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And now may I present the race recap that I started writing nearly two months ago about the race that I ran over three months ago. Um. So sorry?

Although I have only been running for a year or so, there is one race that I have always wanted to participate in. As a native San Franciscan, I knew that I somehow would have to find a way to walk, run or crawl the course one day. Having been so un-athletic and insanely opposed to running for most of my life, I always assumed I’d probably be crawling. Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way at all, as I surprised my family and myself this past May by running the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers 12K footrace.

The Bay to Breakers race is exactly what the name implies. It is a race from the San Francisco Bay across the city to the Pacific Ocean (the breakers). It originated back in 1912 as a way to boost morale in the city, which was still trying to recover and rebuild after the 1906 earthquake. The race is 7.46 miles (12K) long, and the course definitely has some challenging aspects….namely, Hayes Street Hill.

Can’t visualize it? Check out this video:

 

Awesome, right? Right.

 While I have run several 5Ks in the last year, I was still pretty nervous about B2B. It was a  distance further than I had ever run before and I was wondering if I really had it in me. In the end, I decided to be like Nike and “just do it”. I mean, if there was ever a year to run the race, it was 2011. 2011 marked the 100th running of the race and to celebrate they decided that for the first time ever the race would have finisher’s medals to commemorate the event. What? Did someone say bling? I am so there!

Thus, bright and early on Sunday, May 15th, I hopped out of bed. And when I say early, I mean it. It was 4:30am!

I left the house at about 5:45 (later than I had planned) with a piece of peanut butter toast in hand and headed straight for Church Street station. A quick Muni Metro ride and walk brought me to the entrance of my corral, Corral C.

I think I forgot to mention that people dress up for this race, didn’t I?

I think I also forgot to mention that people often wear nothing to this race.

Don’t worry.

I have no pictures of that.

Just tweets.

Anyway, before I corralled myself, I decided to hit the port-o-potties. You see, at home before I left, I hadn’t had much luck…well..getting things moving. Though I had never had any gastric issues during a run, I’ve read enough to know that it is definitely a plus to get that out of the way before you get out on the road. I still didn’t have much luck, but I wasn’t too worried. I just went ahead and saddled up with my fellow Corral C’ers.

While we waited, we were entertained by the annual tortilla toss. For some reason, people apparently toss tortillas around at the start line. I have no idea why. I am a newbie. I got pelted a few times. It was strange…as were so many other things I saw during this race.

 

I only had my cell phone with me, so my tortilla photo attempts really didn’t turn out too well.

In between tortilla dodging, I signed up for FourSquare (so that I could check in at the start line, of course!) and spent time taking pictures of myself. Boredom leads to narcissism, you know…cough.

I still can’t believe I had the balls to wear a horizontally stripped tank top. Yikes. Thank goodness for race bibs to hide a gal’s spare tire…

Aside from tortillas a-flyin’, beach balls a-bouncin’ and my impromptu photo shoot, we also had giant speakers relaying what was happening up at the actual start line to keep us entertained. First they counted down the start of the female elites. Then the male elites. We were getting pumped. Then corral A went and the walking started. Then it stopped. And started. And stopped. And started. There were a lot of people to get up and through the start line before it was our turn. We got there eventually though.

The beginning of the race was really surreal for me. I couldn’t believe I was finally running a Bay to Breakers race. Normally I spend Bay to Breakers Sunday irritated as I try to figure out how to get to work for my Sunday opening shift with all of the road closures. It was nice to not have to fight the crowd, but for the first time actually be moving with them!

The first mile went well, as did the second. It was the first time I had ever been in a corraled race, and as it turned out, I really liked it. Normally when I run a DSE race or most other races, they are free for alls. I find that I run so hard at the beginning and I wear out pretty early. Being with people who signed up to run the same pace as I was running made the experience so much more comfortable and pleasurable.

At this point I was feeling good, but as I looked up ahead, I started to get nervous. There it was. THE hill. Hayes Street.

I thought about a strategy…run walking…what should I do? In the end, I just went for it. Run up the hills, walk across the intersections.

And I (along with about a gazillion other people) made it! And got Nesquik! w00t!

I nabbed the Nesquik as we rounded onto Divisidero and then started chugging it as we made another turn onto Fell. It tasted delicious, but turned out not to be all that awesome of an idea. At first it was fine, I ran happily along the Panhandle (my regular route!) and then we got down to Stanyan and entered Golden Gate Park. I was pretty excited to be just about halfway done with the race, but I also was feeling a bit queasy. My stomach was rumbling….in that way that runner’s stomach’s rumble.

Yeah. Ick.

I thought about trying to push through, as I really wanted to finish before 1:30. I slowed down to walk. I thought about stopping as I passed some port o potties. Then I thought about how I wish I had stopped instead of just thinking about it. Luckily, there were tons of opportunities to visit a port o potty this year. You see, due to a decent amount of participants winding up drunk along the way, people tend to start relieving themselves…well…everywhere. They wanted to fix that this year, so they upped the amount of port o potties and they started giving out wristbands to those who “eliminated responsibly”.

I decided at some point between miles 4 and 5 that it was time for me to become a “potty hero”.

Now as I mentioned, people who used the port o potties all got bracelets to celebrate their…achievements.

(I grabbed this off of the net somewhere back when I started this post…I don’t remember from where. So sorry if it’s your pic!)

I figured, well, hey, if I had to become a “real runner” right now and I’m going to lose my time, then at least I will get a bright neon green wristband.

Not so.

There were no potty hero monitors at my stop. I was. so. bummed.

Luckily, Zazzle was ready to remedy the problem:

Well, at least they SAID they were going to. I never got one. Just sayin….

Anyway, I became an unadorned hero and continued on my way, feeling MUCH better.

The rest of the race was a breeze. I might’ve been a little bit tired, but I was having fun and there was never a shortage of things to look at. Once you get to mile 6, there’s a happy downhill to the ocean, which is just how I like it. Plus, you get to see buffalo.

Ah. The ocean!

(Okay, I cheat…this picture is from way after the finish line…but who stops with only .4 miles left to go to take a picture?)

As we turned onto the Great Highway I got pumped. I could SEE the finish line. I tried to kick it up a notch, but I’ll be honest with you, I really didn’t have much left, so I settled for jogging over the finish line with a huge, goofy grin on my face. I had just ran the farthest I ever had run before.

And it was awesome.

My official time wound up being 1:35:22. I was sort of disappointed. I mean, I didn’t make it in under 90 minutes. It was the damn port o potty break that did it.  But then again, I wasn’t -that- upset. I mean, I just ran Bay to Breakers for the first time…what’s there to really be upset about?!

After the race I started off towards “Footstock”, which is a kind of post race party thing that people get all jazzed about. I didn’t have much interest, and wasn’t even going to go, but there was something missing….my bling! I had to head down there to get my medal, so you better believe I high tailed it over as fast as I could make my way through the crowd!

The bling actually turned out to be pretty sweet looking!

I hung around Footstock for a bit, and then I walked (seriously! 3 miles!) home. And ate a huge breakfast. And slept. And it was good.

Anyway, if you ever are able to run B2B, I highly recommend it. I don’t know if I’d do it every year, or anything, but it’s definitely an experience to be had.


As I was telling you all last week, Cosie has been diagnosed with feline hyperthyroidism.

Her new medicine regimen has proven to be fairly easy to adapt to. For the first week, she got her pill once a day, in the evening. Then, as per doctor’s orders, on Friday I increased her dosage to twice a day. Now Cosie is taking her pill at 7:30am and 7:30pm. Or as close to those times as possible.

Her overall health seems better, as I mentioned before. She is eating normally now and has energy to play and saunter around my apartment with her prior swagger. She also isn’t throwing up as much. I’m pretty jazzed about that fact, as for several years it’s been a problem. I always assumed it was your typical senior digestion problems, but the drastic cut back in occurrences lead me to believe that in recent times it may’ve been her thyroid problem. So all of that seems good.

Her condition does pose some challenges, however. For instance, in the past, when I’ve gone out of town for a couple of days, I’ve just had my sister or a friend stop by once to check in. Now I have to coordinate someone to give Cosie her medicine. Luckily, my sister has been missing her cat, Daniel, so she volunteered to actually stay at my place for two nights last week while I went to Reno for my birthday.

I was a little nervous leaving Cosie, as she has been sick so recently. Not to mention that the day before I left she developed the sniffles (which after 8 days, she still has…). My co-worker and I had already made our reservations though, so the trip needed to go on. Plus, my 29th birthday was coming up and gambling my guts out is my favorite way to celebrate.

(I guess I’m not supposed to admit that, am I? Oops…)

 I shouldn’t have worried about ‘ole Cosie though. She apparently is well enough to handle herself.

Remember this problem? Yeah. I haven’t forgotten about it either. Despite my meticulous lock up of all dry goods and my installation of sonic mouse “shoo-ing” devices, I still had the sneaking suspicion that the little guy was still around. I hadn’t seen any more mouse droppings, nor had I ever laid eyes on the creature itself, but on Sunday night, Cosie was stalking some unknown thing in the apartment, and she looked serious.

On Thursday morning afternoon, just before I got on the road to head back to the bay area, I received the following text from my sister:

“All is well with the kids again. Cosie pilled beautifully, and ate. Unfortunately, I have to break the news to you that you have a mouse, which I have seen. So has Cosie and Daniel…Daniel is curious….Cosie wants the mouse’s arse. She has been on patrol all night, running and chasing. So, be sure to check around just in case she catches it. Sorry. I saw the bugger in your closet area, you may want to go through there…on the up side, I think that there is just one…”

 Do you know what I said in response? It really wasn’t very eloquent, but expressed my feelings very accurately:

“F*CK!!!!”

It totally killed the good mood I had been wrapped up in. All I could think about was how much I really didn’t want to see the mouse…dead or alive.

When I got back to my apartment, I didn’t even want to go in there. I felt so grossed out at just the THOUGHT of that mouse running around and the idea of the cats catching it made it twelve thousand times worse. For 1.5 days upon my return, Cosie and Daniel ran around the apartment, meowing strangely (battle calls?) and pouncing on everything they saw. I, however, was choosing to ignore the situation completely. I didn’t go through my closet and I just kept trying to pretend that none of this was happening.

My plan was working splendidly.

Until Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning I got up to feed the kitties, scoop out the litter box and then I was off to take a shower. I had work during the morning shift, so I needed to get a move on. Just after getting out of the shower, I passed through my closet (I have a walk-through closet…you walk through it to get from the bathroom to the living area of the studio) and then I saw it:

Cosie and Daniel were sitting in the middle of the living area floor…with a dead mouse between them.

O.M.G.

Let’s be honest, I could say that I reacted all cool about seeing a dead mouse while standing naked in my apartment, but that would be untruthful. I screamed and retreated to the bathroom. I realized I needed to handle this pronto, but I had never imagined it would happen while I was unclothed. I decided I would throw on some clothes so I could pick the mouse up in a bag and run it straight down to the garbage cans. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to work. Cosie was now batting the thing across the hardwood floors…and then she picked it up in her mouth and tossed it up in the air.

Obviously I panicked and started to shriek, “AHHH! OMG! Cosie! Drop it! Drop it! Drop it!”

Some would say it was wrong to yell at her and rain on the proudest moment of her life. I, of course, realize that Cosie is hard of hearing and had no idea I was saying anything other than, “Nice kitty! Good job! Disembowel it!”

The scene looked a lot like Kitty Christmas:


Except, you know…with a real mouse.

I quickly ran into the kitchen, grabbed a plastic bag, picked up the mouse (before Cosie could take it off somewhere I couldn’t find it) and shoved it in my kitchen trash can. Then I dressed faster than I ever had before so I could take the garbage outside. So. Fricken’. Gross.

Cosie seemed kind of depressed after that. She tried in vain to play with a toy, but it just wasn’t the same. I had taken away the best toy she had ever had in her entire life.

Unlike Cosie, I was quite relieved to have the mouse removed. I figured the worst was over.

Then I remembered…it was only 7:20am. I was going to have to feed mouse breath over there her morning dose of felimazole. Well happy belated birthday to me.


I washed my hands a bazillion times afterward. As a matter of fact, I think I may go wash them again. Just to be sure.

I had so deeply wanted to do a special birthday post today, dedicated to Bob Dylan. A really long one.

Unfortunately, last week got eaten up by life and I only have a few minutes to discuss his Bob-ness before my ride comes and sweeps me off to my own birthday adventure.

(My birthday is Friday. I’ll be 29. Since I was a c-section, I’m still bitter that my parents didn’t work it out so that Bob and I could be birthday twins. Oh well. I guess I’ll get over it…)

Bob Dylan came into my life at a time during which I needed him most. I was 18 years old and I had just started college. I had never felt more…alone. Sure, I had friends and hobbies. More importantly, I had my friends’ hobbies. I didn’t feel like I had anything to call my own. Nothing was speaking to me and I hadn’t found my “place” in the world. I was just…there.

Then I found Bob.

I spent 4 or 5 years, traveling all over the country to see Dylan, with friends I had met on the internet. I think it scared my mother, at first. I mean, her kid was just traipsing all over the country, hunkering down in hotel rooms and hitching rides with people she had only ever met on some weird site called “The Dylan Pool“…but it was one of the best times of my life.

Outside one of the best Dylan shows I ever saw…Augusta, ME 8/4/02…look! I’m wearing chucks!

I even made some really great friends along the way. While we don’t keep in touch as much as we used to (life gets in the way…), we still love to occasionally connect and discuss all of the craziness that went on during our trips. Just recently, a friend of mine was recalling our love of soft serve and I dug up this picture:

Robert, Julie and I during the infamous California summer fair series. We got soft serve before every single concert. We were documenting the experience for posterity!

Now I have seen Bob nearly 40 times and in 7 different states. Those stats really aren’t that impressive when you compare them to other Dylan fans, but for me, I feel good about it. Bob has a special place in my life and I always go back to him.

Everyone wants to call Dylan the voice of a generation and make a huge hoopla about his music. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about his music. Thing is, what I love about Dylan is much more than music. It’s about an entire world that opened up to me through his work. It led me to authors I had never read and old scratchy blues musicians I had never heard of. It led me from Kerouac to Rimbaud, from Roy Orbison to Hank Williams, from the White Stripes to The Waifs and from one side of the country to the other. I didn’t stop just with Dylan’s vast discography….every single thing that Dylan puts out makes me want to read and delve further into history. It was something I never did prior to that and I am who I am today because I did. It helped me find my place, and I am forever grateful for that.

Thanks Bob. Happy 70th Birthday. Have some soft serve for me.

I had a difficult week last week, which is unfortunate, but that is the way life goes.

The first problem I had was on Tuesday morning. I was in bed with my laptop. I had only been awake for a little bit and I hadn’t even had my coffee yet. All of a sudden, it seemed like the sound of rain falling had gotten louder. In fact, it sounded almost as if it were raining inside of my apartment.

It was raining inside of my apartment.

I have a small storage area next to my bed in which I keep a lot of things that I don’t use every  day. The space is very strange..sort of sunk into the wall. We believe it may’ve been the site of a trundle-bed back when the building was originally built. I live in an old Victorian, and it was really common for Victorians to have murphy beds. We believe that in my studio’s case, it may’ve been a trundle. Anyway, there is no bed in there these days. Just my junk.

My next-door neighbor moved out at the beginning of May, so the landlord had some cleaning  people coming to spruce up the place. I share a wall with the next apartment’s bathroom. In their zealous cleaning attempt, they caused the great flood of 2011. When I realized what was going on, I leaped out of bed and ran next door, barefoot and in pajamas to tell them to stop. They didn’t speak English. I sort of half ass understand Spanish, but my ability to construct a sentence, especially in times of crisis is greatly limited. I just kept gesturing and saying “STOP!!!” a lot. Finally the lady I was talking to got one of her co-workers to come over who kind of spoke English and she apologized. I thanked her and went back to my apartment. I was in here for 5 minutes before it started AGAIN. I ran back over and repeated the same scene.

When the water finally stopped flowing, I assessed the damage:

Awesome.

Not.

Luckily most things that I keep in that area are stored in plastic crates and were protected. There were a few casualties though. I had stashed some Cooking Light magazines and a few instruction manuals under there. Also the Wii box got pretty wet (don’t worry..the Wii was on the other side of the room at the time). The items that took the most abuse where my spare external HDs. The one on the right side had been in that box, which essentially disintegrated when I attempted to open it. The one on the left didn’t even have a box. I’m not sure if either of them work anymore. I plan on checking, but I wanted to give them the opportunity to dry out.

Aside from my own property damage, there was also some damage to my unit:

Even after I cleaned the walls and floor, there was still staining. You can essentially see where my storage boxes had been sitting. Going to have to make sure to send this picture off to the landlord so I don’t get charged upon moving out..

After that drama was over and I had my first cup of coffee, my next problem began.

I noticed that my cat, Cosie, was acting strangely. She wasn’t eating for starters. Secondly, she kept pacing in and out of the litter box. She would pee, and then leave, then go back and strain. I was concerned about her, so I tried to feed her a little human food (chicken salad). She ate a couple of bites, but wasn’t too interested. She was spending a lot more time than usual lying around and her eyes didn’t look very good. I was concerned, but I decided to watch her for another day.

When Wednesday came around and she still refused to eat and the litter box behavior continued, I got scared. I went to the pet store and got some senior cat nutrition supplement (kind of like Ensure, but for cats). She drank a few sips, and then sat back down. The only time she really seemed to get active was to go pace around the litter box, or to lick her behind. You see, she was licking a lot more than usual…when paired with the other symptoms, I did not feel good about Cosie’s state at all. That evening I called a 24 hour vet, explained the symptoms and asked if she should come in. They said I could bring her in right away if I wanted to, but it was a very busy night. I decided to make a 9am urgent care appointment, and hope that she would start eating again in the morning on her own and she wouldn’t have to go in.

The next morning came and she still looked pretty bad and eating still wasn’t on her to-do list. I packed her up in her carrier (her least favorite thing ever) and had Peter, my co-worker, drop me off at the vet on his way to work.

To be honest, I think I reacted to taking Cosie to the vet worse than she reacted to being crated. Historically, whenever we have had older animals who have gotten sick and had to be taken into the vet, the result has always been the same: They got put down. So the immediate thought that came to me when I realized I was going to have to take my 14-year-old cat to the vet was that she wasn’t coming home with me. As irrational as it was, I cried for half of Wednesday. I had hoped that my early tears would spare me from acting like an idiot at the vet, but no such luck. As soon as I sat down to fill out the paperwork I started sobbing again. Then I got better. Then we went into an exam room and it started again:

Vet: “Hi. I’m Dr. ____”

Alexa: *shakes hand, starts hysterically crying* “I don’t do well with pet illness….”

Vet: “Okay…”

As the appointment went on, I improved. The vet examined Cosie and said that off the back he couldn’t figure out what exactly was wrong. He said there were a few ways we could go about testing her for a diagnosis. Having heard me explain that Cosie hadn’t been to the vet since she ripped her paw open and needed stitches about 10 years ago, he suggested that he go get print outs of the two plans so I would understand the cost involved. When he returned, he presented me with a $321 plan and a $730 plan. We discussed the options and decided to go with the $321 plan, with the understanding that we could add-on additional tests if needed.

So for $321, Cosie got her annual exam, a senior wellness exam (blood panels, urine tests, etc.), a shot of anti-nausea medication (to hopefully induce hunger) and some IV fluids to rehydrate her. Then we went home to wait, as the results wouldn’t be ready until Friday. On the bright side, once home, Cosie dove into some food I put down and seemed a little better. Still sick, for sure, but more herself.

On Friday at work, I received the news. Cosie has feline hyperthyroidism. He cautioned me that though he could see no other problems, the hyperthyroidism could be masking issues. So the plan is to medicate Cosie, then have her come back in after 3-4 weeks and check her levels to see how she is doing. He also still wasn’t sure about why she was licking so much, so he asked me to bring her back in (for free) when I came to pick up the pills. He said he didn’t see something he normally checks in his notes, so he wanted to check her anal glands (yeah, I know. ick.) before we start running other tests at additional cost to me.

So after butt poking and pill popping, Cosie seems much more herself. Eating plenty, using the litter box the normal amount and licking far less than she was earlier in the week. I have to give her a pill once a day for the first week, and then every 12 hours from then on. My sister is totally lucking out. She’s going to be staying at my place, cat sitting while I am in Reno celebrating my birthday this week…she only has to administer one pill! Trust me, the fewer the better…Cosie does NOT like pills!

While I am not excited about the new expense or the idea of trying to get Cosie to take her medicine, I am glad that she is doing so much better. I realize that being 14, Cosie is probably in her last 5 years of life, and that I will have to lose her at some point, but I’m glad that point wasn’t this week. I’ve had my kitty since I was 15 years old. She is the best.

I’m fairly remiss in recapping last week’s 5K. To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about my performance, so I’ve been avoiding it.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do a horrible job, or anything, but as I am sure you all know, when you fall short of what you hope to achieve, it is mentally annoying.

Prior to May 8th, I had been doing a decent job of getting in a couple of strength training sessions a week as well as a couple of runs. Despite only having had my routine in place for a few weeks, I already felt stronger and was quickly becoming a believer in how much strength training improves your running skills. With just a little extra attention to my muscles, I was finding running to be a little easier…and even more enjoyable.

The DSE Mother’s Day Marina Green 5K was the perfect chance to PR. I had run the course during my first race last September. It was all flat and I really felt confident that I could do well. I should have known things were going to be a little off for me that morning just based on the fact that I couldn’t even find the start line right away. I had assumed that the “Mother’s Day Marina Green 5K” would have the same start as the “Marina Green 5K” that I had run with DSE in September. When I got there, however, I realized very quickly that I was mistaken. I whipped out the old iPhone and lo and behold….the start line was over where the St. Patrick’s Day 5K had been. Like nearly a mile away.

Good job, Alexa, good job.

Not to worry…I got there in plenty of time to register and listen to all of the pre-race announcements.

Note my marathoner co-worker in the blue/yellow tank and black beanie. He is really fast. Just thought you should know.

After all of the usual pre-race talk, we headed over to the start line. Despite my location mix up, I was still feeling pretty good. I was wearing my new Nike hoodie and had my discounted runner’s water bottle. I was totally ready to kick some 5K ass.

The first mile went very well. I completed it in 10:07, which for me is pretty fast. My pace is usually closer to 11 minutes, so I was definitely on the path to PRdom. Unfortunately, as mile 2 got going, I started to get a bad side stitch. My standard pre-race breakfast of peanut butter and banana toast was fighting back. I took a little walk break and chugged some water (with Strawberry Lemonade Nuun). That of course, didn’t help matters…chugging fluids while running is kind of a bad idea. At the time, however, I was more focussed on the stitch. It pretty much took the second mile to sort out the pain and water sloshy-ness. For the third mile, I rebounded, but I had lost a lot of time. To top it off, I was now running my last mile directly into the wind. I was running strong, but really, my pace is no match for a good strong gust off of the Golden Gate.

I crossed the finish line with the time of 33:54. I was disappointed. Although it wasn’t my slowest 5K time or anything, it was slower than the first time I had run Marina Green (same course, btw…just different start/finish location).

After the race I decided to walk home, which is a nearly 4 mile walk. Since I work down at the waterfront, I am pretty used to it though. I just sort of went on auto pilot and let my feet carry me on home.

Well, until I hit the Civic Center area, that is.

That is when I get hit with a crazy thought.

The thought to run Hayes Street Hill.

“Hayes Street Hell” is pretty much the most difficult part of the Bay To Breakers route, and coincidentally, is on my way home. I knew that in a week I was going to be expected to run up Hayes when I took part in my very first Bay to Breakers race. While I had walked up the hill many times, I had never run it and for some reason, I decided that trying it after running a 5K and walking nearly 4 miles was a good idea.

So I did.

I thought I was going to die when I finally got to the top, but I did in fact get there.

It would probably be rather crude to admit that the entire time I ran it I was chanting, “Make this hill your b*tch, Alexa, make it your B*tch!” in my head.

So I won’t admit that.

*cough*

As I hobbled back to my apartment, I just reminded myself that on May 15th when I met that hill again, I at least would have the knowledge that I could do it.

And knowing, is half the battle.

Coming Up: Bay to Breakers Expo and the 100th Running of the Bay to Breakers Recap.

Do you beat yourself up over missing out on time goals, or are you more zen about the whole racing experience?

Until recently, I couldn’t ever really recall a time in life when I had ever felt “happy”. Sure, there were happy moments. Time spent with friends. Holidays. Maybe a special event that had happened at school. However beyond a handful of isolated events, I couldn’t really recall an extended period of happiness. Extended periods of depression, embarrassment, misery and anxiety I could recall.

Happiness? Not so much.

But I wanted to be happy.

Prior to weight loss I assumed that all of my unhappy feelings stemmed directly from my weight. Therefore, I was shocked and dismayed to lose a significant amount of weight and still not be happy. Sure, I was much happIER, but was I really happy? I still was nervous about my appearance, sad I wasn’t making any moves to change the direction of my career and I felt like I never had time to do anything. Then again, since losing weight I had more confidence, was able to do more things that I enjoyed and had moved out on my own.

I wasn’t happy, nor was I unhappy. I was just sort of there.

I shouldn’t really be using the past tense for that last part…as that’s how I’ve been feeling over the last few months. This is why I started trying to get my Spark back, organize my inbox and set up a calendar. I didn’t exactly realize it when I started, but I was in fact initializing my own version of a “happiness project”.

When these ideas started floating around in my head, I had only heard of this book in passing and frankly, I had no idea what it was about. The title, however, stuck in my head and when I was facing the question, “What should I do with this Barnes and Noble Groupon?”, I decided to pick it up.

And I am really glad I did.

As it turns out, author Gretchen Rubin was having similar thoughts about happiness several years ago. She decided to spend a year trying to make herself happier within her own parameters, if you will. She didn’t want to completely change who she was to be happy, but rather she wanted to figure out what would make the person she already is happier. She wanted to “Be Gretchen”.

She broke the project up, each month tackling a new subject that she thought was fundamental to her own happiness. Some of the particular subjects she chose didn’t exactly pertain to my life, yet I found them all equally interesting and insightful. Sure, I’m not married, nor do I have children, but reading about how she wanted to change the way she interacted with her husband and children provided ideas that could be used in any relationship. The entire book just really made me understand how the way I choose to perceive certain happenings in my life have a direct effect on my happiness:

Am I choosing to be pissed off all day because my co-worker does something annoying at work? I mean, I’m the one sitting in a huff all day…who’s fault is it really?

Obviously, it’s my fault! I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what I do. And I should.

One of the big areas where I am really at fault was something that Rubin touched on during the month of November, during which she was trying to “Keep a Contented Heart”. One way she decided to do such is to focus on cultivating good manners. One set of manners she realized needed to be refined was her manners of conversation:

I was a ‘topper’: ‘You think you had a crazy morning, let me tell you about my morning.’ I was a ‘deflater‘: ‘You liked that movie? I thought it was kind of boring.’ (Rubin, p 266)

Cough. Sputter. Look away.

This is one of my most unattractive behaviors. I actually have tried to curb it somewhat, and I’ve gotten much better at holding my tongue, except in two situations:

1) The other party is otherwise getting on my nerves and I am having a difficult time keeping up appearances.

2) The other party is also a supreme topper and/or deflater.  (Hello competitive streak!)

God help us both if the other party is a combination of 1 AND 2.

Thing is, when I go into these conversations, I never actually mean to be so caustic. Often times I did think the movie was boring…or I really did think my morning was worse. I feel like I’m lying to the other party if I’m not honest about it, and therefore can’t think of any reason why I should say otherwise or bite my tongue. But then, I see how upset I make the other person and the reason becomes painfully obvious. It goes all the way back to childhood and things your mother probably told you:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Amen, sister.

The book also gives you tips on how you might go about your own “happiness project”, reminding you that everyone’s project will look different, but nearly everyone can benefit from one. I don’t know if I will ultimately start an official happiness project, but I really do feel better and more conscious since I read the book. There is food for thought and I’m going to keep chewing away at it.

Starting with how I plan on reacting to this:

       

“OMG! COSIE! STOP IT!!!! ARGHHHH!”

*deep breath*

You’re a silly cat. Go ahead. Enjoy my chilled Brita filtered water, you deserve it.

Additional Reading:

The Happiness Project Blog

Have you ever attempted a “Happiness Project”?

Someone fell off the face of the blogosphere, eh?

(Wow. Did I really just say “blogosphere”? Ick.)

For the last week I have been dying to post, but unfortunately, my life was taken over by a new house guest. An unwelcome house guest.

  

Um. Ewwww.

Recently when I was going through the kitchen drawer that contained my dry goods, I noticed that some of the bags had holes. At first, I thought they had just ripped open accidentally, but as I dug deeper, I found the above. Yep. Speedy Gonzalez had paid a visit to my apartment, and I was totally unhappy about the fact.

(Source)

That’s right, Speedy, I’m talking about YOU.

I’ve never really lived in a place where I had a rodent problem, and frankly, given the fact that I have cats, I didn’t think I ever would. As it turns out, my cats only have eyes for Fancy Feast.

Fail.

So when faced with this new problem in my life, the first thing I did was to go on Twitter and panic. Obviously. I mean, what else would one do?

After a few more creeped out tweets, I conjured up the strength to go into the kitchen and clean out the drawers in my kitchen built-in. I pretty much had to get rid of all of the food I had, which really bummed me out. I also was sad about my KitKats. I’ve always planned to make a separate post about them, but the long and the short of it is that Japan makes crazy KitKats, I love trying all of the flavors and every time Maya comes home from Japan, she brings me all of the seasonal flavors that they’ve had in her area since she last visited. The mouse only ate a few of them, but I was still pretty grossed out.

Although I threw everything out back on April 20th, I didn’t actually work myself up to finding a solution until last week. I was walking around Japantown after a dentist appointment and I noticed that they had put in a Daiso Japan at the Miyako Mall. I’ve been to the Daiso at Serramonte, but I had never been to the new locations in the city. I decided to just stop in and browse.

Daiso is a very popular Hiyaku-en chain (100 yen shop…the equivalent of a $1 store) in Japan. Here stateside, most everything you will find in a Daiso costs $1.50. There are certain items that might cost $3-$6, but they are in the minority. As far as products, they sort of sell everything. Dishware. Glasses. Aprons. Cleaning Supplies. Candy. Soap. Fabric. Cards. Organizational Supplies. Pens. Pots. Chopsticks. CD cases. Screwdrivers. Toys. You name it, there is probably a cheapish version of it being sold at Daiso.

Of course it didn’t take me long to find what I needed: Mouse-proof kitchen supplies.

I had been wanting an expensive set of tupperware to keep the dry goods in, but I am pretty broke. When I walked into Daiso, I realized I could mouse-proof my kitchen for much less. So I sort of bought $30 worth of items.

(Then I went back later in the week to the Market St. location and bought more.)

 

These guys were the main items used to sort everything out. Plastic trays and plastic locking containers. The larger plastic containers cost $3/each, but I thought it was worth it.

I also bought a cutting board. Completely unrelated, but I just wanted to share.

I was pretty zonked out from carrying all of that home on foot, so when I got home I only really had time to organize the drawers.

Cooking utensils, measuring cups, eight zillion plastic spatulas and a set of J “Wake Up! Mother F*cker” chopsticks. What? YOU don’t have a set of profane chopsticks in the same drawer as your heart-shaped measuring cups?

Spices, pea protein powder, ground chia (the mouse ate the non-ground variety I had on hand..), Biscoff spread, etc.)

Wax paper, plastic wrap, tin foil, zip lock bags, coffee filters, pot holders, magic bullet.

Seeing my drawers all organized filled me with immense pleasure. You see, for the two years I’ve been living here, I’ve just been dumping things in there. The utensil drawer also had pot holders, tin foil and all sorts of other garbage inside. I could never find anything and I just about died of embarrassment when my friend opened it when looking for a bottle opener. I yelled, “NO! NOT IN THERE!”

I didn’t want him to know what a slob I am.

The other drawers had been equally as messy. This new organization made me feel very calm….but not as calm as when I finally got this cabinet done:

Tupperware (containers in the left bin, lids on the right), toaster, mixing bowl, pots, strainers, frying pans, cheese grater, scale, etc.

This picture cannot convey to you the joy that comes with seeing this cabinet organized. You see, much like that top drawer, this cabinet had just been a nightmare of tupperware thrown EVERYWHERE. Anytime I took something out, everything fell onto the floor and I would start yelling a string of curses that would make a sailor blush. I couldn’t ever find anything either. Now, I know where everything is. So. Awesome.

Lastly, I tackled the top of the built-in unit. Just a few days before, it had been piled high with crap, but now, it looks organized and clean.

You can actually see empty space! I just may faint!

Another really helpful thing I found at Daiso were those green collapsible shelves. As you can see, I’ve used one here on the counter top as well as in my tupperware cabinet. It really helps maximize space and makes organization really easy. I’m considering going back for a few more of these to help in other storage areas of my apartment.

One last thing I found at the store that made me a happy camper:

KitKat protection!

This is a rice storage bin, which I am using to house all of the remaining KitKats. I had been a little hesitant to keep any, as the mouse had been in the bag I had kept them in and the idea kind of skeezed me out. In the end, I decided to go through all of the candy, piece by piece. Any wrappers that looked even remotely chewed or scratched were tossed, whereas the rest were stored in this Fort Knox-like security area. I still feel a little wary, but I ate a cheese KitKat the other day and I’m still alive, so I think it’s okay….

(Yes, you read that correctly. I had cheese flavored KitKats, but those were not the ones that got eaten….)

I am also keeping my cats’ dry food in a rice container.

I have learned several things from this mouse experience.

1) Mice will eat whatever they can. Don’t leave ANYTHING outside of a plastic container.

Remember that picture of my spice drawer? I hadn’t finished washing the plastic ware when I organized that drawer, so I left the turbinado sugar package that the mouse had missed out on before in the drawer, thinking I would put it in a plastic container the next day. The next day, I found the mouse had been back and he still had a sweet tooth.

2) A clean kitchen makes me feel significantly more calm and happy

Often times I wouldn’t want to cook because everything was so jumbled and messy that I would feel overwhelmed. Now, I find it is the opposite. I enjoy going into the kitchen to make something as I know that all of my tools are right at my finger tips. It also makes me want to wash my dishes more often, so that the whole room will feel as clean and organized as my built-in unit. I am feeling encouraged to clean the fridge and the sink area in the near future. Although my kitchen was never really filthy, it was cluttered and certainly hasn’t had a really good scrub down since I moved in.

3) I shouldn’t worry so much about telling my landlord when there is a problem:

I had been really afraid to tell my landlord, as I thought it would reflect poorly on me. I thought it meant I was dirty and they would want to evict me or something. I know that sounds crazy, but after living most of my life in a rent controlled apartment in the Mission district, where the landlord really was trying to get us out, I’m sort of wired like this. In my old apartment, we routinely kept things like plumbing and heating problems, broken windows and pest issues to ourselves.

I did end up telling my building manager, however. All is cool. He told me that other tenants throughout the years have had similar problems. If I wanted regular snap traps, he would be happy to give me some, but he recommended I try out a sonic device that is designed to repel the rodents from the unit.

I decided to pick up a 2-pack from my local hardware store and I have one plugged into a socket in the kitchen and another in my studio’s main room. The sound is at a different frequency than what humans or cats hear, so the felines are good with it. I can hear a slight buzzing sound from the things, but it isn’t a big deal. I don’t know if they actually work, but as the alternative involves seeing dead mice, I am all for this approach.

So far, I haven’t seen evidence of another visit….and I hope it stays that way!

Have you ever dealt with a pest problem in your home?