How to pronounce and spell my name

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I say my name, but it is always invariably always a) mispronounced, or b) misspelled… and pretty egregiously. When I’d go to a place that needed my name for an order, whether it was for a coffee/tea drink or a food order, I would rarely say my own name after a while and instead would say my friend’s/colleague’s/Chris’s name because I hated seeing “Evon,” “Ivan,” “Evonne, “Ivon” written out.

Once, I was at Argo Tea with my mentee, and I knew for a fact that the person who took my order spelled my name “Evan.” They called out my exact drink order at a quiet time when no one else was there, but the person making the drink insisted (and seemed really rude) that it was for Evan, NOT Yvonne. Fifteen minutes passed, and this mysterious “Evan” never appeared. I looked the server in the eye at the counter and said, “So, are you sure this is for Evan, or me?” She sheepishly said it was for me and gave me a half apology.

When I was eating at the Orlando airport on my own Thursday night, I was shocked when I got my bill, which actually had my name spelled correctly. When the server took my order, he asked for my name and typed it onto my bill. I told him I was a huge fan of him just for spelling my name correctly. He looked at me puzzled and said, “Isn’t that the way you are supposed to spell it?”

I explained to him all the variations above that I usually get when I say my name. This guy working behind him was listening to our conversation, and he said in his thick Russian accented English, “Wait, you spell your name y-v-o-n-n-e? That’s a European name… shouldn’t it be spelled “I-v-a-n”?”

This is the type of attitude that is absolutely the worst to me. “You’re supposed to” or “you should” be spelling it or pronouncing it.. No. No, no, and no. This is my name.

“‘Yvonne’ is a French name,” I said to him, pointedly. “This is a French spelling. And the last time I checked, France is a part of Europe.” Yes, it was snippy. Yes, it wasn’t very polite. But I’m 33 years old, dealing with people misspelling and mispronouncing my name for 33 years, and then worse, trying to justify it. Cut me some slack.

This reminded me of a conversation I’d had the previous night with two colleagues at dinner. One of them called me “Ya-vonne.” I didn’t correct it because I’m so exhausted by correcting people. But my second colleague chimed in and said, “Wait, is that actually how you pronounce your name? I’ve always called you ‘e-VONNE’ and you’ve never said anything.”

I told them that my second colleague was correct: I pronounce my name “ee-VONNE.” The technically correct pronunciation of my name is “ee-VOOHN,” though. And as side note, all the Australians in my life, including Chris, pronounce my name “uhh-VONNE.” And occasionally, I hear colleagues refer to me as “Ihh-VONNE.” I’m fine with all the above pronunciations. “Ya-VONNE” is so freaking annoying. And I always feel awkward correcting it even to this day.

What a joy, still interacting with people who can’t get this right after years of knowing me.

Questionable things to prevent a cold

Since getting sick for the third time this year really made me feel angry, I decided to start researching some things I could do while traveling to prevent myself from catching yet another cold. I really don’t know what has happened to me this year; in 2018, I didn’t get even a single cold. In 2017, I had some sort of virus and then a resulting silent reflux diagnosis, and in 2015 was my ever-memorable year of getting pertussis. The general theme seems to be that I get sick usually after coming back from a long-haul flight. And that really, really needs to stop.

I read more about vitamin C intake; the jury is still out on it, but it never hurts to eat an orange or any other fruit or vegetable with a high level of vitamin C. I realized the reason that people take Emergen-C and vitamin C supplements over just relying on eating fruit and vegetables is because Emergen-C actually has 1,000 mg of vitamin C, or 1667% of your daily value of the vitamin, so it’s almost like you are inundating your body with vitamin C, vs. eating an orange, which is only about 60% of your daily value of it. I guess it can’t hurt to pack this while traveling on top of eating the loads of fruit I normally eat when we’re traveling.

The other thing I decided I’d start taking during and between flights is echinacea, which is a herb that is native to the U.S. It’s said to have active substances that are antimicrobial that can help with fending off diseases and colds. Echinacea has phenols, which are supposed to control the activity of a range of enzymes and cell receptors; It also contains alkylamides, which have an effect on the immune system. Since herbs like this aren’t regulated by the FDA, the only way I know I am eating the real thing is if I buy the organic version of this tea. Similar to vitamin C, the studies done on this are on the fence about whether there is truly a benefit, but I rather just be safe than sorry. And, since buying it this week, it actually tastes pretty good, especially with a little honey. It’s also caffeine free in the event that I want to have a tea that doesn’t give me any buzz.

I also got these homeopathic Sambucol black elderberry zinc tablets. Honestly, they taste like candy, but they get such good reviews and weren’t that expensive, so I figured… why not?

The one thing I read about that I am absolutely not going to try is oscillococcinum, which is a homeopathic preparation made from an ingredient extracted from the heart and liver of a specific breed of duck. I read that some French physician discovered it in the early 1900s while doing some investigative work on the Spanish flu. But, just listen to how that sounds: a key ingredient that is “extracted from the heart and liver of a specific breed of duck.” Doesn’t that just sound… wrong? Why would something as random as that be able to prevent someone from catching a cold…? That’s just taking the term “homeopathic” to the next level, and a level that I do not want to go.

Stood up

My foster care mentee messaged me a few days ago asking if we could meet this Friday, so I left work early to meet her at a nearby matcha tea spot that is usually packed with crowds and has a line. This time, I luckily got there a few minutes early when there was not only available seating, but also no line. I got excited and texted her, telling her I’d get her drink and have it ready for when she arrived since I wanted to save us a table. 

So I got the drinks and sat myself down… and waited for half an hour. She never showed up. I texted her a few times, called twice. No response. I was really confused. This was really unlike her. She’s rarely even late, and most of the time, she’s even early.

Was she in trouble? Did something happen to her? She had just texted me around noon to confirm the location.

So I left, feeling half stood up, half concerned. I sat there for such a long time that I’m sure other people in the shop were wondering if I were on a blind date and just got stood up. I brought the extra matcha drink home to Chris, who drank half of it already watered down by the melted ice, and I myself had the extra half dose of matcha.

Later this evening, she finally got back to me and said that her social worker forced her to stay extra long for their session, and the room they put her in had zero reception. She apologized profusely and said she felt horrible.

As long as she’s okay and not in harm’s way, I was fine about it. It’s just always uncertain what really happens when things like this occur.

Sharing suicide survivor stories

Tonight, I was doing research on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) survivor outreach program, which led me to their blog that oftentimes has guest posts. Many of the guest posts that are shared are by everyday people just like me. We’re not necessarily “experts” on mental health; we’re not doctors or researchers or academics, but we are people who have been affected by suicide of a loved one. And that story is worth sharing because the truth of our human experiences is worth sharing.

As I was reading the criteria for the survivor story guest posts, I immediately was turned off. A couple of the things that were mentioned that immediately made me realize that I did not want to contribute to this: 1) it insisted that you not use the term “mental illness” and instead use “mental health.” I’m not sure about what you think, but depression is an illness. I don’t care how you want to spin that, but IT IS AN ILLNESS. Depression is not something that you just get like a mood swing or a cold and get over as a part of everyday mind or body health. Bucketing it as “mental health” absolutely does NOT highlight the gravity of the issue at hand. And then there’s the one I got really frustrated with: 2) You cannot mention how the person ended his life. You can only say that he died by suicide. Really? Are we really in a culture today with required “TW / trigger warnings” and snowflake culture that we cannot just accept reality, that life is painful and is going to have a lot of excruciating details that we all just need to face? It’s like we have to be so “progressive” as to focus on things that do not matter and make those things matter instead of focusing on the truth and truly moving forward. The argument to not include this information is that the method of suicide would in some way glorify the suicide and then encourage others who are in the process of suicide ideation to use that particular method to end their lives. This is absolutely ludicrous to me.

And to be frank, part of the reason I think I get as much money and as many donations as I get is because I try really hard to paint a vivid picture of what Ed went through, of my feelings at the time.. of my feelings today. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t black and white. I want it to be as crystal clear as possible. Why? Because I want you, the reader, to know exactly how fucked up the situation was. I want you to know how much anger and physical and mental pain I felt when I found out my brother was dead. And I want every person who even reads half of each year’s fundraising story to know how the entire world failed my brother, and I will never stop being angry about it.

If you can get through reading my story and not feel something, you must be some feelingless robot.

But that’s the point of even sharing a story. To evoke feelings. To share a sense of humanity. To inspire action. And you cannot do that without giving details. It’s just not enough to me.

Appropriate usage of emojis?

The colleagues on my team here in our New York office get along really well. We have our own private Slack channel where we make comments on everything from work and personnel-related questions to the most ridiculous and random banter, complete with moving giphy images and borderline inappropriate commentary on people we know and life in general. We also take coffee break walks and sit around the lunch table when we don’t have lunch time meetings and talk about current events and things happening with us.

Most recently, the topic came up that in the age of the #MeToo movement, it’s as though dating and romantic relationships cannot really move forward the way they once did. When you go in for a kiss, do you actually have to ask permission before you do it, or can you just go in? Or is it possible that could be interpreted as sexual assault? Or, in the case of sending text messages to anyone from colleagues to friends to potential friends-to-life-partners, is it okay to send things like flower or heart emojis? Can those types of “expressions” be misinterpreted as flirtatious or romantic rather than simply being friendly? I was actually a bit thrown off when we started talking about emojis because I use emojis a lot over text and Slack communication, and then I started second guessing myself about how and when I was using my hearts and flowers.

Is this really the era we’re living in, where we aren’t sure when being “friendly” can be interpreted as too friendly?


Some edibles gone wrong

I unknowingly accompanied some colleagues to a dispensary after our company happy hour en route to El Farolito in the Mission last night. I didn’t realize what he was talking about when he said he was going to “buy flowers.” He named the place, and to me, it sounded like a bar. So I thought, sure, I could hang out at another bar before my burrito!

I walked in, got IDed, and immediately knew this was not a bar. They were there to buy weed and gummy edibles, and I was just there for the ride. We walked into the smoking parlor next door, and they all began to smoke and eat their gummies. I was debating whether I wanted to try them. I’d had a puff here and there before, but it was never enough (or, well, strong enough) to do anything for me, so I never really cared for it. When I was in first grade, my dad enrolled me i an anti-drug program where I’d get pulled out of class for a few hours each week to attend lessons on why drugs were bad for me, and why I should never try them. Since then, I’d had no fascination with any recreational drugs even though I could easily have gotten access to them. And to this day, I can say with complete honesty that I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. It just doesn’t interest me. And the smell is absolutely hideous to me.

But today, I just thought, meh. I can do this. I’m 32. What’s the big deal, anyway? People take this stuff to relax, as medication. I can do this just fine. And so, I did, and also had a gummy. I was already relaxed from the two cocktails I had at happy hour, but then after this, I felt even more mellow and happy. Hmmm. This isn’t so bad, I thought. I won’t do this often, anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

We went and had our super sized quesadillas with shrimp and steak. I enjoyed my horchata. Then, we went back to the hotel. It wasn’t even 10:30 and I was already sleeping.

Well, then I woke up at 3am with agonizing pain in my left lymph node. My lymph node was swelling, clearly enlarged like a golf ball, and it felt like there was liquid moving around in it. The whole left side of my face hurt. Opening my mouth was painful. I applied some cold compresses to it to make it feel better, but the pain was not residing. Great, I thought. This is what I get for taking what is supposed to be legal recreational drugs in the state of California while in California. Please go back to sleep, fall asleep, let the pain go away, I kept thinking.

I eventually did fall back asleep. When I woke up, the swelling had gone down, but the pain was definitely still there. If someone were to poke me right there, I’d probably scream.

Is the moral of the story here to never do this ever again? Or did I just finally have access to the “good stuff” as some of my colleagues called it to elicit a reaction from my body like that?



Java Script class, Day 2

While the first day of Java Script and debugging was mostly a review of HTML, which I already understand and is fairly basic (well, it’s not even a language, so it can’t be that hard), today, we delved into the basics of Java Script. So, I started thinking about how miserable I was when I took my intro to computer science course in college just to test it out, and I did a miserable job. And while in class today, I felt probably just as miserable as I did then, except at least now, I don’t have to get graded, and I just need to have the highest level understanding of this.

Some things were meant to be. Coding and me were not.

Processing medical claims

I was at the office today after over 2.5 weeks of not being around, either due to vacation, being in San Francisco, or being sick. It felt really good to be around my colleagues again, listening to what everyone has been up to in the last few weeks, and listening to stupid jokes and sarcasm again… and being sarcastic myself.

What was not fun was figuring out how to file my claim for my medical treatment while being in New Zealand. It’s like health insurance companies want to make everything so difficult for you when trying to get your money back that they make the entire process more and more cumbersome. No, you cannot just file the claim online. You actually have to copy every single form the doctor gave you outlining the treatment and your condition, plus any prescriptions or medication recommendations, plus all your receipts, and snail mail it to their designated PO box. And even that will not guarantee that you get your money back because they need about 15 different things explicitly called out and highlighted in the documentation they give you.

I feel like I am putting these documents together blindly, and putting them in the mail is like a gamble. Am I going to hear a response? Will they actually pay me back? Who knows.

Personal history

Tonight, in the midst of cleaning the apartment and doing laundry, I sat down to do one of my original favorite pastimes of coming home from work while living in New York City: reading the New Yorker. Some of my all-time favorite articles and spotlights on quirky famous individuals have come from this magazine. Nora Ephron is one of them. And she just happens to be a Wellesley alum. In this Personal History piece originally published in this publication back in 2010, she wrote:

“I always hoped that he (my dad) would show some interest in my kids, Max and Jacob, but he didn’t even remember their names. One day, Jacob answered the phone and my father said, “Is this Abraham or the other one?” I consider it a testament to Jacob that, at the age of seven, he knew it was funny. Still, it made me sad. You always think that a bolt of lightning is going to strike and your parents will magically change into the people you wish they were or back into the people they used to be. But they’re never going to. And even though you know they’re never going to, you still hope they will.”

You know what’s so funny about this? This is kind of how I imagine my dad will be with my future children, his grandchildren. I imagine that my mom will remind him of their existence by her endless obsessing over them, but that without her, he’d be clueless and not really outwardly care. Like Ephron, I also still imagine my parents will be something else they aren’t, think about things they don’t think about, and want to do things they have zero desire to do. These thoughts come into my head at the most random times: when I am running on a treadmill, perusing books at a bookstore, or even hiking in Cape Breton. It’s like hopeless undying hope.


I woke up this morning at around 5:30am after thinking that I saw my brother. What’s really frustrating is when you have very vivid dreams, and you wake up thinking that what you dreamt really happened.

In my dream, I was at our parents’ house standing at the top stairs of the back porch. I heard a familiar voice which sounded like my Ed’s, and I peered down the stairwell to see him there.

“Hey!” he called up to me, smiling. “You’re back!”

My heart almost stopped. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Don’t move! I’m coming right down!” I yelled back down to him.

I ran down the stairs to meet him, but he wasn’t there anymore. My eyes welled up in tears. Fucking hell. He’s really not here.

Minutes later, Chris arrived at the house with his roller bag, and he gave me a big hug. I immediately started sobbing. He had no idea what was going on.

“I saw him,” I wailed between sobs. “I know I saw him. He’s definitely here somewhere, but I can’t see him anymore.”

Chris said nothing. He just held me tighter. There was nothing to say. There’s nothing any of us can do anymore.

This may be the first time I can recall dreaming about Ed while being home. Usually when I’m back at our parents’ house, he doesn’t visit me in dreams. This time, he has. Perhaps a tide has turned.