by Debbie Grubb
I first met Rachel when I moved to Florida with my husband, Frela, in 1998. What I noticed about her is that she was always leading in one way or another, always sharing her expertise while being completely unassuming, never demanding the last word on anything. I always wondered where she found her self-assurance and willingness to step out and take chances. So I decided to use this opportunity to chat with Rachel about her life tool box and the tools she has chosen to place in it.
Rachel told me, “I’ve always chosen to move forward in a positive way and try not to let difficulties, setbacks or tough times hinder my progress to reach my goal of being successful.”
She gives much credit to her parents. They were always willing to help her figure out ways around any barriers that confronted her while attempting to do something that mattered to her. “My parents instilled in me a positive outlook despite circumstances. My childhood was spent in a nurturing home, and I was showered with positivity. There was no room for negativity in our home.”
This is the secret to Rachel’s certainty that, one way or another, she can achieve her goal if she puts in the time, effort and creativity to figure out the necessary workarounds. “‘Failure’ and ‘can’t’ might be words in my vocabulary for a minute, but I will not allow them room in my life. When I’m faced with a situation that seems insurmountable, that fuels my resolve to try even harder. I refuse to be limited by what other people determine that I can’t do. I have an overwhelming desire to give my best if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I’m up to any worthwhile challenge.”
Rachel has also learned the secret of planting seeds of opportunity. When she lost her first job out of college due to downsizing, she went to the Lighthouse serving mid-Florida and sought resources to assist her in searching for her next job. While there, she volunteered to teach computer classes at the facility. They accepted, and it resulted in a part-time job which ultimately led to a full-time job. After several years, she left the position.
While working with the Florida Division of Blind Services, Rachel met the owner of what was then Florida Reading and Technology at a conference, and was asked to be the Blindness Products Specialist. She accepted. This job forced her to find innovative ways to deal with the statewide travel that was required.
She traveled around the state on Greyhound. Rachel praised her many friends who invited her to stay with them during her teaching. “I learned what I was made of, what I was truly able to accomplish. I would not change those times if I could because, coming out of it, I knew if I could do that, I could do almost anything.”
Then Rachel planted another seed of opportunity. She was visiting a friend in Springfield, Ill., and as they walked down the street, her friend happened to notice a sign on a building that said Illinois Assistive Technology Program. Rachel walked in and introduced herself, met and talked with the director, and they invited one another to get in touch about future opportunities. Nine months later came the phone call that changed the course of her life: Rachel was invited to interview by telephone for a job in Springfield.
After the phone interview, she was told that she would hear back within a week. She heard back in five minutes – she was invited to come to Springfield for an in-person interview. Though she found it scary, Rachel knew that she had to explore the opportunity. “I could not lock myself out of the possibility of what might be if I didn’t open this door.”
So she went to the interview. She was asked to leave the room while the team had a discussion. Within minutes, she was called back and told that they wanted to hire her. She was stunned and made the decision to go for it. Then she thought, “What in the heck did I just do?”
Rachel’s employer wished her the best, and her parents helped her move to Illinois, finding her an apartment and all the necessary amenities. She admits that at the time, she was going on autopilot, knowing that this was something that she must do and taking it on faith one moment at a time that she would be successful.
Rachel learned that she was in a place where she could thrive as she began this new chapter in her life. She found support among her co-workers, made friends and found opportunities to truly be a part of the community that was now her home.
But there was one thing missing from her life: she had always wanted to be a mom. She first looked at adoption. After finding brick walls and red tape, she considered fostering a child, and found the same barriers. Then she made an appointment at a facility that would help her to bear a child. She miscarried the first time, but her second attempt brought her great joy: a beautiful daughter, Delaney.
Her parents were a bit concerned, but they were supportive, loving and helpful. Rachel’s mom came to Springfield in the early days. Delaney and Rachel spent part of her maternity leave back in Florida. Doctors and others expressed concern about Rachel’s ability to care for a child. Rachel’s mother explained that she would not be living with her daughter, that Rachel could care for and love this baby. She stated that she was only doing for the baby what any grandmother would do.
And now Delaney is eight, a precocious little girl with a blooming love of the theater. Rachel explains, “As Delaney grows up, there are times when I think I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I want to be the very best Mom I can be for Delaney. At the end of the day, what is important is that Delaney is loved and nurtured and that I find ways to bring to her every opportunity to experience and to grow and thrive. I am so thankful for rideshare and my wonderful supportive friends, and the parents of Delaney’s friends who respect me and how I am raising my child. But even when it’s difficult, I find a way. I work it out because of my positive attitude, the beautiful child that I am raising and the care and support of my friends and family.”
Delaney knows that she and her mom have to do things a bit differently sometimes. But she always says to people, “My mom can do anything.” To her, Rachel is Mom, the best mom ever.
Rachel knows that what matters to Delaney is not that things have to be done differently sometimes, but that they are done. “There are times that I feel that I don’t measure up. But I have learned that most parents feel the very same way.”