Santa Monica is the GOAT

Life

Alysha Tsuji

I wrote the following for the student-produced 2015 Pepperdine Housing Guide. Traditionally, the articles within it haven’t made their way online, so I thought I’d share it here.

I’m going to start with the obvious: Malibu is not a college town. Malibu is the antithesis of a college town. It is isolated, it is quiet, it despises chain store establishments.

Pepperdine, as you all know, is in Malibu. I chose to live on campus for the majority of my time as a student. I spent my freshman year in Hayes House, my sophomore year abroad in the London house, my junior year in Lovernich and part of my senior year in Drescher.

I moved off campus to Santa Monica in the middle of senior year. I thought it would be horrible. The idea seemed scary at first. However, what I learned is that change happens, change is inevitable and change is awesome.

Santa Monica changed my life.

Leaving campus was like a breath of fresh air — the cleanest, freshest air. Malibu had slowly started to suffocate me. Sure, there were perks to living on campus. It’s cool to see Gerard Butler at the Starbucks down the street and to be a 10-minute walk away from classes. But moving brought me a pleasantly surprising sense of peace.

The people of Santa Monica are quirky in a charming way (especially the people at the Starbucks on Wilshire), everything is in walking distance and, if you split apartment costs, the rent is affordable (when put in direct comparison with Pepperdine housing charges). Plus, out here I can’t get expelled for having an unopened bottle of wine in my fridge.

Late Nights

The only asterisk to the overwhelmingly long list of pros is the drive. Although, it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve yet to run into more than 20 to 30 minutes of light traffic. The one exception was Jan. 15 when men’s basketball played Gonzaga. I sat on PCH for 1.5 hours to make it to Firestone in time for tip-off, but that was an anomaly. After the game, ESPN reported that Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said about the traffic jam, “I’ve done this 26 times and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

PCH is amiable most of the time if you give it a chance.

Now you may be wondering who I’m living with, how I went about finding an apartment way out in the mysterious lands of Santa Monica in the middle of the year and whether or not I’ll have to keep my lease for 12 months.

My move happened to be unexpected, so I’m living solo in a studio (I didn’t have time to find roommates). Finding the studio simply required a strong sense of urgency and a little bit of Googling. As far as the lease, I managed to score a shortened 5-month lease for a 12-month price on a special holiday deal.

The act of suddenly shifting cities wasn’t particularly fun, though. The abrupt change of location was stressful (it involved me sleeping on an L-shaped couch for a month), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If you’re contemplating living situation plans for the next school year, just know that Pepperdine housing, Villa Malibu, Malibu Villa, the Stinkies and other Malibu-localized accommodations aren’t your only options.

Soak in the college experience and create bonds with your classmates, yet don’t fear stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing freedom.

Sorry I Couldn’t Concentrate During Church Worship This Morning

Life, Sports

Hillsong LA

A tall guy in a backwards snapback snuck into the Belasco Theatre from the left of the stage in the middle of the opening worship songs during the 11 a.m. Hillsong LA service. He was non-disruptive, no one noticed.  But I did. This guy was towering over the two other men that walked in with him.

Then, I caught a side profile of him, and he really looked like Kevin Durant — as in 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant. I kept glancing over to the front row where he stood, each song passed and I tried to catch a better look.

Hillsong is similar to most Christian churches in that there is a point in the beginning where you’re urged to introduce yourself to those around you. Finally, the mysterious tall guy turned around, and surely it was Durant. While no one around me seemed to realize the great baller standing smack dab in the middle of the front row, I could recognize that face from a mile away. He left in the middle of the closing worship songs, the same way he entered. He swiftly and quietly hugged and fist bumped a few guys as he passed while exiting.

I’m guessing he was there to support the guest pastor from the New York City Hillsong, Carl Lentz. The two have photos together on both of their Instagram accounts. In the following snapshot, KD writes, “Shoutout my bruv @carllentz ! Happy birthday, love u man!”

And here’s one of the two catching some breakfast together with KD smiling.

The first reaction you may have to those photos is that this pastor is working for the wrong reasons, and that there is no way he’s a real pastor. Anderson Cooper touched on those skeptical views in a segment he did for Anderson Cooper 360º called, “Inside Hillsong’s ‘hipster’ church.” 

I challenge you to think otherwise. The way I see it, Lentz hanging out with the likes of Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields (I’m sure there are more athletes/actors/etc.) demonstrates that these big names are human. They need spiritual guidance as well.

To those who say that flashy pastors and concert-like worship sessions shouldn’t count as “church,” I ask, “Why not?” Matthew 18:20 says that God is present where two or three gather in his name. If the pastor happens to be tatted up, an NBA All-Star happens to drop in, the service happens to be held in a theater, that’s all circumstance. The truth lies in the motives, as it does in everything in life.

Anyway, Lentz gave an incredible message about Psalm 23 titled “Like it or not,” I caught a glimpse of Durant. I’m overly excited for the next NBA season, despite the fact that the 2014 NBA Draft hasn’t even happened yet. And I highly recommend Hillsong if you’re interested in checking out a church.

 

 

LA resident Farar-Griefer to run 135 miles for Multiple Sclerosis

Life, Sports

Ultramarathon runner Shannon Farar-Griefer has logged hundreds and thousands of miles in races across the country. In 2001, Farar-Griefer became the first woman in the world to double the Badwater Death Valley race (292 miles on foot).

Ultramarathons are, by definition according to Runner’s World, “anything beyond the classic 26.2-mile distance — races from increasingly popular 50Ks to 100-milers to solo crossings of continents.”

By comparison, the LA Marathon on Sunday, March 9, should be a cakewalk. But 52-year-old Farar-Griefer is nervous. In 2005, doctors diagnosed her with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), “a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system: the brain, the spinal cord and nerve fibers to the eyes,” according to the National MS Society website. MS treatments can slow the symptom progression, but there is no cure.

Shannon Farar-Griefer's brain scan from Feb. 19 showing the 60 new lesions.

Shannon Farar-Griefer’s brain scan from Feb. 19 showing the 60 new lesions.

Post-diagnosis, Farar-Griefer’s doctors encouraged her to stay active, and she had no problems following those orders. Between the time of her diagnosis and now, she says she has already gone on to run two more Death Valley races, as well as “a few more” 100-mile races, and more ultramarathons and marathons.

With three kids aged 23, 20 and 6 years old, she maintains an upbeat attitude.

“For as long as I can get up and walk and run and be healthy and have a good attitude, I want to feel like I’m in charge,” Farar-Griefer said. MS is “like when you run a race: either the race beats you or you beat it. I’m looking at it like running is a metaphor for my life.”

Even with her superhuman abilities, in the past year, she has started to feel effects of the disease and its treatments. On Feb. 19, an MRI revealed she has 60 new lesions in her brain.

She said there are days her “arms aren’t working” or she can’t get out of bed or walk or has trouble swallowing.

“It has taught me to appreciate every day. I live for every day and those days that I feel good, I’m grateful,” Farar-Griefer said. “The days that I don’t feel good, I just ride the storm out because there’s nothing you can do.”

Shannon Farar-Griefer (third from left) after running the Badwater Death Valley race in 2010.

Shannon Farar-Griefer (third from right) after running the Badwater Death Valley race in 2010.

Running for a cure

After the LA Marathon, Farar-Griefer has a more personal event marked on her calendar. She has been chosen as the runner for the 135-mile California stretch of the second annual MS Run the US Relay.

“I feel honored to be part of it. It’s such a great cause,” Farar-Griefer said. “It benefits the MS society. We’re hoping to find a cure one day. I’m looking forward to it.”

On average, runners take six days to plow through the 135 miles. However, Farar-Griefer is not your average runner.

“I want to run it straight because I have kids. I think I can do it in forty-something hours. I did it in Death Valley so I think I could run it in about the same time,” Farar-Griefer said.

In addition to the relay, MS Run the US is also holding 5K run/walk events in California, Colorado and New Jersey. On April 13, when Farar-Griefer begins her route in Los Angeles, participants have the opportunity to run alongside her for 3.1 miles.

Registration for the 5K is open on the MS Run the US website with an early bird fee of $30 available until March 9. Further details can be found on the website: http://MSRuntheUS.com.

“People that see the runners are inspired to take action for this cause or in their life and really do something right now,” MS Run the US founder Ashley Kumlien said.

Kumlien’s mother was diagnosed with MS in 1980 before Kumlien was born. From the muscle imbalance to spasticity to memory loss, Kumlien said she saw her mom “go through a lot but she [her mom] was always positive and looked on the bright side. She needed to have a strong faith.”

Kumlien founded MS Run the US in 2009, inspired by her mom’s attitude and fight.

“It has changed my perspective on life,” Kumlien said. “How we really need to live right now because there’s no guaranteed tomorrow. We need to do the things we love right now and help as many people as we can.”

Mile 80

Farar-Griefer stands at a point of uncertainty. She has no idea when her MS will flare up or what days she’ll be physically fit to run long distances.

“I’ll see how I feel, how the disease progresses and what my body’s going to give me,” Farar-Griefer said. “The unknown is where I’m at right now.”

Shannon Farar-Griefer's three sons.

Shannon Farar-Griefer’s three sons. Left to Right: Jet, Moe and Ben Griefer.

Regardless of how many more ultramarathons she has left in her, Farar-Griefer has already proven herself. Her oldest son, 23-year-old Moe Griefer, said he does worry about his mom, but he’s also proud of her.

“My mom is the toughest person I know and she loves running too much to stop it altogether so as long as the doctors say it’s OK to keep running, then I’m all for it,” Moe wrote in an email.

He mentioned that during his childhood, Farar-Griefer was always “laid back and the fun mom,” as she led by example rather than pressuring him.

“I would look up to her for motivation and inspiration,” Moe wrote. “If she can run 100-plus miles, then I really never had an excuse when it came to training or pushing myself to the next level like she does.”

Farar-Griefer revealed that her motivation to keep pumping her arms with all odds against her comes from within.

“It’s your mind that keeps you going even when you’re at your lowest point,” Farar-Griefer said. “Even with the marathons, people hit that wall. I call this disease mile 80 because that’s what I would always make fun of in the 100-mile race — you’re down for the count, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, everything hurts, you want to give up, but you don’t.”

Farar-Griefer will never stop swinging: “I want to keep living my life. I don’t know what this disease is going to do with me. I’ll just take every day like a champ and fight.”

All photos courtesy of Shannon Farar-Griefer.

12 years of basketball gave me more than just a nice jump shot

Life, Sports

What playing the game of basketball has taught me about the game of life.

SPORTS

Through my storied organized basketball career that stretched from kindergarten through my junior year of high school, the main aspect that stands out to me now is the wide variety of coaching styles I experienced — from “rah rah” to quietly introspective.

The best coach I’ve ever played for was my first league coach, who I stuck with for 12 years. He started as a scream-until-you’re-blue-in-the-face type of guy as our team struggled — I kid you not, we endured a five-year drought period in which we never won a single tournament. He then morphed into a composed, strategic mastermind as we began racking up wins, notching regular first-place finishes.

He never got paid for his duties, but he served as a true teacher for the eight of us on the team. He taught us to always thank the referees after games, he did not tolerate cussing on the court nor did he allow any trash talking.

It’s important to emphasize that our team was nothing special. Sure, we had a couple girls who went on to play college ball, but for the most part, we were ridiculously scrappy. What we did have, however, was a common goal and an astronomically high team chemistry that not even Walter White and his drug empire could’ve brought down.

While other teams in the league disbanded and reassembled, we maintained a core roster of six players through all 12 years.

I think it’s fair to say that most of what I’ve achieved in life thus far can be attributed to what I learned during my time on that team. Foremost, it ingrained in me the gravity of teamwork. If you play selfish ball, no one wins. Or if your leader has a separate agenda and goes behind people’s backs, at the end of the day, you’ll fail.

I was never the star player. I don’t have major hops or quick feet, yet no one ever gave up on me. Because of that, I was able to have my moments hitting crucial jumpers and free throws. As teammates, we encouraged each other and pushed each other to be better, as did our coach.

Additionally, playing basketball shaped my sense of integrity. I’ll admit I was no model citizen. I occasionally yelled at the refs, threw a few elbows and gave opposing coaches dirty glares. But doing those things taught me something: When you leave the court, no one will remember finite details such as how many points you made in the Memorial Day tournament. What they will remember is how you carried yourself and whether or not you shook hands with them at the end of it.

Teamwork and integrity are two values that I hope to uphold in everything I do. Life can be a challenging game, and as much as the typical mindset is to tear everyone down in order to reach success, basketball has enlightened me to the fact that having a team of people on board with you as you succeed is significantly more fulfilling.

Pepperdine Happy Feet cleanses soles with purpose

Life, Pepperdine
AndrewEnslenReceipt

Senior Andrew Enslen holding up a receipt after he went shopping for supplies for the Happy Feet Clinic in August 2013. (Photo by Miles Miller)

Freezing in the pouring rain, sopping wet in a dress shirt, amongst a group of strangers in Downtown LA, senior Andrew Enslen found himself in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation. It was his second time volunteering with UCLA’s Program in Medical Education’s Happy Feet Clinic.

UCLA PRIME is a five-year MD and masters program. In 2008, 17 PRIME students founded the Happy Feet Clinic “to address the podiatric concerns of the Los Angeles homeless community,” according to the UCLA Happy Feet website.

On that day in February 2012, Enslen recalled how all of their tents had broken, leaving everyone exposed to the elements.

The volunteers and the homeless people “were just laughing because it sucked so bad,” Enslen said. “I had this great feeling that this is what service is all about. We’re not meant to be comfortable, we’re meant to be a little cold and it just felt so right.”

Enlsen confessed that at first the experience of washing peoples’ feet felt awkward, especially in their wet and dreary state. However, in the midst of the awkwardness, Enslen said he remembered “feeling so close to them because we were so miserable.”

In that moment,  a strong conviction came over him, sparking the inspiration for the founding of his nonprofit organization: Pepperdine Happy Feet Clinic Inc.

“I remember I had a moment where I said, ‘This is the kind of service that God asked of us,’” Enslen said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, why don’t we do that [start a nonprofit]? I have everything set up. I go to S.O.S. (Standing on Stone Ministries — a local Malibu nonprofit that feeds the homeless), I know there’s a ton of people there every single week. What is stopping us from doing that? Nothing. There’s nothing stopping us.’”

“God dropped and swapped for me”

At this point, Enslen was a sophomore juggling sports med classes while battling for a spot on the men’s tennis team.

In high school, he “won a few state championships” playing tennis, yet said he had a tough time adjusting to the high level that Pepperdine tennis competed at (that year men’s tennis made runs to the NCAA championships in singles and doubles).

Enslen knew it’d be impossible to simultaneously train with the tennis team and take on the task of founding a nonprofit.

“God just dropped and swapped for me. I prayed about it. ‘Lord is this going to take a lot of time? Should I quit tennis?’” Enslen said. “I didn’t obviously hear anything but he said, ‘Yeah I want you to do this.’”

That summer in 2012, Enslen approached then roommate, senior Trevor Cavender, and asked if Cavender had interest in helping launch Pepperdine Happy Feet Inc., which would provide podiatric care for the homeless. Similar to the UCLA Happy Feet Clinic, but with a Christian focus and centralized in Malibu.

“It was one of those things that sounds great in theory, and you’re just never sure if it’s going to fall through, especially when two people are busy with their own things,” Cavender said. “We both kept each other accountable, and we got enough support initially to inspire us to move forward.

“That’s how it got started, just in an apartment room.”

Through the 2012-13 school year, Enslen and Cavender rallied up 12-15 volunteers and held clinics during certain S.O.S. meeting dates, on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. at Webster Elementary School.

“They’re inside serving food and we’re outside washing and giving out clothes and medical supplies,” Enslen said. Enslen and Cavender consistently coordinated with S.O.S., and vice versa. Concerning the relationship, Cavender noted that S.O.S. “really helped us out in pushing us forward. Their participation in this shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

PepperdineHappyFeetInfograph

This year, Pepperdine Happy Feet has yet to hold a clinic due to conflicts between S.O.S. and Webster Elementary.

At the end of January, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Standing on Stone agreed “to conclude S.O.S.’s use of Webster Elementary School” with the final day being on or before April 3, Director of Facility Use Carey Upton wrote in an email.

S.O.S. co-founder, Hollie Packman, wrote in an email that the organization “needs” to stay in Malibu because their volunteer force is based in the city. She noted in the email on Feb. 16 that they haven’t found a new location yet, but that “the leaders at Webster, the parents and the school district have been very cooperative,” and she is confident a solution will be sought.

“The community is very supportive and cares deeply for the poor … Over the years we’ve served in Malibu, many lives have been completely turned around and we look forward to more,” Packman wrote.

“Relentlessly push forward”

Although the specific location of future Pepperdine Happy Feet clinics is uncertain at the moment, the groundwork for the nonprofit has been set. And with Enslen and Cavender prepped to graduate come April 2014, they hope someone with vigor and a heart for the homeless will step forward to fill their spots.

“We’ve been working really hard to set up for someone else. I’m very much not wanting this to end this year,” Enslen said.

Cavender commented that in order to keep Pepperdine Happy Feet up and running, it’s crucial to “expect the unexpected” and be able to “relentlessly push forward because a lot of times you run into a lot of dead ends.”

While that advice may sound daunting, Enslen has already done most of the dirty work. He set up the nonprofit as a club, wrote the bylaws and even submitted a 501c3 form to the IRS in an attempt to attain tax deductibility status.

He sent the form over winter break, and said generally the IRS takes about six months to process the paperwork.

“I was really hoping it’s not just a club at Pepperdine. If there’s someone who really has a heart for it and really wants to take it far, there’s a chance it could be one of the bigger service organizations on campus,” Enslen said. “With the things we’re setting in place, you could go beyond the ICC (Inter-Club Council) and go to big corporations to get donations for shoes. That’s what I envisioned it, but it still has to be done.”

With a full heart and an engaging presence, Enslen had no issues with a lack of volunteers during the year he organized clinics, as three-year roommate senior Kevin Enstrom can attest.

“I’ve never met anyone really able to command respect so easily. People are really wanting to be a part of it [Happy Feet],” Enstrom said.

Senior Andrew Enslen, as a Happy Feet Clinic volunteer, washing a man's feet in August 2013. (Photo courtesy of Miles Miller)

Senior Andrew Enslen, as a Happy Feet Clinic volunteer, washing a man’s feet in August 2013. (Photo by Miles Miller)

“There are other things more important”

When 22-year-old Enslen’s friends and family talked about him, one common theme consistently arose: Enslen has an uncanny sense of humility.

For instance, roommate Enstrom described Enslen as being the kind of guy who would “give the shirt off his back to anyone.” Enslen’s mother, Cheryl, said that “If someone was sitting in a lunchroom by themselves, he’d leave his friend group to go sit with that person alone.”

“He just has a heart for people,” Cheryl said.

That mindset of caring for the lesser has dictated Enslen’s postgrad plans. He’s postponing med school apps, and taking a year off from education to be a program director for a homeless ministry called The Bridge back home in Ohio. He says in addition to that, he may also spend a portion of the year working in a third-world country hospital (he’s still deciding on the exact location).

The coordinator of The Bridge, Miles Miller, who runs the day-to-day operations, grew close to Enslen over this past summer and vouched for him to join the team.

“It’s rare that you have someone so gifted but also willing to humble himself and serve the low levels of society,” 22-year-old Miller said.

The Bridge only started up in January 2013 and is looking to gain momentum as the services they offer continue to expand. In one sentence, Miller described the organization’s mission being “to reach to serve the people on the fringe of society — those who are lost and forgotten.” They offer free services such as ESL training, a thrift shop, a legal clinic and an organic garden.

Cavender provided some insight as to why Enslen would choose to spend his days with the homeless rather than apply for enrollment at prestigious medical schools. He talked about how being involved with Pepperdine Happy Feet changed his outlook.

“It’s easy, especially being a science major with our eyes set on med school, it’s easy to get wrapped up in grades. ‘I have to do well in school and study all the time’ — that became our deciding factor in college,” Cavender said. “With Happy Feet, it slapped that across the face. No, there are other things that are more important.”

Enslen has taken those “other things” and brought them to the forefront of his life, front and center; and yet he was adamant in clarifying that “there’s really nothing that separates me from anyone else besides that God helped me and got me a little motivation.”

As he faces graduation in a couple short months, Enslen leaves a piece of advice for undergraduate students in search of purpose:

“If I was telling other students something — this is the cheesiest advice in the world — it would be you just need to find something that you really want and just do it.”

Senior Andrew Enslen standing in the middle of a road in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Mark Spigos)

Senior Andrew Enslen standing in the middle of a road in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Mark Spigos)

As published on the Graphic Online Daily.