Great Saunter 2015: Walking 32 Miles of NYC Shoreline

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George Washington Bridge and Little Red Lighthouse from a distance on the West Side Greenway

George Washington Bridge and Little Red Lighthouse from a distance on the West Side Greenway

On the first Saturday on March, the nyc organization Shore Walkers hosts The Great Saunter. This is a 32-mile walk around the entire shoreline of Manhattan. This was the first year I participated. I really enjoyed it! Although my feet felt like they were on file by the end of it. And the last three miles was a real trudge. But it was also a great physical challenge for our bodies. And it was nice seeing an ultra-marathon event that people of all ages and fitness levels participated in.

Walking through beautiful Inwood Park great saunter

Walking through beautiful Inwood Park

For the most part, you don’t have to train for this. My background as a runner helped mostly just because I had the right gear to propel myself an ultra-marathon distance. I was still sore by the end of the Saunter and the following day. My body was also very exhausted. We finished the 32-mile Great Saunter in just under 12-hours; starting at 7:30a and finishing at 7:15p. Even for someone in shape, that is a long time to be moving.

Since this is an open walk, it’s certainly possible to do this not during the Great Saunter event. But I really enjoyed the company and camaraderie. Also, there are volunteers along the way with snacks, gatorade, and detour directions. At the start you get a hat and a map with specific directions along their route. This is to provide the most shoreline as possible; which is unfortunately difficult on the East side.

Even as part of the Great Saunter, I would not want to do this alone. There were parts where it was really boring. And parts where the pain & exhaustion were very prominent. Having a buddy as a distraction and motivator is really essential for this.

The East Side started out on a wide path with pretty trees great saunter

The East Side started out on a wide path with pretty trees

Here’s a short list of things to bring and wear with more details below:

What To Wear

  • Hoodie with pockets
  • T-Shirt
  • Capris or pants
  • Lots of layers
  • Compression socks/sleeves
  • Dry wicking socks
  • Cushiony shoes

This was my exact outfit. I did not bring a backpack because I knew it would kill my shoulders. Instead, I stuffed a running hoodie with various items (see below). The hoodie is dry-wicking material and dries fast if it were to rain, plus has a hood. It also has many pockets, with and without zippers, which was perfect for stashing food & supplies. Since I was just walking, I wasn’t as concerned about things falling out.

I wore capris then compression sleeves on my calves and I really think those helped a lot. I wasn’t as sore as I could have been the following day. And by the second day, I was barely stiff. The compression sleeves helped to keep my blood flowing and my legs felt pretty good, considering, for the entire walk.

This walk always takes place in the beginning of may when the temperature is highly unpredictable. It was a high of 66 on May 2, 2015. So the morning started off chilly, then the afternoon I shedded my hoodie to a t-shirt. But by 5p, the sun was setting and it was very windy along the East River. It got very very cold at some points. We all put our hoods up over our head. It wasn’t very comfortable. Definitely dress in layers. The end is the hardest part so you want to be as comfortable as possible.

Then the East Side became a sidewalk along the highway great saunter

Then the East Side became a sidewalk along the highway

What To Bring

  • Extra pair of socks
  • Body Glide or Moleskin
  • Band-aids
  • Light snacks
  • 1 Water Bottle
  • Advil/Tylenol
  • ID, Metrocard, Cash
  • Menstrual-related Items
  • Hat & sunglasses
  • Friends or Headphones

You must bring an extra pair of socks! I stuffed a pair of dry-wicking socks in one of my pockets and switched them out at the half-way point in Inwood Park. Your feet and socks are so sweaty by that time, changing socks will not only help to reduce blisters in the second half, but it also feels very refreshing. Just putting on dry socks can help lift your spirits.

First-aid stop at Inwood Park to change socks and reapply more BodyGlide to prevent blisters. great saunter

First-aid stop at Inwood Park to change socks and reapply more BodyGlide to prevent blisters.

Moleskin, adhesive bandages to prevent blisters or to put over blisters to prevent pain, is one way to deal with blisters. And this is offered for free at the half-way point in Inwood Park. From my running background, I always have BodyGlide in the medicine cabinet so I used that. You can also use baby powder or vaseline. In the morning I put BodyGlide all over the tops & bottoms of my feet. I brought it with me in a pocket in my hoodie. Then when I switched socks, I re-applied a whole bunch. It will start to wear off so you want to bring it with you. Be sure to also use it on your underarms, nipples, or anywhere else that is prone to chafing on your body. Thankfully, I’ve learned all this the hard way with running.

Inwood Park half-way point where volunteers provided snacks and first-aid supplies great saunter

Inwood Park half-way point where volunteers provided snacks and first-aid supplies

Food is something I may do differently next time. You don’t really have access to deli’s and bodega’s along your walk; especially on the West side when you’re stuck by the river. I only brought one granola bar with me but really wish I brought more things. Though I was slightly limited by pocket space. Small packages of peanuts, raisins, and dried fruit would work best. There was one stop where they gave out clifbars but that wasn’t quite what I wanted. Also a pb sandiwch, bread, or pieces of cheese are good too. You do not want anything heavy. And you definitely do not want to sit down to eat anything. You have to keep moving!

Before I left in the morning, I took some Advil. Then about every 4-hours we stopped to take some more. I took more when I got home. Then more the next day. Probably not the healthiest thing but I have to say that it all really helped.

The suggestion to take just one water bottle was one I found on a Great Saunter guide. I’m glad I took it. You really don’t need extra bottles to weigh you down. There are many water stops along the way. And volunteers hand out gatorade at points. I brought a large water bottle in a wrist holder (that I bought for long runs). This was attached to my wrist the whole time so my fingers never hurt carrying around a heavy bottle of water.

Last year my friend walked the Great Saunter and got her period unexpectedly. Having to find tampons then deal with that was not fun. Thanks to her recommendation I put my Diva Cup in before heading out. I was expecting my period within the week and figured all the movement would get it going. I was right. The bathroom situation is… okay… along the walk. On the map they tell you where bathrooms are. Some were locked, though. And at some points we had to use port-a-potties. I was glad to not have to deal with tampons for that. I can’t say that wearing the Diva Cup for a 32-mile walk was super comfortable, but it did mean fewer supplies to have to carry with me.

On a bench near Gracie Mansion

On a bench near Gracie Mansion

The Great Saunter Experience

We started the walk near Battery Park in FiDi at 7:30a. There is a late-registration point at 42nd street neat The Intrepid; this is about the 9-mile point. So you can cheat a little bit if you wake up late. This is around 9a. The walk goes up around the West side first. Going through Inwood Park really was beautiful. I’d love to get up there again. At the park there are medical supplies, snacks, bathrooms, water fountains, a little farmer’s market, and just outside the park some coffee shops and deli’s. I picked up a sandwich around there, which was delicious. There is also the 207th st A train subway station.

From there you start the miserable trek along the East side. This starts out along a really pretty walkway. But then quickly turns into a sidewalk along a highway. Then actual streets and neighborhoods as you zig zag your way back to the East river. These 100 blocks or so really were the worst. Around the 80’s you get back to the river until 60th st. Then you have to go around the United Nations Building. Then you finally get to head back to it.

For me, the last 3-miles were the worst. It was freezing along the East size once the sun had set. Under the bridges was dark, miserable, and cold. There were less saunterers. We were all tired and no one was talking. Our stretch breaks, which we had been taking throughout the entire walk, became more frequent. Our Advil stops became more frequent. We were trying to keep our pace our 3mph. At one point our group of 5 dropped down to 4. Then our 4 split into two groups of 2. Some faster some slower. We were trying to think of anything to distract ourselves. Make sure you really like the people you’re going with, because you have to talk to them for 12-hours.

My feet were burning the entire last 3-hours. But at least it was the final stretch and then we were back in FiDi again. We finish at Fraunces Tavern and upstairs there was a whole group to congratulate us! You receive a little certificate with your name stating you finished the Great Saunter! Then you can stay for a meal or head home and pass out like I did.

Zig zagging around the East Side, going through various neighborhoods great saunter

Zig zagging around the East Side, going through various neighborhoods

32-Mile Walk Recovery

During the walk I wore compression leg sleeves, which really helped. My calves were hardly sore after the walk. My feet hurt the most, just from over-use (no blisters). Then the top of my thighs, back of my thighs, and hip/butt were very tight. When I got home, I rolled golf balls under my feet – this felt amazing. I sat on the floor for a while stretching out my legs. Before bed, I used a massage stick to roll my calves, thigh, and butt muscles.

The next morning, I woke up around 6a with my hip really bothering me. I took some Advil then laid back in bed with my feet elevated on a pillow. In hindsight, I should have done that when I went to sleep because it really helped. When I woke up for real a few hours later, I felt much better. My legs were stiff but I felt fine walking around. On the day after, Sunday, I made sure to get out for a walk to help loosen up my tight muscles. By the end of the day I was feeling fairly normal. And by Monday, I was just a little stiff standing up from sitting at my desk for a while. But nothing out of the ordinary for me. Then Tuesday, three days after the walk, all my muscles are pain-free and feel great.

All in all it really was a fun experience. The physical challenge of it was great and it is for all fitness levels. I do have a base of running but I didn’t do any long walks to train for this. And I didn’t do this with any other runners. There were all ages participating. I really recommend doing this next year. I’ll be there for sure.

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April 2015 Spending in NYC

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april spending in nyc

Spring Wardrobe Update

Every spring I usually purchase some new outfits. This is my attempt to slowly build a high-quality wardrobe. The past two years I’ve purchased good jeans and nice dresses. I expected to spend about $400 on clothing this month so the amount I spent wasn’t completely unplanned. However, instead of going for outfits, I went back to basics.

While organizing some things, I decided to finally throw out all my old stretched out socks, underwear with holes in them, bras that I can no longer remember where they were purchased, and some really gross work out clothing. After all that pruning, I was left with barely a week’s worth of socks and underwear, and no sports bras.

So, I resupplied myself with all of the basics: new socks, undergarments, work out clothing, plus some basic cami’s and t-shirts. I also threw out ill-fitting sweaters but those won’t have to be replaced until next November.

April is also my annual purchase of summer shoes. I’m not sure if canvas shoes should last more than a year but mine don’t. So I purchased a new pair of those, plus black flats. I have a pair of slip-on sneakers from last year that I will try to get an extra year out of. Then I also bought a new pair of running shoes in preparation for the Brooklyn Half later this month.

It sounds like a lot but really is all things I needed. And I threw out all of my old clothes and shoes, so I’m not accumulating more stuff. These are all basic clothing items that I know I will wear regularly. For the “spend your money where you spend your time” rule, these purchases fit seem to fit in well. Since I don’t own a car, most of my transportation is on my feet so good shoes are really important. And the basic clothing items, obviously, will get use.

PS3 & Games Hand-Me-Down

A friend sold me his PS3 and collection of games for $100. I know the system is old but I don’t need the newest thing. The video games themselves are still great. Before this, I was playing a Nintendo Gamecube so the graphics are an upgrade to me. I don’t play a lot of multi-player, so losing some of those servers doesn’t matter much either.

I like the idea of having something else to do on my down time than reading. Story-driven video games really are like an interactive book. They are not serial stories, which I am not a fan of. So watching television isn’t interesting to me, but playing through a story in a game is. I keep my consoles for years. I bought my Gamecube a decade ago and still have it. So, I do plan on playing this for a long time and I do have the leisure time for it. Also, I like having something else to do with friends who either live far away or when near ones come over.

I’ve also played it a lot; so far it has passed the “spend your money where you spend your time” rule. I love stories; video games are stories. I love puzzles; video games are also puzzles. Besides, I would rather play a beautiful game on my large-screen tv than something on my teeny-screen smart phone anyway.

Much Needed Beach Vacation

Right at the end of the month, after a very stressful few days where Depression began getting the best of me, I decided to book a beach vacation for June. I don’t typically take vacations, and have never taken one by myself. But the idea of sitting on a beach for three-days, not even leaving the hotel grounds, just sounds wonderful.

The cheapest I could find was a Florida beach for 3 days in June for $700 hotel + airfare. I was looking for a beach that was specifically within the US and for under $1K. I am taking another, more active, vacation later in the year so this will be more of a relaxing budgeted venture.

I love beaches. Even the ones here in the city without palm trees. But a vacation on a beach where someone brings you drinks with umbrellas and you have zero responsibilities – that just sounds perfect. I love the sound of the ocean. And walking along the shore. Hopefully being alone means there won’t be any pressure to “do something.” As far as the “spend your money where…” rule, getting out of the city to a tropical beach is a vacation I know I will enjoy. Last summer I went to the non-tropical beaches here all but two weekends. It certainly is a place where I spend my time.

Everything Else

The rest of the month was normal, considering. I bought a hamper for my apartment because I had been using mesh bags but that wasn’t nearly efficient enough. My total expenses for groceries + eating out + booze totaled $412. This is exactly my average for the combination. I spent $85 on books at MoCCA Fest this year and have no regrets about supporting indie artists. I’m still thinking of canceling Netflix. I may swap it out with a book service like Oyster or Scribd. Anyone familiar with these?

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Weekly Recap: Station Eleven & Ex Machina Are Great

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Books: Tracks, Station Eleven, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Tracks feels like the Australian version of Wild. Though I haven’t read Wild so I can’t really be a judge. It had it’s ups and downs it was very interesting. Most of the book was talking about her preparations. More talking about her preparations than the actual walk. But I think that’s just because walking is really boring. These trips always sound interesting to us as on lookers but really its just someone walking a long distance. I know nothing about Aborigine culture or the outback so that was pretty interesting and informative for me.

Station Eleven really made me think about the luxuries we have in society today. Like electricity. This doesn’t seem to get mentioned in many post apocalyptic stories. There is no electricity or running water. And children are born not knowing electricity or television programming. Crazy to think that there could be a demise to that affect. This book was not about zombies which made it feel more real. It was just about a flu. That part reminded me a lot of Captain Trips in The Stand. But there isn’t a supernatural element to this book. It also reminded me a little of The Road because it was emotional. But no zombies.

I was recommended We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves from a friend and I enjoyed it. It was a little all over the place. A mix of Gorillas in the Mist and Everything I never Told You. An interesting family study but then also really about animal rights. The writing was really good and kept me interested though. And I was pleasantly surprised by the happy ending.

not a scene from Ex Machina

Movies: Ex Machina

This is one of the best sci-fi films I have seen in a long time. Okay, I still haven’t seen Interstellar. But I did see Gravity. Though those are different movies. Ex Machina was just fantastic. It has a tiny cast but every actor performs perfectly. There are some reveals that were obvious and some that weren’t. The ending isn’t necessarily happy or sad. A little sad. But rather ambivalent actually. It also sparked a lot of conversation between my friend and I. Very much like Station Eleven, I wondered what the future would be like if it went this way. I also began to wonder if I’m a robot. How would I know?! Well, I bleed. So there’s that. But the film does a great job at getting into your head to the point where that is a real question the characters deal with.

Time Machine

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Are Collections a Reflection of your Level of Commitment?

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Are Collections a Reflection of your Level of Commitment?

For most of my life, I have had a debilitating fear of commitment when it comes to relationships. I have been afraid to get close to people – friends and significant others alike. Yet, I found myself continuously dating people who were very interested in a serious relationship commitment. Most of these relationships ended up in disaster because that is a large conflicting factor. While thinking about what else my past relationships have in common, I realized that they are all collectors.

Every single person I’ve ever dated has had a collection of something; music releases, records, musical instruments, video games, cards, comics, etc. By collection I don’t just mean “stuff”. They weren’t hoarders. These were intricate and curated collections.

What’s the difference? For this article’s context, hoarding “stuff” consists of items that only have value to you. While a collection consists of items that have value to not only yourself but others too. Like, a record collection (three exes) has emotional value to the collector but also monetary value to other collectors. And not just the individual items but the actual collection itself. Collections are maintained, organized, and treated with care. Collectors are committing themselves to the buying/selling of one particular item, taking care of those particular items, and not losing pieces of it. Collections are a commitment.

I have never had a collection of anything.

My biggest level of commitment has been to animals. Though that is more of a constant responsibility. Having a baseball collection doesn’t necessary have responsibilities. You don’t have to actively maintain it. You can stop collecting at any time and your cards won’t starve. They won’t lose value. They will often times gain value. Animals don’t always have a value to anyone else but their owner. And I certainly don’t collect animals. But I do adhere to my responsibilities as a cat owner. And my level of commitment to my pets. But it still seems different. I merely clean the litter boxes and feed the little guys. There is nothing to actively collect or curate.

The fear of commitment resolves around a desire to be independent. To not depend on others. To be a free spirit. To be able to get up and go when you want. To do what you want to do. Committing to having a collection still feels like something is tying you down. You have to take this collection with you when you move. You have to make sure your collection is safe and displayed correctly. You may become obsessive about it. Over its value or maintenance. Having a collection means thinking about something else. Having a commitment means thinking about something else. Caring about something else. Someone else.

Fortunately my feelings about commitment have lightened up considerably. I look forward to sharing my life with someone else. And I don’t want to solely think about myself and my actions. When I make decisions I do want to factor someone else in. Maybe it’s time I take up a collection to start this transition into commitment with baby steps.

Does this theory on the relation between commitment and collections fit with your experiences of either?

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Repeat Favorites: Rewatching & Rereading

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Enjoying a book or movie/tv show so much that you can experience it repeatedly is the biggest compliment I can think of. It’s interesting to think of what keeps us engaged despite already knowing the story, the characters, the plot devices, and the reveal. Not all works hold this ability for repeat viewings/reads. And it’s not always because the media is necessarily good. Sometimes it just as a particular association for us.

the hobbit book versions

Winter Read: The Hobbit

For the past three years, I’ve read Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit in December. This started because I wanted to re-read the book when the first movie came out. Then I just continued it each year. Even last year when I didn’t see the last movie, I still read the book. December is a mixed month of celebrations and loneliness for me so I tend to read light-fiction for the month. The Hobbit definitely provides a comfort. Even though I know all the battles, story-lines, and characters, I still love the thrill of the conclusion. I still love Bilbo’s desire to go home and drink some tea.

The first time I read this book, I was in my late 20’s and didn’t think I’d like it. I wasn’t interested in LotR, though I had seen the movies. But I thought the books would be too much. And I wasn’t very familiar with The Hobbit. A boyfriend told me to read his copy and I ended up loving it. This is always a reminder for me to keep trying new things and branching out to new genres. I imagine this is a book I will continue to re-read and enjoy for a while.

christina applegate

Movies for Sick Days & The Holidays

I have several movies that I like to watch when I’m home sick but this is my favorite. I always go to Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead first. This is not a movie you really have to pay attention to. The premise is totally silly. Christina Applegate is hilarious/fantastic. It also has decent “real world” concepts like sitting in rush hour traffic and complaining about taxes. Also, it has my all time favorite quote, “I’m right on top of that rose!” Watching this movie is definitely comforting and I won’t feel guilty falling asleep during it. I guess at it’s heart, this is a coming of age story and I am such a sucker for those.

Then from November-January I have a whole rotation of movies I love to re-watch every year. Most are classics. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Holiday, The Cutting Edge, Love Actually, Planes Trains and Automobiles. Those are the must-watch ones. Sometimes I slip in others that I only watch every few years or so like The Family Stone. It’s not that these are the best movies by any means. But they provide a comfort in the dead of winter.

finding nemo star fish

Can’t Get Enough: Finding Nemo

Several years ago while recovering from a surgery, I spent four days going in and out of sleep. I wasn’t keeping any type of regular hours. Sometimes I could hold a conversation and sometimes I would nod right off. I didn’t have the energy to sit at a desk or stand up for even a short period of time. So laying semi-upright in bed watching tv was the only thing I could do at the time.

For some reason, I decided I really wanted to watch Finding Nemo. I would put the movie on, then doze off shortly after. A little bit later I’d wake up and watch some more of it. When it ended I would just play it again, watching different parts this time, and nodding off again and again. I’m pretty sure I had Finding Nemo playing on repeat for at least 2 days straight while I just dozed in and out.

Like the rest of these, it was a comfort. And I have this very specific association with the movie now. It’s not my favorite movie, I don’t know it by heart, but I do know that when I’m half conscious and in pain, Nemo and his friends can provide some relief.

futurama lego set

Television Favorites: Futurama & Freaks and Geeks

Serial media doesn’t always keep my attention. So liking a tv show enough to re-watch it is a big deal for me. I have only done this with two shows: Futurama and Freaks & Geeks. Although the latter is just a single season so that is easy. And Futurama is just so good. This is the only show that I can quote most of.

Freaks & Geeks is rewatchable because I can relate so much to the main character, Lindsay. I was very much like her in high school and relish in the second hand embarrassment I feel when watching her transition through the high school caste system.

What are your favorite tv shows, movies, or books to read/watch over and over? What makes them so special?

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Cost of Bladder Stone Removal in a Cat

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Scarface's shaved belly after surgery

Scarface’s shaved belly after surgery

Last year, I noticed my 3-year old smaller cat, Scarface, was peeing outside the litter box. There are two reasons for this type of behavior: 1) Medical, 2) Behavioral. He seemed healthy otherwise so I thought it could be behavioral. Him and my 5-year old bigger cat, Franklin, would often fight and taunt each other. I thought it could have been a territorial issue. I have two litter boxes in my apartment – ideally 1 for each cat plus an additional box is recommended. But that is far too many for my relatively small 1br apartment. I purchased the Thundershirt for Franklin, which was hilarious, but didn’t seem to help with Scarface’s issues.

In August I went away for a family emergency and left the cats with my friend. She noticed that Scarface, who continued to pee outside of the litterbox, now had blood in his urine. So she immediately brought him to a local vet who declared it was a UTI and prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, that didn’t clear anything up. About a month later, I talked to my neighborhood vet about this and she recommended getting xrays. It was good we did because the xray showed an obvious stone in his bladder. Poor guy.

Feline Bladder Stone Removal Options

Nowadays there are two options to remove a bladder stone from your cat.

The first is to try to dissolve it with prescription cat food. This will take some time and is not guaranteed to work. You have to feed your cat exclusively the special food, then bring him into the vet regularly to check if the stone is getting smaller. The costs associated with this option are for the special food and the regular vet visits. There will be additional xrays and lab testing until the stone is fully removed. This takes an average of 3-6 months and could be longer.

The second is the tried-and-true method of surgery. This is a guarantee that the stone will be removed. It is a very common surgery but the risks still apply. It also can be costly. The surgery was quoted to me as $700-$950. It is a fixed cost and the follow-up appointment is included.

Choosing Surgery

I went with the surgery for my cat because I wanted the process to just be over with. Bringing him to the vet continually and not knowing how long it would take or how much it would cost didn’t seem worth it to me. Surgery is a scary thing for a pet. Scarface, who I love so very much, also has teeth issues and had a teeth cleaning last year. So he was already familiar with anesthesia, which is a concern because some pets have an adverse reaction to it. He doesn’t like going to the vet so I wanted to limit those appointments as well.

The total cost for the surgery alone was $825.

The preceding appointment with the xray and lab analysis was an additional cost as well. Even though the surgery was expensive, at least it was a fixed cost. I added it into my budget and decided I would use my federal tax return to cover it.

Recovery Information

Fortunately, the surgery was a success. The stone was removed and there were no complications. Scarface came home to me that same day. I dropped him off on my way to work then picked him up on my way home. He was very groggy, as he was still coming off the anesthesia. His belly was shaved so they could perform the surgery. And he had a cone on to prevent him from licking the stitches. This is important because licking or scratching the stitches can lead to infection or not proper healing.

Despite being drugged up and walking around like he was drunk, he was rambunctious when it came to that cone. He hated wearing the cone. On the walk home, he was thrashing in his carrier and managed to get the cone off in there. Putting it back on him was stressful. He hated it. Also, it was kind of hilarious. I was told to keep it on him when I was out of the house. But could take it off him when I was around to supervise he wasn’t bothering the stitches. I would always leave in the morning with the cone on him and come home with it lying in the middle of the floor not attached to the cat.

The two litter boxes I use are top-entry boxes. So the cats have to jump on top of them, then go into a hole in the lid and do their business, then jump back out. Well, Scarface wasn’t allowed – and physically couldn’t – jump on anything. So that was something I hadn’t thought about beforehand. I made an emergency run to Target to buy a cheap box he could just walk into.

Prescription Cat Food Costs

Even with the surgery, he still needs to eat prescription cat food. I can buy this online through a service my vet approved. It is fairly expensive but not as bad as I had thought. He likes it okay enough. I had been feeding them Blue Buffalo cat food prior so they were already used to, what I call, “organic kale” cat food. (This is in comparison to Friskies, which I call, “cheeseburgers.”)

Scarface’s prescription cat food is $34 for 24 small cans. The dry food is $28 for a 4lb bag. Previously I was buying 15lb bag of dry food for $37. And spending $12 on 24 small cans of wet food. Not related to this, but I also buy litter that is on the pricey-side at $26 for a 28lb bag. So my costs for the cats have increased monthly but nothing that will break the bank. Maybe an extra $50. I know that adds up but really that’s just a night out. Also this is temporary. Scarface will go for another lab analysis to make sure he is clear and then at some point he can go back to normal food.

I feed both cats this same food just because it’s easier. According to the vet, it will not affect Franklin’s health. It may cause him to gain weight, as it’s high in calories, so I have to keep an eye on that. My cats are fairly small anyway so this wasn’t much of a concern.

Hopefully, we will establish a routine where Scarface won’t get any more stones. The fewer surgeries the better for this little guy. Unfortunately, urinary issues in cats are almost exclusively an indoor cat problem. Thankfully Franklin has been fine.

There is a question out there of, “What is your cut-off for how much you would spend on your pet?” If you are a pet owner there is only one answer to this: None. Infinity. What are your options? Not spend the money or put your cat down because you can’t afford to take care of this responsibility you accepted? I used to think I had a cut-off then realized that my heart just doesn’t work that way.

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Apply for ID NYC for Free Museum Memberships

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What Is ID NYC & How Do I Sign Up?

The NYC ID is specific to New York City, not New York State. It is not a valid driver’s license, just an identification. You can apply for this ID card regardless of your immigration status.

The appointment system is very efficient. You can choose from a variety of offices in all of the boroughs that have varying openings and hours. There are lots of options. Pick your timeslot. This is all done electronically so it is really simple. It is also simple to reschedule too. I scheduled an appointment for Monday on just the day before. There are lots of openings. I thought there would be a huge waitlist but, nope! You can get right in, even day of if you’re flexible.

The appointment itself took about 15 minutes. I spent about 7 minutes waiting then 8 minutes in with the person filling out the paperwork. You need to bring photo ID (driver’s license) then something with your current home address on it. This can also be your driver’s license. In my case, I don’t have my license updated with my new address (oops) so I just brought in a bill. That worked. Then they take your photo, no teeth showing please, and you’re on your way.

It took me exactly two weeks to get my ID in the mail.

Select List of ID NYC Free Museum Memberships

If you have a driver’s license, it may seem pointless to get this NYC specific identification. That’s why the city teamed up with numerous museums & attractions to grant you free memberships! If you sign up for a NYC ID within this first year, by December 2015, you can apply for a free membership to a whole slew of places. I’m detailing out a select few below. Even once you have your card, you still have until December 2015 to sign up for the membership. Your membership will then be good for 1 full year.

Some fine print for these free memberships: Most are the most basic level of membership and may not actually be worth it to you. Some you have to apply in person but quite a few let you email your membership form and a scanned copy of your ID. For almost all of these institutions, you cannot be a current member or have not been a member for the past three years.

ny botanical gardens in the bronx

NY Botanical Gardens

Location: Bronx

Present your valid IDNYC at any ticketing window, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The complimentary Membership can only be redeemed onsite. Recipients will be issued a temporary Membership card (valid for up to 30 days) and permanent cards will arrive by mail in approximately 2 to 3 weeks.

Community Grounds Membership Benefits

  • Year-round admission to the Garden grounds for an Individual or Family (2 adults & up to 2 children under age 16)
  • Access to over 40 specialty gardens and historic collections including the Family Garden, Azalea Garden, Rose Garden, Native Plant Garden, Home Gardening Center, Perennial Garden, Herb Garden, the Conifer Arboretum, and Seasonal Walk.


wave hill in the bronx

Wave Hill

Location: Bronx

Once you have received your IDNYC card, you must come to Wave Hill in person to apply for your IDNYC Wave Hill membership. Visit the Perkins Visitor Center to submit your application. Once approved, you will receive your membership package in 10 to 14 business days.

Membership Benefits

  • Unlimited free admission for one adult
  • 10% discounts in The Shop and The Café
  • Invitation to special events, trips, exhibitions, and receptions
  • Exclusive Members-only pre-sale opportunities for concerts and other special events
  • Free admission to the summer Sunset Wednesdays concert series
  • Reciprocal admission benefits at nearly 300 gardens across the country


bronx zoo free membership

Wildlife Conservative Society Including Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, NY Aquarium


Membership good for all 5 institutions but must be applied for in person at the Bronx Zoo

IDNYC Member Benefits

  • Free unlimited admission for the card holder to all five WCS wildlife parks
  • Members-only ticket discount for the card holder at Central Park Zoo and New York Aquarium 4-D Theaters
  • 10% restaurant discount at the Bronx Zoo’s Dancing Crane Café and Terrace Café, and Central Park Zoo’s Dancing Crane Café
  • 10% discount at select Bronx Zoo retail shops, the New York Aquarium’s Oceanic Shop, and at Central Park Zoo’s Zootique
  • Invitation to Members’ Evenings at the Bronx Zoo


bam brooklyn

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)

Location: Brooklyn

Friends of BAM membership

  • Advance access to live performance tickets
  • 50% off performance-related talks
  • 20% off purchases at Greenlight Bookstore
  • 10% off at BAMcafé and over 20 local restaurants
  • Invitations to Member Mingles

BAM Cinema Club Membership

  • $5 off admission for one person to BAM Rose Cinemas
  • Priority access to BAMcinemaFest and other special events
  • Two $5 off admission passes for guests
  • Special members-only screenings and discussions with filmmakers
  • 20% off purchases at Greenlight Bookstore
  • 10% off at BAMcafé and over 20 local restaurants


brooklyn botanical gardens

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

You may apply in person Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; you must have your valid IDNYC with you. Eligible IDNYC members will be issued a temporary membership card and can expect to receive their official membership card (good for one year) and other membership materials in the mail within ten business days. Note that festival days at BBG are very popular (and busy)! IDNYC membership processing will not be available on festival days. We encourage you to sign up for membership in advance by visiting BBG before an event.

BBG Individual Level Membership

  • Membership card for unlimited free admission for 1/li>
  • 2 single-time-use guest passes/li>
  • Admission for member plus 1 guest to all members-only summer events/li>
  • Admission for 1 to the Members’ Plant Sale Preview/li>
  • 10% discount at Garden Shop and Cafe/li>
  • Privileges at botanic gardens across the country

    american museum of natural history

    American Museum of Natural History

    Location: Manhattan

    • Free unlimited general admission to the Museum
    • Individuals will receive complimentary tickets for Giant Screen Films shown in the LeFrak Theater, which shows 3D films.
    • Notice of upcoming educational programming: throughout the year, the Museum’s scientific and educational staff conduct numerous scientifically-based educational programs for members and the public to attend. Members will receive advanced notice of these programs via email.
    • Discounts in the Museum Shop
    • Individuals will receive an AMNH membership card that will allow them to receive priority service at the Members only ticketing desks.


    carnegie hall nyc

    Carnegie Hall

    Location: Manhattan

    Carnegie Hall’s “Friends” Membership

    • Four complimentary rehearsal passes
    • Early access to the best seats available
    • Half-price ticket offers on select Carnegie Hall presentations
    • Invitations to cocktail parties, discussions, & member-appreciation events
    • Discounts at nearby restaurants, parking, shops, hotels, and more with your Membership Card


    lincoln center

    Lincoln Center

    Location: Manhattan

    Friends of Lincoln Center Membership Benefits

    • Access to presales for Lincoln Center Presents performances: American Songbook, Great Performers, Lincoln Center Festival, Mostly Mozart Festival
    • White Light Festival
    • Invitation for two to one Mostly Mozart Festival members-only rehearsal
    • 50% discount on Lincoln Center tours (2 admissions)
    • Discounts at select Lincoln Center neighborhood establishments


    metropolitan museum of art

    Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Location: Manhattan

    Metropolitan Museum of Art Membership Benefits

    • Free admission for one to the Main Building and The Cloisters museum and gardens
    • Special offers on select ticketed programs
    • Discount on Audio Guide rentals in nine languages
    • Complimentary guided tours of the collection in ten languages.


    nyc ballet

    NYC Ballet

    Location: Manhattan

    New York City Ballet Membership Benefits

    • Admission for two to a total of four working rehearsals
    • Admission for two to NYCB Seminars
    • Invitation for two to a private members-only reception


    moma ps1

    MoMA PS1

    Location: Queens

    MOMA P.S. 1 Membership Benefits

    • Unlimited free admission to MoMA PS1
    • Exhibition Opening invitations
    • Special offers for select ticketed events
    • Conversations with MoMA PS1 curators and artists
    • Private receptions at MoMA PS1


    museum of moving image in queens

    Museum of Moving Image

    Location: Queens

    Museum of the Moving Image Individual Membership Benefits

    • Unlimited complimentary admission to the Museum’s galleries, excluding specially ticked exhibitions, for one person
    • Invitations to members-only exhibition openings
    • 15% discount at the Moving Image Café and Store
    • Discounts and deals at neighborhood restaurants/businesses


    Note: Membership does not include movie admission

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    What To Do For a Grieving Friend

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    send a friend something squishy and cute like a stuffed animal when they're grieving

    An article on helping grieving friends showed up in my Twitter feed recently. It’s good, go read it. It was also a reminder that I had wanted to do one of my own. Death is an experience we will all deal with at some point in time, if not others then certainly our own. Yet, no on likes talking about it. There was a lot of help offered to me when I was dealing with the loss of my dad last summer, yet I didn’t actually know what I needed. Or what I would need. So here are some suggestions based on my particular experience of what to do for a grieving friend.

    Just Think of Something Useful And Do It

    Generally, don’t ask what you can do; just think of something useful and do it. For some reason, we have been taught to always ask permission before doing something nice for someone. Surprises are often thought of negatively. Or we’re afraid that the person won’t be home to accept a delivery, or will be to stressed out to care. Maybe the person is traveling and you don’t know where to send a care package, flowers, or food.

    This is when it’s important to remember that your gesture isn’t really about the gift at all; it’s about the love and support behind it.

    My dad’s health turned very suddenly last August a day after he was put into hospice care. It is impossible to know how the endings of lives will go. Some of our loved ones hang on, wanting to spend as much time with us as possible. Others get their fill and let go. My friend had gone through a long drawn out ending process with a grandparent and knew how stressful living at a hospice center with someone dying could be. Even though she did not know how long I was going to be there, she immediately sent out a care package to the center. On her own, she looked up the name of the center (as there was only one in the city) and sent the package, without ever asking me anything at all.

    Unfortunately/fortunately for everyone, my dad let go soon after I was able to see him. I was out of the center by the next morning and back in the hotel room. No one could predict this. While laying on the hospital bed trying to wrap my head around what just happened, I received an email. It was from this friend and the subject was “A care package if you want it”. She openly & honestly stated that she had sent me a care package directly to the hospice center but if it was too difficult for me to go pick up (emotionally, logistically, or otherwise), that that was okay. She explained honestly that her feelings would not be hurt and it was filled with items that anyone dealing with a sick relative could use. I was extremely grateful for the care package and for her honesty so I hadn’t felt obligated to pick it up. She was honest in her sentiment that it wasn’t about the gift but the love behind it.

    Don’t worry about “where should I send something?”, just send something. Anything. Although the care package was wonderful and extremely helpful, the cards I received meant just as much. Knowing that a friend took the time to think of me, despite not really knowing what to do, just sending a card saying “I’m here” meant the world. Losing my dad made me feel very alone. This was something that was only happening to me. Knowing that others were there for me and understood really helped.

    What Can I Do? I Don’t Know.

    To this day, I am grateful for all of the support and people who reached out to me. I received so many “let me know if there is anything I can do” offers. The trouble is, I honestly didn’t know what I would need help with. It was such a new situation. And every loss is different. Depending on the person, the circumstances.

    One thing that didn’t occur to me was just how much my brain would stop working afterward. The term “mommy brain” is coined but there really needs to be a “grieving brain” (which is probably just “depressed brain” now that I think about it). When I got back home from traveling at the end of August, I couldn’t believe that the world had continued going on this whole time. I didn’t know how I was supposed to function. It didn’t make sense that I was still expected to do things. Sure, I was given proper time off work. But things like bills still needed to be paid.

    I forgot to pay my September rent.

    I just, completely forgot. I never sent my rent check. I have been so on-top of my bills and finances for the past few years. This was so unlike me. Yet. My brain wasn’t working. I didn’t know to expect this. All those offers to help and I needed it, I just didn’t know what for. Next time this happens, because unfortunately there will be a next time, I am going to give my bank account information to someone I really trust and just tell them to take care of my bills for a month. But I didn’t know that at the time.

    Offering specific services will be appreciated even if someone doesn’t take you up on them. Offering to help tidy their apartment or watch their pets can be helpful. Even if the friend isn’t traveling, there may be a lot of running around involved. Not having to worry about walking the dog or organizing mail is one less stressor for your friend.

    What To Put in a Care Package?

    Show your support and love for your friend by putting together a care package for them. There are a variety of items you can add. Be specific to your friend if you know their interests. But if you’re afraid of triggering their recent memories, there are some generic things they will also appreciate.


    Granola bars or any other easy to eat, healthy, non-perishable, foods. When you’re grieving, eating is the last thing you want to do. But you have to. Sitting down to a meal may feel terrible. And even heating up anything may feel terrible. But having something to eat quickly while feeling sad is perfect.

    Something cozy

    This can be a functional pillow or a cute pillow like a squishable. It can also be a stuffed animal. Or a blanket. Also slippers or fun socks. Just something warm and of comfort. Being in a hospital, center, hotel room, or relative’s house can feel especially hard not being at home. Having something to hold on to and keep warm, really provides comfort.


    This can be a video game, book, maybe an itunes giftcard, or a usb drive with curated tv episodes or movies. Something to help your friend be distracted from time to time. A book of short stories or maybe a trilogy. Some magazines even.

    Because we never know when tragedy or sickness will happen, please write out an emergency contact sheet. This is a spreadsheet with contact information and important personal information that you save on your computer, print out to put in your document box, and send to friends and family. Hopefully they will never have to use it.

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    Q1 2015 Book Challenge Update

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    The first quarter of 2015 is behind us and I’m still powering through these book challenges. I am going for the Book Riot and Pop Sugar list separately. This means I will fulfill some categories twice. And I want to avoid duplicates. So each book will only be used for one category. This will take me longer than a year and that’s fine by me. I never want reading to become homework. I don’t have a list of “To Read” books. I just read books as I see them or hear about them. And 99% of what I read comes from the library. I am reading books other than specifically for the challenges. But they certainly are helping me broaden my general reading fare.

    Here’s the challenges I’ve completed so far, with the book and author, and my subjective rating.

    Book Riot Challenges

    • A book published by an indie press: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (3/5)
    • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (2/5)
    • A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (4/5)
    • A YA novel: The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (3/5)
    • A sci-fi novel: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (2/5)
    • An audiobook: World War Z by Max Brooks (4/5)
    • A collection of poetry: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (3/5)
    • A book that was originally published in another language: Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (3/5)
    • A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, comics: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (3/5)


    My motivation for doing these challenges was to get outside my usual comfort zone of books, and I definitely did. That was the first audio book I’ve ever read and I loved it. I also rarely read poetry collections, so that was very interesting. And even the YA novel, which I was dreading, wasn’t that bad.

    Pop Sugar Challenges

    • A book with more than 500 pages: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (4/5)
    • A funny book: Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet (3/5)
    • A book by a female author: Into The Go-Slow by Bridgett Davis (3/5)
    • A book with a one-word title: Thrown by Kerry Howley (3/5)
    • A nonfiction book: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (3/5)
    • A book based entirely on its cover: Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux (3/5)
    • A trilogy: The Magicians by Lev Grossman (3/5)


    I was dreading reading a trilogy so I got that out of the way quickly; powering through them all as though it were one long story. It was worth it as I really enjoyed it. However, I still think I’ll typically avoid trilogies as I just don’t have the attention span. Really.

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    Weekly Updates: Video Games + Rats

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    gunzerker from borderlands 2

    PS3 Games and Now I Don’t Sleep

    Last weekend I bought a used PS3 plus a collection of games from a friend for $100. So now my video game console collection consists of the PS3, a modded PS2, and a gamecube. It’s more of a museum than a collection really. But everything works and I still play the Gamecube occasionally. That was actually a gift to myself when I graduated college. The transition from working full-time+school to just working full-time left me with so much free time I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I bought a Gamecube and played a lot of Mario Kart.

    So now I’m catching up on PS3 exclusives and other video games that I have missed in the past 5-years or so. When the system first came out, I borrowed it from friends and played many of the initial games like the first Little Big Planet. But so much more has been released since then!

    I am openly asking for recommendations of indie PSN games. I love these things! I plan to purchase Unfinished Swan and Journey. Any others worth checking out? For full games, I’m currently playing The Last of Us by myself and Borderlands 2 co-op. The Last of Us is really sad. And Borderlands 2 is a lot of fun. I’m the gunzerker guy you see in the image above. That’s me! Dual-wielding machine guns so you better watch out!

    If you have a PSN account, add me to your friends list – I’m lintacious!

    inflatable rats

    Rats, Rats, Everywhere

    Selective perception is just the worst. Last week I read a book on NYC Rats. And at the same time, the weather warmed up. My friend got a mouse in her apartment. There are union rats outside my work building because the management company isn’t hiring union workers (gross). And warm weather has been bringing out other pesky vermin. So many creepy crawlies. But, from the rat book, I learned that there are not nearly as many rats in NYC as we are lead to believe. There are about 250,000 rats in the city; that’s about 1 rat per 36 people. See, not too bad considering we’re squashing 8 million people on a tiny island producing so much garbage. The book really was great, plus, it counts as a microhistory for my book challenge.

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    2013: Getting Around NYC: Yellow Cabs & Common Destinations
    2010: Home-Made Wheat Snack Crackers

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