Monday, March 31, 2008

The Art of Letter Writing

I think one of my favorite things in the world is receiving a letter via good old snail mail. I don't write this to encourage an onslaught of letters to my mailbox, but simply to comment on the lost art that is letter writing.

Early last week, shortly after the news that I had been nominated for the Peace Corps, I received a lime green envelope in the mail with my name on it. The return address said that it was from Lauren, in my book club, who is getting married in May. I automatically figured it was an invite to the bachelorette party in a few weeks, or something wedding-related. When I opened the envelope and found the word "Congratulations" on the front of the card, I was a little confused, but figured it was a clever way of congratulating me on being a part of the bachelorette shindig. :)

Imagine my surprise when I open the card to find a note congratulating me on my recent nomination to the Peace Corps. To say that I was shocked, is an understatement. I couldn't figure out why I was so stunned, but I was absolutely all smiles. I had just seen Lauren that weekend for book club, and with all of her wedding planning I couldn't grasp that this little letter in my hands was for me.

So, naturally I've been thinking about it since then, pondering what it is about a hand-written letter received in the mail that is so precious. I think it all boils down to the realization that sending a letter in the mail requires that one go out of their way - even just a little bit. These days, it is so easy to sign on to your email account and quickly type a little note to your friends or family, that the thought of having to pull out a piece of paper (or purchase a card) and grab your pen and write out a note to someone (not to mention the postage) seems like a lot of work.

I was involved in a conversation a few months back about the "Thank You Card". When I was growing up, Ryan and I were forced to sit down every year after Christmas and birthdays and write out our thank yous to grandparents, aunts, cousins, friends, etc. I remember dreading this chore. When you've just received a baby doll that crawls on the floor, the last thing you want to do is abandon said doll and write about how happy it makes you! But, nonetheless we were required each and every year to write these letters. Of course, these letters waned as we stopped being reminded (in our teens) by Mom to write them. And now, I rarely write them.

But, realizing that in a few short months my main method of communicating with family and friends will be through these hand-written, postally-delivered letters, I should probably start brushing up on this lost art. I don't think I even have a current address book!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Toilet Seat Phenomenon

So, although it may not be evident from the actual comments on my blog, the feedback that I received regarding this whole "toilet seat" issue has been immense. I decided that the issue needed a follow-up blog post.

First of all, I must state that the blog was by no means intended to pit the female species against my sister-in-law, Lailah. :) I love Lailah (I'll save the extent of my love for her for another, much anticipated blog post), and she is just one of many who happen to share the opinion that the toilet seat need not be placed in the closed position. Or, more specifically that men should not be expected to return the toilet seat to this position. However, it appears as though some of my friends and family members have very different opinions about the expectations of the male species in the restroom.

One of my closest friends, Sarah, went so far as to claim that "toilet seats left up are not okay" and "unsanitary" and that those who are unbothered by this just may need their "heads examined". Now, I don't believe anyone can fault her for this opinion. In fact, I applaud her for taking such a strong stance on the issue. She actually suggested that "boys should wipe the rim of the bowl AND put the toilet seat down". This suggestion made me smile, but I felt as though I needed to stand up for those who may not share our similar opinion on the toilet seat.

In response to my doubt as to whether or not we held reasonable expectations, Sarah had this to say, "unless they can figure out how to perfect their aim and not soak the seat, the only reason to move it is for them. Therefore they should also have to put it down. Duh". And really, who can argue with that?

My friend, Adam, (who is a believer in putting the toilet seat down when a restroom is shared with a female) had another suggestion. He doesn't understand why people don't start installing urinals in their homes (in addition to the standard toilet). He claims that this would solve the issue altogether and that, if you think about it, it would actually be easier to clean than a toilet. He continued, by noting that it makes no sense that the wealthy will have both a toilet and a bidet, but not a urinal (which is really the only missing element here). To his credit, he did recognize that a urinal isn't exactly the most attractive architectural element in a bathroom, but we designed a few "fountain-esque" urinals that would actually be more like art than potty.

I also learned that the Santa Rosa Morris household also had some issues regarding the famed "toilet seat blog". My Uncle Lee insisted that I contradicted myself, between my insistance on opening doors for myself (see Gentlemanly post) and my insistance on men putting down the toilet seat. He used the term "Feminist" to describe my preceding opinions. Well, the first issue here, is that I don't open doors for myself and pay on dates because I'm a feminist, it's entirely an issue of my stubborn nature. The second issue, is that there are two very key differences between a guy paying for your date and a guy putting the toilet seat down - (1) sanitary concerns and (2) safety. Falling into the toilet seat is both unsafe AND entirely unsanitary. Paying for your own meal, or opening your own door are neither of these things.

So, I hold firm to my opinions. However, I am delighted to report that both (cousin) Chelsea and (aunt) Janette (as well as a couple of Chelsea's friends) supported the notion that men should be expected to put the toilet seat down, and that this expectation is not entirely unreasonable. I know nothing more than this, because Uncle Lee slipped away from this debate finding himself slightly outnumbered. Coward? :)

I believe it is also important to note that I have no problem putting the toilet seat cover down when I leave the restroom (if this makes men feel as though we are compromising because we both have do our share of "seat swinging" as Ryan calls it). But, the simple facts are that the majority of toilet uses require that the toilet seat be down, therefore this is the favored position.

I will end my potty tirade here, keeping in mind that I don't like these blog posts to get too long. But I appreciate all of the input, and if further clarification is still needed, please don't hesistate to come forth with your issues. :)

Potty Note: There is a toilet-shaped HOUSE in Korea, named Haewoojae (which in Korean means "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries"). Check it out:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Cookie Lady

Tuesday is, hands down, the best day of the work week. No contest. And let me explain why...

Mondays are the worst. Everyone knows that. You spend all weekend enjoying yourself and when that alarm goes off Monday morning, it's the mind-numbing reminder that the next five days will be spent toiling away at your desk, staring a computer screen for eight hours a day. Mondays have nothing to offer.

Tuesdays. Tuesdays, on the other hand are the most satisfying day of the work week at Morris Engineering. Not only do we have the occasional pleasure of welcoming my uncle to the office, but we also have the reliable arrival of The Cookie Lady. The Cookie Lady, whom those less familiar with her culinary talents might refer to as Betsy, arrives each and every Tuesday, usually around 10:30 or 11:00, without fail (except for the tragically upsetting week or two when she decides to take a vacation).

Now The Cookie Lady excites every single person in our office, not just me. When her little Toyota pulls into our parking lot, the first person to spot it declares "Cookie Lady Alert!" or "The Cookies Have Arrived!" And then we all play it cool. We sit down at our desks trying not to make it obvious that we are anxiously awaiting the new ziplock baggy full of goodness. She then walks over to Ray's desk, sets the ziplock bag down, turns around and walks back out the door. As soon as we see her car pulling out of the parking lot, someone rushes over to Ray's desk, opens the ziplock back and walks around to everyone in the office offering each of us our first cookie of the day. The ziplock baggy then gets placed on the table next to the coffee machine, officially declaring it communal property!

The Cookie Lady is Ray's mother-in-law and she makes THE best homemade cookies I've ever tasted. And she rarely repeats a recipe. We get cookies with m&ms in them, we get chocolate cookies with mint chips in them, and butterscotch cookies and oatmeal, and plain old chocolate chip. The list doesn't end. AND she's festive. For Christmas we had red and green m&ms in our cookies, and for easter we have pastel m&ms in our cookies. It's perfection!

Each week, after the cookies have arrived we stand around and discuss this latest batch and how it compares to the history of other cookies we have received from The Cookie Lady. There was only one week that we were disappointed in the results of her efforts, and we haven't received a similar sort of cookie since, much to our constant excitement.

The scariest part is that the ziplock bag full of cookies usually doesn't last until Wednesday. These cookies are so good that any time someone walks past the bag they grab a couple, and this continues until the cookies are devoured. If you don't make it in to the office on Tuesday, you don't get cookies because they aren't around on Wednesday morning.

So, here's to The Cookie Lady and Tuesdays for all of they joy they have brought me over the past year!

(During the vegetable season, she also brings us fresh tomatoes, zucchini and other fresh veggies from her garden, along with (of course) the cookies!)


pet peeve, n - a minor annoyance that can instill frustration in an individual.

During Easter brunch at my brother and sister-in-law's place on Sunday, a certain conversation arose. To thoroughly understand the conversation, I think it is important to understand where I am coming from...

When I moved home from college last December, Ryan had also recently moved into my parent's house. So, at the age of 22, I found myself living under my parents' roof with my brother - an odd occurrence considering this hadn't been the case since Ryan had graduated from high school (over twelve years ago). While I found myself really enjoying the situation, and getting to spend some more time with this brother of mine, there was one little occurrence that was less than enjoyable...

After roughly eight years of either having my own bathroom, or sharing it with other girls, I had forgotten what it meant to share a bathroom with a "boy". Ryan, unlike most guys, is really very tidy. My constant cause for complaint lay in the fact that during those same eight years where I shared my bathrooms with no guys, Ryan had spent twelve years sharing them with no girls. As a result, he had forgotten some of his manners (taught very well by our mother) and I now found myself face to face with the consequences. Join me, as I relive the following unfortunate scenario: I would wake up in the middle of the night and stumble into the bathroom, drunken with fatigue, I would make my way by touch only to the toilet(refusing to blind myself with the bathroom lights), only to find myself falling into the pit of doom because Ryan had decided it was no longer important to put the toilet seat down. A scarring event really, that happened on more than one occasion.

So, for the next few months I proceeded to chastise Ryan anytime I found the toilet seat up. During one such occasion, Lailah (his fiance at the time) happened to be hanging out at my parents' house. When she heard me complaining to Ryan, she stepped in and said, "Huh, I really don't care about the toilet seat thing. It doesn't bother me if he doesn't put it down." I almost threw her to the dogs in that moment. Ryan's face beamed, probably one of the proudest moments of his life, and really my fight was over in that moment. He knew, as well as I did, that if his soon-to-be wife didn't care about the toilet seat thing, then there was no need for him to change his habits now.

So, during this Easter brunch, the toilet seat issue arose again. Lailah claimed to stand by the same beliefs she had less than a year ago, but I couldn't help but have images of myself falling into the toilet in the middle of the night flashing through my mind. I'm not quite sure I've forgiven my wonderful sister-in-law for this episode that occurred months ago.

What this whole toilet seat issue made me realize, is that my list of pet peeves is probably much longer than the average American. Here are the common occurrances that really get under my skin:
  • Chewing with your mouth open
  • Dragging your feet while you walk
  • Incorrect usage of words such as you're and your
  • Misspellings in general
  • Chomping gum in public
  • People who stand too close
  • Talking loudly on your cell phone in public
  • Calling and not leaving a voicemail
  • Unplugging things without first turning them off
  • Leaving toothpaste/shampoo tops crusty
  • Not turning off your blinker, when it is clear you aren't planning on turning
  • The sound of clipping toenails and fingernails
  • Talking during movies
  • People who are always late
  • When you ask for Diet Coke and they assume that Diet Pepsi is OK. It's not really.
  • And, of course, leaving the toilet seat up

Now, I'm not trying to suggest that I, myself, am perfect. I have no problem admitting that I, too, have my own fatal flaws:

  • I'm impressively indecisive
  • I'm MAYBE "too" competitive (as previously discussed)
  • I'm deathly ophidiophobic

But, do me a favor and the next time you find yourself sharing a bathroom with a girl, keep in mind that we are accustomed to finding the toilet seat down. Sure, we could get into a lengthy discussion as to whether or not this is a reasonable expectation, but the fact of the matter is, that it IS an expectation. And falling into the toilet bowl is not an enjoyable experience, however funny it may appear... so please? I really don't think it's too much to ask.

Ryan is clearly a lost cause, but for the rest of you out there... Thank you!

Friday, March 21, 2008

I Nominate... ME!

I've offically been nominated for service in the Peace Corps! I completed my application in January and have been waiting to schedule my interview with the San Francisco recruiter. The entire application process thus far has taught me a lot about patience. I finally had my interview on Tuesday, and was nominated the following afternoon. Now that I have been nominated (as of March 19), there is still much more waiting ahead of me, but the process is really under way.

Will continue to update regarding my service status and assignment (which is all undetermined as of this stage in the process).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Understanding why it's called March MADNESS

This bracketing business is really quite stressful. Let me give you a little taste of what I, and the rest of corporate America, are dealing with right now. I'm in three (3) March Madness pools. The most important of these is the M3 2008 pool (which is the annual Morris competition blogged about earlier). So there are 4 regions, each with 16 teams in them. And I'm supposed to figure out which team wins the whole thing (not to mention who wins and loses every game along the way)?

Feeling slightly overwhelmed (knowing the pressure is on with my family, and I can't fail) I logged on to ESPN last night and watched all of the "experts" discuss these teams to get a little clue where some upsets might lie, or who has a chance at winning it all. I was feeling pretty good about where my bracket was headed and then I get to work this morning to find an article on my homepage about how to design your bracket. Number 1 tip: Don't listen to the experts! So, looks like I'm back to square one.

It really shouldn't be this complicated, and I know that. Of course I know that! But, when you've got something to prove to the other 12 members of your pool (not to mention the other two pools I'm participating in), you start to overthink things. Stats show that Number One seeded teams NEVER all make it to the final four, so I'm trying to throw in a Number 3 or a Number 2 somewhere. Then they're yelling at me telling me I've got to take risks in the second and third rounds. Alright, so let's knock out this Number 2 team with a Number 4, let's take this Number 6 to the Elite 8. Ahhh!!

And thus, the stress. Because even if you don't take chances, watch some big upset come along in the second or third day of the tournament and then your delegated winner of the tournament has just lost on day three. But then you see the sun peeking through the dark clouds when you start to remember how your cousin Jill in 2007 was out of the tournament after two days because she didn't realize the little numbers next to the team names were their seeds, or how your mom (also in the tourney) liked to pick her teams based on their colors or their mascots, or where she had lived. The chances of my bracket losing to those two is nearly impossible, but the chance exists. And I will do whatever it takes to ensure that my standing improves from last year. I've just got to get better than 6 of 12.

So, leave me alone for the next 22 hours, 41 minutes, and 19 seconds, (countdown to tip-off, duh!) because I'm going to be a mess. And you know you don't want to interfere with a Morris in the middle of a competition. So maybe, we should rethink that and you can get back to me at the end of the tourney.


I adopted! I am the proud parent of three new family members, and I couldn't be more happy about it. For my birthday, two of my closest friends teamed up trying to think about what I might want for my birthday. It's hard to buy a gift for someone who might be leaving the country in a few months (you don't really want to clutter up their life). So they took into account all of my likes and dislikes, passions and curiosities and well, I guess in the end I made it pretty easy for them.

I've got this minor obsession. Well it's not really an obsession as much as it is a large place in my heart. Penguins. I love 'em. The way they waddle, and slide on their bellies, the puffy cute baby penguins, pretty much everything about them. I wouldn't go so far as to decorate my house with them or anything, but when I go to the zoo I could just stand and watch them for hours. And really, that's when it all started...

Before I left for France, a couple of friends and I took a trip to the San Francisco Zoo. When we got to the penguins I couldn't stop watching. Their little exhibit is really actually pretty pathetic, but there I stood with my camera snapping away and watching them swim around and cock their little heads.

Apparently I'm a trend setter. Since then, everyone has decided to copy me and start liking penguins (March of the Penguins, Happy Feet, Surf's Up, Good Luck Chuck). Well, I don't know how these two friends of mine knew I liked them, maybe it was the pink belt I bought with little penguins all over it? Or the way I counted down the days until the premiere of Happy Feet (which was sadly disappointing)? Or how at a holiday white elephant party this year, I nearly cried when the iPod penguin speaker (that flaps its wings, and waddles somewhat adorably to the music), was stolen from me? Or how my face lit up when my brother then went out and bought the singing, dancing penguin for me for Christmas? Well somehow my friends figured out that I just may like penguins...

So for my birthday this year, they adopted a penguin family in my name. Yes, that's right, I own three penguins!! My friends insist that I don't actually OWN them, but what do they know? Adoption is kind of like purchasing to own right? I think so.

Here's the only issue... when they told me they adopted a penguin family for me this is what I pictured: three specific penguins somewhere in Antarctica with my name on them. I'm thinking it's the penguin equivalent of sponsoring a child in Africa (or elsewhere). So, imagine my disappointment when I find out that I don't ACTUALLY have three specific penguins. I don't get to send them care packages filled with krill and warm winter coats, and I certainly don't get the accompanying picture of my little penguins to put in a frame above the mantel. Pretty much, I donated to the penguin cause... which really is just as important and still a wonderful gift, but it deflated my excitement a little bit. :) Turns out I don't even know which species of penguins are "mine" or where they live. BUT it came with a really awesome activity book filled with pictures that I can color in with my crayons (just got to work on staying in the lines) and an 11" plush cuddly penguin baby, which I think I might go ahead and put my name on (to make myself feel better about the disappointment).

It's an organization called The Wildlife Adoption Center ( So thank you Sarah and Tracy, for my penguin family! I'm pretty sure we all know that I'm just going to claim the first three penguins I see (not the one's at the zoo though). I'm definitely going to be making a trip to either New Zealand or South America or Antarctica to find and claim my penguin family!

Friday, March 14, 2008


So... I can't burp. I always just thought I missed that day in health class where they taught you how to belch out the ABC's, but I've had skeptical friends trying to "teach" me how to burp for years. I've chugged sodas, swallowed air, all to no avail. However, as a result of this inability to burp, I can do a few tricks. Instead of burping, my body produces little champagne bubbles that rise from my throat (in place of a burp) and make an awkward little gurgling sound. This is really fun when you are in the middle of a Shakespeare exam, or watching a movie (not to mention plenty of other situations where people stare awkwardly at the girl making funny noises in her throat). I've started calling these funky noises "the Jamie burp", but I have also heard them called "verps" and "gurgles" among other names.

Now, it would be a lie to say that I have NEVER burped in my twenty-four (24!) years of existence on this planet, but I could count the number of times on my two hands. The best part about the few times that I have burped, is how unbelievably excited I get when it happens. This also causes awkward stares from passersby. Unfortunately, I can't control these sparcity of burps (another side-effect) so on the handful of occasions when I have burped, I have not been ladylike about it. Not one bit. But then I smile gleefully and sometimes jump excitedly for the rare occasion!

Well, I have never spent much time thinking about this inability to burp. I simply refrain from drinking soda, or if I do crave a Diet Coke, I drink it slowly and suffer "the jamie burps". But it's not only soda that does it to me. It's eating too much, or too quickly, it's accidentally swallowing pool water (which disgusts me for many different reasons), it's beer, it's a handful of different things, all of which I have yet to diagnose. So, recently I looked into this phenomenon of mine. And what I found out shocked me...

I am one of many who have a condition called Dysfunction of the Belch Reflex. It's complicated and I don't understand it all, but there are accounts from at least 180 different individuals who suffer from the same condition. Now, you have to realize that my health record is spotless. I have no allergies. I have never broken a bone (minus a couple of fingers during volleyball season that went untreated). I have never had any major health issues in my entire 24 years. I am that person who goes through medical exams and just checks the NO box for EVERY single item. Until this past year when I had to start marking that I've had my wisdom teeth removed (and even that took 23 years). And then during this twenty-fourth year of mine, I learn that I am clinically categorized as "dysfunctional". Pssh!

I mean, just because I can't belch the ABC's... I don't think they should go throwing around the "d" word. There's got to be another term for it. Clearly the guy who devised the term isn't one of us. Otherwise he would have given it a name that was much more appealing, or at least something that sounds cool. I mean if I'm going to have some "dysfunction" at least make it something that I can tell other people with pride. Who wants to brag about your "dysfunction of the belch reflex"? Ugh. I can't wink and can barely whistle either, maybe I should start informing my doctor of these medical issues, so they can give me more diagnoses with awful names.

So... I was thinking maybe we could come up with a better term for my condition... Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Friendly Competition

March is here, and that means that March Madness is on its way! Last year, in the extended Morris family, I got the family together to join this friendly little competition. Sadly, I finished 6 out of 12. I had a good run of it, and held second place for a large portion of the tournament, but dropped quickly and permanently in the final days. My cousin Debbie's husband, Paul (who I guess is now my cousin?) ended up winning the tournament, much to Morris dismay (because he doesn't actually have Morris as a last name). Because, while we may love our family to tears, we aren't exactly gracious losers, and each and every one of us has a fatal flaw - we're what some may consider TOO competitive.

Any Morris reading this right now, is laughing that claim off and we're all saying the same thing "there is no such thing as being TOO competitive". And, well that is exactly my point. It has been brought to my attention by a handful of my friends, that my competitiveness exceeds that of the average individual (this is the nice way of saying it). But, in my family this "competitive spirit", shall we call it, is absolutely normal. We don't just "play games" like the average family. We make spreadsheets recording win and loss records (among many, many, many other standings), we brand tee-shirts, visors and wrist bands with the Morris logo, we spend nearly our entire family camping trip (sometimes into the wee hours of the night, with only our lantern light to guide us) huddled around two picnic tables competing for the coveted title of Canasta Champion.

And here's what I think our mentality boils down to... it's just not as much fun to play if you don't have a desire to win. Having been an athlete for the majority of my life, I've been on dozens of different teams that thrive on competition. I've grown up surrounded by this similar desire to win. However, my closest friends in high school didn't have this... they were dancers. Ha! So imagine our senior trip to Tahoe where the six of us girls decided to pull out the game Pictionary for a little "fun". This is when my dancer friends got a glimpse into the life of a Morris. We haven't played Pictionary since. It was at this time that I also learned that in certain environments and with certain people I have to curb my enthusiasm for winning. Fortunately for me, my family isn't one of these environments.

So, the extended Morris family (including the Tates and the Blastics) have entered into the March Madness Tournament for 2008. This little tournament is sure to include dozens of mass emails in which we trash one another endlessly. But in the end, I suppose it is this "friendly competition" that brings us all together a few times a year and for that reason alone, no one can ridicule us for being TOO competitive. And on that note...


Monday, March 10, 2008

For A Good Time Call...

So, I've been lagging on the blogging because my life has been absolutely crazy these past couple of weeks. Last I blogged, I mentioned the accident my car had just been in. Well it turns out that the older man, Leon, who smashed into the front end of my car, isn't a law-abiding citizen. When I notified the insurance companies of this little incident, he decided that he didn't feel like having his insurance rates go up, so he manufactured a statement that insisted I rear-ended him. After days of arguing with insurance adjusters, and one relatively calm call to Leon, it looks like I'm out of luck on this one. Too bad for me, because the estimate for the front-end damage he caused to my car just came back and it's going to cost me $2,828.58 to get it looking pretty again.

Obviously, I have experienced a range of emotions regarding this whole situation, but I've decided to pass on a little bit of advice to the other drivers out there. Here's what you do when you get into a car accident... First, you find a witness! You run down the street chasing any car that could have been in earshot of your accident, whatever it takes to get a witness. Second, you get a written statement from the nice old man who smashed your car, because it turns out that he might not be such a nice old man afterall. Third, you call the police to the scene (more witnesses!). Fourth, you take pictures. Lots of pictures! This is what I have learned. Had I managed to do any of these things, I wouldn't be footing the bill for my little vehicle. It sounds ridiculous and totally overboard to do these things, but here's the question... is it worth $3000? I think it might be.

For those who are curious how I'm handling this situation, I've decided against the idea of small claims court (it's a lot of time and effort, with a very small amount of evidence). Instead, I've decided to send a copy of my quote to Leon, accompanied by a non-angry letter. It took a while to get to this conclusion, and many other ideas have crossed my mind. In fact, I haven't quite ruled out the option of scribbling in every public restroom "For A Good Time Call Leon 650-367-7780". Yes, I do have his home phone number(and his cell phone), and yes I also have his home address. So, you can only imagine the number of angry possibilities that have played through my head.

But, I've decided to take the relatively high road. Although, now YOU have his phone number. Feel free to use it at your convenience. :)