Wednesday, April 30, 2008
So I plugged in the iPod as I jumped in my car to head to my softball game. I figured I could listen to the remaining tracks to and from the field (which is less than ten minutes from my front door). As I got ready to turn onto 101N I saw that traffic was stopped. So, feeling pretty awesome for knowing the backroads, I decided I'd take them through Redwood Shores to avoid the freeway and traffic. It was an absolute success until I got within 100 yards of the field.
I sat stopped at the last light before the field. I was hanging out in the right hand lane enjoying my Weepies. The light turned green and the trail of cars started chugging forward. Suddenly I realized I was on the on-ramp to the freeway two lanes to the right of where I needed to be. Because traffic on 101 was so heavy there was no way for me to get over two lanes in the 20 feet before we entered "no turning back" territory. So, I slowly inched on to the freeway. As I drove past the field I laughed at myself for being so ridiculous as I imagined my teammates watching me creeping by the field on the freeway.
I finally made it down to the next exit and turned around to get back on 101 heading the other direction (which had much less traffic at this time of day). I was cranking my Weepies again and enjoying life as I drove past the field one more time before my exit. I exited and headed left. It was just seconds too late that I realized the left hand lane doesn't take you East over the overpass, but instead takes you down to the next exit. Again, I had to take the backroads through Belmont this time, to get back to the overpass I had just driven under twice.
I finally made it to the field, had just enough time to lace up my cleats and then I was running to the batter's box.
I was that car on the road that just kept driving past its destination but couldn't actually manage to get there. Back and forth on 101 I drove, while my teammates sat at the field totally unaware that I was just on the other side of the fence passing by on the freeway.
Pretty much, I blame The Weepies.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I have to hand it to my parents; they did a pretty good job picking names for Ryan and me. Our names aren't unusual in any regard, but they aren't overused either, like many of the popular names of my generation. My only real complaint growing up was that it wasn't very easy to make a nickname out of Jamie. People have tried over the years, and a few have stuck, but for the most part, I'm just Jamie. And, at the age of 24, I'm quite happy with it. But in middle school, it was a different story.
At that age, there was this desire to find something unique about your name. There was one girl at our school that wanted to be unique so badly that she started spelling her name differently. She went from Jackie to Jakki. Her poor parents. My attempt was much less successful. Growing up, I had accumulated only two nicknames thus far, neither of which was exactly impressive – Jamerz and Jamie from Nebraska. So, I tried to get people to start calling me J.J. Just the thought of it makes me shudder. Fortunately, no one else saw the relation (noting the obvious - that there is no other “J” in my name) and it never caught. In fact, I don’t think a single person ever called me J.J. At the time, I was very disappointed.
I got over trying to force a nickname upon myself, and learned to just like being referred to as Jamie. But the glory days didn’t last long. When I entered high school (which was about 65% Latino) I encountered some new problems with my name. Teachers reading off the attendance sheet started hesitating and calling out the name “himay” (which might I add is actually spelled Jaime) AND is the name of a boy. There would be chuckling among my friends, but after a few classes at Sequoia High School, teachers caught on and the problem diminished. I thought I had heard the last of it, until that fateful afternoon in June of 2002.
The week before graduation all of us Seniors were handed name cards. We were supposed to fill out our name as we would like it read over the speaker system as we received our diploma. Beside each word, we were instructed to spell the name phonetically (so as to reduce mispronunciations on one of the most important days of your life). My friends and I laughed as we filled out these cards, because we all had pretty simple names to read, “Sarah Hogan”, “Adam Klein”, “Chelsea Lewis” etc. But nonetheless, I filled my card out like this:
Jamie (jay-me) Lynne (lin) Morris (more-iss)
So, I’m all dressed up in my graduation robe, sitting in the bleachers with my friends (alphabetically, I was close enough to exchange glances with Miskelly and Milanos). Our cue comes and my row stands and begins filing towards the podium. As I hand my name card (complete with pronunciation guide) to my guidance counselor and step up to the plate, I wait to hear this name that I have grown to love announced over the speaker system. Instead, this is what I, my parents, my friends, my family, and the families of all of my close friends heard, “Himay Lynne Morris”. Wide-eyed, I looked my counselor in the eye absolutely stunned. Ms. Dolores Sleeper looked back at this blonde, pale-skinned, 18-year-old, and stumbled out a quiet correction “Jamie” (which to this day no one remembers hearing besides myself).
Thanks to Dolores Sleeper I’d finally gotten myself that nickname I had so long ago desired. I can admit that the whole scenario is really quite entertaining now, when I visit with the families of those high school friends, they all laugh about Himay’s graduation. And the name started sticking. At some point in college, the story got out, and the nickname expanded on itself. I was now Himay Gonzales (with an accent of course) in certain circles, which is so ridiculous you just have to laugh, and to this day I still have one friend who calls me nothing other than Himay.
Now, here’s what you have to recognize. Himay, is the phonetic spelling of Jaime – the Hispanic version of my name. So, whenever someone spells my name Jaime, it strikes a little nerve and I have nightmares about that afternoon in July and those mornings when attendance was being read. While this was not included on my list of pet peeves, it should have been. With friends, I’ll usually forgive an initial misspelling or two, but I’m quick to correct after that point.
At food joints where the barista or whomever asks for your name, I’m always more entertained with the various ways that these professionals believe my name to be spelled. They’ve run the gamut – Jaymee being one of my favorite. A teammate on my softball team had a sister with the same name as me, but hers was spelled J-Me, on her birth certificate. I’ve taken up this method of spelling my name whenever I feel that the five letters are just too strenuous a task.
We won’t even get into my middle name. That’s almost always spelled without the “E”, which I can understand, and forgive considering how rarely it is used. My medical records at Kaiser still have me listed as Jamie Lynn because I’m too lazy to go through the process of showing up in person downtown to change the record. And as for Morris, it has only been in the last two or three years that I have started to take a liking to my name. As a kid I hated my last name because my signature always went to the dogs after the M-O. Two double cursive r’s… that’s just never attractive. The way I sign my name now, it looks like Jamie L. Mom’s.
So, here’s another window into the weird way that my mind works. I’m sure it sounds a little OCD, but if people started spelling my brother’s name Rian, I’m sure he’d have issue too. Well, OK maybe he’s a bad example. Point is, I’m sure every one of you has had at least one name issue in your day (except maybe my cousin Christopher Patrick Tate – that one’s pretty hard to screw up) but hey I thought my name was easy too… so who knows?
I have been known to respond to any of the following, if I have missed any feel free to correct me:
Jamie from Nebraska
But one last time, for the record, it’s Jamie Lynne Morris.
So, I did what any schooled person would do… I decided to look at my friends’ answers. I started sending emails and asking friends simply “What’s the greatest thing in the world?” I figured everyone else would have an equally hard time answering this question and that I would feel better about my own inability to decide. What I found surprised me…
The very first person I asked gave me one of my favorite answers. I sent her a message that just stated the question, no lead-up, no explanation, just the question. She responded seconds later with Happiness. As simple as that. The more people that responded, the more intrigued I became with how their answers corresponded with their lives and their personalities.
Ask yourself the question, what’s the greatest thing in the world to me, and just pay attention to the kinds of answers that run through your mind. For me, it was all of these little pleasures (cheesecake, laughter, long showers, etc.). But when it came down to picking the big ideas, I got overwhelmed; it starts to feel so definitive.
I also found myself expecting certain answers from certain people. I knew my family would say something about God. I figured a couple of my love-struck friends would mention Love in one way or another. And at the same time, things I had known about certain people or their circumstance were affirmed through the less expected answers they gave me. My friend who is just finishing up law school, commented on the value of a good night’s sleep. :) Another chose “imagination” and was quick to explain that without imagination we are no different from any other species. A recent college grad mentioned how great “experiencing new things” is. Others simply jumped with the first thing that came to their mind, which was surprisingly usually a food item – pizza, chocolate and strawberries all making that list.
So here’s what some of my close friends and family deemed the greatest things in the world:
Experiencing New Things
Real, Honest Laughter
Friends & Family
A Good Night’s Sleep, When You’ve Worked Really Hard
The Thing You Want Most In a Moment That You Are Least Able To Obtain
A Warm Sun-Filled Day
The Strawberries I Am Eating Right Now
I should also note that I didn’t really want to publish this blog (which I typed up a little over a week ago), but I’ve been getting grief from all of the people who gave me answers, so this one serves to appease the masses. :)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I don't like the taste of Root Beer. True.
I say that it makes me vomit to merely emphasize the fact that I don't like the taste of Root Beer. False.
It's not an exaggeration or a method to help me convince you of the severity of my dislike for Root Beer. It's a fact. When I drink Root Beer, I throw up. Granted, I haven't drank any Root Beer since the last time it made me vomit, but would you? I think not.
Let's revisit the scenario from the last time I drank Root Beer, shall we? I was 15 (so now you have to imagine me being at least 4 inches shorter). I was at Lake Shasta on a houseboating trip with my high school youth group. The sun was setting. We had all gathered around the basecamp for a night of singing gospel songs and playing games (pretty traditional evening routine). As my competitive spirit starts to swell, we are all split up into two teams.
The first activity I sit out (not by choice! but due to too many numbers, you can only compete in one activity). I watch as my fellow teammates line up beside the other team (LOSERS!) and the first person in line is handed a large brown paper bag. On the count of three the first person in each of the two lines reaches into the bag and pulls out an object. They are now required to consume the entirety of the contents in their hand before passing the bag on to the next person in line. I remember very little about what my teammates were forced to eat, except that there were multiple jars of baby food in that brown paper bag. I can't remember if my team won or not (Shocker, I know, but I wasn't participating so I was less invested).
Activity Number Two. I am up to the plate. A handful of members from each team are asked to stand along the edge of one side of the picnic table, facing the members from the opposing team. So here I stand, at the picnic table staring down the person facing me. Starting at one end of the table and working their way down, the youth group leaders begin placing an object in front of each person at the table. As I look down in front of me, what else do I see but a nice cold can of A&W Root Beer? Oh great.
Rules of the Game. Starting at the head of the picnic table, both teams begin chugging the can of Root Beer. When they have emptied the contents of their can, the next team member pops the soda can and starts chugging. First team to place the last empty soda can upside down on the picnic table wins.
And, I'm sweating. The only thing worse than this can of soda would be a jar of pickles. But, it's a competition. What can I do? At this point, I'm more concerned with winning than I am with my own tastes. So I lift my head and growl at the individual standing across from me. OK, I don't really growl, that would just be weird, but you get the idea.
3... 2... 1... GO!
And we're off! These Senior boys just demolish these cans of soda, and in what feels like less than 30 seconds we've finished at least three cans. We've got two people ahead of me, and before I know it the person standing to my left has the soda can at their mouth and they're chugging. I just can't let my team down! He/she (how could I possible remember) smashes their can upside down on the picnic table and my shaking fingers are popping the top to my can of A&W and raising it to my mouth. Ughhhh... Just that gnarly smell alone makes my stomach lurch. I've got Root Beer running down my cheeks, splashing on my shirt, sneaking in my nose, not to mention pouring down my throat. I have absolutely no idea how I finished that can of Root Beer, but all I remember is smashing the upside down can on the picnic table and running for the bushes.
I cannot tell you which team won. Hopefully mine, but as the game finished up I was a little preoccupied upchucking into the greenery. I'll spare you the details, but lets just say it came out with as much force as it went down with. And, if the vomiting wasn't enough, I had Root Beer all over my shirt, my face, my hands. I smelled like Root Beer for the remainder of the night, and fought off the upchuck reflex for quite some time. We won't even get into the whole inability to burp thing.
It was a less than pleasant experience, and I haven't sipped Root Beer since that awful evening.
Monday, April 14, 2008
We've read some really great books, and some not so wonderful books (It's The End of the World As We Know It), drank some good wine and eaten some fabulous food. And, if I do say so myself, we've got a pretty good dynamic going on and just the right number of people in the club to get some great discussions going. There is always a dinner (or brunch) which everyone contributes to, resulting in far too much food each and every month, and then just a lot of catching up and story telling.
Last night was our 7th book club meeting, where we had read The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. For anyone who doesn't know his story, he was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, when he suffered a massive stroke that left him the victim of Locked-In Syndrome. Pretty much, he was completely paralyzed except for the ability to blink his left eye. And that is how he wrote this book - by blinking his left eye!
Unfortunately we had our first injuries reported last night. I came over to Lauren's (our host for April) to help prep dinner and she assigned me to chopping duty. I assured her that I was a world class chopper. Moments later, I yelped and after much blood loss and a little dizziness, I was back to work with a band-aid on my index finger. Lauren ridiculed me to no end (I think dropping the chopped garlic all over the kitchen floor didn't help my situation), but I had the last laugh because when opening a can she sliced her thumb and also returned to work with a band-aid. :)
April's book club was also possibly the loudest book club in our history. We found that we have the tendency to raise the volume around the dinner table to an unhealthy level. But, we also took a little time to get to know each other with a nice juvenile game of two truths and a lie. Where this came from I have no idea - well it was from Steph, but that doesn't exactly explain why we all agreed to play it, that could have been the wine. But I think we'd all agree that it has been a blast getting to know these girls both in and out of book club over the past 7 months.
The best part - so most of these gals know each other through their fiances/husbands/brothers (a group of guys who know each other from high school and college), a group which includes Ryan. When these guys realized that they were all sitting around with nothing to do one night a month they decided to band together and form their own club. So they formed "The Barrio" - a club focused on finding the best burrito in the Bay Area. http://burritorater.blogspot.com/. While it pales in comparison to our book club, the entertainment value is quite high.
Love these girls, and love our monthly get-togethers. Thanks for all the laughs, can't wait to see what next month has in store...
Book Club Members:
Ashley, Becky, Cary, Lailah, Lauren, Megan, Robin, & Stephanie.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Here we are at the daffodil farm in Carmel Valley last year (2007).
So this year, after some minor scheduling delays and health issues, the two of them decided to try and out-do last year's celebration and we drove up to Saratoga and went wine tasting. The weather could not have been more perfect, causing Sarah to force us to put Tracy's top down on the way there and on the way back, so the hair was a little bit of a tangled mess, but we had a great time.
They packed another picnic and we ate out on the property at one of the vineyards after our first wine tasting. Then we drove down the mountain to a second vineyard, complete with roaming peacock (which was certainly Tracy's favorite part of the day) and did some more wine tasting before heading home. I pretty much have the greatest friends EVER.
It was an absolutely fabulous day, and I certainly can't complain about getting to extend my birthday celebrations into the month of April. Who would? So cheers to fabulous friends and wonderful weather! Thank you for yet another outstanding birthday.
And if you can't tell from the pictures, I was stuck sitting in the back seat on the way to the vineyards. :)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I had my first medical appointment yesterday for my extensive Peace Corps Medical Evaluation. When my doctor heard that I was joining the Peace Corps she started by telling me about some married friends of hers who decided to go to Cambodia and the husband came back with a liver disease that was slowly killing him. After she told me horror story number one, she decided to continue with this fright fest and mention all of the additional immunizations I was going to need before I left and how much they were going to hurt. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be my doctor? Last I checked this wasn't exactly the favored method of speaking to your patients.
Then I handed her the stack of medical forms that I need to get filled out in the next couple of weeks. As she began browsing the immunizations and blood work that I needed done she kept smiling and laughing and looked me in the eyes and said "you going to cry", and as she scheduled each injection and blood draw she noted to herself and her now very uncomfortable patient "ouch! this going to hurt" and "ooo! so many needles..." When I told her that I'm not a crier and I that I was prepared for the process, she said, "OK, well when you come back next appointment, you tell me if you cried. I bet you do."
As if all of this wasn't bad enough, she kept checking back with me to make sure I still wanted to join the Peace Corps. She even asked me if I could really ride a bike, because in Asia you'll die if you can't ride a bike well. So, Dr. Leung is out, BUT the process yesterday didn't end there. After her examination I was shuttled to the Injection Clinic where more joyous events awaited me.
In the Injection Clinic I was told I would be getting three injections, and was handed a form for Polio, Tetanus and TB. Let me say now that I don't like needles. At my old doctor's office, the Injection Nurse would always laugh at me because I can't watch them stick the needles into me, so I would stare determinedly at the wall over the opposite shoulder, and then he would give me a Snoopy bandaid when it was all over. I can handle needles, as long as I don't look at the needle or what is going into or coming out of my body. So the two Injection Nurses yesterday (after giving me these pamphlets) walked out of the little shower curtain enclosed room and started preparing my entourage of drugs. I guess they thought this little shower curtain was a sound proof barrier because the older of the two nurses began asking the other if she could do all three shots, or if she would like to watch the other woman do them this time. Pretty much, the woman who was about to shove three needles into my body was a newbie. Great! And now I'm worried...
After Polio in my left shoulder and Tetanus in my right and the TB test in my right forearm, I still wasn't done for the day. The new nurse did alright, not too much pain at the time of the injection (although I suffered all night last night from aching shoulders). So from the Injection Clinic I walked over to the Lab for blood work and urinanalysis. I peed in a cup (which I had been holding since I got to the doctor's - knowing that this was an inevitable part of the day's proceedings) dropped it off in a box and was asked by the lady standing next to the box "do you need blood work".
At this point, let's be honest... I'm tempted to say no and run the hell out of there. But I've got the form in my hand and it would have just been avoiding the inevitable. So I let her sit me down in a chair, lay my left arm on a cushion, and watch as she pulls out vial after vial after vial. Five empty vials sat there in front of me on this little counter. Instinct set in, and before she even had the stretchy rubber thing tied around my bicep I was staring intently at the wall over my right shoulder.
I guess maybe this looked a little bizarre, because the nurse immediately asked me if I was OK. I reassured her that I was fine, I just can't watch. This exchange took place about four more times during the process, but she managed to steal five vials of blood from my left arm before I left the doctor's.
So, in less than two hours I had three injections, five vials of blood drawn, a cup full of pee and three Advil, not to mention the strong desire for a new doctor. And this was only Day One of the process... I go back in 2 days, and again next week.
Monday, April 7, 2008
All I can say is that I tried. I tried to make a better entrance. I tried to show the world that I was a force to be reckoned with and that I, too, could change the world. Unfortunately, Mount Saint Helens wasn't returning my calls; apparently she wasn't interested in another explosion. If Orwell had been right, maybe 1984 wouldn't have been a bad year to make my move, but he was horribly wrong and I hadn't gotten the message. It looked as though the world wasn't going to be working with me, so I decided to take my destiny into my own hands. I came up with the leap year! OK, so I realize it's no volcanic eruption, but it's all I had (I mean, come on I was only a fetus). So, I was going to be a leap day baby! All I had to do was get my timing right and I would be born on February 29, 1984. Even the doctors agreed with my plan (probably out of pity) and my due date was set.
My time came around and I fought my way into this world in a hurry. My mother was in labor for less than 5 hours and has always marveled at how anxious I seemed to be to make my way into this world. Clearly, she didn't know who she was working with. Unfortunately, February 29, 1984 had already come and gone precisely nine hours before my birth. It was only after that Leap Day had completed and the mystery and individuality had passed that I decided to make my move - en retard. I was born in Portland, Oregon on the morning of March 1, 1984 - as close to exceptional as possible, without actually achieving anything of the sort.
I was one day late. I had simply misread the calendar hanging on the walls of my mother's womb. There is nothing exceptional about the first of March. I tried, during my younger years, to convince myself otherwise. It had helped that I shared a birthday with the hunk of all 80's hunks - Mark-Paul Gosselaar (otherwise known as Zack Morris on Saved by the Bell). But, even that would eventually be trumped by the most unfortunate of all unfortunate circumstances. When my birthday came around and my mom got ready to bring cupcakes to the classroom, I would learn that I shared my birthday with the Smelly Fat Kid. Yes, that's right, I shared my birthday with the child whose butt crack showed when we gathered on the carpet in from of Mrs. Betch (our first grade teacher); the same kid who would later develop an appropriate obsession with Star Wars and a severe case of dandruff. The one kid in elementary school who nobody wanted to be friends with, would be sharing MY special day with me for 6 years. Of course nobody had a February 29th birthday, but the Smelly Fat Kid and I were condemned to share the glory of the first of March until my 12th birthday.
Ryan was nearly 4 years old the day I was born and he was already over the excitement of my arrival. He already knew that it didn't matter what day I was born or how graciously I arrived. Even at the age of 4 he seemed to have already figured it all out. There have been a few instances throughout my life where I have wanted to despise his apparent perfection, but I have learned that it is due to his character that I was given the opportunity to live my life. Because, quite honestly, if my brother had been a little more like me in the first 4 years of his life, it is quite possible that my parents may have decided not to have a second child. This is not to suggest that my parents don't love me, because how could you not? It is simply that I was such a colorful and exuberant young child that keeping up with me was a full time job. You could say I was born with personality.
(Excerpt from my autobiography, assigned for my Senior Seminar - Dec. 2006)
Thursday, April 3, 2008
As I am mentally preparing myself for the adventure that is the Peace Corps, I'm finding myself drawing on a lot of the feelings and experiences from my year in France. During that year, whenever I found myself missing something about home I added it to an ongoing list, on a bright pink sheet of paper, entitled "The Things I Love About California". I figured, that when I returned to California I could look back on this list and be reminded of all of the things that make this place "home". Of course, I don't think I've looked at it since I got back, and instead flipped it over and started a list on the back side of all of the things I missed about France. (Not exactly the point of the list).
BUT, as I'm preparing myself for the imminent struggles I will be facing between now and November 2010, I've finally revisited this list of things that I once missed about California. Here's what I found myself missing while living in Southern France over two years ago:
1. My friends and family
3. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
4. REAL deli sandwiches
5. Knowing where to shop
6. American boys
7. Smiling at strangers
8. Chevy's fajitas
10. My bed
11. Long, hot showers
12. Boys in baseball caps
13. Driving (w/ music)
14. Sports games (namely The Giants)
15. Laundry in my house, for FREE
16. Understanding strangers' conversations
17. American movies w/o subtitles
18. Movies immediately after release
21. Courses in English
22. Receiving mail (as in the postal service actually gets the mail to you)
23. Warm chocolate chip cookies
24. Internet in my bedroom
25. Peanut butter
26. Cheddar cheese
27. Not having to walk up a mountain to get home
28. American gossip magazines
31. Having clean, intact clothes (no stains, holes, tears, fading or shrinkage)
32. No time change
33. Whole Foods
34. Trader Joes
And, that was my extensive list. As I typed it out, I realized I was reading this list for the first time in over a year and most of the items on this list have a story behind them. I'm also realizing that almost none of these things are exclusive to California.
And, this little list may have just done the trick. I can already think of a handful of experiences that I could blog about including the time we were all forced to de-board our overnight train at 3am, in the middle of nowhere in the Czech Republic, in the snow, watching as our train then chugged away down the tracks. Ahh, the memories... :)