I found my running legs

I was born with a swimmer's body--a long, craning torso and compact, powerful legs. Naturally, I have a mean backstroke, but no matter where I run or how fast I run, I always feel like I'm running up a sand dune. And on a Monday in November I decided I was sick of my attitude. I stepped foot on a tredmill wearing my 7-year-old Mizunos, cranked it up to 7.0, and didn't even run a half mile until I felt the prickling, radiating pain of an old friend--shin splints. I remembered exactly why I hated this monotonous ritual.

I pushed it until I got to one mile and was in serious pain. There is no way I could do this. And then I remembered all the sissies I've known that have completed half marathons. I figured there had to be a cure for me, and I quickly realized the root of the problem was at the root of my body. The cushioning was worn down to tissue paper. I may as well have run barefoot. Within seconds, running shoes shot to the top of my Christmas list. Just one week later I found myself in a runner's paradise with my mother-in-law. Shoes were stacked high on the wall, perched like tropical birds with their striking colors. After learning that I walk with perfectly balanced weight on all the surfaces of my feet, I was assured that the shin splints were caused by nothing other than my lousy old shoes. I told the man who was helping me to pull down one of everything that would work for my arched feet. I had 13 boxes stacked in front of me and went to work. The first box had a pair of Mizunos that were the trendier version of what my father bought me as a young high school student. They would have done the job, but there is no way I was going to stop there with so many options in front of me.

I flipped open the lid of the second box and was hit by a fluorescent traffic sign of color. Dang it they were beautiful! It's strange how different shoes speak to different people. I'm sure plenty of people would grimace at the sight of this sexy pair of Brooks that spoke to me. I tied them to my feet and began to pounce like a begging poodle. I couldn't help it; they were so springy and light, and hugged my foot in all the right places, if you know what I mean. I jumped on the treadmill tucked in the corner of the store and ran, bumping the speed up every 10 seconds. I was an Olympian! ... and then I got tired.

Christmas morning couldn't come soon enough. It was a long month. I imagined myself running down State Street like an antelope in a stampede of minivans and four-doors.

On the second Monday in January I got all suited up and shoved a fist full of almond in my face for fuel. I even downed a few supplements to kick my endurance levels up a notch. I stood on the treadmill watching Vanna White make emerald boxes white with her fingertips. Nike spandex pants. Check. Tabbed socks. Check. Ear buds that don't fall out of my ears. Check. Breathable, razorback running top. Check. Ponytail with headband. Check. Kick-butt Brooks Glycerin rocket shoes. Check.

And so it began. I ran all the way through Wheel of Fortune. Not fast, mind you. I was running about 10.5 minute miles, but I was steady. When I started to get bored, I told myself that I can do anything in the world for five more minutes. I started to sweat, but was well-equipped with a clean hand towel draped across the hand bar. Before I knew it, Jeopardy was halfway done. I was afraid to see how far I'd gone, because I didn't want to feel like I had permission to stop. I guessed that I hadn't run very far and kept going. My knee started to grind on itself as it was unfamiliar with the rocking movement. It hurt, but not enough to stop. Every time I was about to hit the stop button, I would tell myself "you can do anything for five for minutes."

And I could. When I finally stopped I looked down and saw the digital numbers read 5.8. That night I didn't sleep, I hibernated. I'm not even sure I was breathing. Sleeping was luxurious.

A few weeks later it finally hit 50 degrees and I was ready for a real run. Just me, my music and the elements. I wore my '49ers T-shirt for good luck, strapped my Camelbak on and headed toward the lake. I was freezing at first and my legs started cramping up, but I kept running because I was listening to Black Betty, and you can't stop while listening to that song and still respect yourself. You just can't. I gave it another 10 minutes. In the middle of Vineyard, Utah, I was on a street so close to my house that I had never seen before. The chilly morning was sweet relief to my neck, underarms and forehead. I made it to a field of shriveled hay where the road stopped, but I kept running through the soft, yet slightly frozen mud. I ran until I reached a wall of reeds that looked like tall wheat. The antique cream color of the reeds against the freezing blue lake was striking. Mandolin Rain was soaring through my ear buds. I believe listening to songs that inspire you is just as effective as listening to fast-paced pop songs. I felt beautiful inside and out through all the sweat. It was quiet. Just me and the stillness by a vacant lake house on a deserted pathway.

I felt it. I understood a runner's love. My legs moved, I journeyed, I crossed train tracks four or five times and waved at passersby. My muscles were engaged; I felt every one of them. I enjoyed every refreshing sip of water from my Camelbak and dramatically mouthed the words to each song on my playlist. Together, the rhythm of my feet hitting asphalt, my inhales and my exhales, was a song of its own. Before I knew it, I was approaching my driveway. I looked down at my phone; 8.5 miles, and I could have kept going.

I felt shocked, then thrilled, then liberated. I remembered how just four months before I was telling people "I'm just not a runner." What I really should have said is "I'm just out of shape." I had to find what worked for me, and not compare my results to anyone else. Set goals and take them seriously, then figure out how you can make runs more tolerable. I only enjoy my runs at certain moments. It isn't the funnest thing I do every week, but it's one of the most rewarding. Start a run without expectation. Along the way, play a game with yourself to see how much farther you can go. Keep telling yourself "I can do anything for five more minutes," when your legs feel like lead. If you are treating your body right, I promise you will make it past the fifth minute.


Married Friend Woes

I will never forget the first time I was thrust into a situation with Dalton's mission homies. I also remember feeling incredibly degraded by one of them after I was nice enough to make him dinner. Another one didn't make eye contact with me until the third time I saw him. Most of them grew on me, and then they got married. I like most of their wives very much, but there are a few that seem to live on a different planet. So let me tell you how much I dislike hanging out with another couple while my husband speaks to his friend in Spanish almost the entire time, and the wife is someone who I have absolutely nothing in common with. I feel about these situations the same way I feel about zombie noises, which is basically the sound a person would make if they were moaning while gargling phlegm. Few things make me leave a room more quickly.

It's not like I don't already have a hard enough time finding girls I want to be close friends with, but finding girls I want to be close friends with that married guys my husband wants to be friends with? That's an antique shop find worth keeping. Now, imagine finding two wives that like each other, two husbands that like each other, and then the husbands actually like the wives while the wives like the husbands. Does this even exist? Sure it does, but in my experience, it happens maybe once or twice a year.

Since Dalton and I got engaged, I've often felt like it's impossible to maintain strong friendships. Plus, I've never really been good at befriending girls--they're just so dramatic and foofy sometimes. Girls drive me bananas. I drive myself bananas! But when I find a girl who will go hiking with me, I hold on tight. It has always felt more natural to make friends with guys, but I realize now that very few of them were purely interested in meeting up to discuss impressionist artwork. Seeing that my other half may not appreciate me spending time with other males, and I'm not so keen on the idea either, I now have no other option than to practice being friends with girls. I used to be good at it. Is there a Girlfriends for Dummies book I can check out at the library?

The Bennett family's lives are busy with my full-time job, Dalton's full-time school schedule, Dalton's part-time job, Dalton's internship, the responsibilities that accompany our extra activities, our church calling, hitting the gym/pavement, making time for family, and so on. I'm sure this sounds similar to your lives. In the rare occurrence that we have a night to ourselves, we often don't find it appealing to call friends. Perhaps, in time we will get over this, but our date nights are important to us. Scratch that, I actually hope it stays just how it is and I suddenly find a few more hours each weekend to spend time with the girls or our favorite couples.

We are currently heading into strange territory where some of our married friends are having babies, which is another level of separation. We have a wailing, yet lovable, someone rerouting the usual topics of conversation. What do I know about colic and jaundice? It seems so much easier to make friends as parents, because naturally, you want your children to have friends, and therefore, you make a special effort to befriend the parents of your child's friends. You willingly embrace these strangers' compost bins, their network marketing businesses, their dandruff, or whatever, because you always have one topic to fall back on: parenting.

All of this might sound absolutely absurd considering we live in the mecca (Orem/Provo) of young married couples. However, we live in a neighborhood, not an apartment complex that is teeming with newlyweds who host game nights every day of the week. Dalton doesn't socialize at school because, well, he's married ... to me.

For now, I feel incredibly lucky to have one ultra-bestie that fills my social life with rap music and action movies.


What is a modest swimsuit?

I'm a huge advocate for modesty. I must admit, though, that I bought a bikini in college because I thought it was OK. All my LDS friends owned nothing but bikinis. Then I realized I was being a stupid conformist and forgot my standards.

Hey, Utah Mormon girls, what is the deal with this, anyway?

While wearing said bikini, I realized people (mostly male) treated me differently, and I didn't like it at all.

Modesty is a "mode of dress" that's meant to buffer sexual attraction.

However, I'm under the impression that only a few groups of people in this world truly know how to be modest. Muslim women are the first that come to mind, followed by Amish women and all astronauts.

As the weather is growing warm enough to consider taking a dip, I've been reminded that I'm in desperate need of a new swimsuit. And then I got to thinking ... is it possible to purchase a modest swimsuit at Target? I mean, my legs are completely exposed up to the hip! If I go down a water slide, you better be ready to see a little bit of cheek when I get a wedgie. There will be no question what the exact shape of my behind is. There is nothing modest about that terrifying spectacle. Oh, and those shoulders that I've been covering all year? Well, they are making an appearance when it hits 85 degrees. With so much skin showing, luckily I have a piece of fabric to hide my lower back and stomach. Is it important to wear a one piece or tankini because the belly button and lower back are more sexual than our legs and upper backs? Can I show off my stomach, but add a little more fabric to the attached skirt?

Now, I'm not saying wearing a bikini is equal to wearing a one piece on the modesty scale. Clearly, the one-piece wins the modesty award. But I want to know how much more a man would sexualize a woman by seeing her belly button and rib cage. It seems like any swimsuit allows the mind to wander enough if it's allowed.

Personally, I would hate wearing one of the lovely ensembles you see above. It's too hot for a wetsuit and I'm tired of seeing my pasty thighs every day. Let them see light! But honestly, is it really accurate to say my tankini is modest? Eeehh ...


I Can't Settle Down in Utah

I moved to Utah to go to school and meet a dreamy guy that would stick around with me for a while. I just can't stay here. I can't let my kids grow up in a "bubble."

Wait, let's back up really quick. A few years ago, this is what I would have said to you. Now, I am realizing that living in Utah long-term is absolutely in the cards for me, especially because the majority of Dalton's family members live less than an hour from each other and because Dalton is beginning an internship in Ogden this summer. I always imagined that my husband would get a job somewhere across the country, we would have an adventure together and build our life from square one. We would start our own traditions, relative get-togethers would never be taken for granted and we would rely heavily on the bonds in our ward family.

Then I realized my opinion on this matter was based off of the only thing I know: my own childhood.

As a member of the LDS church who didn't grow up in Utah, I always felt like raising kids in Utah would be ineffective. LDS culture in Utah is so dominant, I was sure my kids wouldn't be able to develop a deep understanding of the gospel because they wouldn't be able to exercise their faith in trying circumstances.

Wow, was I ignorant. Obviously, living in Utah doesn't mean you get to escape the trials of life. I've met some of the saddest, most twisted people in "happy valley." The struggles are just different here. At least there appears to be an overall positive outlook toward overcoming these obstacles. 

Then I remembered how incredibly hard it was to be a member of the church in Reno. The people in my social circles had very different views on life and definitely different values. Peer pressure was intense and as a confused tween and teenager, I often sought the acceptance of others. I found a few people who were true friends despite having different religious views, and I will never forget those few.

I remember distinct situations when I couldn't get off the school bus soon enough because "Billy" wouldn't shut up about the number of wives my dad had. He told me I was part of a cult and used rather colorful language to describe the Book of Mormon, temples and the priesthood. I was asked many times if I wore embarrassing underwear. I became very good at ending conversations with "Nothing makes me happier than being a member of the LDS church." Perhaps, one of the most hurtful comments I ever received was from a boy who asked if I was embarrassed by my body. My prom dresses always had sleeves of some kind and I wore tankinis. Had he asked this question sincerely, I would have said no, but he laughed when he asked it.

It's tough for me to swallow the thought of my own kids dealing with this kind of treatment. But it's also tough for me to swallow the thought of my kids taking their faith for granted because they are surrounded by "Mormon Culture" 24/7.

I don't see any glaring differences between members who were raised in Utah and outside of Utah. In fact, some of my greatest childhood role models aren't active anymore. Perhaps, the only difference is that Utah members don't understand just how convenient it is to have your church 100 yards from your house, and how much sleep it saves to attend seminary during the day.

Talking to my mother today--a woman who never liked the thought of living in Utah, I was assured that no matter where LDS children are raised, their successful growth relies on nothing more than what is taught, expressed and enforced inside the walls of the home. 

That being said, I'm letting go. I like the thought of having family present for every milestone. Why wouldn't I want that? Isn't our ultimate goal in life to stick with our families? And why wouldn't I want to be surrounded by the support of those who share my beliefs? Why would I willingly leave these striking mountains?

Well, no matter where the wind takes us, I understand that the outcome of my family's development in the church is on me, not the state I live in. 

No pressure.


The Trouble with Travel

Once you've left the continent, you immediately become a snob. You'll come back to the States, and nothing will ever be the same. You may start sentences with, "Well, when I was staying in a Parisian studio apartment ... " and "I actually saw that in real life ... " Eye rolls will follow.

Spending a Saturday binge watching House of Cards or strolling through the mall will feel like a major failure. You will let out a heavy sigh and think back to the moment you reached the top of a mountain that looked over Ediburgh, Scotland, just hours after sitting in the very chair J.K. Rowling sat in when she had the Harry Potter lightbulb moment.

As soon as you come home from your excursion, you will immediately begin scheming how you will go back. You will somehow justify spending $7,000 so you and your husband can go on a tour of the Greek Isles, but walk immediately to the clearance section when entering any store. OK, so we thought about doing the Greece thing. It has been my dream for at least a decade, but we're settling for something else that won't put such a big dent in our bank account. The husband reminded me there might be more essential things to spend our money on in the near future. Adulthood. What a crock.

When you return from your trip around the world, you may find that you develop a form of OCD. You will often check flights to various locations on your "to-go" list. You cry when you see the prices, but you can't help but continue looking, thinking that some day you will find a flight at half price. Dream on.

And then sometimes, when you're having a bad day, you will click on the photo folder that contains all the images captured on your adventures. You will look at them to remind yourself that you did know excitement and bliss at one point in time. You will study these still memories that are full of vibrancy and movement, and you will not feel any better about your current situation. You will feel helpless because you don't have ruby slippers to take you where you want to go.

I'm sure many of you are appalled that I am being at all negative about having these amazing opportunities. But it's because of the smells, the art, the architecture, the languages and the commotion that I'm bitter. I want it every day. Not to say Orem, Utah, isn't the bee's knees. It has its redeeming qualities, kind of.

Thanks to Europe and South America, the bar has been raised. I am always searching for the next memory to make, even if it is in my backyard. I will never settle for a sleepy Saturday.


Nine-hour Pregnancy

Note: No, I don't know what pregnancy is like, but I read a lot and I've spent time with quite a few pregnant women in my life. This one goes out to my expecting friends and new-mommy friends. It also goes out to the guys at work who wondered what the world would be like if each woman conceived and gave birth to a child in a 4-hour time span.

8 a.m.: Well, that usually doesn't happen before heading to work, but I'm not complaining. Wow, I have so much to do today. It would be great if my head and back and pelvis weren't aching something awful. I knew I should have stayed in bed. Did someone punch my ovaries when I wasn't looking? Yawn. What was I just doing? Oh yeah. I'm hungry, wait, no I'm not. Don't talk to me, I hate you! I'm sorry, I love you. Would anyone notice if I assumed the fetal position under my desk? Am I dying? Oh no. This is happening.

9 a.m.: Boss? I've got to run an errand. Be back soon. I'm paranoid, but I still have to make sure. Seriously? You want to charge me $9 for two of these? Wait, so I pee on this? How does this work? Two. Pink. Lines. TWO. It's wrong, it has to be. There is no way the hormones would show up this quickly. Alright, test two. Seriously? These sticks are faulty. Shouldn't have pounded those Lucky Charms this morning. Bleh, I never want to eat cereal again. Bleeeeehhhh. Imagine, if I wasn't already in this stall. This bathroom smells like a sewer. Got to get out. Just make it back to the car. Everything SMELLS! What is that? This gym sock is rank! Get it away from me. Oh no, more Lucky Charms. Nope, just dry heaves. Yawn. I just need 10 minutes of shut eye before making it back to the office. Zzzz.

10 a.m.: OK, this is real. I haven't digested anything, and it still looks like I had three helpings of pie after Thanksgiving dinner. I need a doctor now! Scheduling appointments is overrated. If this is real, there is a person in me. Ah! Get it out! Wait, don't. Doctor? Please, I think I'm having a baby today. Does anyone have a sandwich? I really need a sandwich people! Extra pickles with an extra large chocolate milkshake. Extra everything. Is the stomach jelly necessary? What is that little flickering thing on the screen? A heart? My body made a heart? ... That's ... that's incredible ...

Ring. Ring. Honey, you're going to be a father in 6 hours. Quick, do everything you ever wanted to do that you haven't already done. No, you can't buy a motorcycle. Go.

11 a.m.: Books, I need books. I need to go to the library! Are there Cliff Notes for this three dozen I'd like to check out? Ugh, shouldn't have eaten that sandwich. Bleeeeh. I'm dizzy, I can't move. Honey, where have you been? Read me books! Cloth diapers? No. Breast feeding? Yes, but how? A breast feeding bra? Weird. I feel terrible. I need ibuprofen. I can't have ibuprofen? Is this a joke? You want to name the baby what? Absolutely not, that name rhymes with a dirty word. Go get me a bushel of oranges and some sweatpants while I rest my eyes. Get these pants off of me, they're digging into my bump.

12 p.m.: Zzzzzzzzzzzz. What? What do you want? Don't touch me! Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Hey Facebook world, we're pregnant! Stay tuned for photos between 4-5 p.m.! So excited to meet our little bundle.

1 p.m.: I'm fat! How do you go to sleep bloated and wake up fat? Quick, go to Sonic and get me the good ice. Don't ask questions, I just need ice in my mouth. Oh, and while you're there get me four of everything. And don't forget the cocoa butter, my skin isn't as elastic-y as I originally imagined. I can feel it. Is that a foot? An elbow? I'm here baby. Can you hear me? Are you as scared as I am?

2 p.m.: What can we use as a makeshift crib? The microwave box? OK, that will do for now. What about clothes! The baby can't come home in a hospital blanket! Ow, ow, ow. I need a back massage. Dig! Dig! Is that as hard as you can do it? Quick, we need to go to the store. Diapers, bottles, booger suckers, onesies, binkies. Do we have time to get the crib? Crap! Babies need car seats, don't they? What did you read about car seats in the books? You don't remember? You didn't bring them with you as a reference? OK, get that one. Why not? I can't walk anymore, put me in one of the motorized scooters. Wait, I have to pee.

3 p.m.: Why are my feet swollen? I need a foot rub. Seriously? That's all you got? I can't lay, or sit, or stand. Maybe I'll be comfortable if I'm suspended in air. Can you make that happen? Can you set up a crib in 30 minutes? Fine! I didn't think it would hurt to ask. I have to pee again. So, are you ready for this? Well, I told you to do everything you wanted to do before 5 p.m. No, we aren't going to buy more guns. I think my skin is going to rip open. Did you know your baby is in here? Yeah, I don't believe it either. I'm so sleepy, but I can't lay down! I'll never get back up. Give me that jar of pickles.

4 p.m.: I can't stand anymore. If I knew I was going to get huge today, I would have hit the gym a little harder last week. Someone needs to wheel me out of here on a gurney. Ow-ow-ow-ow! It's trying to get out! Doctor, it's time! Expletive. Expletive. Is this happening? I'm not ready. Make it stop. Inhale. Exhale. OK, I got this. Push ... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. It's a girl. She's gorgeous! She has my nose. She is so small and delicate. My Monday miracle. No, we cannot try again tomorrow! I can't take any more time off of work.


Rabbits Lay Eggs?

When I stood to say the pledge of allegiance as a kid, I always glanced over at the two Jehovah's Witnesses in my class, just to make sure they didn't happen to put their hands over their hearts and join us.

valscrapbook:all-things-bright-and-beyootiful: By Catherine RaynerI liked both of them. They knew all the answers during difficult math lessons and never got in trouble. During free time, one of them always joined me in piecing together a puzzle of kittens in a basket of yarn. We had done it so many times the picture was beginning to curl up from the cardboard. I never would have suspected that these two innocent, dimpled 8-year-olds would be the rock through my stained glass window. All the magic of my childhood was shattered by one five-word sentence.

"Your mom is Santa Clause," she told me matter-of-factly while smashing a piece of a kitten's paw into a piece of another kitten's head.

Of course, she told me this right after I divulged the Christmas list I sent to Santa the day before. I looked at her and waited for the punchline. And then the unraveling began. I felt the hurt rise from my chest to my cheeks. This was the beginning of the Great Emotional Breakdown of 1998.

Luckily, I was a somewhat logical child. I understood that the imagination was a gift, and I knew believing fostered hope. When I sat down with my mom that night I asked about all of them: the rabbit with the eggs, the fairy that stole teeth and, of course, the fat man with the sack of gifts. When I told her it was the J-dubs that revealed her schemes, she knew there was no backpedaling.  

I wasn't mad at her for lying to me my entire life. I was mad that my world's stock of magic was officially depleted. Life was a grey globe of habit. Mystery and enchantment were things people used to escape the grey. Everything was as it seemed. And yes, I was a deep-thinking third grader. 

Since Mom had the talk with me, she has had to have the talk four more times. I was asked to fib to my youngest sister so that she kept believing. When she finally realized it was all a lie, she was hurt. She felt stupid and betrayed, which made all of us wonder what was more valuable, revealing the truth or encouraging believing. My youngest brother was much like I was. The disappointment was overwhelming. How miserable it is to discover that every Easter and Christmas from now on are nothing more than a few trips to the grocery store and local mall.

What if your three-year-old asks the same questions I had as a third grader? Do you lie then? At what point does the playful tradition of holiday characters become dishonest?

It is especially hilarious to consider the upcoming holiday: Easter. So a massive bunny has a never-ending supply of hard-boiled and plastic eggs to hide all over the Earth? Why would a rabbit prefer to hide eggs as opposed to crunchy vegetables?

How amazing that as children we have so much faith in the world that we buy into this far-fetched Easter story without even beginning to reconsider its validity. In honor of this childish faith that I once had, Dalton and I will hide eggs this year. Not because I have children or intend to invite any over, but because the child in me deserves another go at it. Fueling my imagination may be the healthiest thing I can do for myself at this point.