The Buttons Go in Front: An Essay About That Time I Found a Lump in My Breast

“I think I just found a lump,” I said, interrupting her mid-sentence. I was laying on my back, still in my nightgown, bare feet with painted red toes propped up on a pillow, talking on the phone with my best friend about everything and nothing, my hand resting on my breast, poking and pushing the flesh around for no reason at all, when I felt it–a hard knot, just above and to the left of my nipple. I’m not an expert on my breasts–no one ever sees or touches them–but I knew enough to know that this felt out of place.

“You need to get that checked,” she said. “Now,” with firm emphasis. Apparently, I put things off. I haven’t had a flu shot in 15 years. I avoid check-ups. I hate annuals. This works for me because I floss and brush my teeth. And I eat my broccoli. But. Cancer scares the crap out of me. I always think I have it even when I know I don’t. When I was little and didn’t understand the whole chemo thing, and I had hair wash down the drain in the shower, I was certain I was dying. I even wrote a will once and put it in my underwear drawer so my parents would find it after my funeral. I still remember–I bequeathed my scriptures and journal to my parents and my jewelry box, stuffed animals, and New Kids on the Block posters to my sisters.

But anyway. The lump. This was different. It wasn’t theoretical. I wasn’t eight years old anymore with a weird predisposition for thinking about death. I could feel this foreign thing with my own two hands, thus making the cancer fear no longer an intangible supposing but a possible reality. I mean, it could be …

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To Be a Mother

It was late, and dark, and I was tired. But I held her nonetheless and rocked her back and forth in a chair that squeaked every time I moved. Every so often she would surrender to sleep, only to wake minutes later with a shudder as her body heaved and coughed, trying desperately to root out the infection deep inside. Monitors beeped and tubes trailed from her tiny body, making it difficult to cradle her the way I really wanted to, but I held her as close as I could, in the corner of a sterile hospital room, as the moon rose high.

She wasn’t mine—that baby in my arms. And I am not a mother. I have never watched my belly grow round with life. I have never felt the rush of that first movement from within. I have never pushed my body beyond my presumed limits to birth another human being. I have never felt the immediate instinct that binds a woman to her child as he is placed upon her chest for the very first time.

And if I am being honest, those are the things I want most, second only to finding a love with whom to experience them—so much so, that there are nights when I will place a pillow under my shirt and imagine what that roundness feels like.

Her mother, an old friend and severely sick herself, had called earlier in the day. Would you please go hold my baby for me? she asked. She had three other children at home who desperately needed “mother time,” not to mention she needed rest, and little Lissy had just been released from the NICU.

There was no need to think. Of course I would go hold her baby. There was no work meeting, no appointment, no previous commitment more important than driving straight to the hospital to stay with my friend’s baby, all night in the squeaky rocking chair, if need be.

At one point, I looked down at her soft, round face and traced her nose with the tip of my finger. Her teary doe-eyes looked back at me, whispering volumes of wisdom beyond her few short months. And a distant memory came to mind. I was five and had fallen and scraped my knee. My first impulse was to call for my mother. She came running out of the house, scooped me up off the driveway and carried me inside, where she sat me on the kitchen counter and reached for a wet cloth and band-aid.

Suddenly, holding Lissy, I found myself more grateful for my life than I’d been in months. No, I had no family of my own to care for, no husband to be home with, no children to tuck into bed, but because of that, I could easily and immediately go to the hospital when I was needed most.

And I understood—though I may not have birthed a child myself, this is what it is to be a mother: to come when you are called—as soon as you are called, to wrap your arms around another person, and to cradle them with love–all night if necessary.

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How do you find the day?

I’m not really sure how or where to start this post. And I suppose the answer is to start at the very beginning. At least that’s what I hear Maria von Trapp singing in my ear. But the problem is that I’m not sure where the beginning is.

I mean, at what point, in the course of a girl’s life, does she begin to hate her body. How do you find the day?

As children we can’t stop ourselves from jumping into pictures, making crazy faces, and loving the resulting photos. We are oblivious to the nuances and peculiarities of our bodies, simply happy that they’ll pedal a bicycle, skip down the street, and hang one-handed from the monkey bars.

But all of a sudden, we cross some threshold. We become “aware.” And we begin to shy away from photos, hiding from the cameras, hoping to be put in the back row. We begin inspecting ourselves in the mirror, eyes trailing from head to toe like a dot-to-dot under a magnifying glass, suddenly certain that our hair is too stringy, too curly, too straight, that our nose is too freckled, ears too uneven, chin too pointy, skin too pale, buttocks too round, or perhaps too flat, boobs too big, boobs too small, stomach too flabby, thighs too fat, ankles too thick, toes too long, need I go on?, all the while carrying on an internal dialogue wherein we tell ourselves that we’re not pretty enough, not tall enough, not tan enough, not thin enough, not curvy enough … not. not. not. Enough.

But where is the day that begins? When does it happen?

I have blurry memories.

There was the day in seventh grade that Joel Vierra pointed out that Shannon Schlesman was great at English, and that he was good at math, and that I was good at lots of subjects. “You’re well-rounded,” he said. And then he chuckled, “Get it? Well-rounded.”

There was the day in fifth grade when I didn’t sign up for swim team—not because I didn’t want to. But because I couldn’t bear the thought of putting on the swim suit.

Or the afternoon I’d forgotten my sheer, filmy ballet skirt in my dance bag. And so I pulled on the cotton skirt I’d worn to school that day, fully aware that I needed something to cover my belly. No one had to tell me. I just knew. It wasn’t flat like the other girls’.

Ballet class began, but when my teacher noticed my attire, he stopped class to tell me to take the skirt off—that I would have to dance that day in just my leotard and tights. And I stood there at the bar, my eyes on the floor, everyone else’s on me, heart pounding, ears burning, and told him no. He stood there in silence for a minute and then told me again to take it off. And still, I quietly whispered, “no.”

I had never told an adult, let alone a teacher, “no” before. I’m nothing if not an obedient teacher’s pet. But I was certain, that day, that it was more humiliating to stand in front of everyone wearing only my leotard plastered to every curve of my body than to do disobey.

I was in second grade. Eight years old.

I quit ballet soon after—not because I wasn’t good, and not because I didn’t love it. But because I knew, and was certain everyone else knew, that my body was not a ballerina’s body.

But when did that happen? When did I finally know? And how? When began this seemingly endless battle with my body? How many years have I been looking in the mirror silently telling myself that the reflection looking back is wrong?

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The Moment I Became An Adult

I’ve always been a planner – probably because of the security and control I feel in knowing what lies ahead. In fact I can’t remember a time when my Franklin wasn’t color coded and neatly divided (I tried the Palm and the Blackberry. But what can I say, I like paper and ink). There’s never been a day not filled with perfectly penned responses carefully thought out as I lay awake each night preparing for the coming day. There have even been moments when I’ve asked myself, “Krista, if such and such happened … What would you do? What would you say?” in the off chance such an event ever randomly did happen. Bottom line—I find comfort in the ability to remain poised and collected.

And so, since I plan, my adulthood was set in order way back in childhood. I had thought it all through, visualized it, written it down, and discussed it freely as though my name was Fate. I would go to college, become a high-school English teacher, get married when I was twenty-one, start having children when I was twenty-three, return to the Carolina coast and build our first home when I was twenty-five—for which I have all the color swatches, upholstery samples, furniture styles, and blue prints neatly filed—and then, finally, after working so hard to plan and accomplish, I would confidently walk up to adulthood, calmly introduce myself, and say, “I am here. I have arrived. I am now an adult.” After all that’s what adulthood is isn’t it?

Well. I’m thirty. I’m single. I have no children, and while I am a college graduate, I majored in journalism and work for a recording company in marketing. I live in Utah, and I am a renter. Please don’t misunderstand, I have a wonderful life and incredible opportunities, but somewhere along the way, adulthood tiptoed his way behind me (of course it wasn’t me who raced ahead of him), and it is he who taps me on the shoulder—every day in fact.

Despite my countless hours planning, despite my firm and adamant discussions with the future about how it was supposed to turn out, “it” didn’t listen and I don’t think I ever became an adult. It became me.

But if I was forced to pin-point a specific moment, maybe it was the morning I woke up to find a wrinkle in my smile and I raced to my nearest Mary Kay consultant to buy every anti-aging creme, serum, lotion, and spray she had in stock.

Or maybe it was the day they offered me a full-time job and I found myself diving head first into the depths of health insurance, salary bids, and dental plans. Maybe it was the day my dad handed me my taxes and said he wasn’t declaring me as a dependent nor was he filing them for me anymore. Or what about the time I went on vacation, paid for the whole thing myself, didn’t tell anyone I was leaving, and didn’t have to make sure it was OK.

Perhaps it was that hot summer day after graduating when I went looking for my first real place—you know, the non-student, unfurnished, fifty-percent chance your neighbor’s crazy housing. After my first appointment with a landlord I slowly climbed into my car, rested my head on my steering wheel, and crumbled as I watched my plans plunge into a tiny puddle on the floor, because I hadn’t thought to prepare for how it might feel to look for my first “home” … alone. I hadn’t thought to plan Plan B. Nobody told me to plan Plan B.

But then there was also that business meeting where I was the only girl surrounded by men my father’s age and I had to tell them how things were going to happen. Or it might have been the day I bought a bed, or the day I bought a couch, or the day I bought a vacuum cleaner. Surely you’re an adult when you buy your own vacuum cleaner. Or maybe it was that afternoon when I gave serious thought to retirement and staring my 401-K.

Maybe it was that time I caught a glance of myself in the rear view mirror and my breath caught in my throat because I looked so much like my mother. Maybe it was when 40 didn’t seem so old. Maybe it was the day I fell in love. Maybe it was the day he fell out of love. Maybe it was the day I finally realized he had never loved.

Who knows? But I am coming to the conclusion however, that adulthood has nothing to do with the house, the job, the husband, or even the upholstery. And it probably has nothing to do with age either. Perhaps, just maybe, it has everything to do with not knowing, knowing that you don’t know, and admitting that you don’t.

I really don’t know.

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I Cannot Seem to Get Enough

I might be slightly obsessed.


But just slightly.

Everyday, upon returning home from a long day of sitting under florescent lights in front of the luminous glow of a computer, I peek in on our hanging baskets filled with fuchsias. We’ve struggled with hanging baskets in the past–they need daily watering since they’re not in the ground–and we are determined that this year’s blooms will live.

After watering the fuchsias, I take a walk along the veggie bed. The peas, our sweet little peas, are thriving–growing up, up up!

The broccoli is about to take over the world. The spinach is so green, Oz is envious. We lost one lettuce, but the other three heads happily add their crisp, sweet crunch to my daily turkey sandwich. The carrots have finally sprouted, as have the squash. Our cucumbers are coming back to life and the tomatoes–well, the tomatoes continue to climb and tease me with notions of what will soon be born from their blossoms, then cradled in their branches. They know they’re my favorites and they grin at my impatience, soaking up every ounce of my adoration, like water from the spigot.

On to the flowers, mixed with strawberries and herbs. I dote and weed as though they were one in the same. I can’t help but tell them how lovely they are, how happy I’m that they are growing, and what a wonderful job they are doing at it. I gurgle over the sprouts just now emerging from the soil, so precious and new. A few are struggling so I make certain I stoop to take a bit of extra time, encouraging, massaging the earth, coaxing them upward, promising them that there will be no greater joy than in filling the measure of their creation.

Finally, I stop at the wisteria and breathe her sweetness. Her blossoms in bunches, like grapes on the vine, fill my dreams with purple. I carefully wind her wayward vines back into the lattice, giving them direction, stability, and promise.

Yes. I might be slightly obsessed. But I cannot “help but grow wise with such teachings as these.” For in this garden, I see–my own beginnings, my growth, my falters, my renewal, my trellis, my direction, my purpose.

These days, I cannot get enough of our garden.

I cannot get enough of my life.

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I Am. A Woman Of Steel.

I have tried to write this post a bazillion times since Saturday. But I write and then I delete. I write and then I delete. And I’ve got nothin’! No creative way to tell you about the excruciating, exhilarating event THAT I FINISHED on Saturday. I’ve got no metaphors, no similes, no alliteration, no onomatopoeia.

All I’ve got is this:

I Am A Woman of Steel Triathlete.

Yep! That’s right. I am a triathlete. Tri … athlete. Tri … athlete. Holy crap that feels good to say! I am so. Proud. Of. Myself. I am, a TRIATHLETE.

Saturday began for Frit and I at 5 a.m. The night before we had packed the car, packed our bags, and packed our bikes. So all we had to do was throw on our suits and eat a good breakfast. It was thrilling (and frightening) to pull out of the driveway, before the dawn, knowing we were finally headed to the race we’d been training for for weeks.

On the way, we talked about what we were excited about and what we were worried about. But mostly we talked about how happy we were that we’d decided to do this (and how glad we’d be once it was over so we could have our lives back).

We arrived at the race site just after 7:00 a.m. and each of us set out to find our assigned transition spots, lay out our gear, tag our bikes, secure our timing chips to our ankles, and get a little jittery.

At 7:30 we were to be at the pool for rules and the national anthem. At 8:00 the starting alarm sounded and we were off. Well. Not really “off.” Line-up is based on self-seeding and since neither of us are professional, we were near the back–which was great in so many ways. Since we had to wait, it allowed time to calm down, relax a bit, and make some friends.

I entered the pool at 8:50 and finished the swim in just over 9 minutes. And then it was off to the bike! Miles 1 and 7 were mega hills and I struggled. I was so slow. And it was hard to keep feelings of discouragement away as people, who I knew were on their second lap, passed me. But I kept peddling. It was all I could do, and I just tried to remember that I didn’t care how fast I was–I was only in this to finish. After an hour and twenty-five minutes, the 12.4 mile bike ride was behind me. I was tired and my legs felt like burning, rubbery, lead noodles.

Frit was waiting for me at my second transition. She had just finished the race and I was so proud of her (SO proud) but I was bugged (REALLY bugged) with myself for being so slow. She tried to encourage and cheer me on, but I was in no mood. I started toward the route start (read “stomped” toward the route start) and saw she was following me, ready to run the run again, beside me. She has a habit of doing this as some of you know. But, like I said, I was in a mood–a bugged, mad at myself, let-me-throw-myself-a-pity-party-by-myself mood. So I told her to go away (even though I was really grateful she was there). Sometimes I’m a brat like that and luckily she knows me well enough–she stayed. (Frit, thanks for always staying. I love you with all my heart.)

Now, if any of you have ever done a triathlon you can attest to the fact that the transition from bike to run is brutal. BRUtal. And the entirety of the run’s first mile was uphill. I tried to make my legs go, but I could barely get my feet high enough to clear the pavement. They would not go. And so I walked. Slowly. I was so tired and annoyed with myself and mad at my legs. And even though I thought I had cried all my tears out on the bike, I broke down as we neared the top of the hill. I mean really broke down. A sobbing, snotting, can’t-catch-my-breath breakdown. I looked at Frit and with all honesty and certainty told her, “I don’t think I can finish this. I really don’t think I can do it.” (Even now, typing that makes me tear up at the memory of how I felt at that moment.) I really didn’t think I could take one more step. And she looked at me, and with all honesty and certainty said, “Yes. You can.”

At this point, I was pretty sure I was in last place. Which sucked. I mean, my only two goals going into this were to 1) finish and 2) not be last. But somewhere in the middle of mile 2 Frit turned around and noticed a couple women walking behind me. This helped me pick up the pace just a bit–I didn’t want them to gain on me. And in picking it up, I ended up passing the woman in front of me too.

By mile 3 my legs had un-noodled, lightened a bit and I was running! We were SO close to the finish line and I felt so good. So tired. But proud and grateful and overwhelmed. At the last turn I saw a familiar blonde waiting with her two boys. She saw me at the same moment and screamed my name, jumped and cheered, and I lost it. I hadn’t known she was coming and there couldn’t have been a better surprise. She and her boys fell into line beside us and the five of us ran toward the finish together. As I entered the “grandstand” area, they all fell back as I took those final steps alone. Time seemed to slow.

If I close my eyes, I can still hear, in the far corner of my mind, the announcer at the microphone, “Here she is! Number 143! Let’s cheer her in everyone! Way to go #143! You did it!” The colors and faces are a blur, but I can hear their cheering, their clapping, their yelling, their encouraging. And there it was, three final steps and I was done. #143. Two hours and 29 minutes.

On the other side of the finish line a fellow-racer (a complete stranger!) wrapped her arms around me as I sobbed with relief, accomplishment, weariness, joy and pride. “You did it. You. Are. Amazing. You did it.” she kept saying over and over. And then there was Frit. Smiling and laughing and proud. Ready to squish any air I had left in me, out. I highly recommend that everyone find a best friend.

The rest of the day I was reeling. Who am I kidding?! I’m still reeling! I am a triathlete! A finisher! A Woman of Steel.

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36 Hours: It’s Triathlon Time


I might be in the slow lane.

But in t-minus 36 hours I should be crossing the finish line.

In the last few months I have learned so much about myself.

I have pushed my limits farther than they’ve ever been pushed.

I have cried.

I have laughed.

I have heaved.

I have cheered.

I have realized just how many insecurities I carry in my heart.

I have, on some occasions, been beaten by my fears.

But on others, I’ve socked it to ’em.

I have built callouses on my bum bones (finally!).

I have come face to face with spandex (that was not pretty).

I have new shoes, a new bike, new sunglasses, and a new helmet.

I have stronger legs.

I have run more,

and biked more than I ever have.

I have a deeper desire, and stronger willpower, to become better.

So no matter how long it takes on Saturday,

and no matter what I look like when it’s all said and done,

I will know,

that I have,

accomplished something great.


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I. Can. Do. This.

Tonight was a first. I arrived at 7:30 to find one bike still open. I looked at it hesitantly knowing the pain that awaited, the bruises on my bottom willing me to turn and walk away. Carefully, I straddled and gingerly lowered myself onto the seat, immediately bouncing back up like a sunBEAM–my sits bones still ever-tender. This happened a couple more times before I willed myself to stay put and breathe through the pain. I began to spin.

The first four miles were the longest. After six though, I knew I was more than halfway–at least for the ride. Tonight, after 11 miles on the bike, I had to immediately dive into the run. Two consecutive events in one training session. I didn’t know how my body would respond. I’d only ever done one event at a time.

After 11 miles, I could feel that I was already spent, but I climbed the stairs to the track. I thought, “I’ll just do what I can do and then be done.” I began to run … with cast-iron legs. The transition from bike to run is brutal, let me tell you. I had walkers passing me. But I was determined to run a little bit. So on I ran. And then I walked. And then I ran. This pattern repeating until I’d finished a mile and found myself balancing on the precipice of the top stair. Tired. Weighed down. Ready to just be proud of the mile and call it a day. But fighting the urge to keep going. This scrapper of an urge that came from no where.

The urge won.

I took it one lap at a time. Run. Walk. Run. Walk. Still, with legs that felt like anchors. But, after two songs on the iPod, I was rounding the bend to begin mile 3. At that point, I don’t know if it was a second wind (had there ever even been a first!) or if the metal realization that I’d just finished 2/3’s of the run caused a surge of empowering enthusiasm, but I was flying (mind you that’s a relative term). And the last mile was over in no time. (Beyonce with me on repeat the whole way. Bless her heart. I owe her big after this is all said and done.)

I had just completed an eleven mile bike ride and had run one and a half miles of a three mile run (having walked the other mile and a half). I crumbled onto the yoga mat, sweaty and shaky and spent, but filled with all the pride of the Little Engine.

Going into tonight, I honestly didn’t think I could do two full events yet. While peddling I wanted to quit multiple times. And the thought, “I can’t do this” passed through my mind like Andretti on a racetrack. But around mile 2 on the run, something snapped and I put the kabash on all negative thinking. I only allowed I CAN. I only pictured finishing. And it made all the difference.

As I reached for my toes stretched out in front of me, loosening the tension that builds after 2 hours of pounding, I found myself running my hands over the flushed skin on my legs. Caressing. Stroking. Massaging. Loving this body I’ve hated for so long. Proud of what it did for me tonight. And slowly the tears began to fall, like cherry blossoms in the wind.

I can do this.

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Take That, Fool

It’s still too cold to train for the triathlon outside. So Frit and I have been relying on the local Rec Center for all our equipment/training needs. They have an indoor competition length pool, indoor track, and spin bikes.

Training has been going well. It’s so hard (SO HARD), but we can each see progress, little by little. Our endurance is up. Our strength is greater. Our bodies are responding. It’s honestly an amazing experience full of ups and downs, successes and struggles, blisters and callouses, spasms and cramps, facing fears head on, and overcoming beliefs about the limits of our abilities.

Tonight, the conversation between me and the bike went something like this:

Me: You listen here. I don’t care that your seat is the size of a staircase railing. I don’t care that it’s halfway up my bum causing such excruciating pain (still after weeks into this?) that I sometimes think it’s causing permanent damage. I don’t care, that this entire time, I’ve been thinking I’ve been doing my 11 miles in 28 minutes, when in reality you’ve been calculating my distance in kilometers, meaning I now have another 15 minutes to go. I don’t care that 5 minutes ago I was ready to throw in the towel when I realized my mistake and I’ve only been doing 7 miles this entire time. I don’t care that it almost made me cry. I don’t care that you made me doubt my ability to do this for a minute. Cuz you know what? It was only for a minute. And you’re not going to win. You know why? Cuz I’m a survivor. Yeah. That’s right. So you can take your insufferable pencil seat and stuff it. (no pun intended). I’m not getting off. I’m going to crank your resistance up so high you won’t know what hit you. And watch this, my cadence won’t even drop. Cuz remember? I’m a survivor.

Then I blasted Beyonce and Destiny’s other Children, closed my eyes, and sang each chorus (in a loud whisper so people wouldn’t think I was too crazy) at the bike. And when I was done, and had gone my full 11 miles, I got off, looked at the bike and said, “Yeah. Take that, fool.”


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Just Call Me Patty

As you know, I am in training for a triathlon (82 days. But who’s counting?). Now, part of a good training program is taking time for some good ‘ol stretching. Stretching increases flexibility, prevents injury, lends to greater range of motion, is thought to improve muscle recovery and athletic performance, as well as enhance respiratory functions.

Well, if that really is the case (and it is), I’m going to stretch my triceps tonight with a good, hearty pat on the back. Because today? Today was a good day. And I’ve recently decided that I’m going to hold a nightly celebration for myself. All too often I get annoyed with myself at all the things I didn’t do, that I was supposed to do, that I forget to congratulate myself on all the stuff I did do. I won’t bore you with the celebration points every night, but tonight? Tonight, by golly, you’re comin’ to the party!

Pat on the back #1: I didn’t eat one ounce of sugar today. Even when the almond m&m’s were crying out from the candy bowl, begging me to partake, I said, “No, no, no, you little morsel of joy. You just be quiet. Our days of unabashed, frivolous merriment are over. Over I say. We’re breaking up because I’m in love with the spinach.” And then me and the spinach had a steamy, dreamy evening together.

Pat on the back #2: I drank all my water. All 96 ounces. Whew!

Pat on the back #3: I went to the gym tonight even though I was super tired, and it was kind of late (for me). After Frit and I spent Family Night at Barton Creek, we graced Gold’s Gym with our presence and I and worked out for a good solid hour. It helped that The Bachelor was on the TV in front of my machine. And even though I gave up that guilty (but oh-so-beloved-and-very-much-missed) pleasure a few months ago, I figure it’s all a matter of give and take right? I mean, if The Bachelor’s Women Tell All episode will keep me on a cardio machine for an hour, well then I’ll watch it. One habit at a time Krista, one habit at a time. (p.s. And who’s SO happy ’bout Noelle and Fred?! I LOVE that they found each other and are together!)

Pat on the back #4: I made it to the train on time. Not a real big deal I know, but I’m all about the props to myself tonight. I mean I DID save gas and mileage and did my part to be a little more green.

Pat on the back #5: I also met some spiritual goals today that I really feel good about. And I’m so grateful for a God who’s eternally patient with our progression.

Lastly, and this isn’t so much a pat on the back as it is an observation: I am prettier after I exercise. When I got home from the gym tonight and looked in the mirror, I couldn’t help but think, “Kris, you look GREAT! Your skin is all glowey and healthy. Your eyes are brighter. And your bum is smaller. Girl, you are lookin’ somethin’ fine. You should go to the gym more often.” Now, don’t get the wrong idea here. I am just a girl looking for every possible reason to get myself to the gym. Exercise is not something I love. I wish I did. But I don’t. So if I can find mantra for when I don’t want to go, i.e. I am prettier after I exercise, well then I am going to tell it to myself every day and believe it.

OK the party is over. Thanks for coming. Take the m&m’s on your way out please.

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12 Weeks

was our first night …
of triathlon training.
All i have to say …
is that this …
is gonna be ca-ra-zy.
we gotta get up …
E.A.R.L.Y …
to do our core training exercises …
so that when game day comes …
we look …
like …

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What I’m Holding Out For [An Open Letter to My Baby Sister]

Dear Kaycie,

Talking to you tonight got me to thinking. Thinking about where I was when I was your age. I know you might not think so, but lately, as you’ve gotten older, I forget that you really are only 21. You just seem so grown up these days. But like I said, talking to you tonight got me to thinking about time. Thinking about the eight years that separate where you are, from where I am, and what happened in between.

Lets just say nothing happened the way I saw it in my head. When I was 21.

And I know that maybe this isn’t what you want to hear tonight. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear back then. And maybe it won’t be what you want to hear tomorrow, or the day after that. But maybe in a week, or a month, when your heart has quieted just a bit, you’ll be in a place where you’ll see that this is more than me, your big sister saying, “well, when I was your age.” Because it is. It’s so much more than that.

But in order to get to the “more than that,” I have to say…

When I was your age

I lived in the Foxwood Apartments on the west side of University. I was a junior at BYU. And I liked a boy. I don’t think I ever told you about him. His name was Troy and he had a really cute bum. It makes me smile to remember that. Whenever Katie and I saw him from behind, we would sing (truth be told, we would actually rap) that line from the Salt-N-Pepa song, “you’re packed, and you’re stacked, ‘specially in the back. Brothuh, wanna thank your mothuh for a butt like that” (to ourselves of course). Ha ha. I really did love that bum. But I digress.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. I lived at Foxwood, was finishing my junior year, and I liked a boy. We were good friends and we hung out, but at the end of the year, he decided he liked one of my friends, and just like that my little heart was crushed. Looking back, I wonder why it hurt so much. It was just a silly crush. But that’s the beauty of time I suppose. It offers perspective. Regardless, at that time, it did hurt. And it hurt bad. And that’s ok. Don’t let anyone tell you different. It’s ok that it hurts. And it’s ok that you need to cry. I cried. I cried a whole heaping lot. Ultimately, I think I cried not because of what it was, but because of what it represented. Which was me, once again, not winning the boy. Not being married. Not getting what I’d always seen myself getting by the time I was 21.

After a few more tears and a long, hot shower, I drove up to the temple to read my scriptures. I soon came to a verse that I can honestly say, though cliché in every way, changed my life. But it’s true. It was in Mosiah 24 where the people of Alma are weighed down with heavy burdens and they are pouring out their hearts to God that He’ll deliver them. And the Lord comes to them and says:

Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs … and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

Kayc, this isn’t my point, but I must, like the people of Alma, stand as a witness that the Lord God does visit His people in their afflictions. I know you know that. But it’s easy to forget. He visited me that night and on many more occasions since then. I can’t count the times he has eased the burden and given me strength to carry it. And I know He will do the same for you.

After reading that scripture I was at peace. It wasn’t dramatic. It wasn’t a surging rush of calm. It was just quiet. And I knew it was ok. It still hurt (bad). But it was ok. And then I bowed my head. And prayed the prayer I’d not yet had the courage to say. “Am I supposed to go on a mission?”

My life changed dramatically that night, when I finally bent my will to His. It’s been a long time since I’ve thought about that prayer on the hill. It’s good to remember.

Serving that mission was a jumping off point to an amazing life. It provided a foundation for building block upon building block of experiences and opportunities. But before there could be a foundation, there had to be a place to put it. An open space. A space that was dug and created by the humility that came from not getting what I thought I wanted.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying I think you should serve a mission. Only you know that. I just want you to know, that I know, that sometimes the present hurts. And that sometimes the future seems dark. But if you can just hold on one more minute, read one more verse, say one more prayer, I know, the path will lighten. And I know that the road, the one He leads you down, will be filled with more joy and happiness than if you’d gotten what you wanted.

No, my life isn’t everything I want it to be yet. Even since my mission, I’ve had mashed-up, broken hearts. I’ve told the Lord time and time again what I want to have happen, only to be given something different. I’ve asked Him, “Why? Why me?” And I’ve cried some more too. Yes, I’m lonely sometimes. I used to think that I wouldn’t wish my current situation on anyone, but I don’t think that way anymore. Because in my current situation? …

I’m learning patience. I’m learning faith. I’m learning hope. I’m learning who He is and where He is and just how much I really need Him. He and I … we’re getting closer every day because, at the end of the day, He’s all I have. And when it’s all said and done, when I finally get what I want most, I’m certain there will never be another wife or mother who loves being a wife and mother more than me. Because I had to wait for it. Because I know what it’s like to be without it.

And in the meantime, I learn. And allow myself to be led to glorious things–things I never could have done and places I never could have gone, had I been given what I wanted when I wanted it.

And because of that, this is what I know … that sometimes, before the joy, there’s perhaps a bit of sorrow. And often before the blessing, there’s sometimes a bit of emptiness. It’s like the tide. Before it rolls in, it must roll out. And the sun–before it rises, it has to set. But, my sweet sister, the light always comes. It always comes. And that’s what I’m holding out for.

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