Sunday, January 18, 2015

Memories are Like a Kaleidoscope.

"Memory always obeys the commands of the heart."
-Antoine Rivarol 

Memories are like a kaleidoscope. They present in the mind as fractals of vivid, surreal colors that your mind can translate into anything- depending on your imagination. As when looking through a kaleidoscope, your memories don't paint themselves with all the intricate, important detail of the past. Without further examination, memories are just a swirl of the most dominant feelings or impressions from those moments. That's why, without digging deeper into those memories, they can be dangerous. 

A few days ago I was looking through pictures on my old MySpace (oh, the teen angst!) and came across some photos with an old friend from my past. With each click of the mouse, I felt a subtle ache in the pit of my stomach. The hands of quiet nostalgia began to curl its fingers around my heart. I remembered laying in the dark with that friend singing songs from our favorite bands, discussing what we thought about the girls at school who were already having sex with their boyfriends, and then laughing loudly as we both agreed that we were kind of jealous of them for even having boyfriends. I remembered slapping on pounds of thick, black eyeliner and going to see some local "screamo" bands with her, trying to look as 'bad-girl' as two 'do-good' girls could look. I had fun with her. And I realized that I missed her very much.

Later that night, as I was trying to doze off, she popped in my head again. I was thinking, should I reach out to her? Should I try to reconnect? The more I thought about it, the more memories that would come. But, this time the memories weren't quite as sugar-coated. I remembered the drama-fest that would ensue when I spent time with another friend more than her, I remembered feeling ashamed because I became the "boring" friend who didn't want to drink or smoke or party. These two trails of memories were polar opposites. Black and white. 

That's when I realized, memories are only dealt in extremes. You don't get the grey area. 

But what makes it so extreme? You do. 

Even though this was a minor moment of reflection on my past, it taught me a valuable lesson. When recalling memories that seem extreme, I must examine why my mind is warping the analysis. Is it because I felt sort of lonely that day, so I build up that friendship in my mind because I want the perfect friendship today? Is it because I feel like I could never find a friend that made me happy like they did? 

Or maybe I remember a friendship as a disaster that went down in flames. Well, maybe that means that I have some resentment towards that person that needs to be released. Holding onto that anger can burn any positive memories, and leave the past in a heap of ashes. 

Now what about when it comes to romantic relationships? Do you ever feel lonely and dream about an old boyfriend and think, "Why the hell did I ever leave him? He was so fun! And so hot! I think he really cared about me! I'm sure it was my fault! I should totally be with him right now! He was basically perfect!" Well, chances are there is a reason you left him. Probably a pretty darn good one. And if he left you, then that is an issue that HE needs to work out. However, your mind may feel lonely and want to feel the fleeting moment of excitement or attraction that you felt with one person. So in your mind, you build this person up to the one who can make all your dreams come true. All of your memories of them become warped into a Nicholas Sparks movie. Ick. ;)

But what you have to realize is, if that person was all of those perfect things that you have convinced yourself that they are, then that person would find a way to be in your life. If they don't want to be in your life, then they aren't worth your time because they don't understand or know you at all. You are valuable. You are complex and you deserve to be with someone who WANTS to be with you.

I'm not saying you shouldn't look back fondly at the past, I just believe people should take caution when lavishing in their memories. I'm not saying never give anything a second chance. Just make sure your memories are based on fact and not fantasies.

Try and evaluate why your memories are so extreme before you go chasing yesterday. Don't convince yourself of fantasies, when reflecting on things that have exited your life. Try and remember the whole picture before the kaleidoscope twisted it into an abstract delusion.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Balance the Scales

"The old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes, I find myself slipping into a pattern of trying to rationalize my occasionally irrational behavior or decisions. For example, a few months ago I was at a local book and media store. I was browsing though the non-fiction section when I heard this exasperated sigh behind me. 

"Are you almost done, here? I really need to find this book," I heard her puff over my shoulder as she drummer her fingers against one of the items in her hand. 

"Sure... sorry," I rolled out of the way as quickly as I could but I could feel frustrated heat working its way up my body to the point where I wondered if I should plug my ears to keep steam from shooting out. 

She ignored my apology and got on all fours in front of me- frantically searching through the books. Her left leg pressed against my front wheel and slowly pushed me backwards down the aisle. I didn't know if she did it on purpose or not, but I was fairly certain that even if it wasn't a conscious decision, her subconscious was more than happy to shove me along so she could find her precious book.

"Could you help? I'm looking for this book," she asked me while holding her iPhone up to my face to show me a picture of the book. She didn't even bother to look up at me. 

Instantly, I recognized the book. I had just picked it up because the cover intrigued me, but ended up placing it back where it stood. She wasn't even looking on the right shelf. At first I thought, why should I tell her where it is? She doesn't really deserve my help. I mean, she treated me like an unimportant obstacle in her path to a paperback. And honestly, I was completely content with that decision for about 10 seconds. But then, I began to think about all the things I blog about all the time. Be more kind. Be more compassionate. Be more patient. "Okay, okay, past me. I'll tell her where it is." I slowly pushed myself down the aisle and grasped the new, crisp spine. 

"Here it is, ma'am!" I said louder than I meant to. 

"Oh my god!" As she exclaimed, her face grew red and twisted and she leapt to her feet. "Oh my god! Thank you so much!!! My dad is in the hospital and I promised I would read this to him! I told him I could have just downloaded it on my Kindle, but he said he wants a real book. Thank you so much!" She began to compose herself and I sat in awe of her display. 

"No problem at all, it looks like a good one. I hope he likes it!"

"He will, thanks!" She grabbed her purse, iPhone, and book and raced to the register to checkout as she wiped her eyes. 

Shaken up by the whole ordeal, I realized that I had been sitting slack-jawed for what seemed like a full five minutes. I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. I almost didn't tell her. Her sick father almost didn't get his wish. Because I didn't think she deserved my help. 

I realized that I am not wise enough to pass judgement on what others deserve or don't deserve. I am not the judge nor the jury. All the power I have in the world is the power to make decisions based on what will do the least amount of harm. If I close myself off from situations and refuse to offer the best of me when it is needed, I am closing myself from learning and from growing.

I was, essentially, blinded by my need for "revenge" or "justice" towards this woman for how she had seemed to disregard me as a person. However, I didn't have all of the available information. I didn't know, at the time, that she didn't look at me because she was trying not to cry. Or that she was in a hurry because maybe her dad didn't have much time. 

Negative actions in response to negative experiences is not a way to level the scales of justice. It is only adding strength to one side- tipping it and making negativity stronger. The only way to balance the scales is to use positivity as a counterweight to the things we deem negative.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Things That Aren't Allowed In My Life In 2015!

"All of us every single year, we're a different person. I don't think we're the same person all our lives."
-Steven Spielberg 

Here we are! Another clean slate. We can now fondly recall all of the moments from the previous year that we never appreciated while we were LIVING them. We can now scoff at the seemingly insignificant mishaps that we let wreck our days and even creep into our nightmares. If we are lucky, we can even reflect on everything we learned about ourselves.
We are older now. Wiser now. We've clawed our way through the deepest trenches of 2014 and are now working toward the summit of a brand new year. 

With this in mind, my friends, my husband and I started a new New Year's Eve tradition. We each made a list of things we wanted to rid from our lives in 2015. Whether it be habits, thoughts, or memories, we would write them down. After making our list we went around in a circle and shared 2 or 3 things from our list. With each banished word spoken, I grew more proud of the people I have in my life. They are working, like I am, to improve themselves. After we shared a few items, we went outside and burned them -destroying their existence and their power over us. 

Mine was quite a lengthy list, but I can share a few here!

Feel Less Guilty About Needing Help
I don't drive. Yes, I know it's possible for people in wheelchairs to drive. I just don't. It rarely bothers me, but sometimes when Drae has to work late and I have to text people to bum a ride, it kind of gets to me sometimes. Because, not only will they be transporting me in their car, they will also have to help load me up, load my wheelchair, and push me up the giant ramp at my house. It's a lot of work. So sometimes, I do feel guilty. I feel guilty because I feel like I can not repay all the people in my life for all they do for me.

This year, though, I've resolved to appreciate them more for what they do rather than berate myself for needing them. I am incredibly lucky to have these people in my life who will always be there if I need help. Yes, sometimes I wish I could be a little more independent, but I think I got a pretty good deal with the people I have in my life. They never complain about helping me. In 2015, I want to make sure they know that I do appreciate them.

Be Less Lazy
My name is Jennifer Benfield and I am a Netflix addict. There. I said it. Accepting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?! Lately, my days have consisted of going to work, coming home, eating, watching tv, sleep, and repeat. What a waste is that?!? I want to be the best possible version of myself. How can I do that if I am going through my life on autopilot 5 days a week? Oh, did I mention I already have a gym membership...... yeah.... I just haven't been going!! I also haven't been meditating lately or writing as much. 

So this year, instead of putting things off, sitting around with no pants watching tv, I resolve to be thankful for what I am ABLE to do. (I still will probably not wear pants, though. Because pants are for chumps.) With Muscular Dystrophy, if you lose muscle mass, it's essentially gone. You can't really gain it back that easily. That's why it's very important that I work harder to maintain what I have and appreciate my body for what it is still able to do. 

Be More Informed
I don't watch the news. Mostly because I know how biased the media is and how corrupt some of the major media platforms can be. However, in 2014 I let that cut me off completely from knowing what is going on in the world. I boycotted news. I didn't find out about anything unless one of my friends posted a status about it on Facebook. I've always had an infatuation with the idea of the power of non-violent civil disobedience. I naively thought that by banning all media, I was sticking it to the man in charge of our major news outlets. But, I was really neglecting myself.

In 2015, I resolve to know more about what's going on in the world around me. That doesn't mean I'm going to watch Fox News, but it does mean that I will research what is going on. I have discovered Reddit is probably the most honest news outlet their is. Then once I am totally informed, I will be able to act accordingly. Maybe by shopping differently, participating in peaceful protests if necessary, and even blogging about issues that are really weighing on me. We have the internet, guys! We have every documented thought at the tips of our fingers, let's learn together in 2015!!

Those are just a few of my goals. What are some of yours??

HAPPY 2015!

Monday, December 15, 2014

You Are A Work Of Art

"The body we have, that's sitting right here right now... with all its aches and its pleasures... is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive." 
-Pema Chodron

I remember vividly the first time I hated my body. I was in middle school and cheerleading sign-ups were going on that week. You see, my younger sister had been in the little league cheerleading program for the past two school years. I loved watching her cheer. I loved helping her practice remembering when to clap and when to shake her pom-poms. Plus, I loved cheering for all the dreamy boys who were playing on the field. ;) 

Now, just for some background information, I was not completely wheelchair-bound at this point. However, I did use a wheelchair in public for safety because I had zero balance. I could stand and walk with the help of a cane or a walker, but not for extended periods of time. At school and at football games, I was in a wheelchair.

I went to my teacher who was also the little league cheering coordinator and asked her if she thought I could be a cheerleader. She smiled and said she thought I would be great with cheering on the team, but I would probably be better as a mascot than a cheerleader. At the time, I didn't think anything of it. I was still super excited to race home and ask my mom if I could be a mascot!

"Mom! I need to talk to you about something really important!" 
"What is it?" She smiled at how I was literally shaking with anticipation. 
"Mrs. Smith told me that I could be the mascot for the football team this year!" 
My mom's smile fell into a stark, straight line. 
"Why would you want to do that," she asked softly. 
"Because! Being a mascot would be cool!! This is the first year the younger kids get a mascot! Plus, I already know all the cheers from helping Robin! They use the same cheers every year!" 
"No, baby."
"I just don't think it's safe. What if you get hurt? Maybe next year." 
"Mom!! Why? How would it not be safe? I would be sitting down!" 
"Jennifer, I'm sorry, baby. But the answer is no." 
As my dad called from the other room, my mom walked away. I just remember screaming into my pillow and pouting on my bed, watching the ceiling fan spin. Then I heard my parents. 
"I just don't see what's wrong with her doing that?" 
"She could get hurt, and I....." Mom paused. "Don't you think the other schools may make fun of a mascot that is in a wheelchair? I don't want her going through that." 
My dad let out an exasperated sigh, and I think I heard my mom begin to cry. 

I was so mad. I remember thinking.. are they ashamed of me? Why do I have this stupid, broken body? I just want to be able to do everything everyone else can! I hate this body! 

That was the first time I ever considered my body to be a roadblock or an inconvenience. And it wasn't because my parents were hateful or even overly controlling. They just loved me very much and wanted to save me from any hurt that may come my way. And I really do appreciate them for that. But as a middle school girl who is still trying to figure out who she is supposed to be, it hurt like hell. 

As I grew up, I still struggled with body issues. From being angry about what it lacked in physical ability to what I felt it lacked in physical appearance, I was waging war against myself. But slowly, I began to discover my passions. Singing was one. Writing was another. My body and my mind were my tools to learn and practice these passions. Without my body, I would have no talent. No passion. Heck, I would have no existence! I realized, it was time that I love my body for what it is. So I began to observe my body. I look at it in the mirror naked every day (crazy I know) and view it for what it truly is -my vessel in which to carry out life's journey. I am thankful for this body, because I am thankful for my abilities, and I am thankful for life.

With this mindset going, I began to search for others with like myself who were working to embrace their bodies more. That's when I found FED BY THREADS. They are a Tucson-based company that sells all hand-made, American-made, organic clothing. This company is helping drastically improve the amount of respect people give their bodies! The founders, Alok and Jade, are passionate positivity advocates. They are incredibly mindful of how to communicate with men and women in a way that assures them that, just because a piece of clothing doesn't work for them, does NOT mean there is anything wrong with their bodies. There is a limit to the number of ways fabric can be cut, but there is no limit to the uniqueness of our bodies. 

I recently ordered two organic tank tops from Fed By Threads and OH. EM GEE. Can I just say, it is luxurious? Can I also say that I didn't think tank tops could feel luxurious? Well, I was wrong. And with the richness of the organic, vegan material, I also get the pleasure of knowing that with every item purchased, Fed By Threads provides 12 meals to food-insecure Americans. Talk about guilt-free shopping! It's been cold here the last few days, so it's about time for me to order some more seasonally appropriate clothes from Fed By Threads. And I most certainly plan to. Let me know what you guys think about this company!!!! 

Check them out at:

Also, check out their other project! This is a collection of breathtaking un-airbrushed, unapologetic photos of real bodies that are REALLY beautiful. From the inside out.

I shared this on instagram @accessiblethoughts. Remind me to take another pic next time I wear the other shirt I got! Haha!

I have body fat. I have stretch marks. I have bumps and scrapes and plenty of scars. But I love each and every lump. Each and every mark. They are all brush strokes on the canvas of my life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Love Story Begins Again Every Day

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
-Mignon McLaughlin

When Drae and I first met, we were two vastly different people. I mean, literally we couldn't even sit next to each other in class because we would end up arguing over stupid things. We were both still trying to figure out who we were. I was the nerdy do-good scholastic over-achiever. He was the comic book loving movie buff who was always armed with a clever, quirky quip. 

Eventually, he became more outgoing, more hilarious. And I became less follow-every-rule-without-question-or-everything-you-love-will-cease-to-exist. I encouraged him to question things, as I had begun to do. I encouraged him to take the reigns on his own life. All the while, he encouraged me to believe in myself even more. His belief in my capabilities never wavered. I fell in love with that softer side of him that had such faith in me.

We started SERIOUSLY dating. In the beginning, we just HAD to see each other every day. We were just wrapped up in each other. All the time. Immense cuddles were had and it was wonderful. Sure, we argued sometimes but it was over petty things. I encouraged him to be cautious of negativity. It was ironic that he was negative about some things, he was a shining light about others. I always knew that no matter how bad my day was, he would be there to pick me up and make me smile bigger than should be humanely possible. I fell in love with that feeling he gave me when we met each day and the effort he was making to be more positive daily.

Next, we got engaged. He proposed to me on Thanksgiving night at his Mom's house when it was just the two of us. I was obsessed with Twilight at the time (it was ok back then, it was before the movie!) and he remembered the photo of the hands holding the apple from the first book cover. So he told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, he was holding a red apple with a ring on top and the words "Will You Marry Me?" written on it. I fell in love with the way he held me when I said yes. I fell in love with that warmth that was going to be mine forever.

Next, we moved in together and had our first Christmas in our apartment. You see, Christmas was a BIG deal to me. Always has been. Drae didn't hold the same high regard for the holiday as I did. It probably didn't help that I spent $70 on crappy christmas decorations even though we were living off Ramen noodles and Spaghettios. So we had our first "living together" big fight. I was devastated. But after it all blew over, Drae cuddled up on the couch with me and watched Elf and drank hot cocoa with me. I fell in love with him again that night because even though he didn't really geek out over Christmas like I did, that year was one of the best Christmases I ever had. He went above and beyond because he knew it meant something to me.

Finally, we got hitched!! Let me just say, I don't know how anyone could get married and NOT fall in love all over again. I remember my dad holding my hand as he guided me down the aisle. He stopped at the entrance for a picture and I remember pulling forward and gritting my teeth saying "Come on, Dad!!!" Because I was RIGHT THERE. Now, I wish I would have stopped for the picture, because I didn't get any of my entrance! Haha! But I fell in love with Drae again once I made it down the aisle. The look in his eye was like a baptism. It washed away every fear or anxiety I ever had. I was safe. I was home.

(the above picture was taken a few years ago)
Today, I am still falling in love with new facets of Drae. I fall in love with the glimmer in his eye every time he freaks out over a new Star Trek movie annoucement. I fall in love with the way he does little thoughful things to show that he is the most caring person on earth. For example, I have a hard time opening water bottles. So, before he goes to work he always opens to and puts them in the fridge for me. He ALWAYS puts towels in the dryer when I'm taking a shower so they will be warm when I get done. (bragged about that on facebook today too). I fall in love with excitement in his voice when we plan our future. I fall in love with his generous, sensitive heart. 

Falling in love is fun. But it's even better when it's with the same person every day.

P.S. Sorry it's been so long since my last blog post. I have been SWAMPED! Between Christmas shopping for the kiddos in the family, to my husband's crazy work schedule in retail, to MY NEW JOB, I have been a busy bee! Speaking of my new job, I absolutely love it. I know it is where I am meant to be right now. And what proof do I have of this, you ask? 

1. We are having an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.  Ugly Sweaters are my spirit animal.

2. It's being catered by my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. If that isn't a sign from the heavens, I don't know what is. I'm convinced my destiny is directly correlated to the quality of chips and salsa in my life.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'll Take 20, Please

When people find out I'm vegan there are usually two main responses:

"Oh, no. My best friend's second cousin's great great aunt was vegan. She died. Like super died. A horrible, painful, meat-free death."


"Ew. I could never do that. I don't even like salad. Plus, I basically bleed cheese."

Honestly, I can't blame them. I remember my little sister and I fighting over the last squirt of canned cheese when we were younger. I remember cringing at the word tofu or soy milk. I remember wondering if vegans were the same as hippies, and if so, did they have to wear bras. The jury is still out on this one. I vote no bras, if it ever comes up.

But then I began to search for answers. You see, I started taking blood pressure meds when I was 19. NINETEEN YEARS OLD. Every day, I would have to pop a pill in order to keep my blood pressure manageable. I was pissed. Yes, I was in a wheelchair and I had plenty of health issues, but I just felt like there must be SOMETHING I could do to fix this without having to rely on medications. I watched a ton of documentaries. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Forks Over Knives. And finally, Vegucated. Each one showed me a different piece of the puzzle and led me to understand that going vegan was the best thing I could do for my body, my environment, and all the innocent animals in corporate dairy, egg, chicken, and slaughter houses. I feel that shifting from a diet to a plant-based lifestyle, I was doing the least amount of harm that I could. It was almost a spiritual awakening, really.

I finally have control over my life and my imprint on the world. That's a very powerful thing. But not only does it feel great to know I am making thoughtful decisions, but there is some DELICIOUS food out there that is completely plant-based! 

I had the honor of receiving this bad boy for review from Alternative Baking Company, Inc. 

They are located in Sacramento, CA and have ALL VEGAN COOKIES. They now even have a line of Gluten-Free cookies! You can order them online at 

This cookie was TO DIE FOR. It was moist, about half an inch thick, with huge dark chocolate chunks. 

My score:
Texture- 9
Taste- 10
Appearance- 9
Freshness- 7

I loved the softness of the center of the cookie. It was a melt-in-your-mouth delight. The only thing that I would change would be smaller chocolate chunks. While there are a decent amount of chocolate chunks, they are slightly too big to be evenly dispersed in the cookie. That being said, I could still eat like 20.

My omnivore friend, Chelsea also got roped into helping me out with this review!

Chelsea's Omni Score:
Texture- 8
Taste- 10
Appearance- 10
Freshness- 8.5

Chelsea said, "I honestly couldn't tell it was vegan. It tastes just like a delicious f***ing cookie!"