The Blog Is Under Construction

Hey everybody!

First, let me say most importantly, I still am posting daily. Also, even though the blog is a bit wonky, you are more than welcome to follow me on instagram. That’s where I do most real-time (or semi-real-time updates) about what I’m up to. I try to update it regularly and it’s probably the best social network to follow me on if you’re interested in my projects.

Or you can follow me on twitter. (I mainly just talk about politics there. But I LOVE twitter and would be happy to see you there.)

I have a facebook page. It has a lot of photos and is updated pretty regularly as well.

You’re also welcome to follow me on Pinterest, flickr, or Foursquare – all of which I’m getting into a bit more each day.

Or you can always email me!

Okay, now that all that is taken care of, let’s get to the point of this post.

I’m transitioning blogging platforms (from to .org), and we’re doing a new layout as well. In the transition, a few problems are arising. I know we’ve been having trouble with the emails going out for new posts (people getting me on RSS feed are doing just dandy though).

There is also a problem with photos. So, at the moment my posts are not containing pictures. (So sorry.)

Basically, there are a few little kinks here and there. We’re working on them. I’m obviously not a big operation. This blog doesn’t generate revenue. So, unfortunately I’m not a company that can just kind of snap my fingers and fix things (by paying people to do it quickly). :( But it is being worked on! I hope to be back and fully functional in a few weeks (edited to add: I’m realizing it may be a couple of months).

But as I said, for now, I’d love if you wanted to follow me on some social media! And you’re welcome to check the blog periodically, ’cause even though you’re not getting your emails, I am posting for you…. (They should still be showing up chronologically underneath this post.)

See you back full throttle and better than ever in a bit! xoxo – Aurora

(#13) Fight For Air Stair Climb (With American Lung Association) – Part 1 (Jumping In With Both Feet)

This was spectacular. I dare may say it was my favorite one yet.

I roll in early in the morning, well before the sun had risen. This event was practically down the street from my house, and I was oh so thankful for the convenience.

When I got there, there seemed to be  little volunteer area, but since things were still being set up, the two volunteers manning the sign in had also basically just gotten there and didn’t really know what to do or where to go.

So, I started walking around until I found the volunteer coordinator. She was with people from the building, and we were walking into a storage room to get supplies. We hadn’t even exchanged names yet and she promptly told me we needed to get half of the mini-pies up to the recovery area. (I absolutely loved her get-right-in-there attitude.)

As I was loading up a dolly, she brought me a small group of volunteers and said something like, “Here’s a team. Make it happen.” So I did!You don’t have to tell me twice. I love getting stuff done and teamwork and all that great stuff. So, this was an absolute dream.

I was getting information as it all was happening. I didn’t even really know where the recovery area was. My only goal was to stay one step ahead of the volunteer team she gave me. I wanted to have people standing around, bored, as little as possible.

If you give me a team, I want to utilize them. (And I want them to be glad they came and feel like I’m helping them to do the best they can do.)

So, any time a dolly was loading up or people were on the move with heavy objects, I was on the move, finding people with the answers, getting a map of the layout, and making sure things were going where they needed to go.

We got the pies up there. We found out where the other mini-pies needed to go (VIP). We found out where the crackers and other pastries went. And we got everything loaded up and out to the correct places quickly! Before you knew it, the storage room was empty. [*high-five*]

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

So, How Did The Taxes Shake Out?

Some people asked for a follow up post to my one about taxes on game show winnings. Since it’s tax day, let’s do it!

I had the privilege of writing a check with my taxes for the first time this year. I always claim zero deductions on all start work paperwork because I never want to owe at the end of the year. (Thankfully, I won the car back in March and had plenty of time to plan. So, we all saw it coming.)

Here are the solved mysteries we were waiting to hear about:

- Selling the car (and obviously taking a loss since no one will pay sticker on a car previously titled to someone else) does not count as a capital gains loss. (I know. It’s a super bummer. You don’t have to tell me! I asked multiple sources, ’cause it seemed to me that that should’ve been a thing… But alas, it was not.)

- Even the huge sales tax bill (over $2,000) didn’t really help me. You can, in fact, claim your sales tax – but only if it is more than your state/local income tax (which the sales tax on the car was not, for me). However, I was told that had I saved every receipt from the year, I could’ve added all sales taxes from all receipts to the car’s sales tax and then hopefully come out ahead with sales tax.

So, I suppose that’s perhaps something to think about doing the next time you win a car on a game show…

(Again, I couldn’t be more thankful that this is the “problem” I had this year.)

I think that’s everything, right? It played out the way we expected. I did in fact get a form from TPiR, and had to claim my winnings as other income, paying taxes accordingly. So, there you have it.

If I’m forgetting to mention anything, or you have any questions, please let me know!

(#12) Feeding The Homeless On Skid Row (March 29, 2014) – Part 2 (Coach Ron – The One And Only)

Picking up from yesterday -

It was just an interesting day where no one really seemed to understand what organization we were volunteering with… I met “Coach Ron – the one and only.” Someone needs to base a sketch character off of him immediately.

Coach Ron (T.O.A.O)  was always pounding the table saying “peoples! peoples, peoples!” anytime he wanted to drive a point home. He also sort of liked to repeat himself when it came to talking about things his organization(? – if it exists, I’m still a little skeptical) had done.

He enjoyed mentioning how world famous skid row was. I get that it’s a place mentioned in a lot of things. But it was weird to me, sort of selling the idea of feeding homeless people (which we were already there to do anyway) by talking about how famous the area was…

He was obsessed with the idea that they needed a power-washer. I can’t tell you how much he impressed upon us that his group needed a power-washer for the park. Of course, none of us could make it appear out of thin air. But it seemed in his eyes like he wished we could.

Also, we were all supposed to donate $5 – which I did… But I did find it odd that we all ponied up $5 to a man in the middle of a park who really just had a folding table. Nothing else distinguished him from anybody else. Volunteers brought the food. We met in the park.

He could’ve been a random guy who just had a table and put a listing on Volunteer Match. (Legitimately, I’d say there’s at least a 40% chance that’s true…) If this is some enterprising sneaky scheme to make money, it’s probably not the easiest or fastest way to do it. But humongous kudos for thinking outside the box.

He does seem to legitimately run a reading club. So, he’s probably legitimate to some degree. And maybe it’s silly and awful to be so cynical and such. But I wondered as we all just handed over cash to this strange man, “What is this money going to be used for?”

So, an odd day with an odd man who left all the volunteers looking a little perplexed.

However, we did end up somehow rationing the food out perfectly so that everyone who wanted some got some with nothing leftover. So, some good got done – no matter how puzzled we all were. Yay to that.

(#12) Feeding The Homeless On Skid Row (March 29, 2014) – Part 1 (The Oddest Event Yet)

I know we’re only 12 activities in. So, this might not mean anything yet, but this was by far the oddest event yet.

Before I get to the weirdness, I do want to mention one takeaway of the day which is really just a question of how are we helping poor or homeless kids?

Of course I also genuinely care about homeless adults. But there was a middle-school-aged-child that came up to our group and started asking us questions about where we’re from. And he really didn’t have a grasp of the different states in America.

He seemed so outgoing and passionate about learning. He also seemed interested in sports; he dribbled a basketball the whole time he talked to us (and at points even tried to do some tricks).

So, where does someone with so much potential and so much passion go to fulfill those things? I’m sure there are (hopefully) organizations worried about that. I definitely think the school system is failing some people. But seeing this kid right in front of my face who could be doing more with this potential, but doesn’t know basic things like the states in our country… It was just slightly jarring and sad. But let’s get off the sad note and just talk about the total weirdness of the day.

I can’t even really tell you the name of the group, because it all seemed a bit convoluted to me. Apparently this guy “Coach Ron – the one and only” (and yes, “the one and only” was actually part of his name each time he introduced himself to someone) kind of maybe runs a non-profit?

Is it a 501(c)(3)? Your guess is as good as mine. What is the name of the non-profit? Who knows, really? Anytime we asked for specifics, they didn’t seem to exist. He seems to basically just be a guy who runs various programs around skid row.

This was the website he gave us when we asked. So, I just don’t know.

Basically, I went on Volunteer Match, saw there was an event feeding the homeless within walking distance of my home, and decided to go over there.

In the listing, it did say we should bring something if we should – though it did not specify that if we didn’t bring anything, there’d be nothing to give!

I thought they were asking that we supplement what would already be there… Nope. We were supposed to supply the entire lunch.

Thankfully, one woman brought a rice and meat dish. Thank goodness for her, or all we would’ve had would’ve been oranges and cookies (also thanks to other volunteers).

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.


(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 6 (A Small Problem I Probably Should’ve Foreseen)

Picking up from yesterday -

I guess I knew someone knew kids weren’t running of course, because someone instructed me to hold them up on the walkie. But it was a crazy day, and I was just afraid that information wasn’t going to get back to me. And I didn’t want to be holding kids up for no reason.

So, I waited with anticipation with my co-captain. Eventually we heard we should let the kids start running again. So, off they went!

Another thing that was crazy about the day was that as much as I thought the only problem would be people pushing forward and desperately trying to start as soon as they could… the opposite problem actually also existed. I’d excitedly tell people it was their turn to run. But then, the adults would decide the group needed to hang back because they had to wait for one person or another.

At the beginning of the day, we were told by the volunteer leaders, “The schools mix up. People are sat in order of how they arrive. It’s first come, first serve. If people ask where their school is, just tell them we’ll be running in mixed heats.”

Well, this sounded like a fine idea in theory. I was completely ready to follow the instructions. Little did I realize how important it was to people to run with their schools… Of course, thinking about it now after seeing how important it was to everyone, how would I not have realized that ahead of time? Of course as a kid (or a teacher so proud of all your kids), it’s important to you to run with your buds and the people who’ve done this with you.

I was thinking about it with my adult mindset of wanting to meet new people all the time – and of not being a part of any tight-knit groups right now. I almost always go places alone and am fine with enjoying the company of new people. I had totally forgotten the days of being in your super tight-knit loving group where you spend SO much time together and you just want to be in the presence of each other as you accomplish your goals.

So, as much as it was somewhat annoying to tell people to go, just to realize that basically that whole group was not in fact going to go yet, it actually didn’t slow down the day that much. And it was their day. So, they basically could do whatever they needed to do (assuming it didn’t completely stop or interfere with the day’s events), as far as I was concerned.

Overall, the event happened. Everybody made it to the finish line.

I met some extremely nice volunteers. And I got to help out with a group I can completely get behind. What a lovely day!

(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 5 (Nice People… And Some Of The Day’s Obstacles)

Picking up from yesterday -

Let’s get back to the events of the day. I will say that this is one of the most caring groups of people I’ve worked with. Three – that’s right, three – different people brought me water during the day because they knew I couldn’t leave my post, and they saw me doing oh so much talking with the children.

I didn’t tell anyone I was thirsty – I didn’t even realize I was forgetting to hydrate! But three separate people walked by at different points, saw that I might have a need for water, and just grabbed it for me. I thought that was so sweet, and it was an act (x3) that totally touched me.

Also, one of the main volunteers brought me a megaphone so I didn’t have to keep basically screaming to try to be heard at this huge outdoor event. (I mean, I can project and all… But you gotta imagine a lot of stuff happening, and a lot of noise happening as well.)

There were some obstacles during the day – other than just the kids who often ignored human chains and instructions. (I mean, good for them for their fearlessness, and their refusal to conform or follow rules or whatever… but also, eesh. I’m glad they have free-spirts that haven’t been squashed… However there has to be some order to things, right?)

Anyway, another smaller obstacle was hearing each other on the walkies. I tried to keep mine close enough and loud enough that I could hear important information… But as I mentioned, it was really loud there – kids, parents, the emcee, music…

We didn’t have earpieces (and honestly, I’m not quite sure how much they would’ve helped anyway, since we probably would’ve had to blow out our eardrums to hear. (And that volume would distort voices anyway.)) So, communication was hard to have.

Granted, once the day got going, we didn’t generally need to communicate all that much – except when they ran out of medals(!). I know. Running out of medals sounds super sad and disappointing (and probably was for the kids…). Thank goodness I wasn’t working the finish line after that happened. That was probably not fun to be the bearer of that news…

(I heard the kids would still definitely get medals mailed to their schools.)

Thankfully, I heard the call to stop heats from going. (The kids in the heat we stopped we sooooo not happy. I think they would’ve overthrown us and just stormed the track if we’d needed to wait another minute or two….

So, I heard the call to stop them. But I was so overly-petrified that I wasn’t going to hear the call to let them start up again! After a few minutes, I’m nervous asking into the walkie if people know that kids are no longer running, and if we know when to start. I don’t usually like to waste walkie air space on info people already know. But that’s the thing. I didn’t know if anyone knew it!

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 4 (I Gotta Be More Careful How I Treat Females)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I’m talking to all these different kids in different groups.

Once girl really stood out to me who seemed not as impatient, really together, and she was wearing a science shirt! I talked to her a little about her science ambitions. And I just thought, “look at this awesome girl with this confidence, and this drive to pursue athletics and science. I really hope our media and culture doesn’t ruin her and that she keeps this confidence forever…”

BUT! Guess who else is the problem (besides “media” and “our culture”)? That would be me! That’s right. I said me. *shakes head at self*

When it was time to have the kids go past me to the start line, I’d give high-fives and say encouraging things about how I hope they’re so proud of themselves, and I’d congratulate them on their amazing accomplishment…

But sometimes I also said things like, “I love your skirt!” “Your hair looks so cute!” etc.

And guess who got most of those comments that make it seems like image matters? Yep. That’d be the ladies, not the fellas.

Of course, my reasoning for this wasn’t because I thought it was important that girls look cute for running events… it was because the girls wore interesting, frilly, colorful, different running outfits! And the boys seemed to be in plain stuff.

BUT… did the girls worry about it because they felt they needed to? Quite possibly. And I’m SO sad that I maybe helped fuel that a little… I’ll admit even as a grown woman, I often don’t pick my running outfits based on comfort, but instead on how I’ll look in them. This whole, “I gotta be cute” thing – even when running a freaking marathon, it’s part of me that’s not going away anytime soon.

…However, when I see it in other younger girls, it makes me sad. I know that dichotomy doesn’t make sense. But what does make sense is empowering women. (I read Lean In! ;))

I know it’s important to complement children on their work ethic instead of their image (or their intrinsic abilities, since it’s been shown in studies that if you tell a child they’re smart, they’re less likely to push themselves on hard problems for fear of no longer being smart (if they were to mess anything up). If you tell them they’re a great worker, they work even harder to keep that compliment coming… Or at least that’s my understanding.)

I’m going off on a  tangent, but the point is, I didn’t realize ’til I got home that I gave too many image-based compliments. It doesn’t matter if someone’s hair looked cool. There is no need at all for me to mention it (even if I had good intentions of making people feel good) when there’s plenty of other stuff to mention – such as her awesome accomplishment that we’re there celebrating!

Aye, aye, aye. *continues to shake head at self*

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 3 (I Had No Idea What Excited Kids Are Like…)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I’m all “sure, I can hold these kids back” Bahaha. Sorry, I just had to laugh one more time, because this idea truly is preposterous.

Thankfully, the person in charge totally knew the human chain was actually necessary, and she rounded up more volunteers for us. As the day went on and the kids came our way, I learned that generally, they push and shove their way forward. They are not patient.

If they saw other kids at the start line, they wanted to be there too! Forget this whole different heats business.

As I explained to the children in a fun, overly-dramatic way while we were waiting, “I know. I know, it’s soooo hard! Every time I do a marathon, I’m always antsy and ready to just get this thing started already! I waited and waited the months to get here, training along the one. Today’s my day. It’s my moment. I’m ready to go right now. So, I get it.” (I do.)

I followed that up with, “but in order for you to really have your moment and be able to go across the finish line with space to take it all in and revel in it, you gotta let people go in heats. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a mess. You’re gonna trip over each other [of course pantomiming this stuff as I'm saying it]. And it’s gonna be rough. You waited all this time. I know – I know you can wait 5 more minutes.”

That talk and energy and logic sort of, kind of worked. But kids were still wildly impatient. They kept wanting to go. In the end, I might even be a little glad that I was the on-deck area instead of the start line, because I heard the impatience level was even worse at the start itself!

So, basically my day was spent doing my very best to basically placate impatient children over and over and over and over again – which was totally fine with me. I was an elf at Macy’s Santaland. I have spent many a day saying the same information over and over while trying to entertain bored and/or antsy, impatient kids.

I also tried reinforcing the messages of the program. I kept asking what they learned about exercise or nutrition or themselves during this marathon. They generally seemed to get pretty into that.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 2 (What Is Marathon Kids? And The Beginning Of Our Day)

Picking up from yesterday -

It was explained to me that since phys ed teachers are being cut at many schools, teachers of other subjects are stepping up, helping out with this 501(c)(3) charity, and making kids aware (and hopefully care) about healthier lifestyles. I think that’s noble and very cool that teachers of other subjects are giving up their own extra time because they’re passionate about this stuff.

So, what is Marathon Kids? It’s an organization that works with schools. They set up a program so that children track all the mileage they log over the course of some months. The kids also track their eating. Along the way they learn about the benefits of healthy eating and exercising.

Then, there’s this big celebration that we had. The kids make it almost to the end of 26.2 miles (so, a marathon distance) in their logs, saving just the last 1/2 lap on a track to do with us at this event!

The energy at this event was so strong, bouncing throughout over the stadium! It’s funny that I really didn’t realize quite how energetic (and fearless) kids are.

At the beginning of the day, they introduced me to the co-captain at the start line with me, See-Wan. When they explained our job, they said one of us would be at the actual start line making a human chain with other volunteers until we were ready to send that heat of runners.

The other one of us would be off to the side of the track as part of another human chain, keeping the next heat of runners ready and off the track until the start line is ready for them.

I thought start line would be the most fun (and probably most important) of those two jobs, so I offered it to her because she’d volunteered there before. See-Wan was super cool, and a total team player who seemed chill and like she would’ve done either.

At first, we were only assigned enough volunteers to our area to form the human chain at the start line itself. And I was alone in the area to the side of the track. When one of the main volunteer coordinators came to check in on us, she asked me where my human chain was.

I said we didn’t have enough people, but then I stood out, showing how wide my stance could be and I said something like, “I think I can hold back the heats while they’re just waiting.

Bahahahaha. Little did I know how incredibly silly that statement would seem later.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#11) Marathon Kids Finisher Medal Celebration (March 22, 2014) – Part 1 (I Hated Gym… Marathon Kids Benefits Kids Like The One I Was)

I love everything.

I am finding out about so many cool organizations that I had no idea existed through this adventure of my 52 volunteer activities.

I’m also finding out about so many problems I didn’t realize were such problems. So, that’s a bummer. First, I learned about libraries being shut down in school. Now I heard more about physical education being cut in many Los Angeles schools.

I’ll admit, as a kid, I would’ve loved that. I was always complaining, “uuuuggghhhh but why do we have to run a mile? How is this possibly going to help me in life? Why in the world would we be doing insane things like having gym class when we could be off doing creative endeavors like singing and playing our instruments? This is the biggest waste of time I can think of.”

Now, in child-me’s defense, from what I remember, gym class did sort of seem like a waste. There was a bunch of game playing (such as dodgeball) that didn’t really require that you be all that active. Could you be active in a game of dodgeball? Sure. Could you also apathetically stand there until someone hits you? Of course. Is that basic idea true of any sport? Yeah, probably pretty much.

Is it time to stop asking questions just to answer them? I’d say so.

The point is, I think I perhaps would’ve cared more about physical fitness had there been an end goal. I was always very competitive. So, if we were logging miles, I probably would’ve wanted to log the most, or log them before anyone else did, or do whatever sort of “winning” I decided was important.

I mean, we can’t say for sure… But I did always make sure to read more books when we logged those and all that jazz. And I always did more math problems so I could move ahead on that little board… I was always trying to win… except in gym.

It was the only class I wasn’t competitive in… For one thing, I knew I’d never beat anybody (Does it totally surprise you that the girl who didn’t believe in gym class was completely out of shape?) And I didn’t understand the importance of it all. And if I didn’t deem something important as a kid, then it was over! I had two modes – this matters a LOT, or this doesn’t matter.

And perhaps you can’t really impart on kids the importance of food and exercise… Maybe they’re all stubborn like I was. Maybe healthy living is just uncool and doesn’t make any sense to kids.

But if healthy living can be made to make sense, and be cool (and can’t it be, since anything in this world is possible?), then Marathon Kids is doing it!

That thing I just said I wish I’d had in school that maybe, just maybe, could’ve excited the girl who hated gym – that was Marathon Kids!

So, I was absolutely stoked to work with them – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#10) Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk (March 15, 2014) – Part 4 (I Feel Good!)

Picking up from yesterday -

and going away from my tangents on dogs and cupcakes, so the day went splendidly. I had so much fun getting families psyched about the day and hearing about what they learned while collecting their stamps.

When the day was coming to an end, Allison, the volunteer coordinator, made me feel like the belle of the ball! She was all, “Where did you come from?! You’re awesome! You are made for the information booth. I loved the way you interacted with people.”

It was raining compliments, which of course makes me feel amazing. She even offered to drop me off at a Metro station on her way home (since Santa Monica Airport is sort of hard to get to by public transport).

Since I was staying to hitch a ride with her, I went ahead and helped with the cleanup as well – which caused another happy storm of compliments. “Wow, you just get right in there. You know how to fold up tables! You seem to really know what you’re doing.”

Of course, I felt so happy and special all over again. I’ve never really thought too much about how events have been a pretty big part of my life… until now that I’m doing these 52 volunteer activities.

I’ve been around so many plays, recitals, dinners, receptions, etc. – and also so many set-building and tear-down days that I do just kind of go into the mode and start helping. My theater teacher instilled a bunch of great lessons and characteristics into us, and the desire to just start helping when you see people who need help is one of those things.

I mean, that sounds like a pretty normal thing, right? But now that I’m meeting more people involved in event planning (and now that I’m going to events myself), I’m starting to learn about all sorts of volunteers. Some are more helpful than others. Also, some have different strengths.

Just because I’m sitting here talking about how awesome I am (conceited, right?), I’ll readily admit that I’m better at interactive jobs. I’m better at jobs that keep you pretty busy. There are certainly things I do better than other things.

So, it’s really not about whose better or best… (I mean, for those of you who know me, it sort of is, since I’m always saying “If you’re not first, you’re last” ;)) But It’s about everyone using their best strengths – which I’m sure is a hard things for coordinators to try to navigate when they’re meeting people on probably the one and only day they’re going to use them.

Anyway, I felt great, valued, smart, and happy! And I got to go to a place I’d never been (and didn’t even know existed), so I’d call it an excellent day!

(#10) Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk (March 15, 2014) – Part 3 (Cupcakes)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I worked the information booth and barring all the dogs, it was absolutely wonderful!

…But, it was also extremely tempting, because there was a lot of amazing-looking (though fattening) food for you. At the time, I was being oh-so-good about that stuff. I will admit as of the writing of this post, I’ve gotten a little more lax with that stuff (while I do believe there’s a balance to strike, I’m not particularly proud of the way I’ve been eating this past week…)

Anyway, there were Sprinkles cupcakes given to the volunteers. I was offered a free cupcake probably at least 5 times. At the end, while we were cleaning up, I could’ve taken 4 because of the excess! But I didn’t eat a single one (though I will admit I came close).

I am learning that many volunteer events feed their volunteers all sorts of little treats. That’s wonderful and precious and sweet, but boy oh boy if I’m gonna do 52 of these, I gotta watch out!

Speaking of cupcakes, did you know that red velvet is really just chocolate? ‘Cause I had no idea. And it sort of devastated me a bit. (That perhaps is a bit of a dramatic way to put it….) But I’m not a humongous chocolate fan. I’ll eat it, sure. But I’d much rather have something cinnamon or vanilla anytime.

And anytime there’s a choice between chocolate or red velvet, I always pick red velvet thinking it’s some kind of cool alternative to my least favorite kinds of sweets… until I learned that it is just another variation of chocolate!

Of course someone already told me that what it actually is doesn’t affect how it tastes, so my opinions on it shouldn’t change. Logically, I understand that. But realistically, I already look at differently. It already doesn’t taste better in my mind. (I haven’t eaten it since, since obviously this has been so upsetting…)

I don’t have a great sense of taste anyway since I have anosmia (like Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s). So, you know, mind matters here! (And texture… that’s what matters for good ol’ diminished taste buds me)…

Whether or not it makes sense, I’m no longer a red velvet fan. I don’t know what in the world I ever thought it was, but I didn’t know it was chocolate. Blegh

I’ll finish out the day (and tell non-cupcake related stories) tomorrow!

(#10) Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk (March 15, 2014) – Part 2 (But I Have One Rant…(Hint: It’s About Dogs))

Picking up from yesterday -

All right, let’s get into the rant part – something that seems to come up a fair amount with me…

When I’m in the human world, and I’m at an event that travels through many buildings with tight spaces (even if it does wander into the outdoors), and there are lots of tiny little children around, I don’t like dogs to be everywhere! I especially don’t like when all these horse-dogs are out.

I don’t know what it is with people in Los Angeles (I think it’s because people are lonely out here, and because we have so much more space in our homes than people have in New York), but people seem to love to have these gigantic dogs – dogs that seems like they could eat the children at this place in about two bites.

So, dogs were plentiful. And people who bring dogs don’t even seem to worried about it. They let those retractable leashes just go longer and longer, not really caring if the dog is going to touch other humans. That pretty much boggles my mind.

It also boggles my mind how people react! The last time I went to New York (dreamy look), I only saw one dog anywhere close to Times Square and every single face I saw looking at the dog looked at it and its owner with disdain. “Why in the world do you have that dog in this crowded, awesome city environment, lady? Get it out of here.”

But in California, people welcome dogs everywhere. I was at the Apple Store not that long ago, and someone just brought a dog in! Let me remind you, this is a place with very expensive equipment everywhere. But yeah, let’s just have animals running around with all the cords and everything. I’m sure that’s not a bad idea at all.

Is this even a thing in other places? Whenever I’ve gone to visit my parents or my sister, I’ve never seen a dog just entering a normal store in the midwest… or really anywhere I’ve gone except for this crazy town. People who live in other places, do you experience this?

So, there are these huge horse dogs there. I’m expecting that people will look annoyed, but no! They go up to the dog and start petting it.

Okay, everybody.

a) Do you not realize that’s totally dangerous? That is a strange animal you’re putting your hands all over. But you know, whatever.

b) You are encouraging this behavior! When people bring their horse dogs to crowded public events that involve small humans and indoor elements, and instead of ignoring them, you praise them and give them tons of attention – you are encouraging them to do it again and again. I’m sorry to say it, but you’re part of the problem, my friends.

I could rant on and on all day about dogs, dog owners, and what I believe is proper etiquette for where you should and shouldn’t be taking dogs. But, you understand what I’m saying, so I won’t belabor the point anymore (in this post, at least – I’m sure I will in the future).

And I’ll pick up here tomorrow.

(#10) Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk (March 15, 2014) – Part 1 (An Absolutely Lovely Event)

This was awesome!

After volunteering at the food bank, I made my way to the ArtWalk. Yet again – as seems to be the theme with this project, of me apparently not knowing anything about anything – I didn’t even know there was a Santa Monica Airport.

In fact, not only is there an airport, it’s a sort of controversial thing, as I found out by talking to people throughout the day.

My job here was to work the information booth. Not to flip my hair cockily or anything, but I was pretty sure I could rock this because I love being pleasant and talking to people.

When I first got there, they had me walk around to all the different areas so I could have a better idea of what to tell people. I was so glad I got to do this! I found out things I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I saw that Mike Machat – the artist who did the mural in the Santa Monica Airport – was drawing pictures for people in the Museum of Flying (which had free admission during the ArtWalk)!

I also met Chris, a volunteer at the Museum of Flying, who totally rocked and knew everything about every plane.

It also was wonderful that I took a look around the place because we all know how bad I am with maps. But since I got to go to the places, I could say “oh, go behind this or that.”

It was a really cool day filled with activities. There was a station where children could build little terrariums.  There were places for painting and ceramics. Basically, there was all kinds of stuff to do. And here’s the best part! There was even a little sticker/passport thing on the back of the map. If you collected 5 stamps, from going to the different areas of the ArtWalk (including an improv class! – how great and full of different mediums was this place?), you got a set of wings!

I loved telling people about that awesomeness. (I love goals and checklists and things, so to me an already fun day of exploring is made all that much better by a fun list with stamps to help take you through it.) I also loved presenting the wings to people who’d finished.

Overall, this was an exceptional day. However, I do have one small rant (and more things that were great) tomorrow.

(#9) Los Angeles Regional Food Bank (March 15, 2014) – Part 2 (Sorting Food)

Picking up from yesterday -

It was time to get to work. Basically, the entire day was just filled with taking food out of really, really big containers and putting them in much smaller containers so they could be sent to various food banks all around the city.

I know yesterday I admitted I didn’t realize that was a thing – one central food bank. But don’t you think it’s a nice idea? They get food from everybody! Various grocery stores, even the USDA – everybody gives food to this place. So, big chains and governmental agencies and such don’t need to worry about finding all these little places to give food. They just boom it all out to the one central location.

Then the LA Regional Food Bank then figures out the rest of the process – getting it to food pantries and various places with need around Los Angeles.

As we’re taking food from huge boxes on palettes and putting them into small boxes, I see people doing it a bit haphazardly, dropping carrots. (We had oh so many carrots on the floor.) I thought to myself, “I shall not be a carrot-waster! This is precious food that people desperately need. We can’t just waste carrots!”

I made it so long without dropping a single carrot. But alas, *sighs, slides down in chair*… I hate to admit this, but I did in fact drop one carrot on the floor… It was a small one! (I know I’m just justifying it to myself…) So, I was bummed. Then I thought, “well, if I just give them a dollar, that’s 4 meals. So, maybe this can make up for this poor carrot on the floor business.”

Anyway, we have to move on. I know it’s very upsetting that I didn’t hit my “save every single carrot, by golly” goal. But we must let it go, okay?

It was a bit of a free-for-all, with people taking boxes off and putting them on our conveyor belt. (So, nothing made it to the end of the belt, which negated the point of the belt since people were doing lots of lifting).

The place was set up in a great way meant for efficiency. But different people went at different rates, and it seemed like peak efficiency went out the window pretty quickly. Oh well. No one seemed to mind. One guy who was an architect (so, I’d assume smart, thoughtful, and good at plans) made a go at trying to get an actual system going… but it just didn’t work out.

Even still, we got all the food sorted before the original ending time of the day. So, overall, I’d call it a success. Thumbs up, and on to number 10!

We Must Talk About Last Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy

*spoilers – including general Grey’s spoilers having to do with other episodes*

I had to put a blog post in here about last Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy because in my opinion, it was the best episode of the series. I know that’s saying a lot because it’s an amazing show. But, I was so riveted. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed in the middle of the episode.

I love when TV takes to this place of such deep sadness or pain (or when it takes you to intense joy – just when it makes you feel the outer edges of human emotions).

I care so much about Christina Yang (even though she’s fictional). If I could be anyone on the show, I would absolutely be Christina. Meredith had some really interesting experiences. I adored that episode where she almost drowned. It was done so well.

But, there’s no one I’d rather be than Christina. She’s interesting to me – wildly interesting. And she cares so much about surgery. I love practically any character who has that much passion for anything. I especially love her. She’s strong. She’s passionate. She’s generally not afraid.

I also feel like she’s so real. The arc she had after the plane crash seemed completely real to me.

The only thing I haven’t absolutely loved about Christina’s story is her ridiculous relationship with Owen. I never truly understood what she saw in him in the first place. I never really understood why it’s so hard for her to let him go.

…But you know what? Love makes people absolutely insane. Weird chemical stuff happens in people’s brains. People do things they would never otherwise normally do. It just happens. That’s probably why so many stories involve love – because it makes people totally nuts. And completely nuts characters who can’t always control themselves do different (and possibly more interesting) things than characters who can reason and make smart decisions. So, I get it.

I decide to give the show my suspension of disbelief, and just go with the Owen/Christina thing.

And yes, I get that it’s a little silly that apparently it takes no suspension of disbelief for me to totally follow along with all the explosive disasters, yet Christina loving Owen is insanely hard to believe. But those disasters could totally happen! And she’s Christina. And even if we assumed she would fall in love… with Owen?! What makes him special enough for Christina? She’s Christina! But whatever. I don’t need to belabor it any more because I said I give the show my suspension of disbelief.

Anyway, last week’s show had two timelines. And the first one broke my heart into a million pieces. It got sadder and sadder and by the time she presented the Harper Avery award, I was a loud, sobbing, ridiculous mess. As as been mentioned in this post – she’s Christina! Her life cannot end up like that.

I also found it interesting how her timelines affected the people around her – that in the end Jackson was spared a number of horrible years because of her simply telling him to watch his hand.

The episode was amazing. I want to watch it again. I’m inspired by (and jealous of) the writer’s of Grey’s Anatomy, because in my opinion, that is how you tell a story! They did it. They told a riveting, affecting, wonderful story that I absolutely loved (even if part of it devastated me).

(#9) Los Angeles Regional Food Bank (March 15, 2014) – Part 1 (Arrival and Intro Video)

I don’t know if this is daft* to admit, but I didn’t realize before this activity that there’s one main food bank that distributes to all other food banks in Los Angeles.

*No, I’m not British, but I just felt “daft” fit in that sentence. Why not?

Did you all know this concept of one main food bank?

So, I got onto the subway and made my way down there. While walking to the food bank, I felt I wasn’t perhaps in the very best neighborhood… Obviously, I wasn’t all that afraid. I choose to think the best of people. Plus, I’m all tough and strong. *determined musical theater face*

My biggest concern of the sort of dilapidated neighborhood, with practically no public places (meaning restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, etc), I really just worried dogs might be around and able to get out. It just felt like a place that would have dogs around. And is there anything scarier than a dog on the loose?

I did end up making it to the food bank without any dog attacks. (Celebratory dance music plays).

Once I got there, we all milled about outside for a bit. There was a sign that says “take pictures while you wait.” That’s cool that they were encouraging us to document the day. (I’m assuming they wanted us to tweet/instagram those pictures, though that wasn’t explicitly stated…

Once everyone had checked in, we all moved inside the big warehouse and were shown a small video. Here are some of the takeaways I found most interesting:

For every dollar donated, they distribute 4(!) meals. Is it just me, or does that seem like they’re really stretching money, y’all? I wondered if I possibly heard it wrong. But I went to the website to verify, and that’s what they say.

They also said they’ve distributed a billion pounds of food since their founding in 1973 – which is the equivalent of 800 million meals… That sounds like a lot of food to me.

They also said their ultimate mission is to go out of business. Of course that makes sense, but I thought it was still nice they put it in their video.

Then, we got to work – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#8) Habitat For Humanity (February 28, 2014) – Part 2 (*sings* All By Myself)

Picking up from yesterday -

As Steve’s talking to me, he says, “Oh, I guess you didn’t get the email.” I ask, “What email?”

He says that the night before he called it off because of the weather. In my head, I yell with eyes wide open – but out loud I just politely remind him, “But I called you this morning. You said it was still happening.”

He said, “Well, you were already on your way. Oh goodness.

So, he set me up in the house with paint so I could paint doors and door jams while he did more work outside, because he had to do things having to do with all the water coming into the area.

He did seem like a very kind mind (even if I had yelled at him in my head). And he gave me a free, dry Habitat for Humanity t-shirt.

So, there you have it. I listened to podcasts about game shows and painted some doors, while still pretty cold because my feet were still wet.

When my shift was over, I fell into a (literally) knee-deep hole of mud outside of the house. (How was there a hole that big?!)

I really didn’t want to spend the money for a cab all the way home, but I was so cold, muddy, and wet. The next train didn’t come for over an hour! So, I just swallowed my pride and common sense and paid to go all the way back to Los Angeles from the San Fernando valley.

Before I even walked into my apartment, I started stripping down in the laundry room on our floor. I wasn’t tracking the mud from my shoes, socks, and pants into my room. Thank goodness nobody walked in on me. I feel like that would’ve been a bit embarrassing. Like, “uh, hey there. Don’t mind me. Just taking off my clothes…”

The next hour involved a lot of cleaning – laundry, shower, trying to salvage shoes – all while trying to keep my apartment free of mud.

The day was exhausting. I was out $100 in cab fare. And the only thing I did in the house was paint some doors… Granted, someone needed to paint them. And at least something got done.  But this was a really stark contrast to the Do Good Bus where tons of people helped and a room was transformed.

Working alone really illustrated for me how teamwork makes the dream work.

(#8) Habitat For Humanity (February 28, 2014) – Part 1 (Aye, Aye, Aye)

Oh, I’m gonna say it. This was miserable.

This is no fault of Habitat for Humanity’s, but it was a rough day – which is especially lame because when I started this project, I thought, “One place I must work with in the 52 weeks is Habitat for Humanity. That seems so fabulous, fun, and fantastic!”

But on this day, it was raining all across L.A. As I’m sure you know, anything other than 80 degrees & sunny and the city practically shuts down because of how much people freak out about any weather here.

I dutifully went to the train station. It was just sprinkling in the morning, and I didn’t think too much of it. But as I was on the train headed toward some far away suburb of Los Angeles, I saw that the rain seemed to be getting worse not better.

Of course, that was very perplexing. I’m only used to it “raining” for about 5 minutes at a time out here. As the rain poured more, I started to think this might not be happening. So, I called the man in charge of the site asking if it was still going on.

He said, “Oh, I’ll be there! You can paint indoors.” Wow, well, okay then. I have not yet become too L.A. to go places in the rain. So, if it’s happening I’m going.

I get to the train station (which is outdoors, by the way), because what isn’t in L.A.? I’m trying to stay somewhat dry under this awning thing. Originally, I was going to walk a bit then catch a bus. However, I was within 4-ish miles of the site, and figured I’d save myself the 1/2 mile walk in the pouring rain and just splurge on a cab from that point…

The cab ended up taking 43 minutes(!) to get there. Dealing with the cab company was infuriating. They were SO unhelpful, and not at all apologetic, though they knew I had nowhere to wait indoors.

Obviously, if I’d known the cab was going to take so long, I would’ve just gone for the bus, or at least walked to a coffee shop or something. Nothing was super close by, but I’m pretty sure I could’ve found something indoors within 20 minutes.

I finally get to the site and I’m freezing. I’m dripping wet. Once I get there, it’s just a construction area (of course) so there’s nothing paved between the houses. We have to walk through the dirt. Usually, this wouldn’t be a big deal – except that the dirt is now mud. Everything is so muddy.

So, we walk to one of the back houses. And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#7) Big Sunday & Operation Gratitude (February 27, 2014)

I’ll admit when I first heard the name Big Sunday, I was slightly hesitant.

My last roommates (before the one I have now) were really into youth groups and church and stuff, and I know Sunday was a big day for that. So, I just thought maybe a “big Sunday” was the churchiest of all church days.

But that is completely incorrect.

Big Sunday is purely and simply “a nonprofit organization that works to build community through community service… The idea is that everyone has some way that they can help somebody else.”

It’s really cool. They partner with different non-profits and find different ways to help each week.

They give free food when you get there, and they’re even pretty centrally located & easily accessible.

Though, I will say, I take the same route to get to Big Sunday as I do to get to the Groundlings. So, as I walked down Highland, even though it’s been over a year, my body tensed up. I was going into fight or flight, baby, ready to go to an improv class.

However, it was not time for improv. It was time for volunteer work.

That week at Big Sunday, they worked with an organization called Operation Gratitude. Operation Gratitude sends care packages to our nation’s military. We were there to make paracord bracelets to put in the care packages.

I didn’t know anything about paracord bracelets, but they’re really cool! There’s a whole page on what they are and how they can be used here.

In case you don’t want to go to that link, the gist is, 8 feet of parachute cord – which can hold up to 550 pounds – can go in one bracelet and can be used for all sorts of things, such as creating harness, splints, etc. Even within the cord, nylon cords can be used to repair gear, or they can be used even as sutures, and more.

So, these two wonderful women taught us how to make the bracelets.

I’m usually a loud person who loves interacting with every person on the planet. But for whatever reason, on that day, I was just feeling a little quiet. (I know. Weird, right?)

So, this was the absolutely perfect activity for me for that day because it was a very individual activity. You could just sit there, make your bracelet, be quiet and contemplate whatever you want.

Of course by the end of the day, I was talking with everything. I mean, really, how long can you possible be quiet?

I also made the most bracelets! Up top! I “made” 13, but I kept having trouble with the last one. One piece kept coming out longer than the other. I don’t really think it’ll pass inspection. So, I say I made 12 – which was still the most of the class.

(‘Cause come on, can we really just be helpful. Or do we have to win at being helpful? ;))

This was awesome. Everyone was so nice. I would definitely go back to Big Sunday, and I’d love to help with Operation Gratitude again!

(#6) Tree Musketeers (February 26, 2014) – Part 2 (Volunteering)

Picking up from yesterday -

We waited a bit for the other volunteers, but none ended up showing up. It was just me and James for the day.

But the only thing we needed to accomplish was digging up eight dead trees so alive ones could be planted in their places.

A new plant by the Department of Water and Power opened up, and the deal the plant made to move in was that they would replant all the trees they harmed by coming in. They ended up digging out the system that brought water to those 8 trees, so that’s why the trees died and will be replanted (on Arbor Day (which at the time was only a week away, but by the time this is posting, is behind us)).

It was a beautiful day to work outside because it wasn’t wildly sunny. So, yay. Our precious skin was spared!

James was so knowledgeable about nature. He knew every thing there was to know about every tree and plant – or at least so it seemed to me.

He said that nature has this innate positivity and that if you’re ever feeling down, you should go sit by a tree because within 15 minutes, your spirit will automatically be lifted.

Of course, being someone who dislikes the outdoors, I’m not sure how much I completely agree. But I will say, I felt really positive after the day with him. So, what do I know? Maybe it was his sunny personality, or perhaps it was the trees…

He also told me the story of how Tree Musketeers got started. Apparently, back in the ’80s, some Brownies (little Girl Scouts) planted a tree to get a merit badge. And they loved the work so much, they made a non-profit out of it! And I guess it continues to be run by kids to this day (even though the original kids have grown up, and at least one is on the board now).

So, I thought that was really cool. People seeing something they loved, seeing a need, and just boom. “Let’s start this organization.” I liked that.

After we pulled up the trees, we drove them over to a place that recycles them into mulch. And there you have it! Such a simple, efficient, fun-filled day.

(#6) Tree Musketeers (February 26, 2014) – Part 1 (Choosing An Environmental Activity)

Okay, this part is an intro not having to do with the day. Skip to the little dashed lines to go straight to Tree Musketeers talk.

I know between talking about the marathon and my new job, some volunteer activities have come and gone.

There is just too much to blog about sometimes… I still have a whole list of stories/subjects I’ve started but haven’t finished yet – e.g. Groundlings, the story of how I started/moved up in my television career (my day (and sometimes night) job), tying to give a kidney, the last few posts wrapping up 52 half marathons)… Eesh! Sorry.

So, let’s start catching up on these volunteer activities, and then we’ll work our way back around to the other stuff.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

So, Tree Musketeers!

I’ll confess, part of the reason I worked with Tree Musketeers is because they have such a freaking awesome name. I mean, really. Bravo, people who named it that.

Another reason I decided to volunteer with Tree Musketeers is because I wanted to push myself a little. I believe in taking care of our environment. I think I should learn more about and maybe be a little more respectful of nature.

But, I am not a super outdoorsy person. I have my moments and all, but if it were up to me, I’d basically always be inside… (unless I’m walking around in Boston or New York City, because I’m surrounded by buildings and it’s gorgeous, and the air feels wonderful).

So, I thought, “Okay, Aurora. If you think the environment is an important cause, you better do at least one environmental thing” – which led me to this.

The confirmation email I got said if you have any questions, feel free to ask. so I totally wrote ahead of time to ask about the dog situation – if anyone would be around. (My strong dislike/fear of animals is the main reason I pretty much stay away from nature.)

The person in the office wrote back that no one brings their dogs. Little did she know that when I got there, someone in the neighborhood across the street would be walking her (really terrifying) dog without a leash!

Honestly, dog people in California, what’s with you? I know you don’t all do it… But it truly is a ridiculous number of people who do and who have absolutely no regard for safety. And this is why I don’t like to go outside! (Well, that and the harsh, harsh sun.)

Thankfully, though we were safe from the dog waiting in the official Tree Musketeers pick-up truck. So, thank goodness for that.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.


A Little Reflection… – Part 4 (My Promises To Myself – Part 2)

Picking up from yesterday -

- I will work out at least four days a week. As part of my commute, I already walk 3 miles in the course of getting to/from work between different bus/train stops. And I walk some staircases and such too. So, I will be active and get my 10,000+ steps everyday. But I will work out with intent at least four days a week. (Again, I’ll shoot for more and may very well reach it since exercise is very happily engrained in my life now. But four is the minimum.)

- I will always bring at least some food to work so I have things I know I can eat while still staying pretty healthy.

- I will use my weekends! I felt like at my last during-the-day job I completely vegged out and did nothing but basically sleep and try to maybe catch up on life during the weekends. Not this time. Since I’m going to be much better about working out and sleeping like a normal person during the week, I’m just gonna keep it up on the weekends and actually do things.

(The desire to make sure I don’t shut down on the weekends is part of why I started my cool new project. So, I won’t have too much of a choice since that must continue moving forward.)

So, those are my promises to myself. As of now, they’re seeming like they should be pretty realistically possible. I guess we’ll see how I do.

No matter what, I must do better than I did in my last job under these circumstances. Of course, being better than that shouldn’t be hard!

(Plus, this job only goes through part of July. So even if I implode, I can survive anything for only 4 months!)

A Little Reflection… – Part 4 (My Promises To Myself – Part 1)

Picking up from yesterday -

Okay, so I don’t want to revert to the lazy, heavier girl who doesn’t write much and just throws her hands up thinking, “Oh, I have a job in the daytime hours with a long commute. It’s all over, y’all! Forget it!”

And even though I felt like with the commute and the long days I had no time – I ended up having to do double duty for two weeks. (I actually mentioned this on the blog back then, so you may remember hearing about it.) So, somehow I figured out how to work a second full time job when I thought I had “no time.”

The lesson there for me was that time absolutely exists. It’s just about utilizing it.

So, I promise myself:

- I will work on something creative (my musical, a spec script, etc.) at least 6 days a week. (I know I should probably say 7. But I’m shooting for things I can realistically do in this new crazy era of being out in the sunshine (blegh). If I can do 7, then good for me. Bonus points, I suppose.

- I will use my commute wisely. If we’re assuming that I’m going to be gone about 14 hours a day for my job (including my commute – geez, I use that word a lot), and that I want to sleep about 8 hours a day, that means I only have two hours left for me each weekday! That’s not a whole lot.

Any random errands and things will have to go in those two hours (or the weekends) – such as grocery shopping, laundry, and the like. Also, those two hours will include showering, and the whole nighttime routine (brushing, flossing, washing face, using serums – all that various skin routine stuff). Plus, many nights I’ll be getting a workout in. Those two hours are going to fly. (And on any nights when public transport runs slower than expected or traffic is brutal (so, basically every night in L.A. to both of those things), I’m going to be left with less than two hours.

I’m going to work to get all blogging (or as much of it as I can) and social media stuff done on the commute, so I don’t even have to think about it at home.

And I’ll pick up with one more post on this tomorrow.

A Little Reflection… – Part 3 (Laying Out My New Situation)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I’m starting this new and exciting job. But as was my last daytime-hours job, this one is pretty far away. All in all between the commute and hours at work, I’ll probably be away from home for about 13 1/2-14ish hours everyday.

Certainly, there are people who work way more. So it’s not awful or impossible. It’s just not nearly as cush and nice as my last nighttime job.

Also, I had to take a paycut. While this position normally pays more than what I made at my last job, because I’ve never done it before, in their final “take it or leave it” offer, I had to decide if I was willing to take a pretty substantial paycut for the privilege of experiencing a new position.

When weighing my options, I decided it was worth it. (I was actually offered a shorter term job doing what I used to do (being a night assistant editor) at the same rate I’d had before (though at a different company). So, that’s why I say I had options… But that one wasn’t nearly as long of a gig, and when you put them side-by-side, I decided that I just felt this Post Production Coordinator one made more sense for me in this moment. (And there’s never really any way to definitively know if you made the “right” choice.)

Of course, taking a pay cut is kind of a bummer. It does sort of make me feel less like a legitimate adult. Obviously, I’ve supported myself for years now. I bathe, clothe, and feed myself. And I am employed. So, I don’t really know what qualifies as a “legitimate adult.” But I just felt like I was more of a grown up at my last grown-up pay job. So, it’s a hit to my pride.

Of course, it’s also a hit to my bank account. I can still live on my new salary just fine. But I won’t be able to do as many fun things as I could before. I’ll have to make a few more tough decisions about which things are truly valuable to me, and while adventures I need to skip out on (for now).

And that’s fine. Living with a tighter budget is cool and all. But, you know, it’s a change. So, that is what it is.

Now, other than that change, there are some things I won’t be changing. There are promises I need to make to myself. And I’ll get into those tomorrow.

A Little Reflection… – Part 2 (What Was The Problem?)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, my last day job exhausted me. Part of this was that it was in Burbank, which I think is even hotter than L.A. proper. It was also really hard and time consuming to get to/from. Plus, we were in the middle of nowhere. Instead of being smart and bringing food from home, I ate the only food available in the building (of which there weren’t very many healthy choices… and of the few there were, I did not choose to make them).

Also, thinking back to last summer, I got rejected from The BMI Musical Theatre Workshop for the 3rd time. That was by far my best application, and I didn’t even get a callback. I tried to act as though that didn’t faze me.

Whatever. I’m in the business of rejection! Am I right?

But I think it hurt more than I tried to allow myself to acknowledge. I noticed that I wrote way less than usual (when it came to musicals or any type of show), and I think part of it was because I thought, “my very best doesn’t even get me an audition. So, really, what am I doing?”

Even if I kept that thought as deep down as I could and tried to pretend it wasn’t there, I think it was.

But then… *musical theater eyes* when I got my night job, everything in life seemed so much easier!

I worked at a place close to my home, so that crazy commute was no more. I also worked by tons of food options – including a grocery store! And, there was a gym down the street. Since nights are so much more chill than days, I’d go to the gym for my lunch break a few times a week.

Life was so beautiful! I was learning and growing at work, while totally having time for a life outside of it. And the farther away I got from that BMI rejection, the less I think it stung. (And I went to Ohio in January, and had a couple of moments of recharging, which made me want to write more.)

So, things were looking up.

But now, it’s back to a day job.

As I’m drafting this I’m about to start work, but when it’s publishing, I will already be into the new job. I’m working as a Post Production Coordinator on a new reality show. And I accepted it in large part because I’m excited to continue to grow and learn when it comes to my knowledge of television and the entertainment industry in general.

I think it’ll be a new and exciting challenge where I get to see the making of a show from a vantage point from which I’ve never seen it before.

And tomorrow, I’ll finish this out with asking how I can juggle having a far away job during the daytime hours while keeping the healthy life trajectory I’m on now.

4 Years Post Open-Heart Surgery

Sorry. I should’ve posted this March 22!

Today marked the 4th anniversary since of my open-heart surgery. I don’t think about it all that much any more, or have it marked on my calendar. I don’t think it’s necessarily something important to revisit.

Nonetheless, every March 22, I can’t help but remember this was the day.

One year out, I was still pretty much a complete mess.

Two years out, I was in the midst of the half marathons project.
Three years out, I’d just won the car on Price is Right! :-)
So, how are things going four years out?

Well, I feel like that year in/out of the hospital affected me in a lot of ways – financially, physically, even just life-trajectory-wise. So, just a general life check in of basically all areas:

Physical: I’m in the best shape of my life. I ran my fastest marathon to date this month, and I recently started T25 (’cause it’s time to get my core as strong as my legs). I still have plenty of weight to lose and fitness goals to hit, but the progress here is definitely happening.

Philanthropy: I’m 11 activities into my project of my 52 volunteer activities in 52 weeks. I volunteered with an awesome organization today, and had the very best time! So, while I’m not committed to long-term to any one (or two) organization(s) anymore, I’d say this is going pretty well overall… (Although I have yet to be approved as a living kidney donor. Eesh.)

Career: I recently started a job as a post-production coordinator. My boss describes it as being “the glue.” I communicate between editors, producers, the field, the network – all that jazz. So, I made another step up on the ladder this year, and so far it’s going well (as far as I can tell :-P).

Creative: I’m just about finished writing a new musical. Don’t know if anything will come of it, but I’m happy to be actively writing. And I’m determined to at least do a small workshop of it somewhere before the end of 2015. I also keep the blog (which is a bit of a mess right now). So, I’d say this area is still only so-so with a *definite* need for growth.

In the next year, I’d love to take another improv and/or sketch class, and also another writing class at UCLA extension. I want to better organize the blog and make it more easily readable. I also need to make bigger goals as far as number of scripts I want to complete and number of writing programs I want to apply to. If I was getting a B or C in the other two categories, I’m probably about a D here. So, improvement absolutely needed.

Financial: Things are pretty good here. I sold that car and basically got out of debt, so that was great. Once out of debt, I stupidly wasted money on a few things I wish I wouldn’t have (two college classes I ended up not having the time to finish, a website design deposit that I never got back – and also never got the new website (guh) – stuff like that.) But even though I can point out my missteps, I’m definitely making an effort to be generally smarter with money (And at least I feel I’m learning from the missteps).

I can’t declare myself debt-free in large part due to putting an expensive iPhone on a credit card that I’m paying off (so worth it, though). Plus I actually have to pay taxes this year due to Price is Right. And, we’ll see how work shakes out for the rest of the year since my current job only goes ’til July. But I have a goal to be debt-free with maybe even a small cushion, if we re-visit this at 5 years out from surgery. But the good news is, I’m in a *much* better spot than I’ve been in at points in the past (and certainly immediately following open-heart surgery). So, there’s that.

Education: Ah, saving the most objectively disappointing for last. Basically nothing has happened here. I quit college after open-heart surgery. I’ve thought about going back. I signed up for two classes in the fall and withdrew from both when I got busy with work and felt I didn’t have the time. So, this one is the one that has been completely unchanged… This is also probably the least important. I mean, I do believe in being well-read and interested in the world around me. But as far as structured education, I go back and forth all the time as to whether I need it. So far, I haven’t needed it. So, this just is what it is.

So, as far as my life report card, I guess overall I’m hovering around a C. (This seemed better when I started writing it lol) But I think with some good work over the next year, I can try to bring it up to a B- by this time next year.

I guess time will tell, and we shall see!

A Little Reflection… – Part 1 (I Like The Direction I’m Heading Right Now)

This really might be more meat for a personal journal than the blog, ’cause I’m not sure if you’re gonna care about any of this.

However, I’m writing anyway.

For the past probably 5 or so months, I’ve felt pretty, um, I don’t know if maybe “in control” of my life is the best way to put it… But I suppose let’s go with that. I’ve definitely felt much more like a real adult.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been losing weight. I can fit into much cuter and better clothes now. So, I think I’m starting to sort of look and carry myself a bit more like a real adult.

Also, this isn’t nearly as important as that, but I’ve gotten much better at social media and not falling so far behind on all of it. I’m not perfect, but at least better about loading pictures from events on my computer as soon as possible, naming, sorting, and getting them out there. And that makes me feel more organized and proactive.

I think it also helped that in October I got this really amazing gig where I was pushed harder than I’d ever been before as an assistant editor. I was the only one on my show on nights. So, I had a lot of responsibility. I also had to fill in for the day lead for a week or so, which is a pretty big job (especially since he also handles development, not just the one show). I also got a raise. (What, what?)

So, my new grown-up wage and responsibilities, plus just being better and generally more organized about my life has been feeling incredible.

Not to mention, quite possibly the most important part which is that I’ve been writing a lot more! I’m making more time to work on my musical, and I’m ready to finally leap in to another writing class. So, that’s all awesome.

Now, why did things change in me? And how can I keep that change going?

The reason I’m kind of out-loud wondering now how to keep that change is because I’m about to start a day job (I know, right?) with a long commute. I remember last summer/early fall when I job in daytime hours with a long commute. I felt so exhausted. And that was when I started kind of spiraling a bit and talking about going back to college and thinking about how, “I can’t do this forever! What am I gonna do, y’all?”

Okay, I need more space to do out-loud wondering. So, let’s pick up here tomorrow.

One Year Price Is Right Anniversary

Note: I know the blog is a mess right now, and I’m so sorry! I’ve been told the picture issue is going to be fixed soon. I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have. I also know the emails don’t go out every night…

And this is my fault’s – not the website’s – but this post should’ve been on March 19. So, imagine this is 11 days ago, and let me take you back:

Now that it’s been a year since The Price is Right, I wanted to re-visit that day one more time. In case you missed it, here’s the video.

I know we’ve already talked at length about the day. We’ve also talked about the taxes. But it still boggles my mind that it actually happened.

Throughout the past year, every once in a while, I’d watch my show again on my DVR. Or sometimes my dad would call to tell me he watched it again. Sometimes we just wanted to see it again! ‘Cause it’s cool. It’s super cool.

It has just sort of become a fact about me, like, “Yeah, I won a car on The Price is Right.” I’ve certainly calmed down since the initial day when I was basically shaking and pretty much unable to form coherent thoughts… (That lasted more like a week than a day.)

But, even though I can function in the human world again, I will never forget how amazing that day was.

The other thing that’s so crazy is that I got to play the *exact* car game I’d always dreamed of playing. Not only did I get to play for a car, which is the big dream, but I always said if I could have my way that I’d play “The Money Game.” And that’s exactly what I got to play.

So much had to happen for that to work out! They obviously don’t play it during every show. I could’ve been at a taping where no one played it. I could’ve been called down earlier or later. In my first time through contestant’s row, the last girl to bid could’ve dollared the girl before her, making the whole order different on what ultimately got me up there for the car. In the time I did get up there, Rori (the girl after me) could’ve dollared me.

So much could’ve been different (as it could be with all things in life). But the stars aligned. I played my dream game. I won my dream prize. And I am just so unbelievably thankful for an absolutely perfect memory that I will never, ever, ever forget.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 10 (Some Cool Pick-Me-Ups & A Struggle To The Last Mile)

Picking up from yesterday -

Hot, hot, hot. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

At mile 22, I wanted to cry because people had cupcakes and they seemed like basically the most amazing things in the world at that point.

I stopped by the table and thanked them profusely. They said they do it every year, and earlier that day they practically had a smorgasbord with pizza and more… but everything but the cupcakes had been eaten.

I asked, “Who are you? What group are you with?”

They said they weren’t with any group – that I could just think of them as the “mile 22 givers.”

I adore them.

Speaking of things that were cool, there were these digital boards where your friends and family could leave messages for you. All the boards were set by timing mats. That way, the board would know when someone had crossed the mat and that person’s family’s message would show up.

How amazing and super cool is that?! I didn’t spread that link around and beg everyone I know to send me some love… but seeing how cool it looked to see friends making videos for their runners… I am all about doing that if I ever do this race again!

(And I am all about putting that in if I ever plan a race, because that is freaking awesome.)

At some point within the 2nd half, I realized most likely a 6:30 is not happening. I’d only picked 6:30 as my goal because there were warnings from the L.A. Marathon that if you ran slower than that, they’d start taking the course down around you.

You could still finish – as the finish line was open for 8 hours – but you wouldn’t have any support. (Of course, this seemed less threatening since there wasn’t any Gatorade for the whole race anyway… :-P)

But still, I get lost everywhere I go. And I did not want to be roaming Los Angeles trying to find the finish without the help of the official course.

But thankfully, the course never got taken down around me. And I still did get a personal record – just not as big of one as I wanted.

In the beginning of this story, I talked about how any anger or frustration I had was being used to push through that first half. And while I think it’s so awesome to use running as an outlet for that, I don’t want any grudges or anything taking up my normal brain space on a day-to-day basis. So, I knew that I had to get all of that completely off of me before the end of the race.

This is where I’ll pick up in two days (after a TPiR anniversary post tomorrow).

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 9 (Struggling Through The Second Half)

Picking up from yesterday -

Once I got to mile 14, though, I realized, “Wait a second! I’m tired. Oh so tired. And hot. Oh my goodness. I still have 12 miles.”

I took a necessary short breather, stretching a bit on the side of the road. I was hoping to run a 6:30 marathon, and I knew a 3:30 half wasn’t hard. So, I was going to just try to walk that out. But I knew I didn’t want to waste too many minutes stretching.

After about 4, I got back on the course… and continued struggling through the next mile.

It was rough.

At mile 15, I saw a Starbucks with a grocery store inside. Tons of people were running in to use the bathroom, or pick up things. I was really wishing I’d brought a few dollars so I could buy a Gatorade. But alas, I hadn’t.

However, I did go up to the Starbucks and say, “may I please have the biggest glass of ice water you’ll give me?” In true awesome customer-service-centered Starbucks fashion, they gave me a Venti.

I must not have looked all the great. The barista asked, “Are you okay? Are you gonna finish?”

Well, obviously I’m gonna finish. Let’s not get silly here – which was basically what I told him with a smile. It’s just really hot. I thanks him oh so much for the water, and got back out there.

I continued walking, but I was just walking too slowly. If I kept sauntering along at 19, 20 minute miles, I was never join to finish!

At some point, I put on some musical theater and just started basically acting my way through the race.

As the crowd was thinning out, it wasn’t so such an obtrusive thing to make a few small hand gestures here and there in front of my body. And if I just put my facial expressions on, and had great forward-moving songs, my legs would just take me.

I probably looked like a crazy person. But I didn’t care. As long as I wasn’t in anyone’s way, I just wanted Idina Menzel’s characters to keep me moving forward.

I saw so many exhausted people stopping off to the sides to stretch or sit for a bit (which I will admit I did a second time). The sun was tough, and without Gatorade, it was an even bigger struggle!

But we were all making it. And the people cheering along the course were certainly helpful in getting that morale up – even if they did just see me mainly singing to myself instead of really giving them high-5s or anything (sorry, I still appreciated you).

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 8 (Accomplishing My Fastest Half Ever)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, off cranky topics and back to basically chronological storytelling -

At the Mile 7 marker, I realized I would probably hit my precious 3 hours. Though, I started running out of steam right after hitting 7. (I know I said we were away from cranky topics, but that’s about when I was really starting to want some Gatorade.)

Mile 8 felt slow. It was filled with Shot Blok eating, tons of water drinking, and feeling generally slushy and hot.

But, once I hit mile marker 8, it was back to the races.

Jump forward to mile marker 13 in my sights. I still had something like 20 minutes when I could see it far in the distance, but just being able to see it made me confident I’d hit it in the time I’d allotted myself.

Sure enough, I crossed mile 13 at 2:53! I felt incredible. It was practically impossible that I wouldn’t hit that .1 in the next 7 minutes.

My fastest unofficial half ever was just a training run before my first half in 2009. I did it in 2:58. So, I figured I’d even beat that!

I started jogging, looking for that last point 1. I even passed up the water station without stopping. I thought there was a halfway timing mat (though I was incorrect). Once I didn’t see it, as minutes of jogging went by, I started practically sprinting.

Once I was around 2:59, somehow sense was knocked into me, and I realized there was no way I hadn’t made it to 13.1. I turned around and mile marker 13 was nowhere to be seen. Being that it was out of eyesight, I was definitely more than .1 miles away.

So, since there was no official 13.1 on the course, I can’t say my exact time, but based on smart guessing, I’m pretty sure I was under 2:55 (especially because after the New Year’s Race debacle, I made absolutely sure to start my timing app before I crossed the start line.

So, successful 1st half. Yay!

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 7 (When Everything Made Aurora Cranky – Part 2 (Dogs And Spectators))

Picking up from yesterday -

And more things that I’m annoyed with… So, there was this man I saw a couple of times on the course (once I got slower and wasn’t in a sea that was quite so packed as before) who was walking his Dalmatian!

The guy didn’t have a race bib or anything. He just seemed to be some dude wandering around walking his dog.

Guess what, dog dude? A marathon is not the place to take your dog out for a stroll. I don’t even need to elaborate on that, because that sentence makes so much sense.

And, the guy took things from our aid stations! I saw him try to figure out what Gu was and try some… If non-runners are taking things from aid stations, this could be one of the reasons we don’t have any Gatorade!

Finally, as if I haven’t called out everyone already…

Spectators, I love you. I really love you. It means the world to me that you take time out of your day to fight closed streets, traffic, and all that jazz – and you make these sweet, wonderful signs supporting us.

So, I’m sorry to call you out, but when the sun starts shining brighter and brighter and parts of the field are getting slower and more thinned out… I understand that you want to be close enough to be able to give us high-5s and all that fun stuff.

And when the field isn’t as packed, it’s easy to start to sneak in closer and closer to us on the road so you can reach us and such…

However, when you come in too deep to the road, to the point where you’re sort of at the edge of the shade – do you realize that that takes away our shaded area?

We don’t have room to be in the precious, precious shade that we oh so desperately need, because you are there. And when there’s a big enough line of enough of you, you’re almost like a makeshift barricade. So it’s hard to run around you and basically we get pushed into the sun.

I love you. I’m just saying, share the shade if you can, please.

I’ll pick up with less cranky things tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 6 (When Everything Made Aurora Cranky – Part 1 (Gatorade, Runners, & Even Volunteers))

Picking up from yesterday -

I definitely felt cranky in the middle of the race. So, let’s just get that all out now.

There was supposed to be Gatorade starting at mile 3 and at every odd mile marker thereafter. I never saw Gatorade – not once.

At mile 3, I thought, “Well, I must’ve just read things wrong. Maybe it doesn’t start ’til 5.” At mile 5, I thought, “Uh, seriously, what is going on here?” And at mile 7, I thought, “What sort of cruel joke is this?!”

(I mean, come on, LA Marathon, prevent hyponatremia, much?

Never in the entire race did I get Gatorade, which made me very sad. Around halfway through, I tweeted, “I would have your baby for some Gatorade. #LAMarathon.” Only one person favorited it. (Thanks, Janine!) I sort of thought it might be worth a few more favorites , but you win some, you lose some.

The incredible lack of Gatorade is why those Clif Shot Bloks saved me! So, again thank goodness Clif was at the expo. Huge hugs to you, Clif company.

Speaking of the water stops, I sometimes get a little annoyed with the runners. And I think the only solution is for me to just get faster so I can be in the area where people care more and are more aware. Because I saw so many runners just leisurely walk along the water tables.

But psst, runners, when you do that, you’re not really leaving room for other people to get in and out. My understanding is when you approach a water stop, stay center-ish – not dead center, ’cause that’s for fast people bypassing the stop altogether with no slow-down. But stay center enough that there’s plenty of room by the people giving out water. Swerve in, grab your cup, and swerve out! That’s the important part – the out-swerve, so then more people have space and can also get their drinks.

Also, this was the first race where at two of my stops, I ended up getting water from volunteers not really paying attention. I greatly appreciate that they’re out there in the sun, getting up so early on a weekend and not getting paid. Totally understand all of that and am very grateful for it.

But, maybe, if you’re going a little nuts, perhaps just take a break? Because twice, I was about to grab a cup from someone who just started basically swinging his (and her) body around exaggeratedly. One seemed to do it because he was bored. One seemed like she saw a baby and was interested in looking at it.

Both times, I took a step back to get toward their swinging hand – and almost caused a collision.

Oh man, I’ve written enough words for the day, but believe it or not – there’s still more to be cranky about! Let’s get to it tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 5 (Having A Grand Ol’ Time)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I picked up any stress I had from my life. I’m starting a new job soon, and I had to pick between two job offers. And it’s always impossible to know if you picked the “right” one. And just you know, blah blah, whatever, any random life stress. I piled it all on at the start line so I could run it all off of me.

And, boy did I ever.

Usually, in races I like to take in the atmosphere and just enjoy myself, but I wasn’t in that space today. And that’s a-okay with me. I popped on those headphone, cranked up Alanis, CeeLo, and my other various run-it-out musicians on that playlist. And I ran it all out!

In the first few miles, every time I thought about walking a single step, I thought to myself, “This is your only time to be angry. Any anger or frustration you have with anybody including yourself – you gotta get it out right now.” And then I wouldn’t walk. Because I needed to run.

I was dying to finally reach that sub 3-hour half. As I started to get closer and closer to the mile 7 mile marker, I saw that I might make it to mile-7 in sub-1:30. I figured if I could do that, I’d be pretty golden.

Sure, enough, I crossed under the mile 7 arch at 1:29:10. This sub-3 is mine!

I did try to tell myself, “Don’t be too terribly focused on the half, because you’re in a full marathon.” But then I kept thinking, “Get your half, girl!” And “that sun is going to be so killer as the day wears on. So get all the running done you can right now.”

As we ran through Hollywood, first, I was shocked at how it felt so much closer to downtown than it ever had before. “How is it before noon and I’ve already run from farther than my house to an area where I hang a lot, and I’m not even really all that tired yet?”

“I should do this run all the time!” (In the moment that made so much sense, but seems ridiculous now and will almost certainly never happen again outside of the LA Marathon.)

One thing I loved was the message from Book of Mormon, which is playing at the Pantages. As we ran by the theater, they’re scrolling marquee said, “Marathoners, you’re doing something incredible!”

“Something incredible” is repeated in a song from that musical. I smiled so big! (That cast recording is actually a total work out jam of mine, and was very helpful through the race.)

So, everything is sunshine and roses. I’m running out toxins (figuratively and literally), I’m on track for my sub-3 half, one of my favorite musicals is in marathoning spirit.

And tomorrow, I’ll talk about the crankypants parts.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 4 (My Strategy)

Picking up from yesterday -

My strategy – which you can (of course) feel free to ridicule and/or disagree with as much as you’d like, though I stand by it – was to basically obliterate* the first half while the heat was under control… and to finally put this disappointment behind me. (Right?!)

*By obliterate, again, I mean by my standards… which amount to a walk in the park for most runners.

(Spoiler alert: I finally did a sub-2:58 half marathon! (More on that later.))

So, how would I accomplish this sub-2:58, you ask? This is going to sound like a little tangent, but stay with me (if you want).

Over the past year, I like to think I’ve generally become a better person. There are two pieces of wisdom I’ve heard that really stuck with me, and I try to incorporate all of the time. Those things are:

1) “When angry, be kind. When sad, be kind. When frustrated or criticized, be kind. Whenever possible, be kind. And it is always possible.” (Cory Booker does various versions of that idea on his twitter. So, that’s the pieced together version that I think covers it.

2) When asked how he stays happy all the time, Drew Carey responded, “constant forgiveness for me and everyone I meet.” And I really try to live by that one, because it’s fantastic advice. I think it’s implied, but one of the most important parts about it to me is to give forgiveness without the other person ever even having to ask for it.

Now, it’s possible I’ve had some minor annoyances in my life the past couple of weeks. I don’t want to get into everything here, because the details are unimportant. But, hypothetically, if I’d been feeling a little forgotten by a close friend of mine, and possibly slightly annoyed that he didn’t wish me luck in the marathon, knowing it was really important to me, I might want to run that out!

In real life, I would reflect about how he’s been so unbelievably amazing to me, remembering all the things about my life, and the only reason I’m so surprised I didn’t hear good wishes is because I’ve been so spoiled by his kindness.

And I’d think about the fact that he is really busy with a big new project of his that had a huge day that coincided with the marathon. So, he was kind of completely buried by that and probably a little dead to the whole world.

But! That’s real life. That’s understanding, happy, content Aurora. And while I think that’s healthy and lovely and I like living that way, kicking-butt-and-taking-names marathoner Aurora is allowed to dwell a little, be angry, run stuff out – do whatever she wants basically.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 3 (Going To The Start Line)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I’d prepped like a boss. Now it’s time to do this thing! I got up with plenty of time to spare, methodically got ready, and headed for the shuttle.

Even with prepping everything beforehand, and leaving myself plenty of time, I still get that nagging feeling… “Do I have absolutely everything I need for this run (and that I need to successfully get there and back home)?”

I did.

But it’s nerve-wracking going out on the course, you know? You could have a really miserable race if you forget the wrong thing. I’ve even forgotten my hat(!) before. So, I know. You can forget things that you’d think you never would. (And then the race is oh so rough.)

Let’s pause here for a humongous round of applause for Clif products, though. Without them at the expo, I would not have had everything I ended up desperately needing. It’s been over a year since my last marathon. It just kind of slipped my mind that I love to have Clif Shot Blocks with me for any race longer than a half marathon.

Thankfully, Clif was at the expo. I’ve been to expos before where the company said they weren’t selling any product – just sampling, but at this one they were selling, baby! I bought those Shot Bloks, and they totally saved me. (But more on that soon enough.)

So, I catch the shuttle to the start, sitting next to this lovely man doing his first big city marathon. (He’d done one very small marathon before.) His excitement was exciting.

But let’s get real, I was excited too! While I have done a very large marathon before (at Disney) this was actually my first big city marathon!

I got in the open corral at the back (because I’m nice and slow). Some interesting people were around  - Uncle Fester included.

As we all waited for the race to begin, the sun slowly started coming up. I gotta say, I know I hate getting up early and all, but let’s maybe just start every marathon from here on out at around 4:30am, sound good?

It was a bit disheartening to see the sun come up before we even took our first steps onto the course. It had been established it was most likely going to be a hot day. (It is L.A. after all.) I wanted to keep that heat at bay for as long as possible. Oh well, at least we got that precious extra hour of darkness. Thank you, Daylight Saving Time!

Also, since I was so wildly prepared, I not only had sunscreen applied – I had little packets of sunscreen in my pockets! Yeah, babe! (Spoiler alert: This will not save me later.)

This is where we’ll pick up tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 2 (Prepping Like A Boss)

Picking up from yesterday -

Cue up the Rocky Theme Song (“Gonna Fly Now”), because I was a total champ in the prep work for this race.

Knowing that I already had to wake up really early in the morning to get the shuttle to Dodger Stadium, and that on top of that Daylight Saving Time began on the day of the race, I acted like sleeping was my job leading up to race day.

Thankfully, my actual job that pays the bills didn’t start until the day after the race. So, I had all the time in the world to go to bed at 5pm each day if my heart so desired. On race morning, I even got up naturally 10 minutes before my alarm. It was lovely!

I hydrated like a boss. I upped my calories an appropriate amount. I had cut-off times for the day before the race of when I would slow it down on that water (so as to not have to pee while on the course), and to stop eating (so I wouldn’t have an upset stomach or be too full to run it out, baby).

I will say probably the one sort of mistake I made was that I’ve been avoiding Luna protein bars for a couple months because they have so very much sugar in them. However, I was out of my new favorite protein bars (which they don’t sell at any stores close to me).

And I did always feel properly fueled with the Luna bars. And honestly, I was a little afraid to change anything I’d done before other races (which was silly I had stopped using them in training). So, I ate the last 4 I had lying around in the two days before the race.

4 in two days was too many. I could kind of feel the sugar, and my face broke out like crazy. Eesh. But this was nothing that I think ultimately truly affected my run in any way (unless the pimples show up in the photos…)

I also got my packet on Friday instead of Saturday. Even though the wait at the convention center seemed long – and Friday felt like an eternity (since I basically had nothing to do) – I still stand by that glorious decision because I had no worries on Saturday, and got to just stay off my feet.

So, all the work was in place… For the most part. I’ll admit I trained more for speed* in the first half than truly training for the distance, but I trained enough that I knew I could handle the 26.2 – even if not evenly.

*By speed, I mean speed for me – not actual speed in real life, because I’m still totally slow.

And I’ll pick up with race morning tomorrow.

Asics Los Angeles Marathon (2014) – Part 1 (Only Read This Chapter If You Want To Hear All About My Outfit)

Going to bed the night before the LA Marathon, I had this vision in my head that when I woke up, things were going to be the same way they’d been for the Goofy Challenge – that even though I knew exactly what I was going to wear, I’d change my mind 400 times that morning, changing outfits and shoes over and over.

However, when I woke up, I got dressed with purpose and didn’t change once. I guess this is what happens when you become a big time race veteran, which obviously I am now – being on my 2nd road half marathon and all. (Hardy, hardy, har.)

I will say though, that my choice of outfit did change throughout the week. Originally, I wanted to go with some of my most comfortable clothing – the new maternity pants, and probably my Indy 500 half marathon shirt – or possibly any tech shirt with my Cory Booker t-shirt on overtop of it.

But as the day got closer, and it became very clear we were going to have a hot race, I just thought, “forget it!” In half marathons I want to be cute. (I always want to be cute.) But full marathons are no joke, my friend! Just as I gave up cuteness for comfort in Orlando, I would do it here. While we all can agree I’m obviously super vain, I’m not vain enough to sacrifice my best chance at a successful marathon.

(Though, I cannot ever envision a race in which I wear shorts or don’t wear long sleeves. I mean, come on. Sure, I’ll sacrifice some cuteness, but I’m not gonna go nuts and let me legs just hang out there all race long. That’d be preposterous.)

So, ultimately, I chose pants that were a little less thick (and actually fit a little bit nicer – actually staying on me without needing to be pulled up occasionally during a run. And I chose a shirt that really doesn’t fit me all that super well. It sort of makes me look fat.

But the material is so thin! SO thin. It is probably the absolute lightest and most breathable shirt I have! It was really the only one that made sense to wear in super hot weather. And, it even has a zipper pocket! I don’t like to carry a lot while racing, but that was an extremely convenient place to store some Clif Shot Blocks.

I just decided to hope that once I put the bib on, that’d cover up that the shirt fits me sort of weird, and it’d distract everyone from noticing I look sort of fat in it.

And I think that actually worked out sort of okay.

Quite honestly, because of the incredible comfort and convenience of that outfit, that might be my official marathoning outfit for a while… until I hopefully shrink out of it at some point.

I’ll continue with the marathon tomorrow.

LA Marathon Expo

It’s happening, y’all!

The lead up to this marathon has been… I don’t think stressful is the right word, because I think stress is way more intense than just some marathon training. True stress is reserved for creative stuff and career stuff, I think.

And I wouldn’t necessarily say it was frightening either, because that’s reserved more, again, for career stuff, also probably image stuff (like when I have to get Botox someday, that’ll be scary)… or maybe for episodes of criminal minds.

But, think the vein of those emotions (just less so, of course). Because I want to shave 1/2 an hour off my old marathon time.

Granted, I’m really slow. Any real runners out there are cracking up at the idea of having to work hard just to get a 6:30. But for me, I’ve been working really hard to make it happen!

So, I’ve been living in this world of prep – tapering down my training, figuring out the best times to try to eat certain things, all that jazz. Because I’ve been living in this world of “you’ve gotta go to sleep at 6pm every night this week!” and practically all my thoughts being consumed by the marathon, I forgot about the fun that running events bring.

And the expo was fun.

Well, first I had to wait almost an hour to get in, because the line was absolute insanity… And we had to wait outdoors because of how long the line was. And we all know how much I hate the sun. But, it was all fine. I’ve waited for things before. I feel like I have patience. Plus, I got to be really melodramatic on twitter and instagram. So, that was fun.

I can tell I haven’t been as up on the California running community lately because there are two – that’s right two races I didn’t even know existed!One is the Ventura Marathon, and one is Folsom Blues Breakout race.

The Ventura one had awesome looking shirts, really cool medals, nice people running the booth. I was practically ready to sign up right there! But how could I know what I’ll be doing in September? Come on.

I also met Marie at her booth touting the Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon… I do fantasize sometimes about doing a marathon around Kilimanjaro, but when I’ve looked it up dreamily at night, there are so many! How am I supposed to know which one’s the best?!

(I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon though. I don’t even have my passport!) So, I have time to weigh pros and cons first.

There was also a Dunkin’ Donuts booth, which flabbergasted me. I thought we didn’t even have Dunkin’ Donuts! I wondered if I were back in Boston for a moment. And, they gave out rocking bags. Bravo, Dunkin’ Donuts.

There was also a really sweet Arrowhead Water display where you could take things off the wall. (And the company even started following me on instagram, so obviously, we’re best friends forever now.

At one booth, I met this poor guy who’s lived in LA for 13 years. He came from New York. He hates every single thing about LA. It was weird talking to the decade-in-the-future version of myself. :-P

And that sums up the expo! The excitement was there. I’m ready… Is it time to do this thing yet?!

That’s A Wrap On My Favorite Pants In The World

If you’ve been a reader of the blog, you may remember that I have a pair of pants I absolutely and truly adore.

I practically had a nervous breakdown when I cut off a part of them in Portland. These are my pants. My precious, precious pants.

I wore them for my first half marathon back in 2009. I wore them for my first full marathon. I wore them at the Goofy Challenge. They are always with me for the important events. Always.

But alas, my pants will be worn by me no more.

Oh so sad! I don’t even know how to write this goodbye blog posts re: my pants!

Recently, I’ve lost a good deal of weight – about 30-35 pounds. I haven’t talked about it all that much on the blog. I’m sure we’ll get to it. But the point is, it got to the point where my precious, precious, lovely, perfect pants started to fall off my butt as I ran.

I still ran in them for a while, doing makeshift fixes – trying to roll them, hold them up, etc. But it got to the point where they were just too big. That’s all there was to it. If I wanted to end a run still wearing clothes, I had to use different pants.

I went shopping while I was visiting Ohio, and ended up getting pants that I didn’t realize at the time were maternity pants!

You know what, though? Everyone always thought my old pants were maternity pants because of how they were made. So, maybe that’s the big secret to running in complete comfort. Maybe maternity running pants offer something better than other pants.

It doesn’t seem to say anything good about me when I lose 30 pounds and still end up with maternity pants! But, I’m embracing it.

The marathon will feel different without my favorite pants. I’ll miss you, old friend! The silver lining is, at least my new pants aren’t cut at the bottom! (Yay!)

(#5) Western Justice Center’s Peer Mediation Invitational (February 25, 2014) – Part 5 (Feedback Talks & Tour Of Courthouse)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I had a fun leading a little focus group of the high schoolers. You could tell they were tired after a long day and that lunch. I threatened that I was going to make them do more improv warm-ups such as that one where they had to stand up, be silly, and pretend to mush and eat bananas (that had been done earlier in the day).

It took a little effort to get the energy of the group up. (I did not ask them to do any theater warm-ups of any type.) But, I found that two things helped. 1) When I called people out by name, and looked them in the eye, specifically asking of her or his engagement, people obviously responded more because they can’t fade into the crowd.

(Of course, I called on every high schooler in my group at least once so no one felt left out.)

Another thing that helped was when I sort of riffed a little on the questions. I kept it all right in the vein of what was being asked. But for instance, if the question on the paper (that I then asked) was “what do other social media networks do that keep you coming back”… and then no one said anything, I’d say something like, “Let’s start with instagram. What makes you need to open instagram on your phone?” And then we went from there and covered other social media networks. So, specifics helped a bit.

After that talk was over, everyone who’d led a mini-focus group went into the hall so we could all talk about the ideas (and complaints and such) we’d just heard (which the high schoolers got certificates for their participation in the day).

And that was the end of our day. But then, they let us stick around for a tour of the courthouse, which was really cool.

The extremely nice Judge Paez took us all around, talking about our legal system, the history of the building, his career (and becoming a federal judge appointed by President Clinton), and everything in between.

When we were in the biggest courtroom, I thought about how fun it would be to go sit on the judge’s bench (there were 11 spots behind the bench in that courtroom). But I didn’t say anything, because I don’t want to be the crazy person disrupting a tour flow and asking to play pretend…

But! As if he could read our minds, he said we should all go sit up there. The 3 adult chaperones did not go up, but I was all about it! (By that point, everyone but 10 high schoolers had left, so there was a place for me!)

After the tour, the women of the Western Justice Center were very inviting and we hung out and talked at a table for a bit. The conversation went to pets and of course I have nothing at all to add to that due to my fear of basically practically every animal on our planet.

But nonetheless, it was a fun and riveting day. And I’m glad so many high schoolers were interested in learning techniques to bring about peaceful conflict resolutions.

(#5) Western Justice Center’s Peer Mediation Invitational (February 25, 2014) – Part 4 (Talking About A New Social Media Network)

Picking up from yesterday -

Basically our only job during mock mediations was to warn the mediators when they had 30 minutes left and 5 minutes left. As someone who’s stage managed before, I felt right at home giving the 30 minute call.

When it was time to go to lunch, I was ready to say, “places!” (But I didn’t.)

We walked back over (just a couple of doors down) from the courthouse to the Western Justice Center and had some food from El Cholo. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Judge Judy (no, not the one from TV).

She’d done a fellowship at the Supreme Court. She was the judge on a case in which Elizabeth Warren testified in front of her. We talked about Hilary Clinton, Cory Booker, and more. At the beginning of the day, I’d felt a little uncool because I was surrounded by all these awesome lawyers. And who am I? Not a lawyer – that’s who.

But, I felt so comfortable with Judge Judy. Perhaps this was just because she was interesting and brilliant. So, I could get by with a lot of listening and without having to know too much (lol). But I knew enough to keep conversation going (I think, at least). It was definitely fun (for me). She has such a positive attitude, I assume everything is fun for her.

Also, around the middle of the day, one of the volunteers got her email that she was accepted into law school! So, that’s a random aside, I know. But, it was so nice to see someone experience such surprised and pure joy!

After lunch, we all took a short walk back over to the courthouse, and the high schoolers watched a presentation on a new social media network. I won’t give anything away about it in case it’s secret. But it was related to what they’d been studying (in case any of you are thinking, “uh, what? Did the day just take a weird turn?”)

After the presentation, we got to break into groups and talk with the kids about their thoughts on this social media network vs. other ones. And oh my goodness, I could talk about social media all day long (as I’m sure you know)!

Musicals, television shows (sitcoms, dramas, & game shows), politics, and social media – I would talk about all these things forever with you if you wanted.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#5) Western Justice Center’s Peer Mediation Invitational (February 25, 2014) – Part 3 (Learning About Mock Mediations)

Picking up from yesterday -

I actually learned a lot about the rules for successful mediations, that I had no clue about before. Perhaps some of these could come in handy in day-to-day life.

Prescriptive words (such as “should” shouldn’t be used. The process is all about asking questions – “What do you think would’ve made this situation better?” “What do you want to be able to move forward?” etc. – as opposed to, “You should have done [insert thing] to resolve the situation.

Also, if you declare something like “it seems like a misunderstanding,” that may be minimizing the problem for someone, making them feel unheard – even if you’re saying it to try to defuse the situation.

Also, the mediator teaching the high schoolers said not to use any blaming language during the talks or while writing out the agreement.

I could see how those were all good rules to try to get people to cooperate with the process.

Another thing I found interesting was the answer to the question, “Do I have to be here?” (if one of the parties being mediated asked).

You’re never supposed to make someone feel forced to do something… You just tell them their options. For example, “No, you don’t have to be here. You can be here, or you can go to the dean’s office, [or whatever choices the school offered].”

I think this might come in helpful with all sorts of people – even with myself. If I don’t necessarily feel like running on a certain day, or if I don’t feel like writing, or whatever – instead of forcing myself into one thing or another, just gently laying out options for myself.

But, I also think if you’re trying to help someone train for a marathon, or if you’re working with kids, or even co-workers, or perhaps if you’re just talking with a friend reluctant to apologize or do something else that’s probably ultimately good for her or his life – I just like the idea of, “No. You don’t have to do anything. The options are this, this, or this.”

It seems like common sense. Yet, obviously the phrase ‘because I said so’ exists, so this idea of explaining why we need to do certain things obviously doesn’t exist everywhere.

Another thing that I thought was interesting (though perhaps less applicable to normal life situations) is the idea that the mediator stressed that mediators are only supposed to be in control of the process, and the parties are in control of the agreement itself.

As a mediator, it’s only your job to facilitate communication. You shouldn’t be trying to push an agreement in one way or another.

Some interesting ideas, for sure.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.


(#5) Western Justice Center’s Peer Mediation Invitational (February 25, 2014) – Part 2 (Beginning Of Mock Mediations)

Picking up from yesterday -

For the record, they did incorporate peer mediation into the improvisation with various games improv games that they put in mock peer mediation situations.

After the welcoming part was done, the volunteers were supposed to lead groups to their respective places to do their mock mediations. So, they called the volunteers to the front of the room and assigned us a group.

Now, we had been given maps. So, everything was cool… except of course for the fact that I am horrible – absolutely horrendous – at finding my way anywhere ever. My hippocampus has to be the size of a penny (or some small object of your choice that you like better).

I’m pretty sure I didn’t even smile and introduce myself to the mediator in charge of the group because I was so nervous that I was going to get everybody lost.

I focused in so intently on the map. Once we got down the stairs, we were almost to the front desk. I knew we were on the opposite side of the building from that desk, so off we went.

Thankfully, we were in one of the largest rooms – that was right next to the largest room. So, I found it without any problems. Can you believe it?! I led them in, but then we couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights.

So, I ran to the front desk. They called the guy who knows how to do everything. I got the answer and ran back…

Even though I’d said I was going for an answer, and I ran to get one, the mediator had just sent someone else to try to find the answer. I can’t blame her. I know she wants light and wants to use all her available time. But man, life is rough when you’re going fast and it’s still not fast enough. (This transported me back to my days as a PA.)

So, I got there in time that the newest information fetcher didn’t need to go find out how to turn on the lights. We had to go out the back door of the room into a little hallway, and that’s where the light-switches lived. It never dawned on me that the lights in a courtroom were controlled outside of the courtroom.

Then, the mock mediations began. The students from the arts high school played out various scenarios, and the peer mediators in training tried to help the parties come to an agreement.

Part of me wanted to jump in – to either side! I love acting – especially when the student actors got pretty complete characters and scenarios given to them. And after a while, I felt as though I was really picking up on all the peer mediator rules, so I sort of thought I could do that too.

But alas, instead, I had to just be an adult and sit in the back and cheer them on. But I was happy for the kids, and you could actually see people improving in their mediation skills as the day went on which was really cool.

I’ll pick up here tomorrow.

(#5) Western Justice Center’s Peer Mediation Invitational (February 25, 2014) – Part 1 (Welcoming Presentation)

I love the Western Justice Center.

They’re so organized there. Everyone there is so kind. This place is great.

From their website, their mission is to “increase the opportunity for peaceful conflict resolution and displace the power of violence in our society. [They] design, implement, evaluate and promote innovative methods of conflict prevention and resolution for children, communities, and courts.”

They held their annual Peer Mediation Invitational. And it was for students who were peer mediators.

The day began simply enough. We were offered breakfast. Then the students began to arrive and we helped facilitate registration/their breakfast.

Then, it was time to go over for the beginning of the day. One thing Western Justice Center did that I thought was really cool was to work with the Los Angeles County School for the Arts. There was a group there in a service learning class that was working on using art to help the community.

The group from the arts high school tried to start the day out on an energetic, light note. They did improv games revolving around peer mediation. They started with one we did at the Groundlings, and my stomach started tying in knots at the thought of doing that specific game again (3-headed expert – or whatever we called it).

However, the high schoolers seemed really into it! Good for them for doing something that boosts their confidence and ability to think on their feet. Really, bravo, arts school.

The student actors also made us get up and move a bit (while we pretend to eat a banana), just to try to wake everybody up. (I only mention this, ’cause I’m gonna bring it back at the end of the day.)

Two things were pretty interesting to me about the improv part. For one thing, the teacher asked, “How many people have seen improv live before?” And barely anyone raised their hands! I guess it’s maybe not that weird. But I think just because I went through a period where I was seeing so much improv that it’s weird to think people don’t go to shows. I sort of think all high school kids should have to take it to help with the life skills it works on. But, I digress.

Another thing I found interesting was when they started the game in which a team of actors work together to be an expert in something, the first subject the teacher came up with was movies. He said, “ask any questions about movies that you’ve ever wanted to know – how they’re made, etc.”

Not a single person raised his or her hands. Oh, Los Angeles – where everybody knows everything about the entertainment biz, and everybody’s so over it. I adore you, high school kids, who then had plenty of questions to ask when he changed the subject to the universe.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#4) Running Cameras At SCaLE (Southern California Linux Expo) (February 23, 2014) – Part 2 (Actual Volunteering Part)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, this wasn’t a totally huge deal. But I’m a perfectionist. So, anytime I make mistakes it bothers me. I want to go back in time and undo them. But alas, I can’t.

Two things happened that were mistake-y.

So, the guy working next to me – he’d been working there for 3 and a half days. I figured he totally knew what was up.

There was one big room that had a table and chairs next to the podium. I asked him if I needed to get that whole table. He very confidently said no. It wasn’t a panel. People would take turns standing at the microphone to give their parts of the presentation.

But sure enough, as we started watching, people were totally talking from their seated positions. (And because there were other rooms we were also watching, I did not even notice this immediately.)

The good news is, is that the table wasn’t completely full. (There were empty chairs.) And even with only trying to get the podium, the part of the table that had people was still in the frame. I mean, it wasn’t framed up the way it would’ve been if you’d been specifically trying to get the table. But it was fine. And it was fixed when we realized it.

I’m not at all blaming that volunteer. I just almost always defer when I’m new to a place. And perhaps it should be a lesson to me to double check things more or defer less, or I’m not totally sure. But I only mention it because I think there may be a lesson in there for me…

Secondly, someone else in the room pointed out to me that they were watching in 4:3, and they couldn’t see the speakers in one of the rooms. So, I learned (the hard way) that I needed to give more space on the sides than originally thought. But no one told me that other people were watching in different aspect ratios! I’d just been told to zoom in. And I thought if I could see the person on my screen, then the person could be seen… But apparently not.

So, that was also fixed. But the point is, in my first of 3 rounds of talks, I think some speakers were not on screen for entirety of her or his talk.

The good news is, the conference is going to edit in the slides to the talk. So, with a little editing magic, just spend some more time on a few slides and maybe it won’t be so noticeable that the person wasn’t in the frame.

Also, I listened to this podcast recently and heard the story of the guy who filmed on the jib for the (very expensive) Let’s Make a Deal opening. He accidentally got record and stop mixed up somehow, and thought he was recording when he was stopping and vice versa. I didn’t do that. So… yay?

(#4) Running Cameras At SCaLE (Southern California Linux Expo) (February 23, 2014) – Part 1 (Intro)

Well, we’re only 4 in, and I had my first sort of struggle…

We’ll get into that in a second.

So, I don’t know anything about Linux. But the conference was looking for people who had experience making videos or television or what have you. And that’s what I do for a living. So, I thought it’d be fun to try to stretch my skills in that a little.

They were looking for people to run camera and/or sound equipment and I thought that’d be a great experience instead of sitting in an edit bay. Plus, I thought I may pick up some computer knowledge through osmosis or something.

(As you can tell, this was more of a selfish endeavor on my part where I was thinking about me, me, me – which is probably not the best attitude to have when it comes to volunteer activities. I mean, I did like the idea of being a part of furthering people’s computer education. My understanding of open source is it fosters teamwork and innovation. So, there’s that.)

Anyway, I came in to the convention. And it was a little fascinating to see people all around the lobby so engrossed in their devices. I know we live in a world in which that’s the norm – but this was extreme even by 2014 standards. Even the people who weren’t on devices didn’t seem all that super into eye contact. This was a new, interesting crowd of people I don’t see all the time.

So, I went up to the area where volunteers check in. Lan, the volunteer coordinator was so nice. In fact, everyone was so nice! All the workers and volunteers really made me feel right at home. I got a tour of the place. I got a free t-shirt. Even for someone with an apparently selfish attitude (as has been established), I felt as though I was getting a whole lot for really not much work.

Then came the time to do real work. They let me run the cameras, which was sweet! Originally, I thought maybe they’d have a person running the cameras in each room (a la the way we used to do it for America’s Got Talent auditions).

But no. We sat in the control room and ran 8 or so cameras at once. Now, there wasn’t a ton happening. So, it was all good. It was mainly just about trying to keep people in the frame. You kind of just framed ‘em up and let ‘em go for the most part (unless they had a tendency to move around a whole lot, which most people didn’t).

So, there was this guy next to me whose job was to watch the screen showing all the rooms, and he listened in headphones to make sure the sound didn’t go out in any of the rooms.

Honestly, because the cameras didn’t really move once they were set, my job and his job could’ve easily been done by the same person. I sort of understand why it was two people. It doesn’t hurt to have two sets of eyes on things.

Also, I’m sure it’s much better to overbook than to under-book volunteers – in case people don’t show up and such… But if everyone shows up, what do you do with all those extra hands? Well, you break up one job into two, I suppose.

Tomorrow we’ll get into how I slightly struggled.

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 6 (End Of Working Day & Ride Home)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we finished tearing apart the room. We didn’t get to help build anything, which is too bad. But I suppose if you have a bunch of random people of all different skill levels, it’s easier to get them to tear things apart than make this interesting innovation center place.

When it was just about time to head out, Rebecca gathered us for a few little closing remarks. She said that one thing she really hoped we took away from the day is that everything goes faster when we do it together. She said she hoped that we could use this in our daily lives – if we saw a neighbor raking leaves, or a co-worker struggling with a project at work – that it will all go more efficiently (and somewhat easily) if we all just pitch in and work together.

Btw, does this or does this not sound like something Cory Booker would eat up?! Somebody get this bus to Jersey, right?! I volunteer to run it if anyone actually wants to expand!

On the way home, we played one last game. Those cards we’d turned in, with stories of our lives – Rebecca had 3 different people stand up. Then she’d read the story. Everyone on the bus would have a chance to ask follow up questions to the person. (Basically, I think this was a lot like that old game show – To Tell The Truth. Then, you’d have to decide who was telling the truth.

I was in the first group. It was actually my story (that I’d seen *Nsync in concert 22 times in elementary & middle school). The other two girls didn’t seem wildly into it. One just repeated my answers and one just kind of mumbled and trailed off responses. So, every person knew it was me. I’d hoped to be one of the pretenders, ’cause I think on many subjects I could come up with details on the spot (it’d be sort of like an improv game). But, being the person whose actual story it was, was pretty fun too. Since I didn’t really have to do any thinking.

In the next round, someone had won a chicken nuggets eating contest. There was one really confident-sounding, funny guy who was part of the group and practically everyone thought it was him. However, I knew it wasn’t him because of one fatal answer. I asked how he prepared for the contest. He said he drank. Funny answer with funny delivery… But I don’t know many people who fill their stomach up with fluid before eating contests. I felt so good about being one of the very few to guess correctly in that round. Ba-bam!

In the final round, I didn’t even vote,  ’cause it was really hard to tell. One girl seemed really confident in the story. Everybody thought it was her. However, a girl in the back of the bus seemed really like “uh, I dunno, I guess this?” to every answer. And to me, she was almost doing that attitude so hard that I thought it had to be an act. However, I’d met her earlier in the day. I knew she was a pretty quiet and somewhat sophisticated-seeming doctor. So, maybe a grown up doctor really isn’t all that into this game.

Girl, was a I wrong though. This is why I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or occupation)… and why I should be more confident in things. I had a feeling it was her! And if only I’d guessed her, I would’ve been the only person to get it right! Rargh, rargh, rargh. Oh well.

That was the end of the day! I hope to ride this bus again!

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 5 (Demolition Time – Part 2)

Picking up from yesterday – (email subscribers – sorry, yesterday’s email did not go out. We’re still having bugs. But you can click the link if you want to see it.)

During lunch, index cards were passed out to us. We were supposed to write an interesting story from our life and not tell anyone what it was. These were used for a game on the way home, which we’ll get to later.

It was a leisurely lunch, and once it was over, it was back to work.

For the latter half of our demolition time, it was all about removing the carpet and… styrofoam-ish/stucco/whatever stuff was on the wall?

One of the walls had had the white tiles removed earlier. Once people realized that was a job, a lot of people clamored to it. I’d really wanted to do it. (It just seemed like a fun job. And I love ladders.) But there was a whole group begging for the tool and the ladder. So, I let them have it.

However, once we came back from lunch, I don’t know if people forgot about the other wall or what, but there was no clamouring. So, I got in there nice and stealth, grabbed my tool and ladder, and went to town.

My height again proved to be a tiny issue here. But I’m great on ladders. So, I stretched up and got all the tiles down from my wall. *Does a little dance*

Also, I’m trying to get at least one photo from each of these events to just kind of document my project and such. I asked someone who had a free moment if he could take a picture of me while I was on the ladder. And can I just tell you, he did an exceptional job? He got interesting shots from good angles, and even did one in a square so I could put it straight on instagram!

Unfortunately, he wasn’t with our group on the Do Good Bus. (He was either with the little filming crew, or from one of the organizations we were working with.) Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name. But thank you, stranger, for giving me good photos for instagram and the blog. I appreciate you!

Back to the actual work part of it all, I also had a quick little stint on helping to pull up carpet, but it was short lived. There were so many people helping with that – and there’s only so much space for people to hold on to a carpet piece.

The day wound down so quickly. I couldn’t believe how fast it all went. This was really a fabulous way to spend a Saturday – and one in which your whole day wasn’t taken up at all. I got home with ample time to work out, or see a show, or really just do whatever the heck I wanted on a Saturday night.

Tomorrow I’ll finish out with the end of the working day and bus ride home.

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 4 (Demolition Time – Part 1)

Picking up from yesterday -

We got to work tearing apart the room.

I felt some ebbs and flows here and there, because sometimes there were more things to do than others. I always felt a little awkward whenever a few of us would be standing around. Whenever I felt myself standing around, it was almost like a game to see how quickly I could spot something to help with.

Not only did I want to make sure I got the most out of the experience, but let’s get real here, we were being documented for the other companies. Two women were taking pictures and video the whole time. I certainly didn’t want to be recorded as the super lazy one. I know how editing works. Catch me at the wrong time 3 times, and I’m whatever you want me to be.

(I realize that good causes aren’t going to make people look bad. I’m just trying to make a slight joke since I’m extra cynical and paranoid since I work in the game of reality television. :-P)

The first half of our time there was spent dismantling the shelved and getting all the wood (and screws) out of there. Some people grabbed tools and went to work. I realized most of the tools (and spots that required tools) were spoken for. So, I started taking trips delivering the wood to the theater.

As of now, the theater is being used for storage of all the stuff from the library. Let’s hope that changes soon. Honestly, it makes me a lot more sad to think about a perfectly good theater going to waste than a library (though I know they’re closely related since both use your imagination, and you hope to experience good writing in both).

So, I did trips of wood. Once we’d gotten all the wood over to the library, I started just picking up screws anywhere I could find them. At one point, I thought I was going to be able to help unscrew the tops of a shelf… and then once I climbed on the chair, I realized I couldn’t see the top because I’m short. Wah wah.

After almost all the shelves (except a few along a short wall) were out of the room, we broke for lunch. You could have elected during your registration to buy a lunch they had delivered. They did tell you which restaurant it’d be from. However, I’ve been trying to be really good about counting all my calories, so I didn’t want to chance it. I just brought my lunch instead.

Many people actually brought their own lunch. It’s not that surprising since it is L.A. and everyone has a food thing out here – whether it’s wanting to eat food from her or his own garden, or being gluten-free, or vegan, etc. – for so many (including me for now), it’s easier to just be in complete control of your own food.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 3 (What’s The Project?)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we got went into the library to hear a little introductory talk given by Victor from No Right Brain Left Behind and Tay from Green Dot Schools.

Green Dot took over the school back in 2007. Tay said at the time there was a 80 – 90% dropout rate. So, Green Dot’s been working to get the graduation up (and the dropout rate down). One of the things they believe will help in doing that is partnering with No Right Brain Left Behind for this project.

The school’s library closed down about 5 years ago due to budget cuts. They had to let go of the librarian. Without a librarian to supervise the books and the students, they just didn’t allow kids to use the library space. But, it’s a perfectly good room being wasted. So, No Right Brain Left Behind wants to turn it into an innovative, usable space.

NRBLB’s goal is to get more creativity in education (which I can totally get behind). So, they’re going to set up a space where people can learn and create, and where educators can bring in special projects and get high schoolers working hands-on, on things.

Victor told us that 140 public school libraries had been shut down in December due to budget cuts. I’d had no idea that so many libraries were going by the wayside. I guess I understand it with iPads and things. But I was still surprised.

So, Victor said he wanted to make this project scalable to other schools. He told us one of the goals was to make less than 5% of the school’s square footage inspire, activate, and engage the rest of the school. And in this space, they would try to elevate creative thinking.

The week before us, a private Do Good Bus done by Starbucks partners (I believe that’s the term for Starbucks employees) had removed all of the books from the library and started taking down some of the shelves.

Out job was to finish completely stripping the room so all the actual renovating stuff could begin.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 2 (The Bus Ride)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we all got on the bus, bonded over childhood and what we dreamed we’d be, and then Rebecca – the leader of the bus – stood up to give us a little talk.

She said the main 3 goals of the Do Good Bus are:
1) Raise awareness for issues people may otherwise not know about
2) Help to build a strong community
3) Encourage people to get back out there and volunteer again somewhere.

Then she said it was time for some bus activities to get to know each other better. 1st we shuffled up and had to sit next to someone we didn’t know. When you meet someone new on the Do Good Bus, you greet them with a high-5.

After a few more introductions all around the bus, and high-5s happening ever, it was time for a game!

We played speed pictionary in which the bus was split between front of the bus and back of the bus. Rebecca worked with the group in the back. Adrienne (the Do Good intern) worked with us up front. We passed around a little dry erase board drawing pictures… well, you know how pictionary works.

Each person got a turn, and the contest was to see which area of the bus could finish the whole stack of clues first. Once your group was finished with the stack, everyone had to do basically silly jazz hands by the side of their heads while making funny sounds (sort of as though they were underwater). Otherwise, your win didn’t count.

My group won. *Dusts off shoulders.* Before you knew it, it was time for our day’s activity to be revealed (since we were almost there). Rebecca told us we’d be going to a high school in Watts to help re-imagine its library.

When we got there, of course, we started by playing another game as we got off the bus. It was a variation of rock, paper, scissors – elves, dragons, wizards. You got to use your whole body and pose instead of just your hands. I totally dominated my match.

Then, she said for the final round, we’d just pose as anything we wanted in the world, and then figure out who beat whom. I posed as a tree. My reasoning behind that was that even if I were destroyed by a tank or something, I wanted to know that I’d given life while on the earth – and sustaining life I also thought was a pretty powerful power in itself.

However, this was really horrible reasoning because the person across from me was a ninja or something intense like that, and the consensus was that she could definitely destroy a tree.

After this, we started doing actual helpful things. So tomorrow, I’ll leave the games behind and talk about the (fun, still) work of the day.

(#3) Do Good Bus (Renovating A High School Library In Watts) – Part 1 (Getting On The Bus)

This was absolutely incredible!

Although, when I try to explain it in conversation, many people have pointed out that this concept sounds sort of creepy. Here’s why.

You meet a group of strangers in a parking lot and get on a bus. They take you away someplace, but don’t tell you where you’re going.

I sort of understand how that could sound a bit creepy. But it’s actually really cool. It’s a legitimate group that takes you to an actual charitable event. It’s not elaborate kidnapping scheme.

Before the day, you’re given one of 5 categories. You’re either going to help with adults, children, animals, the earth, or your hands. (That hands one is for project where it’s mainly about building/making things.)

I’d never heard of this bus until I started this 52 volunteer activities project. Once I’d heard about it, I knew I had to give it a try! Mystery, adventure, new friends and overly-excitable people – this is so up my alley, [insert great metaphor and/or punchline-ish thing here - feel free to leave good ideas in the comments].

I saw February’s event fell under the category “Good Hands.” This sounded wonderful because I love working with my hands and being crafty.

So, I show up to the parking lot (which was actually at a Metro center – doesn’t get much more convenient than that!).

They actually had a little welcome mat set up with the check-in table. All the little details were in place to make us feel right at home.

Even on our name tags, they had little conversation starters set up. On the bottom of our name tags, it had a blank space for what, as kids, we dreamed of being when we grew up.

I have yet to achieve all the things I wanted as a kid. So, I didn’t get too literal with it, ’cause I didn’t want to get into a million conversations about still struggling in Hollywood (although, let’s get real, chances are everyone you meet out here is struggling to live a dream (assuming you’re not chilling with high up execs and movie stars). Otherwise, why would you live in this town, amirite?

Anyway, I put that I thought I’d be Michael Jackson’s best friend, because that was a totally true answer. However, that also got so quickly into sad conversations. Bringing up a dead legend as your icebreaker really brings down the mood of things. So, I wouldn’t recommend it. Though, when Billie Jean came on at the end of the day, a group of people did look at me and dancing ensued. So, there’s that. (Also, while everyone is sad about Michael Jackson, we did all talk about how exceptional he was. So that was sort of a nice bonding experience. But, moving on…)

Some people put cute little answers – that they thought they’d be a mermaid or a dolphin. Some people had sort of funny ones, such as thinking they’d be J. Lo. Of course there were the people in the bunch who wanted to be entertainers. (Again, why else live out here?) And while they then did set themselves up for those awkward conversations of “What have you done? What are you doing now?” etc., at least they were being super true to themselves.)

Oh goodness, a whole post and we’re not even on the bus yet. I’ll pick up here tomorrow.

(#2) Passing Out Hygiene Kits To Senior Citizens

This morning I went to an assisted living facility to pass out hygiene kits for seniors.

It was an incredibly easy gig. The hygiene packets were already neatly assembled. All we had to do was hand them out. And it was a pretty small facility, so it didn’t even take that long. Volunteering – it’s fun and quick, baby!

Senior citizens are so freaking cool. I don’t want to generalize too much, but man I love older people. Older people are just so interesting! They have so much life experience, and knowledge, and such.

One woman was watching The Price is Right when I came to her room. We obviously were best friends right away.

One man had his door wide open, inviting people to come visit with him. He was so organized! It was as though I were visiting a library or something. He had shelves full of DVDs and CDs – but all very neatly labeled and sorted. He told me a bit about his passion for music and movies.

He was very artistic too. He’d made a colorful awesome-looking rug that he told me about. He was just super cool.

There was one woman, walking very briskly down the halls. I can’t even tell you how many laps she did while I was there. I admired her for working on her fitness, and I secretly hoped she was training for a running event… I also hoped that I’ll be like her when I’m older.

Also, there was a woman who had bracelets on. One of the volunteers said her bracelets were beautiful and asked where she’d gotten them. And the women – the elderly woman in the assisted living facility – answered, “my Daddy.” Her face lit up as she told us about her father whom she loved so dearly.

I thought it was the cutest thing.

Both the volunteer coordinator (from the charity that goes to many senior centers), and the woman she was working with (who was employed at the actual facility itself) were very nice to me and invited me to come back in the future.

The woman from the facility said I should run a game night sometime. She said the men there would really love to see me around, which I thought was hilarious – but maybe it was just the way she said it, ’cause I don’t think it translates in as funny of a way when I write it down.

The volunteer co-ordinator complimented me for being “good with the seniors,” which I appreciated – though I think that basically just means “good with people,” ’cause I treated them how I’d treat any new friend. But, you know, I’ll take a compliment, baby!

I’ll be volunteering with the group again (Volunteer Action For Aging) at a future Beauty Day for Senior Citizens because seniors rock. That covers it.

(#1) Being An Art Docent At Lerata’s Skyline

1st volunteer activity of 52 in 52 weeks!

I volunteered with a group called Lerata. It’s the laboratory for experimentation and research in art, technology, and architecture.

Skyline is an annual free event held right in downtown L.A. that I had no idea existed! It’s a “10-day art & architecture event that showcases site specific, experimental, interactive installations that embrace Los Angeles’ ever-evolving cultural landscape.” (I got that from their website.)

One of the goals of Lerata is “to uncover gems in cities often unseen or unused by the public; and provide a means for residents and tourists alike to see and learn about their cities in a new and unique way.”

I think that’s really cool. I know I don’t soak up L.A. nearly as much as I could, and I appreciate this group taking steps to make us appreciate not only our city, but also art, architecture, and maybe even beauty in ways  we hadn’t before. So, that’s cool.

I was assigned to the Cocoon exhibit. (In case that link breaks, this is the firm that did it.)

I was a little scared, because I really don’t know all that much about art & architecture. I’d like to pretend that I do and that I’m super cultured and all that jazz, but I don’t really – which is part of why I was stretching myself with this.

I read the little blurbs about the exhibit and watched the video we had on loop. I had a good amount of time to familiarize myself with everything since no one came for the first 45 minutes or so.

The first group that trickled in were totally new best friends of mine. They were so fun and seemed really cultured. I was a little intimidated. But the next little group that came in later seemed to think I was pretty cool and smart just because I could tell them what their little map could’ve told them… but because I said it, I was obviously smart and cultured. Yay me!

This absolutely adorable older couple came in at one point. I’m not sure how long they’d been together, but they’d talked about living in Los Angeles together for 40(!) years. So, a log time is how long they’d been together. Yet they treated each other with so much care and wonder, like they were on a 9th date or something. (I chose 9th at random, assuming that’d perhaps be an okay number to where the “trying to impress people” factor had settled down, but the cool-newness was still there.

When she was looking at something away from him and he wanted her attention, he sweetly said, “Darling” to get it. I wanted to put them in my pocket and just take them around with me. They were so cute!

One woman did bring her dog in! To an art exhibit. It wasn’t like she was coming in from the street just to see what’s up. She had a map! She was obviously looking at the exhibits. What is with people in Los Angeles and their dogs?

Throughout the night, I met all these cool, interesting people with cool, interesting jobs. I’m constantly saying no one lives out here unless they’re in the entertainment industry, but I learned there are plenty of other artsy or money-making industries people participate in out here.

I met a pilot of private jets, a banker, people involved in fashion design, art, and architecture (makes sense at this event). And I know it’s weird for me to say it, but I thought, “downtown Los Angles is really pretty cool, huh?”

So much cool stuff happens downtown and I really should be more present in my cool community. Whether I actually will or not remains to be seen. But hey, at least I know this thing exists now! And I met some cool people and had a great time – all with only having to walk a few blocks away from my house. I’d say the project is off to a great start!

52 Volunteer Activities In 52 Weeks!

Boom! New project. Here we go, y’all!

As you can tell by the title, I plan to do 52 volunteer activities in 52 weeks.

So, what does that mean? What are my rules and guidelines here?

Well, I won’t stick exclusively to 501(c)(3)s. Sure, I plan on doing a good amount of work for straight up charities. However, I’ll be happy to volunteer for some races (which, while they do usually do give money to charities, they are also often profitable). I’d also be happy to give time to political candidates I believe in.

And I’ll be doing other various things that I find fun, interesting, or worthwhile – even if they aren’t related specifically to an official charity.

I’m a member of two unions, and I hate to admit, I’m not very active in either. So, I’d be happy to volunteer at some I.A.T.S.E. or Equity event. I also should really try to be more involved in MENSA (especially since I am on the board of the Los Angeles chapter).

The point is, there are plenty of things I can get involved with, without having to focus solely on charities. But hopefully, the plan is that everything I volunteer for gives at least some good to the community.

I will also try to change up my activities as much as I can. Because I’m aiming to do 52 of these bad boys throughout the year, I may end up repeating some things. But even if I technically repeat, I’ll try to change it up within the repeating… If I volunteer for multiple races, I may try to work a water stop at one, and the finish line at another – or something like that.

I’m going to try to have as many cool/different/new experiences as possible. So, there shouldn’t be tons of repeating. But I’m not going to be a stickler about every experience needing to be with a different organization, or done using a completely different skill-set than the previous activity because I think that’s getting to rule-y for what I want to accomplish here.

In 2012, I did a project that was very much about me. Sure, I raised money for an awesome charity that I very much believe in, in the process, which was great. But my overall project was very much about me returning to running, and there was tons of selfishness in it. I got tons of help from strangers. People gave me rides, vouchers for plane tickets, and other lovely helpful gestures.

It’s time for me to give back. I don’t mean just give back because I feel like I owe it to people, the universe, or whomever because of kindness received during my 52 half marathons. I mean I want to give back because we are all interdependent upon one another.

I don’t live in a bubble where I should just get to expect everything I want and need without being part of the whole system of helping others. I want to give back, give forward – just generally put good things out there. After all, if I don’t stand up to do it, who will?

I feel like it’s so easy to get wrapped up in everything else going on in life. How could we possibly make time to volunteer for things when we have all this other life stuff going on (day jobs, marathons, creative projects, friendships, social media accounts, the freelance hustling game, and on and on and on)?

But, I’m pretty sure the time is in fact there, as long as we are willing to give it.

I know that sometimes it seems in order to volunteer for things, you need to give a huge time commitment, or if not a huge one, at least a small one for a long time (therefore making it somewhat huge after all). But in researching this project, I’ve learned that there are a number of easy one-offs you can do just whenever you have the time.

It’s often so hard for me to commit to anything since my schedule changes a lot, depending on my job. My hope is that through this project, I can be shown that volunteering can be possible under practically any circumstances. Let’s see if it is! My first volunteer activity is tomorrow night!

It’s Time For Another Project!

I know I have just a few more things I want to say re: wrapping 52 half marathons in 52 weeks up in a tidy little bow.

However, my next project gets underway this week. So, I need to tell you about it and we’ll just finish up the half marathon talk sometime along the way whenever we can.

As you’ll notice, it’s been over a year since my last project. You may be wondering why I waited to so long to do another one… Or you may be wondering why I’m tackling another one at all.

So, I’ll address both of those wonderings here in this post.

Some of the reasons I’d like to do another project:
- I gained a good amount from my last project, and look forward to learning new things and growing in new ways.

- I feel like the year went slower with the 52 half marathons. With a numbered project, it made it sort of easier to savor time. By the end of 2013, I wondered, “where has the year gone?” But at the end of 2012, I had a blog chock full of tons of new experiences. I’d known exactly where the year went.

- I’ve complained on this blog before that perhaps I don’t give enough time to my creative pursuits – that perhaps I don’t spend enough time writing, following my dreams, and all of that great stuff. I used to think that maybe that meant I need to buckle down and spend more time in my apartment writing (which of course would be a component to creating great stuff).

However, after thinking on it more, I believe that I work better when I have at least some things going on. When I have nothing going on, it can get sort of easy sometimes to let my whole day melt away because I can always get around to something later. However, when I have other commitments, that makes my time seem more precious to me and I need to be better at using it.

I don’t know if that’s a silly hypothesis. I don’t know if that makes sense. But it’s what I think is true. Of course, there still is something to be said for not overextending yourself. But, I think with this project I’m hopefully hitting the sweet spot of keeping me busy enough to know I need to work when I have the chance, but not so busy that I never give myself time to work.

Now, onto the other question I addressed -

Why did I wait so long to do another project?

Well, for one thing, I was pretty sure I was going to give a kidney to a stranger, which was going to be a pretty big project in itself. However, that sort of blew up in my face (and I realize I have a many-part series telling you all about it that I totally owe you, and I promise we will get to it).

Anyway, it took a while to go through the process, even if it didn’t end with me having only one kidney (yet). So, that’s one reason I didn’t take on a bigger project.

Plus, I was sort of doing the “year of responsibility.” It was small. It was less structured than 52 half marathons in 52 weeks. But I have to say that taking time to focus on some that stuff was really helpful for me. In being more present about my eating and fitness and such, I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I also feel less cluttered in my mind and space. (And I learned a pretty good amount about social media.)

Is there still plenty of room to grow in all departments of my life? You bet there is! My eating is much improved, but can still be better. (I also can still stand to lose more weight.) My room and computer could both be better organized still. (I’ll admit, I’m still not at inbox zero for the time being.)

But, I made a lot of progress. And I’ll continue to work on that stuff as I do this next project (and probably for the rest of my life, ’cause no one has everything completely perfect, right?).

Anyway, let’s stop with this huge preamble and get to the juicy stuff – the cool new project!… Which we will talk about tomorrow.

This Is How Life’s (& Videos Are) Done, Huh?

This. This is both how we’re supposed to live life and how we’re supposed to make videos, is it not?

In case somehow you missed this awesomeness, I’ll just let you watch it, and then I’ll talk more below if you want to hear more of my thoughts.

2013 from brooks wheelan on Vimeo.

I’ve seen this one-second/day for a year video idea before. I don’t remember who made it big, but we all knew it existed. In fact, for people who don’t want to do any editing, there are apps that will make the whole thing for you (assuming you actually tape a second of your life each day).

I’ve always thought it would perhaps be fun to do one of these videos, but I never have. But doesn’t this make you want to?

I knew nothing about Brooks Wheelan before this video, but I sort of feel like I love him now.

For one thing, I feel as though I’m often blathering about balancing life experiences with a day job with a dream. So, how do you get that balance right? I think he shows us, yeah?

He has his super-cool-seeming engineering day job that’s in the video, but so not the main focal point of his life at all. Then, you can tell he is actively chasing his dream because of how often he’s working on scripts or new material, and how often he’s out there performing it.

But, he’s also not letting his whole life go by without actually living it. He’s out hiking with his friends. (I thought it was great that they did so many active activities instead of passive ones.) It looked like he had a pretty nice life… which turned into a pretty incredible life later in the video.

I was SO unbelievably touched/happy for this guy I didn’t know at all, who looked like he was working his butt off, when he booked Saturday Night Live. I just – my heart fluttered with good wishes for him. When he wrote “I live here” on his map, I wanted to break down and cry tears of joy for him!

It was all just so unbelievably wonderfully joyous – I didn’t even know how to handle it.

I almost did some cartwheels for him when he waved goodbye to his car! That’s the real sign you are leaving L.A. (I may or may not have whispered “take me with you” at that point…)

Anyway, this movie was incredible. I was moved. I was inspired. I am wildly happy for this man. And Brooks Wheelan definitely has a new fan in me.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 7 (Final Thoughts)

*Again, my apologies to RSS readers. This is the last catch up post ’til we’re back to real time.

Picking up from yesterday -

At the beginning of this series of posts, I said that I’d never been that into picture taking before. But I will say, that no matter if I had some long and/or sort of tough lessons to learn about organization and such… overall, I’m really glad that I got way more into photographs.

Having photos is cool! It’s fun to be able to look back, or make collages, or put photos up in my apartment.

So, overall, I’m really happy that I’ve basically discovered the idea of documenting memories. (Yay!)

And as I’ve already mentioned in here, I think the big lesson is to name, organize, and such as much as possible at the end of each day. When I had such a humongous load of photos to deal with, it was too overwhelming.

Also, honestly, I got sick of looking at my own face after a while! That’s not a dig at my face. That’s just to say how long in one day can you look at someone – especially if that someone is yourself? It gets old after a while…

So, lessons learned. I’ll try to be better from now on. I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on photos, organizing, or any photo experiences you’d like to share!

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 6 (Uploading To Sites)

Hey RSS readers! SO sorry your feed is getting clogged. But I have these two random blog posts I never posted. So, let’s do ‘em, and then I’ll be back to once a day. xoxo.

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I’d successfully acquired, cropped/semi-edited/named & organized all the photos.

Phew! Can you even believe it? I certainly can’t!

So now it was time to upload everything! Dum, dum, dum.

This seems like it might possibly be a big job. However, once all the pictures were sorted in folders on my computer, it’s not that hard to upload them. Making albums on Facebook and Flickr seems pretty straightforward.

I actually like the ability to organize better on flickr, because you can nest things. For instance, I can have a collection of my 52 half marathons and then have separate albums within that – which is much clearer than having all the albums out separately (as I must in Facebook…unless I wanted one humongous album of all the races).

Also, on flickr, you can look by region. So, you can see all the photos you’ve taken in New Orléans or wherever. Just in general, I think they’re somewhat better for the actual organizing part… However, when it comes to the viewing part – I think Facebook has a much cleaner look with fewer ads that’s easier to navigate. So, you win some, you lose some, I guess.

With Facebook, if I wanted any chance of anybody liking anything, I had to upload an album or two a day as opposed to doing it all at once (so stuff would keep showing up on newsfeeds).

In some ways, I felt bad about this. People don’t want to see old news… And oh, did they see it – over and over again. Some people told me it was confusing, wondering “Is this a new race, an old race? What’s going on?”

I tried to dutifully date and label everything, but I see how in a feed it’d be confusing. Not only would it be confusing, it’d be annoying. “Didn’t this stuff happen forever ago?”

Yes. Yes it did.

But I was still happy when people liked stuff anyway… I don’t want to have a sad little Facebook page with no likes on any of the photos. But I have definitely learned my lesson. I’ll be utilizing Facebook SO much more now.

(Edited to add: Writing from the future, while in my newest project, I believed that maybe I would still just utilize instagram, flickr, and other platforms better. And maybe if I used them more regularly, I wouldn’t need to utlize Facebook. However, I’ve seen people love Facebook. Even if I don’t love it, I’m embracing it. It’s necessary. And it’s embraced now.)

So, we’re pretty current. My goal is that by a week from today I’m all done uploading photos.

(Edited to add: On Facebook that came true. On flickr, it hasn’t yet. Although, I don’t think anyone’s noticed because no one’s even there. I’m still pretty determined to give it a much better try than I have. But are there secrets I should know that I’m missing? Do any of you use flickr?)

I’m going to finish up with final thoughts on photographs tomorrow.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 5 (Naming Conventions)

Picking up from yesterday -

I was lucky that I did have many places where I could kill some time by going through photos. I used to commute to Burbank everyday, so I had a good amount of time on the train to whip out the laptop.

It was interesting to me the different emotional rides I went on as I sorted the photos:

“I will never be able to finish this.”
“Wow, this is going faster than I imagined! What will I ever do with my rides home once I finish this?!”
“Wait, I found another huge folder – I will never finish this. Uuuuuuuugggggghhhh”
“I am so happy I’m doing this! I feel lighter and freer!”

So, sometimes it seemed like the greatest, most possible thing. Sometimes it literally felt like it was impossible to finish.

I will say as I went along, I learned that some of my naming conventions were horrible. For one thing, when I’m in a photo with other people, I should always list the other person first! If I want to sort by name to find all the pictures of say, Daddy and Aurora or David and Aurora or whomever… it doesn’t help when every single photo starts with Aurora!

Also, many photos didn’t even start with “Aurora.” Most started with the word “me.” Then, after I started uploading things to Facebook, this blog, and wherever else, I came to realize that when people click on certain things, they can see the way I named it! I used to think that name was basically just for me (maybe that was naïve or stupid), but no. Everyone can see it.

So, I’ve tried to rename everything using my name now instead of just “me.”

Speaking of names that people can see, sometimes I labeled photos something like “cute face, but weird body” – not realizing everyone would be able to see that!

Also, what’s funny about things like that is that I’d label it that way, and months later I’d go back to look at it to upload it somewhere or whatever. While skimming through photos, before even looking at the label, I’d say think something like “oh, nice body position, but weird face.”

Then I’d look at how I’d labeled it, and think, “What? How did I have the exact opposite feeling about this before?”

So, perception is weird, I suppose.

Hopefully I actually successfully changed the naming conventions of everything on the internet. However, I don’t really know. It’s possible somewhere deep in my Facebook or Flickr or wherever, you’ll find me making weird comments about myself… But whatever. You’re thinking your own little comments. I’m sure it’s all fine.

I’ll continue with more on photos tomorrow.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 4 (Videos)

Picking up from yesterday -

One unpleasant thing I brought on myself was that since I didn’t have a system, and I wasn’t organizing as I was going along (tsk tsk), there were some pictures that I had four or five times hidden throughout my computer!

The photos I used a lot for news articles, or photos I really loved that I knew I couldn’t bear to lose – I found them over and over again. I’d end up emailing them to myself to use for something, then saving to who knows where else. Next time I needed it, I wouldn’t remember where I saved it last time. And boom, I’d do it all over again.

And my gosh the videos! How much video can one person take? Well, you can take a lot. Between videos I made for the blog and videos I took at the Grand Canyon and other places, I felt as though I was drowning in videos.

I’m not even that huge into videos. I’m usually checking the internet from a place where I’d rather read (or see pictures) than turn up sound and load a video. So, going through those felt like one of the most tedious things to me – even though I really liked some of them! It was certainly really fun to re-live parts of the Grand Canyon and some other fun adventures.

But some of them felt more like work – fundraising videos – things I made specifically to try to get the word out about my project or make more money for Broadway Impact. And those were yet more things saved in multiple places on my computer for the same reasons some of the photos were.

“Oh, I need to put this on waywire” (which is actually moot now but you know, Vimeo, or whatever), or “I need to add this to the blog (etc.). I can’t find it… Guess I’ll just export it again.”

Then we get to the sorting phase: “I have another copy of this video on my computer? How will I ever sort through all of this?!”

But somehow, in some way, I did. (At least I think I did. *Cut to me finding some secret stash of videos on a hard drive somewhere*… Please, don’t cut to that. I hope that doesn’t happen…) I sucked up my non-love of videos, sat in my room, and pounded them out.

And this is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 3 (Editing)

Picking up from yesterday -

I was saying it was work just to get photos all into one place. Well, once you actually got them all in the same place – first, there was the whole thing of scanning in non-digital ones. (I’ve so learned that unless it is significantly cheaper, it’s so much easier/better to just suck it up and buy the digital version.)

Also, even once scanning was done and you actually had everything on your computer, there was cropping and pressing that “enhance” button in iPhoto when things were too much in shadow, and all that jazz. Just little non-professional photo editing takes a surprising amount of time! (Of course this is probably because I was trying to do a billion pictures at once. But still…)

Speaking of editing, I found 2 apps for the vain among us that can be helpful in a pinch – Perfect365 and Facetune. I don’t think there are desktop versions for these. So, it’s a little annoying if you’re trying to work on photos on your desktop, then you have to get them on your phone, edit them, and then go back to your desktop. But, you know, that’s a small annoyance.

I tried to keep pictures looking generally like what I looked like… However, if my teeth looked yellow in lighting (even though I work so hard on my teeth!), that kind of stuff might get a change. Then editing becomes such a slippery slope, I feel… Once I realized I looked better after certain editing tricks, I’d want to edit everything!

So, I’d swing from “let’s edit everything!” to “this feels so fake and is time consuming. Forget it. Let’s edit absolutely nothing!” throughout my photo organization journey.

What’s funny is that my teeth are so white (if I do say so myself ;)) – with no filters, no trips through editing apps or Photoshop or anything like that – in some photos that they possibly look a little fake, or like they got a little touch up… (Granted, my actual real-life teeth are fake (veneers), so there’s that.)

But if my teeth are beaming sometimes – with one of those bright spots you see in cartoons practically coming off of them – then how is it that in some pictures they actually looked yellow?! It doesn’t make any sense.

It’s amazing to me how much lighting in a place can change things. But the point is, in the age in which we live, we can touch up things a bit when necessary (if we want to take the time/be that vain… and sometimes, I do…)

Anyway, moving on!… Which is what we’ll do tomorrow.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 2 (Gathering)

Picking up from yesterday -

The most important lesson I’ve taken from this is that as soon as I get home from an even that involves a lot of photos, I must (must) get them onto my computer and in a folder for that event. Hopefully, I also have the time to throw out the ones I know I’ll never use, and to change the labels to words rather than “IMG_###” for the ones I will use.

It just has to be habit. Photos of something? Great. Organize them right this second so you never forget that fun something.

Side note: I will say that even though it sounds so easy – “oh, just throw out the ones I know I won’t use” – sometimes I have a bit of a hard time deleting photos. There’s something hard about decision time of which photos are worth keeping. Some are obviously trash. Some not so much…

But I think I get better at it as time goes on and I realize I don’t need every possible moment documented (and that I don’t want to spend my whole life organizing photos). As long as I have a handful of good ones (or even really one good one), we’re fine.

(But when it’s something special, such as meeting meeting Cory Booker… I have photos taken seconds apart that look practically exactly the same, but since there are tiny differences, I just can’t bear to let go yet…)

Part of the things that made sorting race photos specifically so hard was because you had to wait for professional photos to be available. By the time I could buy photos of one race, I was already running another.

Also, I was spending so much money on racing and traveling that much of the time, I couldn’t afford to actually buy any photos right then and there. So, finally about 7 months after I’d finished, I’d finally had the time and money to go back and buy what I wanted, track it all as it came to me, and organize it.

One of the things I find so hard about photos is that they come from so many places! I’d have text messages or emails from friends and family. I’d also have the pro photos from races being emailed to me, and some photos being sent in the mail. (Sometimes that was cheaper than a download option.)

Of course there were photos on my phone (oh so many). There were just so many places they were coming from, that even getting them into one place was a bit of a project in itself.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

I Have Climbed The Mountain Of Digital Photographs! – Part 1 (Oh, What A Project)

“I Am Going To Die Under a Pile of Digital Photographs” – that was the original blog title.

Sorting seemed overwhelming. It almost felt like a ridiculous project to undertake. Because really, would I ever finish them?

In my life (before the blog), I was never really that into taking tons of pictures. I guess, perhaps in certain events in which I was determined to remember every moment, I’d go a little camera happy. But for a long time I was of the mindset that I’d rather really look and experience things rather than try to capture them.

Also, what was I going to do with photos even if I took a bunch of them? I used to move all the time. Brooklyn, Astoria, Back Bay Boston, Far Rockaway, Los Angeles (Hollywood), Los Angeles (West Hollywood), Los Angeles (all over the place). I liked to have all of my possessions down to two suitcases, ’cause who knew where I’d be going next month?

Granted, we’re of course in a world in which we can house practically unlimited photos online or on our computers. But, before this past year, I wasn’t a huge sharer of photos online. I dunno. Photos just weren’t really my thing.

Basically, I think I can stop all building up of that past just to say that the great photo project of 2012 -2013 was something I’d never come close to dealing with in my life.

I had batches of photos from over 52 races (with marathons and 5ks thrown in there). I had photos of trips I’d taken to new cities. I had photos of my teacher’s retirement party, my new things I do every June 25th. There were pictures from the day I picked up my Price is Right car, and the day I met Cory Booker, and on an on. I had a lot of photos.

And they were starting to drive me crazy.

I don’t like to be too unorganized. As many various articles in the world state, having clutter in your life also clutters up your mind. So, now that I I was in my “year of responsibility,” one of the things I was determined to do was clean out my computer – and that included a gajillion photos.

And we’ll get into it all tomorrow.

What Kind Of Shoes Did I Wear?

As we’re wrapping up the 52 half marathons in 52 weeks, here’s a question I got a lot but realized I never addressed. The shoes!

When I started running, I was spending most of my time in New York. I just went into Lady Foot Locker and said I wanted to start running. They said there was a new shoe out for the New York City marathon.

It was cute. It had the marathon route for New York in the insole. It had a cheering crowd on the outside. Box ‘em up for me, baby!

They were Aasics Kayanos and I continued using Aasics through the start of my 52 half marathons. They worked for my quite well. I love those shoes.

But, as I started running more and meeting more runners, I started learning more and thinking more about shoes. I learned that the Kayanos are known in the running community as being the “shoe for fat people.”

Of course, I didn’t want to feel fat. So I started checking out other shoe options… (Realistically, I realize this is silly. If you don’t want to be fat, lose weight. Your shoes don’t determine if you’re fat. But you know. Image, whatever. You don’t want to be in the shoe that makes people think you’re tubby (as if they wouldn’t make that decision any other way).

So, since I saw 8 million (possibly a slight exaggeration) super cool Brooks displays throughout the year, I tried Brooks for a while.

I like Brooks. I do. The Dyads are a pretty good shoe for me. However, if I’m really honest with myself, I love my Aasics Kayanos.

They’re so comfortable, and they’ve never done me wrong. I wore two different pair of Kayanos (one for each day) during the Goofy Challenge, and they worked extremely well.

My attitude toward the shoe finally started changing in the middle of my 52 half marathons in 52 weeks.

I met a girl who I did not consider to be fat shouting her love about her Kayanos from the rooftops. She seemed cool and confident in herself. And I thought, “What’s keeping my from being confident in myself?!” I’m cool. And if decide these shoes are cool, then they’re cool with me.

Not to mention, I am kind of fat! I’m not hiding it from anybody. There are pictures of me all around the internet. It’s not a secret. So instead of thinking that if I don’t wear the “shoe for fat people,” I won’t be fat, I maybe need to embrace where I am. It’s a shoe that works really well for me (and for people who aren’t fat!).

Perhaps, when I lose more weight, my ideal shoe with change. And maybe it won’t. All I know is, for now, the Kayanos are still my jam.

(Note: I have been wearing Mizuno Wave Runners recently… in case you’re wondering why I’m loving on Aasics but you see Mizunos in photos. I bought them specifically to wear when I dressed as Wendy Davis for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween race. I still wear them so as not to waste a perfectly good pair of running shoes. I have nothing against Mizunos. But as of this moment, when push comes to shove, or it’s time for a really important run  - I’m an Aasics girl.)

How Much Time Do You Think Magic Johnson Spends In His Trophy Room?

So, I know we’ve been talking mainly about the 52 half marathons and such, wrapping all that up in a nice little bow. However, I must take a break from that to tell you about the most wonderful thing!

Pharrell made this wonderful thing called “24 hours of Happy.” In fact, that’s exactly where you can find it – It’s touted as the world’s first 24-hour music video.

My curiosity was definitely piqued. “A 24-hour music video? What in the world is this?” Well, the song plays over and over and over for 24 hours with different people doing a take on it each time.

This may sound a little monotonous when explained in words. But, being that the song is incredibly catchy and some of the takes on it are really fun, I would say it’s actually quite cool. I saw on twitter that some people are actually trying to watch all 24-hours… I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to do that. Although, the people who watch the whole thing will certainly find things (probably some great things) I didn’t.

When you open the video, it starts for you at whatever time of day it is. But, you can actually move a dial to get to whatever time of day you want. And thanks to twitter (quite possibly the greatest thing in the universe), I believe I’ve found the very best part of the video.

I saw in a tweet that at 5:36am during the Happy video, Magic Johnson dances around his trophy room!

It. is. awesome.

First off, I feel like Magic Johnson has this positive attitude that totally exudes off him. His happiness is contagious. I want to be his friend.

Secondly, his trophy room is probably the coolest place in all of Los Angeles. Here’s my favorite part: he has a room full of his jerseys from each team he’s been on. And he has drawings on the floor of mascots and things that correspond with where the jerseys are on the wall.

So, if you look down from his Laker jersey to a corresponding spot on the floor, it has the official lettering of the Los Angles Lakers and lists the years they won the championships (while he was on the team). He has the for the Olympics and it says “gold medalist.”

But get this. He also has one for college that says “National Champions” (and gives the year). He has one for high school that says “State Champions.” And this is the best part… He has one from middle school that says “City Champs.”

I found that to be unbelievably, exceptionally cute. It said to me not only does he care about his biggest successes that he’s most known for. He doesn’t purely care about being famous or the end result of his hard work… He cares about basketball – really, really cares.

I understand that he was a pro, so of course he cares about basketball. But I feel like it might be easy to get caught up in the fame and all that and forget about the love for the game. But I don’t think he has. That makes me love him.

His trophy room is incredible and as this title asked, I wonder how much time he spends in there. I feel like I’d go in and just revel in my life at least once a week. Right? Would you?

Quilt Story on NBC4 Columbus – Part 3 (The Interview)

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we did the interview. I’ll admit, I was a bit rusty. It’s been a year since I really talked about all the half marathons and everything. I still remembered some of the main stories of the year – the half marathon on crutches, the Goofy Challenge and such.

But in general, I felt a bit rusty answering the questions. Trying to tell the story again sort of re-awakened me to how long it’s been since a) all the heart stuff happened b) all the racing happened! I don’t know that I ever really had it all down to a science on how to give concise, hopefully interesting, answers that made sense… but anything I did have sort of flew out the window and unraveled into something way less tight now.

Oh well. I’m sure they’ll work their editing magic, and everything will be fine.

Another thing that happened during the interview – Janet stood to the side and signed along with what I was saying so that all the employees could understand as it went along. I thought that was super cool and wonderful. However, I have to admit, I never realized how hard it was to keep focus while speaking when someone is signing in your peripheral.

I’ve never actually seen a speaker get thrown by this before. So I didn’t even realize it could be an issue. But I felt that it actually threw me a little. So, you learn something new I suppose everyday.

By the way, I’m not a spoiled little princess in a bubble (even if I acted like I was when I waved while coming down the stairs (*shakes head at self*)). So I’m not trying to say, “ahem, ahem, all elements were not 100% perfect, therefore I was not on my game…  I’m just saying I had a new experience I’d never thought about before.

After the interview is over, they tape a segment of me hugging the seamstresses. It was actually extremely sweet. Janet was interpreting all these lovely messages people were saying to me.

I know my interview couldn’t have been all that bad because people were coming over saying they were inspired, and just generally telling me kind, sweet messages. I even met a woman whose son had Wolff-Parkinson-White and was going to have his first (and hopefully only) ablation next month. So, that was really sweet and nice.

The interview will air sometime this upcoming week, and I will make sure to let you know when it does!

Quilt Story on NBC4 Columbus – Part 2 (Includes An Embarrassing Side Story)

Picking up rom yesterday -

So, my dad drives me over to Bexley to Keepsake Theme Quilts. The people who work there are so lovely, adorable, and excited.

Right as my dad and I get there, Buzz, the very nice cameraman shows up. He tells us that he wants to get some b-roll of me jogging.

My dad goes to work taking behind the scenes photos for my blog. (Did I, or did I not say he’s such a lovely makeshift publicist?) Buzz asks me to jog a bit around the neighborhood. He gets shots of me running. He gets some shots of just my feet as well. It’s fun being taped.

Perhaps I should’ve tried to run faster since I only had to go a short distance… But I’m sure it all looks fine.

After the b-roll, it was time to go back inside. I felt like a mini-celebrity with Janet from Keepsake Theme Quilts asking if I wanted any water and such.

My dad and I palled around with Buzz and Janet until Cabot arrived. Cabot, Buzz, and Janet got to go in the super secret special room without us since they wanted to set up for the reveal of my quilt before I saw it.

Before you knew it, it was time for me to see the beautiful masterpiece.

The quilt is huge, beautiful, soft, and all-around wonderful. I love it.

We talked in front of the quilt for a while. We talked about me, my health issues, my races, and all that jazz.

Embarrassing mini-side-story: When I walked in the room, almost all of the people who worked there were standing around to greet me. Because they are deaf, they applauded by doing that hand wave thing. Now, intellectually, I knew they were applauding. I believe the correct response would’ve been to make the sign for “thank you.”

However, instinctively, I just reacted by sort of waving back… I felt like I was coming off as some sort of pretentious little princess or something waving to her adoring fans – especially because I was walking down an open stairwell into the room.

Aye, aye, aye.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

Quilt Story on NBC4 Columbus – Part 1 (The Hair Story)

Leave it to my dad to
a) be my makeshift publicist &
b) get stuff done

My dad seems to be friends with everyone, always. Sure enough, one day he comes in with the news that he’s talked to Cabot Rea – a local Columbus newscaster – at a restaurant. Sure enough, yesterday, we taped a story on my quilt & half marathons.

First, let’s take a moment to talk about the disaster that was my hair. I got my hair dyed because it seemed to be getting lighter and that was no good. So, I brought it back down to a shade below my normal brown color. Well, my hair-line on my right side ended up looking weird – like a total straight line instead of an even semi-natural hairline.

In order to try to make this problem less noticeable, I tried getting as much dye as possible off my skin in that area. That meant I washed my hair 3 times in 24 hours. Then I exfoliated the heck out of that spot. (Now I have one wildly dry space on the side of my face. Dandruff galore in that little area. It is rough, baby!

I guess the point of this story is just to say that I wore my hair down for the interview/b-roll. I planned to be cute and wear it in a ponytail to suggest I’m a semi-athlete. But some super covering up business had to be done about my wild hairline/dryness/craziness.

We’ll pick up with how the rest of it went tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The T-Shirts? – Part 5

*To my readers getting this through some kind of RSS feed, I’m sorry. Prepare to be bombarded for a little while as I catch up on the last week and a half. xoxo

Picking up from last time - as if Keepsake Theme Quilts didn’t already sound awesome enough, on of the things I love about it is its social mission. The company was started by a woman who’d never met a deaf person until she had two deaf children. She ended up starting Deaf Initiatives – a 501(c)(3).

Keepsake Quilts is a part of that charity, and its mission is: “to hire, promote and train Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in a work environment free from communication barriers.”

Not only that, but it was sort of hard for me to let go of my precious race shirts. However, it was made so much easier when I learned that the leftover fabric not used in the quilt is given to places that need it.

Keepsake Theme Quilts donates to My Very Own Blanket, the local women’s prison, and local painters.

Beside the great social conscience, the business also has great communication skills. As your quilt is being made, you’re kept up to date on the process – when your quilt is moving into production and so on.

You’re even emailed a picture with your squares on the wall to make sure they’re exactly how you want them before they start into making the quilt.

Mine is actually done now! There’s even a news story to go along with the reveal. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The T-Shirts? – Part 4

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I picked the main color of my quilt. (They call that the sashing.) I opted to not have little squares of color between my t-shirt squares after all, because after talking it over with Janet and seeing pictures of other quilts, I learned that that looks best on small quilts with a small amount of t-shirt squares. The pops of color help kind of fill out the look of the quilt.

I picked burgundy for the binding to get a bit of my red fix in, but still have something not overwhelming that goes well with purple.

My understanding is that a lot of people do the sashing and backing the same color, but I decided I wanted them to be different. So, I picked a royal blue for the back. I think it’ll go well with the front (if it ever gets folded over). It goes will with the binding. And I feel it’ll break things up nicely instead of having one color all over my quilt.

Then, I got to write in what I wanted on my lines of embroidery. I’d actually written it down ahead of time on my phone so I had it. (I wanted to be absolutely sure I got the dates right.)

The embroidery will say:

Aurora De Lucia
52 Half Marathons In 52 Weeks
January 15, 2012 – January 13, 2013

Before you knew it, everything was done. I handed over my sample packet. (I wanted to make sure I brought it back since I have no idea how many they lose over the course of mailing them to who knows how many people).

I left with my empty suitcase. It was so weird, feeling like I’d come in with all that stuff, and poof! Now it was gone.

I know earlier I said it was a little bittersweet getting rid of everything, but walking out without it all, knowing it was going to be transformed into one beautiful piece was actually pretty freeing and awesome!

I’m glad I got to take a filed trip to Keepsake Theme Quilt‘s shop. But, I wouldn’t feel nervous at all sending things in from Los Angeles, because they completely know what they’re doing over there. I totally trust the people there and know they would’ve made it look great, even if I wouldn’t have been there in person.

They make small paper squares you can cut out so you can tag your own shirts from home. Keepsake Theme Quilts tries to make things as easy as possible while giving the customer complete control. They’re definitely quite awesome, and someday when I do a marathon in all 50 states, I’m sure I’ll be going back to them.

I’ll talk more about their awesome company tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The T-Shirts? – Part 3

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we tagged all my shirts. Then, it was time to pick the colors.

Keepsake Theme Quilts will actually awesomely send you color samples so you can see and feel everything in your own hands to really get a sense of what you want.

They’d done this for me. Originally, when I just looked at the samples without thinking about all the shirts and the big picture of the quilt, I was thinking red would be really nice because I love red.

I was thinking red for the overall color, purple for little squares in between the shirts, burgundy for the binding, and blue flannel for the back.

Then, after I got to Ohio and started looking at the colors next to my shirts, I started to realize that as much as I love and adore red, it was going to overwhelm the shirts – which of course are the whole point of the quilt.

Plus, red is such a bold color that it didn’t totally go with some of the shirts in the quilt… I mean, I have a fair amount of colors of shirts in the quilt. So I don’t know of anything, other than maybe black, that would actually go with every shirt.

I’m actually totally okay with that. As long as it looks good overall, I don’t really care if my main color looks slightly off when it’s next to my one or two deep red shirts or my couple of neon shirts… For the most part, it just needs to look good with blue and white since those are definitely the main shirt colors.

I thought about burgundy for a while since I could still keep the idea of red but not have it be quite so in-your-face (as much as I do love stuff that is in your face)… I even went into the quilt place thinking burgundy.

But looking at it one that time, that seemed a little too grown-up of a quilt for me. I’m not sophisticated enough for a burgundy quilt. So I finally landed on purple. I think it’s a beautiful color. I think it goes well with the majority of my shirts. I think it’s still semi-bold without being overwhelming. I like the choice a lot.

Plus, I ran for marriage equality, and purple is often used as a color to stand for equal rights. So, I thought it worked out perfectly all around.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The T-Shirts? – Part 2

Picking up from yesterday -

So, I got to Ohio. And I took a little field trip to Bexley, since that’s where Keepsake Theme Quilts is located.

They have such an adorable, lovely business. I had a really fun time taking a visit. Before going, we’d washed all my t-shirts, and stuffed them in a suitcase. Upon arriving, super friendly/nice Janet took me to the basement to lay out all my quilts on their huge work table.

Since I was getting the “Runner’s Delight” quilt (the biggest one offered, holding 49 t-shirts), my squares needed to be 12 inches instead of the normal 15. They had plastic squares in both sizes so you could hold them up right over your t-shirts and see how much design you could use from each one.

(Side note: I did a few smaller/cheaper races with no t-shirts. So, 49 spaces worked perfectly!)

I had a good idea going in there of what parts of each t-shirt I wanted, but I felt even better going over it with a quilting professional who knew what would look great.

My original assumption before going over all the shirts was that I’d probably just want the front of each one. However, a surprising amount of shirts had the coolest stuff on the back. A lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll series shirts have cool stuff on the back. Big Sur marathon had something nice on the back.

Plus, some shirts had cool things on the sleeves. One of the things that’s great about Keepsake Theme Quilts is that they can take part of the front and back or things from the sleeves and put it all into one square so you get all the best parts of the shirts together.

For instance, the Halloween themed race I did in L.A. (Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles) had all the main information on the front, but this really cool-looking witch on the back. Boom. Keepsake Quilts put ‘em together in the same square. Ba-bam!

So, we went though and Janet tagged each one as we talked about it, so we had everything in numerical order and the instructions were explicitly clear about which parts went in the square.

There was something slightly bittersweet about knowing all these great shirts were about to be cut up. There was a slightly stressed voice in the back of my head saying “Are you sure you got all the very best parts of every shirt?!” But I’m confident we got what we needed.

Also, I have duplicates of my very favorite shirts. I decided mid-way through the year that a quilt was something I definitely wanted. So I started trying to track down/buy extras of the shirts I adored (such as from the Indy mini).

(I’m actually wearing that one even as I type this to you – even though I’ve already given up my shirts for the quilt. Neat, huh? ;))

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The T-Shirts? – Part 1

When I ran the Nationwide Children’s Columbus Half as part of my 52 half marathons in 52 weeks (in October 2012), I saw the coolest quilt place at the expo.

I wanted so badly to get a quilt from Keepsake Theme Quilts! But alas, I wasn’t done with the project. So, I took a business card and held onto it tightly until the end of my 52 half marathons.

But once that came around, I sort of got distracted (both money and time-wise) ordering photos from all the races. I also needed a week or two to kind of just decompress from the awesome year-long adventure. Plus then I did other stuff (such as The Price is Right).

I really wanted that quilt, but it kept going to the back burner. The quilt could always be made as long as I had the shirts. The photos would eventually expire. With only so much money to go around, I kept pushing off the quilt.

Then one day… as I was approaching the 1-year anniversary of the end of the 52 half marathons and really dying to wrap everything up once and for all before starting my next project… I got a tweet from Keepsake Quilts!

I kid you not. I didn’t reach out to them. They just appeared in my timeline.

Granted, I’d been thinking about them, for sure. I’d been looking at their website a bunch, trying to imagine what colors I’d want and what special features I’d need… I was thinking about them kind of a lot. Maybe my brainwaves made it across the country to them…

They tweeted me saying they heard my story and loved it and wanted to talk about making me a quilt!

I emailed them, and we had a great exchange. Sure enough, they set things up to give me a quilt I was beside myself with how serendipitously everything was working out.

I’d actually sent all my race t-shirts to my parents’ house while I was cleaning out my room so we could put them aside for the quilt. After all, the quilt place was in Ohio (which is where my parents are). And my parents have more room in a house than I do in my apartment. So they were willing to store them.

I called my parents and asked if they could tag the shirts for me. My dad kept saying “just come visit and you can tag them.”

I could see that in the end the only way my shirts were getting tagged was if I came by to do them. So, I hopped on a plane. This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The Medals? – Part 4

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we’d decided to go with Michaels. (By “we,” I mean me and my parents who bought this for me as an awesome, wonderful Christmas present.)

When we first got the quote from Michaels, we didn’t go nuts with laying everything out, because I’d learned my lesson from last time, and didn’t want to take up another framer’s time…

We just did enough so she’d be able to give us the estimate.

Then, I took the medals back to my parent’s house, and laid them out in the shape of a 52 in chronological order. I measured it to make sure it’d fit in the 40″ x 60″ frame. Then I took a bunch of pictures so we’d all remember what it should look like.

While talking with Andrea when getting the quote, she had a great idea that we could put the actual race medals in the 52 and surround it with the 18 bonus medals.

In the end, the 52 barely fits in the frame. So, the bonus medals couldn’t surround it unless we made everything look very squished. Her recommendation (which I really liked) to fix that problem is to have two smaller frames (separate pieces) – one on each side of the big, huge 52 frame.

So, that’s the plan. As of now, we’ve only taken in the big 52 for framing. That was a big chunk of change in itself and we’re gonna see how it goes first. Assuming it turns out beautifully, then we’ll probably take the leap to finish the last two frames and be all done with it.

We laid everything out agin in the frame shop so Andrea could take her own pictures. Most of the ribbons on the medals are going to be hidden behind the mat. But we picked out some to kind of shape around the 52, so some of the more beautiful ones can be visible (and so the medals look cooler and fuller).

As far as picking out the mat, it was sort of hard to pick a background color. I generally like bold colors, but we needed to pick something at least somewhat muted to be able to show off all the medals.

I really enjoyed a purple color… and then realized it didn’t come in our huge mat size. There was a pink I loved that had the same problem. Then I landed on a dark blue. It actually goes great with the pink. So, the plan is to have the pink matting in the smaller bonus medal frames.

Also, I gave Andrea my bibs so she could cut them and line the inside of the shadowbox with them! I’m so glad I found a place for the bibs! I knew I wanted to save them, but had no idea where to put them. Now, voilà!

The frame should be coming back pretty soon. So, more on that when it’s finished. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the t-shirts and the awesome quilt.

What Did I Do With All The Medals? – Part 3

Picking up from yesterday -

I went to a custom framing store… The girl I’d actually gotten the quote from didn’t even work there anymore – that’s how long I’d waited.

I remember loving her on the phone. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the lovely women currently working there. But it didn’t feel the same as the fun girl from the phone.

The women seemed interested in the prospect of making a 52 with the medals and they were rendering ideas on the computer of how they’d do it. But, by the time I’d met them, I’d already been to Michaels.

Michaels is a chain arts and crafts store. Before going there, I wondered how some big retail giant could ever be as a good as a little custom framing shop. But once I got to Michaels, I met Andrea – the framing expert there.

She was amazing. She seemed so very passionate and open to ideas. Almost anything seemed possible with her. She seemed really excited about the project. I had this wonderful feeling about her. It would’ve been hard for anyone to match (or overtake) that.

So, I went to the other custom framing shop and no one could out-do Andrea.

I will say that at the custom frame shop, they said they could do two mats and shape one into a 52, then put the medals on that one. Whereas, they didn’t have the equipment needed at Michaels to shape a mat into a giant 52. But I think I actually like the idea better of just the medals themselves being the shape. So, that’s fine.

In the end, Michaels was even cheaper than the custom framing place. So, Michaels it is.

I will say my only true qualm is that the only shadowbox option (that was deep enough and could be made big enough) was a black wood frame… And I don’t really like the textured look of the frame. I mean, maybe I could’ve tried to push that harder or something. But if they don’t have any other options, then they don’t have any other options.

There was a nice smooth shadowbox frame that would fit everything… But they only had the corner of it. She called multiple places, and apparently it’s not even being made anymore?

So, it is what it is. I’m sure it still look good. I’m so excited about every single other detail about it. So I’m sure I’ll barely even notice the textured frame.

More on the layout and process of picking the mat and such tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The Medals? – Part 2

Picking up from yesterday -

I have 72 medals and my expensive $2,500 quote.

When I told someone who knew way more about framing than I did that it was going to cost $2,500, she said she was positive I could call around and find a better deal. Sure enough, she was right.

First, I called other places in Los Angeles. Many were still very expensive. Then I expanded my search.

My parents live in Ohio, and so many things often seem cheaper out there. So, I started calling Columbus shops. Sure enough, they were much cheaper! Ultimately, we got a quote for about $800.

It was interesting talking to different framing shops. Some seemed like they thought the project would be too hard. Some thought it would be possible with some restrictions. And some seemed excited about the challenge/possibility of such a cool, big display.

Originally, I’d said I wanted the medals in the shape of a 52. I thought that’d be cool. I dropped that idea after the first frame shop (back in L.A.) said it wasn’t feasible. But somehow that option worked its way back into my life – which I’m really happy about, because it was ultimately what I wanted.

I felt bad about dropping the old framing place after spending so much time with them. I didn’t actually commit to anything. But still, time is money. However, when I found places for 1/3 of the price excited about working on it, I had to move on.

I actually called around for estimations back in March-ish of last year (soon after the half marathons were completed). I don’t like to leave boxes of stuff (including medals) just sitting around… But, I always found other uses for money. So, it just kept getting pushed back and back.

Finally, I decided to visit Ohio this month to once and for all take care of the shirts and medals. It’s been a year since this project ended. It’s time to officially (metaphorically) tie it in a bow and put it to rest.

So, I came to Ohio and met with a couple of framers who gave the best quotes.

Before going into the stores, I thought I was going to want to go with an actual frame shop, that specialized only in framing…

But then I learned that as with oh so many things, I think framing has to do more with the people doing it than the place where that person happens to be.

This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

What Did I Do With All The Medals? – Part 1

Keeping the theme of talking about all the stuff from the 52 half marathons – what did I do with so many medals?

First, I took them to a frame shop in Los Angeles. And I learned a fair amount about framing there… I learned about museum glass and that the largest size a mat comes in is 60″ by 40″. So, if you don’t want any splicing in your frame, you gotta fit it in there.

I felt really, really bad because I liked that frame shop a lot. They were really nice there, and honestly spent a good deal of time with me and my medals sort of laying them out and giving ideas of how they could be displayed… And I really thought I would go with them. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

Their quote was about $2,500 to frame all 72 medals in the same huge frame.

Sure, that seems steep. But when you think about it, you have to use a shadowbox frame because of the thickness of some of the medals. And you have to make so very many cuts. So the labor cost is high… I understood how it could be that expensive.

If you’re wondering on the math how I got 72 medals… In the end, I ran 55 races because I did that bonus celebration race the weekend after 52. Plus I did 2 extra throughout the year because in one I got lost and in one I started late due to a daylight savings mixup. Since I couldn’t count either of those, I had a couple extra races in there. That brings us to 55 races.

However, I elected not to put my Goofy Challenge medals in there because this medal display is going to be a behemoth! I don’t know where I’m going to move in the future or if I’m always going to have 5 feet of wall space (over 3 feet high) just hanging out where I can hang this. So I want the Goofy medals in their own frame, because that was race #52. And I should always be able to find a place to hang that. So, I’ll get the same idea without 1/2 a wall being dedicated to medals from one year of racing.

Also, the Goofy Challenge medals were so beautiful and so special that I don’t want them getting lost in the mess of all the other medals. So, I want them separate.

Mathematically, we’ve now gone from 55 races to 54 medals (since I’m keeping that Disney half separate). Then I had 18 bonus medals. (9 from the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, plus 9 other ones.) That brings us to 72. So, a lot…

How in the world are we going to frame all of them? This is where I’ll pick up tomorrow.

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 6

I thought that before I moved on, after so much talk of money, I should re-visit the question, “Was it worth it?”

And the answer is, I don’t know. I think you could argue either case…

Obviously, when we did the math, this whole thing cost many thousands of dollars.

Would it have been better to try and go back to Berklee, and pay for a semester of school? Would it have been better to take a ton of dance classes? (I miss dance so much!) Would it have been better to go to Tanzania, climb Kilimanjaro, and go on a safari?

Most importantly, would it have been better to use that money to try and move to New York? After all, I do talk all the time about my dreams of living on the east coast again…

So, you could make the argument that there’s a lot of other things I could’ve done with that money.

But, in the argument for the 52 half marathons…
It was a project that lasted all year. That trip to Africa would’ve been incredible. But this was a year-long adventure. So, we should take that into account.

Also, thousands of dollars were raised for a good cause through this project. Embarrassingly, and unfortunately we didn’t even raise as much as I spent. They do have thousands of dollars they wouldn’t have had otherwise. But you could make the argument they’d have been better off if I’d have just donated the money it cost to do this project…

But, there’s an argument to be made for awareness too. Many people hadn’t heard of Broadway Impact until I started doing my fundraising…

Another thing in the pro-this-project camp: I know that I learned a good deal from this project.

Plus, I definitely got catapulted back into enjoying running and healthy living. Hopefully now I’m in this habit for life, and this project was helpful in getting there.

Also, I’d never been into journaling before this. And I love that I’m finally keeping some kind of record of my life. It’s nice for me to be able to read about things I loved and remember them more vividly.

I love how many cool people I met. I love how many cool places I saw. I had a truly amazing time, and I will never forget that year of my life.

Also, here’s one more thing to think about when asking if I should’ve spent that money on something else. It wasn’t like I actually just had many thousands of dollars just sitting around thinking, “what should I do with this?” I just started the races, not planning out the expenses, and I tried to make ‘em work.

A good amount of that was just put on credit cards. If it weren’t for the Price is Right, I’d still be paying them off! And I think one of the reasons I got on Price is Right is ’cause I had sort of story/hook. Maybe I would’ve made it on without that. But we’ll never really know.

So, if I was only able to afford the races, really, because of Price is Right - and I only got on Price is right because of the races – that becomes a loop for how it all works together…

So, I don’t know… The question of whether it was worth it doesn’t even necessarily need to be asked because it happened. It’s over. Everybody survived. It was great and fun. So, there you have it.

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 5

So, it was already expensive just to make it through the races.

But what I never thought about while thinking of all the costs of travel and registrations was all the other things that weren’t totally necessary (but would be great) that would come up.

Think about the photos!!!

I barely bought any of the pro photos during the year, ’cause I just didn’t have the extra money to go around… or even really the time to worry about them. By the time they’d come out, it’d be on to the next race.

But then, once the year was over, it was a race to get to the photos before they all expired. If I did this huge project, I’d love to have a lot of documentation of it.

And of course, I did with personal photos and blog entries and such. But there’s something nice about having the pro ones too.

Between 52 races, I’m sure at least over $2,000 was spent on photos. I believe 6 of the races did free photos. Some had very cheap options. I ended up waiting for sales on some of the races, which was very helpful. My family bought me some as Christmas presents – also very helpful.

But the money adds up so quickly. For most races, I tried to just pick one or maybe a few that did the trick. But for races that really mattered (my dad’s first half, the Goofy Challenge), or races where there were just a bunch of pictures I liked, I got the whole shebang. That can be over $100 in some instances (though usually I think it’s more around $60 – 80).

But for most races, even if you just want one photo you’re gonna end up spending about $30, because that’s the price of one digital download (their way of trying to convince you more is a better deal – which totally worked on me more than once).

You can get prints, which are cheaper. But a) you’re adding a hassle to your life. I went with prints sometimes. But they never look as good scanned in. And you have to get them all scanned in, and it’s a whole thing… Digital is way better when you can afford it (in my opinion).

b) You still have to pay shipping and handling, my friend!

So, there was that big expense.

There’s also the expense of what you’re gonna do with the stuff! Are you gonna frame your medals? Are you gonna quilt your t-shirts? I feel like just taking care of the stuff becomes expensive in itself. But since this next bit of time is dedicated to talking all about what I did with all that stuff, we will get into that soon enough, my friends!

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 4

I do just want to give one big shout out to everyone who helped me during this project.

As I looked at my little spreadsheet while writing this post, I saw a couple names that warmed my heart because of how much I adore the people.

In places where people drove me or let me stay with them, I put their name instead of a dollar amount. And even going back to the very beginning and my awesome friend Taylor, I thought, “I adore her! I couldn’t be happier that this project started with her…

And then I was sad ’cause now she lives even farther away from me. But such is life, I suppose.

I almost feel bad since I just talked (yesterday) about some of the money was foolishly spent.

I even forgot about a wasted race entry – which didn’t count toward my total – after I registered for Providence and didn’t make it with my buddy pass… Should I have tried to go to the airport a day earlier? Questions I ask myself when resources get sort of wasted… Granted, I did totally use that buddy pass for Denver. But I bought an extra race entry in the process (and missed out on Providence). *exhales at my choices from the year*… But even though I can pick it apart… Again, I reiterate, I made it through. So, yay for that! Right?

I like to believe that when people are helping me that I’m smartly using the resources they’re offering. So, when I make bad decisions on some races when it comes to money, it makes me feel bad.

But, everyone who did help me had a really open heart about it and I appreciate each one of them so much. And every time I see the people’s names if I ever look back on this spreadsheet of blog posts, I can’t imagine a time when it won’t make me smile. So, huge props to everyone who did help me.

(And if it makes you feel any better, even though I have a couple of instances of foolish money spending, I have a lot more of good money spending. There were just some forehead-palm (like in the V8 commercial) moments. But we’ve covered them. They’re over. And I like the think they stick out ’cause they were different – not the norm.

I have one more post tomorrow.

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 3

Picking up from yesterday -

I was picking out a couple of specific trips to talk about.

My second most expensive trip was surprisingly the Seattle Quadzilla. Between the rental car and expensive plane tickets, that trip cost about $1,000! (And I even had a free place to stay on that trip!) So, that definitely surprised me when I saw that amount.

Of course, I did do 4 races that weekend. So, if you average that out, it’s not so bad after all…

The race where I most foolishly spent money was Big Sur. It cost $521.86. But I think I picked the wrong hotel, because while I got one that was close, you couldn’t actually walk to the start because of a highway or something. And even though I had a rental car, there was not a ton of parking around there. So I sort of think I may have taken a cab… I’ll have to go back and read the post. But I definitely didn’t pick the right hotel…

But way more importantly than that, I decided to fly all the way to San Francisco. But the drive down in my rental car was so far that I realized it would’ve made more sense to just drive up, which would’ve saved me a round trip plane ticket.

Everything worked out and it was fine. But that trip could’ve absolutely been less expensive.

Another foolish race was the North Carolina half. I had a wonderful time. Because of that, perhaps it wasn’t foolish. However, there was another race in New York (which is where I was staying at the time) that very same weekend. Why did I spend over $300 for lodging and plane tickets to North Carolina when I could’ve done the one in New York?

At the time, I hand’t really mapped out all the expenses. I’d recently gotten my tax refund and felt I could splurge. I really wanted that sweet medal that lights up and has moving parts.

Also, the New York race was part of a series. And I didn’t want to do that because I felt, “What’s the point of doing one if I’m not going to finish the series? And I don’t want to travel 4 more times to make not traveling this once worth it.”

Of course, in real life, I could’ve done it and not done the series. But that wasn’t my thinking at the time…

So, that’s where some foolish mistakes were made. But, then I cut corners later. (Some cutting might’ve actually been a bit foolish too, because it leaves you tired and stuff. But obviously I made it through. So doing it without spending as much money as I did in the ones I just mentioned, I would say overall was a good choice.

And I’ll talk more about the expenses tomorrow.

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 2

Picking up from yesterday -

So, we’ve got the race registrations and the plane tickets. Add in some rental cars, bus trips, and such and you’ve seen why the transportation ended up costing more than the registrations.

Although, I will admit – especially for someone whose base was in SoCal, I didn’t need to travel that much.

I did it because I loved getting away, and I loved experiencing new things. Also, I figured if I was already doing that many races, I might as well get as many bonus medals as possible. So, that involved a number of out-of-state Rock ‘n’ Roll races. Also, there was the trip to Florida for Disney Princess.

Plus, I wanted to be at my dad’s first half marathon – which meant flying more than halfway across the country to do so. So, there was a lot of traveling that I didn’t have to do – though I loved doing it…

The other main cost would be lodging. I was lucky and often stayed with friends or had a couple people gift me hotel rooms. So, that could’ve been a way worse number. But that’s the other main expense you’d need to factor in if you were to plan an adventure like this.

There’s also the cost of food and shoes… Food didn’t really seem to be that much more or less expensive than if I’d just been at home. Plus, you can bring a lot of nutrition bars and such from home. Not to mention, that a lot of expos actually give out some free food. Many finish lines give you enough free food that you could basically make it through lunch that day.

So, as far as I could tell, the cost of food wasn’t a huge issue for me. (Food became a little hard while I was on a vegan challenge because you have to be so specific. But, for a non-restricted diet, there didn’t seem to be any big problems.)

As far as the shoes were concerned, I probably only rotated through about 3 – 4 pairs throughout the year, which many normal runners to anyway. So that also wasn’t a huge deal.

My most expensive trip, not surprisingly was the Goofy Challenge. I got a great deal on our Disney resort. Nonetheless, between the expensive registration, many nights in a Disney resort, and the flight across the country, I spent about $1,400 on that trip.

(And my dad even bought all the food! So none of that expensive Disney food is factored in. Also, I didn’t even go to the parks (outside of the races). So no park tickets are factored in either.)

I’ll talk about a couple more specific trips tomorrow.

The Expenses of 52 Half Marathons – Part 1

One of the questions I get most often is “how much did that cost?!”

After some thought, I’ve decided it’s probably not smart to divulge so much personal financial information as to put up an entire spreadsheet with every cost. But since people are so curious and possibly want to do this themselves, I’ll happily give you a little larger window into the cost of everything.

The total cost of all the registrations was $5,354.42. I estimated that it was probably an average of $100/race, which is actually a little lower than what it came out to.

In the end, I actually ran 55 because I threw in 3 extra – one because of a late start due to a daylight savings phone setting malfunction (so I ended up cutting part of the course and can’t count that as an official race), one because I got lost on the course on a small race and accidentally cut a bit out, and one because I started with Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona and thought it would be nice to end there. The following year it fell one week later, so it couldn’t be my final race. But I still did it as a “celebration race.”

Also, just for the record, I did get one comped entry and one half price entry. If you factor that in, we’re basically right at $5,500, which is what I assumed it would end up coming out to. Though, the Goofy Challenge is included in that. So, there was a fun extra full marathon I’m not taking into account in the equation of 55 half marathons.

So, that was the cost of the registrations alone. The cost of transportation outdid the cost of just the registrations. Flights alone totaled over 3/4 of what I spent on race registrations. (And I even used points for one of them!) I didn’t realize I flew so much or that it was so expensive until I looked at it for this post.

I don’t know if I waited too long in many instances here to buy my ticket, or if it cost more because I was flying in for big marathon weekends… Of course, sometimes it just cost a lot because I flew far distances. I flew all the way to the other side of the country (Florida) twice(!)

I was still surprised to see my money spend on flights was in the thousands… To go up to Seattle for the Quadzuki (4 half marathons in 4 days), it cost $513.20. Just to go to Seattle! Of course, that was flying in the day before Thanksgiving and leaving at the end of the holiday weekend. So, there you have it, I suppose.

I didn’t even believe I actually spend that until I went back and looked at the receipt. Sure enough, it truly was that expensive.

My most expensive flight was actually for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon. It cost $328.60 just for the CMH > LAX part! I don’t remember why in the world that weekend was so expensive…

So, if I wondered for a moment how in the world I spent thousands of dollars on flights, it quickly became apparent when those two weekends (Seattle & Columbus) totaled over $1,000 just by themselves. Throw in two trips to Florida (from Los Angeles), an additional trip or two to the midwest/east coast, plus some trips to pretty close states (either that surround me, or that were close to states I was already in (e.g. when I flew to North Carolina from New York)) and I see how it quickly escalates to over four grand.

Whew! We’ll talk more tomorrow about which trips all in were most expensive and some costs I didn’t really think about until I did it…

Wrapping Up 52 Half Marathons

Wow, it’s been a whole year since I finished running 52 half marathons in 52 weeks.

A year ago today, I flew home from my bonus, celebratory 53rd race in Arizona.

It’s time to finally tie this all up in a bow and move on to another fun project. So, let’s hit anything we haven’t already… We’ll delve a bit more into the money aspect. I’ll talk about how surprisingly hard it was to keep track of/sort all the photos. We’ll talk about what I did with the medals, t-shirts, & bibs. And I’ll talk a bit about what I learned.

So, that’s what we’ll be talking about here until the end of the month. If you have any questions about the 52 half marathons, now would be a perfect time to ask them. (Of course, you’re welcome to ask them anytime. But now would be lovely…)

Looking forward to talking about all this with you tomorrow!

I Build Myself Up, Then I Tear Myself Down

Really cute shirt I am no longer permitted to wear...

Really cute shirt I am no longer permitted to wear…

Ah boy. Insecurity and such.

I’ve been losing some weight. It’s slow, but pretty steady (which I understand is the way it probably should be)… But as you probably know if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, it can at some points be frustrating because you see yourself every day. Sometimes it becomes a little easy to lose the forest through the trees.

I know that I’ve been losing weight because I can sort of see it. And the numbers on the scale are going down. But for whatever reason, I wanted a little extra confidence boost.

I have one drawer in my closet of cute clothing from before I gained a bunch of weight in the hospital with my heart issues. Yes, I realize that was about 4 years ago at this point and that perhaps it was time to just get rid of this cute stuff already… But I did get rid of almost everything else I used to be able to fit into. I just kept one small drawer of stuff I really liked, because I was determined to get back into it at some point.

The good news is, I have! I’m still certainly not skinny by any stretch of that word. But I’m starting to look presentable in cute clothing. I tried on this shirt because I used to love this shirt! The great news is – it fits again!

The bad news is, I may never again in my life be able to wear it. As you may notice, there’s a big slit in the middle of the chest. It’s supposed to look kind of cute/sexy and usually it does.

But now, all it does is BAM highlight my open-heart surgery scar. That’s it. That’s what that little keyhole shows now.

I live with my scar daily. I know it’s there. I know it’s part of me now. I knew that I’d be able to see it when I tried on this shirt. But actually seeing how front and center and ba-bam it looked in the shirt – it was even worse than I imagined. And it made me sad. Really sad. I cried a little. (But at least it was a great looking cry where you could see the single tear fall down my cheek!)

The point is, even if I lose a whole bunch of weight – even if I only weighed 95 pounds and everything was toned and perfect – none of that would take away that big scar on my chest.

Now, I know that not all hope it totally lost. I’m gonna call my plastic surgeon about laser scar removal… I know there’s a possibility that someday my scar won’t look as bad.

But just in the moment, I was really upset and I thought why not share my moment of sadness/insecurity with you?

Working Out More Consistently

I think this is the last post I have talking about the “year of responsibility.”

(At least, the last post for a while. I did want to get my finances better together… and I did! But I want to wait to see how my taxes shake out before I really say I’ve got things together.)

Anyway, I wanted to work out more consistently and be better about going after improvement, instead of just doing a bunch of half marathons for the fun of it. And I really did that!

I got back into my old mode of training from when I’d really trained (for my first half marathon). I had speed days, long-distance days, and middle-distance days. I tried varying up some workouts. I worked hard. And it’s paying off!

I felt better and more consistent in my last half marathon. (And I finished faster than any race I’d run after having open-heart surgery.)

One of the things I felt I really saw this year was how much your work life impacts your workout life. Some people are “make no excuses – always find a way!” I like to believe I’m one of those people. But when push comes to shove, I wasn’t necessarily one of them…

From the beginning of July to the end of September, I worked out in Burbank! I felt I might as well be working on the moon. To make matters worse, I worked daytime hours (daytime, I tell you!). I was so exhausted everyday from my incredibly long commute and that whole being out when the sun it out thing…

I basically just collapsed on my bed when I got home and more often than not would just zombie out with TV and internet until my eyes closed and I did it all again the next day…

I also worked in the middle of nowhere. There was only one restaurant around us – some little local café place. And then there was our commissary, which had a bunch of super unhealthy fried food and buttery food and all that jazz (which I totally ate all the time).

Now, why I decided it was best to just give up, eat the fattening food that was convenient, and not push myself to work out when I got home… who knows? I kept saying I wanted to change. But change is hard…

In October, I started working at a place close to my apartment. It was also close to a grocery store and tons of restaurants. It also was within walking distance from a gym!

I often went to yoga during my dinner break. I often used the grocery store instead of eating out. (And when I did eat out, I had tons of options and always tried to pick the best one.) And I almost always worked out when I got home!

(Of course, this was much easier, ’cause my body clock was on a schedule that was much more pleasant for me. I worked nights. I came home when the sun was down and no one was in the gym.)

It’s amazing the difference my new job made! Or it’s amazing the difference my happier, more can-do attitude adjustment made?

I think it was probably a bit of both. You can’t argue with super-convenience. But you also can’t argue with results. And giving my body better fuel and more exercise made me feel like such a much happier/energetic person… If I had just done that at the other job, would my exhausted attitude have changed?

The point is, I’ve gotten much better about working out more consistently during these past few months. I, of course hope, I get a convenient job again. But even if I don’t, I will work to be better about keeping up my habits. As I say all the time on this very blog, my life is always better when I consistently work out. How many times do you think I’ll have to learn that lesson ’til it sticks? :-P

I Did More Yoga, As I Said I Would

In my “year of responsibility” post, I mentioned that I wanted to do more yoga.

And I did! Yay!

There was a gym down the street from the place where I worked starting in October. They had yoga 4 nights a week at 9pm, which was perfect for me because everyone else had already left by then and I could go take a long dinner break if I wanted.

Of course, there were some nights where we were slammed and it wasn’t possible – not that I’d ever go to yoga 4 times a week anyway!

My general goal was to go twice a week and basically just pick the days that were possible. I always shot for starting it off on Monday since I never knew what the week ahead held.

I will say that doing yoga helped me to improve in my running, and stay strong and injury free. However, I’ll also say – yoga is miserable!

I think I’ve said that before. But I always follow it up with, “However, I know it’s good for me. I want to be strong and flexible. Blah Blah Blah.”

I do want to be strong and flexible. And I do want to be as awesome as this random woman I found on instagram. But I do NOT want to spend hours of my life focusing and breathing and uuuuugggghhhhh…

Yoga is not for me. Not every exercise is for everybody. And that one is not for me. I am a more intense type person. I don’t like just focusing on breathing. To me, that’s so boring, and frustrating, and I can’t stand it anymore.

If yoga were the same poses, holding them for the same amount of time, but we had ’90s pop music in the background and a drill sergeant yelling at us… maybe.

We actually did have an intense instructor who’d yell things like, “Do any of you even know how to use your bodies?!” I think that’s why I lasted so many weeks, ’cause he was interesting…

But I’m done! I’ve learned enough so that I think I can stretch myself out pretty well. And I’m happy to do that while watching a game show or doing anything at all other than listening to silence or ohms or whatever.

I still think flexibility and strength are wildly important components of running. I will work to keep them involved in my workouts in one way or another so I can continue to grow as a runner. I’m happy I gave yoga such a chance. But I’m over it! So long, yoga. It’s been real.

Maybe Vegans Are Right

When I was eating well

When I was eating well

In the “year of responsibility,” I wanted to get more responsible about my food.

I thought one way I’d do that is explore options more toward veganism. (As we may or may not remember, I have to do six months as a vegetarian stepping down to a vegan sometime before mid-2018 or I owe one of my donors to my Broadway Impact fundraising page over $1,000.)

Now, I don’t cook. I’ve never cooked. I’m probably never going to cook. Yeah, people can change. But it’s not something I’m passionate about. It’s not something I want to do. I want food I can just eat.

Oftentimes, I have microwavable meals full of preservatives and such. I never thought much of it until I looked for alternatives to how I was going to start eating.

I knew if I was going to go vegan, most likely, I’d need a meal delivery service. I mean, come on. How else was I going to do this? Then I found Pure Market Express.

It’s a raw food delivery service. All the food is based around fruits, nuts, and vegetables. There’s no refined sugary, dairy, meat, preservatives, or even gluten.

And, she shapes the foods in ways I’m familiar! It might looks like I’m eating pancakes or cookies. But really, I’m eating fruit and stuff.

(I started doing this a couple of weeks before the Cory Booker thing and weight was coming off pretty easily. So, if you thought I looked good there (and I thought that was the best I looked all year), then you were seeing me when I was eating raw foods.)

I didn’t love everything I got in the shipment, but I loved enough that had I stuck with it, I think I could’ve found enough to keep my pretty sustained and happy since you could pick and choose your meals.

(This particular delivery service decided to stop doing delivery. The woman who ran it is now teaching classes instead. I’m a little devastated, ’cause some of their stuff was so good! I’m thinking about trying this place now.)

I’m a huge skeptic of well, basically everything that has to do with food. But I felt awesome eating that stuff! Because it was expensive, I did continue to eat some other things. But I mainly just supplemented with salads. Though, I will say, once or twice a week, I had a salad from Chipotle with barbacoa or steak.

No matter how much protein I’m eating, and even when taking iron supplements, I can’t stop feeling a need for at least a bit of meat. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know how to stop it, or if I’m supposed to stop it. But, there’s that.

I also liked eating those salads with meat because I like to eat things that are warm! On the raw food plan, you’re not supposed to use the microwave. At first I thought it was silly, but I can’t argue when I’m feeling great and dropping pounds.

Ultimately, I will say now that I’ve become more mindful of my eating, when I have a lot of dairy (especially cheese) or a lot of meat, I feel it. I feel kind of bleh and full – like way too full – and just sort of heavy.

So, I’m not a full on vegetarian/vegan yet. And I may never be (outside of that 6-month challenge that I’m still pretty determined to finish). But I am exploring options. And meal delivery with possibly a bit of supplementation here and there seemed to help me a lot, and it seems like an option I wouldn’t mind doing again (but more seriously, and for a longer period of time).

My Branding

*Again, people getting me on RSS feeds, so sorry about the rush of posts. I fell behind, but this is the last one needed to catch up. This was supposed to post January 15. So, in your mind, go back there with me. xoxo*

Since we’ve been talking about social media, and my thoughts on what I learned this year through various platforms, I thought I’d take a second and talk about my branding…

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, because it’s definitely something I’ve struggled with.

I am a person (of course). And I’d like to be known as (hopefully) an interesting person instead of just a blogger. Granted, the blog is about my (let’s hope) interesting life… So, there is that. But still. I want to sing, dance, write, travel, and all that jazz.

So, I don’t know that I wanted to get wrapped up in specifically being a blogger. All of my handles on everything – twitter, Facebook, instagram, Pinterest – all of it, revolve around the blog. They’re all “Aurora’s Blog.”

I do that because -
a) my full name is taken in a couple of places (by Italian people who share my name, not some jerk just parking it).
b) It’s much easier to remember!

I love and cherish my last name. But, really, for new people who have no idea who I am… who’s going to remember “De Lucia?” It’s much easier to tell someone to check out “Aurora’s Blog” than to check out “Aurora De Lucia.”

However, then the question becomes, “Okay. Let’s live in my dream universe for a second. I become a mix of Bobby Lopez, Mindy Kaling, Jason Michael Snow, P. Diddy, and Sutton Foster. Am I going to want all my handles revolving around my blog? When my new sitcom is airing or my broadway show is opening, does anyone care about a blog?”

So, I guess here’s the answer I’ve come up with for myself.
a) Yeah, maybe. If Mindy Kaling had a blog, I’d read it.
b) Some celebrities have handles that aren’t their names for one reason or another. When you’re loved and you have fans, people will find you. Sure, it’s probably optimal to have your name. But you can survive without it.
c) The point is a little moot since it’s not even possible to get my name in some places. And it’s probably better to have consistent branding across platforms whenever possible than to have different names in different places (though I can’t at all say this with complete certainty and/or back it up with statistics). But, my understanding of what I’ve read of branding generally makes me think it.
d) Here’s the big one:

Andrew Keenan-Bolger is lovely. He’s very talented, a super hard worker, and I’d be happy to have a career trajectory taking off like his.

And he… is KeenanBlogger almost everywhere!

He is SO much more than a blogger. He’s a great actor and writer. And he’s doing all sorts of interesting things. But his handles revolve around his blog!

(Honestly, his blog was how I found out who he is (many years ago).) By the way,  it has an incredible theme song.

Moral of the story: If Andrew Keenan-Bolger can pull it off, so can I. Right?

Why Transitioning To A Facebook Page Wasn’t Perhaps The Best Idea…

I’ve been talking a lot about social media lately – with what I’ve learned this past year/am continuing to learn – especially, since I was on a “year of responsibility” and building a better online presence was part of that.

I talked about how I basically abandoned my personal Facebook profile in favor of my Facebook page.

Now, on a basic human level, this has helped me immensely. I’m so much happier! I feel like I waste less time… Of course, I may now waste more time on other time-sucking activities or websites, but I still feel better that it’s not time spent on Facebook.

Also, I don’t get tempted to look at the profiles of people I really shouldn’t be looking at. I just – for me – I think Facebook is generally unhealthy. A very, very seldom peek purely to check on people I care about but don’t often talk to is maybe okay – especially if I reach out and try to strengthen those friendships instead of just creeping on them… But overall, I don’t think I’m supposed to be on Facebook and I’m really happy when I’m not there.

So, for my life, it’s been a brilliant change. I can’t tell you how healthy it was and how much I hope I never go back.

For my internet/popularity life though, it’s a different story.

I think I have somewhere in the vicinity of 2,500 friends on my personal Facebook profile. I already talked all about how much easier it was to get likes/comments in my other post on this (linked earlier).

What I didn’t think about was my klout score, y’all!

I’ve seen the klout score of some people who don’t seem quite as twitter/instagram savvy (not that I’m all that savvy) and/or popular and/or active… and oftentimes, it’s higher than mine… Sometimes by too much (in my opinion)!

And as I was thinking, “How could this be? Why is this?” I realized… They all get to connect their real Facebooks! I’m working with my little Facebook of only two-hundred and something people. (I appreciate the little fan group I have, for sure… They’re just not a big army… yet.)

Imagine if I connected my personal profile! Back when I’d changed my cover photo to one from The Price is Right, I got like 80 likes and tons of comments! I used to often get at least 30 on my half marathons photos. I’d even get a fair amount on interesting or somewhat funny (if I do say so myself) status updates.

Perhaps… just perhaps… now that Facebook made it possible to subscribe or follow or whatever they call it normal profiles instead of having to friend everyone… I should’ve just opened up my personal profile completely, kept that, and used it as basically a fan page.

Think about my klout score!!! *buries head in hands* Oh, that hard-to-build klout score…

I think it’s too late now, though! And I don’t want to go back! I want a great klout score. I want a strong social media presence. But I do not want to have an active Facebook profile. I don’t want that at all. And I think – and maybe this is foolish – but I think in this instance, I am allowed to sacrifice the opportunity to have more popularity for happiness instead.

Still Haven’t Found a Vine Voice

Thomas Sanders - my very Vine-r. (Or at least, tied with Ry Doon. :-P)

Thomas Sanders – my very Vine-r. (Or at least, tied with Ry Doon. :-P)

I love Vine! Do you?

Technically, I have a Vine. I can’t link you from here because they don’t have desktop links yet. It’s all done on the app. (My handle is AurorasBlog, just as it is for everything else.)

So far, I’ve only posted two videos. (And who even knows if I’ll keep those up since I’m still in the learning phase…) We’ll get to my videos in a second.

First, let’s talk about how spectacular Vine is. I love the app. I think it’s such a great/interesting place to watch people’s creativity shine.

Vine seems to work best for people who have recurring characters and/or running bits.

I LOVE when Ry Doon does his Jay-z vines. I don’t know why they’re perfect, but they are. He just does random things as Jay-Z (reads children’s books and such). And he just has this hilarious little laugh. Everything about it is awesome.

Thomas Sanders (from the photo above) is a wonderful viner! He is basically my vine inspiration for the exact kind of viner I’d like to be.

He’s hilarious. But here’s the best part – he’s hilarious without being mean or wildly stereotypical. The stereotypical thing is whatever. Some people’s vines revolve around stereotypes of all kinds. Some of them are funny. I’m not gonna knock it.

I remember improv. Get your label and play it as hard as you can for your short scene to get the maximum amount of laughs. Vines are only 6 seconds. So you gotta go hard.

But what’s better than playing to stereotypes is doing the funny little bits Thomas Sanders does. Also, going back to the idea that some people do sort of mean vines… Some people make vines that seem so mean to either someone else specifically, a group of people, some random person on the internet whose footage they used, or even to themselves (I get self-deprecating humor, but some vines are uncomfortable)… some vines just seem mean or negative.

And I get that sometimes comedy is mean or negative. There can be humor in that. But sometimes it just gets exhausting to watch… Or at least, I think so.

But Thomas Sanders just does funny relatable vines like when the end of a song you love is on when you turn on the radio. He also does “Disney Pranks” and “narrating people’s lives.” He seems really fun. I want to go hang out with him Florida.

So, my vine voice. I have no idea what I’m doing! I like to think I’m oh so creative, but when it comes to six-second looping videos, I’m frozen up. Some people are SO good at it. It’s a skill I never knew anyone  needed to have before Vine (which isn’t that old!). But there are people on there who seem like professional viners.

Also, one of the things about vine that’s supposed to be kind of cool is that you don’t get to edit your videos… BUT there are people with special effects and things that look like they could not be done without editing… So how do they make those happen? The magic of Vine, I suppose…

Anyway, this post is getting long so I gotta wrap it up. But I haven’t found my Vine voice, though I do hope to play with it a little more…

I’m Still Not The Best At Instagram…

The filtered version I should've instagrammed.

The filtered version I should’ve instagrammed.

I am getting better! (I think.) I will say that much.

But I was glancing through my page (including my year in review portion), and sometimes I just thought “what am I doing?!”

I already had a post all about how my strategy is to take chances and use filters because it’s instagram. So why not?!

But then, I posted this picture of my and my dad’s trip to OKC. But I didn’t filter the photos. I don’t think I made them instagramm-y enough. Look what I could’ve done (in this post).

Also, I happened to see someone else who did a year in review on instagram. They wrote the month in the corner of each photo! That’s brilliance!

Why wouldn’t I do that? It helps differentiate those photos as that’s what those are for.

Also, after I just said in my instagram post that pictures shouldn’t be all selfies, I had three different boring selfies in a row during my year in review.

I was trying to position the computer far enough away from me that they wouldn’t just look like boring selfies, but they totally came across that way. When I said that close-ups are boring – I think I said the wrong thing… Because technically, I didn’t make any of those super close-ups. And I did put my face in different parts of the screen…

But here’s what I think I’ve really learned – unless there is a very compelling reason to have a shot of just your face… the rule isn’t about just making sure it’s not a super close up – it’s about making sure there are interesting shapes or poses.

(I’m actually okay with this super close up, ’cause I was leading to a reveal the next day, and I was teasing my blonde hair… So, there’s an example of reasons that are compelling enough to me.)

But overall, I think full (or close to full) body shots are best.

Another thing I noticed looking back through my instagram is that sometimes I have no idea how to filter. This photo is ridiculous. Why did I choose a filter that makes my jacket look SO white? The jacket is not the most important part of that photo!

(Also, I think generally I don’t love that photo, ’cause I think you can tell I look a little uncomfortable in that ridiculously short running outfit.)

The point is, I think we can definitely point to things from a while ago that make my instagram seem like a bit of a mess. But, I’m trying.

I think I’m getting better. I’m taking chances. I’m using more filters. I’m trying my best to post multiple times a week.

For a while I was going for once a day, but I don’t know that I have a visually interesting enough life to do that. And while I think once a day is optimal, I think if I don’t have enough visually interesting things, it’s better to post 3 times a week, or whatever I can handle – but have the photos be good – than somehow squeeze out 7 passable photos.

I’m sure I’m still going to make instagram mistakes. But I already see my feed improving and hopefully that improvement keeps on going! You can follow me on instagram and let me know what you think. ;)

Learning About Foursquare

Foursquare iconContinuing on the theme of having learned more about social media this past year, let’s talk Foursquare.

I always, always, always forget to check in everywhere. Just ask my dad who had to remind me at least 5 times to check in at the National Cowboy Museum.

I think as I start doing more activities (since I’m planning a new 52 in 52 (non-running) project coming up for early 2014 – early 2015), it will become a bit more of a habit to check in.

But can I also tell you something annoying about Foursquare? (Why am I asking? This is a blog. I can tell you anything I want.)

I have a public Foursquare page. As of my writing this, I only have on follower(!) Sad, right?

I know I’m not some super famous celebrity, but I try to have the most public versions of all the social networks that let you choose public or private. On Foursquare, profiles get this handy, convenient, awesome app.

What do pages get? We have to go into chrome on our phones and request the desktop site, then check-in that way. So many extra steps! So much extra frustration. Why would they want to make it so much harder for pages?

But I digress…

When I first signed up for Foursquare, I had to write five “tips.” (This is a requirement to become a page on Foursquare.)

I’ll admit – either because I didn’t know anything about Foursquare, or perhaps because apparently I lack common sense, it didn’t dawn on me that tips are actual helpful, useful tips.

I have since fixed up my page. But I think originally, I said vague stuff such as talking about a place being fun or some such like that. Then, I read an extremely passionate rant-y comment somewhere (even though this amazing, perfect twitter feed says never to read them) not about me specifically, but just about absolutely hating when people leave tips that aren’t an actual tip that someone can use.

Ah. Of course. So, a check in is where you leave your vague stuff. And then a tip is specific, such as “make sure to stop by Prosperity Junction since in my opinion, it’s the most immersive, interesting exhibit.” (Who knows if that’s even specific enough. But hopefully it is. It’s also what you have to do at the National Cowboy Museum.)

I always include a picture of wherever I am because people love pictures. Sometimes this makes things hard because I think you’re supposed to check in right when you get to a place, yeah? But sometimes you don’t get a good picture until you’re about to leave!

It doesn’t super matter whether you check in at the beginning or the end, right? Either way, you’re saying you’re there. So, cool for you. (Although I think you actually may be supposed to check in right when you get there? ‘Cause then you might get deals and stuff? I still don’t completely understand Foursquare…)

That’s all I got on Foursquare. Let me know if you have any things to share about it.

Learning About Tumblr

tumblr logoGoing back to the theme of having learned more about social media this past year to kind of finish out those posts - I got my tumblr blog a long time ago, then didn’t really use it.

Finally, I saw Eric McCormack in concert. I had some video that wasn’t all that great, but I knew would make at least pretty okay gifs… Where’s the place for gifs? Ah! A lightbulb went off. I can finally use my tumblr! (Here’s that post with his gifs, btw.)

That was actually the first time I learned how to make gifs. (I use an app called GIF Brewery, but I’m sure there are many other ways.)

I randomly decided at the last moment (even a day after I’d already started doing it on instagram) that I’d do a year in review on tumblr, with a different post for each month. (You’ve already read about that here.)

I don’t usually like to post on tumblr unless I have a gif. To me, that’s what tumblr is for. That’s what sets it apart from the other social networks. So unless I have a compelling reason to post gif-less, why would I?

Now, sometimes this makes for some ridiculous gifs. I mean, really, what’s the point of this one? However, as I started to look back through the year, I was amazed at how many videos I actually had that could be gifs!

I really don’t take all that much video. So, I was shocked that for the most part, I almost had enough for year in review giffing.

Sometimes I was lucky and it just kind of landed in my possession. My finish at the Goofy marathon happened to come on my disk of photos…

Golly, I miss brightroom! (Marathonfoto took over Brightroom. Brightroom rocked in a million ways, was more affordable, and always had video… *shakes head with sadness*)

My Price is Right win obviously existed because it was television. (I honestly think that’s my favorite gif. It’s an incredibly hard choice… there is that Cory Booker hug. But even though he’s Cory Booker(!), can anything really beat that moment on Price is Right? Sorry, Cory.)

Sometimes I had video because people were trying to catch a moment and we were more likely to get it in a video than still image (such as that Cory Booker hug).

So, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of videos I had. Using tumblr more often makes me realize I need to take more video, baby!

So, there you have it. My primitive tumblr strategy – gifs, gifs, and more gifs. Now, I just need to master the art of making better gifs… If you have any tumblr ideas to add to that, please let me know! (And you can always visit my tumblr here.)

That’s How A Year In Review’s Done

You know how I tried to do a little year in review on my tumblr and instagram? And it was all right but whatever?

Well, Buzzfeed did one for Aaron Paul. It was really awesome.

A) I think that’s how you do a year in review.

B) I think that’s how you do a year of your life, Aaron Paul.

He seems like such an unbelievably amazing guy. I want to be more like Aaron Paul. Do you?

New Year’s Race 2014 – Part 4

(Here's a picture from the expo while I wait for the pro pics to come out.)

(Here’s a picture from the expo while I wait for the pro pics to come out.)

Picking up from yesterday -

After my phone went flying out of my pocket, I just left it there! That was probably wildly stupid because, you know, it’s an iPhone. But I was like “meh, it’s backed up. It’s locked with a passcode. I have ‘find my iPhone.’ I’m upgrading in a week anyway. I have to finish this race under 3 hours!”

So I just keep running, not even breaking my stride. I cross the finish and I just every so slightly want to throw up a little. (I know that’s ridiculous for such a slow half marathon time, but for me, I was working really hard!) But don’t worry. I did not throw up at all.

I tried to keep it together as much as possible. If for no other reason, because people were watching. And I’ve heard from people who watching runners accomplish a half or full marathon is what makes them want to try it, because seeing all those excited finishers is so inspiring. But I heard from one person that they went to a finish and saw everyone throwing up and breaking down and it made them never want to do it. And I can’t be the vision in someone’s mind that makes them not want to run.

Not to mention, even if I had wanted to vomit, there was no time for that! I turned around immediately, walking outside the finish line, and I went and grabbed my phone (which thankfully was still there). Then I went back to the finish, grabbed some water, and got focused on finding the results booth. I was so ready to see that I had done it. I knew I had to be close!

I looked at the results that had been posted. Some around 3 hours had already been posted. There was a person in the booth who checked for people if the person’s results weren’t up yet. I asked about mine. She told me 3 hours and 44 seconds.

(I’ve been saying everywhere that I was 44 seconds off because that number stuck so hard in my mind and hurt so much. But technically, since I wanted to beat 3 hours, I was actually 45 seconds off for those of you keeping score at home.)

I don’t know if I started my app at the wrong time, or if it malfunctioned ’cause I have a very old phone on it’s last leg (that I’m upgrading soon). But the point is, I didn’t make it in time.

I took some upset pictures in the parking lot, then went home and jumped in the shower pretty much groaning the whole time. Who really knows whether it was because my body was sore or because I kept hearing “44 seconds” over and over in my head?

I did go on to realize later that I improved my time on this race from last year by over 46 minutes. (And everyone seems to agree the course changes made this year tougher.) So, that’s good. But keep in mind, last year, I was saving myself for the Goofy Challenge happening the following week. So, it’s not like I’m actually comparing the same amount of effort…

And while we’re talking about my failures with this race, I also totally mucked up social media-wise. Totally didn’t check in on Foursquare (because I always forget to check in, always – which we will talk about later this week). I also was talking to this guy in my corral before we started. I said that I still wasn’t totally getting the hang of instagram and that only one person had liked my pre-race photo.

He was all, “Did you use the official hashtag?” And I hadn’t! I’m a twitter nut. I’m all about hashtags. Why didn’t I think they’d be important on instagram?! But the difference between twitter and instagram is that I could just go comment a hashtag, and it still works. So, we fixed that up. And my pre-race photo ultimately got 17 likes! :-)

(My post-race one got 37!)

So, onward we trek. Even though I failed this time around, the good news is I definitely see and feel improvement, and all this race really was, was a way to check in with my L.A. Marathon training. Based on these results, I’d say I’m pretty confident in my March goals!