Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I started this post awhile ago, so it's sort of old news. Oh well.

I had an earthquake for an alarm clock today.

I jolted awake, still in a complicated dream. Then I felt another jolt and my mind flashed back to my elementary school days, when we talked about earthquakes. Then my sensible side kicked in and decided I was imagining it. I laid back down and wondered if the trembling was my own. Deciding it wasn't, I got out of bed and used that fine earthquake training to look for a door jamb*. I wasn't so fully clothed and I also wasn't so fully awake, but I was aware enough to realize that my room is a bit of a death trap. After it all stopped and I got back in bed, it took me awhile to fall asleep again.

My co-workers today confirmed that indeed, Pico Rivera experienced a 4.4 magnitude earthquake at 4:04 am. That's a lot of 4s.

The funny thing is that right before I fell asleep last night, I had the thought that since I wasn't fully clothed, if anything happened it would be awkward to run around in my skivvies. I usually sleep in full pajama armor, so I decided I would grab a nearby sweatshirt in the event of an emergency and call it good. I don't usually run through my emergency plan before I go to bed, in case you're wondering.

That's probably just a coincidence, right? I wonder. I wonder if my instincts were kicking in.

I find instinctive behavior so fascinating. It blows my mind that I always know when a phone call is bringing me bad news. It's like the phone rings differently, signaling me to gear up for what's coming next. The other night my roommate came home kind of late, and something about the way the garage door sounded made me wonder if she was ok. So I went and asked her. She was physically ok, but had had a hard day and was in tears about it. How in the world does a garage door translate into somebody needing emotional help? No idea.

That's not to say my instincts are always correct, or even noticed. But I find it amazing how many times I've known something was about to happen before it does. Not in a visionary sort of way, but...just somehow. The question, though, is how you know when it's instinct (and thus actionable) and when it's imagination. The other night I walked to my favorite taco place a few blocks away, and as I sat down to eat, a man came up and made conversation. He asked if I lived around here and I found myself saying "Yeah, I just walk over" before I even thought about the fact that he was a stranger and I was alone. The whole remainder of my meal was spent wondering if the creepy feeling building in me was a warning instinct or just paranoia. I sincerely expected this man to wait for me outside in the dark and follow me home. But he didn't.

So how do you know? That's my question for you, dear readers.

* Turns out, the old "door jamb" method is very outdated. Coming from earthquake-free (so far) Utah, I had no idea. I wonder what else I'm totally unprepared for.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Driving Tips

Anyone who’s driven with me knows I’m no fantastic driver. So, I offer this advice not as an expert but as one who spends WAY too much time in the car. Today, all my sad experience benefits humanity. You’re welcome.

On food:
—The following foods are not good to eat while driving, as they carry a high risk of getting all over you and your car, and/or causing accidents: 

1) Ice cream cones
2) bowls of cereal (it is recommended that passengers also abstain from eating cereal, since quick braking or the accidental jumping of curbs might send milk flying everywhere)
3) waffles with peanut butter all melted on them
4) oranges (or any fruit you have to peel)
5) Nerds
6) Anything you have to dip

Oh, and large tacos are not easily consumed during the span of one red light. The inevitable “cram” session will result in some thoroughly amazed/disgusted onlookers.

—In California and Utah: Do not wait for somebody to let you in. If you see about 2 feet of space, just violently jerk your car over and let the chips fall where they may. Never, under any circumstances, use your blinker. This only serves to indicate your next move and increase the unwillingness of the drivers around you to let you make that move.
—If you accidently cut off a car full of Mexican men, get the heck out of there. You do NOT want them to catch up to you later and throw a water balloon or something at your car, because you will think it’s a gunshot. You are racist. The resulting imagined paralysis is not good for your motor skills (which you desperately need when driving), and you will forever carry with you a haunting fear of Ogden that makes it difficult to be friends with Bruce.

Personal Hygiene/Grooming:
—If you choose to pick your nose and throw it out the window, don’t fool yourself that people don’t know what you’re doing. Everybody knows. It’s the freeway—the air is filled with exhaust, so it’s not quite balmy enough for you to be casually letting your hand rest slightly outside your window.
—When changing clothing in the car, do not park in front of your Stake President’s house, or near a playground. Especially if underclothes are involved, because sports bras and/or tights are difficult to manage in the driver’s seat, no matter how far you’ve reclined.
—Your eyeliner is best applied elsewhere. Forget the risk of not actually looking at the road you're driving on; those lines will not be straight or even make it to your eyes.

Bugs in car:

—When a spider suddenly starts crawling up the window right next to you, on the inside, the only course of action is to continue driving while leaning dangerously to the right and awkwardly cranking the manual window open with your left hand. You then might have to brace yourself and flick the offending bug through the opened window. Then breathe.

—If you should happen to have a bee in your car, heaven help you.

The best way to react is probably to steer your car to the nearest grassy knoll and jump out, a la Jenny Morrow. The car will keep going and probably kill someone, but at least that flying demon won’t sting you.

General conduct:
—Sing really loud and dance violently while driving. This not only enhances your drive; it serves as entertainment for those weary drivers all around you.

—Should you decide to play a joke on your friend in another car that involves removing your shirt so her homophobia is thoroughly piqued, make sure that her car is the one that pulls up next to you at the red light. If it isn’t, just sit there casually as if you always drive in your bra and bra alone, instead of clumsily attempting to replace your shirt while still wearing a seat belt.

—Just because you can’t see other drivers when their headlights are shining directly on you does not mean they can’t see you. In fact, they can see you very well. So if you are yelling obscenities at them, violently shaking your head as if to escape the bright lights, or throwing any sort of hand gestures in their direction, they will see this. They will then look at you like you should be committed.

That concludes this week’s lesson. I hope it has been educational!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The sanctity of running

Whenever someone finds out that I've gone for a run, they inevitably follow up with the question "So, are you a runner?" I usually say no. I don't really consider myself a runner, because although I run sometimes, I'm not one of those people with the Running Gene. There is, beyond a shadow of a scientific doubt, a running gene. In fact, the chromosome looks like this:
You can't argue with science.

Anyway, I don't have it. I know that jogs never accidentally turn into 10 mile runs. I feel every single step I run, and I want to stop pretty much the whole time I'm running. In short, it's a sort of masochistic hobby.

Yet, I find myself selling people on running, all the time. And, I look back on any long distance training I've done with a combination of warm nostalgia and winces of pain. But mostly nostalgia. So that got me thinking: What is it that I love about the run? (Not the runs; the RUN. Singular.)

I've been feeling lately that there is a much stronger connection between the physical and the spiritual world than we realize or appreciate. When you think about it, a lot of what we practice in the course of a day is about mastering the physical so it's more in harmony with the spiritual. I try to not eat every cookie I bake, both because I'll get fat and because self control is good for me. I try not to make out with every boy I see, for lots of reasons: That's slutty, I don't have time, and self control is good for me. So you see, there is something really amazing about harnessing the power of the body for good. When I run, I'm very aware of my body (Candice, that part was for you). I can feel the weak spots and points of fatigue, and I can also feel improvement over time. It's such a gratifying thing to notice those things and push through them, or to use some sort of technique to bolster suffering areas. On a good run, everything gets quiet, and very simple--I have a goal and only have room in my brain to concentrate on what I need to do to reach it. And while I may be cursing my running shoes the whole time, it's pretty cool when I finish what I started.

When I started running, I couldn't fathom going more than a mile without stopping. I really couldn't. And then one day I ran a half marathon. (That would sound much more Ka-POW if I could say "and then one day I ran a marathon." But, kids, I'm not a runner, remember? I'll take what I can get.) The only way that happened was through this process of paying attention to the physical and helping shape it to do what I wanted it to.

Taken literally, this realization is interesting for me because I wonder what else I could do if I worked at it. But it gets even more interesting--and empowering--when I think of it on a deeper level. If it's possible to mold this body into something I choose, then it's possible to mold me--my spirit, my mental state--into something better too. I think that's what I like about running. Even though it's really hard and takes FOREVER to make anything happen, over time I can look back and see the cumulative effects of my efforts, and they are incredible when compared to where I started. That's the point of life, isn't it? It's hard to feel any results of hard work when you're living it, minute by minute. But keeping at it puts you in the position to look back later and see how far you've come. Running, a metaphor for life? Man, I sound like such a nerd. I don't even run that much, so this is funny. Anyway...

I think it's amazing how intricately designed this probationary period is for us. With our bodies in this world, we have a perfect laboratory for learning how to become like God. He controls the physical elements in a way that mirrors all of their spiritual implications, and each of us has a piece of that work to practice on ourselves. I like the idea of life as one big, long race with myself. And at the end, hopefully I'll cross the finish line just like I did in the half marathon (remember, HALF marathon): Super dramatically, full of weeping and wanting to throw up, but knowing I did everything I could to get there. I feels really good to hold nothing back and complete a task with absolutely nothing left.

End monologue.