:: eye of the storm ::

About Me

A 27-year-old PA student who wants to visit all seven continents, write a book, work at a pediatric clinic in Africa, and basically meet as many of the world's challenges as possible.

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current mood:
current mood

Life List

(already accomplished)

Become a PA

Visit all 7 continents

Take a SwimTrek trip

Bike through Western Europe

Raft the Grand Canyon

Improve my Spanish proficiency

Go on safari in Africa

Trace my roots at Ellis Island

Vacation in Hawaii

Work on a hospital ship in a Third World country

Celebrate New Year's in Times Square

Visit all 50 states (29 to go: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY)

See the ruins at Pompeii

Swim in Capri's Blue Grotto

Tour Mt. Vesuvius

Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain

Tour the Colosseum

Visit the D-Day beaches

See the Mona Lisa

Visit the palace at Versailles

See the Acropolis and Parthenon

See the Egyptian pyramids

Hike the Inca Trail

Walk El Camino Santiago

Take an Alaskan cruise

View the Taj Mahal at sunrise

Hike Table Mountain in South Africa

Climb through the Amazon canopy

Walk at least part of the Great Wall of China

Get laser hair removal

Learn to surf, ski, and snowboard

Learn to drive a stick-shift

Learn to play the piano

Go on a tropical cruise

Ride horseback on the beach

Ride in a hot air balloon

Get tickets to the Olympics

Go to adult Space Camp

Witness a shuttle launch from up close

Build a full-sized snowman

Sew a quilt out of my old race T-shirts

Update and continue my Life Scrapbook

Become the oldest person to ever do the River Run

Live to be a happy, healthy 100 years old - at least!

(unlikely dreams)

maandag 30 mei 2005

I don't really have anything new and exciting to talk about, but it's been a week since I've written, so here I am again. I've been just working and swimming, like always - trying to get 35 hours a week at work and 22,000 yards a week in the pool. That all worked out last week - I got jerked around at work, as usual, but I did scrape together 35 hours, and since Anna came to J-ville to get her jackets, we swam a 4k workout together, so I made my 22k yardage for the week, too. (The three LumberJax practices plus the Sunday ocean swim make 15k, but I have to get the other 7k on my own somehow, which isn't always easy - the pool closest to me SUCKS, Cecil is really far away, and UNF charges $5 plus parking. Bah.)

I just talked to Joanne online - my camp buddy from England. She says orientation's about to start and that there are almost no old counselors back - all new. She also says that Jen, our five-year resident Scot, ended up with serious visa issues and got officially escorted back to Scotland almost as soon as her plane hit the ground. She was supposed to be Bonnie's assistant director, and so now that position is still open. She's still trying to get here - and, knowing Jen, she'll pull it off - but I did plant the bug in Joanne's ear that I could possibly do it if Jen didn't come through. I'd have to be inducted as a Navamochee (head staff) and give up my Mohawk tribe status, which would be sad, but it'd be a fun job - being at camp but not with all the same little daily moans and groans as usual. And it would probably pay more - I usually net around $2200 for ten weeks of work (which is why I stayed home this year, for the first time in 9 years - I need more money!), but a head staff position would give me more than that. Ah, well, it probably won't happen, but it's nice to think about. I do want to get up there for a visit, either way, but that may not happen either - my schedule's pretty full.

26 days till Key West! I'm driving down on Thursday the 23rd, spending the night with Erin in Miami, driving the rest of the way on Friday and checking into the Sheraton with Christine (my kayaker), swimming on Saturday the 25th (here are the swim map and the director's tips, in case anyone's interested), then heading back Sunday. Other people have mood swings, well, I'm having 'confidence swings' - sometimes I feel like I'm going to finish easily and quickly, and other times I worry that I won't finish at all. In actuality, I probably will finish, but it's easy to look at that map and remind yourself of jellyfish, mud flats, sunburn, chafing, etc. and get psyched out. I hope Christine turns out to be cool - I've only been in contact with her by e-mail, so anything's possible. She paddles for Monica's club, though, and Monica says she's great; I trust her.

Speaking of Monica, I hope she makes it down for the race, too. She's a teacher and runs a paddling club, so I e-mailed her months ago when I was looking for a race paddler and she hooked me up by putting my ad in the club newsletter. We hit it off via e-mail and now we practically know each other's entire lives, even though we've never met face-to-face. She writes like I do, which instantly gained my respect. Certain people simply understand how to write so that their finished product says what they want it to say while still reading smoothly, like a book. Lots of people try to do that - they write with perfect grammar and punctuation - and yet they still don't have that 'something extra' which makes their work 'smooth'. I can't explain it any better than that. Even university students are often lacking it; I usually have a lot of 'mental winces' while reading others' work. However, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I do have that 'something extra', and have from a very young age. And Monica has it too, which makes it fun to write with her. I've said this before, but when it comes to e-mail, I instantly formulate a first impression based on how a person writes. That's probably a terrible thing - I might be writing off (pun intended!) some perfectly nice people just because their e-mails strike me as ungrammatical or careless - but I honestly can't help it. Example: everybody in this part of the world knows what a redneck sounds like, and you can gain an instant impression of one by simply listening to his or her accent. (Don't lie; we all do it.) Well, that's how writing is for me. I mean, would anyone read this site if I didn't write well (content - or lack thereof - aside)? I doubt it.

Anyway, I suppose I'm through being arrogant for the day. I got up at 4:30 this morning for work, so I think I'm going to go take a nap.

Oh, but cross your fingers for me - one of my co-workers (whom I've never met) might leave the job, and if she does, I get her shifts! (Well, I'm not sure I'd get to keep them all summer, but it would be for at least a week or two, until they find someone else.) That would give me a REGULAR schedule for once - can you imagine? It's not that I want her to leave, but there's considerable personal gain in it for me if she does, so ... what can you do?

zondag 22 mei 2005

Well, I suppose everyone's wondering how the swim went, but guess what: it didn't!

Yeah, that's right; the weather didn't want to cooperate. I booked a $60 (scary) hotel room, drove 4 1/2 hours to Charleston ($25 gas both ways), drove around to find the company headquarters so I could pick up my race packet (T-shirt, swim cap, number (299), and lots of little free things), had dinner at Moe's, took a bath, read my new book cover to cover, set the alarm for 5:30, got up on time, got dressed, got packed, drove to the Charleston Harbor Hilton, parked, rode the shuttle to the race site...

And then we all stepped off the bus in our T-shirts and flip-flops, got blasted by a 45-degree wind chill, froze in our tracks, and looked at each other like, "No WAY."

The river was slate-gray with whitecaps as far as the eye could see. The current was also moving pretty swiftly (2 mph), which could have helped us if not for the fact that it was flowing somewhat diagonally into shore rather than straight downstream. Then there was the aforementioned wind, making things even colder and more hairy.

So... we sat. And shivered. And wrapped our towels around us. And waited until the 8:00 start time. I made friends with a bunch of people, particularly a neonatal nurse, a swimmer my age, a middle-aged triathlete who kept saying defiantly, "I don't swim," (it was her weakest leg of the race), and Kathleen Wilson, the only person from South Carolina ever to swim the English Channel. I noticed her because she had my build and haircut, but then I overheard something she was saying about going to Zurich, and we started talking about Europe. Somebody tipped me off later as to who she was, and I did ask her a few questions about how she'd trained, but not half the things I thought of later on that I should have asked. Anyway, she was excited that I was going swim Key West; we sat together on the bus going back and she told me she'd look up the results and see how I did. (No pressure, huh?... LOL!)

But anyway, at 8:00 they decided to put off the race for an hour - the maximum time they could delay it, due to the change in tides afterward. They knew it was supposed to clear up later in the day, but they didn't know if it would be soon enough. So, for a total of 2 1/2 hours, we sat, shivered, wandered around, chatted with random people, made predictions, and hoped.

All for nothing, as it turned out, because they canceled the race. The Coast Guard and the kayak escorts had been out on the water all morning, testing the conditions, and they were getting tossed around pretty good. They said with the waves, there was no way the swimmers would be able to see where we were going (like that 'bowl' of water I talked about in St. Augustine), and they also didn't feel a hundred percent confident in their ability to corral 350 swimmers of various abilities in conditions like that. So we climbed, grumbling, back onto the buses and went back over to the Hilton, a little further up the river, for our 'after-party'.

At 10:00, as we walked up to the outdoor bar where the food was, we all noticed how calm the water seemed...

And as we stood in line, the sun came out.


woensdag 18 mei 2005

Well, my sister graduated yesterday - after seven years of having one or both children in it, this household is officially done with the International Baccalaureate program. Yay us. We had a little get-together lunch yesterday with the four of us, all three grandparents, two aunts, Mom's old college roommate (whom we also call 'Aunt'; Catie and I have known her since birth), and a co-worker of my dad's, plus my sister's boyfriend and his parents. Full house! But it was a good time; we don't usually do stuff like that, so it was nice to break out of the mold a little. And I loved seeing all my old teachers at the ceremony - especially the old principal and IB coordinator, who have both just left the school, and my old teachers for biology and English. They look different to my eyes than they did three years ago; I had such 'tunnel vision' to go talk to my old English teacher that I jabbered on for a good three minutes before I realized that another of my old favorites was standing right next to her, waiting patiently... LOL!

Anyway, it's been a bit of a weird day - I had to work from 2 to 10 AM, which meant I came home, stuffed my face, and went to bed until 5:30. Then I went to swim practice and swam all of 700 meters before the lightning started kicking up and we had to leave. I got frustrated at not getting a workout when I felt like I really needed one (remember my earlier post about how my 14 weekly pool hours have been cut to 5, and how inopportune the timing is?), so I went home in a black mood, changed clothes, and went back out into the storm to go to the YMCA. Only to find... that their power was out. I got all of 15 minutes of weights in before they gave up hope and closed (JEA had called to say it would take another 2.5 hours to get the power back on), so I went home, in an only slightly better mood, and went out running in the rain. (That's not as weird as it sounds; it's nice to have that 'cooling system'.) Anyway, that took care of it; I was all better again once I got home. Sigh. I am such a freak. You do not want to be around me if I go a day without exercise. Can you be called an addict if you're addicted to your own endorphins?

But seriously - going from 14 pool hours a week to 5 is not a good thing five weeks before a 12-mile race. Like I said before, I can replace some of my weekly yardage with dryland, but not that much. Running or spinning (on the stationary bike) keeps my cardiovascular conditioning up, sure, but not my sport-specific training. It's common sense - you spend the bulk of your training time on the sport you're training for. If you were practicing for a marathon, you wouldn't spend 2/3 of your workouts ice-skating.

(...Not to mention that I want these new clothes we just bought to keep looking as good as they did last week, thanks very much!)

Anyway, but I'm all set for Saturday's race, at least - just booked the hotel and Mapquested all the directions (I-95 to the swim office, swim office to hotel, then the next day, hotel to shuttle pickup point and, after the race, shuttle pickup point back to I-95), so I think that's all I need. I really have no clue how I'll do in this race, but in looking at last year's results, it seems to be a pretty fast course (it's a river/harbor course, not beach). Either that, or I'm going to be way outclassed. :) At the beach on Sunday I usually finish our mile and a quarter between 25 and 35 minutes, so I was going to aim to finish these 2.4 miles at around 50 minutes, but last year's winner did it in 34 and the dead-last finisher did an hour and 10 minutes. So maybe I can do better than that. We'll see.

Anyway, that's enough swimming talk. In other news: I have unpacked and repacked my Netherlands stuff about six times in the past two days, and ended up with it right back in the same bag I started with - but this time I've got my Eurail backpack fitted in there, too. I'd rather travel with only one checked bag - that's only one bag they can lose :) - and then pack my Eurail stuff when I get over there. The other perk to doing it this way is that then I have an extra bag when it's time to come home - because everyone knows your gear has multiplied by ten by the time the trip is over.

Work 11:45 - 0.05 tomorrow, work an as-yet-unknown shift on Thursday, drive to Charleston on Friday, swim and drive back on Saturday ... and then have a few uneventful weeks until the Brunswick meet on June 11th. I mark time by these major events... the meet on the 11th, Key West on the 25th, Renate's graduation on July 1st, Harry Potter VI released on the 16th, the second Jacksonville Triathlon on the 17th, the fourth Gainesville biathlon on the 23rd... and then the Boston Light on August 6th, and thus the start of chapter two of Jess's European Adventure. :)

Good night, all.

vrijdag 13 mei 2005

Inspired by Robin's question of what's been bugging everyone this week.

1.) TRAFFIC JAMS. Every day there's something different, always at the exact time I have to go to work (even though that time changes every day!). First there was a police chase and a shootout, then tons of construction, then plain old rush hour... it's the only straightforward way to get to work, but I am getting soooo annoyed with I-95!

2.) Leaving Gainesville and therefore not getting enough pool time to train with the intensity I need to for my summer swims. I've been swimming 9x/week (=14+ hrs, around 20,000 yards) which has now been cut down to 4x, 6 hrs, and 14,000 yards. When I'm supposed to be swimming a 12.5-mile (22,000) marathon in 5 weeks. GRRRRR!

3.) Work, calling me and changing my schedule at the last minute, even though they promised they would try not to. This is the reason I have to stop now, to go back to work for the second time today. I got up at 3, started at 4, drove till 2 PM, got home (worn to a frazzle) at 3:30 (BECAUSE OF THE TRAFFIC JAMS), and now have to go back again to start at 8:30. Granted, I then get the next 3 days off, which is wonderful, but I AM VERY VERY TIRED RIGHT NOW.

Anyway, I could go on, but I'll stop there. But, to counterbalance:

10 things that have made me happy lately:

1.) Moose Tracks frozen yogurt.
2.) Renate calling and thanking me for my letter.
3.) Old Navy tank tops.
4.) Sybil - if you haven't read it, you should.
5.) White Oleander coming on TV this weekend.
6.) My swim coach (and a lot of the members) being hard-core Democrats.
7.) The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants being made into a movie.
8.) (Probably) swimming the 50 free and 200 IM at a meet in Brunswick on June 11th.
9.) Ordering Twilight Children (by Torey Hayden) through the Bookmine for almost nothing.
10.) A few of my friends (Nika, Carolyn, Danielle, Renate, and Erin) finally getting back in touch.

dinsdag 10 mei 2005

Well, I suppose I'm settling into being back. I've gotten a lot done, anyway - taken the GRE (scores sent to Harvard, Yale, U Pitt, and UF), bought new summer clothes (6 tank tops, 3 pairs of shorts), worked several shifts (learned the new route to Baldwin/Maxville/Macclenny), swum all three weekly practices (plus the Sunday open-water workout at the beach), worked out at the YMCA several times (and met an employee who lived in the Netherlands for a while and speaks a little Dutch), and even organized my packing for the fall.

Yeah, packing already... I had to do some preliminary packing before I even left Gainesville, since I knew if I didn't keep all my winter stuff in one place, it would start to migrate off to parts unknown. I've kept it all reasonably together, but now that I've decided to get a five-country Eurail pass (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Ireland) for the three weeks before the start of the semester, new factors have been introduced to this equation (including a second bag). My tentative plan is to fly to Boston on the 5th of August, swim in the Boston Light (one of the oldest marathon swims in the country) on the 6th, then fly on to NL, ditch my rolling duffel and swim bag in my room (or, failing that, at one of my friends' places), grab my backpack full of summer clothes and travel-size toiletries, and head off to whichever of the countries I decide to hit first. (France and Italy are the two I'm absolutely going to; the others may shift depending on time and/or interest factors.) Two or three weeks later, I'll go back to NL and start school. During our weeklong break from school (in October), I'll probably head over to England; Tara is studying abroad in London (not like it's that much of a jump; she's from Ireland), and I'd love to see Joanne again too. Plus Stonehenge and all the good touristy stuff. I've never been to 'real' England; only to Heathrow and Gatwick (although I sure spent enough time there to have circled the entire UK ten times... by turtle...), so I can't wait to actually see it. Maybe my co-worker Marcel, who's from London originally, can give me some tips.

Oh, one bummer, though: my big 'fun trip' was going to be this - either the full version or the weekender - but when I checked today, ready to book, they'd sold out. Figures. I've sent the company an e-mail asking about waiting lists, but I'm not expecting miracles. Crap. I really wanted to do that. I'd been checking the site every week to make sure they weren't sold out, but hadn't booked because I wasn't sure what my travel dates would be or if I'd make enough money to justify doing it in the first place. That'll teach me to wait. Bah.

Anyway, not much else to note. I met a girl named Anna today who used to swim for UF (she was a miler) and knows Renate. She swims in lane 5, and we were having a good conversation during the kicking set, so I jumped over in her lane and ended up staying there through the whole practice. I was the slowest one in the lane, but I made all the intervals, so it wasn't too bad; I just made sure I always went last, so I didn't hold anyone up.

At the moment, though, I'm facing the impending doom of having to take my rapidly-descending-into-Alzheimer's grandmother to the hairdresser, the mall, and lunch tomorrow morning, and I only got (*yawn*) six hours of sleep last night, thanks to work, so (*yawn*) I believe I'll...


dinsdag 3 mei 2005

I'm only 21 years old, but I'm getting really sick of constantly leaving my friends behind. It started in 2002, when everyone from high school was scattered to the winds; I went to UF, made a few friends from classes during the fall, then promptly lost touch with most of them when we moved into the spring semester. I met new people, then lost contact with them, too, when I studied in the Netherlands. There, I had to put effort into reconnecting with people I hadn't seen in ages as well as try to meet new people (in a totally different language, to boot). Somehow I succeeded, and had a pretty good network of friends over there - and then in June I flew a continent away and lost touch with those pals too. Junior year, I moved into the famous Apartment 56 and made friends with Renate, Charlotte, and Piia, as well as all the people in my classes. Then Charlotte and Piia left midyear, we shifted semesters, and Fabienne and Hanna showed up. Carolyn R. (from class) and Renate (from home) were the two solid links I maintained - especially Renate, since we were both always at the pool - and then I started swimming with Club Alligator Swim Team and met Anna, Lauren, Nika, Jenna, and that whole crowd. They're great girls, and I saw them every night during practice, so we got pretty close. But now I'm back in Jacksonville and all those people are gone, too. I've been especially missing Renate these couple of days, and I couldn't figure out why I should be, because although we're great friends, there were also lots of times when she drove me absolutely nuts (remember my posts about the Cereal Wars... her acting like she's the only one who ever does any chores... that awful authoritative tone of voice even when she's wrong...?). I was glad to be rid of Kristen and Scott at the end of freshman and sophomore years, glad to be back on my own, back on 'familiar territory' - so why was this different? Well, tonight I went to swim with a Masters team here in town - and thus had to try to buddy up with all new people - and I figured out why. It's the whole 'straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back' thing. It's not completely Renate per se that I miss - it's just the fact that I am once again essentially friendless, until I build up the old and new networks again. I'm good at meeting people, don't get me wrong - I just wish I had a few friends who stuck around for longer than one stinking semester. Elise and I have put some effort into reconnecting lately, but that's about it. I tried to call Lauren, a Gainesville friend who lives in Jacksonville, but couldn't get ahold of her; same for Faith, a high school friend whom I thought might be home for the summer. It feels like I've just been abandoned by everyone that I consider to be a friend, and like I'm the only one making an effort to try to stay in touch and stay close. If I do end up spending time with them - i.e. if I get ahold of Lauren and we go swimming, or if I do another Gainesville biathlon in July and see Renate, or if Faith ever calls me back - then they'll be happy to see me, sure, but mark my words, they will not make any effort to set anything up in the future. It always has to come from me. Most of the time, I don't really mind that - but I would like to feel like there are at least a few people in the world who hold me in the same esteem as I hold them, and who WANT to spend time with me and WANT to keep in touch with me despite distance and/or time. Unfortunately - again, with the possible exception of Elise - I haven't found anyone like that yet. And it SUCKS.

But anyway, aside from all that, I had a pretty nice day. A couple of annoying tasks got taken care of - I signed up for the GRE (Thursday at 13:00!), Mom and I closed the 'extra' bank accounts Catie and I never use, plus we took my car in to get its 50,000-mile service (*sniff*... my widdle baby's all gwown up!"). That chore turned out to make my day, because just as I finished talking to the guy who was checking me in, a second guy came out of the office behind us and went, "Can I ask you a question?"
"What sport do you play?"
I laughed, "Is it that obvious?" (I was wearing a racerback top, so my shoulders and arms were out there for the world to see.)
"Uh, yes. 'Cause we're inside taking bets, and I said it was either swimming or some kind of triathlon."
I grinned, "You got it - swimming. I do do some sprint triathlons and biathlons occasionally, but my main sport is swimming."
"Well, it's very obvious - be proud of it!"

That conversation made my entire day. Then Mom and I hit Old Navy and Dillards and loaded up on tank tops (six! They were on sale...) and shorts. Like Mom said, I've got my summer wardrobe now... tank tops in red, white, black, two shades of blue, and, my favorite, green-and-pink stripes (would you believe I took a small in that???), plus shorts in khaki and two shades of denim. I had to pitch out all of my non-elastic-waist shorts, because they were way too big. The three I just got are juniors' elevens, so I'm verrrry happy. :)

Anyway, then I went and swam with that team - apparently there are only two adult teams in Jacksonville, this one and one at UNF (which only swims twice a week for an hour). Holmes Lumber Jax, the one I'm swimming with, practices three times a week for an hour and a half, so while it's not the frequency I'm used to, it's enough to give me something to work with. And the workouts are good; after the warm-up, we started off with two reps of a 400 IM (kick down, swim back) with fins, then a 200 easy free. That's perfect for me; tough without being impossible. (If it had been a normal IM with no kick, now... no way!) But I'm in lane 4, lane 5 being the fastest, and I have to work hard to keep up, which is how I want it. Part of me likes being the fastest one in a lane, but the rational part of me knows I have to keep pitting myself against faster and faster swimmers if I want to keep moving up. I'm the youngest one I've seen so far (a 29-year-old guy called me a 'young-un'), but that's okay; at least the level and intensity seem suited to me. I do have to work on setting up some of my own workouts, though, because I need to have my weekly yardage equal the distance I'm training to swim. Channel swimmers, for example, are training for a 21-mile swim, made much longer by currents and tides, so they usually swim around 45-50,000 yards per week (25.7-28.5 miles). I'm working towards Key West, which is 12.5 miles, so I need to swim 20,000 meters a week (yeah, meters - in the summer, swimming is done in long-course). At 3500 per workout, that's only 10,500 meters (6.5 miles) per week. I can replace some of it with dry-land, but not a lot. I need to try to call Nika and Lauren and set up a regular day with each of them to swim our normal 4,000-yard workout somewhere. If I do that, I'll be up to about 17,500 meters, and that's good enough preparation for a race like this one. I just hope work doesn't throw me for too many loops when it comes to my schedule - I hope I get a regular timetable and get to stick to it.

Anyway, I suppose this is long enough for now... I'll mosey on to bed now and curl up with my book.

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