November 2009


What’s the point of a computer without internet? Makes it difficult to do just about anything useful. I’m writing a blog post now, in a word processor. How old school! Though if I’m actually being honest with myself, I have written several of my last posts in Microsoft Word. It’s a format I’m comfortable with and have been using for(basically)ever. I think the early years were Word Perfect, but my dad would have to be the one to confirm that. Anyway, at least I’m not attempting to write my posts by hand. On paper. Now that would be old school.

But I’m surprised by how heavily I rely on the internet. I probably spend 65% of my waking hours on the computer, checking my email, [note: I’d like to go ahead and add a link to my last post, but I can’t do that without the internet!] looking at blog stats and writing new posts, reading others’ blogs, chatting with buddies, researching businesses…the list is lengthy. And now all I can think to do with my computer is write.

Not that writing isn’t a productive use of my time – it is. Sharpening my skills and all that. I imagine that I wouldn’t get through a post today had it not been for a lapse in internet connection.

Which, now MANY hours later, has clearly been fixed because it took me from 9:30am (the time of  conception of this post) to now, nearly 5pm, to get back to it. I’m a busy lady! I’m working two jobs! But I’ll tell you, a good portion of what kept me busy today was on the internet. I know I’m not saying anything new and exciting in my praising the wonders of cyberspace, but really, how awesome is the instant connectivity, communication, and the seemingly endless availability of information that comes with an internet connection?

Which is why, when I erect my tent in the woods to avoid real life, an internet connection is a real must have. Right along with water, food, and firewood.

Surprisingly, though, I spent a good deal of my weekend completely unhooked. It was a holiday weekend and my phone was dead half the time (not really a stretch if you know me… chargers are hard to keep up with and considering my deep hatred for the phone…why not let it die?) but more curiously, my laptop was closed much of the weekend. Not all – there was a great deal of football being watched this weekend for which I somehow missed inheriting the love my mother and sister share for the excessive watching of. (That sentence really doesn’t make sense, but I’m acknowledging it, so that makes it okay, right?) So I had to do something and the internet provided endless fun.

Despite these few hours of football induced web-surfing, I was surprised at what little time I spent with computer in lap. I guess that just goes to show how much I enjoyed the company and how un-compelled I felt to do any work whatsoever.

Even so, after this holiday of thanks, I must say that I am VERY thankful for the internet (and you should be too! How else would you get to read my every thought?)!

I love (LOVE!) email as a form of communication. It’s so very much easier to get my thoughts out when I’m typing them. It may not be as easy for some people. I understand that some folks actually prefer using the telephone because of the faster response time. I think that’s probably the main reason why I don’t like using the phone. I’m required to respond before I’ve really had a chance to think through my response. And nobody benefits from my lack of thinking.

Thus, I email. Communication in Liz World hasn’t been the same since the advent of email. I conducted the first two weeks of my relationship with Hubby via email. I reconnected with a now distant but always dear friend from high school by way of email. I make plans using email. I conduct as much as my business as possible through email. It has literally changed my life. Can you imagine how I’d have fared when the most convenient form of communication really was the telephone? I shudder to think, honestly. Literally, shuddering as we speak.

Considering how very many uses I have for the form, I was surprised to find that in the past eleven months of usage, I’ve only sent 847 emails. I guess that may sound like a pretty decent amount of emailing, but the reason I checked is because a literary agent whose blog I stalk has sent 16,000+ emails this year. Over SIXTEEN THOUSAND emails. Versus my 850. He has sent 20 times more emails than I have this year. Twenty times. I wonder how much of his work-life is spent sending emails? I’d say I spend about 28% of my work day sending/reading/responding to emails. (Math Nerd Alert!!) I just did the math, and it turns out that even if I spent 100% of my work life sending emails, I’d have sent around 3025 emails so far this year. He would still have sent five times more emails than I have. WHAT? That means he basically (okay, exactly…math is fun) works at 528% when compared to my 100%. Yikes.

When I went into this post, I really had a bit of self-esteem left. Didn’t have any clue I was about to decimate what was left of my delusions that I’m a hard worker. I was gonna say, well, I spend time each day working on blog posts (okay, clearly not each day), but then, did I mention that this guy also posts five times a week to his blog? And makes time to respond to comments. Of which there are MULTITUDES more than I’ve ever gotten, even on my most commented upon post (or Jenny’s). This guy, I’m now convinced, is not actually human. There’s no way that a human being could do as much as this guy does. That’s okay, though, because do I really want to have a mere human represent my book to publishers? Heck no. SuperAgent is definitely the way to go! And of course someone who sends that many emails in one year is definitely going to have time for me! I’m the next JK Rowling/Stephenie Meyer/Jodi Picoult/Sophie Kinsella/Margaret Atwood. For real, I’ll exchange emails with SuperAgent any day of the week!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It is lovely to bask in the feeling that comes from being the coolest, most awesomest adult out there, even if it is ridiculously untrue.

But I have to say, I don’t really understand it. Is the painfully loud ticking of my biological clock clearly audible to children under 12? It’s like they know that the last thing on this earth that my maternal instincts need would be encouragement, so of course they lay it on so thick. They are angels who can’t be more adorable/agreeable for the time that I spend in their presence. I’m certain children don’t behave this well for their own parents. It’s the one bit of knowledge keeping me from secretly visiting a fertility clinic to increase my odds of “accidental” pregnancy.

Seriously though, I spend a lot of time around the children of family members and friends. “Aunt Liz” just rolls off the tongue of these young ones, even when I’m not even remotely related to them. I’m warm, friendly, soft, and able to lift fifty pounds, though that last part is not without a certain level of discomfort. But I’m willing to suffer the discomfort many times over in order to hold a child for a few minutes. Of course, I get to give these delightful creatures back to their parents and am only required to lift and hold and love on them for certain small time periods. My role is that of temporary play friend/color-er/ring-around-the-rosie player/getter of milk and juice. I am only mildly responsible for disciplining these children, which probably explains my popularity with them.

I was, however, a very unpopular high school teacher, for the very same reason. I was more responsible for disciplining them, but I found that I had no innate skill at laying down the law. When I coached the swim team in my hometown, I had sixty kids who literally would do anything I asked at the drop of a hat. They loved me (or at least, in comparison with my other experiences with students). Because we’d established relationships well before I became an authority figure, they saw me as someone who deserved respect. My high school students saw me as someone who deserved to be tortured and humiliated. I’d like to think my swimmers had it right.

Now what I hear is that your own children are much easier to discipline than someone else’s. It’s your natural role as parent. Their behavior is a reflection of your parenting, so you have external motivators for providing that behavior management.

What I wonder is, will my own kids (imaginary as they may presently be) love me as much as other people’s kids tend to? I don’t expect much from teenagers, who apparently scare the living daylights out of me, but I have plenty of time to prep for that eventuality. I just need to know: is it just the fact that I don’t have to say “no” to other people’s kids or is it just that I’m so warm and fun and loveable?

Who am I kidding! I already know the answer. I’m so gosh darned loveable it’ll be impossible for my own equally loveable (imaginary) children not to love me just as much as those of my friends and family.

There was once a band called Hanson. You may remember it. Actually, they’re still around, but instead of long-haired, pre-pubescent boys, they’re now far less famous young men. Still one of my all-time favorite musical groups. Hey, I’ve shared a lot of embarrassing stuff in this public forum. But anyone who knows me already knows this most embarrassing of facts, so no real revelations here. Just a deep, deep love for the brothers Hanson and a slightly shame-faced Liz.

At the height of their fame, Hanson went on SNL as a musical guest. The folks at SNL were kind enough to include the three fellas in a sketch, which mercilessly ridiculed their most popular tune, “MmmBop.” It took place in an elevator, which if memory serves, was stuck between floors. The brothers Hanson, among a few other people, were stuck on an elevator which was, conveniently, playing “Mmmbop” on an endless loop. The scene jumped in time… forward an hour, everyone was still humming along, happy-go-lucky. Three hours later, the other passengers on the stuck elevator were conversing amongst themselves, attempting to ignore the music. Isaac Hanson was starting to break. An hour later, Taylor Hanson started pulling his beautiful hair out. Zach started acting like a freakin’ crazy person another couple of hours after that.

The point I’m trying to make here is that even the catchiest songs can be unbelievably irritating upon continuous repetition. Honestly, I’ve never tested my threshold for tolerating popular music on repeat more than one or two times over. Recently, I’ve started enjoying the musical stylings of one Miss Miley Cyrus. Please, friends, forgive my sucky taste in music. I know, I know. I should be doing one of two things: 1) listening to what I enjoy and pretending I’ve never heard any of it when questioned about my favorite artists or 2) owning my taste in pop music and acknowledging it proudly. I have no desire to be dishonest about my taste, but I also can’t help but to feel a deep sense of shame for appreciating popular music. It’s weird. But whatever. For right now, I’m owning my enjoyment of Miley. “Party in the USA” makes me dance. It’s just a fun song. I won’t even comment on how much fun I have when I hear “See You Again.” Awe. Some.

Now, if you’re cool, you undoubtedly have no idea what I’m talking about. Which is fine. I think you’ll still appreciate the story that the three previous paragraphs were building up to.

I was in Atlanta for my job. I’m not certain what the radio stations in the area are all about, but with a basically busted CD player and a puny little iPod Shuffle, I was stuck with that. I scanned a few times and landed on 94.1, who was playing “Party” to my extreme delight. I was on my way to an appointment and that’s a fabulous song to get pumped up with.

Well, I soon found out that Miley is headed to Atlanta for a concert sometime in the next month, and by way of advertisement/a ticket giveaway contest, the station was playing “Party” regularly every half hour. “Sweet!” I thought. “This is going to keep me inspired to keep rockin’ the appointments all day long!”

Um. Not so sweet, by the end of day two. I won’t say that I can’t stand “Party in the USA” because let’s be honest, I’ll get over it soon enough and be back to full enjoyment of the song, but there came a point where I actually changed the station during the song’s intro. It was Miley Overload. I was shocked by the vehemence of my reaction, considering how much I generally enjoy the singing and dancing along. But I just spend way too much time in my car to deal with overloading on any one song. Variety, please! Everything in Moderation! Even Miley 🙂

On the lake, late fall, in what amounts to a log cabin in the woods. It’s early evening but it’s already dark and I’ve been here for a couple of hours. We’re all here, we’re all midway through our meal of pizza and self-decorated cake. We sip on our Cokes or Coronas, laughing, poking fun, sharing stories from lives we have missed all these years.

This is our reunion.

It is important, the reason why we’re all gathering this Holiday Season instead of the six or seven Thanksgivings previous now, but at the same time, it doesn’t matter at all. We’re here. We’re together. There’s a Christmas tree being decorated by three slightly hyper kids. The children of my friends. They are beautiful.

The hostess of the gathering has her iPod playing Norah Jones, the most mellow of artists, putting me in a very contemplative mood. This circle of friends has been in tact for ten years at least, with most of the group having met over twelve years ago. We were then a motley crew of teens from all over Birmingham, varied backgrounds, varied interests, varied ambitions. And today, we’re all the same kind of different we always were.

I don’t think, at eighteen, any of us could picture whether or not we’d be close, eight years later. We might have pictured who’d probably be married, who’d have kids, who’d be the most successful. But I couldn’t have imagined the emotions I’d have watching the scene of our reunion unfold. Nostalgia, of course. We were all so young and beautiful once, so full of potential. It isn’t that we aren’t all still beautiful and potentially unlimited, only my own personal disappointments (in terms of career and beauty) weigh heavily on me. Self consciously, I realize I’ve fallen into my usual routines of observation. I’ve found a chair, my own corner, sip a drink, and watch, listen. I am deeply moved by the small interactions between old friends. There is much shared history here, when years of separation leave only slight signs of wear.

This is the sort of reunion I’m so glad we’ve had a chance to experience, before the hustle and bustle of reuniting with the other fifty classmates we graduated with at the Ten Year Reunion. It’s coming along here soon enough. But this is much better, much more relaxed. Less pressure. Mellow. Warm. With the folks I’m confident and comfortable around, no matter how crappy my job is, or how many pounds I’ve gained over the years. These are my friends. And it’s so nice to be together again, even for one evening. A reunion resplendent in its simplicity, a coming together in sympathy and in celebration, a moment to look backwards while realizing how much there is still to look forward to.

This is our reunion, and nothing planned in less haste with more fanfare could have been better.

Yep, you guessed it! I’m reading self-help again. Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is one of those perennial books that I’ve read once before in the adult format, and at least once in my adolescence in the Highly Effective Teen version, written by Covey’s son, Sean. One really can’t argue with the logic behind Covey’s principle based tenets for living effectively – there’s just too much that screams inside of me when I’m reading, “well, duh!” – only I’m stuck in patterns and habits that are essentially diametrically opposed to those Covey proposes.

For example, instead of being proactive, as Covey recommends, I’m reactive. Instead of beginning with the end in mind, Honey, I don’t have time to think about the end, just get me through the beginning! I’ll think about the end when I get there.

And of course given my humorous world-view, I can’t read anything without considering the possibility of writing some sort of parody. So here goes, folks: these are my recommendations for leading the Ineffective Life I know we all strive for.

  1. First, foremost, and always, do nothing. This is the best way to be ineffective in every aspect of one’s life, from home-life to work-life, doing nothing is key to avoiding success.
  2. Succumb to your fears. That overwhelming fear you feel when picking up the telephone to call a client or account is totally justifiable. Your fears are legitimate. Live in them – nay, wallow in those fears.
  3. Consider only your own feelings, desires and needs. The world may not revolve around you (sadly, this is a cosmic impossibility), but your own world should! Looking out for number one is the most efficient means of getting what number one wants. Selfishness is next to Ineffectiveness!
  4. Party! The end is near, it says so in the Bible.
  5. Be rude. People are stupid, and they deserve it. And honestly, being nice would sort of fly in the face of Habit 3, so we don’t want that.
  6. Don’t be concerned with the future. Goals are generally unattainable anyway, so what’s the point? Now don’t start thinking that you have to “reach for the stars to get to the Moon” or some other such nonsense. What are you going to do with Moon, anyway?
  7. Forget everything you’ve ever been told about success. There’s no need to work when you’re looking to be ineffective, so there’s definitely no need to constantly return to Habit 1 over and over again. Coast on through life, my Ineffective Peeps!

Seriously, though, you should probably ignore me and read Covey – his habits are probably more useful than the ones I suggest, though you might have to admit, mine seem like more fun!

*Note to Dad: Laugh. I know you are about to cry, but stifle it and laugh instead. ‘Cause that was the intention of this post, not to say that I’m on the path toward an ineffective lifestyle! Love!

I’m not one of those people who does very well with geography. I own a GPS. I rely heavily on said device. 99% of the time, I have no idea where I am, even when I’ve been there multiple times. It’s markedly worse, however, when I am first visiting an area. For example, I spent the weekend in Minnesota. I have no idea where Minnesota is. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have a general feel for it, but if you were to ask me to point out Minnesota on a map of the United States, I can only say one word: Fail.

Specifically, I spent the weekend in Minneapolis/St. Paul. And I guess if you were getting even more specific, I’d have to say Minneapolis was the sibling of the Twin Cities in which I spent most of my time. I hypothesized on my shuttle ride in from the airport to the hotel that Minneapolis wouldn’t differ too exceptionally from Birmingham. Rush hour traffic. Smog. Buildings. History. Crime.

I can’t comment on the criminal aspect of Minneapolis, but I know it isn’t worse than Birmingham, who ranks quite highly in the national homicide rankings. I think we’re number three. I personally was not murdered, attacked, or otherwise infringed upon during this trip, which I am immensely grateful for. I was robbed of a weekend, but I can’t blame Minneapolis for that.

But as I walked around the city (accompanied by a physically intimidating male – my boss – and covered thoroughly in winter-weather-ware), I came to find that Minneapolis has several things to recommend it that Birmingham cannot offer. It was clean. As far as I know, its mayor was not recently arrested on fraud and embezzlement charges. The buildings are cool, architecturally speaking. The Mississippi runs through it. There are bridges.

Working against Minneapolis are also a few key issues: the temperature, the accents of everyone around me, the fact that things are built to accommodate snow. The inclusion of an ice-scraper in every car rented in the city.

And honestly, where is Minnesota, anyway? Come on, it’s not like it’s California or New York or Texas or Alabama (I kid…no one knows where to find good ole’ Bama on the map) for goodness sakes! It’s not like Minnesota really had an impact on my understanding of American History or features memorably in any astonishing current events (well, they may be the state that had the wrestler for a Governor, that’s fairly astonishing). I honestly don’t think I should be held responsible for the knowledge of where Minnesota resides among these United States. I’m sure I was responsible for that information waaaaaaaaaaaay back in fourth grade or whenever we were taught state geography, but only bits and pieces of that stuck with me.

Bearing all of this in mind, I think it’s clear that I’m not a geographically minded person. State lines? No, that’s definitely not my state of mind.

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