Welcome to my blog, aka my place to comment and reflect on things I find inspiring, amusing, irritating, or baffling. When I was young, my Stanford PhD, former physics professor, software engineer father used to help me with my math homework, and I, being mentally deficient in all things math, could never quite get it. He would constantly say to me, "Jill, it's not rocket science." (Did I mention the PhD was in Aeronautics and Astronautics??) So I thought it would be an appropriate title for this blog because everything I write about is, indeed, not rocket science.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Junk Closet

Remember that Friends episode when Chandler discovers that Monica has a secret locked closet? He obsesses over what's inside until it's finally opened and reveals Monica's dirty little secret: it's her junk closet, with junk piled from floor to ceiling. 

Well, I have one of those closets. I call it my nemesis. My house is immaculate, with every picture frame and decorative vase in its place, and the sight of clutter accelerates my blood pressure. But it just happens: you get older, you get married, and you accumulate crap. Lots of random, "what the F do I do with this?" crap. So you have one designated space where you put all your crap. And that place for me is the guest room closet, aka my nemesis. 

I have some normal stuff in the closet: yearbooks, games, photo albums, wrapping paper. And some not-so-normal stuff: a plastic "Fart Man" whose armpit you lift to make fart sounds (a white elephant gift), a Coonskin hat (also a white elephant gift), empty boxes from electronic purchases with instructions inside (cell phones, iPods, etc.), a Buddha head that I thought was cool and was going to put in my guest bathroom, which turned out to be ten times the size I thought it would be (I wanted little, cute Buddha, not huge, creepy Buddha), Giants bobbleheads for players past, old, out-of-style sunglasses, and much, much more.

Under no circumstances will I ever need the fart man, the Coonskin hat, the Buddha head, or the empty electronics boxes. So, a) Why don't I just get rid of them? and b) Why do I keep them in the first place? I think I keep them because I feel bad for getting rid of something so quickly. The fart man was a huge hit at the white elephant exchange, and I probably thought to myself, "Next white elephant party I attend, I'm going to re-gift Fart Man!" But I haven't been to another white elephant party. And just tossing him in the Goodwill bag right then and there would have been a little sad. Poor Fart Man. I just got him and now he's in the Goodwill bag. Same for the Buddha head - I paid money for the damn thing, it just seems weird to toss it immediately, like a defeat. 

I also keep things because there's always the "I might need/want it someday" mentality. I should eliminate this mindset from my thinking because I can't think of an instance where I saved some useless crap and then one day went, "Where is that cell phone box for that phone I no longer have? I really need it right now!" 

I think I don't get rid of this crap because in my mind, the simple task of getting rid of one thing in the closet means that I have to go on a full-on cleaning rampage. For me, it's all or nothing. Go all out and clean from top to bottom or do nothing at all. Predictably, I choose to do nothing at all. And cleaning rampages are just something I don't have much time for right now. And I inevitably end up making more of a mess than when I started, and then I look at all the crap around me with my hands on my head wondering, "What am I going to do with all this stuff??" (This is why you have junk closets in the first place, right? For the stuff that you don't know what to do with!) So I get rid of a few things, put everything back in an organized manner, wait for a couple years to pass while accumulating more stuff, and then do it all over again. 

The trouble with this strategy is, the closet gives me anxiety every time I open it. I want to take a blow torch to it. I want to take my arm and sweep it across the shelves, tossing everything on the floor, and then throw it all out the window. One of these days I'm going to have to face the music and find an organizing solution that works. But more importantly, I need to change my mindset. I don't need to keep Fart Man! I don't need to keep creepy Buddha! I will never need those cell phone boxes! I will never wear those sunglasses, ever again!

I'm not ashamed of my junk closet because I think everyone has one. Or several. Or just a drawer. Or maybe their whole house is a junk closet. The things I have to remind myself are: never hold on to something because you think you might need it later because you most certainly won't, and if you don't want it now (e.g. Fart Man), you definitely won't want it later. Now, where did I put that Coonskin hat? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The "I Shoulds"

I have a case of the "I Shoulds." I should read every night before bed. I should meditate daily. I should sign up for that martial arts class. I should bake more. I should call Bobo. I should upload and print my photos. The list goes on and on. It is basically a persistent voice in my head nagging me that how I spend my time is not satisfactory and I *should* always be doing something else because that other thing will help me lead a more fulfilling life. You know, living my best life (thanks, Oprah).

I have a new one. I should stop saying "I should" and tell that nag in my head to shut the hell up. I should be watching TV because I've worked all day and just feel like vegging on the couch and watching Tara become a crazy vampire (which I'm not a fan of, BTW). I should play on the internet even though I've been sitting at a computer all day because it's what I want to be doing at that moment. I should eat the chocolate ice cream bar because it's delicious and I worked out today. I should go to bed instead of read because I'm exhausted and closing my eyes just feels so damn good.

I should not feel guilty about what I'm doing at this moment because it's a choice and it is what is currently making me happy. Feeling guilty all the time is not a good way to lead a fulfilling life. I should go do some work. But I think I'll write this blog post instead.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Photo Hell

Does anyone else want to crawl into the fetal position and weep when presented with the task of uploading, printing, and organizing your digital photos? If you are a routine scrapbooker, then you are an alien creature and we probably aren't friends. But if you're anything like me, you have approximately eight years' worth of digital pictures sitting on your computer (possibly multiple computers since you probably upgraded recently), causing you anxiety at the mere thought of sorting through and printing and displaying them. Every once in a blue moon, I'll try to print a truly great pic (they are so few and far between), but I'm usually abused by my POS inkjet printer telling me that it's out of Cyan ink (for a hilarious and oh-so-true take on printer misery, see The Oatmeal's comic), so I inevitably give up and assume the fetal position.

This means that all the pictures displayed in my house are circa 2005 or earlier. I have a framed picture of my two year-old niece on my mantel. Except she'll be 10 in September. And a picture of my husband and me before we were married, and we are coming up on our six-year anniversary. I have framed vacation pictures from a trip my husband and I took in 2001. I also have three small empty frames sitting on my dresser - they have been there, sans photo, for approximately three years (maybe longer!). This is a sad state of affairs. What is one to do? 

I love digital cameras - you can see your pictures right away, retake the unfortunate double-chin or eyes-closed shots, and take 100 pictures of the same thing because, "I can delete the bad ones later." Trouble is, you don't. (Multiply the 100 pictures of the same thing by the amount of times that you do this, and you get...about 10,000 crappy pictures). So now you have 10,000 crappy pictures on your computer, which you just blindly uploaded and didn't take the time to sort through. There they are, staring you in the face and taunting you.

Adding to the misery, I have a smattering of printed pictures from over the years - a couple I have printed myself, a couple that my mom has given me (my mom is annoyingly great about maintaining photo albums), and some from friends and family. What does one do with these mismatched, random pictures?? We have the printed, the non-printed, and the should-be-printed. I am overwhelmed. Who has the time to go through all their pictures from the last 7-8 years? Not I. 

I bought a Shutterfly coupon for a photo book that expires on June 26th. I was determined to make a photo album of my honeymoon! I worked on it all this weekend and finally completed it today. I was so proud. Oh, and in case you didn't catch it earlier, I got married six years ago. This is how pathetic I am at keeping up with my pictures and albums. 

But, thank God for Shutterfly. As I discovered this weekend, making a photo book couldn't be easier. My resolutions: to timely upload my digital pictures, immediately go through and delete the turkeys and duplicates, make photo albums for worthy events, print great pics and frame, and then stop stressing. Oh, and those random, mismatched pictures? Throw them in a box called, "Misc. pics" and be done with it. Ah, I feel better already.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Maintaining Friendships in the Facebook Age

As a thirty-something year-old trying to navigate the world of social media, I am presented with a quandary. How does one maintain friendships in the Facebook age? I'm 33 - not so old that I grew-up before personal computers, but I do remember the days of three-hour phone calls, pagers, and Zack Morris-style cell phones. The then slow-as-shit internet and e-mail became "the thing" my junior year of high school, to offer some perspective.   

In the very old days, we talked on the phone. A lot. We fought with our parents and our siblings about phone privileges and even though we had just spent all day at school with our friends, we would need to talk to them for another two hours that evening ("Did you hear what Bobo did to Gigi??"). In the semi-old days, we e-mailed. We e-mailed about everything: the minutia of our day, those dumb but secretly enjoyable "all about me" surveys (I was never able to choose between hugs and kisses - I love them both!), amusing and not-so-amusing forwards, and Neiman Marcus cookie recipes (remember that one?). In the not-so-distant past, we MySpace'd. Remember MySpace? But that was just a place-saver for the real juggernaut, and the thing that would redefine friendships forever: Facebook. Yay! You're now friends with all your real friends, your used-to-be friends, your not really friends, and your "I couldn't pick you out of a line-up, but we went to high school together" friends. 

Oh, there's also that other thing we do non-stop...texting. We used to text a little. Things like, "See ya at 6!" or "On my way!" Then we got smart phones and you can write a fucking novella on the things, so we replaced the brief text with, "I was at the mall today and saw Bobo from high school! I pretended not to see him at first, but it was unavoidable. He got fat! He's divorcing Gigi, and he works at the gas station! What a loser! LOL!" This would be followed-up by an equally lengthy reply and a couple of "OMG"s and more "LOL"s. Not long ago, this text would have merited a phone call. 

OK, so this is where we are now. Facebook and texting. And e-mail, but e-mail has remained a constant, at least in my life (minus the forwards, thank God). And there's also Twitter and Google+ and other things I've never heard of, but let's focus on the big kahunas. How do these two things affect our real friendships? For example, I just had a birthday. How does one treat a friend's birthday in this new world? In the old days, it was always a phone call. Always. An e-mail was acceptable from a good, but not great, friend. Texting wasn't an option yet. Now, there are three ways to receive a birthday greeting from a friend: a phone call, text, or e-mail/IM (God forbid a dear friend *just* posts on your Facebook wall!). In my opinion, the phone call is #1, the standard by which all other forms of communication are measured, because it's so personal, so thoughtful, and so rare (unless it's your husband or mom, in my case). The phone call is even more special now because of our new aversion to talking on the phone. (I am guilty in this regard - I am not a huge phone-talker.) But is *just* a text acceptable? 

I have had the gamut of experiences and there is obviously no right answer. Every friend and relationship is different. I typically follow the golden rule - I do what I would want others to do for me. But sometimes things get in the way, and 10 minutes before bed I say, "Crap! I forgot to call Gigi!" So I send her a text, which is better than a Facebook post (we've established that, right?!).  

But I do believe that some of my friendships have suffered in this new world. I go for months without talking to some of my closest friends, simply because we can't be bothered to talk on the phone. I am not accusing, as I am also guilty of not picking up the phone. And worse, Facebook has eliminated the e-mail exchanges I used to have with some of my closest friends. We weren't great phone-talkers, but we would e-mail back and forth every month or so, keeping each other updated on important things in our lives. But we don't even do this anymore, let alone talk on the phone. Damn you, Facebook. (But thank goodness we know what Bobo had for dinner!)

I'm starting a movement! I'm calling us all out - let's use Facebook as a fun thing where we can share pictures, articles, and funny anecdotes, texting as a thing where we can send brief messages to inform our friends of our whereabouts, but let's pick up the phone when we have a funny story to share, or to wish our friend of 20 years a "Happy Birthday," or just to say, "Hi." Letter-writing isn't the long-lost art - it's now talking on the phone. I think I'll go Tweet that.