The Laptop

Where some things are concerned, I am very knowledgeable and timely. You won’t catch me with unmanicured nails or my hair in need of doing. I have visited the dentist every six months since I was three years old. I get the oil changed in my vehicles every 3,000 miles. Get the picture? And yet, something managed to slip by me. And that would be the maintenance of my laptop computer. Call it a blonde moment if you must. But I didn’t know it needed any. I kind of thought it did for itself. I was wrong.

In preparing for my worldwide domination with the launching of http://www.thejaneellen.com/, there was a need to load programs onto my laptop. Now I knew that I had a lot of photos stored on there. I just didn’t know there were over four gigabytes of photos on there. And then some.
Just the other evening it was pointed out to me that the laptop could’ve crashed at any time. Whaaaat? Never crossed my mind. It was so new. As old as Jenna. OK, so she’s turning three in August. It seems like I just got it. It seems like I just got her. And she’s the youngest. Anyway, I digress. The laptop, in my mind, was a mighty fortress-- with so much room it would never be full. Plus, the laptop became mine as the desktop became my husband’s. I just assumed if something needed to be done to it then he would do it. I assumed incorrectly. I guess he thought my ability to read and brilliant mind would be enough to keep it from crashing. Instead it was my friend Brien’s ability to read and brilliant mind that kept it from crashing. And who pointed out all the things I’ve done wrong with my laptop.

As a matter of fact, he made me a list. He knows I love a good list. Or was it because I just glazed over when he told me what I needed to do to? Honestly, don’t we live in the Star Trek age yet with sentient computers? Hasn’t Hal opened the pod doors yet? Ah, but it seems I willfully ignored all the times the laptop firmly suggested I delete things from the C drive. What I didn’t know is that it was about to start deleting things on its own. There’s the thinking for itself computer I thought I already had.

So it seems not everyone has about 2,000 emails. Is that so wrong? Apparently, it is. There is a delete button. I have since learned how to use it. The gajillion photos? Mostly of my beautiful children but a good many of my beautiful self? They’re on jump drives now. But I have now learned about external hard drives. Why, you can even get portable ones that come in pretty colors. And they’re more expensive than the less pretty desktop ones—how surprising.

(By the way, I don’t trust or believe that my photos are on the jump drives even though for two days after the transfer I stuck them back in and checked. It just seemed impossible. It seemed wrong. And it seems that I now have something small and easy to lose that I must now hide from two toddlers.)

I have been instructed and have mastered how to get updates for my laptop. I know, I am also surprised that I was able to do this without handholding. And now I have to clean up my laptop once a week and such. Who knew? I didn’t. Had my laptop had taken in one more teeny tiny bit of information it would’ve ceased to be. And if you thought I had a back up of anything, well, think again. Even I know I should’ve had a back up.

Much like people who don’t start diets but change their eating forever, I am planning to start anew. Even though I am a great one for hanging on to things. I promise to delete emails after I read them. I promise to defrag my C drive. And I promise not to live in a technology bubble where I let my math anxiety surface when I hear too many unfamiliar terms that begin to sound incredibly boring. There. A breakthrough. And I don’t even think it’s my math anxiety. I just think I get incredibly bored and it turns into a buzzing sound and I’d rather be baking or shoe shopping or doing something much more shallow. Or, here’s the real truth, or have someone else do the computer dirty work for me. In return for some baked goods. Well, I already promised. And I do want to set a fine example for my girls that they shouldn’t be dependent. However, if a baked good will get the job done, so be it.

The Layoff

You never want to hear about someone losing a job. Well, I don’t anyway. Over the past year the number of layoffs across the nation, and among my own friends, has been stomach churning and staggering. And then it happened to us. Because you know, you never think it’s going to happen to you. But when you have two people who work for the same company, well, that is a bit of a risk. And that’s the story with Jim and I.

But let me backtrack a minute. It is highly unusual in the broadcasting industry to stay. anywhere for long. It’s just not the nature of the business. Except for news. And Jim did news. He had been a broadcast news journalist working out of that particular building since 1984. He was there to see teeny tiny Q94 turn into the Country Giant. Jim was there through it all. And there’s always news. So when we heard there would be cutbacks, honestly, I never thought Jim would be involved. Who cuts the news? What a surprise. He, however, predicted it. He said the option would be to offer him part-time hours. Which is just what happened right before Christmas. So I guess it wasn’t a total layoff. Just enough to lose benefits and the ability to pay some bills. Now of course, the fun part is I had that major body surgery, for which we had to pay for on our own. Another bill. And I know we’re not alone. Everybody’s in a financial bind.

So we started to regroup and January 23 rolled around. I had come back to work, I was on the new insurance plan, and in under sixty seconds I was basically told due to budget cuts it was my turn to go. Goodbye. Huh. You know, it made me laugh. How ‘bout that? I never saw that one coming. I’m the female talent. We’re usually the last to go. For me, it was ten years on Magic and five years on the Giant. And yet, I think I’m taking it better than most. My job did not define who I am. I defined my job. And I loved it. However, I am more than a morning radio show. I do feel a very strong connection to the many people I’ve spoken to over the years. Thank God for facebook and myspace because at least we can keep in touch. And soon, very soon, you will be able to find me on www.thejaneellen.com.

Everyone wants to know what Jim and I will do next. Anna Grace turns four in May and Jenna turns three in August. Their welfare is of the utmost importance. If I have to be a receptionist again, I’ll do it. I was a really bad receptionist though.

Will we move away? I hope not. Before I came to Tennessee I moved a lot. I don’t like to pack up my stuff and Jim sure doesn’t. He can barely tolerate my stuff unpacked as it is. Moving is a last resort. But if you’ve followed the news, yes, you can still find news, broadcasting jobs are disappearing.

Those who are old enough to remember AM radio know that it was where it was at. Then along came FM. FM is changing and being challenged by XM/Sirius, iPods, the internet, and basically our on-demand society. Your television has changed with a digital channel and the ability to stop it, back it up, and fast forward through the commercials that pay for the shows you watch.

So what will Jane Ellen do next? Think. Reinvent. Survive. Conquer. Same ol’ same ol’ for your average, determined, type A platinum blonde.

The Memory

Memory. It’s a tricky thing. And I do mean as in we can do tricks with our memories. For instance, my friend Lee can tell you what day of the week any date falls on in a given month. He explains it away because of his absolute devotion to football. Once you know what Sunday a game falls on you can do the whole year. So, I guess that makes sense.

I know a lot of dancers and they can remember choreography. Tons of it. From years ago. Now that’s certainly a trick to non-dancers, but cake to them. My friend Dancing Jennifer, is fascinated with how the mind remembers. By the way, I call her Dancing Jennifer because she is one of the owners of Stage One Dance Studio on Cookeville. She is also directing next week’s production of the Vagina Monologues at TTU’s Backdoor Playhouse, which is done every year across the nation.

As usual, I am a fascinating case. For instance, when she teaches me choreography (we tap dance together) she now knows that there is nothing in my head. Now there are those that will argue that there never has been. But I learn choreography in bits and pieces. And then it’s put together for me by body memory. I need constant repetition. I may be able to do the steps, and I’m not talking remedial tap steps here either, but that doesn’t mean I will retain them. At first. Enough repitition and it’s all there. But I’m not actively thinking about it. Which is just plain weird. I know. She knows it too. Intriguing to her though. It probably explains my penchant for winging it.

Now when it comes to actual memorization—now we’re talkin’ my specialty. I can visualize the words and recall them. Which should come in handy soon since I haven’t even attempted to learn my parts for the Vagina Monologues. And I’m sure I’ll store it in my short-term memory.

Unlike the Latin I learned as a sophomore in high school. Dissertisime Romule nepotem. I could go on, but I know you all know your Latin and there’s no need to review. I can recall so much of my high school Latin that I had to memorize even I find it freakish.

I asked my friend Brien (www.brientravis.com) the musician how he remembered music and he says it plays in his head. Movies also play in his head. When we both have Young Frankenstein rolling in our heads at the same time we can entertain ourselves endlessly. “Would the doctor care for a brandy before retiring?…Some varm milk... perhaps? …Ovaltine?”

I asked my husband what he remembers most easily and he said bizarre trivia. He cited Ernest Borgnine’s marriage to Ethel Merman. For 32 days at that. I thought everybody knew that. Jim’s ability to recall odd trivia equals mine. It’s nice.

And yet, what I think is the trickiest thing about my memory is the random dates and just plain odd things that I remember. I remember what I wore the first day of high school. And we shall never speak of it again. I remember I first spoke to my husband Jim on a Saturday night; it was December 19, 1992. Around 8:30pm, kind of iffy on the time. I recall meeting my friend, yes, we became friends—he couldn’t help but adore me, Gray who told me he was going to college and I replied, “oh, how cute.” I already had my degree you see. So I had him fetch things for me and in return he became I high-powered radio executive. I remember a girl named Lisa needed fifteen cents in the fifth grade for a folder. She got a red one. It was raining that day. She didn’t pay me back either. She doesn’t need to now.

And yet, for all these memory tricks, I have a hard time remembering what day it is. I know it’s February. My birthday’s this month. I know that much. Seriously, that’s all I’ve got. And honestly, somedays I can’t even remember how old I am.

The Guilt Free Random Things

Anyone who has spent any time on Facebook has no doubt been tagged by their friends regarding 25 Random Things About Them. I tried to ignore it. But I was plagued by the guilt. You see it comes with tags from your Facebook friends and the tags say it's sent to you because they want to know more about you. Because they care. I know. It's sincere. And I was suffocating under the friend tags. Even though many of their posts were very entertaining. I put it off. But I was needled into it by soon-to-be internationally known singer-songwriter Brien Travis. Who denies it now. Well, we all blame Ambien for something now and then. Ambien and computer hackers. Or Ambien-fueled computer hackers. Now that's a combination. Needless to say, here I am. Randomly summed up in 25 points. Even though I want you to realize that I do want to know more about you. You can read this guilt-free with no tags attached.

1. Everyone thinks my favorite color is purple. Honestly, it’s black. I’m not anti-purple by any means. I am a Pisces and my engagement ring is an amethyst. I love purple. However, I love wearing black. So much so that my husband tells me the crew from What Not to Wear will come to the house and empty out the closet and take away all my black clothes. It’s not that I don’t enjoy wearing other colors. I do. But my first choice will always be black. I think it’s because I wore blue plaid for eight years. More on that next.

2. I went to a private Catholic school for grades one through eight. And it was awesome. The nuns were sweet, beautiful women. The order was the Daughters of Wisdom. I had a lovely experience. And our uniforms were blue plaid. And I should’ve taken up the Monsignor on his offer of fifty bucks to cut off my hair when he made it. Because I did it anyway but the offer had expired. Difference between offering an eight-year-old money and a sixteen-year-old I suppose.

3. The Beatles are the best band ever. I will accept no arguments. I will listen to no arguments. I have no time for you non-believers. And thank you to my oldest sister Judy for brainwashing that into me. The very first album I remember is A Hard Day’s Night. She would take me to her room, sit me down and tell me to listen to the best band in the world. She was right of course.

4. I find the Marx Brothers funnier than the Stooges. I also adore the comic timing of Jack Benny. Classic Steve Martin slays me. When it comes right down to it, I think raising an eyebrow, if done properly, can be truly hilarious.

5. My favorite tastes are those of chocolate and coffee. Combined. There’s nothing I’d rather have in my mouth. Now, I gave up candy a year ago so I have not been able to take it to it’s highest form, and that’s a dark chocolate Hershey kiss, or reasonable facsimile, stuck to the roof of my mouth, while I’m drinking coffee. Oooohhhh, just the thought of it. What? Addicted you say? Tell me something I don’t know.

6. I have three older sisters. The way I tell it, much older. I am trying to think the last time all four of us were in the same room at the same time. I wonder if it was even during this millennium? They all live in Virginia. I’m the only one away from them. But we do all talk to each other. We’re just physically distant. Well, we can be in a room and still be physically distant. My family. Not huggers.

7. I started taking tap dancing lessons when I was three and a half years old. My teacher was a former Rockette. Not a Rockette fill-in from another city but a New York Rockette. I always wanted to be a Rockette. I never grew tall enough. I have never outgrown the desire. I think that explains my love of high heels, sequins and false eyelashes. Because I didn’t know any drag queens when I was a child.

8. Saying the phrase “that was before my time” gets on my very last nerve. Bone up. Read a book. Remember some history. Learn something. That also applies to music. I’m not saying you have to read encyclopedias and learn entire genres of music like I did. For fun. Though it wouldn’t hurt you. Just be aware. There’s already too much stupid going around.

9. Which brings me to my next point. I have always had the suspicion that those not in my inner circle-- who am I kidding? I have always had the suspicion that most people do not think I am genuinely nice. Imagine that.

10. I love to read. Constantly. And have little patience with those who say they don’t read anything. Ever. Wow. It blows my mind. It is beyond my ability to understand. I have to be reading. Sometimes I’ll do three books at once. Yes, it’s my addictive personality. Got to have more. I prefer mysteries. Rex Stout is my favorite author and I will reread his Nero Wolfe mysteries as a type of brain comfort food. When I first read his books I had to have a dictionary next to me because some of his protagonist’s words were out of my league. Nero is a genius after all. I can handle it now. I love a good biography. Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up is brilliant. And he wrote it himself. So that would be an autobiography not an “as told to.” Even a sub-par Michael Crichton is a good book. But even if I’m reading a perfectly hideous book, I have to find out how it ends. I always need closure.

11. Let’s settle this right now. Captain Kirk was far more entertaining that Picard. Whose shirt gets ripped across the chest in the first ten seconds of a fight? Kirk’s. Who gets the freaky space chicks? Kirk. Though Picard may have followed the rules more. The other Star Trek captains, sure I can name them, but no one ever asks who was better now do they? I…must…choose… Shatner.

12. Speaking of Star Trek. And Star Trek II Wrath of Khan being one of my favorite movies in the sci-fi genre, I am not a fan of so-called chick flicks. I am bored with such films. Beaches? Haven’t seen it. Terms of Endearment? Hated it. Seriously. Give me some hobbits, a few explosions, Han Solo. Really, just give me Han Solo. Or I’ll swing the other way and get into my movie musical vibe, Hitchcock vibe, or films from the late 1930’s and 1940’s. If Cary Grant was in it, I’ve seen it. But if there was a chainsaw or Luke Wilson, chances are I passed.

13. I love to cook. As a food addict and former super morbidly obese person, this should come as no surprise. Inasmuch as I love to cook, I consider myself to be a better baker. If it’s a cookie or dessert you want, I here for you. I am told they make frosting that comes in a can. Brownies from a box. I am unfamiliar with such things. And I am a horrible enabler. I show that I care through food. There’s an entire episode of The Simpsons on Marge’s tendency to do the same thing. Anyway, heaven forbid you’re trying to lose weight around me and I feel the need to shower you with goodies. Because I can’t eat them anymore and I just want to lick the bowl. I should know better.

14. I can’t sleep when it’s completely quiet. This started in college. You see, in my dorm there was no such thing as air conditioning. We had a huge window fan. I got used to hearing the fan. I still sleep with a fan turned away from me just for the sound. When I do sleep. I’m a poor excuse for a sleeper.

15. I knew I would marry Jim the very first time I saw him. I suspected it the very first time I spoke with him. I also set my dogs upon him the first time he came over to my house. I wanted to see if he passed the dog test. He did. I was tired of guys who wanted the dogs put outside. The dogs were there first as far as I was concerned. The dogs were going to stay.

16. I have recently lost the ability to park as I have gained the ability to accessorize like a pro. That’s the only explanation I have. Trading one skill for another.

17. I have had headaches since I was 11. Every day. I learned to deal. If there had been a no drugs in school thing, which I totally understand but which I believe applies to things like Advil, I would’ve never lasted the day. Excedrin got me through high school. Advil got me through college. And now, because of my gastric bypass surgery, I can only take Tylenol, which never did a thing for me. I miss my Advil. The coating tasted like M&M’s to me. Wow, now I sound like a crazy addict.

18. I wish I had a talent like the ability to play an instrument. I took piano lessons, as did all my sisters, but I learned only a few things and that was at home. I took guitar lessons but I refused to cut my nails and never learned a thing. I mean not a thing. But my guitar teacher looked like Jim Stafford so Spiders and Snakes, the song, came up a lot. Oh, and I never practiced either. Huh, that was probably part of the reason why I never amounted to much of a musician.

19. I am an exceptionally fast typist and was once clocked at 96 words per minute, no errors, and that was on an electric typewriter, not a computer keyboard, with the long fingernails. Take that guitar teacher guy. Oh, that electric typewriter was in a museum and it was some sort of speed contest. Yeah, that’s what it was.

20. I’m a little out of practice, but for a few years I was really into bird watching. Really into it. I started learning some birdsongs too. It bugs me when I see or hear something and I don’t know what it is. I like to at least be able to identify all the trees and shrubs and birds around my house. I still get excited when the green herons fly over the house at dusk during the summer. It’s the little things.

21. I have two mini-me daughters. I know my mom just sits at her house and laughs. I was born on her father’s birthday. Her parents died before I was born. She says he always told her that one day she’d have one that would get her back for everything she ever did. She told me that I managed to do that, and more. Well, I suspect that Anna Grace and Jenna are doing the same. I had no idea how many times a day I say “that’s ridiculous.” Apparently, quite a lot. And they don’t have butts. They have bums, or tooshies, or moneymakers. Oh, they’re trouble.

22. My mom always told me to laugh like a lady. It is one thing that I consciously ignored. I laugh like I laugh and it is in no way ladylike. Which, by the way, I never could figure out what that should sound like. My laugh is big and raucous, sometimes I snort, and sometimes it sounds downright naughty. I can’t imagine any of that is how a lady should laugh. Oh well.

23. I think that peanut butter tastes great on all pork products. Even kielbasa. I mean, bacon or sausage, that’s a given. There’s just something magical about it.

24. I love shoes. I love shopping for shoes. I love trying them on. I love thinking about them. Buying shoes genuinely makes me happy. And it has since I was a child. My youngest loves shoes so much she wants to sleep in hers. You are clearly born to love or not love shoes because I have not had the opportunity to sit down with her and tell her how wonderful shoes are. She just knew it. I love that I can wear four-inch heels for hours and it doesn’t hurt. I think shoes are a thing of beauty.

25. Oh I could end this never-ending sucked away too much of my time list with something about how I truly have some fiercely loyal people in my life who I love more than anything. But that would be too sweet of me. Some of them who have been my friends since I was a child mind you. Instead let me say that I have always been a believer in now. Carpe diem. That’s Latin you know. Seize the day. You want to accomplish something? Do it now. Because you have a now. It’s yours. The past is just that. Get the lead out and make your future worth talking about.


The Always Be Prepared

The week of Valentine’s I was in the TTU production of the Vagina Monologues. Now this is a play that I was well familiar with. I played the receptionist and did some introductory pieces as well—but no out and out monologue pieces so to speak. What was different with this production, the sixth one at TTU, is that this time, there were protesters. I would’ve expected there to be protesters the first time around, but the sixth? My massive ego just assumed it was because this was the first time I was actually in the play.

I didn’t have to walk through the protesters. The first night there were close to 30. The second and third nights, just a handful. On the final night, supporters of the play came with their own signs. From what I heard, even the protesters were not in agreement.

The two things I found most intriguing are the following. The first, and I fall in this category; the cast members completely supported the protesters right to protest. They were all about the right to stand up for what you believe in. When you think about what’s going on in the world, and you think about what it’s like to live in other countries where freedom of expression just doesn’t happen without dire consequences. Protesters turn out to be a marvelous thing.

The other intriguing but not so surprising thing is, with, I believe, one exception, the protesters had not read or seen the play. And that is my bone of contention with any protest or complaint, whether it is about a play, movie, book, or work of art. If you have not experienced it first, then how did it offend you? I find many of ABC’s comedies extremely offensive because they are poorly written. However, I don’t care enough to protest. I simply don’t watch them again.

I applaud that you are giving up your evening to accost strangers and even hurl profanities at cast members. OK, I don’t applaud that. But you’ve made the time to spend an hour and a half in the cold while people are waiting to see a play. A play that in many cases features their friends, their daughters, their co-workers. And you want to discourage those in line from seeing it. That’s cool and all. I just think that whenever you’re protesting anything, you shouldn’t be sheep. Don’t do it because some guy told you to. Find out for yourself if it’s so very wrong that you feel compelled to take a stand. Whatever it may be.

That goes for haters of Huckleberry Finn, Harry Potter, and Of Mice and Men, Robert Mapplethorpe’s art, Tarantino films and Madonna videos. Experience it first. Decide for yourself. Then, I totally and wholeheartedly support your protest. I just like people to know what they’re complaining about, that’s all. That’s what I want to take a stand about.
As to the success of this production of the Vagina Monologues? It sold out every night. People were turned away. They lined up an hour and a half before show time just to try and get in the door. And no one got out of line because of the protesters. There’s always discussion after the play. Many people were moved to tears by the emotional impact of some of the serious, international monologues. And, because I was onstage during the entire show, I can tell you that the audience laughed during the, shall we say, saltier monologues. Eve Ensler is the author. The play is worth reading. I know I had a great experience being involved in the production. I also knew what I was getting myself into ahead of time. Which is how I am with most everything I do. I was never a Boy Scout. But I do like to be prepared.