Thursday, May 5, 2016

If I could write a letter to my eleven year old self



I grew up beside two neighborhood girls.


I grew up beside Kimber; summer freckles, a small, prominent nose, and hair the shade of dirty sand resting quietly on her shoulders. She lived in the pink house next-door. Kimber grew up beneath big-sister Kellie. Kellie was blonde and sassy and opinionated. Her eyes intently focused on her cell phone as she absentmindedly discussed boys and "Color-Guard" drama with us. I use the term "discussed" loosely, sometimes I wondered if she might keep talking if we quietly slipped away to finish our jump-rope. Sometimes we'd lay on the lawn, our dolls forgotten momentarily, and watch as she flipped her hair and her pole around the perimeter of the yard, throwing and catching and dropping and throwing.

I grew up beside Michelle; honest, auburn hair, and eyes that took in the world for what it was. She lived in the yellow house down the block and through the fence. Michelle grew up beneath big-sister Jessica. Jessica was sophisticated and animated and constantly moving in and out and out and in. She was distant and untouchable and I think all the neighborhood girls silently resolved to be her one day; prom-dresses and Chap Stick and heels. The whole nine yards. Once she went on a trip, and Michelle and I wore her clothes to school. I walked through the halls that day feeling like a million billion dollars.

I am Rachael. I lived in the white house on the corner of 1400 north. I didn't grow up beneath a sister. I grew up beneath two older brothers. They spit watermelon seeds and recruited for football and night-games. Our fingers were orange from the cheese of Nacho Doritos and our legs ached from attempting back-flips in the front-yard. I was competent in Pokémon, Nintendo 64, and Game-Boy Color. I could hold my own in a game of steal the flag.
If I could write a letter to the little sister, to the girl in the white house, to the watermelon spitter and steal-the-flag runner, if I could write a letter to my eleven year old-self, this would be it:

Dear eleven year old self,

1. One of your friends is about to walk up to you on the playground today, and shatter your previously unshakable childhood confidence. There you were playing "team tag", hiding behind the trailer, minding your own business, when her sixth grade self decides to walk up to you and explain; "Flare jeans are totally stupid. You need to buy different jeans." Well guess what, sixth grader, it's twenty sixteen and apparently flare jeans are back in style. (Wait, really though is anyone else repulsed by the thought of putting a pair of flairs back on?? Hahaha, I was walking in the mall the other day and I was like; what!? I seriously can't believe it. Get your flare on people.)

2. Do not stand up in the middle of class and argue with your teacher about whether or not a negative number is possible. "But... if you have a negative orange, that means you have ZERO oranges, NOT negative one orange! If you have negative that means you don't have any, there is nothing there!" Just assume that you're wrong and Mrs. Adamson is right. Trust me on this one, having negative amounts of money is totally possible, you'll understand that later in life.

3. You're about to write a little short story titled "My town, American Fork." It's going to be relatively mediocre, but because everyone else scribbled something down so they could get out to recess, you're going to win your elementary school a new playground and you're going to win yourself seventy five dollars. Now stop right there. I know this is the greatest amount of money you have thus far seen in your life but do not, I REPEAT, do not spend the entire check on Wal-Mart stretchy cheetah leggings and cotton t's. They look terrible and those leggings will suffer a terrible stain from a melty cherry popsicle. Go buy a pet iguana or something, I know you've always wanted one.
If I could write a letter to my eleven year old self I would tell her to forget every word I just said and to remember one thing; slow down.

I would just tell her to slow down.

Take a little longer to lace up those muddy sneakers, watch the clouds as they lazily drift across the blue of the summer sky, eat a melting popsicle. Sit on the rocking chair next to Mom, ask her about the chrysanthemums, orchids, tulips, and snapdragons. Slip your goggles back on, and spend a little extra time perfecting your underwater cartwheel. Don't be embarrassed about attending the 'Yule Ball' in the yellow streetlight of your front-yard, and for heaven’s sake let Josh have your Charzard card; (he'll use his collection to buy Chelsea's ring later.) Hug your Nanna Betty once more before you leave, take an Andes mint out of one of those dainty glass jars. Warm your hands against that wood-burning fireplace--you won't have it for long, remember the smell of vanilla on Mom's wool sweaters and the sound of Dad's voice singing bed-time songs. Gut pumpkins and dunk for apples, color hand-turkeys and learn to throw a football. Stay awake just a little longer to see the twinkling Christmas lights, watch as the shadows dance across your bedroom wall. Let Georgie hold your hand as you walk across the street, and feel the sunshine freckle your nose as you finish the last bite of that snow-cone.

I would tell her that I know that life can get a little difficult sometimes. Mrs. Hadfield will have you in for lunch on multiple occasions for detention (in my defense, I didn't mean for the gum to actually stick in his hair), math can be frustrating and difficult, and your brother's Autism is beginning to affect, well, just about everything.

But then I would explain that Mrs. Hadfield will teach you everything you need to know in life, math will always be frustrating and difficult, and your little brother's Autism will shape you into the woman you are today. I would tell her that although the cheetah leggings are horrific, she'll never forget that afternoon shopping with Mom.  I would tell her that she was right about the negative numbers; the world probably needs a little less of those. I would tell her that the sixth grader actually ends up becoming one of her life-long best friends.

I would tell her that life is too quick and too fast and too short to worry about flare jeans, and for now, just for today, all she needs to worry about is squeezing her Nanna one last time, and holding Georgie's hand across that crosswalk.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

9.2.2015.



A few weeks ago Jackson and I celebrated six months of marriage. It may sound small, but for us? It is significant, and important, and exciting. It didn't feel real, at first. 



I mean, I was there for the overlapping of his bottom teeth, and the placement of metal braces. I had grown up beside this boy, I met him in fluorescent hallways, fell in love with him in a red-brick high school building. He'd attempt to explain to me the logistics of math, I'd edit papers late into the night. His presence was continual, our growth intertwined. We were young, but still the same.

With the little things, I can never decide what I want. Do I want the blue dress or the pink dress? Does it matter?
But with the big things... the big things don't involve decisions. Their innate.
I want to be a nurse.
I want to spend my life with Jackson.
So when he made it down to one knee after six years?
Innate.

"Yes. Absolutely, yes."

So there we were, the morning of September second. Him?  A navy suit we had picked together, tailored to fit his tall figure. Calm, reserved, patiently waiting for me to arrive.Me? Bright eyed, pink cheeked, out of breath, practically running to make it on time. I'd like to tell you that a lot has changed, but it hasn't. I'd like to tell you that a lot will change, but it probably won't. I know that someday I'll make it to wherever he is on the other side a little late and a little pink cheeked and a little scattered, but I'll come with a heart-bursting and genuine love. And he'll be there, patient as ever, his taxes completed and the seams of his shirt lined, reading a newspaper while he waits for his love to jump back into his careful arms. That's just us. Our dynamic.


 My hands stopped trembling as he held them in his. Two years shaped my child-hood best friend into a man, but his eyes still reminded me of the boy I once knew. This was real. What we had talked about since our Junior year of high school was happening. And it was happening today. "We are getting married." we whispered again. And again.

We were married in the Salt Lake City Temple on a Wednesday morning. If I could go back and do it again, I'd get married on a Wednesday, on a Wednesday, on a Wednesday. It felt as though we had the temple and the whole world to ourselves, ready to celebrate with us. The sunshine felt familiar and fitting as we walked out to meet our friends and family. I wore a gown my mother had spent her own money on for me-- it is the most gorgeous thing I will ever own. A sweetheart cut, an ivory underlay with a delicate white-lace overlay. My hair done by a dear friend who has done my hair for years and years. Jackson shaved his beard for the day, and wore a crisp white shirt with a navy blue suit from Banana Republic, tailored to his long, lean body perfectly by a sweet woman in a little shop in Provo. I don't know that I will ever be able to remember in detail every beautiful word that was spoken that September morning in that sacred moment, but I will never forget the way it felt. It felt clean, whole, and powerful, and even those adjectives don't do it justice. How grateful I am for the House of the Lord and the decision Jackson and I made to be married there.

The rest of the morning was a rush of pictures and embraces and just heart-bursting happiness and pure exhaustion.

I'll never forget climbing into the passengers side of that white manual VW Jetta, and having Jackson pull me close and whisper;"Rachael, you're my wife."

Our Luncheon, hosted by Jackson's family, was at the Spaghetti Factory at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. It was so cool to see the most important people in our life all together in one room. We both come from large families and I am so grateful to Jack's family for feeding every one of them!

Our reception was held at the Manor at the Riverwoods in Provo. Our venue couldn't have been more perfect; the bulb lights and cottagy feel has had me mesmerized since I was a little girl. As you walked in to the first room a lengthy table held a physical collection of our story-- yellowing letters and prom-corsages (did I ever tell you we went to ALL THREE proms!?), treasured pictures and books we had made for one another over the years. After the table, Jack and I stood and greeted our guests. The next room opened up to a bar full of desserts, and round tables that held stacked antique books, my old-camera collection, pictures of us together as teenagers, and scattered baby's breath in mason jars. The wood was oak, and between the table linens and bridesmaid dresses everything was either white, off-white, ivory, or cream. Our cake was simple and beautiful, with fresh flowers scattered across the top. (My mother's touch.) Above the refreshment table, our engagement video played on repeat. You can watch it here!

We hired one of my best friend's father's to DJ the wedding and he did a fabulous job. Around 8:00 he played; "Shut up and Dance", and as that song always does, it worked it's magic and almost immediately had everyone dancing. From my littlest nephew to my Grandmother, the atmosphere really allowed people to let loose, and honestly that was my biggest hope for my wedding. I just wanted it to be a celebration. After the initial song, our DJ slowed it down and Jackson and I shared our first dance as husband and wife. We danced to; "Can't help falling in love" by Ingrid Michaelson. I then shared a dance to "Because you loved me" by Celine Dion" with my father and Jackson's father while Jack danced with his mother and my mother. By the way our dance party proceeded after though, a passerby may have questioned whether not it was a Mormon wedding.. hahaha, people went crazy, and we couldn't have been happier.

As the night died down, my bridesmaids rushed me into the bride's room and helped me change into some lingerie and slip into a navy blue striped shift dress my best friend had bought for me a few days prior. Jack went into a back room and gathered his things as well.

There was this moment we shared that night, that is difficult for me to explain. Our guests had gathered outside of the reception hall ready to let go of red balloons (upon my request), and Jack and I were alone for a moment in the empty ballroom. Our DJ turned on "The way you look tonight" and Jack pulled me close and we whispered things and promised things but mostly we just basked in that moment of silence. It was just us; belonging to one another and brand new and absolutely terrified but also feeling peaceful and happy and overwhelmed and grateful and excited. 

We ran through our friends and family so quickly that I don't think our photographer was even able to catch it on camera, but that's okay, because I remember it. I remember looking back at all of these faces that has raised and loved us, and I remember seeing my Mom and my Dad and Ashley and Josh and Michelle and I remember looking up into the sky and watching as red balloons floated away into the air. And I remember feeling like I was in "The Father of the Bride" and I remember the weight of Jackson's hand in mine as we drove away into the night.

Our car found its way that night through a dark canyon to a classy resort up in Park City. I won't say much of the honeymoon, but I will say that he was and still is the best thing I have ever waited for. :)











And then it was over. That was it, that was the day I married the love of my life. I wrote this blog post not for anyone else's entertainment, I wrote it because it was the most special, important day of my life and I don't want to forget a single second of it.



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why I don't agree with Huffington's latest post, "How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body."

 
 

I want to begin my emphasizing that I am in no way pretending to be an expert on health. My personal journey and pursuit of health is exactly that; it's personal. It's individual and unique to me and my own life experiences. In the past two years as I have progressed as a nursing student and as a woman, and have developed opinions and habits that have helped me to lose and maintain around 15-20 lbs. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Do I totally have my days every once in a while where I screw up and eight my weight + some in Ben & Jerrys: "The Tonight Dough"? Absolutely! (Also, I think it's important to clarify here  for honesty sake that "The Tonight Dough" contains "caramel and chocolate ice creams with chocolate cookie swirls & gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough & peanut butter cookie dough.") I know, right? It's unreal. It's also unreal at making my stomach pretty upset. I digress.The point is, i'm not perfect. And I don't claim to be. But I do believe I have learned things about health that have helped me, and in writing this I hope that those things may be able to help someone else as well.

One of my dear friends showed me a post a few weeks ago titled; "How to talk to your daughter about her body" from Huffington Post. You know, one of the Facebook viral, everyone's sharing it, everyone's talking about it sort of deals. These are the posts that receive over one million likes, and within a few weeks we've forgotten about it entirely, buried in the history of our Social Media and minds.

Except, there was something about this post that struck me funny, and I couldn't forget about it.

My intent is not to argue the concept, in fact, it's beautiful. I'm actually so grateful to my dear Maddie for sharing this post with me--what an intelligent, incredible woman she is. The base concept is that rather than encouraging our daughters to obsess and stress over their weight, we as mothers, as teachers, must take a more holistic approach. We must encourage our daughters to "run because it makes her feel less stressed... climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe... to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that is a good thing sometimes." We must encourage our children to view themselves as they are-- human beings who are beautiful and capable and unique (with an eternal purpose and destiny--I might add).  We must empower our children and help them to realize that their worth is not defined on their outward appearance, on their percentage of body fat, on their amount of Instagram followers, on their jean or dress size.

Raise your hand if you agree with the above statement? YES! Of course! Me too! With my whole heart.  May we strive to raise daughters who have the courage and confidence to comprehend how wonderful and capable and amazing they are, despite what the media will be throwing at them from every angle.

To that I say; amen. Amen, amen, amen!

While this concept of intrinsic worth is of so much value, their is another underlying message this article sends that makes me cringe. Every time. The article reads; "How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don't talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works...Don't say anything if she's lost weight. Don't say anything if she's gained weight....Cook healthy meals. But don't say, "I'm not eating carbs right now." Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself."

(If you'd like to read the article, you can read it here!)

At first glance, this method of sidestepping a focus on weight itself is ideal, beautiful even. But here are the facts. "More than two thirds (that is 68 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity." Obesity is the "second leading cause of preventable death in the United States." --The National Institute of Health.

I believe in taking the time get sweaty every single day. And I believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting sweaty every day with the intent to create a healthy, fit body. In fact, I think that desire is critical. So yes, let us encourage our daughters to "climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe", but let us also teach our daughters the value and life-saving importance of creating and maintaining a work-out regimen that is realistic and comfortable, one that works for her. It has taken me longer than I can tell to come to this belief, to find a real love for my morning-gym time. For years and years I found my happiness in the rhythmic pounding of the street pavement beneath my feet in the mornings on an outside run. That worked for me then, the gym works for me now. That doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be a religious treadmill user running at 8.2 for 6 consecutive miles. I have friends who swear by the elliptical, others who thrive off of a little cha-cha in Zumba, and one's who find their chi in hot-yoga downtown. Everyone is different, what works for you may not work for me, visa versa.  The point is, there isn't always going to be "peak of the universe mountain" to climb, and if you are only waiting to exercise on the weekends when your friends happen to plan some super fun hike, you will more than likely, based on National statistics, gain un unhealthy amount of weight, often leading to an increase in depression, and a decrease in self confidence. So yes, let's teach our children their intrinsic worth and capabilities, but let us also help our daughters to feel comfortable and confident in taking care of their body, whether that is at the gym, at Zumba, at down-town hot yoga, or simply on a little run around the block.

In regards to food, the article goes on to read; "Teach your daughter how to cook kale. Teach your daughter how to back chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter." I believe the point the author was trying to make was; eat healthy, but don't over do it. Does that mean we actually need to be eating chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter? Well, it depends. Do you, does your daughter absolutely love chocolate cake? Is it her guilty pleasure, does she write it down as her "favorite food" in those little survey's everyone hates filling out? Then yes! The girl should have a reasonable slice of chocolate cake every once in a while for heavens sake. Food is difficult to pin down because, again, it's different for everyone, but here is what I have learned in my journey and pursuit of health and happiness. These are my three favorite rules I have come up with.

1.  Stop focusing on what you can't eat! Stop thinking about all of the coconut Dirty Dr. Pepper you love that you just can't drink. Stop thinking about the way that Dove chocolate melts in your mouth, stop thinking about that buttery, mapely doughnut you "really shouldn't take another bite of." Stop it. Seriously, stop it. You're annoying yourself and everyone else when all you talk about is how you shouldn't be eating something while your snarfing it down.

2. Instead, think of this. Think of all of the food you can eat! When I finally internalized this concept my health definitely took a turn for the better. Think of all the colors you can put into your body, the browns of potatoes, or thick, warm whole grain bread on a cold afternoon. Think of the bright orange of tangy tangerines and sweet carrots chopped into a salad. Think of grilled chicken, grilled fish, even a little grilled steak every once in a while. Think of clear water flushing through your system, moisturizing your eyes, your skin, your nails, and your hair. Think of red, juicy tomatoes and red bell peppers. Think of yellow bannanas! Think of you. Think of the way you will feel after you consistently fill your body with fuel that was literally created to bring you life, to bring you energy. It really is so cool.

3. My last and final rule. ONLY EAT THE CRAP FOOD YOU LOVE.  Remember when we talked about the chocolate cake? If you could live on an island and eat, sleep, drink, breathe chocolate cake then you had better eat some cake every once in a while gosh dang it. For me, it's cold-stone ice-cream.  If you love it that much, will totally be worth the tummy ache. However, if you're like me and chocolate cake is something you don't really care for but you just "eat it because it is there", you are creating unhealthy life-long patterns of short term gratification. You're not going to like it that much anyway, and a constant intake of sugar is not only bad for your body, but will eventually make it so your body is literally unable to effectively store and use sugar. (hence diabetes.) Be kind to yourself.  Don't eat crap you don't even like.

Well, it's Sunday, and I think my husband has fallen asleep in the next room waiting for me to come cuddle him, so I should probably wrap this up. :)

So, YES! Let us encourage our children to view themselves as they are-- human beings who are beautiful and capable and unique with an eternal purpose and destiny. Let us empower our children and do everything we can to help them to  realize that their worth is not defined on their outward appearance, on their percentage of body fat, on their amount of Instagram followers, on their jean or dress size. BUT MAY WE ALSO have the courage to set an example of consistency, self-reliance, self-control, and the importance of getting sweaty on a daily basis in order to keep our bodies physically fit.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Wrinkled

I have this thing for dresses.

I've had my eye on a few floral prints as of late, and when it comes to a summery cream, or a spring shade of sky blue I can hardly contain myself.  Here are a few of my current favorites:

www.piperandscoot.com
www.roolee.com
www.willivia.com
 Especially with Christmas right around the corner, it's so easy to get caught up in a world of Instagram and Pinterest, Gap and J-crew, what my neighbor's best-friends aunt's daughter wore to that party a few nights ago, and suddenly everything in your closet seems out-dated, aged, and terribly inadequate.

That's when I have to remind myself. I have to remind myself about "less is more" and "have what you need and need what you have" and most of all, I have to remind myself that those out-dated, aged, and terribly inadequate dresses are the ones that got me where I am today.The cream lace tucked away in the back sent me to Krista Saltmarsh's wedding as her bridesmaid, the black quarter sleeve blanketed me as I watched one of my best friend's bear testimony of Jesus Christ before she left for a two year mission. I fondly refer to my little red dress as my lucky dress, for it seemed that all the beautiful and unexpected things happened when I wore her. Every girl should have a lucky dress, and if you don't? Find it. They're the best ones.

As much as I have a thing for dresses,
I have an even bigger thing for wrinkled dresses.

I like wrinkled dressed because it means you didn't just hold me, you squeezed me and pulled me into your arms and whipped me around like I weighed absolutely nothing. And then? And then you held my face in your hands so close I could see the freckles on your nose and that one in your eye and then? And then you kissed me. And you meant it. Wrinkled dresses signify a life lived, a smudge of dirt from an afternoon walk, a slobber stain on the left shoulder from a brand new baby, an interview braved, the night at that little Italian restaurant you won't ever forget.

What i'm not saying is that buying new things makes you a horrible person. In fact, i'm still debating between the three above (any suggestions?)

What I am saying, I suppose, is that it isn't about the dress at all. It's about the person in that dress. It's a little less about the floral, and a little more about the life. That's what i'm trying to remember as Christmas approaches.


Anyway, I can't believe I just wrote an entire blog post on clothing, but, what can you do. In more recent news; i'm terribly sick with some nasty virus, and i'm only three weeks out from completing my 3rd semester of Nursing School! Only one more semester till I am officially a Registered Nurse! Hurray!! If you need me, i'll be with where the NyQuil is.

Happy Monday!



Friday, November 13, 2015

the story of us (part II) --This, my friends, is where it gets good.



The night Jackson received his mission call is still so vivid in my memory. I remember light. The gentle lamplight as we waited for all of his family to arrive, the light in his eyes as he tore open that big white envelope, the tangible light of Jesus Christ spilling all over that little living room. "Georgia Atlanta, North Mission." he said. He held my eyes for a moment, and then everyone was hugging and crying and six weeks came and went and there we were in a little parking lot in American Fork. He pulled me to him and held me close for what seemed like an eternity we laughed and cried and made quiet promises only we could hear, and then he was gone.

Our last picture together before Jack left for Georgia
Jack and I did not miss a single week for the next year and a half. Handwritten letters, e-mails, voice-recordings, everything you can think of. His letters were beautiful and important and his growth and sincere love for the work of Jesus Christ and for the people in Georgia bled through every word. The two years I spent without Jackson defined and created who I am today. I truly believe that my God lovingly and intentionally took me by my imperfect hand and with perfect intention guided me to the people and the experiences that were necessary for me find growth, to find progression, to find purpose, to find myself, and most of all, to find faith in Him.

I loved looking at these pictures while he was gone. He looks so happy and full of LIGHT!

Mountain Meadow Ranch: The very first thing I did after Jackson left was slip on a pair of sweats, pull my hair up into a ponytail, and got to work. I googled "summer camps in America", narrowed it down to three, and sent out applications hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the little town I grew up in. In June of 2013 I packed up a duffell bag, and drove to Mountain Meadow Ranch, a 900 acre non-denominational summer camp in Northern California. Those three months were everything my heart needed, and then some. I spent the summer beneath the trees, jumping into bodies of water, learning how to catch snakes and lizards and bull-frogs. I remember the sound of a hundred children's voices singing "Country Roads", the way the fire smelt as the smoke would disappear into a sky blanketed in stars. I remember dirt seeping into every inch of my body, and real, raw, happiness seeping into every inch of my soul--the only kind that can be found when a cell-phone isn't buzzing in your pocket all day long. I remember the rich kids and I remember the poor kids sponsored to be there, but that's the thing, they were all the same. They were kids. The Elena's owned the camp, and their trust and belief in God felt like home. I remember rootbeer floats and homemade fireworks on the fourth of July. I remember Beth from England, Matt from Idaho, the Elena's from Susanville, Natawni, one of my best friends, from Utah. I learned more than I can explain that summer. I fell in love with so many things and people and experiences, but most importantly, I fell in love with myself--imperfections and all.

Jack and one of his favorite companions Jordan Coleman. Happy Birthday Jackson!! 

Dixie State University: The following year I had the opportunity to return to Dixie State as an Ambassador, recruiting for Dixie throughout high-schools in Utah, and in return, receiving a full-ride scholarship. Ever since I was a little girl, my Dad taught me the importance of working, and working hard. I felt so grateful for my scholarship and spent countless hours examining cadavers in the Anatomy lab, pouring over pathophysiology and microbiology textbooks, studying for math and chemistry and psychology exams. I have always known I wanted to be a Nurse, and I followed my dream relentlessly.

:) 
This was also the year that brought Millie Stirland, Madi Law, and Syd Hill into my life. I will forever be grateful God put Millie into my life. She was the girl with the unruly hair who spent the semester by my side. She taught me important things like, "staying cooped up in a bedroom and writing your missionary on the weekends is pathetic and silly and look at this beautiful city you live in with all of these beautiful people to meet." She taught me how to let go a little, and I think I taught her how to hold on a little. Dixie taught me balance. I learned how to work hard and play hard. I learned how to focus, how to study for four hours straight. I learned how to build a resume, how to act in a professional setting. I dated a lot (sorry Jack:), seriously dated a few people, and learned a TON about men in general, what I liked, what I didn't like. I fell in love with red-rock, sunshine, and the original swig. I fell asleep on the rug or couch in our living room most nights listening to country music, I stayed up too late, slept in too long, and ate more cold cereal than I care to admit, and had my debit card declined on a regular basis. I did college. I felt college. I got college out of my system. I LOVE that I can say that. 

Mountain Meadow Ranch, Summer 2013

Six months before Jackson was to come home, I met a boy named Jared. He, to be completely honest, wasn’t my typical type. He was twenty something, California-grown, and came out of seemingly nowhere. We ate yellow curry on a cold, October evening, and talked late into the night.  In the beginning I had myself convinced that it was a fling, that I’d wake up one day and be completely over it and then Jackson would come home and it would be happily ever after as we had always planned. But yellow curry turned into, do you want to carve a pumpkin with me tomorrow night? Wednesday pumpkins turned into Thursday to the movies and Thursdays into Fridays, Fridays into the weekends, and the weekends into the week days and just like that he became the focus of my life.  

My best friend Natawni and I, MMR Summer 2013

Interestingly, a few weeks after I had begun dating Jared, I received an e-mail from Jackson. He related to me his remaining strong feelings he still had for me, but explained the confusion he felt about coming home after us being apart for two years. He explained he had been playing around with the idea of heading up to Utah State the semester after he returned, and wanted to know what I thought. I felt guilty and relieved and anxious and sad and even grateful but mostly confused. I quickly e-mailed him back that I had begun dating someone else a few weeks prior and I supported his decision of going up to Utah State and the conversation left us both a little hurt and a little vengeful. We only wrote a few times the last six months of his mission. 



My incredible siblings and I (minus Alex!)

Jackson gave two years of his life to serve a full mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (how cool is that!? I’m so proud of him!) And was honorably released a month early due to a herniated disc in his back. A few hours after he stepped off that plane I found myself wrapped into his arms again. Regardless of the ten or so people surrounding us, it felt warm and familiar and right, leaving us both feeling torn and confused. I remember sitting in that same little living room where we had opened his mission call 2 years prior, chatting with his family, occasionally glancing over at him across the room from me. He didn’t bother to look away though, he just, stared at me. Analyzing me, taking me all in, following every movement, every gesture. I shifted around in my seat. Talking with him about that moment now, he explained to me that he was looking for me, trying to see if I was still “in there.” I suppose I knew that though. Part of me wanted to run into the bathroom, take off a little make-up, dye my hair back dark, replace my skinny jeans, boots, and black v-neck with a dress from high school, something low-maintenance and hipster I had bought from Savers. 



Rock Climbing in Saint George 

I didn’t though, rather, I relaxed a little. I was proud of who I had become over the past two years!  I had taken the time to become the person I had always wanted to be. I found determination in my Saucony’s hitting the pavement beneath each step of my morning run. I found peace in the soothing chants of my instructor, in the drowning heat as I shifted into another pose at Brick canvas Hot Yoga, releasing my fear and frustration and anxiety. I had put more effort into school than I had ever put into anything. For once in my life I wasn’t comparing or competing, rather I felt comfortable in my own skin, I felt as though my soul matched my body. My skin was a little clearer, my clothes fit a little better. As I sat there on that little couch though, under the eyes of my best friend, the boy I had grown up with, I wondered…had I taken it too far? How many hours was I spending exercising a day? When was the last time I had sat down with a friend and eaten my favorite milkshake, heck, when was the last time I had eaten a piece of chocolate? When one was the last time I had served someone I loved? Who had I become? Did I miss the balance I was so desperately seeking and head in the opposite direction? 


My two Ambassador Advisors/Mentors. They mean the world to me. 

In that moment, after seeing him again and being embraced by that all too familiar hug, there was nothing I wanted more than to be with him, to do it all over again. He wasn’t ready though, not yet. And admittedly, neither was I. 



After finally seeing Jackson, I felt a sense of peace and closure replace my feelings of anxiety. I gave that last five percent I had been holding back to Jared and I’s relationship, honestly believing this was the route where I belonged and where God wanted me to be. Jackson never left my mind though, and I thought of him often, hoping he was doing well, hoping he was finding happiness and peace. Jared flew me out to Hawaii to see him at BYU-H over my spring break, and we spent a week jumping off cliffs, paddling out to distant islands, studying at the library, hiking and snorkeling and swimming, walking through gift-shops, and eating sushi on the back of friend’s trucks. We talked about our future, arguing about whether or not he could decorate with moose-heads. 


Summer 2015, American Fork Firework Show 

I flew into the LAX airport on a layover; sunburnt and sleepy and centered. I remember chewing on a sub-par airport bagel when I looked down at my phone to find Jackson’s number on my screen. My heart skipped a few beats as I stared at it, watching it ring, letting my voice-mail answer. I paced around the air-port, talked to a complete stranger, and by the time I finished my bagel, I had decided to call him back. His voice was quiet and a little uneasy as he asked me if we could meet for dinner. Before I knew what I was saying, I agreed, and met him the next evening at a little Chinese place in American Fork we used to spend the majority of our paychecks on in high school.  Jackson expressed to me the gratitude he felt for his experiences up to this point. He begun to date a girl from his mission, and while she was an awesome missionary, he felt as though he was lacking a critical element of both emotional and physical attraction (he always laughs and calls it "mission goggles"..) Also, hahaha, she's a bit eccentric? That's a nice word to describe it, right? I found out later that  she asked him to meet her in Salt Lake a few weeks into them dating and demanded that he marry her by August. They had not even talked about marriage prior to that point. Call me old fashioned but I always thought the man was the one who gets to propose? Hahaha, bless her heart. Anyway, the point is he had decided to end the relationship due to a variety of factors, regardless of what was to happen with us. He carefully and gently explained that fire to be something he had only ever felt between us, and let me know he would do anything to have it back again. 

Engagements with my sweetheart 

I was torn and confused and frustrated. If Jack had said these things to me right when he had returned home that would have been different, but he wasn’t ready then, he was ready now. And I had no idea what to do. I felt as though I had already committed to someone else, and spent the next five days in literal AGONY, hahaha, I literally was changing my mind every five seconds. I want to openly apologize to and thank those of you who had to be around me during this week. One minute I was all Jared, the next I was all Jackson, and the next I was moving to Paris so I didn’t have to make a decision. I prayed and talked to my family and best friends and everyone had something different to say. Finally, I had decided. I would be with Jared. Jared had never hurt me. Jared had always taken care of me. I could trust Jared. I would be safe with Jared. It all made perfect sense. That phone call to Jackson was the hardest one I ever had to make. We both cried. 


Engagements. We love this one!
A few days later I was at UVU studying for an exam, when I received a call from my older brother and best friend Josh. He asked if I had the time to stop by his house and talk with him for a minute—he needed to talk. I told him I’d be there soon, and was at his house within half an hour. We drove around for a little, and before he could say anything I demanded; “I’ve decided. I want to be with Jared. I don’t want to talk about it.” My brother knowingly smiled, and listened to me vent as he drove up to a little park Jackson and I used to spend time at in High School. He turned to me, the intensity of his voice rare; “Rachael.” “I want you to know I support you in whatever you decide. But Jackson is my friend. And I want you to at least hear what he has to say.” I sat there for a minute in silence, realizing what was happening. I was too shocked to be angry, shutting the car door behind me as Josh drove away. Up a little path, I found Jackson waiting for me. He immediately apologized, asking me to hear him out. 


9/2/2015
The ground was covered in my favorite candy bars and flowers, and in his hands he held a leather-bound journal, full of letters from his friends and family I had collected as a Christmas gift for him years earlier. In the inside cover I had written; “Read this to me, and I’ll always come back to you.” He pulled me beside him, and read me the story of our love I had written in High School. “But I was different then!” A little voice screamed in my mind, “I was young and fearless and unaware of what it felt like to truly be hurt.” After Jackson finished the story, he turned on “our song” on his phone, and asked me to dance. We danced there, in the middle of the freezing cold night, and all hope of holding on to some sort of safe-reality that wasn't me falling in love with him all over again was lost. He then knelt down on one knee and said; "Rachael, will you please, please date me?" with tears in his eyes. I leaned on his shoulder and cried. It wasn’t a sad cry, though. It was a knowing cry. The kind of cry that admits defeat. I had known all along he was the one my heart knew, understood, and most of all wanted. It wasn’t about the flowers or the chocolate or even the book. It was about him, his soul, his freckles, our memories, our life. I knew in that moment that I could trust him, and not only could I trust him, but I could trust him with my entire life. With my children, with my sicknesses and triumphs and failures and successes and with my spirit. 
I had no idea how I was going to tell Jared without him thinking I was completely mental. The entire situation was heartbreaking. 


9/2/2015
We were engaged ten days later, (yes--10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1--thanks for keeping track ;) Because, as Jackson always puts it, "When you know, you know." And we've pretty much known since we were fifteen years old. :)

The way I ended it with Jared was horrible and abrupt, I’ve never been good at goodbyes. But I need to say that I know he was put into my life for a reason. We learned lessons from each other that we couldn’t have learned from anyone else. He taught me to embrace EVERY part of my personality and own who I am and where I am going. He’d always ask me, “What are you goals? What makes you tick? Find that out. It’s so important and necessary.” He believed in me and pushed me to become better than I was. I am grateful for the kindness and empathy he showed towards me even in the very end. I think I reminded him what it feels like to want a family. I think I reminded him how much he loves his own.

Since that day I have never doubted my decision to marry Jackson Kyle Aubrey. He is, always has been, and always will be the absolute love of my life. He and I were married September the Second in the Salt Lake City Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I testify that the power of the Marriage Sealing is real and sacred and powerful. I am literally sealed to my sweet Jackson for eternity! I am so grateful for the Gospel and for the Plan of Salvation. If you’d like to learn more about my religion and the opportunity we have to be with those we love for forever you can look at mormon.org! Anyway, Jackson’s the absolute best. He lets me tuck my fingers and toes under him when our apartment gets freezing cold, holds my hair when I am puking, buys me Ben and Jerry’s when I am emotional and upset, and understands my heart and my intentions. He is strong and gentle, confident and kind, always going out of his way to serve those around him. His testimony in our Savior Jesus Christ is tangible and unshakable. Also, let's not forget that he is the most handsome, sexiest man known to this earth... but i'll spare you my thoughts on that subject. ;) It is such a crazy, happy, beautiful thing to watch your crush become your boyfriend and your boyfriend become your fiancé and your fiancé become your husband and someday your husband become the father of your children. I can’t wait to spend my life by his side, watching him grow and learn and fail and succeed. Marriage isn’t perfect, but there is nobody else I would rather figure life out with. I love you, Jackson.

I always have.
I forever will. 

Our future is so bright. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

the story of us (part I)

This story is one I feel hesitant to write because, to be blunt, i'm a perfectionist, and our story is anything but perfect. It's raw and real and vulnerable and beautiful, but also disappointing and terrifying and at times terribly heartbreaking. I don't want lose even a moment of it though, because every decision I made, every experience I had, every person I met, chiseled and lifted and broke and healed and ultimately shaped me into something different, someone a little more empathetic, with a little more courage and spunk and resiliency and a WHOLE LOT more lessons learned.

Whatever the story, the point is that it's is the one that brought us together. And, for the record, i'd do it a million times over if it would mean that in the end I would get to be with  Jackson! He makes the most wonderful eggs and lets me steal his blankets and burn his food and you wouldn't believe the comfort of his hugs after a terrible day. He's seriously the best you guys, I feel so lucky.

This is Jackson Kyle. 
Jackson was born on November the 21st, 1993, in a little town called Blackfoot, Idaho as the sixth of ten children (whom he would give his life for.) Jackson is such a unique mix of things, and for those of you who know him, you know exactly what I mean. He is non-confrontational yet bold, strong yet gentle, comfortable yet polite, submissive but confident, stubborn but open-minded. He has a way with people that is difficult to explain, a presence when he walks into a room. He is also the GOOFIEST-haha person I know, but that side only comes out with his very close friends and family.

And that's little me in the over-sized hat. 

I was born 24 days prior (Yes, I'm older!), on October the 28th, 1993 as the first girl and the middle child of five. My mother brought be home a few days before Halloween and remembers holding a little bundle of pink as she passed out Halloween candy that year. Fall reminds me of her, and has such a special place in my heart. From the moment I was born I had my own little personality--spunky and horribly sassy and independent and curious and absolutely determined to do everything my two older brothers could do.

This is the earliest picture I have of us, though we met a year prior to this picture. 

10th grade school dance. (Look at that hair!)

It was the spring of 2010. I remember the cool concrete holding my back; the three of us girls casually slouched against the wall of that Junior High like we owned the place. He ran past, tall, freckled, auburn hair, quickly holding my brief and complete attention. I called up to him, "Hey, what's your name?" He paused, attempting to swallow some large bolus of Snickers and replied in the passing; "Jackson." as he pounded through the exit of the building, 2 more boys chasing behind him. We didn't understand what he said, so we called him the boy in the red vans, and resumed our school day, forgetting the strange encounter with the strange boy. I didn't forget him though. That auburn hair has always been hard for me to forget.


Jack snapped this of me in the canyon one afternoon while trying to explain how Instagram works. :) 


My mom took this picture before our sophomore prom.

A few weeks passed, and I received a message on Facebook one night from "the boy in the red vans." He asked if i'd be going on the cross country skiing field trip the following day, and while I had been planning to miss it and sleep in, my plans quickly changed with that little message! We took the yellow school buses up to the mountains, and spent the day a few steps behind everyone else. The sun was somehow shining that February afternoon and I distinctly remember the way the sun reflected off the snow into our eyelids and onto our fingers and into his big brown eyes. He told me about his family, describing each one in great depth.  All I knew of boys was immaturity and insecurity, but he was calm and descriptive, polite and confident.  We slipped away from the group, pulled off our ski's, and climbed up into a tree and wasted the rest of the afternoon in lengthy conversation. We were late getting back to the bus, and late getting home from school every day after that. As soon as that bell would ring, we'd walk to a little park behind the junior high and talk, and talk, and talk for hours on end. Our connection was simple and quiet and honest and tangible. Neither of us had kissed someone before, so we were shy and awkward and hardly touched at all, it took him at LEAST four weeks to even give me a hug, but oh, i'll never forget the way those arms fit around me for the first time. We drifted apart as our ninth grade year wrapped up. The summer after our freshman year brought each of us our first kiss (with other humans), but I never forgot my boy in the red vans who understood my heart.
My favorite back-seat

Summer came and went, and we found ourselves thrown into a pool of change. I noticed Jack in the hallways the first few days of school, but we both kept our distance. I took High School in hungrily and happily, melting into a world that I felt brought a heightened sense of freedom, and a new sense of myself. Jackson slowly became a distant part of my memories and I his.
The night before my sixteenth birthday, October the 27th of 2010,  I received a call from a number I didn't recognize. I answered to Jackson's voice on the other line. "Rachael,".. he said, "I just wanted to be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday." My stomach immediately flip-flopped on-top of itself as he asked if he could come see me that night. Water fell onto my shoulders from my recent shower and I had already changed into a pair of old pajamas, but I quickly agreed, pulled some boots on, and ran out into the falling snow to meet him. We drove around in his car (technically his mom's stolen car--remember--he's still fifteen) that night in a complete blizzard, laughing and reminiscing as we parked at the elementary school we had spent so much time at the year prior. I remember it perfectly. I was leaning against the jockey box, the sound of the car heater humming behind us. We just sat there for a moment, within inches of each other. It was almost as if that February field trip, every after school hour we spent at that little park, and then the empty summer after that just hung between us, creating this unfinished, wonderful and terrifying tension. And then he closed the gap, and I know how cheesy and ridiculous this sounds, but I felt as though a million fireworks exploded inside of me. Needless to say, that surprise kiss was the best birthday present I could have asked for.

My brother Joshua's homecoming, shortly after our Senior year. 


It is basically impossible give high-school the conglomeration of words and time and energy it truly deserves. The closest thing I can come up with to satisfy it all is a blog post I wrote after one of our break-ups (we broke up and got back together more times than either of us care to admit throughout-high school). I labeled it; Here's to you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's to you.
We were sitting on your porch one day. Remember? You told me if I ever had a blog, you would read it. I laughed quietly and swore to myself I never would.
Well.
Someday, if you ever read this blog,
This one is for you.
Here's to you.

Here is to thick, creamy, raspberry milkshakes. Here is to the first letter I ever received; five pages of left slanted handwriting.  Here is to cuts on fingers, the warmth of your eyes, that night in the rain, a first beautiful, crooked smile on a yellow school bus. Here is to the boy in red vans, a mouth full of snickers, finding the courage to say hello. Here is to not feeling the rain as it fell onto us that night, to our first slow dance. Here is to every post of every American Fork High School girl that has written about you. Here is to the metallic smell of two empty swings, the pressure of your fingers pressing gently into my hand as you processed information, to full moons, and 11:11. Here is to "what do you want?", "can i ask you a question?", "tell me a secret", "you feel like home"and "I will always come back, I promise." Here is to the missionaries, the two brothers that left their legacy for us. Here is to braces, and and growing up together; learning from each other. Here is to the twenty eighth, the twenty first, and March the fourteenth.  Here is to knowing every detail of ones soul one day,  and pretending you have never met them the next. Here is to the white house with the wrap around porch that will never be sold,  to the freckle right underneath your eye, the one on your arm, and my desperate attempts to count the ones on your fingers. Here is to nine crimes. Here is to the first time you ever hugged me, it took three months, remember? Here is to Abby, Jeremy, and Ema. Here is to your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through your example.  Here is to sunrises, sunsets, and talking until five in the morning. Here is to Oakland's silly face he made, to Madison running to greet me in the front yard.  Here is to kisses that mean something, taking a nap in a field, and a river in the canyon on a hot summer day. Here is to a library, with oak floors, thick rugs, warm reading lamps, and a window seat facing the sunset. Here is to people being worth more than what they wear. Here is to otter pops, hot fudge sunday poptars, blue gatorade, cowtails, lemon yogurt, and scraping barbeque for 7:25 an hour. Here is to the boy that taught me to slow down, to appreciate every little thing along the path,who taught me how to love.
Here is to not forgetting, but letting go, and moving on.
Here is to saving that small part of your heart. 
Here is to acting like it never happened.
Here is so saying hello in the hall.
Here is to falling in love when you are young, fearing absolutely nothing, diving in head first, and following your heart.
Here is to being willing to do anything for one person.
Here is to him not deserving you at your best, when he can't handle you at your worst.
Here is to building your foundation on what matters most.
Here is to the boy that deserves somebody, someday to match his socks, to wake up with him in the mornings before he leaves to work, to give him an attacking hug when he walks in the door, to make sure he wears thick wool socks and drinks lots of orange juice when he is sick.
Good Luck boy in the red vans, thank you for being a part of my story.

Oh, how he loved that thing.
The story (thankfully) doesn't end there, but i'll let it be for today.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Bread Aisle

Yesterday afternoon was spent in what seemed like our own little realm of small tasks, running around the stereotyped college town we never expected to live.

As we made the walk from the library to our car, I felt almost betrayed by the rush of rigid air forced down my throat with every step. Autumn and I must be somewhat alike, we've never been about lengthy goodbyes. One moment you're enjoying a brisk Sunday afternoon with nothing but a light jacket, and the next we're holding our hoods against the harsh wind, running across Utah Valley University's parking lot to find our car. Raw, pink fingers, the sweet, sticky smell of Starbuck's white hot chocolate, murmuring voices creating the perfect white noise for an 11;59 assignment. One thing is for sure. The weather is changing, and I like it. It feels correct, parallel to the paramount change in my life as of late.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon was busy, but the happy, brisk, together kind of busy. Jackson will laugh when he reads that sentence, he knows (and often dreads) how much happiness I find in accomplishing tasks. At the end of the night we made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up things for breakfast, and I found myself in the bread aisle. My mind must have been on other things besides bread, because as I was skimming through white, wheat, and 100% organic, I began to tune in on the girls conversation behind me. They were clearly college-aged, giggling quietly, discussing boys and Halloween plans. I don't know what it was about the situation that triggered me, but my heart squeezed for them. My heart squeezed for me.

I remembered seventeen, eighteen, nineteen.  Don't get me wrong, college was far from perfect. My first car was a 1997 light blue Subaru Legacy, the kind of car that rumbled so aggressively at stop lights, it was almost easier to cut the engine than to deal with the sideways stares. I often felt small and home-sick, out of gas and out of money. In the beginning, I felt entitled and betrayed. Where was my billboard, bed-bath-and-beyond college experience for crying out loud? And then, things began to change. I began to embrace my new life and all of the sudden change hungrily, and happily.   I remembered the girl with the unruly hair who spent the semester by my side. She taught me important things like, "staying cooped up in a bedroom and writing your missionary on the weekends is pathetic and silly and look at this beautiful city you live in with all of these beautiful people to meet." She taught me how to let go a little, and I think I taught her how to hold on a little.   I remember a lot of cold cereal. I remembered Syd Hill and Madi Law. Beth from England, Matt from Seattle, the Elena girls. Natawni Burrell. I remember the boys I learned things from, boys that learned things from me, and the boys I probably should have avoided. I remember packing up everything I owned into a suitcase, and traveling to Susanville, California (population almost nothing) to work on 900 acres of land. I spent the summer in a pair of cut off levi's, watching licking flames,and mountain stars. I climbed trees, mastered bull-frog and lizard catching, hiking trails, and best of all? I watched kids learn how to be kids in our world full of technology...

After running through a million memories in my head (i'm still in the bread aisle, remember?) I turned over my shoulder and began talking with the two girls. They were happy,bright-eyed, and complimentary of my cute husband down the aisle. They told me about their Halloween plans, and their current dating situations. I listened and we laughed together as I said; "I know this sounds crazy,
but there is going to be a time in your life where you'll miss grocery shopping with your roommate. So before you go getting married, make sure you enjoy this first."They looked at each other and giggled, we talked a little longer, and just as I was about to leave one of the girls asked me; "Which kind of bread would you recommend buying?" I wanted to look around and point them in the direction of  someone better at being a grown-up than me, someone more acquainted with bread types and detergent types and how exactly to place a band-aid, but then I realized that it was me they were asking. I made a stab at a little bit over-priced, not too heavy organic mix and smiled as I ran to catch up with my husband.

As I slid my fingers through his, I felt overwhelmed with a gratitude for him I couldn't really express. I realized my role in life was slowly beginning to change, and again, I was ready to take it in hungrily, and happily. We're twenty one. We're young, and the world will tell us that we aren't ready, that we are sacrificing too much, that it won't last.

But they're wrong. Oh, they are so wrong.

One of my very favorite speakers, Meg Jay, states the following; "So here's an idea worth spreading to every twenty-something you know.. Thirty is not the new 20, so claim your adulthood, get some identity capital, use your weak ties, pick your family. Don't be defined by what you did or didn't do. You're deciding your life right now." Jackson is the family I picked. Intentionally, not by convenience, because only heaven (and probably everyone else) knows how different Jack and I are. But those differences drew us together. He's brings out parts of me that nobody else ever has. We've chosen each other, and as difficult as it is sometimes to let go of my pride and say sorry, there is absolutely nowhere on earth I would rather be every night than in his arms in our teeny, tiny hole-in-the-wall apartment. You see, he's my home. And I wouldn't trade his freckles, the way he listens to Lem-Mis soundtrack on the way to school, the comfort of his chest, his booming laugh and sleepy voice in the mornings.... his kindness, hard-work, patience and occasional stubborn streak. All of that is my home, and there isn't a single late-night party or cut-off levi summer that I would trade for the way it feels to have him to lean on, to trust, to share my life and deepest secrets and desires with. I feel so beyond lucky to have been chosen by him and it is such a privilege to choose him every single day.

Just give me a few years, i'll be better at this whole bread-recommendation thing, but for now i'm still sticking with the slightly over-priced, but hearty 9 grain organic. I'll let you know if that changes. ;)