Saturday, January 9, 2016

An Open Letter to the Mother of my Children

To the Mother of my Children:

First and foremost, you need to know that I love these children. I love them, and I only ever want what is best for them. Their father and I plan our lives around them completely, without the distractions of working from home or frequently traveling for work. Our family is our first priority, and we have established our household with love, structure, discipline, and fun.

Next: perhaps you haven't realized this, but when you walked away from the kids' father and left them behind, you left the door wide open for someone else to walk in. That is a choice you made. My presence in the lives of our children is a natural consequence of your actions that day and your choices in the years that led up to it and the months that followed. Not to toot my own horn, but you're lucky it was me who tiptoed carefully through that door almost a year after you violently stormed out of it. Your ex-husband could have done a lot worse than someone who completely loves him and the children, is kind and thoughtful, has over 2 decades of childcare experience (including several years as a professional nanny), holds a graduate degree, has book smarts AND street smarts, and brings a loving and extremely supportive extended family into the mix. [toot, toot]

When you talk badly about your ex-husband, me, our extended family, or our friends to the children, you only hurt them. They come home from visits and talk to us about that. They cry in our arms. Just last month, they came home telling their dad that you told them he doesn't have a back injury and is faking it. We didn't tell them that you lied. We showed them the MRIs and doctors' notes. We talked to them about the chiropractic visits and natural pain management their dad uses to avoid using prescription pain medications so he can be present and active in their lives. We consistently have similar conversations after the kids visit you or talk to you, because you have tried to undermine the truth at every turn. We never disparage you or your family in front of the kids. We just don't. We know that's not healthy for the children. Please stop hurting them by disparaging us. Just stop. These kids are intelligent. We don't say anything about you unless we absolutely have to in response to their questions. We only speak the truth of ideas, situations, and events and join them in their joys and sorrows. You ought to know: these smart little girls are on to you, and we can only hold off their search for truth for so long to give you the chance to get your act together. Every day they realize a little more that you have lied to them.

I know the kids love you. Of course they do. You are their mother, and that will never change. I know that, and so does their father. However, once again, you created a space for me when you left; the children now consider me to be their parent, as well. They call me "Mom", "Mommy", "Momma", or even "Mum", if the mood strikes. They do this by their own choice. They asked me if they could. Acting jealous or shaming them for this only hurts your relationship with them. Please stop attacking me and be grateful there is another person in the lives of your children who loves them more than she loves life itself. They KNOW I love them. They know my family loves them. They feel loved by all 8 new aunts and uncles and 13 cousins. Their fourth set of grandparents (because your parents are divorced, too) dote on them and love to spend time with them. These kids KNOW they are loved and accepted in this family. They say all the time how much they love spending time with this family. Please stop trying to undermine that. 

I know you love these kids. I'm just not sure they know it. When you lie to them, try to tell them they shouldn't call me "Mom" or enjoy spending time with my family, tell them that their dad and I lie to them... they feel used. They feel confused. They feel depressed. We have to make them call you most of the time, because they are afraid you will make them feel guilty or sad with your underhanded comments. 
THIS. NEEDS. TO. STOP. We've tried to explain to them that you love them, but we cannot speak for you. We know you tell them you love them, but your actions speak louder than your words. Your actions are betraying your words.

I want you to be a part of the kids' lives. I've had too many friends who don't know their fathers or their mothers--friends whose childhoods were torn apart by divorce and selfish parents or step-parents. I know you were caught in the same trap. Many of my friends have found effective ways to move on in adulthood, but I still don't want that to be our children's fate. Please stop trying to repeat the painful cycles of your childhood with our children. I don't want our kids to have another obstacle to overcome in life. They've been through quite enough already. I'm begging you to move your focus from your pain and jealousy to the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of the children and their best interests. Many of your actions have been in direct opposition to the children's best interests, and that causes me great concern. Emotionally and physically abusing their father for years, assaulting him, attempting to cause an altercation with me in front of them, treating them like your best friends instead of your kids... Frankly, I'm quite sure you didn't consider the best interests of the children in any of those situations. 

To be entirely honest, I'm not sure you are currently in your right mind. I don't know any parent in her right mind who would blatantly lie to her children and the court, try to ruin an honest person's reputation, or withhold court-ordered business income from the household where her children live approximately 80% of the time. It just doesn't make sense. These are not the actions of a rational, mentally healthy person. I know most people don't appreciate being called out on these actions, but I honestly believe that you can do better. I have a hard time believing these sweet children came from someone who would intentionally do these cruel things. I am asking you to please seek the help you need to understand and change your actions. There are so many available resources, and you are not alone. 

The last thing I want you to know is that I'm not going anywhere. You have falsely accused my husband and me of all sorts of atrocities (including hurting the children and breaking up your "committed relationship"*); you have assaulted my husband and threatened me and our home; you have treated the children like pawns in your game; but you are NOT going to scare me away. I've waited to love my husband and children for years while you took your turn at it. I spent hours, days, and months working on myself and enjoying life while I searched for my heart's desire. I waited until the person and the timing were right. I have waited for these bright, beautiful, loving kids. I waited without knowing exactly who or what I was waiting for. Then suddenly, three beautiful, battered people burst into my life quite unexpectedly at what was probably not the most convenient time or place, and I wouldn't change that for anything. I gave up everything, sold most of what I had, and moved across the country for this family. I turned down career opportunities, quit jobs I rather enjoyed, and left behind people I loved for this little family you walked away from. I adore my husband, and I love these kids as though I birthed them myself. We don't do steps and halves in my family. Never have, and never will. Family is family, and matching DNA is not required. You can refuse to coordinate the children's schedule with me, refuse to acknowledge my presence in the lives of the children, and refuse to co-parent with my husband. You can, and you have. However, you cannot force me out of the children's lives, minds, or hearts any more than you can force them out of mine. And, since I'm being blunt, you might as well know that my heart is pretty inextricably tangled around their little fingers. 

Sincerely,

The Woman Raising Our Children

*If your boyfriend is reading, he should know that we NEVER threatened to report him to DCFS for any kind of abuse.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pirates and Toasters


For those who requested it, the talk I gave in the Charles River Ward on 6/29/2014 is below. What I actually said may have strayed from this typed copy a bit, but the gist is the same. Also, please don't judge this copy too harshly; it was meant to be heard, not seen. =)

__________

Brothers and sisters, the topic I was asked to speak about today essentially boils down to one word: treasure. If you’re like me, maybe the first thing you picture when you hear the word treasure is a pirate with an eye patch, a parrot, and a map; and then maybe the next thing you picture is Uncle Scrooge taking his daily money bath, diving in and then leaping like a dolphin through the coins. Well, that’s just one kind of treasure. God has given us treasure in many forms. He has given some of us money, yes; but He has also given us time, talents, and even the ability to direct our thoughts. Today I would like to talk about some specific ways to prioritize in our lives and some practical ways to determine where our focus is.

In Matthew 6:19-21 and 3 Nephi 13:19-21, The Savior taught the following to the Jews and to the Nephites:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

In the November 1991 Ensign, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “We cannot achieve lasting happiness by pursuing the wrong things. …’You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.’”

In the October 2012 General Conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:
“Our Heavenly Father sees our real potential. He knows things about us that we do not know ourselves. He prompts us during our lifetime to fulfill the measure of our creation, to live a good life, and to return to His presence.” (close quote)

I think it’s very difficult for us to comprehend how important we are to our Heavenly Father; however, we can occasionally glimpse His vast love for us during our very human experience on this earth. I feel His love for us when I learn something new about myself; when I hold a newborn baby or teach a child something new and see that sparkle of intelligence growing inside of them; when I find a new friend; when I write a new song; and sometimes at very unexpected moments.

Four years ago, I was working as a nanny in Washington, D.C. The child I cared for was 5 weeks old when I started watching her, and her parents were both doctors completing their residency. As such, my schedule was very irregular, and there were a lot of naps taken by all in the household. On one such occasion after I had been up with a sick baby for many hours while her parents were on call, the mother of the family, Bridget, came home and took the baby for a nap. I decided to nap also. Just as I was drifting off to sleep in my bedroom in the basement, I heard a loud screech of tires and a huge “thunk”. I thought I was dreaming, as I heard Bridget call my name and run down the hallway upstairs. As I heard the screen door slam, though, I realized I was not asleep and something was amiss. I ran up the stairs and out the front door to find that a woman driving down our street had hit a 10-year-old boy when he had decided to test out his new scooter by racing it down his driveway and into the street. To relieve any concern right now, I will tell you that the boy had only a broken arm, which surprised us all, especially considering the way his scooter was inextricably wrapped around her car’s front right tire. As I arrived on the scene, Bridget was administering first aid and had already called an ambulance. I approached the woman who had been driving the car, who also happened to be holding the baby, since she had been the closest person when Bridget had needed to examine the boy and keep others from moving him. The woman was visibly upset, and I think the only thing keeping her calm was the fact that she was holding a baby, so she knew she couldn’t lose it. By this time, many of the neighbors had come out of their houses and were staring at her accusingly, asking her questions and only making things worse. Although the woman answered their question--she was only going 20 mph; she lived in the neighborhood and had kids of her own, so she always drove slowly; he had come out of nowhere—she was focused on the boy and obviously worried. In that moment, I felt a strong surge of love for this woman. It was completely overwhelming. I felt very strongly that she was a daughter of God, that He loved her very much, and that she needed some support in that moment. I pointed out to the woman that the boy was responsive, he had a doctor caring for him, and that everything was going to be okay. I gave her a hug and stayed with her until she was allowed to leave the scene. That moment is something I will never forget, because it was a time that Heavenly Father showed me how much He cares for His children, even when others don’t understand why, and that He loves us no matter what. We truly are His treasure.

In the most recent general conference, Elder Michael Teh of the Seventy said, “In times of calamity or tragedy, the Lord has a way of refocusing us and our priorities. All of a sudden, all the material things we worked so hard to acquire do not matter. All that matters is our family and our relationships with others.” (close quote)

This experience reiterated to me something that my parents taught me about prioritizing. They said, “Remember how we prioritize the 3 Ps: First people, then principles, and THEN programs.” My siblings and I were taught to always consider the feelings of others when choosing what to say and do. Although this left us open to the pain of disappointment or frustration when others did not return the favor, I have found it’s a way to connect more deeply with others and understand their desires and motivations.

In the October 2006 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said:
“…focus on people and principles—not on programs. One of the most important things we do through the gospel of Jesus Christ is to build people... Frankly, it’s much easier to just manage programs than it is to understand and truly serve people… Our goal should always be to use the programs of the Church as a means to lift, encourage, assist, teach, love, and perfect people [emphasis added]. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). Programs are tools. Their management and staffing must not take priority over the needs of the people they are designed to bless and to serve.”

In the April 1986 General Conference, Glenn L. Pace, 2nd counselor in the Presiding Bishopric said:
“As great as the various programs of the Church are, they carry with them a potential danger. If we are not careful, it is possible to get so wrapped up in the plan that we forget the principles. We can fall into the trap of mistaking traditions for principles and confusing programs with their objectives… Programs blindly followed bring us to a discipline of doing good, but principles properly understood and practiced bring us to a disposition to do good.” (close quote)

As we learn to see those around us as children of God rather than parts of a program we happen to be in together, we will gain better perspective and begin to see that while each of us has his or her own path, we are all travelers together.

It absolutely floors me to think of the vast amount of experience there is in this room. Every single person in this room has a story. More than one.  Stories of joy and triumph, yes. And stories of trials you’ve overcome. Stories of heartbreak and tragedy. Whether it’s a failed relationship, a lost loved one, a missed career opportunity, or unmet expectations and unfulfilled hopes. If you’re like me, you may have found yourself focusing your thoughts, time, and talents into these past events far too often for far too long. It’s reasonable to take time to heal. Believe me, I’ve written my fair share of break up songs! But if you find this process carrying on beyond what is necessary, it’s time to change your priorities. Part of the beauty of this life is that we have a choice. It’s time to redirect your resources towards other efforts. Sometimes we get so bogged down in what we don’t have, we end up perpetuating the cycle.

So, as an example of this, one time when I was a freshman in high school, about 14, I came home from basketball practice absolutely famished. It was a long, rough practice, so I was hungry and angry. I was hangry, as we now call it. I decided to make some toast because it was quick and easy. I got out some bread, threw it in the toaster, and pushed the lever down. And it bounced back up. And I pushed it down. And it bounced back up. And I pushed it down. And it bounced back up. And we carried on like this for quite some time, but eventually I started to get pretty upset, so of course, like I’m sure most of us have done, I was like, “MOOOMMMM, this stupid ancient toaster is BROKEN!!!”  So my mom came in like, “Stop screaming, I’m right here,” walked over, pushed the lever down, and it popped back up. I was of course, like, “Obviously I tried that!” And she just ignored my sass, leaned over, plugged the toaster in, pushed the lever down, and walked away. And I was all like, “Oh.”

So the point here is that sometimes we want something really badly, and it’s even a righteous desire, and we may even have an idea of how to get what we want. But maybe we don’t have the perspective to do it on our own, or maybe we’re missing a fundamental step because we are focusing on something that, while essential and good, comes later down the line than the step we skipped. We are looking beyond the mark. Right? One of the first steps of using most kitchen appliances is to make sure the appliance is plugged in first, isn’t it? But sometimes we skip those steps because we take them for granted.

Steps that are generally essential for any process are:

11.     Devote thought to making a plan.
22.     Set your goal.
33.     Set smaller objectives to help you accomplish your goal. Make sure you’re not missing any necessary steps.
44.     Set aside time to accomplish your goal. This means taking time daily or weekly to work towards your goal.
55.     Consult others.

So let’s apply this to a few real life situations. Let’s say you want to run a marathon (more realistic for some of us than others). First you devote your thoughts to it to decide it’s what you want to do. Make sure it’s something you actually want. A marathon is a big commitment, and you shouldn’t just jump into it. Second, set your goal. Determine a reasonable timeline for your goal, and build in some flexibility in case you need more or less time. Third, set smaller objectives to help you accomplish your goal. You can’t just jump in and run a marathon. You’d likely die. You may want to start with smaller races and build your way up slowly. Fourth, dedicate the necessary time to accomplish your plan. Be aware that the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to your goal may directly influence how long it takes to accomplish your goal. Fifth, consult others. People who have run marathons already and close family and friends can offer support, advice, and encouragement. As always, consulting with the Lord through prayer is very helpful.

Now let’s bring this approach a little closer to home and take on the wonderful world of relationships. (I know you’re all really excited that I’m throwing this in at the end of my talk.) I often hear people speak of “someday” when we discuss relationships and marriage in the singles wards. Sometimes I’m the person saying it. From time to time during my singles ward experience, I’ve heard people complain that they’re not in a relationship or married, sometimes as a thinly veiled joke, sometimes very seriously. I know for many of us, it is something that we think about often. Many of us have a desire to have a family. It’s a righteous, healthy, great desire! So let’s make sure we are covering all the steps to get there.

11.     Let’s devote some thought to making a plan. Do you want to have a family? If you said no, you can ignore me for the next few minutes. If you said yes, let’s make a plan.
22.     Set your goal: the goal is to get married and have a family. Awesome.
33.     Let’s set some smaller objectives along the way to make our task less daunting. Let’s say the plan is to meet people, ask them out on dates, and repeat those steps as necessary until you find someone who mutually agrees to date you exclusively. Perhaps you’ll get engaged. That may or may not work out. These steps are not guaranteed to work the first, second, third, fiftieth, or hundredth time. Which leads me to step four.
44.     Set aside time to accomplish your goal: this could take a while, but it will take even longer if you’re not going on dates at all or not making time in your schedule for dating. Set aside the necessary time and BE PATIENT with yourself, others, and the Lord. Like marathon training, you may need to take brief breaks from time to time, but always get back in the race.
55.     Consult others: have open and honest communication. If you are on a date, call it a date. It’s not the end of the world, nor is it a lifetime commitment. Texting and emailing are convenient and fun, but it’s okay to call people on the phone sometimes, too. (that’s really hard for me to say because I am not a phone person, but there I said it.) And as I’m sure you’re already doing, consult with the Lord about the things near and dear to your heart.

Running a marathon and pursuing marriage and family are just two examples, but really these steps could apply to any goal in our lives, whether spiritual or temporal. In closing, I challenge you all to take stock of what matters most to you, and then set your priorities and goals. Reevaluate and make sure you’re not missing any steps. That toaster is not going to plug itself in. In our world of endless opportunities, it has never been more important than it is now to recognize and pursue what we really want most using all the treasure at our disposal. It may be time to check in with yourself to see where you stand, and if that is where you want to be.

After all, Elder Russell M. Ballard said, “May we focus on the simple ways we can serve in the kingdom of God, always striving to change lives, including our own.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

EP on iTunes


You can now purchase my album on iTunes! If you prefer Amazon, it's available there, as well! =)

The Everett Session by Rachel Rawlinson



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Okay, guys, I'm shamelessly using every venue I can for this. I'm entering a songwriting competition, and I need your help! Visit my channel and share, share, share! Thank you!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Be Strong

I wrote this one for Boston.


"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

-Leonard Bernstein

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We Are Not Broken

My experience at the 2013 Boston Marathon
Be sure to click on the images to see them in their entirety, especially the last two. 


Lelisa Desisa Benti, winner of the 2013 Boston Marathon crosses the finish line. Rita Jeptoo would win the women's division for the 2nd time in her career.

Boston is a city that tests even the strongest of people. When I moved here 19 months ago, we started off on the wrong foot. I had a hard time making friends, the way people drove made me crazy, and the roads were the most confusing I had seen in the U.S. The people at church were not as friendly as I had come to expect. I moved here from the D.C. metro area, where things had seemed to come so easily to me. I had made friends quickly; even though the traffic was off the charts, the roads mostly made sense; and when people made crazy driving maneuvers, they got pulled over or received a photo-enforced ticket in the mail. The contrast between the people in D.C. who are so quick to network and the brisk manner of the Bostonians that now surrounded me was a bit overwhelming.

Still, I loved being in the city, seeing the sites, and exploring the places of historical significance I had once visited as a kid, but I genuinely struggled to find my place for several months. My job was not what I expected, and though my employers were really happy with my work, I was not. I felt like I was hitting rock bottom, and I wasn't sure what to do. I was depressed. I wanted to leave, but I felt a strong and inexplicable need to be here. Every time I prayed about leaving Boston, I received an impression I needed to stay. As time went by, Boston slowly got under my skin. I didn't notice it happening, but it became a part of me. The strength of the people started to rub off on me. It can be hard to get to know Boston at first, or to grow any sort of connection with the stalwart locals. Once you start to understand them, though, you'll never want to let them go. Their quick and dry humor can cut like the sharpest knife, or heal you with the laughter you needed. I even started to like all the quirky roads, and the longer I stayed, the more I realized that nobody could get to know this city and not love it. I made changes in my attitude and grew to love my life here. This was the right place to be. Here, I found a resilience in myself I didn't know I had. The struggle to belong made the connection to Boston that much sweeter and stronger when it finally formed. I was hooked.



The music in the city (from the Symphony to the Conservatory to Longy to street performers to concert venues) was a healing balm to my broken heart. I liked the way people quickly united at a Sox game when normally they wouldn't give each other a second glance. I took my parents to a game when they were in town, and the crowd got a wave going that went all the way around the park literally SEVEN TIMES. I had never seen anything like it. Every time it came around I thought, "Surely this is the last time!" and every time it came around again. The only thing that made us stop was a home run that brought us all to our feet. I went to a Celtics game against the Utah Jazz (my home team), and I caught myself cheering for both sides. The crowd around me was pretty entertained, if not confused. Boston themed items started making their way into my wardrobe and jewelry. I found myself giving a "hooray!" every time I heard Boston mentioned in a movie or an article. I found that I wanted to show my fair city off to anyone who would see it, and I offered my apartment as a place to stay for any of my friends who ever wanted to head north to see me.

I was so excited when my good friend Taci asked if she could come visit during the marathon with her friend Andrew and Lindy, her ex-sister-in-law, who would be running the Boston Marathon. When they arrived here, we quickly discovered how well we all got along. We saw some of the sights around Boston together and laughed A LOT. Lindy spent a good chunk of time doing a scavenger hunt with Altra shoes, and she won the hunt! It was pretty cool. She got all sorts of swag from them. We had so much fun all weekend, and those are memories I will always cherish. <3>

Andy's "thirsty" pose at the U.S.S. Constitution. He's such a willing model. ;-)


Standing in line at Mike's Pastry for cannoli. Yum!


Andy, Taci, and Lindy rolling Gansta Style at Fenway Park.

Taci's best gansta pose; pretty good if you ask me.


Sometimes people ride through Boston in costume on a horse. Totally normal, I promise.


Lindy, my fast friend (in more ways than one).


Modeling for my friends at Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
(Photo credit: Andrew Damstedt)

Andy and Taci being serious with Longfellow.


Taci walks like an Egyptian. 


On Sunday night, we wrote Lindy's name on her leg so people along the course would be able to cheer for her by name. I'm so grateful for everyone who did. She said it helped so much. If you ever run a marathon, you should try it!

On Monday morning, Taci and I got up to help Lindy prep for the Boston Marathon. We made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat before the race and duct taped her runner's bag because those things fall apart at the seams the moment the runners put anything in them. 

Taci gave Lindy a hug for good luck before Lindy and I ventured out into the still dark morning.

Lindy and I watched the sun rise over Boston as we drove downtown at 5:30 a.m. on April 15th, 2013.

At about 6 a.m., I dropped Lindy off at Park St. & Tremont St. at the Boston Common to take the bus with the other runners to the start line in Hopkinton. I gave her a hug and took her cell phone with me back home to be returned at the finish line.

At that point, I went home and slept for a few more hours. We woke up and made signs to cheer Lindy on. Lindy's start time was 10:20 a.m. Andy, Taci, Chelsee, Jacob and I hopped in my car and headed to the halfway mark in Wellesley to cheer. 


Even though we were there when Lindy crossed the halfway mark at 12:07, we didn't even see her because there were so many runners! We cheered for the runners we saw, and whenever we saw someone's name written on them, we yelled for them really loudly. We saw Team Hoyt go by, which was really cool. You can see their story here if you're not sure what I'm talking about, or read this great article. You can see the Hoyts in the picture below. We also saw several amputees and two blind runners with guides go by. I was overwhelmed by the power of these people toughing it out against all odds, and I caught myself tearing up several times. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I don't care how bad someone might think they look while running a marathon, all I saw was beauty! I screamed and cheered as loudly as I could for people I didn't know. We all did. That's the spirit of the marathon.

When we realized Lindy had passed without us seeing her, we hurried back to the car, drove home to park in Brighton and hopped on the T (subway) to get to Back Bay to cheer for her at the finish line. We got off the T at Hynes Convention Center, leaving Jacob on the train since he was heading to Emerson to do homework. Here we made the first choice that would end up saving us. We left from a different side of the T stop than we meant to, and that put us on the south side of Boylston, rather than the north where the bombs were placed. 

We were at the corner of Boylston and Hereford when we received the text notification that Lindy had crossed the finish line at 2:02 p.m.. We were disappointed that we were not there to cheer her on. We spent the next 25-35 minutes trying to fight our way through the crowds to the finish line. It was very slow going, and we were worried she was alone after such a long race. I took this photo when we were stopped in our progress through the crowds. We eventually moved a bit. You can see from the photo below that the sidewalks were very crowded. We were very near the finish line, but we wanted to get to the family meeting area. (You will see this photo again later.)


Chelsee and I were leading the group, and we both felt that we should cut through an alley to get farther down the street and find Lindy. At this point, it had been several minutes since she had finished and we wanted to be there for her. Had we been on the North side, we would have likely been trapped in the crowd and unable to cut across the marathon route to get to Lindy or Geno. We cut through the alley and wound up on a side street that connected us to Stuart Street about a block later, which Lindy's trainer Geno had told us was where the family meeting area was. Runners are asked to line up by the first letter of their last name to meet their family at the end of the race to minimize a bottleneck at the finish line. We met Lindy at "M"at about 2:45. This is a picture of the "Family Meeting Area M" at Stuart and Clarendon.
And here is cold Lindy!

We stood there and talked for a few minutes about the race. Lindy was so cold! All the runners we saw were freezing, and I just wanted to hug all of them and give them my jacket. We eventually continued up Stuart towards Berkeley Street to find Lindy's trainer Geno and his wife Kathy, who were waiting at the letter "A" meet up point. It was a joyful reunion between trainer and trainee!
Geno was so proud. We took a lot of pictures to remember the moment!


At this point we were at the corner of Berkeley and Stuart. We had been talking for a few minutes when we heard what sounded to me like really loud thunder; I had never heard anything quite like it. We all stopped talking and looked at the sky. It wasn't cloudy enough to be thunder. "Maybe there's a jet flying really low?" Chelsee suggested. Lindy said later she thought it sounded like cannons. We tried to shrug it off, but then it happened again. "That is not a normal Boston noise!" I said to the others. We were unsure, but we didn't hear anything else so we started walking up the street to get out of the crowd. It was 2:56.

Pretty soon we saw people running every which way. There were people shouting, and then we heard the sirens. They seemed to be coming from every direction. I started to realize there was something seriously wrong. My mind was racing with possibilities and scenarios I couldn't voice. What could have happened? I felt an uneasiness rising in my stomach. I wondered aloud if there was an accident on the T. A fire truck came through and there was a bus trying to get out of its way. Chelsee and I both shooed people out of the road and off the shoulder where the bus was trying to go. We kept seeing marked and unmarked police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, transit police. You name it, they were there in an instant. Taci heard someone say "sixty people are down". We pulled Lindy's clothes out of the bag and got her layered up so she could move around more easily. 

We walked up to the corner of Stuart and Arlington, where a news van was parked. There was a man standing by the van on a cell phone, and we asked him what happened. He looked up at us with fear in his eyes and said, "Explosion at the finish line." At that point it had been about 5 minutes since we had heard the explosions. The air was starting to get hazy, and I began to be aware of the smell of smoke and sulfur. We looked up trying to see concentrated smoke, but the buildings surrounding us were so tall, we saw nothing. 

Chelsee and I both felt our most prudent move at that point would be to get the people who had been staying at our apartment to safety. The bombs (I had no doubt there were two explosions after what we had heard) had gone off between us and home. All our usual routes were blocked. Thank heaven for Chelsee and her quick thinking and thorough knowledge of the MBTA! We powwowed and decided to take the Orange line from Back Bay to Roxbury Crossing and then take the 66 bus. At that point, we parted ways with Geno and Kathy. I told them we needed to leave for home or we would be stuck, and they should go back to their hotel in Revere or come with us. They chose to stay. Chelsee started to lead us towards Back Bay with our precious friends in tow, poor Lindy having just run a marathon. 

Then, at 3:10, I got the first text message of concern from a friend that had heard the news. I realized my family and friends would see this on the news and freak out. It started to hit me how big of a deal it was. I tried to call my parents in Utah, but the call wouldn't go out. Andy and Lindy got some calls out, but Taci, Chelsee, and I couldn't get anything through. I sent a text to my mom's phone that said, "You're gonna hear reports of an explosion in Boston. We are all okay. Love you!" I didn't want them to panic. 

I also posted on Facebook: 



I hoped that would be sufficient for people to know I was okay when they heard, and then we focused on getting home. We made sure all of our Charlie Cards (subway passes) were loaded with enough money to get home, and got on a train. People were lost and disoriented. We focused on staying together and keeping eyes on each other at all times. At the back of my mind was a niggling concern that some people might try to take advantage of people in chaos, so I was especially vigilant. I answered text messages whenever possible. Jacob, who was at the computer lab at Emerson, texted me to see if we were okay; I let him know we were. I texted my roommates and we were all glad to know all four of us were safe; then my phone's battery died. We transferred to the bus and rode it until the driver said it would turn around at Brookline Village. At one stop, a runner got on the bus without a pass, and the driver fought with him a bit about it. "I was running away from a f***ing bomb! I didn't have a pass with me!" I offered my pass to be scanned again if he needed to pay, but the driver and runner refused, saying the dispute was settled and the runner was allowed to ride. 

The bus dropped us off near Brookline Village, 1.7 miles from home, and we decided to walk. That turned out to be our best bet because all other transportation that went by our house was shut down. When we got off the bus, we met a guy named Andrew who had been sent home from his first day of work because of the bombs. He just moved here from Arkansas last week, and he said, "I don't know how to get home."

"Where are you going?" asked Chelsee.
"Brighton," Andrew said.
"We'll get you there," Chelsee said.
"Stick with us," said I.

We all started the trek home, even Lindy on her tired feet and legs. We stopped at an open wine store and the clerk let Lindy use the restroom. She talked to us about what we had experienced and said she was worried about one of her friends who was running that she hadn't heard from yet. We had a good conversation and parted ways with well-wishing. I'm so grateful she was willing to help us out, and I hope her friend is okay. On our walk home, we saw many police officers and members of the National Guard. We crossed Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue to get home, and there were many cars leaving the city.

We finally got home and let Lindy, Andy, and Taci in to start to wind down. Lindy needed an ice bath to keep from swelling after the marathon. Chelsee and I gave our new friend Andrew a ride to his house in my car and then grabbed pizza for everyone at our house on the way home, since none of us had eaten since between 9 and 10 that morning, and it was now after 5 p.m. I called my sisters, who had sent me frantic text messages when they had not been able to contact me. I did such a good job of minimizing the danger when I texted my mom that she didn't let anyone else in the family know I had texted her. (I should also mention here that my parents are serving a mission for our church at a historical site, and they were giving tours during all of this so they didn't have access to television or internet until later in the evening.) Luckily, one of my sisters had checked Facebook and saw my post at some point in the afternoon before I called. My sister-in-law had been one of the first to comment on my Facebook post, so she and my brother knew I was okay. My other brother didn't find out about the bombing until that evening when he got home from work and turned on the news. He texted me (since the news anchors told people not to try to call) shortly after we got home, saying, "Please tell me u weren't there." I called him immediately to let him know I was okay. 

I'm grateful for the outpouring of love and concern from my family and friends. I think it is still hitting me that I was so close to so much pain and carnage. I'm still a little numb. Writing this blog is helping. As I looked at my pictures and figured out the timeline and locations, I started to feel it hit me. I keep hearing stories of heroes. People who ran to help others repeatedly at their own peril. People who kept running past the finish line straight to the hospital to give blood to help others. People who held others in their arms as their life waned. I know that Chelsee and I followed promptings to keep those with us safe. I know that we did what we were supposed to do to get them home. I know that we made good choices and helped people. But no matter how much I know this, part of me feels badly for moving away from the tragedy instead of towards it. Part of me wonders if I could have done more. I guess this is a mild case of what they call "survivor's guilt". This all still seems surreal to me. I am shocked again every time I think about it. I wonder if that will ever go away. What happened to all those people we walked past? Did I brush shoulders with any victims? What about the woman we passed on our detour that asked for directions to the finish line, and I gave them to her? Is she okay? Did I send her right into harm's way? What if we hadn't gotten the alert that Lindy had passed the finish line? What if we had just made a few small choices differently? All the "what if"s could make a person crazy.

Now I return to the photo I took of the crowds as we neared the finish line:



Here is an image of the finish line that was supplied by a news site. I added my information to it:



I read a report that said the devices had nails and ball bearings inside to cause maximum damage. It makes me sick. I saw these very people running at the halfway point. I cheered for them by name. I was brought to tears by their tenacity. I saw people who loved having stewardship over their bodies. Who took care of themselves and found joy in running. I saw such beauty there; and even as I saw that beauty, another sought to destroy it. What kind of sick person does this? Who sees something so amazing, and seeks to crush it? To me, that is the definition of evil. God creates beauty, and Satan seeks to destroy it. I feel so angry. I feel saddened. I also feel the resilience of Boston. 

I want whoever did this to know that YOU DID NOT DESTROY THAT BEAUTY. It lives on in my mind and in my heart. It lives in the hearts of everyone who has ever cheered for a runner. It lives in the hearts of all the runners in Boston Marathons past. It lives in the hearts of all people who sent a loved one to the Boston Marathon, and all those who will run in marathons in other cities this weekend despite your evil machinations. It lives in the heart of every runner on the planet, be it the 5Ker or the marathoner. It lives in every country, in all the good people, in all those who have seen miracles. It lives in every child. You may have broken our bones, and you may have broken our hearts, but you did not break us. We outnumber you. You are fighting on the wrong side, and you will be brought down.

Boston lives. Boston breathes. Boston has not even begun to show you her power. It's your turn to START RUNNING.


http://www.colbertnation.com/full-episodes/tue-april-16-2013-caroline-kennedy

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Destination Legislation


Over the past few days, I've watched the newsrooms and my social media feeds fill up with story after story and post after post of opinions about marriage equality. I have some very opinionated friends, who openly voice said opinions, and the cognitive dissonance with each new opinion is giving me one serious headache. Just so you have an idea of where I'm coming from, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. I believe and know a lot of things because of my spiritual studies. I also believe I shouldn't force my beliefs on others, and that it's not my place to pass judgement on the beliefs of others; that belief comes directly from what I've learned at church.

While I am a believer in the sanctity of marriage, I also believe in a God who allows us to choose for ourselves. In fact, our agency is fundamental in His plan for us. In the pre-existence, where all of us existed as spirits before coming here to earth, our Heavenly Father presented a plan for us to obtain physical bodies and learn proper spiritual and physical stewardship, and that involved coming to earth with the freedom to make choices of our own and learn from those choices, whether they be right or wrong, and having a Savior and Redeemer who would help us return to our Father. There would be great risks, but also great rewards. Lucifer, or Satan, our spiritual brother (for God is the father of our spirits and his) presented another plan which took away all risk, but also took away all choice and all ability to learn. One-third (33%, people!) of our spiritual brothers and sisters wanted to follow Lucifer's plan, and were allowed to make the choice to follow him. The other two-thirds of us chose our Heavenly Father's plan. There was a great war, and who do you suppose won? Long story short, we're here, and we are all, in one way or another, trying to force others to make certain choices (myself included, I'm sure, though I try not to).

If I truly believe in a loving Heavenly Father who gave us everything we have, including a free and peaceful land and the freedom and ability to choose both then and now, how can I believe that every aspect of our lives should be controlled by legislation? I don't think it's the government's place to define or control marriage between human beings (within reason. Don't take this to mean that I think we should be marrying off twelve year olds or anything harmful or unhealthy, whether it be emotionally, physically, or otherwise). Maybe some people will see my thinking as flawed, and that's fine, but I just don't even think this decision should be up to the government. Marriage is often very closely tied with a person's spirituality and/or religion, and religion and government often do not mix well. One of the best things about living in this country is having the right to worship how, where, or what we may. If one church allows same-sex marriage, does that mean all churches have to? Just because someone else's definition of worship doesn't match up with mine, should I want it to be made illegal? Each side has such strong opinions about everything, but so many seem at odds with themselves.

Lawmakers want to reform healthcare, but they want to throw in other, unrelated legislation and make themselves exempt from the whole process.
Leftists are perfectly okay with murdering babies in utero, but they don't want people to have guns to protect themselves from criminals who will get guns no matter what the law is. That's why they're criminals: they're not afraid to do illegal things.
Right wings want to be able to keep their guns, but they think it's their business to define love. No one has ever been able to truly define love in words; love is an action. Love is a state of being. Love is different for everyone.

People want laws to control others, but they don't want to be controlled.

What are we trying to do to ourselves? I may not have all the answers, but I'm not convinced that passing more laws and handing down more Supreme Court decisions is really going to help.