Friends in High Places

Among my many other talents –  like being a renowned face contortionist and possessing the ability to change a diaper blow-out in an airplane bathroom while the child is standing on top of the toilet – I have a knack for finding things or people who pique my interest and I become very exuberant in my love for them.  Then I doggedly pursue these things or people until the whole thing has run its course, then I find the next oddball to become obsessed with.

I was trying to remember this morning how I stumbled across the phenomenon known as “Miranda Sings“.  I’m not sure.  I think one of her videos popped up on that screen that you see after you watch something on YouTube.  You know, the screen that offers up ten more videos that are similar to the one you just watched, giving you the opportunity to continue wasting your afternoon looking for clips of Madonna belching in public.

Miranda (whose real name is Colleen) is one of those YouTube stars who actually make money off their channel.  I don’t envy that, because to earn a living from YouTube, I’m pretty sure you have to spend at least eighteen hours a day on your computer, email, and social networking sites in order to keep the whole ball rolling.  You have to be pretty damn determined to succeed in this way – and good for her, because she actually seems like a very intelligent person and I wish her the best in her YouTube career pursuits.  I would only last a week doing what she has to do to keep that big-ass balloon afloat.

I guess that “Miranda Sings” started as a joke between Colleen and her friends.  She actually has a very nice singing voice when she is not being Miranda – I believe she was a vocal major at some university in California.  She put up a video on YouTube making fun of all the other millions of people who post videos of themselves singing in their bedrooms and thinking they are the next Mariah Carey when they really SUCK.  Then somehow that went viral, and here she is, five years later…still pretending to be Miranda and paying her rent with checks from YouTube!!

Here is my most favoritist video from her channel:

I mean, every time I watch this video I laugh out loud.  The way she looks at that little girl just kills me.

I also like how Colleen is completely committed to her idiot alter-ego.  On her YouTube channel and Twitter feeds, she misspells words, pronounces things wrong, and stays in character through all her public meet and greets.  I know this because I’VE MET HER.  IN THE FLESH.

Colleen is smart.  Much smarter than the regular YouTube personalities who will most likely fade into obscurity in another year.  She has turned her Miranda Sings character into a stand-up act.  I went to one of her comedy shows here in Salt Lake City, and it was actually REALLY good.  Stacia and I bought VIP tickets and took Big Hands with us.  Big Hands laughed.  Really laughed.  And he had never even seen or heard of “Miranda Sings” before the show.  Not that Big Hands is qualified to be a comic critic, but the fact that my dad found her hilarious means she has something.  It wasn’t just the beer.

After the show, my dad went to take a nap in the car and Stacia and I lined up with the other teenagers people who paid forty bucks to get their picture taken with Miranda.  I figured if we were last in line, we might get a few extra precious moments with her so that she might get to know us a little better.  (Oh, I guess I should tell you that we had been bombarding her with tweets from Rap Moms ALL DAY LONG.  She probably thought we were completely nuts, which we are.)

As we shuffled forward, I pulled a tube of red lipstick from my purse and informed Stacia we would both be wearing Miranda lips for our pictures with her.  It wasn’t hard to convince Stacia this was a good idea, because she is a pretty agreeable person and isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself in public.  I also made sure we practiced our Miranda faces before it was our turn to meet her.

miranda 1

I think we’re naturals.

When our turn to meet Miranda arrived, we I rushed up to Colleen babbling about how we were Rap Moms and we were the ones who had been tweeting her all day, which she knew and she said, “OOOHHHHH, RAP MOMS!  I LOVE RAP!”.   I decided I liked her even more.

Then we arranged ourselves for pictures with her, and instead of letting her assistant do the picture-taking, I told her I wanted some selfies.  And she said in her Miranda voice, “OOOHHHH, SELFIES!  I love selfies!  I’m the BEST at them!”, so I let her take my phone and we had a great time until her assistant shooed us out the door because we were hogging all her time.  Luckily, I remembered to get an autographed picture for my son.  He would have been so bummed if I had come home with just a bunch of selfies with Miranda Sings.

miranda 2

 miranda 3

miranda 4

I love you, Colleen Miranda.  You’re now considered our homie, even though we only met you for five minutes.  Keep up your awesome vocal stylings and your no-porn twerking.  Next time you come to Salt Lake City, you must let the Rap Moms take you to breakfast.  We can go to my house afterwards and jump on my trampoline.  Wearing our lipstick, of course.

Job Application

Well, hello there, Lauren and Cody and all you other fine people who I just know I am meant to work with!  I might know some of you through friends of friends, it is Small Lake City, you know.  Or maybe I just think I know you because I stalk follow a few of you on Instagram.  Either way.

I was going to follow the rules and send an email as you’ve asked interested parties to do, but I’m quite picky on how I want things to look and an email just won’t do.  So instead, I decided to write to you here on my blog and make my plea letter of interest look exactly how I want it to.

I’m not a control freak.  Really.

Let me start out by telling you a funny thing.  Just a few weeks ago, I was having dinner with an old friend and I told her I had been reading your agency’s newsletter and looking at your Instagram feed.  I told her how bad-ass I thought your whole concept was, and that I intended to ONE DAY work with you all.  And then she saw your posting on needing help and sent it to me!  It’s fate!  MEANT TO BE!

I’m also not too concerned about my readers seeing my job application and resume here on my website – although you will notice I am attempting to be discreet by not saying what company I’m applying to work with.  See?  I can be discreet!!  (My friends are all snorting right now.)  Anyhow, my blog readers have seen me through lots of ups and downs over the past few years, so I’m not at all afraid of putting this out there – my dream of working with a group of interesting designers and realtors – because I’m not afraid to let them see me fail.  Failure is in the eye of the beholder.  It’s all good.

Enough small talk.

I am Piper Benjamin, and I think I would fit quite smartly in some capacity at your agency.  I’m not sure what or where or for who…but I do know that I love homes, houses, design, building, organizing, selling, talking to people, and the city of Salt Lake in which we live.  I think I have many qualities you could utilize in your business.

piper 2


Here I go in trying to explain them (and my experience) to you without going overboard and creating a freaking novel.

1)  I like to write.  Feel free to peruse this blog and you can judge for yourself.  I’m not an expert at it, but I do know that the more I write, the better I become at it.  I like expressing my personality and I love to make others laugh.  I also like to think that sometimes I help people feel as if we are all paddling together upstream in this crazy river we call LIFE.

2)  I like to take pictures.  Again, I’m self-taught in this area.  I love pictures of beautiful things, and I love pictures of people – who are all beautiful to me in some capacity.  Sometimes I even get paid to do this.

 nancy & maddie 1

jessica headshot

baby jaxson


3)  I love home design.  I love the potential of houses to have their own personality and life; I like helping friends pick out paint colors, tile, floor coverings, and art.  I love looking at beautiful things and feeling inspired to create art myself.  At this point, I’ve had the opportunity to remodel a few rooms and I want to learn more.  I respect other people’s knowledge and experience – and I can easily say that design is a passion for me.  That word is totally overused and usually makes me want to claw the walls.  But it’s true.

toland kitchen

(my kitchen…we remodeled last spring)

toland bathroom

jones kitchen

(a friend’s kitchen I had the chance to help with…)

jones kitchen closeup

(I love floral design…I actually worked for a bit in my friend Rachael’s shop – Roots.)

living rooms-001

(my living room)

4)  I’m interested in building, history, and architecture, although I’ve never studied any of these subjects.  I actually have a master’s in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing,  and this was my career for many years in my past life.  Yes, I’m fluent in sign language.  I’ve worked in the art department in the motion picture industry, been a receptionist at an advertising agency, waited tables, worked as a tutor, raised children, and I currently help run a small Pilates studio in Sugarhouse with my business partner Holly.  I teach a few classes a week and will always love Pilates.  This is Holly.  And me on my equipment.

holly and piper


5)  I am the founding member and one-third of “Rap Moms”.  Rap Moms is just one of the many things I love in my life.  We are that YouTube phenomenon channel you know nothing about.  But it’s really, really fun and it satisfies the frustrated actress in me.  Rap Moms wouldn’t be possible without my team of Stacia and Darby.  I know how it feels to work on a successful team – because together I feel we really make magic- and it is one of the best feelings EVER.

rap mom awesome

darby editing

6)  I like to have fun and I’m pretty confident I can say I have a good sense of humor.  I don’t mind making mistakes or looking like a fool.  I’m a devoted friend to those who treat me right.  I am happy to give my time to things that make me feel good.  I like helping others.  I love making people happy.  I’m a loyal friend.  I love my kids and my husband.  I especially love it when my husband steals my cell phone and sends hilarious text messages to my friends.

piper and brad costa rica

(This is my husband and me in Costa Rica.  I can pull better faces than him.)

sloan at preschool

beatty in the sand

beatty's burka

(This is not my son’s summer burka.  He likes wearing the cover to the gas grill.)

piper in whistler

(I like to ski.  A lot.  It is probably the one sport that I’m pretty good at.  This is in Whistler, BC.)

funny text

(My husband Brad really impressed me with this one.)


So…let’s talk.  I can tell you more in person why I think I would be an asset to your group.  I’ll make you a margarita and we can challenge each other to a game of Trivial Pursuit.

I’ll even bet you ten bucks that I will win.



PS – even if you don’t call me for an interview, I will still add you to my Christmas card list.  Because I like you and I think you would really enjoy my Christmas cards.  Here is what you’ve missed the past two years:

2013 xmas card

2012 xmas card

(I’m supposed to look surprised at the miracle birth of a baby with a beard, but look more like

a Jewish lady who’s saying, “OY VEY!”, which is OK with me.  The angel liked rubbing baby Jesus’ head. )



Lunch with Aron

My best friend Jenny once told me that if she could do it all over again, she would work full-time when her children were young.  Because of her seniority (ha!) and many years of experience, she has decided that the early years are pretty easy, then the older kids become, the more they need you.  Her theory is when children are small, they just need the basics.  Food, hugs, bottles, naps, Tonka trucks.  When they approach middle school, it’s math tutors (since you can’t remember anything above pre-algebra) and rides all over town and makeup and hormones and nasty friends playing junior high head games (which really never quit, at least for girls…).

Now Jen’s wisdom makes total sense to me.

I think about this concept almost every day, and I sense that I’m doomed.  This is because my kids are only 4 and 8 years old, and I feel like they are sucking every spare minute out of my day.  A great example is this post I’m writing…I’ve been thinking about it for over a week three weeks now and have honestly not had thirty minutes to sit down and compose it.  I had to get Beatty off to school this morning and wait until the amazing nanny named Dani arrived to even fire up my computer.

Yes, I am paying someone to play with my child so I can write on my blog.

Speaking of kids and their activities, a few weeks back we were up at Snowbird ski resort playing in the beginner’s area with Beatty and Sloan.  My wrists aren’t quite healed enough to ski, so I was following Sloan up and down the hill over at the magic carpet as Brad was trying to teach Beatty to snowboard on the Chickadee lift.  I sent a text to our friends Dave and Melissa, figuring they would be up there since Dave is one of the grand pubahs at Snowbird and Melissa spends many of her weekends up there so she can catch a glimpse of her husband.

Dave replied back that yes, they were there, and they would be eating lunch with their daughter Meredith and Aron Ralston at about 1pm, so I should come say hi.  Perfect.  A break from Sloan.

The name Aron Ralston didn’t click with me, but it did sound vaguely familiar.  I figured Dave mentioned it because it was someone he and I went to high school with.  Oh, ho ho…WRONG!  So I moseyed over to where they were eating lunch, and Melissa waved to me from their table.  When I sat down, Dave and Aron arrived with their salads from the salad bar, and I looked at Aron and said,

“Your name sounds familiar.  Do I know you from somewhere?”

See how shy I am?

Aron just sort of looks at me, then Dave jumps in and says,

“Yes, it sounds familiar because he’s a celebrity!  He had a movie made all about him!”

That was about the time I noticed his bionic arm, so I got all excited and exclaimed,


*(is that a weird thing to say??  I didn’t look at Melissa, but I got some very strong vibes that I was perhaps embarrassing her a little…)

But then Aron said,

“Yeah!!  I’m the guy who cut off his own arm!!”

Which immediately put me at ease, because I think anyone who has something crazy or different about them makes me think we are kin, brothers-in-arms, long-lost buddies – even though the craziest thing I’ve ever done was fish my own turd out of a toilet at a party because it wouldn’t flush down and I didn’t want my friends to see it floating around all night.

Then as we all talked, I loved him more because it seemed that he was just a dang cool dude.  Easy going.  Friendly.  Open.  It’s good to be an open person, because with me there, you never know what I’m going to say or what I might ask someone.  I promise, I do try my hardest to not make people uncomfortable.  Well, OK.  I try not to make them uncomfortable if they’re not an asshole.  And Aron is NOT an asshole, which was awesome, because it means we got to talk about his ordeal while he had his lunch.  I haven’t seen his movie, nor read his book, so all I know are the basic details from the news about what happened during his climbing ordeal.

My mind immediately started queueing up the questions I wanted to ask him, and I also checked out what he put on his salad for lunch.  Things like this are important when you meet a celebrity.  I think there were some beets on there, as well as something that looked like cottage cheese, because it was white.

Poor Melissa.  I think she might have been nervous.  I’m such a bad friend.

Anyhow, Aron Ralston is the guy that went hiking and climbing alone in Southern Utah and had a boulder fall on his arm, trapping him in a slot canyon.  He was there for days – TOTALLY STUCK MAN – then he cut off his arm right above the wrist, saving his own life and giving him the chance to hike out and get help.  Freaking crazy.  I mean, SERIOUSLY.  Would I have the courage to cut off my own hand??  I really don’t know.  James Franco played his character in the movie “127 Hours“.  Aron was here in Utah and up at Snowbird for a fundraiser/gala for Wasatch Adaptive Sports, in which he was the featured guest speaker, and Dave and Melissa were skiing with him a little before he had to prepare for his speech.

Since all of them were kind of stuck with me sitting at the table, and I wasn’t going anywhere soon, (I mean, I had about a bazillion things I wanted to ask this dude) I started off our lunchtime conversation in the most appropriate way I could muster.  I asked Aron what sort of thing he actually used in that slot canyon to cut his hand off.

And guess what?  He wasn’t offended or anything, which I LOVE, and he told us in detail, which I also LOVE, and that gave me the courage to ask lots of other questions like, were you left-handed before the accident?  And, when you were amputating your arm, did it hurt…bad??  (Yes.  Yes it did.)

Oh, by the way, he used a multi-tool device to perform the amputation.  You know, those things that have like little tiny scissors and a knife and a small screwdriver in them.  No particular brand.  I didn’t ask, he just offered that.  (I guess a lot of people want to know what brand.)  I also had to know which component of the multi-tool actually did the best job of cutting flesh and nerves and stuff.  It was the screwdriver.

THE SCREWDRIVER.  Amazing!  I never would have guessed!

As I was bugging Aron, he wasn’t eating because he is polite and doesn’t shovel food in his mouth while strange women ask him personal questions.  This was impressive because I’m sure the poor guy was hungry.  Dave worked up the guts to ask him what happened with the hand he lost.  YESSSSSSS.  I couldn’t wait to hear!!  The tale is actually quite fascinating.

I guess that when Search and Rescue teams are sent out to retrieve people – or parts of people – their job and duty they’re sworn to is to bring home everything.  Leave nothing behind.  So when Aron was at the hospital in Moab, he told them details about where he had been and where they could find his hand.  He remembered exactly where to go.  They sent their team out and it actually took two days to get his hand out from under the rock, because the boulder was so heavy they had to bring in some sort of winch system to lift it.  Then they retrieved the hand and put it on ice (just in case, which was really nice and all, but the chances of re-attaching it were zilch…) and came back to the hospital and asked Aron what he wanted to do with the hand.

He said this was kind of a tough question for him, because he was like – I DON’T KNOW…WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE HAND??

The Search and Rescue people told Aron that some people would bury it, and others would have it cremated.  He chose to have it cremated.  I read on Wikipedia that later he went back to the slot canyon and sprinkled his hand ashes there, since that’s where he felt they belonged.  This makes sense to me.

However, let’s remember that Aron was sitting with Piper Benjamin, the person who likes to discuss things that do not make sense.  This turn in the conversation was getting me really, really excited, because I can think of a dozen things that he could have done with the hand, and I’m pressing my lips together REALLY HARD so I don’t shout them out and make a scene or offend my new friend.  But of course, OF COURSE, I had to ask Aron if he considered keeping the hand, and if he did, what would he have done with it?  I guess he really never considered keeping it, which is fine and all, but I’m pretty crafty and I know that there are a few ways you could shellac or dip it in something in order to preserve it.

Aron humored me a little by playing along with my game, and he said yes, maybe you could keep that hand you cut off yourself and put it on your mantle above the fireplace.  As a conversation item.  A showpiece.  And then I think Dave offered up another pretty safe idea for what could be done with a severed and preserved hand, but I wasn’t really listening because my mind was racing with the possibilities, and then your very appropriate friend Piper shouts out,


And everyone was quiet for a moment.

A bit more quietly, I offered up a weak “like you could slide your rings on the fingers, you know?  …ummmmm, and keep it on your dresser in your bedroom?”.

Then Aron said,

“Now that’s weird.”

Oh.  Yeah.  I guess it is.  So I’m really glad I didn’t tell him that I was also thinking that it could be used as a soap dish in the bathroom or as a way to spank or scare your kids when they are being bad or you could put it on the kitchen counter to lay spoons on while you are stirring stuff on the stove.

Aron, as gracious and kind as he was, broke the awkward moment by telling me that after he had thought about amputating his hand for a couple of days, really figuring out how he could get it done, when the time came to do it, he was actually smiling.  He was smiling as he cut off his own hand because he knew that it would allow him to continue living.  He would be able to see his friends and family again, play dominoes with his dad another time, and be able to hike and spend time in the beautiful outdoors, exploring once more.

This really touched me.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

Because it made me realize that in life, sometimes we go through unimaginable pain.  Times and events that border on hellish that we force ourselves to get through.  Sometimes we have to let go of things that are so dear to us, or people who feel like they are really part of our flesh and bones, and it hurts.  It hurts terribly.  But somehow we let go of that part of us that we before couldn’t imagine living without, and we continue walking forward – sometimes with a smile on our face.

When I realized what Aron had just shared with me, and how it made me think about the incredible spirit of humans, I felt overcome with happiness at his and our own ability to persevere.  We are all so much stronger than we ever can know, and sometimes people cross your path to share a conversation that will remind you of this.

Thanks, Aron.  I totally owe you a salad.