December 27, 2010

Social Networking

I cleaned out my Facebook friend list this morning - big time.  There will likely be a backlash and I am prepared for it, albeit a little nervous.  It's been a long time coming and I could no longer ignore my gut which has been telling me, "It's not a popularity contest.  No one really has 500+ close friends."  Not that my friend list ever got that large, but it grew too big for me.

Let me be perfectly clear:  it's not that I don't like any of the people I removed.  I can honestly say I only removed one person because of ill will.  The rest were people I have known throughout my life and truly enjoyed catching up with, but we're just not that close or we are not in touch on a regular basis.  And I truly hate the term "unfriend."  It's not that I don't want to be friends with any of the people I removed from my list.  They're just not a regular part of my life and keeping them on my list seemed a misrepresentation of who I am.

I fought joining Facebook for years.  I just didn't see the point.  Once I joined I got waaaaaay too involved.  I was going through a time where I was unemployed and I lived apart from Jim because of the military.  I was lonely and Facebook filled the void.  It was also right before my 20th high school reunion and a great tool to reconnect with friends before the big get together.  It's been a few years now and I think I've shared way too much, have been way too opinionated, and have played way too many online games.  I'm not sure I even need it anymore, but there are people with whom it is the easiest way for me to keep in touch.  I will likely keep my account but I will also likely keep culling my list down to those who are truly a regular part of my life.  Harsh?  Maybe.  True to me?  Absolutely.  Now if I could only get the nervous butterflies to stop fluttering away in anticipation of the repercussions...

December 24, 2010

Opposites attract

Jim is a planner, a researcher...he needs information...desperately.  I often call him "Curious George."  He has to go into every situation knowing exactly what to expect.  In fact, as I write, I can see he is checking out the Mt. Bachelor website because we are going there in the morning.  Rest assured he will leave no corner of that website un-inspected.  Also know that I will be dragged to every possible area on that mountain in the time allotted.  This is fun for him.  He is an explorer at heart.

I like to fly by the seat of my pants.  I'm always saying, "let's just figure it out when we get there."  I drive Jim nuts.  I am happy to stumble along, unplanned.  Have I mentioned I drive Jim nuts?  I remember a trip we took up and down the California coast years ago where hotel reservations became a bone of contention.  We knew we wanted to stay at a particular Bed & Breakfast at Mt. Shasta but otherwise, our plans were flexible.  My idea?  Don't make any hotel reservations so we wouldn't be forced to stick to a plan.  We could go wherever we wanted and stop for the day/night when we felt like it.  Jim's reaction?  HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU NOT MAKE HOTEL RESERVATIONS??? THIS IS INSANITY!!!  I won.

Or did I?  My "plan" backfired on me many times.  Did I mention it was summertime?  In California?  Yeah, lots of you like to go there too and you were all smart enough to make hotel reservations.  Guess where that left us?  Scrambling every night to find a place to stay.  And this was back when cell phones didn't have all inclusive plans and roaming charges were steep.  We were pinching pennies as it was so extra cell phone calls were painful.  I remember one night somewhere in the Pismo Beach area, when we could not find a hotel to save our lives.  I called and called, and we drove and drove.  We finally found a room after midnight when someone cancelled very last minute.  Jim was beyond irritated with me.  I was mildly contrite, but happy to go back to my "system" the next day.  Suffice it to say, our next road trip was planned down to the nanosecond.

Another trip to Belgium found Jim violently ill one day - bad enough for him to visit the pharmacist who told him he needed bed rest.  He was devastated.  I felt bad that he was sick but I was secretly quite happy to have a day off from touring.  Jim would have none of it.  He insisted I continue to sight see.  When I assured him I was fine with a day of rest he told me to either go out and see the sights or he would drag himself out of bed and make sure I did.  He wasn't kidding.  Fast forward to me walking around Brussels in the pouring rain so I could visit the royal palace, royal chocolatier and the beer museum.  Sure, I could have sat in a cafe all afternoon and lied, but he would have known.  The next morning he bounced out of bed, no longer sick (or at least he claimed) and we resumed power touring.  No way was he going to go that far, spend that much money, and lie in bed.

So which way is better?  Who knows?  We end up sniping at each other either way.  Me, because I don't like programming every single second of a trip.  Jim, because he can't stand wasting time and must plan every single second.  It is 9:34 AM on our first full day at Sunriver and Jim has already planned our activities for the next four days.  We don't really have anything planned today and I can already tell it is driving him nuts.  I'm sure at some point today an activity will end up on our schedule.  I will enjoy it and Jim will be exceedingly glad we planned something - a win/win.  And we will both have a great time on this trip; we just have different ways of going about it.  I find it funny because we vacation to relax and end up running ourselves into the ground.  I'm sure we'll find balance at some point - it's only been 13.5 years.  We'll figure it out, right?

December 20, 2010

How much is enough?

So every year when we write the Christmas letter I struggle with knowing just how much information everyone really wants from us.  There have been years where the font is microscopic and I still can’t keep it to one page, and there have been years when I get it down to a quarter of a page in bulletized format!  I will never forget the year we sent out cards with a simple "Merry Christmas, Jim & Jayne," and the backlash it caused because there was no update!  What do people want?  Do you struggle with your Christmas letter too?

I remember back when Christmas letters were a fairly new idea.  I swore I'd never do one because I thought they were impersonal and that it was important to take the time to write a note in every card.  Then I changed my mind because time was short and it really was the quickest way to get out an update en masse.  But...for those first few years I still wrote the personal note AND the letter.  (Are you starting to understand why I ended up burning out on Christmas?)  I finally found balance  (I think) and came to enjoy the annual update.

But it got out of hand...really out of hand.  As I've worked tirelessly to get our letter down to a page or less, others have morphed into full newletters with fancy graphics and family pictures!  Am I about to swear I'll never do that only to cave in a few years?  I don't think so, but I won't back myself into that corner...just in case.  And maybe it's because we don't have children that our letter will probably never spin out of control again (probably, a girl needs to give herself an out), but I have to believe we can all find balance in the world of family updates and Christmas letters.

So I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you exactly what I do and do not like in a Christmas letter.  I realize this will not make me popular but I did say I was always going to be honest with this blog so here goes:

I like letters that are kept to a page or less with a quick update on each person in the family.  It's even OK to update me on your pets if you have to.  I used to do it so how can I say you shouldn't?  Keep the font at a size most people can still read, at least a 10, and DO NOT shrink it down to size 6 so you can also tell me you re-landscaped the one foot square patch around your mailbox or that Junior now poops in the potty.  TMI.  In my advanced years my tendency towards ADD is growing and I scan the letters quickly as I'm sure most of you do too.  Maybe I need to slow down and enjoy the season more but I don't.  I can't say I'm pleased with the bah-humbuginess that has plagued me these past few years and I hope it goes away.  What won't go away is my impatience with novel-like Christmas letters.

On the flip side I can't stand cards that are only a family picture with no update at all.  I do want to know how you are and what is new in your life (unless you're going to talk about potty training, because again...ick and ew).  I know we are all very busy but just a teensy bit of what's going on with you and yours is always nice.  If you find yourself crossing the line towards 12 page newsletters with font size 6...fuhgetaboutit.  I'm not reading it.  Really.  I'll look at the pictures real quick and then file it to make sure I have your address correct for next year but that's it.  There's got to be a balance between too much and not enough.

As for when the cards get sent out, let's not stress about it, OK?  The 12 Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas and go through Epiphany, which is January 6.  Cut yourself some slack and don't strive for the perfect Christmas because believe me, it ain't happening.  Just be happy if you can manage to get something out at all.  I have a couple friends who've moved their annual updates to New Years and Easter in order to avoid the holiday stress - a very wise move if you ask me, and maybe you didn't but you're still reading this, aren't you?

So I'm about to write our letter and I can't seem to get past one paragraph and I think I'm cool with that.  We had a good year.  I'm still in school.  Jim got a new job.  We're taking a vacation.  We didn't move again.  We're happy and healthy.  The end.  Not enough?  Maybe.  Enough for you to know we're doing well and wishing you a happy holiday season?  You bet.

December 13, 2010

I used to say I don't like China

Today we watched a video of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony in my lighting class.  The purpose was mainly to focus on the specialty lighting - spectacular - a little fun to end the quarter.  I was reminded what a spectacle that ceremony was.  Do you remember hearing the budget was $300 million???  I can't even fathom it.  That probably amounts to the interest on our national debt - money we probably owe to China.  But I digress.  That opening ceremony will probably go down in history as the best one ever.  Well, at least until China does it again, and I'm sure they will.  Other countries likely now tremble at the thought of even coming close to what the Chinese did.  I think the Brits are up next and you know they have a big wedding to plan for, so we'll see where all the money goes.

It seems like China has been thrust back into my life lately.  I went in 1991 and those who know me well will tell you I didn't like it.  I came back with mostly complaints and a faint appreciation for what at the time I was told, was the trip of a lifetime.  I was ungrateful.  Nearly 20 years later, China is a completely different country from the one I visited.  One of the "towns" we visited was a farming community back in 1991 and is now the 4th largest city in China (I think I have that right).  I know this because Jim (my husband) is now traveling to China on business on a regular basis.  He was thrilled at the prospect and all I could say was, "ugh, China."  He's always wanted to go and see it with me and I have always refused - swore I'd never go back.  I'm now warming up to the idea.  And yes, I realize I was a brat about not liking China during my first trip.  It was not what I expected and it was quite uncomfortable at times.  I did not travel well.  Age and experience have helped me understand this.

I mean really, I've climbed The Great Wall of China, been to the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs.  That's a pretty big deal and I'm finally starting to appreciate it - only took 20 years.  It used to be something I just tossed into a conversation because it was unique, but now lots of people can, and do, go to China.  Human rights issues aside, China is a huge player on the world scene these days and we need to get used to it.  China is here to stay.  I plan to be more open minded about it and I even plan to go over there with Jim at some point.  I really would like to see how things have changed.  I'm not jazzed about the long flight but Jim's gained enough frequent flyer miles that maybe I can talk him into an upgrade to business class...

My thoughts on the subject are jumbled, but the reason I decided to write about China in the first place was hearing the Chinese National Anthem on the video today.  It brought back one of my best memories (and the good ones are few and far between) of the trip.  A little background; I went to China in 1991 for PLU's Centennial Celebration.  The University Orchestra and Choir of the West toured Japan, China and Hawaii.  As part of our program, the orchestra began the concert each night with either the Japanese or Chinese National Anthem and the Choir followed with our National Anthem.  While in Beijing, we performed for a factory choir.  The orchestra started the Chinese National Anthem and the audience stood and began singing.  It was beautiful.  We then started our National Anthem.  They remained standing.  We all started to cry as our director tried to keep us together.  It was such a powerful moment and for the second time today, the memory of it is bringing tears to my eyes.  These factory workers barely spoke a word of English but they knew our National Anthem and they respected it.  I'm not sure it can be said that many Americans would have done the same.  After the concert, several audience members found us in the parking lot and wanted to sing with us.  The only songs they knew in English were Christmas carols.  It was June.  We stood in the parking lot with them singing Silent Night, and I will never forget it.

I will go back to China in the coming year and I will look at it with the eyes of a much more mature woman.  And I will appreciate it.

December 10, 2010

"It's not my fault!"

So it's week 10 of an 11 week quarter and for the most part, students are at a fever pitch to get their final projects done - for the most part.  There is the usual handful who haven't done anything all quarter and now that there is only one week left, are scrambling and/or trying to convince the instructors to give them an extension or excuse the fact they won't be submitting a fully completed project.  I don't get all.  It's not like the expectations are not clearly set forward on day one of the quarter, both verbally and in writing.  You've seen one; it's that magical document called a syllabus and it is a road map to the quarter.  Read it and you'll know exactly what's expected of you, every single week.

And I can just hear some of you right now:  "Jayne, things happen.  People have other commitments.  Cut them some slack."  My answer?  Not.A.Chance.  Here's the deal - you know when you commit to a program everything you have going on and it is your responsibility to make sure you can keep up.  If there are special circumstances, approach the instructor early on; don't wait until it is too late.  I get tired of being told I'm the unusual one for getting my work done, accurately and on time.  Granted, this is my second or third time around the block, but I still argue it can be done without all the excuses and the whining.

A couple of examples come to mind;  both students waited until it was too late.  One decided to drop a class and the other is dangerously close to failing a class and will likely have to take it over again.  What happened?  One of them knew there was trouble from day one and waited until week 7 to ask for help.  Then the snow storm hit and she could not get to the resources she needed (and should have accessed sooner).  She ended up dropping the class in week 9 - without a refund - all because she waited too late to ask for help and then didn't follow through.  And believe me, no sympathy is necessary here;  I've had classes with her before.  Last spring, during lecture time she would shop online and ignore the instructor - then ask those of us who paid attention for help.  She didn't run into a bit of bad luck this quarter; she is a careless and lazy student.  The second student skipped more classes this quarter than he attended, did not turn in any progress work and then his jump drive died today and all his files were corrupted.  He has to start his quarter long project (if he ever started it in the first place) all over again.  The last thing I heard him say to our instructor today was that he's having trouble getting motivated to start over because he's so disappointed.  Again, this is not someone who deserves the benefit of the doubt.  I've had several classes with him and he rarely shows up and is always scrambling to turn in an entire quarter's worth of assignments at the last minute.

Do these people have an endless supply of money and can I please tap into it?  This school is not cheap!  Why not finish the classes you've paid for the first time you register for them?  This is a pattern of behavior and I see it with a lot of my fellow students.  Why are you there if you're not going to commit?  You are wasting money - yours, your parents', scholarships, financial aid - whoever it belongs to, and you are wasting my time when you take the instructor aside to join your pity party.  If I hear, "It's not my fault!" one more time I might scream.  Put your big girl pants on and join the rest of us who are working our asses off to get it done right the first time.  Sometimes, I wonder how these kids expect to function out in this "real world" they refer to.  You know, the one they're already living in but don't realize it?

December 9, 2010

Now what?

OK, so I finally started a blog - now what?  It's interesting to me that as polarizing as my opinions can be, my friends have suggested I share more of them.  I guess it's a compliment, one I'm sure will get me into hot water more often than not.  Regardless, I'm jumping feet first (because why on earth would I look before I leap?) into this, knowing full well what could happen.  But do you and most of you ASKED for it!  So, let's head down this path together and see where it leads.  Expect nothing but (brutal) honesty from me and please don't be surprised when I speak my mind because:  That's.What.I.Do.

I've chosen the generic template for two reaons: 1) I'm lazy and 2) It's a window, and I like the idea of it being a window to my view of the world.  Sometimes it will be a windshield when I bitch about driving (or people's lack of ability to do so well).  Either way, peek in once in a while and see what I see.  I can promise you it's rarely boring.  Expect honest opinions, rants, observations on the entitlement generation, and possibly an occasional post about something I actually like.  Feel free to vent right along with me, and do me a favor?  Don't lurk: participate in the conversation.  I find that many times most of us agree about an opinion I have the guts to express.  I want to hear what you think, not just see a wink and a smile or a "like."  This is the place to be honest, and it might even get ugly sometimes, but in the end we will all learn from each other's various positions and opinions.  Life would certainly be boring if we always agreed.

There is one other thing - this full time student business I have going on.  It takes time, lots and lots of sometimes I will disappear but I will always be thinking some sort of mischief up for us to discuss.  And on that note, it is finals week and I need to get busy.  Wish me luck!