPT and ICD9 codes like the back of my hand. By the time I get a medical bill, I know exactly what we owe to the last penny and let me tell you, the Dr.s offices, and hospitals FREQUENTLY make mistakes and there would have been many times I would have overpaid had I not understood the insurance end of things. A few weeks ago, my son’s pediatrician’s office submitted the claim with the wrong insurance #. As soon as I got word I called and made sure they had the right one to resubmit to our insurance and sure enough I got the EOB a few days later with the claim paid in full. Today I got a bill and I called. The girl was rude, unapologetic and at the end of the day I would not be surprised if I still get a bill even though they have been paid. Here’s why: I could tell instantly that she had no idea what she was doing! She got upset to cover her obvious lack of competence. How often does this happen. The guy who cuts you off is flipping you off when he’s in the wrong because (deep inside, I hope?) he feels guilty so he uses anger to cover his mistake. I see it all the time. I do it too. When I am impatient or quick to anger, the problem lies with me. Therefore, I see in writing this that I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Here’s the big thing. Even a few days ago I would have never written this post, because I would have been afraid to show my fiery side. I don’t know what I was thinking. Somebody thought I was LD and I OD’d on chocolate until they had to open me up. So there you have it. Hi, I’m Rachel and I am a redhead and with that red hair comes a big ole’ side of attitude. Oh and it’s that time of the month, and I no longer eat sugar, cheese, or fried foods and have you ever experienced PMS without these coping mechanisms…OH boy.

But here’s the good news. Since my gallbladder was evicted, I’ve lost 18 pounds. Here’s the before

and after pics. Wait, I just realized in the before picture I have make up on and my hair's done and I'm in a fancy dress. Yah, my face is fuller, but I have red shoes on. Was chocolate really that bad? Wait...don't answer that...

Monday, February 9, 2009

As Good As It Gets

Tony and I got away. For two nights and three days we played. We stayed at two different hotels, saw a play, shopped, went to movies, took tours and in general just relaxed. It was bliss. He knew I needed some time away desperately and planned everything down to the last detail. It was all a surprise.
That night at dinner I found myself tense and in tears. I struggle with anxiety. It's been going on for a long time, but it happens often enough that it disturbs my peace. We were at the Little America hotel and a wave of anxiety struck. Tony and my joy of being out together away from kids and the stress of everyday life was being marred by this demon I battle. Tony and I discussed leaving and my heart felt like it would break in two. Suddenly, Tony looked toward the door and said, "President Monson." I turned around and President and Sister Monson walked toward us and President Monson asked Tony how his dinner was. The spirit was electrifying and my heart was filled with a sweet, loving peace. God in His mercy reminded me in the most profound personal way (just when I needed it) that I am His daughter and that He loves me. Not through a prophetic message this time, but through a prophetic presence. The right place, the right time, and a tender mercy from my benevolent maker.
"And now for something completely different..." We saw "He's Just Not That Into You." Great movie-love the ensemble cast. Except Scar Jo (Scarlett Johanssen) Beware of her character. I have to say that had she been wearing a snuggie in this movie, nothing bad would have happened.
Anyway, I really liked it and the music was perfect. Thanks Tony, for being one of three guys who were in the theatre :)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Here Comes the Son

January was a long, cold month.

On it's last day, things got warmer.

A whole bunch warmer.

Thanks to everyone who came and supported our boy on his baptism day. We are so grateful for all you do for our family. And yes, that is a snake our daughter is holding...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hey Gumby, Wanna Dance?

So on Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I knew I needed to do a post, but what to do? My super awesome friend Christine provided the perfect tag. Thanks Christine!

1) Where did you meet your husband?
At a Singles’ Dance neither one of us wanted to go to. Does anyone really WANT to go to those? I was actually meeting someone else there and Tony was so doped up on Nyquil for a bad cough that I could have been Gumby and he would have still asked me to dance.

2) How long did you date before getting married?
We met on September 1st 1995 and were married March 21st 1996. Can you say quick engagement?? Hey, what can I say…after he met me he couldn’t function until I was his.

3) How long have you been married?
Almost 13 years

4) What does he do that surprises you?
The way he still looks at me surprises me. Like it’s the first time he’s seen me all over again. He writes me the most beautiful poetry.

5) What is your favorite feature of his?
His eyes are forest green and I just love his nose. I know that sounds funny, but it’s just an excellent feature…really I am quite a fan!

6) What is his best quality?
His honesty and integrity. He does the right thing all the time, even when it’s hard.

7) Does he have a nickname for you?
He calls me Beautiful or Clara.

8) What is his favorite food?
Meat with a side of Meat with a little Meat for dessert.

9) What is his favorite sport?
Football. Super bowl Sunday with his beloved Steelers playing may be a religious experience for him.

Watch this: Hey Tony, the Steelers’ suck!

Just kidding, they are so cool…really, I just can’t watch them enough. Please let’s watch another Steelers’ game…please…

10) When did you first kiss?
On our fifth date after I hit him upside the head in the Salt Lake Temple’s visitors center. (Want to hear that story?) I’m never one to rush things, but after five dates, come on! I laid my forehead against his because I am SO not forward or anything and waited for him to kiss me.

11) What is your favorite thing to do as a couple?
Travel. We would get away anytime if we could. We love to talk about anything and watch movies, play games, and write. We go to our writer’s group every other Saturday together and it’s a highlight for us both.

12) Do you have any children?2 and I’m pretty sure they belong to us. Wait is that a Cheez-it box next to them? Yep, they’re ours!!

13) Does he have any hidden talents?
Him singing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' is quite entertaining. Also, he's a great actor.

14) How old is he?

15) What is his favorite music?
Classic Rock. He’s a music lover. Everything from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to the Blues. Tony has music in his soul. He can’t seem to do any household chore without it…hmmm…

16) What do you admire about him?
His ability to have a positive attitude even when it seems like the world is crashing around him. He has such a powerful belief in the gospel. His testimony is stellar and affects everything he does. He is an awesome teacher and will explain things and answer questions in a way that I could never conceive of so that others understand.

17) What is his favorite color?

18) Will he read this?
Oh yah. I so appreciate how much he reads my blog and how supportive he is of it.

19) Who said "I love you" first?
He wanted to wait until I did I think. He alluded to it, but wanted to make sure I was feeling the same way.

Happy Birthday sweetheart. We’ve had an amazing adventure and some really, really, tough times. Through it all, I choose you again and again. Thanks for asking me to dance…