7.10.2014

My Ragnar Story, Unfiltered

Caution: If you are ever offended by open discussions on bowel movements, don't read this post.

Many of you may have already seen the YouTube video of my first Ragnar experience. I think I've watched it 10 times. The terrain, the endurance, the smiles, the sweat--all of it makes me want to go back to the beginning of that race and do it again. However, the second morning of the race, I was sure I was done running for a while. Don't worry that didn't last long, but I think you'll understand why I initially felt that way when I tell you what happened.

The day was flawless. Or as I often say, it was just my flavor. I was enjoying Utah's tucked-back towns, the rolling green hills complemented by ragged mountain peaks, discovering new places, revisiting places where I made sweet memories and the company of 11 rockstars. I was anxious, twitchy even. An hour before the start of my first leg through Avon Pass, I was reverse hyperventilating. I was taking slow deep breaths, the kind of breaths that make your lungs feel like a balloon ready to burst. I just wanted to kill it and make everyone proud. It felt like just minutes later I was lacing up, inserting my ear buds, turning up Pitbull and stretching my hammies. I felt the snap of the hand-off bracelet on my wrist and I just went. The first mile was steeper than I imagined on a mud-dried trail, but I was thanking the heavens for cloud coverage at 3 p.m. I passed someone just a mile in and was feeling on top of it. The steep downhill full of loose rocks began and I soared. I met a clearing and saw the down into the most perfect valley, like a painting. I wasn't sure whether to speed up from the adrenaline or to slow down and take it all in. My team followed along cheering the entire way.

Soon after I landed on a flat road, and up in the distance I saw a white vehicle sitting perpendicular to the road. I didn't pay much attention, just kept plugging away, though I did start wondering how close I was to the end of this 7-mile run. I peered through the front windshield of this white car and saw a weird balding man with a really excited look on his face. Who was he waiting for? Then his head popped out of the driver's side window, and what do you know? It was my father-in-law, waving like a fool and shouting "We love you!" Dalton was in the back. How long had they been sitting there? Now, that's love everyone. My in-laws drove an hour out of their way to sit on the side of the road and wait for me to pass just so they could holler out the window. I was shocked and so happy. A few minutes later a passed a girl with very visible brown stains on the back of her running skirt. Yikes. Never, ever trust gas when you're running. Let's just say that when I was training, I ended up in park and gas station bathrooms a few times around mile 7.

6.22.2014

Basement Living

Most mornings are accompanied by the sweet sounds of the temper tantrum--sometimes more than one tantrum at a time--complete with murder victim screams and small bodies hitting the walls. No, we aren't stowing any children away in our closets, but we do live in a humble basement below four rambunctious little ones, and I'm sure at least two of them are going through mid-childhood crises. While some days I am tempted to pack everything up and find another basement to hide out in, I quite enjoy coming home to two little boys manning the side gate with plastic firearms in preparation for the zombie apocalypse. They make me feel safe.

Especially lately, people have been asking me why I'm living in a basement when I can afford to live in a house. Yes, it would be nice to have a few hundred extra square feet to walk around in. I wouldn't whine about having a few more closets and bathroom drawers. Because of the space issue we are experiencing, a set of golf clubs, a tarp, sleeping bags and tents are housed in our cars' trunks. And how fun would it be to invite more than two people over at a time? We could host backyard barbecues and my friends' baby showers. I want to read on a couch that is engulfed in the light from an above-ground window. I want to take a shower and leave the door open without the steam setting off the fire alarm. I want to drop by bags by the front door without blocking the entry way. I don't want to rely on a faulty antennae from Best Buy to pick up ABC so we can watch football. I especially don't want to play the "where should we put the antennae so it works today" game. And I don't want Dalton to throw any more fits because the reception is going in and out during important '49ers games.

But, let me be real about something. Buying a house or town home right now would be absurd.

We have had these conversations, but they end quickly. We have no idea where the world is going to send us when Dalton graduates next spring. So, this chapter in our book of life is going to have to be called "Waiting." We've also talked about renting a bigger place, spending another $200 a month just for a little more breathing room. But why? We don't need anything more than we have right now to satisfy our essential needs.

I guess Hobbit living isn't all that bad--until your little brother tells you that your living space is "precious" and that his mission apartment on the Mexico border is bigger and nicer. I don't take care of a lawn, it's not my problem if anything breaks (not that anything does break) and I only have to write one check every month that covers all of my living expenses. We save more than half of what we make every month. We can pay for plane tickets, medical bills and expensive car repairs without breaking a sweat. It's almost impossible to lose things in our apartment, because there aren't many places to look. Oh, and we never get solicitors. Ever. Luckily, the Girl Scouts still find us.

However, these few perks are the only thoughts keeping me sane when I'm kicking my shoes back into our itty-bitty closet. I've lived like a college rat for long enough. I think I've earned a garage of some sort. Maybe a laundry room that isn't in a closet?

Sigh. Well, when it does make sense for us to buy a house, we'll be ready. More than ready.

Now that I've said this, I know the next place we move will be some 500-square-foot studio apartment in downtown somewhere. How about we just fast forward to the part where I live in a 2-bed, 2-bath. That's all I'm asking.

6.01.2014

Tonight, This is Our Mountain


There is nothing more calming than a quiet, summer night snuggled up in a 2-man tent with my honey. The insects have stopped their humming and the wind has settled, giving the tree branches and their leaves a time to rest. I fall asleep listening to the crackle of dying coals. I am nestled in a heap of down on top of a one-inch pad that saves me from the sticks and rocks beneath. I am thoroughly enjoying my new fragrance--diethyl-meta-toluamide, ash and sweat. My body is overly warm while my face is perfectly cool. The sound of silence mixed with heavy breathing puts me to sleep. The woods feel like home to me, and it's not because I'm one of those barefooted forest hippies, it's because everything around me was made specifically for me. Every meadow and valley I've fallen asleep in was molded so that I could know God's love for me. It's for you too, you know. Nature is so intricate and inspired. It's a gift. I want to open it over and over again.

On top of a mountain, I take nothing for granted. I cannot walk into an air-conditioned room or order a Crunchwrap Supreme, so obviously, I take what I can get. And I'm grateful for everything I do get. There is nothing more relieving than a blast of cool wind out of the canyon onto my sweating forehead while hiking up the side of a mountain covered in wildflowers and sagebrush lizards. There is nothing more forgiving than flat land after you've hiked a mile at a steep incline with an extra 15 pounds on your back. Nothing feels better than taking my hot, pulsing feet out of my shoes after reaching our nesting place and letting them soak up the cool forest air. Every bite of rehydrated fettucine alfredo is the best spoonful of mush I have ever rolled around in my mouth. Every source of water found is nature's IV that restores me back to vitality. And you appreciate those cold sips so much more after you've spent a fair amount of time filtering it yourself while your tongue feels like hot paper.

As many of you know, I've been forcing myself to run lately. I started running on a treadmill in February and then I discovered how incredibly lame it is watching the evening news while running when you could be watching the evolving scenery as you run through a canyon. I can never go back to machine running. I drove to Sundance this week as the sun dimmed enough to make the sky gray. I was doing some downhill training and hadn't run this hill before, and really had only been to Sundance once or twice before. I didn't remember the drive. As I started running down the hill I was so taken by the rich green color all around me, the sound of trickling water, and the wings of these beautiful birds flying low, just skimming the tops of the pine trees. I disregard so many things when I'm driving; my windshield filters the true essence of my surroundings. When I'm breathing in so much life, I feel more alive.

"Beautiful things don't ask for attention." 

The most beautiful places I've ever found didn't wave me to them. In most cases, I had to sweat and ache to find most of them, whether I was running or hiking. Usually, when I push myself to go just one more mile when I'm completely exhausted, I find a waterfall, a lake, beautiful cliffs and a view so stunning I lose my breath. If you live in Utah and haven't wandered, shame on you. Acknowledge the beauty that was made for you.

5.11.2014

Happy Birthday to Me?

Remember when the entire year revolved around your birthday? Your mom came to school with sloppily frosted cupcakes and the class sang loudly to you as crumbs fell from their lips. Your mom then disregarded your siblings' wishes to make your favorite dinner and even let you off the hook from doing chores. And a few days later, the pile of mysterious, brightly wrapped gifts that you had been dreaming about suddenly appeared in your living room.

I have had every cheesy, random birthday party you never thought of. I had the "spy" birthday party, the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" party and the "superstar" birthday parry, complete with karaoke and a recorded cooking show starring me and a few other buck-toothed friends.

And then you turn 24. It's isn't a milestone year of any kind, and quite frankly, you don't care about becoming one year older. You wonder if anyone else really does either, because how ridiculous is it to expect a celebration for yourself right in the middle of a hectic week? It's just not right. And it's not like I'm going to put off my birthday until the weekend because I'm throwing myself a bangin' party. Like I said, is this really necessary?

Despite the fact that birthdays are not necessary, and no one really has time for these things, the people in my life readjust their priority list to accommodate me on the day I took my first real breath and started my journey in this thing called life. How incredibly kind of us to celebrate each other for simply being alive. Now that I am older, I see birthdays as yet another holiday of gratitude. And this is why my 24th birthday was so perfect for me.

May 7th was a rainy day. I love rain. I think that was my present from God. At 12:05 a.m. I received a text from my mother-in-law who was the first person to remember me on my birthday. She called again before 7 a.m. Right after I thanked her for being so sweet to me, Dalton's Uncle Blake called from a cornfield in Idaho while he was riding on a tractor. His endearing twang and the simple fact that he took the time to call me that morning made my day, and it was still early. I arrived to work before my coworkers to get a head start that day, but I was greeted 20 minutes after my arrival with a beautiful vase of flowers with balloons and a few cards. It was a busy week at work preparing for projects and events, but my coworkers still set their loads aside for more than an hour to take me to a delicious Thai restaurant, my favorite. My birthday could have stopped here and I would have been thrilled. Balloons? Curry? Happy birthday wishes from a tractor? I couldn't want anything else.

And then there is the Facebook factor, which is overwhelming to say the least. I am tempted to remove my birthday from all social media sites so that people from my past and present don't feel the need to type "happy birthday." A hundred "happy birthday" messages later from grade school friends, teammates, college classmates, church leaders, and so on, I had thought about each of the people who decided to send me a message on that day. I thought about what they meant to me at whatever stage of my life we were connected, and I was so full of love! Sure, typing a few words and hitting "enter" only takes seconds, but no one had to do it, yet they did anyway. I loved each simple message.

A few hours later, Dalton walked through the doors with unwrapped shoebox as I cleaned the house to keep my myself occupied. I hadn't been expecting anything from him until the weekend because he has busy days with his internship, not to mention having to drive to and from Ogden. When I saw the shoebox, I knew exactly what he had been up to. Remember how I told you about my irreplaceable black pumps? Well, he found a pair that is almost identical. I was able to drop my tattered pair in the garbage on top of banana peels and wilted lettuce. Inside the shoebox there was a shirt that Dalton picked out from Bohme--one of my favorite stores--and it had Catherine written all over it. We must live together or something. The last thing in the box was a letter he wrote listing some of the things he loves about me. He knows nothing means more to me than the written word, especially when its in his ALL CAPS handwriting. The only thing that would have made it better was if he had done it on graphing paper like he did with the letter he had me read before he proposed. When something is written, it suddenly becomes more real to me. It's because sound disintegrates. Ink stays.


It all ended with Dalton taking me to Mountain West Burrito. Nothing finishes the day off quite like a heaping cup of guacamole. Like I said, the guy knows me. I was perfectly content to come home afterward and watch Man vs. Wild until midnight. It's always important to stay on top of your game as far as wilderness survival goes. There is a chance that I will need to bite a live frog's head off in order to stay alive, so watching this show was a gift to myself.

Now that I am terribly old (let's be honest, I'm a child), this birthday meant something different to me than the 23 before it. As life gets busier and we struggle to make time for our relationships, I was so grateful to have so many reach out to me on a day that is really just a day. I now understand, though, that birthdays are not about celebrating getting older. They are about celebrating life, celebrating that you and I are here right now in this miraculous, complicated world. And I'm willing to celebrate anything if guacamole is present.

4.30.2014

We Need to Need Others

The teeth chattering started on Saturday morning while I was walking through the mall in order to avoid sitting in the awkward Big O Tires waiting room for three hours. I was wearing a fleece-lined jacket, but blamed the goose bumps on walking through a cavernous mall during a never-ending rainstorm. Because I have the sweetest husband in the world, he came to keep me company and give me a hoodie to wear under my jacket.

Fast forward 24 hours. I am actually shaking uncontrollably on the couch while attempting to the read the newspaper. I hobble back into bed where Dalton is still sleeping. He is a human space heater, so I snuggle up as close as possible to his back and pull the duvet up to my chin, still shivering so hard I was sure the entire mattress was rattling. All of the commotion was enough to wake Dalton up. Instinctly, he put hand to forehead, then hand to cheek. Once I was warm enough, he hopped up and retrieved the thermometer from the cupboard. The white stick beeped 103.2. I thought it may pass within the hour. This is how I think. My head throbbed so hard it required effort to open my eyes. All my back muscles tightened as if they were trying to keep the heat from escaping.

The next things I know Dalton has his church clothes on. He is reading the lesson, he is bringing me ice water, he is putting damp cloths on my head, he is fetching the Ibuprofen. No questions. My first reaction is to say, "No, no, no ... I just need to close my eyes for second. I'll make it to church. No, don't worry, I can go get another blanket."

Dalton didn't give me the option to do any of the things that were part of my usual routine. This fever routine happened five times total before the beast decided to leave me a lone. My fever would break, I would sigh with relief, and then I would groan in anger each time the shakes started again. Husband wasn't bothered. In fact, I think he was delighted that after a busy school year, the tables had turned and he was in control of the house and my well being. I should have known he would have been happy to take care of me no matter the circumstance, but we just get into these endless routines and life goes by so fast you forget to need other people when you can't function on your own. Looking back, I couldn't be more grateful that a slew of fevers forced me to get over myself and allow the person who loves me most to show it. And it was so effortless.

I was even lucky enough to come home to Dalton on Monday for my lunch break as the shakes were in full force, you see, his internship was originally going to start this week, but was pushed to next week. Someone is looking out for me.

It's because of experiences like this that I know getting married is the healthiest thing I've ever done. Yes, it's been great for my physical health--I have a built-in hydration service when I' not feeling well--but it has been even better for my mental and emotional health. Throughout the 6 years that I've known Dalton I've developed an understanding of deep love, which, to me, is Christ's love. I have also slowly realized that I am capable of being loved on this level, and I have learned to apply this deep love to myself, though I've struggled with this for the better part of 20 years.

Those that know me fairly well will agree that I don't ask for help if I know how to do something on my own, even if it means slipping into madness to complete a task. While I know I need help, I don't want to be a burden or make anyone put their plans aside for my benefit. But when I do allow people in, the definition of love is made clear to me again.

I also know that by allowing Dalton to be needed, he is fulfilling an immense purpose in this life. Some of my worst days are those where I accomplish nothing and I go to bed unsatisfied. And I know Dalton is the same way. In my experience, the people who are most unhappy feel unneeded in this life. So please, need people. Then let in the people that need you. You'll find your deepest purposes in life this way.

4.28.2014

A Farewell to Black Pumps

CIRCA JOAN & DAVID; Size 8.5; Texture: REPTILE; Color: BLACK

After seven years, it's time to say goodbye to my solemates.
The problem is, I can't find another pair of shoes to fill their shoes.    
OK, not more bad puns. I promise.

As a junior in high school, I purchased a pair of $100 shoes that had a backbone. I needed them to be tight enough so that I could run in them if needed, but loose enough so that I could flick them off as soon as I sat down at a desk.

They have been everything a person could ask for in a pair of shoes. They have traveled across the country and across the Atlantic Ocean. They've taken me to every interview that has ever meant anything to me. I've worn them on days when I felt like hiding in my closet and watching terribly depressing movies. They made me stand straighter. I truly believed that if I wore any other pair of shoes, my chances at landing a new job or internship would be shot. I received a few terrifying church callings wearing Joan & David. They seemed like no-nonsense names enough for me.

These shoes exuded characteristics I wanted in myselfunderstated yet powerful, elegant yet feisty, playful yet contemplative.

It took seven years of stomping, tripping and light jogging, to cause a tear. I wore them so often that the simple bending movements of my foot wore them down enough to rip the skin. The balls of my feet rubbed the gold paint until it splintered and, in some places, disappeared.

Rainy days give me hope. So, on one of the gloomiest days I've ever experienced in Utah, I headed out into the gray to find a replacement pair. It wasn't good. Everything was cheap looking or too expensive or too boring or too eccentric or too high or too low or too narrow or looked like it had shuffled out of my great-grandmother's closet.

I compared every pair of shoes to Joan & David. In a sea of heels, I thought about my poor friends that were waiting by the door for me, ready to give a day at the office another go. I simply gave up after an hour or two, and came home with a new outfit instead. Oops.


Joan, David and I have been through so much together. I've sweat profusely in them while under a tight deadline. Instead of smelling like gym socks, they dried up just in time for the next day, completely erasing the sweat assault from the previous. I've assumed some of my most effective power stances while wearing these shoes. I have successfully run a mile in them through a busy city while trying to find a kind citizen with a phone charger. I also entered the temple to receive my endowment while wearing them.

How can I possibly dispose of them? I'm scouring the Internet for the exact same pair with no luck. Perhaps the shoe to the right is close enough?

No. No, no, no. It's just no the same. Dalton's reply to this entire charade I'm pulling is, "Oh look, you are sentimental after all!" Well, this is just a little different than the concert tickets and silly knick-knacks we've collected.

4.23.2014

When you marry a football fan ...

... you become a football fan, whether or not you realize it's happening.

As we endure baseball season and anticipate the beginning of football season, it's only right that we reminisce about chip dip smorgasbords and yelling at the television.

This is my baby football helmet
 that a good friend and co-worker gave me.
It keeps me company at work to remind
 me what's really important in life. (That's a joke
 for those of you who are unfamiliar with
my sense of humor.)
I admit, I whined about Dalton's football fanaticism for about a year. You want me to sit on this couch for how long? Can't I just watch the end? Then I surrendered. I memorized all the team mascots. I knew who the quarterbacks were on the "good" teams.  I watched every YouTube video about Colin Kaepernick. But I was so torn! I liked cheering on my former Aggies that were killing it on the Seahawks. But, oh well.

Lucky for me, Dalton's favorite team (the Niners) fit me well. If I was going to cheer on any team, it may as well be the team closest to the city where I grew up with a quarterback that played for UNR. And no, the Oakland Raiders were never an option. Just for a little background, Dalton's '49er fanaticism started at birth. It's deeply rooted in who he is. Seriously. He was born on Super Bowl Sunday in 1990 as the Niners were beating the Broncos. Actually, "beating" isn't the right word. "Wiping the floor with" is probably more accurate.

Some might describe this as fate. And I think a few things were rewired as he was coming into the world during this victory. His emotions are somehow attached to that team. The players are the strings and he is the marionette. When one of the players gets arrested, he doesn't want to talk about it. When they lose a game, you don't talk to him about it. When they win a game, a permanent smile is fixed on his face until they lose again. There is an awesome photo of Dalton at age 6 standing proudly in front of the fire place all suited up in a miniature Niner uniform.

I didn't understand how it was possible that an individual could connect so deeply to a few dozen freakishly meaty men they have never met who tackle each other for a living. Boy, was I na├»ve.

This is the first year that I have genuinely missed watching football. I miss that anxious feeling when there are a few minutes left in the game and it's tied up. I miss having a reason to wear my '49ers T-shirt every week. I miss getting into arguments with people about why Colin is the man.

Anyway, I realized one day that I can wholeheartedly embrace football, or forever battle Dalton for the TV remote--a battle I will never win.