Pre-Marathon Utah Vacation

Oh, I totally forgot to write about that marathon I ran in Utah last month. Halfway because I’m slammed up to my eyeballs with schoolwork and work-work and when I’m not doing that, I sleep or eat. Anyway, we spent all summer training for the Big Cottonwood Marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah. We planned it like a “race-cation” where we’d go before the race and explore the state and city, then finish off the experience with the race. And I’m super glad we did it that way.

Seductive Canyon Looks

Ladies…

We started off flying in to Salt Lake City late on a Tuesday night and renting a car there. I was an absolute nightmare on the flight. Seriously, Sean’s never flown with me, and he was truly in for a treat. It was a rough landing, and I was sweating through all the clothes I was wearing, and audibly panicking about the descent. I kept telling the pilot to figure his shit out, as we swayed back & forth above the Utah mountains in the dark, not so delicately gliding toward the landing strip. Sean kept telling me to breathe & to close the window, but I felt like the window was my only semblance of control. If I was going to die, I was going to see it coming! Spoiler alert: We lived, and I looked like a total asshole.

Don't act like you're not impressed

Don’t act like you’re not impressed

Before the trip, we requested an SUV, and they gave us a super mega fancy Jeep Cherokee with eco-drive. That is how rich people must live! We got to our hotel somehow & fell asleep almost instantly, because it was almost midnight East Coast time, and we are VERY early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of people.

Rich People Car

Look how rich we seemed!

The next day we headed out to make the trek to the Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s a 5ish-hour drive from Salt Lake City all along the nothingness of Utah. We drove and drove… and droveanddroveanddrove until we finally made it to the National Park. There was about one-half of a gas station along the way, and they pretty much charged $500 a gallon, but it’s ok because they had a designated gas station dog. Once we arrived Sean made friends with the other National Park people, and then we filled up our water bottles to head out to hike the natural bridges. (Side note: The automatic water bottle fillers in airports and throughout Utah were SO COOL. We need them everywhere. Think of all the plastic we’d save!)

driving

Duck face!

I was not looking forward to this part of the vacation at first, to be honest, because I was afraid it would mess up my marathon. But when we got there, I was SO glad we went. It was gorgeous. We hiked each of the big natural bridges (there were 3!) and then went on a mini-hike to see some old ruins. There were so many steep ladders and weird climbs, but it was so beautiful. I wont inundate you with pictures, but here are a few.

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That night we stayed up late to go to the astronomy lesson where the park guide got out a HUGE telescope. The park is a Certified Dark Park, meaning it’s far enough in the middle of no where to not have any light pollution. The park ranger got out a HUUUUUUGE telescope, and we saw the Milky Way, Saturn, the moon (through a filter because it was SO bright), and other clusters of stars. It was awesome!

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We rented the SUV for this part of the adventure, because Sean’s big plan was to sleep in the car and head back the next day. Natural Bridges only has camping, unless you want to drive an hour or so outside for sketchy hotels. But his plan didn’t work out for him as it’s hard to sleep in a car when you’re 6’2 and bony as hell, so he got us headed out around 2am. Yes, 2am. That’s actually fine for us, since we normally get up at 4EST.

sean

 

How you look after zero sleeps

So we headed back to Salt Lake City, and played tourist at the Natural History Museum while we waited for our hotel room to open. The museum was super cool, with photography, American Indian, and dinosaur exhibits, but it was swarming with youths on field trips which really killed my vibe.

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We were exhausted after that, and headed to our hotel when our room was finally ready. The next day we visited Mormonville, and were almost converted at least 10 times. They got so excited that I kept asking questions, and then you shoulda seen the disappointment on their faces when I said I was just a nosy jerk… But we saw the temple and the tabernacle and learned about Mormon heritage. Then we had lunch at the famous Red Iguana where we tried mole for the first time. I don’t know what the big deal is honestly. I’d rather just have salsa.

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The next day was the marathon, so we had cheaps Whole Foods pasta for dinner, and headed to bed early, ready for our 4am wake up!

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“All this happened, more or less.”

Since starting school and my new-new job, I’ve learned to REALLY accept the pain in the butt that is Atlanta traffic. I currently commute about 2.5-4 hours out of my day, depending on the holiday and how many idiots get into wrecks on the side of the highways. That’s a lot of time to waste, and since I have an allergic reaction to wasting time, I decided to stop it. Instead, I have started downloading audiobooks to listen to while I sit with everyone else on the planet trying to get to work or get home.

So I figured I’d review a few of the audiobooks I’d listened to so far.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm GladwellThis nonfiction piece was narrated by Gladwell, and even had an interview with him at the end about the book and his research for it. I really liked this one, because it turned the American, or Western world’s notion of what is success and what it takes to be successful onto it’s head. My friend from my old-new job actually mentioned this book a few times, so when I saw it in the iTunes audiobook store, I had to buy it. Gladwell talks about how SO many factors play a part in the success of rich and famous people, of people we consider geniuses and legends. From the Audible.com description,  “We pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.” People are more than their perceived effort in an area. I recommend it. It’s a great listen, and you’re full of so many facts afterward. Plus, this book/audiobook serves as a great discussion piece.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

This is How You Lose HerThis is a collection of short stories that was in the $5 section of iTunes audiobooks. I’ll be honest that this wasn’t really on any of my lists, but I’d heard a review for it on NPR a while back and the cover caught my attention again. The book is written really well,

“See, many months ago, when Magda was still my girl, when I didn’t have to be careful about almost anything, I cheated on her with this chick who had tons of eighties freestyle hair. Didn’t tell Magda about it, either. You know how it is. A smelly bone like that, better off buried in the backyard of your life.”

But I can’t say the perspective or dialogues were ones that I typically read. In fact, there were times when I was downright embarrassed sitting alone in my car, hoping no one else in traffic could hear some of the things my audiobook was saying. There were plenty of funny parts where I caught myself laughing alone in my car, though. And also very poignant stories, like a few about the narrator’s brother going from the neighborhood macho man to a man slowly dying from cancer. It’s not a book I would typically read, and to be honest, if I had been reading it instead of listening, I might have quit the book midway. But I finished it because there’s not much more to do when you’re sitting in traffic. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it was something new.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

slaughterhouse fiveA classic I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read yet, I always had the intention of picking up Slaughterhouse Five but never committed. Until I found it in the $5 audiobook section, and it was fate. This book was excellent. It was hilarious. It was thought-provoking. It was full of witty and interesting one-liners. When a character is on morphine in the book, another comments, “How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.” When speaking about a character who has had to essentially take over her family at just 21, the narrator quips, “All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet.” And this one,

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes.

It’s the story of a WWII veteran, Billy Pilgrim as he travels through time and space and war and life. And Vonnegut’s descriptions of people, places, situations, everyday life don’t seem as contrived as those of current-day authors. This audiobook also had an interview with the author at the end, but I honestly could not handle how old Kurt Vonnegut sounded during the interview so I didn’t finish that part. I absolutely recommend the book, though. Read it. Listen to it. Then do it again.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

the curious incident of dog in the night-timeA newer piece I’d seen in stores, I finally committed to this one when it was in the $5 section of iTunes audiobooks. I read the description and did a little listen of the audiobook sample, but I kinda of went out on a ledge with this one too. I liked it more than This is How You Lose Her. But anyway, it’s about 15-year-old Christopher who has a version of Aspergers. He lives with his father in Swindon, a town in England. The story begins with Christopher going on a walk in the middle of the night to find his neighbor’s dog (a black poodle named Wellington–going to name a dog Wellington one day) has been killed in the yard with a “garden fork.” (I realized later that it’s a pitch fork. How terrible.) Christopher reads a lot, so he decides to be his own kind of Sherlock Holmes and investigate the dog-murder. The book has a great perspective on the point of view of people with autism spectrum disorders:

“My memory is like a film. That is why I am really good at remembering things, like the conversations I have written down in this book, and what people were wearing, and what they smelled like, because my memory has a smelltrack which is like a soundtrack.”

The author claims not to be an expert on autism spectrum disorders, but from my experience (obviously as a person who does NOT have autism, so take this with my grain of salt, please), I think he nails it with Christopher. But the book also is a story about families. I liked it well enough. Not the worst, not the best.

So, that’s what I’ve got so far. I also listened to the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox, but that was for class and not for fun. What audiobooks would you recommend? I’m thinking of joining Audible since I’m obviously consuming them quickly.

WWJD? Probably STFU

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

WARNING: This post will probably piss you off. There is cursing and ranting. Leave now if you don’t want to deal with it.

Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook that I absolutely had to steel myself from word-vomiting all over a timeline to refute. It hurt deep down in my gut not to respond to this ridiculous rant of someone on a social media outlet that has no real-life repurcussions. I hate that a stupid social media post can do that to me.

I am a firm believer that there’s no point in arguing on Facebook, which is why I chose to write a blog about this instead. I know that NO person’s opinion was ever changed via a Facebook debate. Social media arguments are the equivalent of saying, “I know this!” “Oh yeah, well, I know that.” Etc.

But this is my freaking blog, so I’m going to say what I want about who I want. And you can feel free to exit/unfollow/unfriend me at any point (in fact, if you disagree with this, then I welcome it), but I do realize that no opinion was ever changed through an internet argument.

That said, one of my Facebook connections posted that she was absolutely infuriated at seeing someone in Wal-Mart use food stamps to buy junk food while this person had a designer handbag and other fancy (probably expensive) accessories. Over 80!!! (EIGHTY) people gave this status the “thumbs up” of solidarity, and other people commented on how proud they were of the poster and that the person with food stamps obviously “didn’t want to look poor.” It’s important to me to note that the person who posted this comment is a public school teacher who also presents herself as a conservative (duh) Christian on Facebook.

The post about people buying junk food with food stamps they pulled from their designer purses gets me for a few reasons. Firstly, the majority of people who have opinions on poverty, government assistance, and nutrition while poor HAVE NEVER BEEN POOR. God forbid someone uses your “hard earned money” to feed their children. And, News Flash! Most people who are poor DO NOT WANT TO BE POOR. So, yes, the person who commented that the woman with the designer handbag doesn’t want to look poor, is probably right. Because, guess what. NO ONE wants to “look poor.”

As a kid raised by a single mother who worked her ass off to give us everything we NEEDED and as much as she could of what we wanted, I can tell you that I desperately didn’t want to look poor in middle and high school. I would have given years off my life at that point to wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothes or new Nike shoes. People don’t want to look poor because of assholes that make comments like that, because you are inherently judging people who look poor versus those who don’t.

BUT! What people often don’t realize is that you can buy fancy-looking things for unfancy prices. When I was in middle school I remember getting a Roxy and Limited Too shirt at the Goodwill and thinking I was going to be hot shit. I looked like my peers (the popular kids) whose parents spent much more on their wardrobes than we could afford. Guess what else. You can get a designer handbag as a –gasp– knockoff for tons less. So that way, you don’t look poor except when you have to take your food stamps out under the judging eyes of those people who claim to love their neighbors as themselves, but still manage to judge you in solidarity with their Facebook friends.

Similarly, I know you won’t believe this, so prepare your facial expression of incredulity. But not everyone is born poor and stays poor forever. OMG, right? (Though many people stay poor because there isn’t really the opportunity to “move up” like the American Dream likes to think there is.) People don’t plan their whole lives on mooching off of your “hard earned money.” It happens suddenly. It happens often. People who could once afford their Mercedes and Coach handbags, are suddenly hit with job loss or devastating family illnesses that bankrupt them, and they struggle to just make it by. And you know what, when you have a paid off car that is reliable and works, you don’t sell it to purchase something that you may not be able to count on to get you to doctor appointments or job interviews. When you have 1 purse, you don’t go buy new ones. You use the one that works and won’t rip after years of use.

Similarly, nutrition when you’re in poverty isn’t the same as when you can buy all the health foods you want, shove them in your nice refrigerator (that requires a paid electricity bill), and forget about them while you eat Chik-Fil-A for lunch every day, then toss all that salad when it goes bad. Junk food, which we ALL know is terrible for you, is cheaper in the long run for people in poverty. Cooking requires electricity, pots and pans, refrigeration, and a kitchen in which to cook. Did you know that when you live in a shelter you sometimes have to take EVERYTHING you own with you when you leave? There’s no where to refrigerate your organic blueberries and hydroponic lettuce. Not only that, but the government subsidizes the exact foods that junk foods are chock full of (which is why they’re SO MUCH CHEAPER): soy, corn, and wheat. That’s why junk food is cheaper.

Now to the final point, which I’ve made before in a similar, previous blog about conservative healthcare. When we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” I bet the answer for this particular situation is not, “Judge people and ask His friends to get in on the hating.” I’m pretty sure Jesus would have HELPED. Like he did throughout his whole life as described in the Bible. Last time I checked, Jesus was never like, “Gawd! This is ridiculous. All these jerks taking advantage of my hard-earned, wicked-awesome celestial powers.” Nope. He probably would have been like, “Hey, I saw you’re struggling. How can I help you with

  • nutrition
  • job training
  • babysitting
  • money management
  • something else that could get you back on your feet?”

The fact that people making these comments, having these thoughts, expressing these opinions, are people who are teaching the kids of tomorrow is also disheartening. I have seen other teachers–even teachers who taught ME in high school–post stuff like this on Facebook too. A former teacher of mine once posted something about people with food stamps “mooching” off her paycheck. I thought to myself, “Don’t you know that a good chunk of the students sitting in your classroom are the people ‘mooching’ off your paycheck?” How do you think students would feel knowing their teachers resent them for being able to eat. But realize, too, that not everyone is out to get YOU, out to steal your hard-earned paycheck (which, let’s face it, is NOT as hard-earned as you like to claim it is), out to turn the world into a communist resort.

Caveat: Yes, I know not every teacher, person in the grocery store, Christian, conservative, etc. is like this.

I realize that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and yes, even I am guilty of judging people for things too. And I’m absolutely not saying we should censor people, but I think it’s time for a mindset change (especially for people who are supposed to be teaching the next generation!). It’s ridiculous of ANY of us to judge ANYONE when we don’t know their circumstances.

Woman using a whole shopping cart for 1 can of paint at Home Depot? Maybe she had breast cancer surgery and isn’t supposed to carry anything.

Overweight single man buying microwave dinners in the grocery store? Maybe he’s a single dad working 2 jobs to try to support his children and doesn’t have the free time time to cook or exercise, but still wants to try to eat better than fast food.

Woman in WalMart pulling food stamps out of her coach handbag to pay for junk food? Maybe she was a stay at home mom whose husband lost his job in IT (which is one industry among many that it’s really hard to get back into when you’re past a certain age). So she has no marketable job skills and neither can get a job after hundreds of applications, and is using her family’s food stamps on soda and potato chips for a small family Labor Day party.

Asshole on Facebook trying to make yourself feel better about judging people who know nothing about by crowd-sourcing likes and “atta girls?” Maybe you should shut your damn mouth and try to do something to help instead. WWJD?